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Title: The Friendly Five - A Story
Author: Hungerford, Mary C.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Friendly Five - A Story" ***

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Internet Archive/American Libraries.)



[Illustration: “--AND TURNING SUDDENLY, THEY BEHELD, WITH A POOR LITTLE
COTTON HANDKERCHIEF PRESSED TO HER EYES, THE FORLORN FIGURE WHICH HAD
JUST BEEN SO APTLY DESCRIBED.”]



THE FRIENDLY FIVE

  A STORY

  BY
  MARY C. HUNGERFORD

  ILLUSTRATED

  NEW YORK: EATON & MAINS
  CINCINNATI: CURTS & JENNINGS



  Copyright, 1891, by
  HUNT & EATON,
  NEW YORK.



                 DEDICATION.

  AS AN EVIDENCE OF MY WARM REGARD FOR HER,
                 I Dedicate
      THIS LITTLE STORY OF SCHOOL LIFE
             TO MY YOUNG FRIEND,
            MISS SALLY T. CLARK,
                OF NEW HAVEN.



CONTENTS.

  CHAPTER                                         PAGE

       I. MR. BELLAMY’S OFFER                        7

      II. NEXT TERM                                 16

     III. IN KATIE’S ROOM                           25

      IV. MRS. ABBOTT’S EXPLANATION                 31

       V. MARY ANN STUBBS                           41

      VI. MARY ANN’S CHARGE                         48

     VII. ELFIE TELLS A STORY                       55

    VIII. A RAINY DAY                               62

      IX. SOME LEAVES FROM A DIARY                  70

       X. A MEAN ACT                                79

      XI. THE S. C.’S                               88

     XII. DRESSING DOLLS                            96

    XIII. THE COMMITTEE BUY RIBBONS AND MAKE AN
              ACQUAINTANCE                         102

     XIV. THE ADVENTURE DISCUSSED                  110

      XV. THE WHITE QUEEN                          117

     XVI. IN MRS. ABBOTT’S ROOM                    126

    XVII. LILY’S PREACHMENT                        132

   XVIII. IN VACATION                              141

     XIX. A HAPPY DAY                              148

      XX. LETTERS                                  153

     XXI. IN KATIE’S HOME                          162

    XXII. THE CHRISTMAS-TREE’S SECOND CROP         172

   XXIII. THE LETTER IN CIPHER                     181

    XXIV. CATCHING A TRAIN                         190

     XXV. THE SPHINX                               198

    XXVI. ELFIE GONE!                              209

   XXVII. ON THE ROAD                              213

  XXVIII. A TRAVELING ACQUAINTANCE                 221

    XXIX. WATCHING AND WAITING                     230

     XXX. IN TROY                                  239

    XXXI. AN EXCITING NIGHT                        246

   XXXII. A DEEP SLEEP                             252

  XXXIII. MARION IS HAPPY                          259

   XXXIV. THE PRIZE AWARDED                        272



THE FRIENDLY FIVE.

CHAPTER I.

MR. BELLAMY’S OFFER.


There were neither examinations nor graduation exercises at the
Coventry Institute. The only ceremony peculiar to the last day of
school, except the farewells, was a little sermon from Mrs. Abbott, the
principal, preceded by reading the average of reports for the year.

The day had come. All the smaller recitation-rooms were empty and the
girls were gathered into the large school-room occupying their own
seats, but each whispering softly to her neighbor, for rules were not
strictly enforced on either the opening or closing days of school.

Upon the platform at one end of the room stood a green-covered
library-desk with the large arm-chair by it which was always reserved
for Mrs. Abbott. As they waited a servant came in and removed the
chair, bringing into view a small old-fashioned hair-cloth sofa large
enough to hold two persons comfortably.

“That means company,” was the universal whisper that went around among
the girls, and almost before there could be any speculation upon who
the guest might be the visitor himself followed the principal into the
room. He was a tall, stout, middle-aged man with a splendid head that
reminded the girls at once of the pictures of Agassiz.

As Mrs. Abbott took her seat on one end of the little sofa, with her
usual pleasant bow to the scholars, she simply said, “My friend, Mr.
Bellamy, will say a few words to you;” and the gentleman, with the ease
of a long-practiced speaker, stepped to the little table and looked
down with kindly inquiring eyes upon the young faces upturned to his.

The girls were well accustomed to speeches from visitors, and could
almost have told how he would begin. In fact, Lily Dart, who was quite
the wit of the school, had once written out several sentences which
she called “openings,” and professed to be holding in reserve for any
embarrassed orator who might be disconcerted by the stare of thirty
pairs of critical eyes. Now, quoting from number one of her openings,
she rapidly scrawled on a bit of paper for her desk-mate’s benefit,
“Young ladies, my heart beats with mingled emotions--”

Lily was quite astray in her supposition. Mr. Bellamy said nothing
about hearts, emotions, or young ladies; instead, with a look that
seemed to include them all, he remarked in an easy conversational
manner:

“My visit to my old friend, Mrs. Abbott, is made with the hope of
persuading her to take a little girl so much younger than the custom
of her school allows that I regard her consent as the greatest favor
that can be granted to me. My little motherless granddaughter”--there
was a little sudden straightening of his shoulders and lifting of his
head here that looked to the bright, observant eyes watching him like
a determined effort to keep dry eyes and a steady voice--“will seem to
you,” he continued, with almost an appeal in his voice, “so babyish,
and perhaps spoiled by a grandfather’s fond affection, that I must ask
your kindest indulgence for her. Business calls me to Europe, and it
will be a year before I can hope to see my little girl again. I should
like to feel, in that long year of absence, that Ethel, my Elfie, I
call her, was loved by the young people who will be her companions. I
do not ask you to be kind to her; that I am sure you will be, but I
wish I could feel sure that you will all love her.”

Mrs. Abbott beckoned to Miss Blake, the third-room teacher, and said a
few words which made the latter go quietly out of the room, to return
shortly with a colored nurse leading a most attractive-looking little
creature who seemed almost like a baby, but in reality was nearly five
years old.

This was Elfie, as the girls knew even before she sprang into her
grandfather’s arms, and if any thing more than the words they had
just heard had been needed to enlist their interest, the child’s
appearance would have completed their conquest, and a very audible
murmur of interest and admiration brought a suspicious glistening
to Mr. Bellamy’s eyes, as he stood Elfie on the table with her arms
still clinging to his neck. At a whisper from him the child lifted her
lovely face from his breast and looked shyly for one moment at the
girls, giving them a glimpse of pink cheeks, sweet, frank eyes, and
a shy, smiling mouth, before the lovely face was buried again on her
grandfather’s shoulder, and only a light, tossy handful of curls was
visible for their admiration.

Candace, who stood in statuesque black dignity as befitted her vast
person and royal name, was studying anxiously the faces before her with
the keen observation common among untutored people, and now let her
solemn countenance break into a broad smile of satisfaction as she saw
the impression her little charge had made. She came forward then at a
sign from her master, and carried Elfie from the room, the girls’ eyes
following them till the white dress and broad black sash disappeared
through the door.

But Mr. Bellamy’s speech was not over, although only one more sentence
related to the child he had just introduced to them.

“Let my Elfie be your little sister,” he said, with again that look
of almost imploring appeal in his eyes which seemed so much like a
question that nearly every girl involuntarily raised her right hand as
if she felt that some expression of assent was needed.

An audience of boys would have given three cheers for the little
sister and six more for the senator, for boys would have known in a
moment that the speaker was the distinguished orator whose eloquence
and uprightness had made him celebrated all over the country. But
girls don’t hurrah, and, unfortunately, do not read the papers and
keep informed in political matters. But the speaker was satisfied; his
wonderfully expressive eyes told that as he gravely bowed and passed on
to speech number two, as Kate Ashley called it in her diary.

Nothing so interesting as consigning a lovely baby girl to their care
could be expected from speech number two; but the girls put on an
expression of polite attention which gradually changed to enthusiastic
interest as its very novel and delightful subject was unfolded to them.

Even very able speeches by noted speakers are rather tiresome to read,
so it will be better to simply give the most important part of this one
without going fully into detail.

Mrs. Bellamy Gray, Ethel’s mother, had been a pupil of Mrs. Abbott, and
it was one of the wishes expressed during her last sickness that her
little daughter should be educated at the same school. Of course, it
had not been her wish to send her there till she was of a suitable age,
but now that circumstances had arisen which obliged Mr. Bellamy to go
to Europe he felt anxious to leave her with the friend who had been so
dear to her mother.

If there had been time, he told his audience, he should have liked to
tell them of the various plans for helping and comforting others that
his daughter had left for him to carry out. There was a bed in St.
John’s Hospital, a small fund for giving six poor children a yearly
outing, a memorial window in the little mission chapel where she had a
Sunday-school class; and all these things were named for his dear and
only daughter, and he loved to think that in these pleasant ways her
works would seem to live after her. There were still some other schemes
to carry out, and among them a Bellamy prize for Coventry Institute.

“I do not intimate,” said the speaker, having arrived at this very
interesting part of his discourse, “that any one of Mrs. Abbott’s
scholars has need of tangible help; neither do I propose to offer
a prize because I think a spur to correct action is necessary; but
because my daughter loved the school I wish to associate her memory
with it in a pleasant way. The best way of doing this will have to be a
matter of experiment and as a sort of trial trip. I will make it this
year a prize of three hundred dollars in gold. Your teacher, warned by
some sad experience in the past, is opposed to any thing which subjects
her young people to a prolonged mental strain, so it will not do to
make it a scholastic prize, and through some prejudices of my own, not
liking to make it a reward for elegant deportment, I shall be obliged
to say the prize is for the most deserving. It shall be given upon the
anniversary of this day, and the recipient shall be selected by the
vote of the school.”

Truly this was an extraordinary prize, and the girls discussed it with
animation all the afternoon and during the evening, which on the last
day of school was more like a social gathering, for the day-scholars
were always invited in and the sadness of farewell was cheered by
games, music, and dancing.

They would all have been delighted to have little Elfie with them
in these last hours, but the fond grandfather could not spare her,
and one of the girls, who had a message to deliver to Mrs. Abbott in
the parlor, reported that the child lay fast asleep in Mr. Bellamy’s
arms, while he was trying, at great inconvenience to himself, to write
letters at a table, and black Candace sat patiently in the hall waiting
for the long-delayed summons to put her little missy to bed.

It was late when the day scholars went home, and the others went
up-stairs to their rooms very quietly. They all had to pass the large
corner room which was always given to visitors, and, although the
light was turned very low, they could see through the half-closed door
that Candace was trying to undress the little girl without waking her,
and the senator, whose broad back was toward the door, was bending down
to unbutton the little shoes, one of which he lifted and pressed to his
lips just as the last pair of girls went by.

“Did you see that?” whispered Katie, with the tears starting to her
eyes.

“Yes, isn’t he lovely, and doesn’t he love the little one?” answered
Lily, with a nod.

“And isn’t she a dainty darling, and wont we love her and pet her when
we come back next term!”



CHAPTER II.

NEXT TERM.


The number of boarding scholars at Coventry school was limited to
twenty, and it was necessary to make an application a year or two in
advance, and girls had been known to wait three years for a vacancy,
for the school was so popular among those who knew of it that people
were willing to wait.

The list of applicants was kept in a book in the library, and, being
allowed to look in it, the girls became familiar with the names of
expected pupils long before they saw them, and when a girl arrived she
hardly seemed like a stranger.

Five new scholars were entered at the end of the long summer vacation,
and, strange to say, only four of the names were registered in the
applicants’ book.

“It seems like putting a fifth wheel to a coach,” said Lily Dart, as
she and half a dozen other boarders held a “pow-wow” before unpacking
their trunks.

“Yes,” said Delia Howland, “there were only four vacancies, and where
is this fifth wheel to sit in the dining-room, and where is she to
sleep at night, and who’s to do the ‘mothering?’”

“Mothering” was a localism which needs some explanation. It was the
custom when a new girl entered school to hand her over to a boarding
scholar in her last year, who was expected to introduce the novice
into the ways of the establishment and befriend her in every possible
way. It was a plan that had always worked admirably, and Mrs. Abbott
had seen many strong and lasting friendships begin in this way. To
be strictly impartial the girls selected the new scholars they would
“protect” when their names were announced at the close of school, so
when it opened again and the new scholars came each girl knew which one
she was to “mother” without ever having seen her.

“There’s a great deal in a name,” said Delia Howland, contentedly. “I
feel sure my girl will be nice; no one called Sylvia Montgomery could
be any thing but charming. It has such a high-born sound.”

“I don’t take much stock in names,” said Lily. “The most
aristocratic-looking person I ever saw was named Boggs, and we had a
colored butler once called Montgomery de Vere.”

“I wonder what the fifth wheel’s name is?” said Kate.

“I know,” said Louie Fields--“Mary Ann Stubbs!”

“Not really?” This was said by three girls at once with great emphasis.

“Yes, truly. Mrs. Abbott said so.”

“Then I know she is common as dirt,” said Delia, solemnly.

Lily groaned.

“Ah, girls, I am a-weary, a-weary, I would that I were wed; for I saw
my fate in Mrs. Abbott’s eyes. As sure as you’re alive I shall be made
to ‘mother’ Miss Stubbs!

  “O, sweet Mary Ann,
  I’m under the ban;
  Fate links us together
  And we shall part never
  Till life at school ends!”

The girls always laughed at Lily’s ready versification whether it was
funny or not, so the approval she had learned to expect came now.

“Don’t cross a bridge till you come to it,” said Delia.

“O, you dear, original creature, I have come to it, I know it by the
pricking of my thumbs. and I feel it in my bones, and existence isn’t
going to be worth having!”

“Here’s my bottle of toothache-drops, with a caution on the label not
to swallow any, because it’s poison. I guess I can spare one fatal dose
for you and have enough left to last till term ends.”

“Thanks, Katie, but I prefer to end my days by opening a vein; besides,
your toothache-drops smell of cloves, and I hate cloves. I’m very
fastidious, and prefer to ‘die of a rose in aromatic pain.’ I don’t
quite know what that means, but it sounds better than cloves.”

“Well, go on living till you see Miss Stubbs; she may be such a queen
of love and beauty that even that name can’t spoil her.”

The door opened then, admitting Mrs. Abbott and little Ethel, who
shrank away as the girls made a dash at her.

“Her shyness will not last when she has had time to make acquaintance
with you all,” said Mrs. Abbott, sitting down in the rocking-chair Lily
placed for her and taking Ethel upon her lap.

“Will she be in school?” asked Kate.

“Only a little while each day. She is too young for lessons, but I want
her to be among you as much as possible, for she has always lived with
grown people, and the contact with young life will be very healthful
and delightful for her.”

“I wish we might have her all the time!” exclaimed Lily. “O, do, Mrs.
Abbott, let us take turns taking care of the darling! Say, baby, wont
you be Lily’s little sister for a week, and be with her all the time
and sleep in her bed?”

“I am every body’s little sister, grandpa says,” said Ethel, holding
up her chin with a sort of baby dignity that made her very bewitching;
“but I’d rather sleep with Mammy Candace.”

“And I am afraid that playing nurse would interfere seriously with
lessons and rules,” said Mrs. Abbott. “But I am glad to have you fond
of Ethel. She has grown very dear to me through this long vacation,
while we have been off in the Catskills and at the sea-side seeking for
health and strength for us both.”

“Ethel looks better for the change,” said Delia.

“She is much better,” said Mrs. Abbott; “I saw the color come to her
cheeks before we had been in the hills a week. I wish Mr. Bellamy
could see how plump and rosy she has grown.”

Candace, who was never far from her charge, put her head in at the door
with Ethel’s broad hat in her hand, and the child sprang to her and
started for a walk. Lily would have proposed going too, but Mrs. Abbott
detained her.

“I came in to speak particularly to you,” she said. “Since I mentioned
at school closing that four new scholars were expected this term I
have arranged to take a fifth. She has just arrived and is in my room
now. According to the usual custom I have selected one of the oldest
scholars to be her friend and initiate her kindly into the ways of
the school and help her over some of the difficulties, which you
will all remember, from your own experiences, seem rather formidable
to a stranger. I expect you, Lily, to be the friend in need in this
instance, and if you are ready I will take you directly to my room and
introduce you to Miss Stubbs.”

Lily turned to give the girls one look of comical despair as she
followed Mrs. Abbott to her own sitting-room, where the only occupant
was a girl of fourteen, sitting stiffly upon an ottoman. Her hair,
which was certainly thick and long, was all drawn away from her round
red face and put up in a big braided knot at the back. She had
pleasant dark eyes and teeth which showed white as pearls as she parted
her lips in a smile as Mrs. Abbott came in. But her hands! they were
awful, thought Lily, taking the stranger in with a quick glance--big
red, rough things, with neither ruffle nor cuff to soften them as they
lay clasped tightly together upon a coarse, stiffly starched white
apron which enhanced their redness. Hardly more attractive than the
hands were the awkwardly crossed feet, made more clumsy by common,
thick, new shoes. Lily had never, except on bargain-counters in the
door-way of cheap stores, seen any material like the red, purple, and
green plaid of which Miss Stubbs’s dress was made.

“Girls, I shall write to my father to take me out of school!” exclaimed
Lily, impetuously, as she rushed back to the room where the girls she
had left were still sitting. “I will not stay to be so insulted!”

“Your insult did not last long,” said Katie, who was well accustomed to
Lily’s extravagant manner of speech. “It’s only five minutes since you
went off. We didn’t expect you back for an hour.”

“I couldn’t stay,” said Lily, gloomily; “but I suppose I must go right
back. I asked Mrs. Abbott to excuse me while I ran for a handkerchief.
I knew I had one in my pocket all the time, but I just had to come
out and give vent to my indignation! Girls, Mary Ann Stubbs is just a
little servant-girl! I know it by her looks and her words too. Why,
what do you think she said when I mumbled out something about hoping
she’d be very happy here? I wouldn’t have said one word to her after
looking at her hands, but Mrs. Abbott’s eye was on me, and I had to
make some kind of conversation.”

“Well, what did the girl say after you had done the polite?”

“‘Thank you, ma’am.’”

“O, how funny to call you ‘ma’am!’ Then what did you say?”

“I said, ‘Have you ever been at boarding-school before?’

“‘No, ma’am.’

“‘Should you like me to tell you some of the rules?’ I said.

“‘If you please, ma’am,’ she said, sticking out her elbows and twisting
her fingers together as if she was wringing out a dishcloth. I say Mrs.
Abbott has no business to ask us to associate with such a heathenish
girl. Ugh! How she looks! Her dress is made of the coarsest cloth
you ever saw, and it looks like a star-spangled banner mixed up with
a rainbow, only there isn’t enough of it to make a banner, for it’s
scant and short, short enough to give a plentiful view of her white
stockings, and she’s got on clod-hoppers; I think they must be her
brother’s shoes. She has no collar or cuffs, and her hair is done up
like an old woman’s. Just think of my ‘mothering’ that great, horrid,
vulgar girl! I wont, though!” She burst into a flood of angry tears as
she made this declaration.

Mingling with the rather hysterical weeping in which Lily’s indignation
had culminated there was another sound of sobbing, and, turning
suddenly, they beheld, with a poor little cotton handkerchief pressed
to her eyes, the forlorn figure which had just been so aptly described
that there was no difficulty in recognizing--Mary Ann Stubbs!



CHAPTER III.

IN KATIE’S ROOM.


The poor girl had followed Lily at a word from Mrs. Abbott, who felt,
perhaps, that the ordeal of meeting some more of her fellow-scholars
had better be over at once. Unnoticed, and not knowing exactly how she
ought to make her presence known, the poor thing had stood motionless
in the door-way hearing the cruel words, like a target into which all
the arrows of scorn were being fired, till the sound of Lily’s sobs
broke down her stony composure.

Katie, who was always good-natured, was really shocked at the cruel
wounds the stranger had received, and, going up to her, attempted to
apologize and soothe her. But the case seemed too dreadful to admit of
palliation, and every thing Katie could think of to say seemed to make
the matter worse. There was a sort of pathetic dignity in the way Mary
Ann dried her tears after a few moments and said in a tone which showed
the difficulty of commanding her voice:

“I do not want to trouble Mrs. Abbott, so please, ma’am, will you show
me some place I can stay where I’ll be out of people’s way?”

“Come in here,” said Lily, thoroughly ashamed of herself. “I know Mrs.
Abbott meant you to come here.”

“If I could be useful to you, ma’am,” the girl said, hesitatingly, yet
looking as if she longed to get away.

“I wish you’d come into my room and help me unpack,” said Katie, having
tact and good-natured enough to think the proposal would be pleasing.

She led the way through the back hall and up-stairs to the dormitories,
which were a row of small rooms on each side of a long hall with a
large bath-room at each end. There were a double bed and two small
bureaus in each room.

It was a great comfort to the unhappy stranger to find something to
do, and lazy Katie found herself well paid for her kindness by the
energetic way in which the contents of her trunk were all laid with
orderly arrangement in the bureau-drawers while she, not to embarrass
her visitor by watching her, sat on the bed looking over her photograph
album, occasionally calling the attention of Miss Stubbs to a picture
with some explanatory remarks.

“This is my married sister, and this gentleman over the leaf is my
married brother,” she said, calling attention to two very handsome
faces.

“O, aint they splendid, ma’am!” ejaculated Mary Ann, looking
enraptured. “And have you really got growed-up brothers and sisters?”

“Yes, plenty of them. I’m the youngest of seven.”

“Dear me, suz! And I’m the oldest of seven!” said Miss Stubbs, in
rather a self-congratulatory manner.

“O, how awful!” replied Katie. “Why, I shouldn’t think you’d have any
presents and things. Now, all my brothers and sisters, except the two
next to me, give me all sorts of treats and make a regular pet of me.”

Mary Ann looked at her with wondering eyes, but made no answer. She was
thinking of a poor little home in the mountains, where there was so
much hard work, poverty, and sickness that petting and presents were
not things to be understood. She felt a sudden desire to say so, but
something seemed to tell her that such a home as hers would be despised
by her companion. She was glad of all she did not say when, a moment
after, Katie exclaimed:

“O, see this one! It’s my own room at home. Mamma had it photographed
and sent it to me last term, so I might see how the new furniture
looked.”

Mary Ann studied the picture long and closely.

“How beautiful! How beautiful!” she said, at last, in breathless
admiration. “The best parlor at the Peconough House is jest nothin’ to
it! My lands! how rich your folks must be! and aint it awful work to
dust all them ornaments?”

“I suppose so,” said Katie, indifferently. “I never dust the room
myself, but mamma says the housemaid complains of all our rooms.”

Mary Ann looked at Katie curiously, then attentively at the picture
again; then, rather irrelevantly it would seem to any one not following
her thoughts, said with a heavy sigh:

“My, aint you got white hands, though!”

They were white, and Katie enjoyed being told of it; in fact, the
admiration she and her belongings, as they were taken from the trunk,
excited was very refreshing to this young lady, who had her full share
of vanity. Her complacency made her quite tolerant of her companion’s
uncouth ways, and she propped herself comfortably against a pillow
and proceeded to astonish her auditor by an extended account of her
luxuries and privileges in her beautiful home.

Her descriptions were assisted and confirmed by two photographs that
were too large to go in the album. The views showed the house to be
very elegant, but the girls were rather tired of Katie’s “bragging,”
and it was seldom she could get an opportunity of expending so much
eloquence upon her favorite theme.

While Mary Ann listened with entranced interest to the description
of home-life which seemed to her like a piece out of a fairy-tale
her rough, red hands were not idle. Having emptied the trunk of all
excepting its heaviest contents she dragged it into the hall for Duffy
to carry into the store-room, and, pulling a spool and tatting-shuttle
out of her pocket, made the latter fly as if its motor were steam.

By and by Lily put her head in the half-closed door, flushing at the
sight of Miss Stubbs, but otherwise taking no notice of her.

“Please come to Mrs. Abbott’s room, Katie; she wants us for a few
minutes,” she said, disappearing as suddenly as she came.

Katie smoothed her hair at the glass and turned to obey the request.
At the same instant small flying feet were heard and a little voice
counting the doors, “One, two, three, four, five, same’s my little
finger; this is the one, I know;” and with a little knock that she
didn’t wait to hear answered Ethel danced into the room.

“I’ve come back for you,” she exclaimed, running up to Mary Ann, “and
Mrs. Abbott says you may come with us to see the peacocks, and we are
going to feed them, too. Candace is getting your hat, and she’ll wait
on the piazza for us. Come, hurry! hurry! The big one’s got his tail
lifted all up like a big, big feather fan.”



CHAPTER IV.

MRS. ABBOTT’S EXPLANATION.


Perhaps it was a little bit of diplomacy on Mrs. Abbott’s part that
provided an occupation out of the house for Miss Stubbs, while she
talked of her very seriously to some of the scholars. Lily, who was as
quick to act upon her good impulses as upon any others, had told her
teacher frankly what had occurred. Mrs. Abbott received her confession
sorrowfully, but made no comment at the time, simply asking the girl to
call to her room those who had been present at the conversation.

Delia, Katie, Fannie Holmes, Bell Burgoyne, and Lily Dart, the Friendly
Five, as they called themselves, took their seats rather shamefacedly,
and waited to hear what Mrs. Abbott had to say.

If it had been any one but Mrs. Abbott the girls would have thought her
afraid to begin. She certainly seemed much less composed than usual.
She looked out of the window thoughtfully, rose and walked half a dozen
times across the room, then took her seat again, looked keenly at the
girls for a moment, and said:

“I hardly know whether or not to tell you something that will explain
the presence in our school of a girl who is very different--I do not
pretend to say she is not--from all who have ever been here. I hope I
may help her by telling you, but sometimes I am afraid I shall do more
harm than good by being frank.”

Here she hesitated, and the girls, who were wildly curious, were afraid
she had arrived at the conclusion not to tell them any thing. She
noticed their inquiring looks and smiled.

“I have made your lively imaginations expect more of a story than I
really have to tell,” she said. “Last July, as you already know, I
took Ethel and Candace for a six weeks’ stay in the Catskills. The
hotel was on one mountain and faced another. In the deep valley between
were several little houses, not clustered together for neighborly
companionship, as you might suppose they would be in such a place, but
each standing quite alone in what they call a ‘burnt-off’ clearing.
The mountain air, while it strengthened me, made me wakeful, and,
delightfully still as the place was, I could never sleep after the
first ray of daylight broke through the sky. There were such glorious
cloud effects that I thought I might as well turn my early wakefulness
to good account; so the dawn of day always found me in shawls and
wrapper sitting at the window of my bedroom.

“The clouds hang very near the earth among those heights; so in
watching them I did not have to lift my eyes too high to see what
was going on about me, although there was not much to see, except an
occasional ox-team or a man on his way somewhere. But I began to notice
after a while that one of the earliest living things astir after the
birds was a little girl who brought a big pail up the hill, went around
to the back door of the hotel, and presently came back with the pail
filled with water, carrying it down the precipitous path quickly but
with great care not to spill all its contents, as certainly any one not
used to perpendicular paths would have done.

“To have made the journey thus loaded would have been a task for most
people, but this little water-bearer came again and again. I have known
her to carry down her load eleven times before the first bell rang to
warn the hotel guests that it was time to leave their beds and prepare
for breakfast.

“I am not fond of exercise before breakfast, but I grew so interested
in the little water-carrier that one morning I dressed myself very
early and went out, meeting her, as I expected, swinging her empty pail
and repeating something to herself as if she were learning a lesson.
She was larger when I stood on her level than when I saw her from the
window, and sufficiently strong not to have minded carrying two or
three pails of water--but eleven!

“‘It is hard work for you,’ I said, sympathetically, after wishing her
good-morning. ‘O, my, no,’ she said, brightly; ‘jest suppose I had the
empty pails to carry down and the full ones to fetch up!’

“I admired her happy philosophy and asked which of the houses she
carried her pails of water to, and was surprised enough when she told
me it was to all of them. I learned later that the well at the hotel
was the only one in the vicinity, and, the supply of rain-water being
inadequate, the people in the four little homes I could catch glimpses
of through the trees were willing to give a cent for each pail of water
brought to them!

“At mountain hotels fruit on the breakfast-table is not usual; so the
boarders were very glad to engage wild raspberries from the same girl,
who gathered them, with the help of three little brothers, after she
had finished her water-carrying.

“I used to walk on the piazza with Ethel every morning while Candace
was eating her breakfast, and sometimes still longer, when the grass
seemed too damp for more distant rambling, and as we turned the corner
and walked down the end of the dining-room we could see through the
windows of the kitchen beyond it great baskets of dirty dishes carried
in and emptied upon a table and piled up ready for washing. At a sink
close by a fat woman was perpetually washing dishes, which she handed
as fast as rinsed to two girls who wiped and piled them upon another
table. The dish-washing and wiping always seemed very attractive to
Ethel, and she made every excuse to stay longest on that part of the
piazza. At last from frequent observation of the process and the
workers I began to discover that my little water-carrier was one of the
dish-wipers.

“I made arrangements when we first went to the hotel for hiring a
strong wagon and a very steady old horse, and Ethel and I went every
fair day for a long, lovely drive among the beautiful mountains. One
day our trustworthy horse was attacked with a kind of rheumatic
lameness which his owner admitted he was liable to have occasionally,
but which would not last long. We waited patiently through several
rainy and cloudy days, but when one came that seemed more perfect
than any other day could be I felt as if I could wait no longer,
and consulted the landlord about hiring another horse. I think, to
exonerate that very cautious and conservative man, I must confess that
I was a little self-willed, and engaged a coltish creature that he
absolutely condemned. But I have driven nearly every day for so many
years that I had perhaps too great an estimate of my own powers.

“We started on our drive, picking out the least precipitous roads,
where all nearly approached the perpendicular for at least some portion
of their way, and so far from seeming coltish our slow-moving horse
might have been a grandfather.”

There was a prevailing opinion at Coventry school that Mrs. Abbott was
rather fond of telling a story, and knew how to tell it well. Perhaps
it was the strong interest she herself felt in every thing she said to
her girls, or perhaps it was the great love they felt for her that made
them now listen so intently that if the celebrated pin that is always
mentioned in connection with attentive audiences had dropped it might
have made quite a clatter, and yet certainly there was nothing very
exciting about what she had said so far, as Kate Ashley found when she
tried to put it into her inevitable diary.

“Elfie was in high spirits,” pursued Mrs. Abbott, “and laughed and sang
as we drove along the shady roads, that were almost cold, the shade was
so dense.

“We were within a mile or two of home when we came to a little log
hut we had often seen before, but could rarely pass without stopping,
because we knew it was the place to buy the most delicious maple-sugar
that could be found in that region. The lame old woman sitting in the
door rose up and came to the carriage, helping out Elfie, who had
twelve cents, the price of a pound cake of sugar, clutched in her hand.

“I shall always be devoutly thankful that the child did get out, for
before she had even stepped into the house behind the old woman a man
whom I had not seen fired his gun at a squirrel close behind us, and
in an instant the startled horse dashed away with me, paying no heed
to all my efforts to hold him in. The road was up-hill for a little
way, but I well remembered that there was a long, steep pitch after
that, and I drew the reins with all the strength I had and settled
myself into the middle of the seat so I should not be quite so easily
thrown out. When we reached the top of the hill the downward pace was
terrible. He seemed not to run, but to take great plunging leaps. His
very first jump pulled the reins out of my hands, and I crouched down
on the floor, grasping the seat and expecting every instant to be
thrown out. I suppose I did not spend much time in this way, but it
seemed like an hour that I clung there with a dreadful death apparently
quite certain, for the road was narrow, with a steep, stony descent on
one side. At the bottom of the terrible hill there was a short bit of
road as nearly level as any road ever is among those mountains, then
a fork, one road taking straight up another hill, the other making a
sharp, sudden turn toward a plank bridge that had been injured by late
storms and was considered impassable.

“If the horse, whose bounds seemed to be getting a little less
impetuous, went straight up the other hill, possibly, hope whispered to
me, I might be saved; but if he took that awful turn--I turned sick
when I thought of what would come then!

“In those few terrible seconds before we reached the foot of the hill
I saw--although I was not conscious till afterward that I saw any
thing--the hotel standing boldly out upon its clearing, with people
walking and sitting upon its broad piazza, and, just before the bit of
level road I was approaching, a little black house, with a group of
children playing beneath a tree and a girl hanging a heavy quilt upon a
clothes-line. The noise of the wheels made her turn her head. I cannot
remember what she did then, but I have been told that she made a dash
for the road, and, when my horse came to the spot where to turn was
death, she stood at the point of danger, right in the middle of the
road, with the dark, wet calico quilt held up in her extended arms. If
she had moved it it would have added to the horse’s terror and driven
him into a mad bolt at the precipice on the other side of the road,
but held as the girl held it it simply made, as she hoped it would, a
barrier to keep him from taking the turn.

“My horse’s pace grew less fearful then, even on the level space, and
before we reached the top of the steep ascent it had moderated so
greatly that two men at the top in a loaded wagon sprang from their
seat at sight of my danger and stopped him without much difficulty.”

Mrs. Abbott stopped for a moment, overcome by the recollection of
her exciting adventure, while the girls, who had almost forgotten
to breathe while they listened, crowded about her with caresses and
murmurs of thankfulness that she had been saved.



CHAPTER V.

MARY ANN STUBBS.


“It is very lovely,” said Mrs. Abbott, as the girls were petting and
fondling her, “very lovely in you to care so much for my deliverance
from peril. I have not been able to tell you half how dreadful my
danger was. I seemed to be looking right at death, and a terrible
death, too. My heart is full of thankful love whenever I think of God’s
goodness to me then. Perhaps my lips did not utter a word; I know I
did not scream, but something within me cried out just as the supreme
moment of danger was at hand, ‘Lord, save me, save me, save me!’

“Girls,” continued Mrs. Abbott, solemnly, making an effort to recover
herself from the strong excitement with which she had spoken the last
words, “God heard me out of the depths of my agony; he sent the angel
of his deliverance to my help. Do you wonder that gratitude to the
girl who risked her life to save mine makes me wish to make her life
happier?”

“It was Mary Ann Stubbs,” exclaimed Lily, throwing her arms around
Mrs. Abbott’s neck and sobbing, “and I--I--I have been so mean to her
when she saved your life!”

“O, Lily, keep still and let Mrs. Abbott tell us the rest,” said Delia.
“Did you faint when they took you out? And when did you find out that
it was Mary Ann who held the quilt? I don’t see how she came to think
of doing it, anyway.”

“Nor I,” said Bell. “I am afraid I should just shut my eyes and shudder
if I were to see a lady being run away with in such a fearful way.”

“I suppose almost any girl would feel as you do,” said Mrs. Abbott. “I
am sure I should feel helpless myself in the same circumstances, but
Mary Ann is really a very uncommon character.

“Naturally enough, I was sick for some days from the nervous shock
of my accident, and in that time I learned much about her from the
hotel-keeper’s wife, who used to come in and sit with me. It was not
till she told me that I knew who kept the horse from taking that
dreadful turn.

“I found that the one great desire of Mary Ann’s life was to have an
education. The few books she could get hold of she knew almost by
heart, and in the little country school she attended in winter she
studied with a vigor that soon carried her beyond the rather slightly
educated teacher. During all the work of her busy days she was always
committing something to memory, and the results of her application will
surprise you when you see her in class.

“It seemed impossible to take away a girl who was the main-stay of
her family, for Mary Ann’s earnings in assisting at the hotel a part
of every day through the season and water-carrying and berry-picking,
moss-basket-making, and several other small employments, counted
largely toward her mother’s support. Her father lost his leg by an
accident, so his capacity as a bread-winner is greatly reduced; but
by the co-operation of the landlord of the Peconough House it has all
been arranged, and now I ask your kindness for poor Mary Ann. She is
rough, uncouth, and ignorant of every thing that goes to make polish
and elegance, but she has a bright mind and a noble heart.

“I have told you of her origin and her almost menial position in order
to account for her peculiarities of manner and speech, and I have told
you of the bravery that saved my life to enlist your interest in her;
and now I ask you if you are willing to overlook the obnoxious points
and be friendly to Mary Ann?”

“Indeed we will!” said they all as with one voice; and, loving their
teacher as they did, the girls felt a grateful desire to heap benefits
on her preserver.

“I can see now,” said Mrs. Abbott, tears starting to her eyes at the
evidences of her scholars’ love for her, “that I had better have told
you this story before letting you see Mary Ann; but we are all apt to
make mistakes. I think I have made another in asking one of you to take
her in especial charge, so I withdraw the office from you, Lily.”

“No, no, let me ‘mother’ Mary Ann. Don’t punish me for my contemptible
conduct!” cried Lily, red with shame.

“No, dear, it is not for punishment, but because I see ample reason for
leaving any one girl free from individual responsibility. I will give
her into the care of you all.”

“Make her a kind of child of the regiment,” said Delia.

“Yes, exactly that. You five may consider yourselves in honor bound to
look after the interests of poor Mary Ann.”

“I am going to begin by teaching her grammar,” said Bell, at which
the others quite laughed, for Bell was very weak on that branch of
learning. “Well, you needn’t laugh. I don’t say ‘you be’ and ‘I haint,’
and I don’t think there’s any harm in my telling her not to do it.”

“You will be astonished when I tell you,” said Mrs. Abbott, “that Mary
Ann is well grounded in grammar and rhetoric, but she has spent her
life where no practical use of them is made in conversation; so the
poor girl does not know how to talk; but as soon as she catches the
idea that her speech is different from others she will bend every nerve
to changing it. Her great ambition is to become a teacher and earn
enough to educate her brothers and sisters.”

“Six of them!” groaned Katie.

“How is she to get clothes?” asked Bell, thinking of the thick shoes
and the vivid plaid. “She wouldn’t be so bad if she dressed like other
folks.”

“I should have attended to that before she came,” said Mrs. Abbott,
“but when I recovered I felt unwilling to stay among the mountains, and
driving was no longer a pleasure to me, so we went to Narragansett for
the rest of the vacation, leaving the care of getting Mary Ann down
here in time for school opening with Mrs. Perkins, the hotel-keeper’s
wife. I have already set the girl who has been engaged to make Elfie’s
dresses to work upon a navy-blue cashmere for Mary Ann, and shoes of a
more girlish appearance she shall have this afternoon.”

“And may I bring you some cuffs and collars for her?” asked Bell.
“Mamma always packs up such an insane quantity of them for me. I never
use half of them.”

“And I can give her lots of hair-ribbons,” said Katie.

“O, please let us fill her top drawer with our superfluities,” said
Lily; “she will never know where they came from, and it will be great
fun!”

Mrs. Abbott hesitated.

“I do not like to destroy her independence. Her position as occasional
helper in the hotel kitchen did not bring her into contact with the
guests, so she was never offered presents or fees.”

“I know,” said Lily; “you want her to feel as good as any one.”

“Yes, I do; and if she is to begin by accepting gifts she may get a
feeling of inferiority that I don’t wish her to have.”

“Well, wont you put the things in the drawer, and not tell her we gave
them? Surely she can take a favor from you,” said Delia.

And so it was arranged. Mary Ann had her raptures over gloves, ribbons,
ruffles, and other girlish properties which she had never dreamed of
possessing, and the girls who had supplied her out of their profusion
were well paid by seeing the improvement in her appearance and hearing
her expressions of delight when she told them of the furniture of the
top drawer she expected to find empty.

Mrs. Abbott kept her rather out of sight for a day or two, and when
school work began in earnest Mary Ann, in her new blue dress, with
clean collar and cuffs, nice shoes and dark stockings, was not a
conspicuous figure till she opened her mouth to speak.



CHAPTER VI.

MARY ANN’S CHARGE.


It always takes nearly a week to get a boarding-school into good
working order, so, although Mrs. Abbott appointed Wednesday for
arriving, she never really expected much would be done till the next
Monday. By that time the rapture of greeting between old friends, the
acquaintances to be formed with new-comers, and the natural touch of
homesickness were supposed to be over, and the business of life must
begin.

One of the five new scholars has been described. The others seemed
nice, quiet, lady-like girls, a little inclined to be teary, as was
quite natural, for they knew the pleasures of the homes they had left,
and they could not yet know how much there was to enjoy at Coventry
school.

They all found Elfie a quiet comforter, for the child, now that she had
become entirely at home, seemed to take the duties of a hostess upon
herself and made very pretty little efforts to please the strangers.
Any other child would have been in danger of being spoiled by the
petting lavished upon her; she was every one’s darling; and to have
Elfie for an hour was the greatest treat a girl could have.

Edna Tryon, one of the new girls, was quite as far advanced as any of
the old scholars, and was put into the class with them. She had been
for years at a fashionable city school, but having, as her mother
thought, shown some symptoms of delicate health, she was brought to
Mrs. Abbott’s in hopes the pure country air might be of advantage.

There was something very attractive about Edna Tryon’s appearance;
teachers and girls were pleased with her from the first, but as time
went on she developed some unlovely traits, and brought from the
fashionable school she had attended ideas which were quite at variance
with Mrs. Abbott’s system. She was rather a shrewd girl, and by
appealing to certain weaknesses she was quick to discover in a girl’s
character was able to acquire an influence over her. She succeeded in
getting very much of an influence over Katie Ashley, and through her
became on excellent terms with all the Friendly Five.

After Mrs. Abbott’s conversation with the Friendly Five about Mary Ann
they had treated her with kindness, and their example had made her
much better received by the other scholars than she would have been,
for school-girls are very critical, and there was much in Mary Ann’s
speech and manner to which to object.

Edna treated her with great haughtiness from the first, and Lily,
seeing how often Mary Ann was wounded by her arrogance, asked for
liberty to tell her the story of how she came to be there; but Mrs.
Abbott, thinking it better no one else should know what a humble
position she had held, withheld her permission, at the same time
thanking Lily for wishing to befriend Mary Ann.

“It gives me great joy, my dear, to see that you persist in your
kindness to poor Mary Ann. She tells me that all of you to whom I told
her story are brave champions.”

“I am sorry she needs a champion,” said Lily; “but you know it is
a temptation to make fun of her green ways and looks; but she is
improving, and I think it’s perfectly grand the way she asks us to tell
her of her faults. I should be furious if any one told me of mine. To
tell the truth, I don’t like to think people know I have any.”

“We cannot too much admire Mary Ann’s determination to improve herself,
and I hope, Lily, you will continue to be her friend.”

Lily promised and fully meant to keep her word, but, as Mrs. Abbott had
learned by past experience, Lily had two failings which sometimes made
her a little trying to those who loved her most: her disposition to
seek amusement, even if she had to do it at a friend’s expense, and her
easy nature, made her too easily led away from her good intentions. But
she had of late struggled with these besetting sins, as she called them
herself, and her teacher hoped they would at last disappear.

No one’s general average in the week’s report was ever higher than
Mary Ann’s. She was not only a remarkably quick student, but she
appreciated, more than any one else in the school, the great blessing
of an education. Gratitude to Mrs. Abbott was another spur to industry,
and her studiousness and desire to learn made her a favorite with the
teachers.

She still had much to bear from the scholars, who were thoughtlessly
cruel, and laughed at her many blunders; but their causes of merriment
were gradually disappearing, for Mary Ann was so well aware of her
defects and so watchful to correct them that Mrs. Abbott told her one
day, finding her plunged in despair, that before long, with her great
desire for improvement and the rough process of polishing she was
enduring, she would acquire the agreeable manner of speech and action
she admired in the other girls.

“O, you are so kind to me, ma’am,” said grateful Mary Ann, “and I wisht
you’d gimme--give me, I mean--something to do for you. You said to my
mother there was work I could do here.”

“I have changed my mind about that. If I were to let you do the light
service I had expected to I fear the others would be less likely to
treat you as an equal, and, dear, I think you have enough to struggle
against without that drawback. I have decided to ask of you something
much more serious and important than I had intended. To explain myself,
I must tell you something in strict confidence; I am quite sure I may
trust you.”

Mary Ann began to pledge her solemn word in the strong language in
which she had been accustomed to hear such assertions made; but Mrs.
Abbott stopped her, saying:

“One look at your face is all I need to show me you can keep a secret.”

The honest eyes she looked into were shining with pleasure, and Mrs.
Abbott smiled lovingly at the girl as, taking her little hard hand in
her own, she told the pitiful story of Ethel’s mother’s short, sad life.

She had become engaged while her father was abroad, having left her
in the care of a friend who proved very reckless of the trust, to a
man in every way unworthy of her. Mr. Bellamy, on his return, at first
refused his consent, but Ethel, always delicate, seemed unable to bear
disappointment, and, having no actual proof of Mr. Gray’s unworthiness,
his fears for her health made him consent to their marriage. There
were two years of sad experience, and then Mr. Bellamy, learning of
wrongs which had been carefully concealed from him and which fully
justified the severest measures, insisted upon a legal separation, and
brought Mrs. Gray and her little daughter back to his own home in San
Francisco. Soon the older Ethel died, leaving her baby Elfie to her
grandfather’s care.

“To guard against interference he legally adopted Elfie, giving her his
own name, and he never means to have her know, if it can be helped,
that she has a father living.”

“Within the past year,” continued Mrs. Abbott, “Mr. Bellamy has found
the worthless father very troublesome, and has grave fears that he
will try to get possession of Elfie, probably with the hope of getting
hold of the money which she inherits from her mother, independently of
her grandfather’s large fortune. He made one attempt in San Francisco,
but happily his plot was discovered. Mr. Bellamy believes the man will
think he has of course taken Elfie to England with him, and has little
fear for her here under my care.

“Candace can be trusted to watch and defend her if necessary, for she
would be a tigress if danger threatened her darling; but poor Candace
keeps having attacks of rheumatism. Change of climate must have
developed it, for she was never afflicted that way before. When her
nurse has a sick day some one else must guard Elfie, and you, my dear,
will do it more faithfully, I firmly believe, than any one else in the
house.”

Mrs. Abbott rose as she finished, and kissed the earnest, honest face
of her listener.

Mary Ann’s dark eyes were beaming with joy at being so trusted; but
though she longed to say that she would be faithful--yes, faithful unto
death, if necessary--there was such a choking in her throat that she
could only answer by pressing the dear hand that held hers.



CHAPTER VII.

ELFIE TELLS A STORY.


Six of the girls were spending the Saturday mending-hour in Lily’s
room. All the girls in the school were required to spend that one hour
in sewing, and as rents and holes were subject to fines and bad marks
it became an unwritten law that the hour was to be spent in mending.
The little girls were expected to do their mending in the smaller
recitation-room, with one of the teachers to direct and assist them,
but the larger ones were allowed to work in their rooms.

“It is not a hilarious pursuit,” said Lily, looking solemnly at a
three-sided tear above the hem of a clean white skirt, “and I am very
sorry that there seems to be such a deep-seated prejudice against the
Chinese.”

“And what earthly connection is there between mending and Chinese?”

“The connection, my inquisitive Bertha, is not with mending, but
abolishing the necessity for the practice, which I regard as a most
disagreeable one. I have understood that the gentle creatures with the
peanut-colored complexions and the blinking, bias eyes are acquainted
with a process for making paper undergarments, which are taken off
when soiled and used for lighting fires. I suppose if my lovely figure
were draped in paper I should make a cheerful rattling as I walked
about, and toward the close of a paper garment’s career I might even
have to tie it about me with twine, like any other paper-wrapped
package. Still, I should prefer it to mending cotton materials, and so
I wish they would offer the Chinese inducements to stay here and begin
manufacturing.”

The girls were convulsed with laughter, for Lily had an overwhelmingly
droll way of making her highly original remarks.

“I have no mending to do,” said Katie; “so if you want me to read aloud
I am quite at your service.”

Lily laid down her work and looked reproachfully at the speaker. “Have
you stolen a march on me, uncandid Katherine, with a K, and supplied
yourself with a full line of paper garments while I am still groveling
in cotton cloth?”

“No; I wear as much muslin as you do, and wear and tear it into twice
as many holes. I laid a frightful pile of clothes that wanted mending
on my table yesterday, but when I went to bed I found them all mended.”

“That sounds supernatural,” said Lily, using her chest tones and
speaking sepulchrally; “I am afraid it was the work of no mortal
fingers. Perhaps you have a ghostly double who sits and sews while you
otherwise amuse yourself.”

“O, stop talking that way,” said Katie; “you make me feel creepy; I
know well enough who did it. It was Mary Ann.”

“How very nice!” said Edna, airily; “I believe I will hire her services
too. I have plenty of pocket-money to spare, for there’s no way of
spending it here.”

“But she didn’t do it for pay,” protested Katie; “it’s because she
likes me.”

“And because you are always so nice to her,” said Lily, with an
approving nod which greatly pleased Katie.

Edna drew up her lip scornfully. “I should not accept unpaid services,”
she said, loftily.

“Do excuse my forgetfulness,” exclaimed Lily, hurriedly fumbling in her
little purse. “O, can any one change a half-dollar; never mind, here’s
some pennies, one, two, three, four, five. Here, Edna, is this about
right for gluing my photo-case so nicely the other day?”

“Why, Lily Dart! How dare you offer me money!” exclaimed Edna,
springing up and scattering the pennies Lily had tossed into her lap in
every direction.

The other girls looked shocked too; but Lily serenely said, “I must be
stupid, but I thought you said you wouldn’t accept unpaid services, and
I felt reproached at once for not having as good a rule of conduct as
yours.”

Edna looked violently angry, but before she could express her indignant
sentiments there was a little tap on the door, and Mrs. Abbott and
Elfie came in.

Perhaps Mrs. Abbott could tell by Edna’s flushed cheeks and the
angry tears which filled her eyes that something disagreeable was in
progress, but she gave no sign of noticing any thing, and after a few
minutes of pleasant chat asked if she might leave Elfie with them till
the sewing-hour was up.

Bertha, with a fear that Edna and Lily might recommence the interrupted
conversation, invited Elfie to tell them a story while they sewed.

“I can’t tell a book story,” said the child, “but I’ll tell you one
that Mammy Candace tells, or I’ll tell you one of Marion’s history
stories.”

“Which would you rather tell, Elfie?”

“I sink I’d rather tell one of mammy’s stories, ’cause I forget the
history names.”

“Very well, do as you like.”

“Well, once dere was a little girl, ’bout so big as me, and her mother
telled her to go over the field and take some nice custard in a bowl to
a poor sick woman in a little bit o’ cabin. So she put on her little
hat an’ comed an’ comed an’ comed till she ’most come to de little
cabin. Den she sat down under a bush an’ she look in de bowl, an’ de
custard look yellow like gole, an’ smooth like silk, an’ den she took a
holly-leaf an’ she ate de nice custard all up. An’ den she lie down an’
go sleep. Pretty soon dere comes big bumble-bee, buzz-buzz-buzz, an’
she wakes up an’ says, ‘Go ’way, bad bee.’ But de bee say, ‘No, no; I
goin’ ter sting a bad chile doan’ mine ’er mudder.’”

The girls were noticing with much amusement that Elfie was
unconsciously imitating the Southern accent Candace used.

“Den a lil’ chipmunk come an’ say, ‘Cha-cha-cha-cha, I goin’ bite her
lil’ toes, ’cause she doan’ mine ’er mudder.’ Den a lil’ owl comes an’
says, ‘Who-a-who-a-who, I goin’ pull ’er har, ’cause she doan’ mine ’er
mudder.’ Den dere comes a lil’ chink-bug, tick-a-tick-a-tick-a, an’
says, ‘I goin’ pinch ’er, ’cause she doan’ mine ’er mudder.’ Den dey
all say, ‘Sting ’er, bite ’er, pull ’er, pinch ’er, ’cause she doan’
mine ’er mudder.’ So she cry an’ holler, an’ de poor sick woman crawls
outer bed an’ sends ’em all off. Den she says, ‘You got somefin’ nice
for me in dat blue bowl?--somefin’ you mudder send me, yellow as gole
an’ smooth as silk? Gib it to me, ’cause I got nuffin’ to eat.’

“Dat was the worse of all, an’ de lil’ girl runs out de door an’ runs
home an’ says, ‘Mudder, mudder, gib me all de supper I can have;’ an’
de mudder gibs her bread an’ milk an’ jam-tart, an’ she takes ’em an’
runs ’way, ’way off to de cabin, to gib ’em to de sick woman, an’ de
bee, an’ de chipmunk, and de lil’ owl, and de chink-bug, dey all comed
too, an’ dey didn’t sting ’er, nor bite ’er, nor pull ’er, nor pinch
’er, ’cause she was sorry she was bad an’ didn’t mine ’er mudder.

“I can tell you better stories when I know how to read,” said Elfie,
modestly, as she received their thanks for the one she had just told
in a highly dramatic manner. “I have a beautiful big book of stories
called _The Raving Nights_, but Auntie Abbott wont let me have the
stories read to me, because I heard her tell Miss Blake I was too--too
magical now.”

“Imaginative, wasn’t it?”

“O, yes; dat was it.”

“Well,” said Lily, who had seen the big storybook, “‘magical’ isn’t a
bad word for the _Arabian Nights_.”

“And ‘Raving’ is as forcible as the real title,” added Edna, who seemed
to have recovered her temper.



CHAPTER VIII.

A RAINY DAY.


After a week of such glorious weather that it was a pleasure merely to
be alive there came a day when the rain fell in hopeless torrents.

“I wouldn’t quarrel with the weather,” said Lily, gloomily, “if it had
the propriety to do the right thing Saturday; but when our only holiday
is spoiled it seems a little exasperating. I’ve flattened my classic
features against the window-pane as long as I can stand it, but I can’t
find a symptom of clearing up.”

“Let’s do something amusing,” said Louie Field. “There is no fun in
just wishing it would stop raining, and that’s what we’ve been doing,
with intervals for yawning, for the last hour.”

“Amusing! Well, I like that! What’s going to amuse us?” asked Bell
Burgoyne, scornfully.

“Capping verses is pretty good fun,” said Mary Ann, modestly. It was
seldom she made a suggestion; but Edna, who generally snapped her up
with a sarcasm, or silenced her proposals with blighting sneers, was
out of the way now.

“That’s so,” said Katie, looking up from a struggle with the accounts
that her father required her to keep of her very liberal supply of
pocket-money. “It is fun, but I don’t remember exactly how it’s played.
You write a line of poetry and then fold the paper over it and pass it
along for your next neighbor to write a line that rhymes with it, don’t
you?”

“Yes; that’s one way, but we used to play it another way for a change.
Let’s try your way first, and then I’ll show you how we used to play it
at Chemunk.”

There was much stirring about for a few minutes to find pencils and
paper, and then a half sheet of foolscap was handed to Lily, who wrote
a heading and then a first line.

“Arrayed,” she said, passing the paper on to Katie, after carefully
turning down her line so that no one could read it.

“No one can make a rhyme to that,” said Katie, who was not blessed with
a powerful rhyming talent; “that’s one of the words there’s no rhyme
to, like silver and twelfth.”

“Maid, shade, glade, played,” suggested Mary Ann.

“O, yes,” said Katie; “but I don’t know a line of poetry that ends in
any of those words.”

“Give Mary Ann your turn, then,” said Lily, “and may be you’ll get an
easier word.”

So Mary Ann wrote a line rapidly and then passed the paper to Lottie
Bush, who wrote another rhyme to it, for the versification was to be in
triplets. Then Katie, thinking it would be easier to inaugurate a rhyme
than to find one, began a new verse and gave “tale” as the final word
of her line.

Some of the party were very quick, but others had to expend much
thought on their lines; so quite a little while passed before the poem
was finished and handed to Lily to read.

“Ahem!” she began, clearing her throat. “This remarkable poem is the
joint production of a number of first-class poets. It was original
sometime, and it is called--

“MANY LINES FROM MANY PENS, BY LOTS OF FOLKS.

  “An Austrian army awfully arrayed,
  Sure, I’m but a simple village maid,
  Blossomed and ripened in woodland shade.

  “Hope told a flattering tale,
  She began to weep, and she began to wail,
  Come in thy beauty, thou marvel of duty, sweet Annie of the vale.

  “Roll on, thou dark and deep blue ocean, roll,
  Nor lay that flattering unction to your soul;
  And the distant bells softly toll, toll, toll.

  “Hark, from the tombs a doleful sound;
  The spot whereon thou stand’st is holy ground;
  He cleared the barrier with a single bound.

  “Have you not heard the poet tell,
  Ding, dong, dell, pussy’s in the well,
  Down in the meadow, sweet blue bell.”

“That wasn’t bad fun,” said Louie. “Now suppose we try the other way.
Tell us how you do it, Mary Ann.”

“You compose four lines of poetry, or stuff--of course you can’t really
call it poetry--and leave off the rhymes, and pass it to the next one
to guess out the rhymes and put them in.”

“But, my goodness, child, we can’t all compose poetry! What do you take
us for?” asked Louie. “Wont it do to quote four lines from a book?”

“Not quite so well, for it might be familiar, and then there’d be no
skill in getting the rhymes.”

“O, let’s try it,” said Lily. “It needn’t be real poetry, as Mary Ann
says, and we’ll get some fun out of it, I guess.”

Some narrow strips of paper were supplied to each of the party, who,
with the exception of two or three who declared it was impossible for
them to think of any thing to write, were soon busy trying to wrench
poetical ideas from their puzzled brains.

Parodies were the easiest to write, Mary Ann had said; so most of the
verses when done bore strong suggestions of very familiar songs or
poems, and after they were written it was not hard for most of the
girls to supply the rhymes.

Edna, who came in too late to join in composing, was chosen to read the
verses to them after they were done. There were no names signed and it
was some sport to guess the authors. The first one selected from the
pile had an easy jingle about it that made the girls certain it was
from Lily’s ready pen. It was headed:

“ODE TO MY FRIEND.

  “I never told the truth, but--
    And then I told it--
  I said you were an awful--
    But you needn’t have felt so--

“Now, guess the rhyme,” said the reader, who knew what they were
because, according to rule, they were written on the back. “It’s an
every-other-line rhyme, and the second one is ‘gladly.’ It isn’t quite
fair to tell you that, but you’ll never guess it if I don’t give you
some clew.”

There was much puzzling about fitting the rhymes, but Mary Ann and
Bell succeeded in finding them and comfortably fitted “once,” “dunce,”
“gladly,” “badly,” into their places at the end of the lines.

The next verse was easier, and even Katie found no great difficulty in
supplying the missing words:

  “O, being at school is pretty good--
    But going home is--
  I’ll be full of joy when the term is--
    And I’ll write you a farewell--”

“The ‘fun,’ ‘done,’ ‘better,’ ‘letter,’ that belong to that verse
are what I call self-evident rhymes,” said Lily, “and it’s no fun to
guess them, for they say themselves, almost. Now, wait till I write
you something grand, gloomy, and obscure, with rhymes that don’t shout
themselves out at you.”

“After Browning, I suppose.”

“O, miles after. Now, hush, or I can’t hear the whispering of my muse.”
And Lily rolled up her eyes, and with her hand bending her ear forward
put on a rapt appearance of listening. Then with a bow to the corner
of the ceiling and a grateful, “Thanks, thanks, madam, for your timely
assistance,” supposed to be addressed to the obliging but invisible
muse, she began to scribble rapidly, in a few moments handing this
effusion to Edna to read:

  “Oft in the chilly--
    When wandering cats are--
  I fly out to the--
    And bid them stop their--
      Their shrieks and--
      Their howls and--
  Have driven me almost crazy.”

That was considered funny, because two of the girls had actually jumped
out of bed at daylight to suppress some unmelodious cats whose wails
had kept them awake; but their united efforts could not produce all
the needful rhymes; so Edna read them off from the back of the paper:
“dawn, howling, lawn, yowling, groans, moans.”

It was a noticeable fact that when Edna joined a circle which included
Mary Ann the latter soon made an excuse for leaving; so after the last
poetry had been read and laughed at she quietly slipped out of the
room, leaving the others to continue the sport without her.

Edna commented on her departure with a sarcastic supposition that she
had probably gone to seek more congenial society in the servants’
quarters, and, although there was not a girl present who believed what
she said, still there were none who openly contradicted her, for Edna
had acquired a sort of influence over the girls that required some
moral courage to combat.

Study-hour came soon after for some of them, but the half-dozen older
ones who were left kept on making the verses, which, unfortunately,
assumed a personal character that made them seem very pointed and witty
to the thoughtless girls, but which led to unhappy results a week
later.



CHAPTER IX.

SOME LEAVES FROM A DIARY.


Generally keeping a diary is very much a matter of sentiment, but with
Katie Ashley it was done only in fulfillment of a promise, and not at
all from any desire to record either feelings or events. Mrs. Ashley
had several daughters, all well educated, but all singularly averse
to writing letters. They were dutiful enough in other ways, but it
was very uncomfortable for their mother when she was separated from
them to have no communication except through an occasional telegraphic
dispatch. It was too late to make a reform with grown-up children, but
Mrs. Ashley determined that Katie, her youngest child, should become so
familiar with her pen that she would be free from the family failing;
so she exacted the promise when she sent her to boarding-school that
made daily entries in her elegantly bound diary the condition of
receiving a larger allowance of pocket-money than had ever been given
to her sisters.

The record was to be kept entirely private--sacred, Katie called
it--and no one at home was ever to ask to see it or even to allude to
it. But in the vacations, when Katie used to go off on little trips
with her mother, she used to get very confidential at bed-time, and her
talks about school usually ended in her getting the book out of her
trunk, and the tiny silver key off her watch-chain, and unlocking the
miniature padlock which secured the covers, and reading page after page
aloud to her very appreciative hearer. Sometimes the details were very
scant, sometimes they were quite full and interesting. It all depended
on the writer’s mood at the time of writing. A few specimens will show
the curious variations in this respect:

                                                  “_September 18._
  “Arrived here at school.

                                                  “_September 19._
  “Five new girls. One is a beauty, prettier than Lily; her name is Edna
  Tryon. Seems to feel pretty aristocratic--turns her nose up at almost
  every thing.

                                                  “_September 20._
  “I forgot to put down that one of the new girls looks like a
  chambermaid, and a very poor class of one, too. She don’t compare to
  our maids. Mrs. Abbott wants us to be good to her. There’s a long
  story about it, very interesting. _Mem._--Tell mamma about it
  when I get home.

                                                  “_September 21._
  “The girls are horrid to Mary Ann Stubbs.

                                                  “_September 22._
  “Little Elfie is an angel. We all love her to death. I took a
  walk with her and her black mammy to-day.

                                                  “_September 23._
  “There’s a funny thing I never thought to put down before. When
  we got back to school we found the high iron front gate taken
  down and heavy wooden doors with a big bolt put in its place.
  Mrs. Abbott hasn’t told us why it was done, and Miss Blake only
  said that Mr. Bellamy had it done. It’s horrid; we are entirely
  shut in. The board fence has spikes on it, so we couldn’t climb
  up and look over if we wanted to. We used to be very fond of
  looking out of the iron gate. Edna says she thinks there is some
  mystery somewhere. She wont tell what she means, but she says
  an old man where they used to live put a high board wall around
  his place and then got married and made counterfeit money.
  That’s silly, for Mrs. Abbott hasn’t got any tools and machinery;
  besides, she would never do any thing wrong.

                                                  “_September 23._
  “Knew all my lessons. Lily missed in political economy.

                                                  “_September 24._
  “I missed in algebra--generally do.

                                                  “_September 25._
  “New French teacher came. Made us all laugh at prayers. When it
  was her turn to read a verse she read, ‘And He healed de six,’
  instead of the sick.

                                                  “_September 26._
  “Mrs. Abbott went to New York to-day. She wont be back till
  to-morrow night.

                                                  “_September 27._
  “To-day Edna said to Lily and me, ‘Let’s slip out the back gate
  and go to the village. Miss Blake’s so near-sighted she wont see
  us.’ Lily was angry, and told Edna she insulted her by asking
  her to do such a thing when she knew Mrs. Abbott objected. After
  she had gone down-stairs Edna said, ‘Lily’s a born coward. She’d
  just love to go out that gate, but she’s so afraid she daresn’t.
  Now you’ve got more pluck, and I do like to see a girl who isn’t
  a ’fraid cat.’ After that I was afraid to refuse, so I guess I
  was a coward myself. We went up to the store, and Edna bought
  raisins and nuts, and I bought a pine-apple and some packages of
  lozenges. They don’t keep much of any thing nice at the store.

                                                  “_September 28._
  “Last evening Edna and I gave a party in her room after we went
  up to bed. We had nuts and raisins, and the pine-apple was cut
  into slices; but it was sour. Edna ran into the dining-room
  pantry and grabbed a cupful of salt. She thought it was sugar.
  Luckily she found it out before she had sprinkled much on the
  pine-apple. Edna said the party was great fun, but I didn’t have
  a very nice time. I kept thinking what if Miss Blake should come
  in and ask where we got the things.

                                                  “_September 29._
  “Some of us were in the front yard at recess and the gate-bell
  rang. Bertha said, ‘Come in the house, quick, before Johnny comes
  to answer the bell.’

  “I started to go with the others, but Edna held on to me till
  Johnny came up and opened the gate. We heard him say:

  “‘Mrs. Abbott is away, and I don’t think there’s any ribbons or
  things wanted to-day.’

  “‘Good, it’s a peddler,’ said Edna. ‘Let him come in. I want some
  thread and some shoe-buttons.’

  “We could see a man with a covered basket, and he seemed anxious
  to get in, for he pushed the gate open. I knew Mrs. Abbott
  wouldn’t like it, as she never would have peddlers about, but
  you can’t reason with Edna; she just made Johnny let him in.
  Edward never would have done it, but he has gone home because his
  mother’s sick, and this boy has taken his place a while.

  “I am almost afraid the peddler was a burglar, for he looked
  around so searchingly and up to every window, and made an excuse
  to go a little farther in, so he could look into the arbor. I
  took a good look at him, because I thought if he was a burglar
  I might have to identify him before a lawyer or something; you
  never can tell what’s going to happen. He had light, curly hair
  and a dark, yellow skin, and a queer, hooked nose. He unpacked
  some ribbons and laces, looking around all the time as if he was
  hunting for something. I made up my mind that he was somebody
  that knew the kitchen girls and was trying to get a glimpse of
  one of them. After a while he held up a pale lavender sash-ribbon
  with a black edge, and said, ‘This would be beautiful for a young
  lady in mourning.’

  “We were both in blue dresses, as he could see, and I laughed and
  said, ‘I guess we wont go into mourning for the sake of wearing
  that.’

  “Then he asked in the most anxious way if there wasn’t any one in
  mourning in the school.

  “‘Not one,’ said Edna, ‘except little Elfie, and she’s got more
  sashes than she can wear.’

  “The man looked at her very sharply--I never saw a common person
  show so much curiosity--and said, ‘Perhaps if you could persuade
  the young lady in mourning to come and look at my things she
  would find something she liked. I have beautiful black and silver
  bracelets.’

  “There was something horrid about the man, he seemed so familiar
  and so eager. I feel sure he is a burglar or something improper,
  and I think Edna thinks so too, though she wont own it. I was
  wishing with all my might that we could get rid of him, and then
  to my delight the dinner-bell rang and Johnny came running back,
  and sent him out and locked the gate.

                                                  “_September 30._
  “I kept expecting burglars all last night, but they didn’t come.

                                                     “_October 1._
  “I want to tell Mrs. Abbott about the peddler, he acted so queer;
  but Edna says I’m a fool to bring down a scolding and perhaps a
  punishment on myself and her too.

                                                     “_October 2._
  “I don’t believe I will keep intimate with Edna, she seems to do
  so many wrong kind of things. I am going to ask Miss Blake to let
  me sit on the other side of the study-table, so I won’t be next
  to her any more.

                                                     “_October 3._
  “Maybe I judged Edna too harshly. She came into my room to-day,
  and after she’d looked around a minute she exclaimed, in the most
  earnest way, ‘O, you dear, lovely Katie, if you could only know
  how I love you and how I admire you!’ Then she told me that from
  the very first she had thought I was the very nicest, smartest,
  and prettiest girl in the whole school. It seems silly to write
  down praises of myself, but it is perfectly sweet to have a girl
  think so much of you. I have made up my mind it would be unkind
  to change my seat and leave Edna; so I sha’n’t speak to Miss
  Blake about it.

                                                     “_October 4._
  “Knew my history, but missed in classic literature. I never do
  remember whether Juno was a man or a woman.”



CHAPTER X.

A MEAN ACT.


Friday was composition day--that is, the compositions written during
the week were then, after being corrected by Miss Blake, read aloud in
the school.

The names of the writers were not given, so there was no embarrassment
of that kind. Mrs. Abbott would simply take one from the pile and hand
it to one of the girls to read aloud.

On the next Friday after that rainy Saturday four had been read, and
Mrs. Abbott handed the fifth to Ellen Leigh, one of the younger girls,
who was rather celebrated for her excellent reading. She opened the
paper, which looked exactly like the others, and read:

“EUPHROSYNE, ONE OF THE GRACES.

  “O, never, dear girls, let us roam as we will,
    Shall we hear conversation like this!
  Her ‘gimme’ and ‘haint yer’ and ‘tickled to kill’
    Are treats we’d be sorry to miss.

  “And nothing so graceful our eyes ever saw
    As the way which she deals with her knife,
  When she grapples the handle in dainty red paw,
    And piles in the food for dear life.”

There were evidently more verses, but Mrs. Abbott interrupted the
reader, reaching out her hand for the paper, and, turning with surprise
to Miss Blake, said:

“Why did you allow a composition of this character to be presented for
reading?”

Miss Blake, looking greatly puzzled, declared she had never seen it
before. She then took the pile in her hand and counted. There were
twenty-one, and twenty was the number she had corrected.

Some of the girls had laughed and shown much amusement as the verses
were read, but seeing Mrs. Abbott was really angry they all looked
preternaturally sober as she turned from Miss Blake and slowly scanned
each face before her. There was a painful silence which Elfie broke by
saying in a sorrowful voice:

“Who’s made poor Mary Ann cry?”

“Yes, who?” asked Mrs. Abbott, emphatically.

“It was that naughty song Ellen read,” said Elfie. “But Mary Ann isn’t
going to say ‘tickled to kill’ any more, she isn’t.”

Elfie was generally as particular as if she had been a scholar never to
speak in school or move about, but she seemed to feel that this was a
case that demanded her assistance. She crossed over silently to where
Mary Ann sat with her face in her hands, bravely trying to keep back
bitter tears, and, throwing her arms around her, whispered comfort into
her ears.

Mrs. Abbott, looking very stern, laid the paper between the leaves of
her blank-book and, taking up another composition, asked Lily to read
it. The girls all noticed that Lily’s cheeks were painfully flushed,
and her voice was so low that she had to be asked twice to repeat a
sentence.

Mary Ann, who had succeeded in controlling her feelings, carefully
avoided looking at Lily, for she, as well as all of the school,
suspected that she was the author of the cruel verses. It was a very
hard knowledge to have, for Lily had seemed to be her friend, and there
had been times when Mary Ann had gone to her as a refuge and comforter
when others had derided her. It is a bitter blow when you learn that
you have been deceived in a friend. If Edna Tryon, for instance, who
made no pretense of being friendly, had written the lines, she might
have borne it; but Lily! The thought overcame her, and in spite of
every effort she dropped her face upon the desk to conceal the tears
that would not be kept back. Miss Blake went to her instantly, and,
obeying a look from Mrs. Abbott, led her from the room.

“Have you never heard,” asked Mrs. Abbott, in the pause which followed,
“of a rough diamond, and do you not know that one in the rough is as
pure a gem as the one that glistens on a king’s crown?”

Edna, sitting by Lily, who had resumed her seat, passed her a bit of
paper on which she had scribbled, “Rough diamonds need cutting. I think
we had better cut this one. I am ready to say I’ll never speak to her
again.”

But Lily crumpled the paper up after reading it, and took no notice
of the smile and shrug with which Edna emphasized her wit; but she
suddenly raised her hand.

“What is it, Miss Dart?” asked Mrs. Abbott, coldly; probably she too
felt a certainty that Lily was the author, although the verses were not
in her hand-writing.

“I want to tell you,” said Lily, struggling with a great lump in her
throat, “that I wrote that stuff, but I only did it to make two or
three of the girls laugh. I wrote it when we were playing a game last
Saturday, and I never meant any one to see it except two or three
girls who were in the room with me. I thought I tore it up when I
threw it in the waste-basket. Perhaps some one picked out the pieces
and copied the horrid stuff. I am awfully sorry. I like Mary Ann; I
really do, and I wouldn’t have had this happen for the world. She is a
rough diamond; she is, truly, and I knew it all the time while I was
so--so--so--horrid--” Here Lily broke down entirely and dropped into
her seat.

“I hope this will teach you to hold in check the sin that doth so
easily beset you,” said Mrs. Abbott, gravely. “It is a sin to trifle
with other people’s feelings for the sake of having a little amusement.
I think we must all admire your ready candor in trying to atone in
a small degree for your fault by acknowledging it. And I hope your
example will be followed at once by the person who copied your lines
and placed them with the compositions.”

A solemn silence pervaded the room, and the girls looked round at each
other; but the culprit did not avail herself of the opportunity of
confession.

“I am still waiting,” said Mrs. Abbott, but no one spoke. “Perhaps,
then, we can find out in some other way. If any one present knows or
suspects who copied these verses I wish her to raise her hand.”

No one lifted her hand.

“Some one knows,” said Mrs. Abbott, sternly, “and I think the one who
committed the offense would feel better to confess it; but if she is
not courageous enough to face us all let her come to me alone this
evening.”

But the offender preferred keeping her secret, and no advantage was
taken of Mrs. Abbott’s invitation, and she passed the twilight hour
alone, pondering sadly on the troublesome elements that were disturbing
her school.

Further reference was made to the subject a few days later, when
Mrs. Abbott announced that although she did not know herself who the
offender was she had learned that Mary Ann saw one of the scholars put
a paper the size and shape of the compositions into the pile before
school began on Friday morning.

“But no persuasions,” she continued, “will make Mary Ann tell me who
the girl was.”

“Confessing my part of that mean transaction,” said Lily, as soon as
the girls were alone together, “was no fun, and ‘the party or parties
unknown,’ as the papers I copy for papa say, who brought me to open
disgrace have my sincere contempt. I never felt so small in all my life
as I did when I saw poor Mary Ann all broken up by my wicked poetry. I
should like to have hired a mouse-hole and gone to housekeeping in it
with the front door shut and never been heard of again. I think we have
all of us been too dreadful for any thing. Now, why have we treated
her so? She is one of the smartest, brightest girls in school; she’s
as good as gold, as true as steel, and as bright as silver--in short,
she’s a rough diamond.”

“According to you she belongs to the mineral kingdom,” sneered Edna;
“but she’s as common as copper, if you’ll allow there is any base metal
about her.”

“Copper isn’t bad if you have plenty of it in the shape of pennies,”
said Katie, sagely.

“I don’t allow that there’s any base metal about her,” said Lily; “and
I don’t see why we are all so mean to her. Every one of us has had
proofs enough of her good-nature.”

“That’s so,” assented a number of voices in accord.

“And, as far as I can see, there’s nothing against her except her
back-country bringing up and her funny way of talking. Why, dear me,
dialect is all the fashion in stories; what makes us despise it so in
real life?”

“Mary Ann is getting over her dialect very fast,” said Addie Mason. “I
don’t think she talks very differently from the rest of us now.”

“No, she does not,” said Lily; “and that makes it all the worse for
me to have written that stuff; and she doesn’t eat with her knife any
more, either.”

“I think the one who put that poetry on Mrs. Abbott’s desk was fifty
times worse than you,” said Bell Burgoyne.

“So do I,” said several who were brave enough to condemn the action,
although it was generally supposed to be Edna who did it.

Her face grew very dark now.

“It’s a great row about nothing,” she said, “and I don’t think girls
who are born ladies ought to be expected to associate with such vulgar
folks.”

“I say again that Mary Ann is not vulgar; and look here, girls, let’s
rechristen her. Half the trouble is in that absurd name, Mary Ann
Stubbs; but we can change her first name to Marion!”

The girls, who were honestly ashamed of the passive or active parts
they had taken on many occasions in persecuting poor Mary Ann, received
the proposal with applause, and by general consent the old name was
dropped, and soon both teachers and scholars said “Marion”--all but
Edna; she could not be persuaded to say any thing but Mary Ann, and,
as a general thing, she took the trouble to use the last name too,
pronouncing Stubbs with a scornful emphasis that was very bitter in its
wearer’s ears.



CHAPTER XI.

THE S. C.’S.


The average school-girl loves mystery, and when Edna Tryon, who had
become so intimate with the Friendly Five as almost to be their
sixth, proposed to teach them a cipher by means of which they might
communicate with no possibility of any other persons reading their
letters they were ecstatic, and applied themselves with such zeal
to practicing the new accomplishment that soon notes of the most
enigmatical appearance were constantly exchanged between the initiated.

It was quite generally known that this secret correspondence existed,
and much envy was excited by the obtrusive manner in which the experts
triumphed in their accomplishment.

Often in the few moments after a class had come and the girls had taken
their places a most innocent-looking note, not even folded, would
pass through several hands and its contents glanced at by eyes whose
greatest acuteness could see nothing but a confusion of letters; but
after reaching one of the initiated she would express so much surprise
or disdain or pleasure or other emotion after reading it by the light
of her occult understanding of its secret that the other girls would
pine to know its hidden and interesting meaning too.

Some of the girls tried to work out the cipher, but no one came
so near it as Mary Ann, who was confessedly the most successful
puzzle-solver in the school. She would undoubtedly in time have found
it out alone, but she had some assistance from Katie, who, proud of her
accomplishment, once read her a sentence of the secret message in a
note she had received from Lily, and then had thrown it down upon her
table according to the ostentatious habit of the league.

It may be stated here that the Friendly Five, in grateful
acknowledgment of their debt to Edna Tryon, had admitted her to full
companionship, and as the numerical name conflicted with the fact of
a sixth member they had changed it to Secret Cipherers, using only
the initials S. C.’s, which mysterious title caused much guessing
among the outsiders, who rather ill-naturedly affected to believe
the letters stood for “silly creatures,” and called the club by that
uncomplimentary title.

Mary Ann took the note to her room, and by the aid of the complete
sentence she had heard soon worked out the cipher to her own
satisfaction, as she had an early opportunity of proving; for the next
note that was handed around and then thrown conspicuously down upon
the floor contained, according to her key, a hidden appointment for a
candy-pull in the wash-house, by gracious permission of the laundress.

A little quiet observation proved the correctness of her reading,
and Mary Ann was so triumphant in her discovery that she felt like
announcing it. But then, she reflected, it would spoil their sport; for
they would fear her telling it to other girls. That, of course, she
wouldn’t have done, but just for a moment she did have a desire to have
Edna Tryon know that she had become possessed of her cherished secret.
Then she recollected that others besides Edna would be discomposed,
and remembering how kind they were to her generally--she had long
ago forgiven Lily’s verses--she generously resolved to keep her own
counsel, but was not above enjoying the idea that the boasted secret
was no secret to her.

Whether or not it was right for her thus to read what was not intended
for her eyes began to trouble her after a little; so one day when a
note was thrown to her to pass to Edna, in one of the three-minute
spells which they had in school at the end of every hour, when they
were allowed to talk softly, but not to leave their seats, she
whispered, after the latter had thrown it on the floor, “May I read it,
cipher and all?”

“Make all you can out of it and welcome,” said Edna, loftily; and after
that permission Mary Ann’s conscience was quieted.

All this time Mary Ann’s uncouth ways were fast disappearing, and her
quick wit and good nature were fast winning friends for her, and her
life at school was growing pleasanter. She never forgot her promise to
watch over Elfie during Candace’s sick days, but she kept the secret so
well that no one observed that she was especially watchful or suspected
the need there was for such precautions.

As time wore on the Bellamy prize was often remembered. The conditions
and circumstances attending it were fully understood by the new
scholars, who felt that their chances were as good as any for obtaining
it.

“There ought to be no doubt about one of us S. C.’s getting it,” said
Edna Tryon, one day, in Lily’s room, “if it is managed fairly.”

“It will be managed fairly if I know Mrs. Abbott as well as I think I
do,” said Lily; “but why should it fall to the blissful lot of one of
our select circle? See there, that’s a new interpretation of the mystic
letters S. C.”

“O, that’s been thought of! Lottie Bush and Ellen Leigh asked me a
month ago if that was what S. C. stood for.”

“It’s funny, isn’t it,” said Katie, “the different names the other
girls have fitted to our letters? Something Curious, Sewing Circle,
Screaming Crowd, Sorosis Children, Six Crows, Surly Crew, Sweet
Creatures, etc., and not one has got it right yet.”

“Somebody’s sure to hit it right some day, and then we’ll have to
change it,” said Lily.

“I wish they wouldn’t find it out,” said Bell. “It’s awful fun having
letters instead of using the name outright as we did in Friendly Five.”

Edna took this as a personal compliment, as she was the suggester of
the new name, and looked very proud and self-conscious.

“I’m glad you like it, girls,” she said. “There’s a good deal in a
name, and I’m never at a loss to think of one. But to come back to the
starting-point. The reason one of us ought to get the Bellamy prize is
because there’s no one else in the school who is likely to excel us in
any thing.”

“I’m not so sure of that,” said Lily. “We don’t know what the prize is
for. May be it’s for patience; if that’s the case some of the smaller
girls are just as patient as we are--more so, even. The same with
amiability, or good nature, or any of the virtues.”

“Pshaw! That old gentleman wasn’t goody-goody enough to set up a prize
for any such stuff,” said Edna. “He knows this isn’t a Sunday-school.
No, it’s for superiority in something, I feel sure. May be it’s music,
may be it’s languages, or some English studies. I wish I had been here
then and heard him myself.”

“If it’s English studies Mary Ann Stubbs has the best chance,” said
Lily. “She’s beyond the whole of us.”

“I don’t see,” said Edna, discontentedly, “why it is that common,
second-class folks are ’most always so smart at books. May be it’s a
sort of compensation for being low-born.”

“What is low-born?” asked Lily in an argumentative sort of way.

“Why, don’t you know? It’s common people.”

“Well, no, I don’t seem to know, in spite of your highly grammatical
explanation.”

“O, bother, how fussy you are! What difference does grammar make when
one is just talking?” said Edna, irritably.

“My, what a superior person you are, to be able to soar above grammar
that way, when I was so stupid as to suppose we couldn’t talk without
it! But, to return to our mutton pies, as we say when mademoiselle
calls us to the French class, what is low-born?”

“I don’t believe you are one half so stupid as you pretend; you know
what it is as well as I do.”

“I ought to,” said Lily, thoughtfully; “but I had an idea you were
referring to Marion, and she is distinctly high-born, as the peak which
has the honor of being her birthplace is, to speak strictly within
bounds, at least one trillion and fifteen feet above the level of the
very tallest high-water mark.”

“I was referring to Mary Ann,” said Edna, angrily, “and she is a low,
common thing, and you know it in spite of all the absurd nonsense you
are saying about it. Can’t you see for yourself that she is just the
opposite of all the rest of us?”

“Then you mean we are high, uncommon things? I am sure I’m greatly
obliged to you, but somehow I don’t feel charmed at being described
that way.”

The girls were all laughing, for Lily had a ridiculous, world-weary
manner of uttering her tantalizing remarks that was extremely amusing,
and Edna was losing her temper so fast that there might soon have been
a disagreeable scene had not a pleasant interruption come in the form
of a basket of the reddest and shiniest baldwins, with “Mammy Candace’s
best compliments, and would the young ladies please accept the apples
with her ’bligingest duty?”

It was beginning to be noticed all through the school that any special
kindness or favor shown to Elfie was always recognized by the faithful
black nurse, who invariably attempted to return it in some quaint,
humble way, and the S. C.’s were quite accustomed to these touching
thank-offerings.



CHAPTER XII.

DRESSING DOLLS.


Even if girls are as tall as their mothers they have a deep, if
unconfessed, interest in dolls; so Mrs. Abbott’s girls responded very
willingly to an appeal from a mission school in New York for fifty
dolls’ costumes. A toy merchant of benevolent disposition had presented
the mission with two hundred unclad dolls, and the dressing of all but
fifty were provided for. Mrs. Abbott advised taking only twenty-five,
but her scholars insisted on the whole number. A very large box of
silks, satins, cashmeres, and other gatherings from kindly disposed
milliners and dress-makers accompanied the dolls, and the spare room
was turned into a workshop and the spare bed into a depository for
dolls in every stage of dressing. As fast as each one was fully dressed
it was laid tenderly away in a bureau drawer.

Miss Blake and Mrs. Abbott helped the younger girls, who sewed the
garments after they were cut out. But all who had skill enough to
do it dressed the dolls without assistance, and costumed them very
much as they pleased; so there was a great variety. There were German
peasants, Roman and Breton peasants, sailor girls and boys, infants
and fine ladies, grandmothers and French nurses, Scotch lassies and
coal-black Dinahs. But each doll, whether she resembled a princess or
peasant, had clothes that would come off and go on, and the sewing was
carefully done and the button-holes were highly commendable.

The dolls were to be given at Christmas to poor children who might
learn some lessons of neatness and propriety from the well-made,
well-adjusted clothes, and, as Mrs. Abbott said, “What is worth doing
at all is worth doing well;” so there was no slighting, or what Marion
expressively called “cobbling.”

The day scholars came afternoons to help, and really the task of
dressing the fifty dolls was lighter than it sounds, and Mrs. Abbott
admitted that the girls knew better than she did when they carried the
point of speaking for fifty instead of twenty-five.

There was a strange lack of ribbons among the scraps and gleanings that
came in the box of materials, and as it is a well-known fact that some
costumes are barren and incomplete without sashes, shoulder-knots, and
such adornments, it seemed to the busy girls that even the plainest of
the dolls needed some finishing touches that only ribbons could give.

Delia Howland proposed taking up a penny collection, as they sometimes
did to buy popping corn; but some mental calculation showed that even
if the appeal met a favorable response in every case thirty cents would
be the sum total of the collection, and that would go only a lamentably
small way in ribbons.

After some discussion an improvement was made on the plan, and scholars
and teachers were visited by a committee of two, who presented a neatly
written sheet stating the case thus:

“Know all ladies and girls by these presents, that in this comfortable
and well-arranged house fifty small but beauteous creatures are
suffering for the want of ribbon. Many of the sufferers have not been
seen to smile since their destitution became apparent. Others are cold
and rigid in their stony despair.

“Sisters, shall such things be?

“Give, sisters, give of your abundance.

“Donations of money in sums not less than five and not more than
twenty-five cents are respectfully solicited by the committee, who
pledge themselves to see that the offerings are not squandered for any
purpose but the one mentioned.

“N. B.--A small tin bank will be placed upon the hall table, and people
who wish to give more than the largest sum mentioned above are at
liberty to drop coin in.

“N. B.--Buttons or broken sleeve-links dropped in the bank will be
traced to their source by experienced experts, and humiliation will
follow.”

This high-sounding document proved very efficacious, and Bell Burgoyne
and Fannie Holmes, the anonymous committee, found themselves in
possession of five dollars from the collection and two dollars which
were revealed by the opening of the little tin bank.

That was an unnecessarily large sum to spend for ribbon, Miss Blake
said, and proposed that the boxing and expressing back of the dressed
dolls should be paid out of it, and if any were still left after the
purchases were judiciously made it should be deposited in the tin bank
as a nest-egg, not for a rainy day, but for a day when Mrs. Abbott’s
brother should come, as he had promised to make her a visit, and tell
them stories that would, as Lily had said once, wring their hearts,
and their purses, too, and make them long to give even a trifle of help
to the unhappy creatures he told them of, whose only crime was their
being girls.

For Mr. Eaton was a returned missionary, laid aside from his work, long
before years or failing health had enfeebled him, by an accident which
had nearly destroyed his sight. He was intending to spend the Christmas
holidays with his sister, and the girls, who remembered his visit of
last year with pleasure, were glad to know that they should find him at
school when they returned from their two-weeks’ vacation.

Edna shrugged her shoulders when she heard the others rejoicing at the
prospect of having this minister in the house.

“You’re a queer lot, here,” she said. “Now, at Madame de Lanay’s all
the girls thought ministers were horrid, stiff, solemn things, looking
shocked if any one laughed and all the time poking texts at people.
Goodness! It makes me low-spirited just to think of being in the house
with one of the walking funerals.”

“Walking funerals!” and Delia Howland burst into shrieks of laughter.
“Why, Edna, my father’s a minister, and he is the liveliest, jolliest
man I ever saw.”

“Well, I’m sure I beg your pardon, Del, for not remembering there was
a minister’s daughter present, and I’m sure it’s very nice in you to
think so much of your father.”

“Yes, it's very obliging of her,” said Lily, dryly; “but Delia’s father,
nice as he is, is not the only cheerful minister. You will have to
change your mind, if you think they are all a mournful lot, when you
see Mr. Eaton. He has had sorrow upon sorrow, Mrs. Abbott says, and yet
he is so cheerful that he brightens up the whole house.”



CHAPTER XIII.

THE COMMITTEE BUY RIBBONS AND MAKE AN ACQUAINTANCE.


Miss Blake and the committee went up to the village milliner’s the next
afternoon to select the ribbons which were to give the last touch of
elegance to the dolls’ toilets.

It was a grave responsibility, for some of the dolls’ dress-makers had
very positive ideas about the shade, quality, and width needed for
certain costumes, and as Miss Smith’s stock was exceedingly limited the
purchasers would in most instances have to use their own judgment about
choosing the next best things.

Miss Blake was very patient and good-natured and gave all the advice
she could, but the girls deliberated so long over some of the least
satisfactory things that after a while she excused herself, as she had
a sick friend to visit, and promised to call for them in half an hour.

The important decisions were made before it was time to expect her, and
Delia proposed going over to Mr. Williams’s store, a place where every
thing under the sun to eat, drink, or wear, or to work with might be
asked for with a reasonable hope of finding it. It was the only place
in the village, except the station restaurant, where candy could be
bought, and it was very disappointing to the girls to-day to be told,
when they applied to the man who waited on that department, that there
had been some delay in receiving their usual weekly supply and there
was nothing in stock except some deplorable specimens which would not
tempt any one.

It was very provoking, for a number of the girls had commissioned them
to buy candy and would be very much disturbed at not receiving it. The
same thought was in the mind of each, but neither liked to express
it, but the thought moved their footsteps in the same direction; and,
leaving Mr. Williams’s, they slowly sauntered toward the station and
presently found themselves at the door of the little waiting-room, one
end of which was crossed by a counter where hurried travelers could
regale themselves with coffee and sandwiches at one end, or fill their
pockets with cakes and candy at the other.

The girls looked at each other as they stopped at the open door. Mrs.
Abbott had never actually said no one should go into the station
unless accompanied by a teacher, because she never supposed any one
would want to go there, but she was very particular, and they knew well
she would disapprove of their going in.

“Well?” said Bell, wrinkling her brows and looking steadily at her
companion.

“There isn’t a soul in there now except the girls behind the counter,”
said Fannie.

“I don’t suppose we really ought to go in,” said Bell, putting her foot
on the first of the four steps.

“No,” said Fannie, stepping up to her side; “but after all what harm
can there be?”

“And the girls will be so awfully put out about not getting the candy,”
said Bell, going one step higher.

“Come along in,” said Fannie, with sudden decision, grasping Bell’s
hand and drawing her in the door. “It’s all right. Nobody need ever
know we came here if we don’t choose to tell.”

Their easily quieted scruples were all forgotten when they saw the
enticing supply of confectionery seductively displayed under glass
covers. There was no such trouble in selecting here as there had been
in buying ribbons, for there were chocolate creams, maple caramels,
and candied cherries among the extensive variety, and those were the
things that all the girls longed for more than any other sweets.

It was delightful to feel that they were preparing a pleasant surprise
for their friends, who never dreamed of having any thing more luscious
than the lemon sticks, peppermint balls, and “sat-upon” cocoanut cakes
of a pallid white or dangerous red which Mr. Williams, true to the
traditions of his far-away childhood, considered the proper stock of
confectionery.

The saleswoman was a little indifferent and slow, and so engrossed with
a conversation of deep interest she was maintaining with the other
clerk that it was hard to get her attention; and then she lingered so
over tying up the packages that the girls grew very impatient, for a
sharp whistle told them that a train was coming. The young woman tried
to hurry then, but she had tied up the creams in too thin paper, and
they burst their bonds and flew over the counter and floor. She seemed
ashamed of her awkwardness then, and weighed out another half-pound
and put them into a paper bag of firmer constitution, delivering them
over to the girls just as the train stopped and quite a little crowd
of passengers rushed up to the lunch-counter. In the hurry of serving
coffee and glasses of milk which were wanted instantly, the woman
could not stop to make change for the girls. Bell had handed her a
two-dollar bill, from which she was to deduct eighty-five cents for the
candy. Clearly it would not do to give up one dollar and fifteen cents,
particularly as the money was not their own, so there was nothing else
to do but to keep their places and wait till the greedy travelers could
spare the clerk long enough to get their change. They deplored their
folly then in having given Miss Smith all their silver and small change
and left themselves with only the bill; but it was too late to mourn
for that now, and they stood impatiently at the end of the counter,
wondering how even the fear of being left behind by the train could
give men the courage to pour boiling hot coffee down their throats.

At last a lull came, the clamorous travelers were supplied, and
the girls’ change was handed them and they hurried off toward the
milliner’s, greatly fearing that Miss Blake would have come back and
would demand an explanation. They passed a showily dressed young man
with a traveling-bag, who did not look quite like a gentleman, but were
so occupied with their own uneasiness that they did not notice that he
quickened his tardy steps soon after they passed him, till, with a
very low bow, he stopped them, just before the road turned to go up the
hill, and asked if they would kindly direct him to the village.

“Why, you can’t miss it,” said Fanny, rather startled at being
addressed by a stranger; “there’s just this one road and no other.”

“If the ladies are going to the town and do not object I will walk with
them so I can be sure of going right,” said the man.

The girls were uncomfortable, but did not know what they ought to do;
so they walked on without speaking.

“Very pretty little town, Coventry,” said the man, with a smile and bow
that he evidently meant to be very engaging. “Is there a nice hotel
here?”

“There isn’t any at all now; if any one spends a night they have to
stop at the big tavern by the station,” said Fannie, with a wild hope
that he would retrace his steps and seek the big tavern’s shelter.

But he still accommodated his steps to theirs, and presently asked if
they were residents of Coventry.

“Our parents don’t live here, but we are boarding scholars at Mrs.
Abbott’s school,” said Bell, haughtily, thinking that the mention of
Mrs. Abbott’s name might prove discouraging.

“You walk very fast, young ladies,” said their companion affably. “Mrs.
Abbott is a very particular friend of mine, and I am going over to see
her about taking my sister into the school.”

“There is no room for another scholar,” said Fannie; “the school is as
full as can be.”

“O, Mrs. Abbott will do any thing to oblige me,” said he, confidently.
“I can talk her over. How young does she take pupils? My little sister
would not be happy unless there were some other very small girls there
besides herself.”

“There are none very small,” said Fannie.

“Except Elfie,” corrected Bell.

“Why, Bell, you can hardly call Elfie a scholar, and you know she was
only taken out of regard for Mr. Bellamy. No one else so young would be
admitted.”

“It would be very sad for me if my poor little orphaned sister were
refused,” said the man, who had been listening eagerly; “but please,
young ladies, say nothing about it to Mrs. Abbott; I prefer to open the
matter myself when I call on her this evening.”

He touched his hat very politely then and turned back, murmuring
something about securing a room at the tavern.

“Wasn’t he horrid!” exclaimed Fannie, almost before he was beyond
hearing her words.

“Horrid!” agreed Bell, giving a great sigh of relief as she looked into
the milliner’s window and saw that the shop was empty. But they had
hardly seated themselves on two tall stools in front of the counter
before Miss Blake came in full of apologies for staying twice as long
as she intended.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE ADVENTURE DISCUSSED.


The ribbons were criticised, approved, or condemned, according to
the various tastes of the girls. Those who were familiar with the
difficulties attending country shopping were disposed to be satisfied,
and thought the committee had done as well as they could have done
themselves, which is as high praise as can be expected from any body.

But the candy purchases gave unmixed delight to those who had sent
for it, and ecstatic little screams of glee hailed the opening of
the packages. The second class--that is, the little girls--had gone
up to Miss Blake’s room for the regular twilight twenty minutes of
poetry that they had three times a week, and the first-room girls
all adjourned to the spare room to embellish the dolls with the
newly acquired ribbons. It was then that the candy was produced and
generously distributed by its owners.

“Now tell us all about the excursion,” said Katie, with her mouth
full of caramels and her hands busy with a blue ribbon. “Of course
Miss Smith was perishing to know what you wanted of so many shades of
ribbon, wasn’t she?”

“Yes,” said Bell; “but she’s a dear old soul, and when we told her
about the dolls she offered to make a dozen straw hats for them, and
she’s going to send them up to-morrow.”

“Hurrah for Miss Smith!” exclaimed Lily, “and what a splendid idea! We
never thought of head-covering. Let’s go to work and make little cloth
tennis caps and Greek caps for a lot of the bare-headed young persons.
They’re easy to make, and I know how to cut them out.”

That suggestion was well received, and the work was immediately begun;
but Lily was not too much absorbed in cutting out the caps to ask for
more particulars from Bell and Fannie.

“Yes; whom did you see?” said Katie, remembering her own disappointment
at not being elected one of the shoppers.

“We saw Miss Smith,” said Fannie, teasingly.

“Well, I should say you did, by the pile of ribbons you bought. It was
real good in her to give so much for the money; but who else did you
see?”

“A young and blooming stranger,” said Fannie.

“Gracious! Was she a friend of Miss Smith?”

“Not she, but he.”

“For pity’s sake, a man, a young man? Why, what do you expect Mrs.
Abbott to say to you hapless girls if you have been meeting a young
man?”

“We couldn’t help meeting him,” said Fannie.

“But we didn’t meet him at all, Fannie,” said Bell; “he overtook us and
spoke before he got up to us; that was after we passed him, you know.”

“You seem slightly incoherent,” said Edna. “He passed you and you
passed him. And where was Miss Blake all this time? She is not much
of a ‘dragon’ if she lets strange young men speak to the girls in the
street. My, wouldn’t madame have made short work of that kind of a
teacher.”

“Miss Blake is all right,” said Bell, stolidly, unwilling to explain
the situation.

Lily laid down her scissors and looked the committee over sharply.
“Girls,” she said, “you are keeping back something interesting. Now,
make a clean breast of it and tell us the whole story right away.
Confess now, unless you want to be handed over for torture.”

Then Fannie, acting as spokesman, told their adventure fully. Their
hearers were much amazed that the two steadiest girls in the school
should have been so daring as to go deliberately to the station at the
risk of seriously displeasing Mrs. Abbott.

“It reminds me,” said Lily, pensively, “of a solemn old horse my
grandfather had who was steady as a turtle all through his colthood and
slow middle age, but when he was at the over-ripe age of twenty-two
he ran away for the first time and spilt my grandmother out of the
buggy in her best bonnet. Four steady, obedient years you two studious
scholars have led sober lives beneath this scholastic roof, and now you
disgrace yourselves and break your record. Ah, it is a weepful fact
that you can’t ’most always tell what serious nags and solemn girls can
do in the way of giddiness!”

“Tell us something about the fellow,” said Edna; “what did he look
like? Dark, melting eyes, rich voice, smooth olive skin, etc., eh?”

“Olive skin, to be sure, and eyes that looked as if they had been
boiled till they were half melted,” answered Fannie. “He was horrid.”

“I didn’t think he was so bad-looking,” said Bell; “his features were
not out of the way; the worst thing about him was his looking so vulgar
and flashy. It seems queer that such a person should be a particular
friend of Mrs. Abbott’s.”

“O, people have queer friends, sometimes,” said Edna, “but I don’t
believe she’ll take his sister.”

“I hope we shall know when he comes to see Mrs. Abbott, so we can try
to get a look at him,” said Katie. “Should you know him again, girls?”

“I should say so; we are not likely to forget that big plaid suit or
that high hooked nose.”

“O, he had a high hooked nose, had he?” said Edna. “Perhaps your friend
is some relation to that inquisitive peddler who wanted to find out if
any one in the school wore mourning. He had that kind of a nose.”

Marion had not joined in the conversation, but while she looped some
white baby-ribbon into a small rosette she listened attentively to the
girls’ account of their adventure. Now she asked timidly if it would
not be better to tell Mrs. Abbott about the man.

“And why should we walk ourselves right straight into hot water?” said
Fannie, petulantly. “I know we did wrong in going to the station, but
it was no crime. We never have been forbidden.”

“I am the most worried for fear the young man will mention seeing us
there when he comes to see her,” said Bell.

“Don’t you worry,” said Lily; “that dark-eyed youth will never come.
He’s a gay deceiver. Imagine a fellow like that being a friend of Mrs.
Abbott’s.”

“Why in the world should he say so, then?”

“Perhaps he saw from your lamb-like countenance that you were innocent
enough to answer his questions. He may have some reason for finding out
something about this establishment. As Edna said about her peddler,
perhaps he’s an enterprising burglar on the lookout for points.”

“Well, anyway, we didn’t tell him any thing.”

“But you said you told him Elfie was here,” said Marion, looking
troubled, “and I do really think it would be best to tell Mrs. Abbott.”

“Ridiculous!” sneered Edna; “I don’t think so.”

“It wasn’t good taste at all in the girls to mention any name to a
strange creature like that,” said Lily; “but I don’t suppose he will
ever think of it again. What I think was the worst thing was going off
to the station, and if it were I, I should tell Mrs. Abbott what I did;
I always feel better after I have ‘confessed,’ though I own it’s pretty
hard work.”

But Bell and Fannie either lacked moral courage or were not in the mood
to take her very excellent advice.



CHAPTER XV.

THE WHITE QUEEN.


One of the old-fashioned snow-storms came two weeks before the
Christmas holidays scattered the girls far and wide to spend the happy
fortnight at home. It was not a quiet, decorous downfall of snow that
covered the earth smoothly with a glaze of white, but a roistering,
turbulent storm that piled drifts to marvelous heights in sheltered
corners and reared miniature Alpine ranges against the almost submerged
fences. The road was quite impassable early in the day, and not one of
the day-scholars could get to school. This had happened once during the
previous winter, and on that occasion the usual lessons were given up
and the time filled with some unusual exercises. This time Mrs. Abbott
put it to vote after opening school, and every hand was raised in favor
of having a literary morning in place of the ordinary recitations. The
teachers were pleased to have it so; for it was hard on the absent
scholars to miss all the studies of a day.

Miss Blake, whose talent as an elocutionist was extraordinary, recited
a stirring historical poem, which was rapturously received. Then Mrs.
Abbott asked each girl to write the name of her favorite heroine of
history on a slip of paper, to drop into a box that was carried around
by one of the girls.

An examination of the slips showed that although a number of names
had been put down two names were repeated on several papers. These
were Joan of Arc and Marie Antoinette. Then the girls were asked to
vote again on both those names. The result was that the unfortunate
queen was selected, and Miss Blake, who always heard the history
classes, read them a short, pathetic sketch of her life, with its early
frivolity and pitiful, brave ending. Then she asked the girls to each
write a short statement of the account she had read. Not less than
three lines, not more than fifteen, was the limit, and pencils were
very busy for a short time. Then the papers, which were not signed,
were gathered up and read aloud.

The girls enjoyed the reading of the papers very much; for not even the
teachers knew who wrote them; so there was no shame felt if comment or
criticism were made, and a girl had only to control her face and look
unconscious and no one would suspect her. Of course, some papers were
very meager, but others were quite interesting outline sketches. It
almost seemed like a game, but it fixed the facts very firmly in every
girl’s mind, and Mrs. Abbott half made up her mind to introduce the
plan as a regular weekly exercise.

The sun was shining brilliantly on the glistening snow, and when they
had finished dinner Mrs. Abbott told them to prepare for a snow frolic
in the inclosure, saying she had ordered their snow-shovels and rubber
boots brought to the back piazza in readiness for them.

Edward had shoveled paths to the back and front gate, and, seeing the
wall of ice and snow through which he had cut, Bell exclaimed, “Who’s
for building a snow-fort?”

Most of them hailed the idea jubilantly, but Delia and Katie had just
been reading Hawthorne’s lovely “Snow Image,” and suggested molding a
beautiful white child.

“Perfectly sweet!” said Lily. “How nice in you to think of it! Where
shall we build her?”

“I should think she ought to be standing in the grove; she will look
shadowy and fairy-like under the trees with evergreens behind her.”

“This is nice kind of snow, it packs well,” said Lida Evertson; “but
how can we make a girl?”

“Easy enough,” said Katie. “We made General Washington once, and put a
paper cocked hat on him. He was fine, only we got his feet longer than
his legs.”

“Let’s get the book and see how a snow-girl ought to look,” suggested
Lily.

A look at the graceful, humanized snow image showed the manifest
impossibility of imitating it successfully.

“But even if we cannot make a willowy fairy like that,” said
Lily, “we can make something. If a woman made a charming face in
butter--Iolanthe, she called it, didn’t she?--I think we ought to be
able to work up something nice in snow.”

“Suppose we drag one of the rustic chairs under a tree and make a
sitting-down figure of a girl,” said Marion, who was rosy and happy in
the out-door sport which reminded her of home.

“Capital! the chair will help to hold her up. Let’s have her a queen
and fix up an ice crown,” said Katie.

Edna, who systematically sneered at whatever proposal Marion made,
laughed at the idea, but no one seemed to notice her disapproval, and
soon she, too, grew interested and helped.

They had to get Edward’s help to dig the chair out of the snow that
quite buried it, and set it against a large-trunked maple. Then they
worked with a will, till they had made a very fair semblance of a large
woman sitting down, with her skirts spread out and her arms resting on
the arms of the chair.

“Whoever best understands the mysterious science of noses shall put
that important feature on Queen Blanche’s pale face,” said Lily, whose
own face, from exertion, was red as a peony.

“I think, as Edna draws best of any of us, and molds such pretty things
in clay, she had better give the White Queen a nose,” said Marion,
timidly; and for once, so soothing is flattery, Edna was pleased, and
smiled quite graciously upon her, and succeeded, after several efforts,
in turning out a very good nose. She changed the expression of the
whole face, too, by some deft smoothing and judicious molding, and no
one present had ever seen a snow-form that was half so pretty as this
when it was finished.

“Make her majesty a crown of stiff writing-paper and scatter water on
it,” said Lily.

“O, yes; and let’s borrow an old sheet if we can, and pin it around her
neck like a royal robe, and then make it sopping wet and sprinkle snow
on it,” said Marion. “It will freeze stiff in the night and look as if
it was made of snow.”

Both suggestions were eagerly carried out, and then Mrs. Abbott was
called to the window to see the really majestic statue of snow. She
expressed great admiration, and Elfie, who was bundled up to the tip of
her little red nose, pranced around in wild delight, believing herself
to have been an important assistant in making the image.

The next morning at recess the girls all ran out to visit the White
Queen, whose beauty had so much improved by time and frost that she
really was marvelous. The sun was shining very clearly, but the weather
was bitingly cold, and there was every prospect that the statue would
retain its fair form for some time. The robe and crown, now frozen
stiff, looked as if they too were made entirely of snow.

“I wish somebody besides us could see it,” said Katie, and hardly
was her wish expressed before it was gratified. A small sound of
admiration startled them, and, quickly turning to look in the direction
of the gentle ejaculation, they saw a man’s head above the high board
fence. The drifts, now hardened by the frost, had allowed him to walk
on them comfortably, and instead of being far below the top of the
fence he was now head and shoulders above it. He made no effort to
raise himself upon it, as the girls thought for a moment he might do.
He had perhaps seen it without its frill of snow, and was aware of its
decoration of spikes.

“A most beautiful image, young ladies,” he said, in a very soft voice,
with a beaming smile and pushing forward of his head that seemed
intended to be very winning.

None of the startled girls replied; so he made another admiring remark.

Bell, who was half behind Lily, was examining the visitor very closely.
“O, Lily, that’s the man who spoke to Fannie and me at the station,”
she said, excitedly; and Fannie exchanged a corroborative glance with
her.

He could not have heard her, but he guessed the meaning of her whisper,
for he touched his hat with a flourish, remarking:

“Ah, you remember me, lady? I hope you reached home safely? Is this
all the scholars Mrs. Abbott keeps?”

His small prominent eyes were roving about looking most particularly
at the smallest girls; and Marion, who was near enough to hear Bell’s
whisper, grasped Elfie’s hand and drew her toward the house.

“Is that pretty little miss the young scholar you told me about?” he
asked, addressing Bell.

“Don’t speak to him, Bell,” said Lily, quickly. “Come, girls, let us go
in.”

He called after them as they moved away, but Marion had reached the
door, and, seeing Miss Blake, called her out. Her appearance on the
piazza seemed discouraging to the visitor, who instantly dropped out of
sight.

“You acted just as if you thought that man was going to eat you and
Elfie up,” said Edna to Marion; “but I suppose a person brought up in
the woods is easily scared.”

“But he was such a common-looking wretch; he was enough to frighten any
one,” said Katie.

“I should have supposed Mary Ann Stubbs would be the last one in the
world to mind common folks. I didn’t know there was any other kind
where she lived.”

“May be my neighbors were common, but they were not that kind of
common,” said Marion, with some spirit; “that man looks as if he would
steal.”

“I dare say he would, and do you know he looks enough like the peddler
to be his brother, only, of course, he’s better dressed,” said Edna as
they went into the school-room.



CHAPTER XVI.

IN MRS. ABBOTT’S ROOM.


Marion went directly to Mrs. Abbott’s room when school was over and
told her of the man’s appearance. She longed to tell her, too, that
the same man had seen and talked with two of the girls, but, according
to the school-girls’ code of honor, it would not do to speak of their
adventure without the consent of Bell and Fannie.

Mrs. Abbott was seriously uneasy. “Do you really think the man looked
particularly at little Elfie?” she asked, “or did your knowledge that
possession of her has been sought before make you fanciful?”

“I am sure of it,” said Marion, positively, “and--”

“And what? Don’t keep any thing from me, child; this is a terribly
serious matter. If that man is some one employed by Ethel’s father,
then the child is in grave danger, and my responsibility will become
immense;” and Mrs. Abbott rose and walked up and down the room with an
appearance of great perplexity and agitation.

Marion was greatly troubled. “Dear, dear Mrs. Abbott,” she whispered,
“if I tell you something will you forgive me if I ask you never to tell
the girls? and don’t, O, don’t ask me to mention any names.”

“I do not like to give such a promise,” said Mrs. Abbott, gravely; “if
you know any thing I ought to know, then it is your duty to tell me and
leave me to decide what course to take.”

Marion left her side and went slowly back to her seat. It seemed to her
like a very mean thing to tell of other girls’ transgressions, and yet
love for Elfie made her feel it necessary Mrs. Abbott should know all
about the strange man, and even about the peddler’s visit; that, too,
was undoubtedly an attempt to discover if Elfie was living there. What
would Edna say and do if she told any thing about her? At that thought,
forgetting she was not alone, she exclaimed aloud, “O, I cannot, cannot
tell!”

At her words Mrs. Abbott stopped in her walk, and, seeing the real
suffering in her face, said tenderly, “Poor Marion, you do not want to
trust me, but I will trust you. Tell me what you think I ought to know,
as far as it concerns this matter, and I promise you that no one shall
ever know how I acquired the information. I would not ask you to do
violence to your sense of honor, for I respect your feeling; but for
Elfie’s sake I must hear.”

“And for Elfie’s sake I will tell you,” said Marion; “but don’t blame
me if I do not give any girl’s name. This man, or one very much like
him, got in the front gate with a peddler’s pack one day and asked some
of the girls questions.”

“What kind of questions?”

“He asked if there was any little girl in mourning in the house?”

“That might not have meant any thing,” said Mrs. Abbott, “if it stood
alone. What else is there to tell?”

“The same man that looked over the back fence to-day met some of the
girls not long ago and talked with them.”

“Where?”

“O, please don’t ask me where, but he had a satchel and seemed to have
come from the cars. He said he was a friend of yours and was coming to
ask you to take his little sister. I don’t suppose he did call?”

“O, never.”

“This is the part that troubles me, and it did even before he looked
over the fence at us to-day. He managed in some way to find out from
the girls that Elfie is here.”

“How unfortunate!” exclaimed Mrs. Abbott. “O, Marion, our dear little
girl is in danger. How could those girls tell him?”

“Don’t be so frightened, Mrs. Abbott. I am sure no one can steal Elfie
while we are watching her so closely. You, Candace, or I have her in
sight every moment. And I think--yes, I am quite certain--that I would
risk my life for her any moment.”

“I am sure you would, dear, and I am so thankful that I trusted you
with this matter, which ought to be a secret, because Mr. Bellamy is
especially anxious that his darling’s life should never, either now
or in the future, be darkened by the knowledge of what he fears for
her. She is a sensitive, imaginative child, and if she were haunted by
a fear of being taken--stolen is not too hard a word to call it--she
would become nervously anxious, with the probable result of confirmed
ill health.”

“Poor little Elfie!”

“Dear, dear child,” said Mrs. Abbott; “she is well worth watching and
caring for, and yet the responsibility has become so complicated now
by this new aspect of the situation that I bitterly regret having
assumed it. I wish I had advised the senator to take Ethel and Candace
abroad with him.”

“It cannot be helped now,” said Marion, respectfully, “and our heavenly
Father can watch her here as well as there.”

“Thank you for reminding me of that, dear. Perhaps I let my sense of
personal responsibility overwhelm me too much and forget whose help I
can ask.”

“May be our fears have made us over-suspicious,” suggested Marion, by
way of comfort. “Coincidences are very funny sometimes, and this man
may really have no interest in Elfie. How could he have even suspected
she might be here of all other schools?”

“Mr. Bellamy must have been watched when he traveled and came here,”
said Mrs. Abbott. “Yes, indeed, I have no doubt of this man’s
mischievous purpose. And, my dear, watch the child closely, as you have
watched her before; be even more watchful still. It is such a comfort
to know that I can trust you to do it so fully. You pay me over and
over again for bringing you here, Marion.”

Marion clasped her hands before her face in a perfect ecstasy of
pleasure at these lovely words, and as Mrs. Abbott bent and kissed her
fondly she threw her arms around her neck, speechless, but radiantly
happy.



CHAPTER XVII.

LILY’S PREACHMENT.


“To-morrow the machinery stops for two weeks,” said Lily, as she
critically examined her Sunday gown before laying it in her trunk.

“Aren’t you glad of it? I am,” said Edna, rather spitefully throwing
her _Ladies’ Reader_ into the back of a closet.

“Not so very. ’Cause why? the machinery’s got to begin again in a
fortnight, and it’s hard to ‘pick up the shovel and de hoe-o-o’ after
you’ve left them lie idle while you’ve ‘scraped de fiddle wid de
bow-o-o,’” said and sang Lily, still poring over her crimson serge.
“Ah, ha! I have him,” she continued.

“Have what?”

“The small but deadly American bison, the reveler in wool, the
destroyer of homes, the blighter of clothes--the living, eating,
riotous buffalo-bug. Here in the folds of my crimson gown I traced his
fell path. Now, Eureka! I have found him, and in the interest of my
fellow-mortals I will impale him on a pin and broil him on a burning
match.”

“Poor little bug!” said Elfie, watching him shrivel.

“He don’t mind it much,” said Lily, “or if he did he doesn’t now. I’m
not fond of killing things, pet, but buffalo-bugs must die. Is it not
so, fellow-citizens?”

The fellow-citizens to whom she appealed were represented by Edna,
Katie, Marion, Fannie, and Bell. They all laughed except Bell. She
looked very solemn.

“O, my dear Bell,” said Lily, “was Mr. Buffalo Bug a friend of yours?
Your smileless face, your solemn eyes, terrify me. This tragedy has
wounded you. O, how little did I think that the pale martyr--no, I beg
his pardon, the brown and yellow, fuzzy martyr--at the stake was dear
to you. Why was I born to make you suffer thus?”

“Stop,” said Fannie; “you’re too silly for any thing, Lily. What ails
Bell is that she don’t like to go home to-morrow without telling Mrs.
Abbott that we went to the station alone.”

“And why doesn’t she tell?” asked Lily, growing grave instantly.

“Because I don’t want her to,” said Fannie. “The thing is past and
gone, and there’s no use in reviving it.”

“That’s where you’re right,” said Edna. “What a fool you’d be to go
and tell on yourselves now. Mrs. Abbott never’ll find out if you don’t
tell, and what Bell wants to get herself and you into a muss for I,
for one, don’t see. There was some danger, I thought myself, that the
delightful young man would speak of it to her. But he’s evidently a
fraud; no man who wanted to put his sister at school would climb up and
grin at the girls over the back fence.”

“Hardly,” said Fannie, “and I’m glad you think as I do. Bell’s too
tiresome for any thing.”

“Fannie, you said yourself that you couldn’t bear to keep a thing back
just for fear of marks or punishment,” said Bell.

“Well, I didn’t say I’d never smile again, did I? I’m awfully sorry we
went to the station. It was taking a mean advantage of Miss Blake when
she asked us to wait for her at the milliner’s. It was tricky, and I
don’t defend it, but I do say that, as we did let the time for talking
go by, there’s no use raking the matter up now.”

“Why don’t you tell, Bell, if Fannie wont?” asked Katie, who was
writing some last pages in her diary, and so had not been an attentive
listener.

“What a sneaky idea!” said Bell, rousing herself from the gloom which
had settled upon her. “I can’t tell without involving Fannie, and I
won’t be such a sneak as to do that.”

“Now, my little children,” said Lily, “let me give you a leaf out of
my experience. The first year I was here I stole a pie! I did; I stole
a pie, I did. It doesn’t seem like a crime to me now; it seems rather
funny; but I used to lie awake nights thinking of it then. It happened
upon this wise, my little dears. One of the girls was going to give
a ‘rampage’--that is, a night-gown party after bed-time. Mrs. Abbott
has put a stop to that species of entertainment, and I don’t know as
I am sorry, for we used to take terrific colds flying about in our
fairy-like attire. We always indulged in some form of refreshment,
generally crackers and pea-nuts. The latter article of diet, I may
remark in passing, was apt to produce pallor the next morning. The
night in question--don’t I sound like a magazine article?--we found
ourselves minus even the sober cracker and the festive pea-nut, and
one of the girls dared me to steal down the back stairs and hook--that
is what she called it; I keep nothing back--hook a pie. She didn’t say
‘hook, hook, a pie,’ but I have noticed that authors always express
things that way, so I repeated the word. Well, to resume; in my callow
youth I held that to dare meant to do, so I did. I hied me to the dark
and grewsome kitchen, crept stealthily to the pantry, and crawled
through a window that communicated with the dining-room pantry. Ah,
the recollection paralyzes me! ‘Not a drum was heard, not a funeral
note,’ as the pie up the dark stairs I carried. Let me hasten to the
end before emotion overcomes me. At the top of the stairs were a group
of white-clad ghosts, semi-distinct in the faint light that a clouded
moon sent through the skylight. Some of the ghosts giggled, some said,
‘Sh, sh,’ and the phantom sounds disturbed Miss Blake, I think, for a
door opened far around the corner and a glimmer of light approached.
The ghosts vanished and sheltered themselves in various beds, where
their slumbers became intense. I could not fly to a bed, because I
dared not take another step forward, for the stately form, with a dim
night-light, had turned the corner.

“I was near the top of the stairs when the distant ray first appeared.
I reached the stolen treasure up to the girls and flew swiftly
down-stairs again and through the school-room to the front hall--I knew
every body was in bed--and up the front stairs to my room, which was
over in the new part. As a cruel fate decreed, the girls were in too
great a panic to secure the pie I handed up to them, and left it on the
floor.

“My beloved hearers, cease these frivolous howls of laughter. The
matter is serious. THE PIE WAS PUMPKIN, AND MISS BLAKE STEPPED IN
IT!”

Lily’s listeners were shrieking with laughter over her droll recital,
but she preserved a preternaturally solemn expression, which still more
excited their mirth.

“Girls,” said she at last, “I intended this for a preachment, and how
am I to give you the moral unless you refrain from this untimely mirth?”

“O, Lily, don’t look so funny!” gasped Katie, throwing herself on the
bed and holding her sides.

“Don’t look at me, but listen, then, for I only told the story to get
the moral in, so I can’t skip it. I wanted to tell Mrs. Abbott I took
the pie, but the girls wouldn’t let me. I was just about as happy in my
mind and jovial in my countenance as Bell seems to be.”

“Was there any fuss made?” asked Edna.

“O, plenty; Miss Blake was very angry at the outrage, she called
it, and seemed to think the pie was planted there for a sort of
trap to catch her in. Mrs. Abbott talked about it in school in that
solemn-sweet way of hers and said she would like the offender to
come to her room. I wasn’t brave enough to accept that invitation
in defiance of the girls, and the next morning she made a new rule
forbidding any girl to go into another one’s room after bed-time. At
last the burden of my secret grew too tormenting, and three weeks after
the lark I crawled into her room and confessed.”

“What did she say?” asked Fannie and Bell together.

“O, I wither up small when I think of it. She looked up from her
Kensington work and said in the calmest way, ‘I knew it was you, dear,
for I saw you fly up the front stairs. I was in the dark closet in the
hall groping for an extra blanket, and old Margaret found a narrow
Roman ribbon, the next morning, that had been tied around a braid, in
the dining-room pantry. I recognized the ribbon as yours.’ And she took
it from her desk and handed it to me.”

“You must have felt cheap!”

“O, my! And I felt worse still when she took my hand and said, ‘Lily,
I have not cared a straw for your taking the pie, but it has hurt me
to learn you were not high-principled enough to own what you had done!’
There I had been playing the innocent and unconscious, and she knew
what I had done, and she had never told Miss Blake. I tell you, Bell,
Mrs. Abbott is an angel, and ever since that time I have preferred
telling her any thing to keeping it to myself.”

“Is that the moral?” asked Edna.

“Perhaps you don’t see it. Well, I’ll make it plainer. Don’t conceal
your omissions and commissions from Mrs. Abbott; and, Fannie, you’ll be
more comfortable if you let Bell go and tell her.”

Fannie hesitated a moment, then half sullenly gave her permission, and
Bell flew off on her not too easy errand.

The other girls went off in different directions, all but Marion, who
surprised Lily by seizing both her hands and exclaiming:

“O, dear, dear Lily, I thank you so!”

“You are extremely welcome,” Lily said, with a greatly puzzled gaze
at her, “although I hardly see why you should be so grateful simply
because my eloquence persuaded poor Bell into a penitential P. P. C. on
Mrs. Abbott. Perhaps I wakened your conscience. Have you stolen a pie
or taken a trip to the station?”

Marion laughed, but did not explain, and her heart was very light; for
now Mrs. Abbott could ask Bell all the questions she wanted and learn
all the particulars of the girls’ encounter with the suspicious young
man.



CHAPTER XVIII.

IN VACATION.


Marion felt a little desolate as the last of the light-hearted
homeward-bound crowd left the front door with faces bright with the
happy prospects before them. In their own delight the girls were rather
thoughtless in farewells to the lonely girl who was left. She could
hardly keep back the tears as she turned away from the door and walked
slowly to the empty schoolroom.

She sat down by the desk, and with her chin resting in the palm of her
left hand picked up a pencil and scribbled idly on an envelope that lay
at hand. She did not know what she was writing, and her thoughts were
so absorbing that she did not hear the approach of a gentleman with
gray hair and a black mustache, who came in through the door behind
her and stood a moment watching her with his hat in his hand, till he
spoke; then she started so violently that she almost fell off her chair.

“I beg your pardon,” he exclaimed, retreating a little way to give her
time to recover. “I must seem impertinent, but I am so much at home
in my sister’s house that I am apt to prowl around the rooms in this
lawless way.”

“Then you are Mr. Eaton?” said Marion, looking up into the kind,
trustworthy eyes, which returned her gaze with one as honest and frank
as her own.

“Thank you for guessing me out like an easy riddle. Now see if I can
make as shrewd a guess. You are Marion!”

“How could you know?” said Marion, wonderingly.

“That is not the only thing I know,” said Mr. Eaton. “I know that when
you turned and saw me you thought I had come to kidnap Ethel Bellamy?”

“O,” said Marion, coloring violently, “how could you think that?”

“You don’t deny it, though,” said Mr. Eaton, looking very much as if he
wanted to laugh heartily.

“But how did you know?” persisted Marion, pressing the backs of her
hands to her red cheeks, which would not grow cool.

“I have a Yankee trick of putting two and two together, and my sister
is a graphic letter-writer. I am so sorry I was detained and could not
get here before she went away.”

[Illustration: “THEN YOU ARE MR. EATON?”]

“She is coming back the day after to-morrow,” Marion told him, “and
I know she expected you, but she was obliged to go to New York on
business.”

“Did she take the little one? But never mind telling me if there is a
lingering doubt in your mind that I may not after all belong to the
vicious lot who are after poor Ethel Gray’s child”--this with a queer
twinkle in his eyes which made Marion laugh too.

“You look so exactly like Mrs. Abbott that I am sure of you.”

“Do I?” he said, pulling his heavy mustache thoughtfully.

“O, of course she has no mustache,” laughed Marion, “but the eyes--”

“And the gray hair? Yes, we are a pair of grizzled twins, and people
generally think us much alike. But, Miss Marion, do you feel certain
enough of me to tell me if the little girl has gone with my sister? I
had hoped to find her here.”

“Mrs. Abbott did not like to leave her, but she took Candace to take
care of her.”

“Then it seems to me that the burden of entertaining me for a day or
two is likely to fall to your unhappy lot. What shall you do to amuse
me?”

“I will show you which room you are to have and order a big pitcher of
hot water sent right up. Mrs. Abbott asked me to if you came.”

“That will be very amusing. Thank you.”

“I like him so much,” Marion said to herself as she came up from the
kitchen after giving orders for the hot water and suggesting that
dinner should be served on one of the little tables used to stand
dishes on instead of the long T-shaped table, which was a pleasant
sight to see when teachers and scholars surrounded it, but would be
doleful for two lone diners to contemplate.

She and Mr. Eaton did not meet again till the dinner-bell summoned them
to the long, lonely dining-room. He was standing behind one of the two
chairs Liny had placed at opposite sides of the little square table.
He made a slight motion, which she misunderstood, for her to take the
chair upon which his hand rested. She rather shyly walked toward the
other side, and he quickly stepped around and drew out that chair for
her, waiting with grave, old-fashioned courtesy to take his own seat
till she was comfortably settled in hers. It was all very embarrassing
to Marion. She colored distressingly, but Mr. Eaton, whose manners
were always charming, talked to her so entertainingly that she was soon
smiling and enjoying the cosy dinner with him very much.

“What would you have done if I had not come?” he asked, after Liny had
put the dessert on the table and left the room.

“I should have been very lonely, and I don’t believe I could have eaten
any dinner.”

“I have enjoyed my dinner far more for having you to eat it with me,
but it would be affectation for me to say that I couldn’t eat without
company, for I took every meal alone for two months in an African hut
and had a very fair appetite on some very peculiar diet.”

“O, what made you stay so long in that kind of a place?” said Marion,
adding, as she remembered he had been a missionary, “Did you stay
because you thought it was your duty?”

“I felt that it was my duty to get away as soon as I possibly could,
for I had strong reasons for supposing that I was only fed, watched,
and tended by my black captors to keep me in order for a certain annual
ceremonial which was considered a very poor show indeed unless a few
captives were sacrificed to lend _éclat_ to the occasion.”

“O, O, how dreadful!”

“I don’t think I liked any part of it except the escape. That will
always be a gratifying remembrance.”

“Lily said you told lovely stories,” said Marion.

“Lily Dart, if it is she you mean, is a great friend of mine, and a
person with an insatiable thirst for stories. But I don’t propose to
inflict one on you now.”

“But, O, please tell me how you got away.”

“Some day when we both feel like it I will tell you the beginning and
end of this story. As for the middle part I can tell you now that my
escape from the hut was not of a hair-breadth character, although the
journey I had to take to put a safe space between myself and my enemies
was sufficiently exciting.”

“I did not intend to tell any traveler’s stories this vacation,” he
added, smiling at the intense interest in Marion’s face, “but you have
almost beguiled me into it.”

“O, I should so like to hear how you got out of the hut,” said Marion.

“There is generally a story within a story. Six months before I had
administered some generous doses of medicine to a chief who was
believed to be dying, with the result of effecting a rapid cure.
This man, with some attendant warriors, happened to call a halt in
the vicinity of my prison. As a matter of etiquette the captives were
exhibited to the visitor. I did not then recognize the recovered
invalid in his feathers and paint, but during the night he stole into
my tent and by signs and the use of the little of his native language
which was at my command we had a short but delightful interview which
ended in his taking me out of the hut, stepping over a dozen dark
sleepers. They usually guarded me vigilantly, but my friend had managed
to drug them into stupidity. After passing them safely I was given over
to the care of two men who guided me on the way I wished to pursue till
daylight, when they left me to my own devices.”

“O, how interesting!” said Marion, drawing a long breath. “I have read
about savage countries and people, but I never expected to know any one
who had really seen them.”



CHAPTER XIX.

A HAPPY DAY.


The next day was one of the happiest Marion had ever spent. Mr. Eaton
took her for a long drive to a lovely distant village that looked
sleepy enough in the winter, but was a gay scene in summer, he told
her, when the two large hotels that were close to the lake were filled
with a gay crowd. They were both closed now, but Mr. Eaton drove to a
smaller one which was always open, and there, while the fat pony rested
and enjoyed his oats, they took dinner. The table was quite long and
full, and from where Marion sat she could look through a little hall
to the kitchen where some women were washing piles of dishes at a long
table. It reminded her vividly of the time when she spent hours every
day at the same kind of work.

Was it only last summer? She lifted up her hand and looked at it inside
and out. It was not white yet, but the palm was growing pink and soft.

“Two cents for your thoughts,” said Mr. Eaton, smiling to see her
apparent forgetfulness.

“I wasn’t thinking of any thing particular,” said Marion, starting from
her reverie.

“Were you not? There was an intentness about you which gave me the
impression that you were thinking out some problem.”

“I don’t know what I said that for. I was thinking of something
particular; I was thinking of all the days of my life till Mrs. Abbott
brought me to Coventry.”

“I should say that was a pretty long think for such a short time.”

“But, Mr. Eaton, I used to wipe dishes just as you can see those girls
in there. I did it for hours every day. I think I was too ashamed for a
minute to tell you that when you asked me what I was thinking of.”

Honest Marion colored as she made this confession, which Mr. Eaton took
very equably, in some way giving the impression by his manner that
he considered washing and wiping dishes a very natural and every-day
affair.

But as they were driving home over the snow, which sparkled like
diamonds under the morning sun, but took a warm, rosy tint in the
sunset light, Mr. Eaton told Marion a little Persian story which
showed he had been thinking of the matter.

“A king sent one of his ministers one day to carry jewels to a queen he
delighted to honor. When the proud trust was accomplished the messenger
walked among the courtiers with lifted head and lofty bearing, and
every one strove to be noticed by a man so honored and trusted. A few
days after the king sent him to clean with his own hands the steps of
the market-place, where dogs and beggar-children scrambled and fought
for the refuse that was thrown out, and where the long, undisturbed
accumulation of dirt had made that entrance hideous. When his work
was ended the man came back from the uncongenial task with as proud a
step, as lofty a carriage, as serene an eye as when he returned from
his errand of trust and honor. Of the sneers and jeers of the courtiers
at his abasement, and their laughter at the stains and soil upon his
white, gold-wrought robes, he seemed unconscious. At the king’s feet he
knelt, as he had knelt the day before, and said, ‘What thou didst give
me to do, my king, I did as I could.’

“‘And which service was most pleasing to thee?’ asked the king.

“‘All things that are done for thee are alike pleasing to thy servant,’
was the answer.

“And the king, turning to his people, said, ‘He is greater than ye
all, for his love and obedience make base services as great as royal
embassies.’

“Do you understand that, Marion?” he asked, as they turned the familiar
corner which brought the school, with its high fence, in sight.

“I think so,” she said, hesitatingly. “Isn’t it that if the Lord gives
us a disagreeable thing to do--a duty that seems disgraceful--we
should, if we love him, do it just as if it was something noble?”

“That is it, exactly, and there is no disgrace in washing dishes. It
seems to me to become a noble service when the tired little hands are
working to bring comfort to helpless dear ones.”

He said that very softly, looking away into the soft cloud-banks that
were fast resolving themselves into the long, stratified dark lines
that bridge the space from dusk to dark. He seemed almost to be talking
to himself, but Marion knew well that his words were spoken to comfort
her. She would gladly have said some words of thanks, but none seemed
to come, not even when he lifted her out of the sleigh at the door,
and told her to run in and get warm, could she express the pleasure
the day had given her. But, although she did not know it, her delight
showed plainly in her bright face, and in the happy sparkle of her big,
honest gray eyes.

Mrs. Abbott came home the next morning and engrossed her brother so
entirely that Marion would have greatly missed her companion of the
last day or two if she had not had full consolation in Elfie’s society.
The child’s love for her grew stronger every day, and Candace was
almost jealous when her little missy refused to say her prayers with
her little bowed head resting upon any one’s lap but Marion’s.



CHAPTER XX.

LETTERS.


The mail-bag came in as usual just after breakfast the next morning,
but the number of letters was greatly reduced, of course, and there was
no animated, chattering crowd standing about eagerly watching while
Mrs. Abbott unlocked the padlock and distributed the letters.

Marion had never received a letter in her life, so she and Elfie walked
past the hall-table where Mrs. Abbott was opening the bag without so
much as a glance at it, but they had not reached the top of the stairs
before Mr. Eaton called out:

“Letters for you, Marion.”

“Letters for me? O, no, they can’t be mine, they must be for some of
the other girls.”

“But how very, very imbecile their correspondents must be to direct
them to Miss Marion Stubbs!”--holding up two square envelopes, one
white, the other robin’s-egg blue. “Don’t you think you’ll have to open
them so as to see which of the girls they are really meant for? or
shall I lay them away till vacation is over, and then put them up at
auction?”

“He is teasing you, Marion,” said Mrs. Abbott, glancing up from the
letter she was reading. “They are really for you.”

Such a pleasure actually to have letters of her own! Marion had often
envied the girls when they clutched their letters from home and became
absorbed in their contents, smiling, exclaiming, and sometimes almost
crying, as their eyes devoured the home news. But poor Mrs. Stubbs,
with her broken-down health and her never-ceasing work, had no time to
write to her daughter, and even if she had it was so many years since
she had written a letter that she would hardly know how to do it. As
for her father and the little boys, they would cheerfully have killed
a bear or a rattlesnake or even encountered a mad dog and conquered
him, for their absent girl’s sake, but such a stupendous, overwhelming
task as writing a letter was not even to be considered, and the
well-written, dutiful, fortnightly letters which Marion duly sent to
the humble mountain home were regarded with awe and wonder, and read
again and again by her proud and affectionate family.

But there were actually letters for her to-day, and the joy of
receiving them was so great that Marion laid them face up on her table
and gloated over them, not for some time attempting to make them reveal
their contents. When she did break the seal of the blue-tinted envelope
she read these astonishing lines:

  “MY DEAR MARION: You are coming to spend a week with me
  and go back to school with me and Lily--I mean Lily and me--that
  is, if you want to. Mamma said our house was going to be too
  empty at Christmas, and I might invite some girls. So I chose you
  and Lily, and mamma has written to Mrs. Abbott about it, and I do
  hope she will let you come.

      “Ever your affectionate friend,
          “KATHERINE STOWE ASHLEY.”

That stately signature did not seem like Katie, but Marion knew
perfectly well whose hand wrote the invitation which filled her heart
with rapture, not for the pleasure of anticipating a visit, for she was
not sure she really wanted to go, but it was delicious to feel that she
was wanted, and that dear, warm-hearted, loving Katie had chosen her
when she might have asked Edna or Bell or any of the girls who were
used to better ways of living and better society than she had known.

Mrs. Abbott, coming into her room with Elfie, a few moments later,
found her plunged in a happy reverie, with the second letter still
unopened.

“Listen, dear,” she said, sitting down by her side. “This letter of
mine very nearly concerns you:

                             “NEW YORK, MADISON AVENUE, _Dec. 20_.

  “MY DEAR MRS. ABBOTT: Will you let Katie’s friend, Miss
  Marion Stubbs, come and spend a portion of the holidays with us?

  “If you will let her come Mr. Ashley will meet her at the Grand
  Central Station on the 24th, if you will let us know the train.

  “With kindest regards, yours very sincerely,
                                                        “E. T. ASHLEY.”

“You don’t look surprised!”

“No, I knew Mrs. Ashley had written to you;” and Marion handed Katie’s
letter to her.

“Isn’t it good of them?” she asked, watching Mrs. Abbott’s face till
she finished reading.

“Yes; I am glad you are to have such a treat, for I feared it would be
dull for you here.”

“It could not be dull with you and Elfie and Mr. Eaton,” said Marion,
“and I don’t know as I really want to go; I am afraid I shouldn’t know
just how to act always, and I might make Katie ashamed before her
friends.”

“That is doing Katie great injustice.”

“O, I don’t mean it that way,” exclaimed Marion, kissing her letter
impulsively.

“I know you don’t; but, my dear child, you haven’t read your other
letter!”

That was from Lily, and, as might be expected, was very funny. Smiles
and dimples attended Marion’s reading of it, and when she had finished
she handed it to Mrs. Abbott, who said:

“Wont you read it to me yourself, so that Elfie can enjoy it too?”

So Marion began:

  “‘DEAR LEFT-BEHINDER: It was brutal in us to go off and
  leave the dear little mountain maid all to herself, and Katie and
  I talked ourselves into a fury of sympathy after we got into the
  cars. The only comfort we had was in hoping Mr. Eaton would get
  there right away. _He’s a dear!_

  “‘Now, I feel the spirit of poesy jumping onto me; attend,
  please.

  “‘Old Coventry braes are bonny,
    Where early falls the dew,
  But that, my dear old Marion,
    Is not the place for you.

  “‘So give us your promise true,
    That ne’er forgot shall be,
  To do as Katie asks you,
    And pack your trunk with glee.

  “‘I don’t believe I can do the subject justice in poetry, so I’ll
  go back to prose. Do come, Maid Marion. You must; if you don’t
  you shall be black-balled next term; that means something awful.
  I feel in my bones that you will try not to come, but you must.

  “‘I want to tell you something. We heard Edna say in the cars
  that Mrs. Ashley went in the best set in New York, and she’d give
  any thing if her mother knew her. Now, don’t that make you want
  to show Edna (_spiteful humbug_) what you can do. It will be just
  fun to see her rage about it next term.

  “‘If you dare to say no you’ll break my heart. I shall think it’s
  because I am going to be there. Katie was always nice to you, but
  I was horrid, just wicked, and even if you did forgive me no one
  can blame you if you can’t forget. But if you don’t come I shall
  just be a raving wreck, and I wont go to Katie’s if you don’t.
  So, there now, I have said it.

  “‘O, what a naughty thing you’d be,
  To plunge your friends in misery,
  So come along and Christmas spend,
  And likewise New Year’s, with your friend.

  “‘(Plural understood; couldn’t say spends, so had to take the “s”
  off the friends. There’s awful limitations to poetry.)

  “‘Katie hates writing letters so awfully that I told her if she’d
  just write the bare invitation I’d do the urging. Now, I’m sure
  I don’t know what more I can say to make you come; but if you
  dare to write a stiff little note beginning, “I am so sorry,”
  I’ll choke you, and I’ll send word to Mrs. Abbott to have you
  chloroformed and carried onto the cars with your feet tied, so
  you can’t kick when you come to.

  “‘Don’t be afraid to come, for Katie’s mother is almost as sweet
  as Mrs. Abbott, and Mr. Ashley’s lovely. He almost shakes himself
  to bits laughing. I believe that’s why he’s so bald, he’s shaken
  all his hair off.

  “‘Now you are coming, aren’t you?

  “‘Yes, yes, yes, yes, say you are coming, my sweet,
  To visit our Katie in Madison Street.

  “‘(It isn’t street, it’s avenue, really, but I took poet’s
  license.)

  “‘Now, farewell. Your loving      LILY.

  “‘P. S.--O, do come.

  “‘Particular P. S.--Come now, don’t say no.’”

Mrs. Abbott laughed heartily when the letter was read.

“I really think Lily is the most sprightly girl I ever had in my
school.”

“I never saw any one I envied so much,” said Marion.

“You need not, dear. We all have different gifts, but that is not
to say that one kind ranks above another. Lily’s vivacity leads her
into trouble sometimes, and I have heard her say, when she has been
suffering the consequences of her thoughtlessness, that she wished she
was more like you in some things. But we will take a more convenient
season for discussing gifts and traits. For now we must give our minds
to shoes and clothes for this visit.”

“O, do you really think I had better go?”

“I am sure of it, and you and I and Liny must work hard; fortunately
she can work nicely on the machine, and she has little else to do in
vacation. When I was in New York I bought for your Christmas present
a red cashmere dress and a brown plush sack that I tried on a girl
about your size. I think we can get the woman who made Elfie’s dresses
to give us to-morrow and the next day. So we shall turn out a very
respectable little red-bird for a city visit.”



CHAPTER XXI.

IN KATIE’S HOME.


“Five o’clock, girls,” said Katie, pressing an electric button that she
could reach without leaving her seat. “Jennie will bring in the tea;
she knows what that bell means at this hour. And, Lily, do stop asking
Marion questions. She’s only been in the house half an hour, and I know
she’s all worn out with the trip.”

“Worn out! Why, it was splendid! I was sorry it wasn’t longer.”

The girls were sitting in Katie’s own pretty room, where every thing
was primrose and gold, and she and Lily were doing their best to make
Marion feel at ease in the rather embarrassing ordeal of making her
first visit. Mr. Ashley had met her at the station and was cordiality
itself. Mrs. Ashley’s greeting was heartfelt too, and the two girls
flung themselves upon her in vociferous welcome.

Perhaps they had both felt a little nervous about her; but there was no
need. Her close observation of such a good model as Mrs. Abbott and
her quick faculty of imitation had so changed her manner and speech
that there was really nothing to object to. She had benefited, too,
by the cruel ridicule of her thoughtless school-mates, which had been
lacerating while it lasted and very hard to bear.

Katie took her up to the pretty room she was to occupy after they had
finished their little cups of tea and eaten a thin slice of bread and
butter.

“We should have to put you both into the guest-chamber ordinarily,”
she said, “but brother Jim and my two unmarried sisters are traveling
in Europe with grandfather; so there’s lots of room. See, Lily’s door
opens into your room, so you needn’t feel lonesome. I am going to get
mamma to send Adèle to dress your hair. She always does mine when I am
at home.”

Marion declined the services of the French maid, but Katie laughed
and ran down again, and in a few minutes Adèle came in, having been
ordered, she said, to help the young lady. Mrs. Abbott had told Marion
to do, as far as she could, what her friends expected her to while she
was visiting them; so she submitted to having her hair dressed, and
received so many compliments from Adèle on its length, quantity, and
beautiful curliness that she was quite comforted. When she looked in
the glass after the hair-dressing was over she hardly knew herself, and
Lily, running in just then, fell into raptures.

“Where have you always hidden all that beautiful hair?” she exclaimed.
“Why, you are positively lovely with your red cheeks and that fluff on
your forehead. I wonder if Adèle could change me into a beauty. But
look here, Marion, you want to wear your best dress, the blue one, you
know, to-night, because there’s to be a Christmas-tree, and the married
son and daughter are coming, and they’re awfully swell.”

“I have a prettier dress than that, a red one;” and Marion exhibited
her new dress.

“My, but I’m glad,” said Lily; “for really, do you know, Marion, I was
wishing you had something pretty to come out in to-night?”

Truly Marion, with her hair stylishly arranged and delicate white
frilling at the neck and sleeves of the bright red dress was a pleasant
picture as she took her seat by Lily’s side at the dinner-table.

Katie explained to her mother that as life at Mrs. Abbott’s included a
two-o’clock dinner they must be excused if their appetites were feeble
at a seven-o’clock dinner. Mr. Ashley affected to consider this a great
joke, and went into little spasms of mirth every time the plates were
changed and the “feeble appetites” did not prevent the girls from
tasting every dish that was offered.

They were occupied with their dessert when the married Ashley children
came. The son had a pretty little wife, who looked nearly as young as
Katie, and a wonderfully smart little black-eyed daughter of three, who
asked, the instant she came in, where “Danpa’s Twissmus-twee” was.

Mrs. Clifford Leigh, the oldest Ashley daughter, was a tall, handsome
young woman, whose rather haughty bearing frightened Marion into
awkwardness at first, but when an exclamation of rapturous admiration
escaped her lips at the sight of two lovely children who were brought
in by their nurses the young mother’s face softened into a gratified
smile which made it charming.

Marion had a feeling that Mrs. Clifford despised her, and Lily, who
sometimes had very keen intuitions, suspected her feeling and whispered:

“Say, Marion, don’t you worry. Katie has never said any thing about you
to her brothers and sisters. Not that there’s much of any thing to say;
but you know what I mean.”

For answer Marion squeezed her hand lovingly and immediately felt more
indifferent to Mrs. Clifford’s haughty manner, which was, after all,
nothing but manner, for she was really as good-natured and friendly as
Katie herself.

Mrs. Ashley excused herself and mysteriously retired to the
drawing-room, between which and the dining-room the portieres were
closely drawn together. Presently they slid swiftly apart and the whole
company went toward the other end of the long room, where stood a
dazzling Christmas-tree lighted by a host of candles and brilliant with
silver and gilt decorations that caught and reflected the light with
glittering effect.

The little ones danced about gayly with out-cries of delight,
and Marion was dumb with admiration at her first sight of a real
Christmas-tree. She had read of them often, but never imagined they
could be so beautiful.

Mr. Ashley, with a tiny hand in each of his, began dancing his little
granddaughters about to the waltz which was trilled out by an immense
music-box, till Mrs. Clifford reminded him that they were all pining
for a view of their presents. So he put on an absurdly serious manner
and began to gather the fruit that Santa Claus had raised in his own
private hot-house, as he expressed it.

The first fruit plucked was a beautiful doll, which was handed to
little Hilda Ashley, who received it enthusiastically. Its twin was
given to her oldest little cousin, and small Master Clifford received
a box that stood under the tree, being too heavy to hang upon it.
The young gentleman was immediately lost to sight behind the box,
but his approval of the contents, as his nurse took them out, was
distinctly audible. Horses and their attachments had been his craze
all of his short life, and the majestic pair of bays with a big, solid
express-wagon that filled the box, were almost large enough for actual
service.

There were many other presents for the children, which were taken in
charge by their mothers, and then Mr. Ashley said Santa Claus owed them
an apology for entirely forgetting to provide any thing for the grown
folks. Katie whispered to Marion that he had made that same remark
every year since she could remember; but even if it was not strictly
original on the present occasion it was thought irresistibly funny, for
while he was sadly shaking his head over the misfortune he was untying
the blue ribbon which held a morocco box to the tree. This he handed
mournfully to young Mrs. Ashley, whose eyes sparkled as she opened it
and discovered an opal ring with a brilliant setting of diamonds. She
flashed an appreciative look at her husband, who was watching her, and
Marion felt sure the ring had been presented by him.

Mrs. Clifford had from her husband a reminder that the day was also the
anniversary of their wedding, in the shape of a lovely pin modeled from
an antique Swedish wedding-gift.

The young men received a collection of umbrellas, canes, pins, and
sleeve-buttons, and then more boxes with gifts from father and mother
and friends were taken down and given to their wives. Then Mr. Ashley,
in a puzzled way, declared it seemed astonishing that three young
and interesting girls should be left out when every one else was
remembered. Even Mrs. Ashley, he said, had her pile, and a goodly pile
it was. Katie abused him roundly as he slowly inspected parcels and
boxes on the tree and on the table behind it, and declared she would
jump over the ribbon that was stretched across that end of the room for
a dividing-line. At last he slowly took down a square flat box, then
laid it on the table, remarking in a hopeless way that the writing was
upside-down.

“Turn it the other way,” cried Katie, stamping her foot in mock anger.

“What a head you have!” said her father, and he frisked around to
the other side of the table as if the little box itself could not be
turned. “Why, it’s your own name,” he added, in great surprise.

“So it is, but you didn’t read it all;” and Katie handed the box to
Lily, pointing to the inscription, “From Katherine Stowe Ashley to Lily
Dart.”

There was a beautiful handkerchief with an embroidered edge in it, and
another box, handed then to Marion, held one just like it.

From Mrs. Ashley Lily received a gold bangle, and Marion a simple but
extremely pretty gold and garnet breastpin, which quite took her breath
away, it seemed so magnificent.

Mr. Ashley kept up the farce of not being able to discover any
remembrances for Katie till that young lady became quite impatient.
Then he handed her a carefully wrapped-up diary with an elegant
exterior and hopelessly blank interior. She received it with a comical
little gesture, for it meant that her mother expected her to continue
the daily record that she had pursued for four years.

There was a gold thimble for Katie from her sister-in-law, a bewitching
fan from Mrs. Clifford, and lovely “bits of travel,” as Mr. Ashley
called the gifts from the absent sisters and brothers, who sent
carvings from Sorrento, silver from Nuremberg, laces from Paris, and
specialties from other points to all at home.

Then Mr. Ashley ceremoniously presented his youngest daughter with the
prettiest pocket-book his researches among the shops could unearth.

“It would have been a diamond ring, Katie. I mean to say it was a
diamond ring,” he said, mournfully, “but your mother made me take it
back to Tiffany, because you are too young, she says. So try to get
older, my child, and I will reward you with precious stones.”

Katie laughed and admired her father’s gift, remarking with some
philosophy that she’d rather have it than a ring, for she could have
the comfort of using it, and if she had had the ring mamma would not
have let her wear it till she was out of school.

“But you haven’t examined the lining,” Mr. Ashley said, anxiously,
after nodding approvingly at her manner of receiving his gift.

The “lining” was a check, and Katie, seeing its highly respectable
amount, flew at her father in a transport. He retreated before her rush
in mock terror, but on being caught returned her hug with interest,
begging her in a loud whisper not to reveal the amount of her check to
any one.

Katie’s good sense was getting the better of the vanity and bragging
that the girls at school used to find objectionable in her, and, true
to some new resolutions she had been making, she followed her father’s
jocose request and told no one but her mother the amount of her gift.

“I knew I should get some money,” she said that night after the girls
had gone up to her room, “so I ran pretty deeply in debt for things for
mamma’s tree to-morrow.”

“Another tree!” exclaimed the girls, in chorus.

“Same one dressed over; but wait and see. It’s twice the fun this was.”



CHAPTER XXII.

THE CHRISTMAS-TREE’S SECOND CROP.


The habits of even a short life-time are not easily changed; so before
a single servant was astir in that luxurious household Marion had risen
and dressed herself. Lily had no early-rising habits to contend with,
and so slept peacefully on till Adèle came in to say that Mrs. Ashley
wished to know if the young ladies required assistance in dressing and
to tell them breakfast would be ready in half an hour.

Lily slipped her feet into a pair of slippers and came into Marion’s
room in a half-awake condition.

“Why, you early bird!” she exclaimed, “I do believe you got up to gloat
over your new breastpin.”

Marion laughed and blushed, for it was true that she had been
contemplating her first piece of jewelry for a long time with great
content.

“I envy you,” said Lily, “not the pin, but not having your ‘first
times’ till you were old enough to realize them. I thought of it last
night, when your eyes were shining like diamonds and you looked like
a peri who had squeezed into Eden after long shivering at the gate,
like the one in Moore’s poems. Now, my dear little rosy-round, daddy
isn’t frightfully rich like Mr. Ashley, but then I’ve always had more
trinkets and things than I needed, and I don’t begin to have the
fun out of them that you have had already over your one poor little
breastpin.”

“O, it isn’t poor or little!” exclaimed shocked Marion. “It is as
pretty a pin as any of the girls had at school.”

“And you did long for one, didn’t you, poor little kitty mouse?”

“No, I didn’t, because I didn’t see how it was possible I could ever
have one. But, Lily, you wont be ready for breakfast.”

That was a very informal meal in the Ashley house, for the family never
waited for the mistress, who was apt to breakfast in her own room,
and Mr. Ashley was such a restless, active person that he usually
dispatched his breakfast before any one else began and trotted off to
call on his two sets of grandchildren. This morning the three girls had
the table all to themselves, and Marion was lost in wonder at Lily, who
did not seem in the least awed by the solemn butler, who seemed to her
to be the most scornful and disapproving looking gentleman she had ever
seen; and when Katie, with the courage of a lion-tamer, calmly sent him
down-stairs because they wanted to discuss a private matter she almost
looked for an earthquake to happen next.

The private matter was a present Mrs. Ashley wished to make to Mrs.
Abbott and was going to leave to the three girls to select and present
as an offering from themselves. The discussion seemed interminable, and
was still in full tide when Mr. Ashley came in, rubbing his hands and
crying “Merry Christmas!” to them.

“Here are sweets to the sweet,” he continued, handing them each a
two-pound box of Huyler’s very best, “and here are charms to the
charmers and gloves to the gloveless;” and with chuckles of delight
he arranged the packages in front of the girls, walking around the
table and rubbing his hands gleefully while they unwrapped and
explored. Every thing was alike in each instance. Two pairs of gloves
apiece--extra length, he explained, solemnly, because the tops could
be used to resole the bottoms. The “charms” were lovely silver
chatelaines, with smelling-bottle, bon-bon box, and other hanging
appurtenances; and the girls uttered their approbation in little
screams of delight, in the midst of which Mr. Ashley put his hands
over his ears and ran out of the room.

“And the best of papa’s Christmas morning gifts is that he don’t mind
your giving them away to somebody else if you want. He wouldn’t forgive
any one who parted with Christmas-tree things, but these have no
sentiment, he says.”

“There’ll be no danger of my parting with these glorious gloves,” said
Lily. “I never had any a mile long before. And do see Marion. She’s
regarding hers with such reverence that I expect to see her swing
incense in front of them in a minute. I believe she likes them better
than her lovely chatelaine.”

“O, no, but I can wear the gloves.”

“Well, I suppose papa thought you could; but can’t you wear the
chatelaine too?”

“It seems too fine for me, with the kind of clothes I wear.”

“I’ll tell you what,” said Katie, hurriedly, to avoid noticing Marion’s
embarrassment, “we’ll go around to the Gorham to-morrow right after
breakfast and change off that chatelaine for other things. I know
you’re such a silly goose that you’d rather have a half-dozen trinkets
to give away than this.”

It was worth something to see the pleasure in Marion’s face at this
suggestion; but Lily did not give her time to say any thing, for she
sprang up and gave Katie a hug and resounding kiss, with an emphatic
declaration that she was the dearest girl that ever lived.

“And we’ll give her our votes for the Bellamy prize, wont we, though?”
she said to Marion, as she resumed her seat.

Adèle came in then with a request from Mrs. Ashley that they would not
fatigue themselves in their morning amusements, as she depended upon
them to entertain her guests at her Christmas-tree from four to six in
the afternoon.

The drawing-room was mysteriously closed; and when, at the appointed
hour, the girls went in with Mrs. Ashley they found it greatly changed
from the night before. The tree was equally well filled, but with gifts
of a widely different character, and by its side and behind it stood
tables strangely loaded. One was covered with stout shoes; another held
a pyramid of bundles, each bearing a small placard. The third table,
longer and wider than the others, was loaded with hats and caps.

The room was lighted with gas, which seemed to have a bewildering
effect upon the twenty guests who now began to arrive. The sudden
change from daylight, or else the splendor of the brilliant tree, made
each girl as she entered rub her eyes and look helplessly about for an
instant. They were the members of Mrs. Ashley’s class in the mission
school, and every year she entertained them in this way.

Katie and Lily did their best to make the company feel at home; but
perhaps there was a tiny bit of condescension in their efforts, for
the girls seemed shy and afraid to converse; but with Marion it was
different. She knew by her own experience how embarrassing it was to
step from the surroundings of poverty into unaccustomed elegance, and
the lessons she had learned made her know what to say to these shy,
awkward strangers to make them feel comfortable and at home.

The guests were all gathered at last and seated where their eager eyes
could feast upon the ever-fertile tree, as Lily called it. Then, from
behind the portieres, appeared Santa Claus, smothered in furs. His
long white beard indicated great age, but his agile and jerky method
of skipping about contradicted the venerable effect. His pockets were
puffed out and he carried a loaded pannier on his back.

Taking his station with his back to the mantel, Santa Claus waved his
sealskin-gloved hands toward the company, saying, “Class, please to
rise;” whereupon the guests all stood up, Katie and her friends also
rising.

“If any one present,” continued Santa Claus, whisking up to the tree
and back again to his place, “wishes a share in these gifts, will she
kindly signify it by saying ‘I would?’”

Such an animated chorus of “I woulds” arose then that Santa Claus put
his hands over his ears.

“Please don’t all speak at once next time,” he said. “Now, head of the
class, tell me which were made first, cats or kittens? What, don’t
know? Next, then. You don’t know either? nor you? Why, who does know?”

All the class were giggling and nudging each other in great amusement,
and at the last question one girl called out “Cats!” and sank back upon
a chair in a paroxysm of half-nervous laughter.

“Wrong,” said Santa Claus, severely. “You know every cat has to be a
kitten first. Try again.”

“Kittens!” screamed the whole class in concert.

“O, what an ill-taught class!” said Santa Claus, looking around slyly
at Mrs. Ashley. “I should think you’d know there couldn’t be kittens
without cats for mothers.”

“Which of’em was made first then?” said the boldest member of the
class; but the others pounced on her and called out, “For shame, ’Lizy
Maria!” so vigorously that she was completely crushed.

“You must ask your teacher,” said Santa Claus, politely, beginning to
unload his pockets and hand out blue, scarlet, and brown mittens--a
pair for each girl. “And as you have such strange ideas of cats and
kittens, here are some articles to refresh your memories about them;”
and by some dexterous gymnastics he freed himself from the large sack
or pannier that ornamented his back and poured its load of muffs upon
the floor. There was one for each girl, and they were quickly picked up
and appropriated at the word of command.

Then there was a general distribution of the useful gifts upon the
table and of those upon the tree, which were prettier if less useful,
being little books, work-baskets, photograph frames, and other trifles,
such as girls without pocket-money prize.

There were some merry games then in which Katie and her friends took
part, and then the twenty happy visitors took their gifts home with
beaming faces and grateful hearts.

“It may pall upon your fancy, my Marion,” said Lily that night when
they were undressing, “but for the fiftieth time I must repeat my
conviction that these Ashleys deserve their wealth.”

“O, they do,” assented Marion, enthusiastically, “and Katie grows nicer
every day.”

“Yes, Katie’s getting gooder and gooder all the time, as little Elfie
says, bless her heart!”



CHAPTER XXIII.

THE LETTER IN CIPHER.


  “‘School again, school again,
    From a foreign shore!
  And O, it fills my heart with pain
    To see its walls once more!’”

sang Lily, with mock pathos, as the stage, with its lively load of
girls, drove up to the front door, where Mrs. Abbott and Elfie
smiled a cordial welcome.

“There’s not a word of truth in that lament, Mrs. Abbott, my dear,”
said Lily, as she folded her teacher in a fervent hug, “for I’m
awfully, awful glad to get back.”

“So am I,” said Katie.

“And you, dear?” said Mrs. Abbott, smiling at Marion, who could not
easily release herself from Elfie’s embrace of joyful welcome.

“It is coming home to me,” answered Marion, with glowing face.

“Have you had a pleasant visit?”

“O, so delightful! May I come to your room to-night and tell you about
it?”

“Indeed you may.”

“May I hear the history too?” said Mr. Eaton, just appearing from the
library.

The girls pounced upon him then, dragging him into the school-room and
asking a flood of questions and begging hard for the promise of a story
after tea. He gave the promise readily, but it was not fulfilled, for
an hour later a telegram summoned him away upon business that could not
be delayed.

“I don’t understand why every body has to be in the dumps just because
Mr. Eaton had to go away,” said Edna, discontentedly, that evening.

“Because he’s a joy forever,” said Lily, “and with him here the next
two or three days of settling down to work would be just fun. Now
they’ll be deeply, darkly, beautifully blue; wont they, Kit?”

“Yes; the first days are generally poky,” said Katie, preparing to
record her arrival in her new diary.

“We can have fun enough,” said Edna, “if Mrs. Abbott wont be too
strait-laced and antiquated to let us.”

“How, for instance?”

“There’s a circus coming. I saw the bills posted up at the station,”
replied Edna--“lions and bears, and a four-armed man, and a man with
no arms at all who takes your picture with his toes, and lots of jolly
things.”

“They wont do us any good,” said Bell Burgoyne, “for, you know, Mrs.
Abbott disapproves of circuses.”

“Well, they are low,” said Edna, “but I think it would be fun to go to
one of the side-shows, as they call them, and have our fortunes told by
the Egyptian sphinx.”

“O, I’ve seen a picture of that kind of being. It’s just a young woman
with an elaborately frizzed head and a handsome face, and nothing else
except a small section of throat,” explained Lily. “She perches lightly
on a wash-stand and answers questions, I believe.”

“But how can she talk without any arms and legs?” said Louie Field,
skeptically.

“Unless she uses the sign language of the deaf and dumb, I think limbs
and members would be less indispensable than lungs,” said Lily. “But I
don’t understand, so I can’t explain.”

“It’s some kind of clap-trap,” said Edna. “I’ve read how it’s done.
There’s looking-glass fronts and curtains and things, you know.”

“What a beautifully clear explanation!” said Lily.

“I’d just love to have my fortune told,” said Katie.

“You couldn’t understand her. Probably she’s a real, genuine, imported
sphinx. Speaks no English--nothing but Pyramid,” Lily said, mockingly.

“There’s no such language as Pyramid, is there?” asked Katie, rather
doubtfully.

“Well, then, she’d speak the tongue of the Ptolemies, whatever that
was, and you couldn’t understand it. But, no matter what she speaks,
you are not likely to see her.”

The matter was dropped then, but the next morning when Mrs. Abbott took
her seat to open school she found a yard-long pictorial advertisement
of the circus laid conspicuously on the desk. On its margin was
written, “Please take us,” on reading which she shook her head gravely.

“I have had such requests before,” she said, severely, “and all but the
latest comers know how thoroughly I disapprove of circuses and all such
exhibitions.”

She looked grave and displeased, and the girls, discussing the matter
afterward, were very indignant at Edna, who had put the play-bill on
the desk without their knowledge. She defended herself rather crossly,
and a quarrel seemed inevitable; but Elfie, coming in with a book for
Katie, made a diversion.

“Is you most crying ’cause you can’t go to see the efalumps and the
big, big bears?” she asked, looking at Edna curiously.

“No, indeed,” replied Edna, loftily; “but I should like to have my
fortune told by the sphinx.”

“Auntie Abbott says the spazinx in that picture isn’t a real spazinx,”
said Elfie, consolingly.

They all laughed so at her remarkable pronunciation that her small head
was tossed up with much dignity, and she said, with some asperity:

“It is not a bit ladified for folks to laugh at other folks’s
pronouncements. My Marion never laughs when I says my words wrong.”

Edna repressed the sneering remark she was ready to utter, for no one
was allowed to say one word in dispraise of Marion before Elfie, who
had been more than ever her champion since the affair of the poem. And
Edna, to do her justice, was really very fond of Elfie, and immediately
tried to propitiate her by making a boat out of writing-paper, which
the happy child carried off to sail in her basin. There she left it,
with a freight of small paper dolls, when Candace called her to go out
for a walk, and Marion, whose early training made tidiness a habit,
carefully threw away the water, wiped out the basin, put the paper boat
in the window to dry, and, picking up a work-basket, sat down with
it in her lap and began to darn a stocking of Elfie’s as a pleasant
surprise for Candace.

As she worked, saying over a list of Roman emperors to make sure she
had them at her tongue’s end, some of the blurred characters in the
little boat caught her attention, and she carefully unfolded it,
finding, as she suspected, that it was a note written in cipher. Having
had permission to read all she could, she amused herself by deciphering
the curious words and writing them down on a bit of paper.

A part of the note was torn, but enough was left to make Marion very
uncomfortable. It was written to Edna by Addie Mason, a rather delicate
girl who lived in the village, and who came in to school every day
for only two or three studies. She had become very popular with the
S. C.’s and had been frequently invited to their secret meetings, and
the mysterious cipher had been explained to her. She was immensely
flattered by all this privilege, although she knew her admittance
to fellowship was owing to her usefulness in bringing purchases of
maple-sugar, candy, crackers, and raisins, and other such commodities
as could be purchased at the country store, which the girls were not
allowed to visit except by especial permission, and that was rarely
accorded.

The cipher letter, after Marion copied it upon a fresh piece of paper,
read thus:

  “DRDN: mdmbltt syssh wllnt cmt thbck gtnlss ywll brnglf
  tsh syssh cnfnd smbrd mnyby pttngdvnng rdn blndchlds hndtht swht
  shs wntdfr. gthr wyfrm mrnnd cndcnd brnghr lngn nwll vrknw.
                                                          “DDMSN.”

It was not a difficult cipher to read when you knew how--simply a
leaving out of all the vowels and writing every consecutive pair
of words together. But, as some of the girls who had tried to read
specimens of it said, “it looked too heathenish for United States folks
to read.” Abolishing capitals also added to its obscurity.

The translation, after Marion had puzzled it out and written it down in
legible English, was:

  “DEAR EDNA: Madame Belotti says she will not come to the
  back gate unless you will bring Elfie too. She says she can find
  some buried money by putting a divining-rod in a blonde child’s
  hand. That is what she is wanted for. Get her away from Marion
  and Candace and bring her along; no one will ever know.
                                                    “ADDIE MASON.”

“That’s what you get for meddling, miss,” Marion said to herself, as,
having made the copies and torn them up, she refolded the boat and
applied herself again to the stockings and the Roman emperors.

“Caligula, Claudius, Nero,” she continued, not conscious she was
speaking aloud. “I do hope she wont do it. Galba, Otho, Vitellius.
O, dear, I do hope she wont.”

“Wont what, you funny old thing?” asked Lily, looking in at the door.

For a moment Marion was tempted to tell her about the note she had read
and beg her to prevent Edna’s taking Elfie outside of the gate, but she
knew her interference might be resented, and Lily was so intolerant of
tale-telling that she did not want to seem guilty of it; so she parried
the question and begged her to take the list she had copied from her
history and see if she could say the Roman emperors correctly.

“Perfect,” said Lily, when she had done; “but you always do say every
thing perfectly. And now tell me what is bothering you, Molly Ann. You
looked when I came in as though you had the weight of the world on your
shoulders.”

But no coaxing would persuade the girl to tell, although she longed
to talk about her discovery with some one. Of course she could not
tell Mrs. Abbott. The school-girls’ code of honor forbade that; but
she resolved to watch Elfie closely and prevent her, if possible, from
being taken out of the gate, and if she could not do that to follow her
herself, no matter how much her doing so might offend the girls.



CHAPTER XXIV.

CATCHING A TRAIN.


Late that night Marion, lying awake to worry over the letter she had
read, heard the heavy rumble of the circus vans on their way out of
town to the distant place where their next public appearance was to
be made. All her trouble ended with the welcome sound, for now there
would be no meeting with the sphinx, and Elfie would not be tempted to
go outside the gates; so the honest eyes closed in sleep that lasted
undisturbed till the “wake-up” bell resounded through the halls.

Candace had again succumbed to the rheumatism, so Marion dressed Elfie
and took her down to breakfast and kept her by her side till the
prayer-bell rang. Then Katie pounced upon her, it being her week, and
Marion did not see her again except across the school-room.

At twelve o’clock recess began, at one the girls dined, and at two
o’clock school began again, and lasted till half past three. The
hour before dinner was devoted, in rainy weather, to gymnastics in
the large garret fitted up with various mechanical contrivances for
physical culture, but in pleasant weather the girls walked, ran, or
played either in the grove behind the house, the meadow on the left,
or the tennis-court and croquet-ground on the other side. Beyond the
fence which defined these ample grounds no one was allowed to go
without permission, even though, as sometimes happened, grace-hoop,
shuttlecock, or ball perversely flew over the fence.

On this day Mrs. Abbott called Marion to her immediately after the
twelve-o’clock bell rang.

“My dear,” she said, “I shall have to ask you to do me a favor. I have
here a check for fifty dollars which I need to have cashed immediately.
Will you take it for me to the bank at the village and bring me the
money? It is a long walk, but I know you don’t mind that. To save time
and insure your getting back in time for dinner I would send you in the
phaeton, but my pony has lamed himself. But I will have your dinner
kept warm for you.”

“O, that is nothing,” said Marion. “I’d as lief go without any dinner,
and, if you don’t mind, I’ll go through the back gate, it’s so much
shorter.”

“Yes, you may do so. The key to the padlock hangs, as usual, behind the
hat-rack.”

The carriage road to the village led past the front of the house and
twisted and turned several ways, most obligingly winding by various
farm-houses, but a shorter cut across the fields could be reached
by going through a little gate at the end of the thick grove behind
the house. The road thus gained led to the station and then on to
the village, but a path across the fields avoided the station and
intersected the road again further on.

“I’d be fidgety now if the circus had stayed over to-day, for, with
Candace sick, there’d be no one to keep Elfie from going out with the
girls to get their fortunes told,” thought Marion.

But the circus had gone and she went on gayly, rather pleased with the
errand and thinking nothing of the two-miles’ walk to the village.

Just beyond the path that led off from the road stood a carriage with
two showy young women in it talking with a young man who had apparently
just met them as Marion came in sight. There was something odd about
their appearance, and the girl had curiosity enough to watch them for a
moment as she stood sheltered behind a screen of wild grape-vine that
almost hid the entrance to the path. The party were whispering, so
there was nothing for her to hear even had she been nearer; but their
presence in that quiet place seemed strange.

In a moment the women jumped out of the carriage and the young man
took a seat in it, saying in a raised voice, probably for the driver’s
benefit:

“Well, don’t stay long with your old friend, or you’ll miss the 1:15
train, and there’s no other till 6:35. We’ll drive around a while and
be waiting for you here. Now, look sharp and keep your wits about you.”

Perhaps they were going to see the servants at Mrs. Abbott’s, Marion
thought, as she walked on, feeling troubled she hardly knew why; but
if so, why not have driven around to the front gate, from which the
kitchen was reached by a side path; but, after all, it was none of her
business, she told herself as she trudged along.

There was not much delay at the bank, and Marion, feeling rather
important, and somewhat anxious about the safety of the roll of bills,
started for home. It would be so terrible to have any thing happen
to such a lot of money that she hardly knew what to do with it. Mrs.
Abbott had given her an old purse to put it in, but she thought as she
went along of all the stories she had heard of highway robbery, so she
took it out of her purse and tucked it into the bosom of her dress.
After a few minutes the dread came that some tramp might demand her
money or her life, and then there’d be a scuffle, and in the scuffle
her dress might be torn to pieces and the bills fall out; so back
into her pocket they went, then into her dress waist again. Then an
inspiration seized her and she divided the bundle of bills, of which
there were six fives and two tens, and wound them around each ankle
under her stockings. There they seemed quite safely concealed even
if they detracted from the symmetry of the ankles, and Marion walked
comfortably on with the empty purse held conspicuously in her hand,
having a little plan in her mind of flinging it far from her in the
event of an attack from highway robbers, and, while they were dashing
after it, taking to her heels and escaping with her stocking-protected
treasure.

There never had been a highway robbery in the neighborhood, but a
course of promiscuous reading had given Marion a realization that such
things could happen, and she went on with almost an expectation of some
adventure.

As she neared the point where the path struck into the carriage road
she heard a sound of rapid wheels, and, running to the vine-covered
tree and peering through the leaves, she saw, as she thought probable,
the carriage she had seen as she went upon her errand. The driver was
not there, but the young man who promised to wait for the women sat
upon the front seat and was urging the horses to their utmost speed.
One of the women was by his side; the other sat upon the back seat with
a child in her arms.

It was Elfie!

How she could have recognized her in that one quick glance through the
leaves Marion could not have told, but she was sure of it. It flashed
upon her then that these people must have been employed to steal her,
and now they had succeeded!

Where were they going? To the station to catch the 1:15 express.
Perhaps she could get there in time to stop them; any body would assist
her, for Mrs. Abbott was well known.

Fences and rough places were no obstacles to a sturdy little
mountaineer; so, straight as a bird flies, Marion tore across country,
leaving bits of her dress upon the strong cat-briers, and not stopping
to pick up her hat when it dropped from her head as she half jumped,
half tumbled over a fence. She forgot her anxiety about the money as
she flew along, panting and half crying, but still gasping over and
over a fervent prayer:

“O, Lord, help me to save Elfie! Help me, help me!”

The platform and station buildings were on the other side of the track,
and as Marion flew along over a hill she caught a glimpse of the
carriage whirling across the track and driving behind the building. The
sight made her run faster, if that were possible, but the chase seemed
hopeless, for even then the whistle sounded and the engine came in
sight around the curve, slowing up as it neared its stopping-place.

But even though she thought it too late she ran on, the prayer again
bursting in agony from her lips, and love and fear seemed almost to
give her wings. Without pausing to listen, she heard all the familiar
sounds that attend a train’s arrival and departure. Just after an “all
aboard” from the conductor the long train began to push slowly off,
gaining speed as it moved till, as she burst from a thicket and plunged
through a narrow run of waste water that followed the track for a few
rods, the last car was spinning by her.

Without a breath of hesitation she seized the iron rod at the end in
her strong little grasp and flung herself against the steps, bruising
herself sadly, but clinging on.

After a few moments spent in collecting herself and recovering from
her efforts the brave girl drew herself up from the car-steps to the
platform, and, gazing back at the woods which seemed to close behind
them as they sped along, tried to form some plan of action. No one at
the station could have seen her spring upon the cars; so there would
be no one to tell Mrs. Abbott what had become of her. Then, after all,
what certainty had she that Elfie was upon the cars? Perhaps hers
had been a wild-goose chase. She was positive that Elfie was in the
carriage, but perhaps they had not taken her on the cars. They might
have been afraid and left her at the station, or they might be still
waiting there for the down-train which went through half an hour later.

Then the horrible thought came that if Elfie was safe, and no one knew
what had become of her, wouldn’t Mrs. Abbott think she had run away
with the fifty dollars?

The agony of that idea was too dreadful. Poor Marion threw herself down
on the platform, and, burying her scratched, flaming face in her hands,
sobbed dolefully.



CHAPTER XXV.

THE SPHINX.


The morning after the circus had left the town, as the older girls
were going into one of the smaller recitation-rooms to the English
literature class, Edna whispered to Addie in the five minutes that were
always allowed on every change of room:

“Hasn’t the circus gone?”

“Yes; went last night.”

“And now we can’t have our fortunes told!”

“Yes, you can, for Madame Belotti hasn’t gone.”

“O, good!”

“I thought you’d be glad, and she and her sister have promised to come
up to the grove by the back gate at twelve o’clock. Of course she can’t
be fixed up as a sphinx, because her rigging had to go off in the vans.
She’s great fun any way; for one thing she can give you lucky numbers.
But she wants Elfie to come. She says she saw her once when you all
walked to the village, and she says there’s something uncommon in her
eyes that shows she’s got second sight.”

“I don’t know as we can bring Elfie, and I don’t believe she ever saw
her, either.”

“Then we’d better stay away ourselves, for Madame Belotti will get out
of temper and not tell us any thing.”

“Well, we must manage it somehow, but I do wish I could have seen
madame as a sphinx.”

“Yes, that was a real good rig, but she’s a Spanish gypsy, and she can
tell fortunes just as well in a basque and skirt.”

“She must have looked awfully funny,” said Edna. “I told the girls I
didn’t care about seeing her, but I really did want to fearfully.”

“She was very well made up,” said Addie. “All you saw was just a real
head on a table; there were books and bric-a-brac and flowers on the
table, and this head right in the middle of them. There were curtains
in front, and a man drew these on one side to show us there was no
deception, and we seemed to be looking right under the table. Of course
we were not allowed to step near.”

“Well, I am determined to have my fortune told, even if I can’t see her
as a sphinx,” said Edna.

“I don’t believe you will get it told unless you bring Elfie.”

“I don’t see why she makes such a point of having Elfie come. It’s
going to be a great bother! What did she say about it, anyway?”

“Well, I guess it is only some superstitious idea of hers about
numbers. She told me a lot of stuff about a large sum of money she
could get if she had a certain number, and the way to get the lucky
number is to get a blonde orphan girl under six years old to be
blindfolded and draw it out of a hundred others in a box.”

“O, what stuff!” said Edna. “That’s all bosh.”

“I suppose it is; but she’s awfully stubborn, and says she wont come
out at all if she can’t have such a little thing as that done to oblige
her.”

“Well, it was kind of nice in them to stay a day after the circus just
for us, but I don’t see how it’s to be managed. Candace is sick, that’s
one good thing; but that sneaky Mary Ann Stubbs is her guardian fiend
and would tell of us quick as a wink if she saw us taking the child out
of the yard.”

“I don’t think Marion is given to tale-telling,” said Addie,
significantly, and Edna had the grace to color with shame at the
memory of her own meanness in that matter of the composition when
Marion refused to tell of her, for that, she knew, was in Addie’s mind
as she spoke.

“Well, anyway, I don’t want the impertinent thing to know any thing
about it. If I felt sure of Lily it would be all right. They will
always leave Elfie with her any length of time; but Lily is queer
sometimes, and I guess I’d better manage it myself.”

“I thought Lily was coming with us.”

“Lily, Katie, Delia, and Bell are all coming, and if Lily sees Elfie
there with us she wont say any thing about it afterward, even if she
does make a little fuss just at first; but I know she wont take her
herself.”

“Well, manage it your own way. Instead of going home I’ll just walk
down through the grove and meet you at the little iron gate. You must
go right down as soon as recess begins, so as to have time to get
through and back here to your dinner.”

There was no one but Addie at the little gate when the girls ran
through the grove, but in a moment two bold-looking young women, very
flashily dressed, appeared, walking leisurely toward them on the other
side.

“There they come,” said Addie. “Have you got the key to the padlock,
Edna?”

“I haven’t got the key that belongs to it, of course, but I have
brought one that fits it perfectly well.”

“O, dear, suppose it shouldn’t?”

“Never fear, I’ve tried it before,” said Edna, nodding her head wisely
and fitting the key into the lock, which it turned easily.

“These ladies are Madame Belotti and her sister,” said Addie, as a sort
of introduction.

“But where is the spazinx?” asked Elfie, looking greatly disappointed.

“I am de sphinx, young lady,” said one of the women.

“But you’ve got legs and arms. Spazinxes don’t have any thing but heads
an’ a big lace collar. I did see one in a picture.”

“I don’t have any ding but a head ven I is professional,” said the
woman, affably, but glancing around hurriedly as if she feared a
possible interruption, “but of course I can’t walk widout my legs.”

“But I don’t see how you pull them off and put them on again,” said
Elfie, sidling away with some timidity from a creature whose anatomy
was so foreign to the established usages of humanity, “and I don’t
want my fortune told. I’d rather go back.”

“O, don’t be afraid,” said Madame Belotti, sweetly. “I have nice little
girls of my own at home, and here’s my sister; she has lots of pretty
dings in her bag. She’ll show dem to you while dese young ladies let me
read deir palms.”

Elfie felt less dread of a person who made no pretension to being a
sphinx, and was soon examining with great interest a box of trinkets
which the woman told her were genuine gypsy-queen adornments, worn at
gypsy courts on great occasions.

Meantime Madame Belotti was gazing with mysterious scrutiny upon the
lines of Katie’s pretty pink palm and predicting a mosaic of ill and
good fortune so nicely blended that Katie felt that her future life, as
thus set before her, had little to embitter it.

“Now try mine,” said Lily, “and be sure you put in a trip to Europe,
with a winter in Rome and another in Paris.”

“Dere is much pleasure for you, my pretty young lady,” said the
prophetess, “and some pain to endure before the pleasure comes, but
dere’s money and fame for you finally, and great prosperity and a long
life wid somebody.”

“Why, there’s a mysterious somebody in every one’s hand, is there?”
asked Lily. “I wonder who my somebody is.”

“A tall, fair man, wid a long mustache,” said the fortune teller,
oracularly.

“Well,” said Lily, “you may keep that young man yourself, for of all
things I hate tall, fair men. My papa is little and broad, and he’s my
type of every thing good; and I wouldn’t marry a man who wasn’t just
like him for the whole world.”

“O, Lily, do shut up!” whispered Edna. “You’ll make her angry, and then
she wont finish.”

But madame seemed in no way disconcerted or offended by Lily’s
trifling, and continued to promise her quite an extensive variety
of experiences. Then Edna offered her hand with its too ample
embellishment of rings, and madame gave them quite a little turn by the
excitement she manifested on studying its interesting lines.

“A most wonderful hand, lady. I have never seen but one like it. It
holds a destiny dat frightens me. Do I dare to tell you? Let me dink a
moment.”

Here she grew so awful and mysterious in her manner, while she turned
the hand one way and the other as if to get new light upon the doom
there depicted, and the girls grew deeply absorbed in their attention,
clustering close around her in forgetfulness of every thing else.

The air was heavy with the August noonday heat. Above in the grove the
meeting branches hardly stirred. Even the birds and the insect world
were still, and the only sound that broke upon the oppressive silence
was the distant rush of water that fell over the little dam, half a
mile away from them.

“I tinks I cannot tell you it all,” said the fortune-teller, raising
her head and looking about her hurriedly. “Some young ladies when
dey hears what is not good dey faints and goes on very bad, and deir
friends makes a fuss and scolds de poor gypsy, who only tells what she
reads; an’ it is not her fault if it is not good.”

“But I will not faint or make a fuss,” said Edna, looking pale and
frightened. “I am not afraid.”

“No, you needn’t be,” said Lily, making an effort to throw off an
uncomfortable feeling that the woman’s intense manner had given them
all. “I don’t believe in fortune-telling any way.”

“But it is true. I have de power to see de future, to see de past too,”
said the woman. “Shall I tell you all about your past life?”--this to
Edna, who murmured an assent.

“Well, den, you haf live in fine house and had much fine dresses and
jewels, and you haf lost a friend, and you haf lately had a letter.”

These shrewd guesses, based on the sight of Edna’s showy rings and very
light mourning, seemed like very conclusive evidence that her father’s
wealth and her grandmother’s death last year were entries in the book
of fate that was open to the bold black eyes, and Edna became almost
afraid to hear the dark prophecy that she was threatened with.

“’Tis a strange fate, very strange,” said the woman, again musing over
the hand she held, but stealing an anxious glance at a little nickel
watch that hung by her side.

“I will hear it,” said Edna, tragically, nerving herself for the worst.

“Nonsense,” said Lily, catching a glimpse of her ghastly, agitated
face. “You are taking all this stuff in dead earnest, Edna, and it will
make you sick. O, dear, I wish we hadn’t come! Mrs. Abbott will be so
displeased! Come, girls, let’s go right home;” and she pulled out her
pocket-book. “You shall have money for each of us, Madame Belotti, but
I think we don’t want to hear any more solemn truths to-day.”

Edna, who was rather a nervous girl, was beginning to cry, and the
others, frightened lest she should treat them to a fit of hysterics
such as she had once in a thunder-storm, and make it difficult to get
her home quietly, began to soothe her and try to coax her back to the
gate. Madame seemed a little indifferent about the money Lily and Katie
fumbled in their purses to collect. Suddenly Katie exclaimed:

“Elfie! Why, where is the child?”

“Gone back into the grove, probably,” said Addie, quietly, who felt
calmer than the others because less responsible.

“She must be with Madame Belotti’s sister,” said Lily, not yet feeling
very much worried. “Where is she, madame?”

The sphinx was thrusting the money into her pocket-book and bowing as
if to say farewell. Her face wore an anxious look, but she replied very
civilly, pointing in the opposite direction from the road that led to
the station:

“De little one is all safe. My sister gets her to draw for us some
lucky numbers out of a bag, so we may get a great fortune from dem. De
drawing must be made unter a red oak-tree and in de sound of running
water. Dat is very important. And hark! I hears running water off dere,
and as we walks up I say to my sister, ‘Some water-fall is down dat
way, and you must take de little girl dere to draw de numbers from de
bag.’ Shall I go look for her, young ladies, or vill you go yourselves
and find her unter some big red oak-tree near de falling water?”

The girls were running down the hill toward the little mill before
madame quite finished speaking, but that oracular person did not seem
disturbed at being left. She gave one glance at Edna, who, after a
moment of hesitation, rather sulkily followed the others, and fleetly
disappeared in the other direction.



CHAPTER XXVI.

ELFIE GONE!


“How does it happen,” said Mrs. Abbott, as she carved the roast beef at
dinner, “that there are so many vacant places at the table?”

“I don’t understand it at all,” said Miss Blake. “No one has asked to
be excused, and irregularity at meals has never been a fault of any of
our household.”

“Elfie is missing too,” said Mrs. Abbott, “but she is undoubtedly
up-stairs in the room with Candace.”

“She is in Katie Ashley’s charge for school hours this week,” said Miss
Blake.

“True, but where is Katie? Does any one at the table know where Katie
and the other absent ones are?”

But no one knew, and Mrs. Abbott, with some displeasure expressed on
her face, sent one of the maids up-stairs to search for the absentees,
while the dinner proceeded in uncomfortable silence till interrupted
just as the plates of the first course were being removed by the
entrance of Lily, who ran into the room with a white face, glanced at
Elfie’s vacant place, and cried out apprehensively:

“O, I did hope she might have come back alone! We cannot find her
anywhere!”

“Who are you talking about?” asked Mrs. Abbott, turning very pale and
speaking sternly. “Is it Elfie you cannot find?”

Then Lily, before them all, gave a rapid history of the deliberate
disobedience, their interview with the fortune-teller, and Elfie’s
disappearance.

Mrs. Abbott heard it to the end in silence, but her face looked haggard
and worried as she herself led the way to a thorough search in every
direction. The other S. C. girls had nothing to add to Lily’s story,
but huddled together regretting bitterly, now that it was too late,
their disobedience, which had caused all this trouble.

Inquiries at the station showed that the fortune teller and her sister,
with a man in attendance, took the train at 1:15, but as they did not
get their tickets it could not be learned at what place they would
leave the cars. They reached the station only just in time for the
train, which they boarded instantly. They were loaded down with shawls
and packages, but no one saw a child in their company.

The proprietor of the livery-stable said two ladies who had stopped
a day behind the circus hired a carriage of him, but on meeting a
gentleman friend dismissed him with orders to meet them and take charge
of his carriage at the arrival of the 1:15 train. He was a moment
late, but found his horses and the empty carriage standing back of the
station and the young man just following the ladies into the cars. They
had paid him more than he asked when dismissing him.

It was some hours before another train left, and Mrs. Abbott, in sad
perplexity, went to her old friend Mr. Mason, the bank president, who
was also Addie’s father, who advised telegraphing to Troy to have the
in-coming train searched for the party, which they described as nearly
as possible.

It was not till Mr. Mason spoke incidentally of the girl who brought
the check in the morning that Mrs. Abbott remembered she had not seen
Marion since sending her to him.

Going home again she sought her at once in Candace’s room. The poor
woman had but just learned of Elfie’s disappearance, and her anguish
was pitiful to see. She rose from her bed at once, conquering the pain
that had kept her a prisoner there, and declaring she would go in
search of her child.

“O, where, where was Miss Marion,” she asked, “not to be looking after
my pet?”

It had become certain by that time that Marion had also disappeared,
and, though there was no ground for hoping it, Candace instantly
declared that Marion had gone after her darling.

Mr. Mason and Mrs. Abbott were at the station waiting for the cars when
a telegram was brought to her from the office within the building.



CHAPTER XXVII.

ON THE ROAD.


The brakeman on the express-train stood at the door of the last car
looking through the glass at the scenery which constant travel had
made so familiar to him that he was hardly conscious of its wonderful
beauty, but a downward glance showed him something much less common,
and his face became expressive of great alertness as, uttering one or
two words of greater strength and force than his ordinary language
conveyed, he opened the door and let himself out upon the platform.

“Well,” he said, looking at Marion critically, “for an outside
passenger may be you’ve got the right kind of a look, but it strikes
me if you’d remembered to put on your bunnit and brushed yourself up
a little you’d have seemed more respectable. Where are you going, my
pretty maid, and where did you come from?”

“I got on at the last station,” said Marion, seeing only kindness on
his face in spite of his gruff tones. “I was too late, and I had to
jump on after you started, and I lost my hat getting over a fence
trying to catch the train.”

“Well,” said the brakeman, slowly, “stealing rides aint a healthy way
of traveling, and the company’s disposed to fight men and boys who
try it; but I don’t think they ever thought about a girl gettin’ on
a-flyin’ and ridin’ for nothin’. I suppose you’ll have to be put off
like the rest of them. Likely the rule works same way for hers as hims,
and the directions says, ‘Put him off immejiate.’”

“Please don’t put me off--please, please don’t,” said Marion. “I didn’t
want to steal a ride, but I had a reason for wanting to get on this
train, and so, though I was too late, I jumped on it after it left the
depot.”

“A very dangerous thing to do,” said the brakeman, soberly, “and it’s
more than a wonder you war’n’t killed.”

“You were not going so awfully fast,” said Marion, “but I’m sorry I’ve
broken any rules or done any thing you don’t like. I have no ticket,
but can’t I pay my way without one?”

“You can pay the conductor, but I think the first thing to be done
is to get you inside. It wouldn’t take much to blow you off this
platform.”

He opened the door and gave the girl a seat. The car was not crowded,
and, being seated so far back, only two or three passengers seemed to
notice her entrance. Among these was a tall, angular woman, who put on
an appearance of great astonishment at seeing a bare-headed passenger
brought in from nowhere. She gazed steadily at Marion for a while, and
seemed about to question her, but contented herself by shaking her head
at the ceiling and ejaculating, “Well, I never did!”

Presently, the man having gone, Marion bent over and executed some
mysterious movements which culminated in her bringing to light a crisp
new bill.

This time the lady said, “Did I ever?” addressing her exclamation, as
before, to the car-roof.

“It cannot be wrong to use it,” Marion was saying to herself. “I shall
be put off the train if I do not pay my way, and then perhaps no one
can ever find Elfie.”

Presently the conductor came through the car, looking keenly to right
and left for any new face. His eye fell upon Marion, and, looking
rather curiously at her disarranged dress, he demanded her ticket.

“I have no ticket,” said the girl, “but I have money to pay my fare, if
you will tell me how much it is.”

“Where are you going to?”

That very natural and proper question was appalling to Marion. She
hesitated a moment, thinking very fast how she should surmount the
difficulty which had unexpectedly arisen, then answered his question,
Yankee fashion, with another:

“What does it cost to go to the end of the line?”

“Three dollars to go to Troy.”

“Then please sell me a ticket for Troy,” said Marion, handing him a
five-dollar bill, and watching him anxiously while he looked at it
scrutinizingly before handing her two dollars and a little certificate
upon which he informed her she could reclaim five cents if she offered
it at a station; Marion cared very little for that just then, but
she did care for the check he gave her, with the names of all the
stopping-places printed on the back.

The car was full of people with their backs toward the door Marion had
entered, and no one had noticed her except those in the farthest back
seats. Her appearance excited some remark for a few moments, but no
one showed any special curiosity about her except the thin lady in the
seat opposite hers. She indeed watched her so closely that she could
hardly give any attention to the red wool crochet-work that occupied
her fingers. There was something that Marion at first thought rather
forbidding about her sharp black eyes, but around her mouth was a
pleasant, comfortable expression that made it seem quite natural that
she should after a while lean over toward Marion, and stretch out her
hand with a big red apple in it.

Marion took it with rather a greedy feeling, for she had missed her
dinner and was beginning to feel quite hungry.

“Mebbe you’d better set over here by me,” said the donor, pleased to
see her apple so well appreciated; “you’re a-settin’ right inter the
sun.”

“How beautifully you crochet!” said Marion, gratefully taking the
cooler seat.

“Well, I’ve done enough to do it middlin’ well.”

“What is it to be?” asked Marion, not caring much, but feeling that her
companion wanted to talk.

“It’s a Tam o’ Shanter; this is the fifteenth one I’ve made for the new
church organ.”

“What does the church organ want of them?” asked Marion, so busy
thinking she hardly knew what she said.

“You seem to be awful dumb, for your size,” said the crocheter. “The
ladies of the church have undertaken to buy an organ, an’ we’re takin’
every way to do it; we’ve had strawberry festivals an’ clam suppers,
an’ a passel-bag, an’ a guess-cake, an’ even the children had a parlor
fair and raised twenty-five dollars. I get a dollar an’ fifteen cents
for these, an’ takin’ out for the yarn I buy at wholesale they give a
profit of one dollar each for the organ.”

As she talked she was opening a traveling-bag from which she took a
finished cap, a dark blue one, and held it out for Marion’s admiration.

“This,” she continued, “is one Cousin Sarah Bly, in Albany, ordered for
one of her girls, and I’m going there on a visit.”

A sudden thought struck Marion.

“O, wouldn’t you sell that one to me? Perhaps your cousin would wait
till you could make another, and I do need something to cover my head.”

The woman looked at her thoughtfully.

“I made sure when I set eyes on you that you’d run away,” she said,
“for no young girl’s mother’d let her go travelin’ without a hat or
bunnit. But you don’t seem a wild sort, an’ mebbe you had a good reason
for makin’ off; you may hev been a bound girl for all I know. However,
I don’t know’s I’ve any objection to lettin’ you have the Tam. It’ll be
that much extra for the organ.”

So the purchase was made, and Marion looked much less conspicuous with
her head covered.

“I lost my hat as I ran,” explained Marion, “and the bushes caught my
dress and tore all these places.”

“I’ve got a ‘huzif’ with needles and thread,” said the woman, “and you
might sew up the worst of the tears. There’s pieces gone out of some
of ’em, but you can cobble them up into some kind of shape an’ help
yourself to look more like decent traveling folks. I don’t hold to
finery on the road, but I hate rags either abroad or to home.”

Marion thanked her joyfully, but while she busied herself with the
rents she pondered on the strangeness of hearing from some one else the
infelicities of speech that she was beginning to be quite emancipated
from herself; for no one meeting her now would believe that she had
only lately expressed herself in a more uncouth dialect than her
fellow-passenger used. Then, as the train slowed up at a station, she
became wildly anxious for fear the party she was pursuing might leave
the cars unnoticed by her.

She felt that it would be very imprudent for her to let herself be seen
by Elfie, so she went to the steps at the back of the car and eagerly
scanned the people who were getting off. Then, as she came back to her
seat, it again occurred to her that she could not even be certain that
Elfie was on the train, and this journey of hers might be a foolish
exploit which she could hardly explain satisfactorily to Mrs. Abbott.

“You’ve got somethin’ on your mind,” said the thin, crocheting lady, as
Marion resumed her seat, “an’ ef I was you, ef it was any wrong-doin’,
I’d think twice fore I kept on with it.”

There was something honest and persuasive in her tones, and Marion felt
that she was a friend; so, obeying a sudden impulse, she exclaimed,
after a searching look into the bright eyes that were looking rather
deploringly at her,

“O, I do wish you would help me!”



CHAPTER XXVIII.

A TRAVELING ACQUAINTANCE.


“Well, my name is Hannah Amandy Manning, and I’m first cousin to
Minister Jones’s wife, an’ I teach a class in Sunday-school, an’ I’ve
had the deestrict school for three summers. I aint a married woman with
children of my own, but I’ve got a general interest in all young folks,
an’ I believe I’m kinder motherly, if I be an old maid. I’ve told you
now who I am. If you like to make a clean breast of it--for I know
you’ve got somethin’ out o’ the common to tell--I’ll give you advice
accordin’ to my judgment, or I’ll help you out o’ your scrape, whatever
it is, providin’ you’ve got the right kind o’ principles about you. I
aint goin’ in for any schemes for leavin’ a country home to seek your
fortin’ in a big city, that’s come out o’ readin’ improper literatoor.”

It was not like Marion to confide in a stranger, but she felt the need
of help, and her instincts had guided her correctly in asking it of
Miss Manning. The keen bright eyes were the windows of a faithful
heart which warmed generously to the brave girl as she heard all of the
story Marion thought it best to tell her.

“Well, I never!” “Sho!” and “I never did!” at intervals, were her
comments as the story proceeded. When it was done she grasped her long
chin in her right hand, and only saying, “Lemme think a minute,” gazed
for some time at the flying landscape.

Marion, too, was thinking, wondering what they were doing at school,
what they would think, and wondering if Mrs. Abbott would blame her for
making use of the money intrusted to her. Her reverie ended in such a
long sigh that Miss Manning turned around with a jerk.

“What now?” she demanded.

“Nothing, only I’m so troubled about spending Mrs. Abbott’s money.”

“Well, you needn’t be, if your Mrs. Abbott is the woman you make out
she is. She would not spare money in such a cause. You aint told me how
much you’ve got, and I’m glad of it; it shows you’ve got some worldly
wisdom, and, whatever happens, don’t you tell any body else you’ve got
a cent. This world’s full of villains, and there aint one in a thousand
that’s to be trusted, and them that looks like saints is more’n likely
to be wuss sinners than them that seems to be ragamuffins.”

“I trust you,” said Marion.

“Well, you don’t know as you’d oughter. How can you tell this minute
but I’m one of the very folks that’s plotting to get hold of that
child?”

“I want you to get hold of her, or help me to do it,” said Marion, with
a bright smile lighting up her worried face for a moment.

“Good for you!” said Miss Manning, with a smile that was good to see,
if less charming than the girl’s.

“Now, I’ve been thinking it over,” she continued, growing very sober,
“and this is the way it stands. You don’t even know for certain the
child is on the train?”

“No; but I am sure she must be.”

“Well, I guess she is; I feel it in my bones, as it were, that she is,
an’ I’m kinder witchy about feeling things, but you can’t go through
the cars looking at the folks to find out, for even if them circus
fortune-tellers didn’t recognize you the child would likely holler out
as soon as she seen you, an’ those folks’d get excited an’ try some
other dodge. They might even try to get you arrested for trying to
entice a child away from ’em.”

“Yes; I should have gone through the cars as soon as I paid my fare if
I hadn’t been afraid of that, and that is why I wanted your help. I was
going to ask the conductor if he had seen them, but I was afraid he
might tell them some one was asking for them. Do you think you could go
through and look for them, Miss Manning, if I told you just how they
look?”

“Certainly; I was just a-goin’ to propose it. I never have walked
through a train while ’twas goin’ jigglety-jiggle, but I guess I can do
it. Mebbe it’s against the law to go out of a car while it’s in motion,
but if that conductor tries to have me took up it’ll be the worst for
him, for I can prove I’m a respectable woman, no matter where I am.”

So showing her utter confidence in Marion by leaving in her charge
her traveling-bag and beloved crochet-work, Miss Manning, making wild
clutches at the seat-backs as the swaying car threw her from side to
side, began her exploring expedition through the train.

It seemed a long time to Marion before she returned, but the moment
she re-entered the car her sharp eyes sought the girl’s, and the quick
little nod she gave said plainly that she had found the objects of her
search.

She was a good deal excited by the part she was playing in the
adventure, but she would not be hurried, and, anxious as Marion was to
hear all she had to tell, she had to wait till Miss Manning had re-tied
her “bunnit,” straightened her shawl, and re-adjusted the overskirt
that had been pulled awry by contact with various impediments.

“I seen ’em,” she said at last; “two red-cheeked women and a scary
young man with cabbage roses on their bunnits; dressed to kill he was,
in ready-made clothes lots too big for him. He’s got a nose like a
poll-parrot’s beak, and they’ve got a child with ’em. But, land sakes,
it aint much more’n a baby. Poor little creetur, it’s asleep on one
seat with its head on a woman’s lap. It’s got a lace cap on its head
and a white dress with blue sash. It’s as pale as a ghost, an’ there’s
great black rings round its eyes. I should really say that they’d been
givin’ it something to make it sleep, it was such a heavy sleep, and
the child looked so peeked an’ queer.”

“O, dear!” said Marion, struggling with a sob. “I must get her away
from them. I am sure it must be Elfie. She’s a tiny thing with a sweet
little face and long wavy hair.”

“There wa’n’t much hair showin’, for she had her head covered all up
with an embroidered cap tied under her chin.”

“Elfie had a hat on, I think,’ said Marion, looking puzzled.

“Well, what of that? You had a hat on too, I s’pose, when you started,
but you’ve got on a Tam now.”

“O, yes; they may have put on the cap for a disguise. Well, what next,
Miss Manning? Could you find out where they were going?”

“They had one seat turned back so they faced each other,” continued
Miss Manning, “and right in front of them was a vacant seat. I slipped
into it and gave my whole mind to trying to catch what they said.
One of the women had the back of her head close to mine, and as she
couldn’t lean forward without disturbing the child I could hear what
she said pretty well. It seems they are going to Troy, then to New
York, and then, after the hue and cry is over, they are going somewhere
else. I picked out that much from their talk. But that isn’t all.
After we stopped the last time the man hailed the conductor as he went
through and asked for stop-over checks, saying one of the ladies was
sick, and he thought they’d have to put up over night at Blockville.
After they got the stop-overs they seemed to get at odds among
themselves about whether to use them or not; one of the women said it
would be safer and they could take the owl-train on in the night; the
other one said they might meet some one, and she was for going on. The
man told her if any one was coming they’d come down on the six-o’clock
accommodation this evening and go past them at Blockville, and besides
that some one might telegraph to have this train searched at Troy.

“I came away then,” continued Miss Manning, “for they didn’t seem to
be coming to any decision, and I thought we’d better be making some
counter-plans.”

“Yes,” said Marion, “I ought to get a stop-over check too, for if they
get out I must get out too. It wont do to lose sight of them.”

“If you do get off I had better telegraph to Mrs. Abbott for you as
soon as I get to Troy,” said Miss Manning, “and tell her you’re on the
track.”

“O, how good in you to think of it!” said Marion. “Tell her I’ll
telegraph myself when I can get a chance.”

“How shall I word it not to scare ’em to death? I never writ a dispatch
in my life.”

“Nor I either,” said Marion, “but I know you want to say as few words
as possible. If I had a pencil and paper I would try.”

Miss Manning’s traveling-bag supplied both, and their combined genius,
inexperienced as they were, produced this rather obscure telegram:

  “Marion Stubbs is after them. They’ve got Elfie. Wait till she
  sends for you.
                                                     “A. MANNING.”

It did not seem very clear to Marion, but she hardly knew how to change
it without offending Miss Manning, who seemed highly pleased with
it; so she wrote the address beneath and gave her a half dollar for
expenses, neither of them having any idea what a message ought to cost.

The next station was Colby, and, feeling sure that Blockville or Troy
would be the destination of the party, Marion did not look out for
them, but idly watched the group of passengers who were about to get
in. Suddenly there appeared upon the platform, making quick way to the
waiting-room, one of the black-eyed women with a child in her arms much
wrapped in a long dark cloak, followed closely by Madame Belotti and
the man.

“O, look, Miss Manning!” she exclaimed. “They are going to stop here
and I haven’t my stop-over check!”

“Never mind that, child,” said Miss Manning; “jump out quick. Mebbe
your ticket’ll do any way; ask ’em at the office ’fore you get on the
train again, and don’t worry if you have to lose it. Mrs. Abbott wont
care what you spend in such a case. Good-bye, dear, don’t you lose my
direction, and write to me sure as soon as you can.”



CHAPTER XXIX.

WATCHING AND WAITING.


Marion sprang off, and, waving a good-bye to the new friend, she really
felt wonderfully sorry to leave, mingled with the crowd of idlers on
the platform, apparently absorbed like them in watching the outgoing
train. She dared not go into the waiting-room, but, walking slowly up
and down on the platform, she could see what was going on within.

Elfie was sleeping, and the woman, who had taken a seat, still holding
her, had thrown a gray veil over her face. Presently she stood up,
and, giving the child to the man to carry, they all came out upon the
platform, walked to the end of it, and, stepping into a hack, were
driven slowly up the road.

Marion started briskly after them, easily keeping the carriage in sight
as it climbed the long hill to the court-house. There it turned and,
gradually increasing its speed, soon distanced her. For a moment the
girl was nonplused, then a little thought re-assured her. The people
had probably stopped to elude pursuit; they would waste no time, but
most likely go on, as Miss Manning had heard them say they intended, in
the owl-train. Probably they knew some one with whom they could stay in
Colby, and so had suddenly given up the Blockville plan. She would go
back to the station before any other train came and wait for them, and
perhaps she could learn where they had gone from the hackman. She was
sure she should know him again.

The legend, “Coffee, Ice-cream, and Stewed Oysters” caught her eyes as
she passed through the street that Colbyites called the business part
of their modest little town, and made her remember that she was very
hungry, and, stepping into the little saloon, she ordered oysters,
coffee, and bread and butter, which she ate with great relish, wishing
that her conscience allowed her to finish her feast with ice-cream,
her favorite delicacy. But while she felt sure she was justified in
spending all the money she needed to assist in the pursuit of Elfie,
her sturdy honesty would not justify her in indulging herself in things
that were not necessities, so she finished her frugal meal and walked
into the little shop in front to pay her bill. There was a counter
there with three divisions respectively devoted to cakes, candies, and
pies. Among the cakes were some shiny brown rusks, and remembering the
long hours that she must spend waiting for the owl-train at the railway
station Marion ordered half a dozen of them put in paper for her.

A man lounged in as she stood there, and laying down a dime helped
himself to a quarter of a pie, making some jovial remark as he did so
to the young girl in charge.

“Where you been?” asked the girl, who seemed very willing to chat with
him. “I saw you taking a load of folks up from the train, didn’t I?”

“Yes,” replied the man, with his mouth full of pie; “some folks went up
to old Warner’s.”

“Well, I declare! Why, Warner aint had no company before since his son
went off!”

“I kinder think this was his son. He had a hooked nose like the old
man. I never saw the son, for he went off before I come to Colby, but
I’ve heard he had one.”

“Yes, he did; and he wa’n’t good for much either.”

To make an excuse for staying, Marion selected two or three cakes to be
added to her rusks, with great deliberation, listening eagerly, for she
saw the empty hack at the door and made sure this was the man who had
taken Elfie and her captors from the station.

“How long is Warner’s company going to stay, do you s’pose?” asked the
girl, cutting another pie in obedience to a sign from the man.

“That’s the funniest part,” said the driver. “They told me to come for
them at half past one to-night, so they could take the two-o’clock
train. I says to the fellow when he give me my fare, says I, ‘You make
a short visit to your folks.’ ‘Yes, but the baby seems feverish, and
we’ve got to get on to Sing Sing, so we can have our own doctor,’ says
he. ‘All right,’ says I, ‘I’ll be back for you in time.’”

Marion needed to hear no more; so she paid her bill and walked out. She
amused herself walking about the streets, and went into a dry-goods
store and bought herself a small supply of collars and cuffs, a pair of
gloves, a crochet needle, and some yarn and a little purse. She was too
industrious by nature to feel happy without work, and so restless under
the present circumstances that she thought some employment might help
to keep her calm.

She went back to the station and occupied herself trying to recall
the fan-pattern that Edna and Addie were crocheting for skirts. She
succeeded very readily, and as the hours passed on she worked quite a
long piece of pretty lace, and her interest in making it made the long
time of waiting pass very comfortably.

When the late afternoon train passed she ran to the platform and
eagerly gazed at the car-windows, thinking there was just a possibility
of seeing some one from Coventry school.

But there was no one there, and she opened her parcel and ate her rusks
and cake with a glass of water, and, getting a seat near the light,
began her crocheting again. At half past nine the up freight came
by, followed in half an hour by the passenger train from Troy. The
station-master, who had looked curiously at Marion several times, then
came and told her he was going to shut up the depot.

“O, dear!” she cried, “I was sure there was a train at two o’clock
to-night.”

“So there is, and I come down and open the place ten minutes before it
comes. You ought to have taken the eight-o’clock train if you wanted to
go to Troy.”

“I don’t know what to do,” said poor Marion. “Couldn’t I stay here?”

“I’d have to lock you in,” said the man, doubtfully. “Aint you got no
place to go to?”

“No; but I don’t mind staying if you will let me; I can crochet, and
that will keep me from getting lonesome.”

“But I’ll have to put out the lights; there’s orders against leaving a
light.”

Being shut up alone in the dark was not a pleasant prospect, but Marion
was resolved for Elfie’s sake to shrink from nothing. Still, it was a
pale little face with trembling lips that the station-master glanced at
as with a lantern in his hand he went out of the door.

He was not a sympathetic man, but the sight made him say cheerily:

“Well, sis, I’ll come back a little ahead of time so’s to shorten up
the hours for you. If I had a home of my own I’d offer to take you
along with me, but I’m one of ten fellows in a mill boarding-house, an’
it aint no place for a girl.”

Marion tried to thank him, but her voice didn’t seem very steady. She
was very near to tears, but she wouldn’t let them come.

“Look a-here, Mary Ann,” she said, dropping into the unconventional
form of speech which had once made her so laughed at, “you aint such a
great account that there’s anyone comin’ here a purpose to bother you,
an’ the Lord aint goin’ to give up lookin’ after you just ’cause the
lights is out.”

Then kneeling down on the hard floor in front of one of the seats
Marion prayed long and earnestly for success on her mission, for
guidance and care.

“I think I can sleep now,” she said to herself, so soothed and
tranquilized as she rose from her knees that it no longer seemed
dreadful to be left there alone.

The moon was rising, and there was light enough for her to pick out
a corner seat which was more roomy than the others, and, curling her
feet under her, she soon forgot her trials in a sweet, healthy sleep
which bridged the time so thoroughly that, when the station-master’s
key turned in the door, she thought he had come back for some forgotten
duty.

“All right, sis?” he asked, rather anxiously, flashing the lantern
around the room.

“O, yes, thank you, sir; and I’ve had a nice sleep,” was the answer, as
Marion slipped her feet upon the floor hastily and began to walk about.

There was the sound of wheels not long after, and, suspecting what it
meant, she slipped out of the waiting-room and, standing in the deep
shadows of the building, watched the sphinx and her party arrive.

The man sprang out first and said something so softly she could not
hear, but she heard Elfie’s voice fretfully objecting to something.
The man seemed to be trying to induce her to come to him, and finally
reached in and lifted her out gently. Marion almost screamed as the
light from a window fell on the little head, from which the beautiful
long curls had been closely shorn, and lit up the shivering figure that
was now dressed in boy’s clothes.

“Come along with me, Johnny, boy,” said Madame Belotti, jumping hastily
from the carriage and lifting the seeming boy in her arms.

“He needs more medicine,” said the man, significantly, “some nice,
sweet medicine to make Johnny sleep good.”

Then going into the empty waiting-room he carefully dropped something
from a vial upon a lump of sugar, which the woman persuaded Elfie to
take.

Marion, watching through the window, felt sure they were drugging the
child to make her sleep, and was in agonies of fear lest they should
give her a dangerous quantity. The poor child looked sick, too; grief
and fear and perhaps the frequent administration of the quieting drops
had made her pale and dejected. She seemed very docile, and laid her
head on the woman’s shoulder as directed and soon fell asleep.

A veil was thrown over her face before they took her into the car and
laid her carefully down upon the seat with her head, as before, resting
on the lap of one of the women.

Marion dared not risk stopping on that car, but ran quickly through it,
after seeing them seated, and took her place in the next.

When morning came, still keeping out of Elfie’s sight, she kept watch
of the party, who seemed to have made another change in their plans;
for instead of going on to New York they took a hack on reaching Troy
and drove to the Secor House. Marion heard the direction given to the
driver, who drove so deliberately that even without running all the way
she kept them in sight.



CHAPTER XXX.

IN TROY.


There was an unpretending restaurant opposite the Secor House, where,
just as Marion reached it, a middle-aged man with a delightfully
good-natured look upon his rather plain face was taking down the
shutters.

“Is it too early for me to have some breakfast in your saloon?” she
asked. “If I just had a glass of milk and some bread it would be
enough.”

“We don’t generally serve meals ’fore eight o’clock,” said the man,
looking at her keenly but kindly; “but if that’s all you want, and you
don’t mind takin’ it settin’ up to the counter, why, come in.”

Marion felt quite sure the party were intending to seclude themselves
by day and travel by night, but she knew not how to keep them in sight.
While she was thinking about it as she sat by the counter eating and
only half listening to the talkative saloon-keeper the sound of a blind
thrown back fell on her ear, and, glancing up at the shabby hotel
opposite, she saw the woman we have known as Madame Belotti turning
away from an upper window.

“O, Mr. Jones,” she said, having learned the good-natured
restaurant-keeper’s name from the highly embellished business cards
which filled a tray on the counter, “could I get a room over there in
that hotel, do you think?”

“Of course, if you’ve got the money to pay for it.”

“But I thought may be they wouldn’t take in a very young girl without
any older person with her. They might be afraid I wouldn’t pay, you
know.”

“Secor House folks aint so dreadful particular as the tony hotels,”
said Mr. Jones, “and if you really want to be accommodated over there
I’ll step in myself and speak to the clerk. I know him very well.”

“O, thank you, sir; and would you mind asking for a fourth-story room
for me, and will you please pay for me till to-morrow morning?” and she
handed him her new little purse in which she had put five dollars and
some change.

“All right; you’re very sensible; it will be cheaper than the second or
third story,” said Mr. Jones, marching off on his errand and leaving
Mrs. Jones, who had just come in through a back door, in charge.

He soon came back announcing that he had secured a small room on the
fourth floor and the young lady might go to it as soon as she liked. He
handed her back the purse, remarking that she was too trustful.

“It happens I’m honest,” he said, “but if you go passing it ’round that
way you’ll likely get sorry ’fore you’re glad;” which sentence seemed
to please himself so much that he repeated it several times at short
intervals with many sagacious nods of his gray head, while his wife was
making a little conversation with Marion.

It was a back room, as Mr. Jones had said, and, as nearly as Marion
could tell when a slatternly servant-maid conducted her to it, nearly
opposite the one where the woman had thrown back the blind. There was
an open transom over that door, and as soon as Marion found herself
alone she turned the key, climbed on a chair, and opened the transom
over her own door.

All through the long morning she stood unwearied at her post, balancing
herself on the back of the chair to make herself tall enough, hearing
the sound of voices in the room opposite, but unable to distinguish any
words. Once, indeed, she heard Elfie sobbing softly, and the sound
wrung her heart. The child seemed hard to soothe, but after a time the
sobs gradually ceased, and the listener imagined the little thing had
fallen asleep again.

Soon after there was a knock at the door, and Marion sprang softly from
her chair, and, opening it, found a hall-boy.

“They sent me up to tell you,” he began, as soon as he saw her, “that
the 11:55 train you ordered the carriage for is took off, and you can’t
go till 1:40.”

“I think you have come to the wrong room,” said Marion.

“Number 39, fourth story,” said the boy.

“This is Number 38,” said Marion.

“O, then, I’m on the wrong side,” said the boy. “I aint been here but
one day, and I got turned round. Number 39 must be across the hall.”

He knocked at the opposite door, and Marion, with her door
imperceptibly ajar, saw the hooked-nosed young man, after a moment of
conversation, come out and walk rapidly down the hall with the boy.
He came back in half an hour, and Marion, from the position she had
resumed at the transom, could hear tones of angry disappointment from
the women, to whom he seemed to be telling something. Once she thought
she caught the words:

“It will make us miss the express in New York!”

She felt convinced that they were going on the train the boy spoke of,
but she had no way of telling whether it was a day or night train. The
noon whistles were blowing then, so she would not have to wait long to
find out.

The next two hours were very agitating. One and another of the party
opposite kept leaving their rooms, but as they never all left together
she thought probably they went down to dine.

A waiter brought up a tray with dinner for the sick boy, Marion heard
him say, as he knocked on the door.

At last she heard a distant clock striking three, and knew their 1:40
was a night-train. She ventured then to go over to the restaurant for
her own dinner.

She was hungry enough to long to go into the saloon at the back and
order a comfortable dinner, but she wanted to keep the hotel door in
sight, so she asked good-natured Mrs. Jones, who was now on duty in
place of her husband, if she might have bread and milk at the counter
again, and, receiving permission, took her seat where she could see
every one who went in and out of the Secor House.

Mrs. Jones suggested sandwiches and pie as becoming adjuncts to a
counter lunch, and Marion gladly partook of them and ordered a package
of the former tied up for future needs.

She lingered as long as she could over her lunch, quite enjoying the
company of Mrs. Jones, who asked no questions, but comfortably gave
quite a biography of herself.

It was not an hour when customers were plenty, so there were few
interruptions. Marion felt so desolate and lonely that being with this
nice motherly woman was very cheering, and she felt as safe about
Elfie there, with the window of her room in sight, as she did when in
the hotel; so, seeing Mrs. Jones’s futile efforts to keep the glasses
on her broad nose while she took a few stitches in Mr. Jones’s socks,
she asked permission to take the work out of her hands, and soon found
herself comfortably seated behind the counter on a low chair close by
the large window, with a basket of stockings in her lap, cheerfully
bridging the appalling chasms in Mr. Jones’s neglected gray socks with
blue darning cotton, that being the only color afforded by the basket.

She worked till it was too dark to see the opposite house readily, and,
taking a paper of candy which Mrs. Jones gratefully insisted on giving
her with a kiss, went back to her room on the fourth floor.



CHAPTER XXXI.

AN EXCITING NIGHT.


Some one had brought in a pitcher of water and had lit her gas, so she
sat down and tried to keep herself composed by crocheting on her wool
lace.

There was no way of finding out the time, but after some hours the
house grew very still and she felt sure it was late. Mrs. Jones had
told her they kept the saloon open till twelve, an hour later than they
would, she said, if they did not live there in the building.

Crossing the big hall there was a narrow one, with a front window
in the end, and two or three times, when Marion grew very lonely,
she turned down her light and stole down to this window, taking some
comfort in seeing the bright light shining opposite and knowing that
friendly people were almost within call.

On her last trip to gather this small comfort she found the saloon
dark, and the deep shadow cast by the shed-roof above the door made it
seem black as the entrance to a cavern. The sight made her feel lonely
and forsaken, but the darkness told her twelve o’clock had passed and
the time was coming near when she must follow Elfie. She could find the
station, she thought, even if the carriage went too fast for her; but
it was frightful to think of going through the lonely city streets at
that hour of the night.

“I will not think about it,” she said to herself. “God is in the dark
as well as in the light. He will take care of me, and for Elfie’s sake
I can do any thing.”

There were sounds of movement in the room opposite, and Marion, who had
long before turned out her light to avoid observation and taken her
position on the chair again, listened patiently at the transom.

After a while she heard the man leave the room softly and go
down-stairs, and then an occasional fretful sound from Elfie, as if she
was being roused from sleep. The man came back presently, and Marion
heard him say as he re-entered the room:

“The carriage has come. It is too soon, but we had better go.”

Marion softly opened her door a half inch then, and through the crack
saw one of the women put Elfie carefully into the man’s arms, telling
him to sit down on the sofa in the hall till she put on her hat; then,
with the door open, she turned up the gas--probably they had left the
room dark to keep Elfie asleep--and began to arrange her hair hurriedly
at the glass.

The other woman was rapidly packing some things into a bag. In the hall
close by Marion’s room was an old hair-cloth sofa, and, cautiously
opening her door a trifle farther, she saw the man sitting there with
Elfie sleeping in his arms. In a moment he seemed suddenly to remember
something important, and, carefully laying the child, still asleep,
down upon the sofa, he walked quickly back to the room, while the door,
which he moved in passing along, closed behind him.

A wild thought leaped into Marion’s mind.

“O, dare I? shall I?” she asked herself. Then, with a silent cry in her
heart for help from God, she sprang into the hall, lifted the heavily
sleeping child in her arms, and was back in her own room with her in an
instant. She laid her gently on the bed and locked the door, with her
head swimming and her heart beating so madly it seemed to rise clear up
in her throat and nearly strangle her.

“What next? what next?” she kept asking herself as she stood trembling
by the door, thinking, perhaps, it might be soon broken down and some
rapid and terrible vengeance taken upon her.

In a few moments there was a smothered commotion in the hall. They
had missed Elfie and were looking wildly about for her. At first they
evidently thought she had roused herself and wandered off, and they
searched halls and stairs. At last there was a sound of rapid feet on
the stairs, and the clerk, in some excitement, followed the man up to
Number 39, exclaiming in less guarded tones than the others were using
that the thing was impossible; no one could or would have interfered
with the child.

Then, in answer to some proposition, Marion heard him say indignantly:

“What! Rout up all our boarders at this hour of the night? No, sir, not
for any money would I do it! There’s been too much noise made already.”

But at last he seemed to consent, and himself knocked at every door,
apologizing for the disturbance, asking if any one had seen a little
boy that a traveler had lost.

The inquiry seemed very startling, and many people left their rooms
with cloaks or ulsters thrown about them to gather particulars of the
strange disappearance. Marion felt sure that Elfie had received, in
preparation for a long journey, a large dose of the quieting drops,
so with little fear of waking her she lifted her from the bed and
laid her, with a pillow under her head, upon the floor close by the
wall under the bed, first moving it away, and then, as silently as
she could, rolling it back to its place, thus entirely concealing the
child, who never stirred through it all.

Then she jumped into bed herself, and, when the expected inquiry came,
called out sleepily:

“No; I have seen no little boy.”

Even as she spoke the child under the bed turned uneasily and groaned.
A cold perspiration bathed Marion from head to foot. She thought all
was lost, but there were people talking excitedly in the hall, and the
small sound was drowned by the large.

The landlord, Marion learned by some remarks called out by his
appearance, had now joined the party.

“What right has any one to make such a disturbance?” he asked,
irritably. “If your son is really missing, madam, then the proper way
for us will be to summon a detective. I can get one here in ten minutes
by the telephone.”

It is not probable that Madame Belotti wished for the services of a
detective, even in view of the calamity which had befallen her, for she
said hastily:

“I--I--can’t wait. We must go on the next train, because a friend who
is dying in New York has telegraphed for us.”

There was a distinct murmur of surprise among the spectators, who must
have thought madame quite unmotherly in spite of the great anxiety she
had lately shown.

The halls grew very quiet, and Marion drew the bed away from the wall
so that the air might reach the little sleeper, and, not daring to lift
her to the bed for fear farther search might be made, sat down on the
floor by her, happy to hold her little hand in hers, although not yet
daring to believe she had really rescued her.

But she was not disturbed again, and when daylight stole in through the
closed blinds there was such a profound stillness all over the house
that the tired girl’s watchfulness relaxed and she willingly yielded
to the sleepiness she had been resolutely fighting off, and, tenderly
putting Elfie into the bed, she lay down beside her and slept till the
sun was so bright that she was quite sure it must be after ten o’clock.



CHAPTER XXXII.

A DEEP SLEEP.


Late though it was, Elfie was still sleepy and looked in the bright
daylight so worn and hollow-eyed that Marion longed to wake her, the
sleep seemed so death-like. She was very much puzzled about what to
do next. Sending a telegram to Mrs. Abbott was naturally of the first
importance, but she would not leave Elfie long enough to do it. True,
she might lock her in the room while she ran out to send a dispatch,
but in that time the child might wake and cry out and be discovered at
once. She thought Madame Belotti’s party had gone, but possibly some
order had been left to send her the missing child when found, or one of
the women might be waiting in the neighborhood.

A loud knocking at the door startled her out of her perplexed musings.

“Who is it?” she asked, going close to the door, but not unlocking it.

“Is there anny wan at all in the room?” was the answer.

“Yes, I am here.”

“Well, it’d take more sinse than there is in mesilf to know who ‘Oi’
is. It is mebby the young leddy the dark tould us took board here from
yisterday till the day, and has never come to the dining-room yit for a
drink nor a crumb?”

“Yes, that’s me,” said Marion, thinking hard over an idea that had
suggested itself to her, and which she decided to follow if the owner
of the voice that was answering her looked trustworthy. She opened the
door enough then to get a peep at a big, good-natured Irish woman with
the fine, fresh coloring and innocent, unsophisticated look that is
only worn by the newest importations from the “swatest gim o’ the say.”
One look at the pleasant, honest face determined her.

“Will you do me a favor?” she asked very softly, fearing terribly that
the sound of her voice might rouse Elfie into a wild outcry.

“That will Oi, indade that will Oi,” was the quick response, made
more cheerful, perhaps, by seeing a half-dollar held out in Marion’s
fingers. “Is it breakfast ye’ll be wanting brought up till yer room?”

“Yes, I do wish you’d bring me up some breakfast,” said Marion,
thinking more of Elfie than herself, “and a glass of milk with it, for
I don’t want to go to the dining-room. But that was not the favor I
meant; I want you to go over to the restaurant across the street for me
and tell Mrs. Jones that the little girl who mended stockings for her
yesterday afternoon is not well, and if she will come over here for a
few minutes; and please bring her right up to this room. After that you
may bring me up the breakfast, please.”

“Really, it is true, I am not well,” said Marion to herself, in excuse
for the plea upon which she had summoned Mrs. Jones, who, in about five
minutes, came lumbering up the stairs, quite out of breath with their
steepness.

Her fat, honest face looked full of sympathy as she came in the room,
escorted by the maid, who shut the door and left them together.

“I hope you aint sickening down for scarlet fever or dipthery, or any
of those dangerous things, an’ you so far off from home,” said she,
looking anxiously at Marion’s flushed face and heavy eyes.

“No, no, Mrs. Jones; there is nothing the matter with me but fatigue
and worry; but you are lovely to come, and I will never forget your
kindness. I am in great trouble and must have help from somebody.”

Then good Mrs. Jones, instead of shrinking away with the feeling
strangers often have that a young person all alone in a strange
place had probably brought her trouble, whatever it was upon herself
and therefore deserved it, took her on her lap as she sat in the
straight-backed little rocking-chair, and, smoothing back her curly
hair, murmured:

“There, there, poor little thing!” as if she had been a tired baby.
“Tell me all about it, dearie, and pa and me between us can likely help
you out some way.”

Marion could not doubt her, so as rapidly as she could she told her how
she had followed Elfie and now had rescued her from the people who had
undoubtedly been hired to steal her by those who had an interest in
getting possession of her.

“And now,” said Mrs. Jones, who had constantly interrupted the story
with exclamations, questions, and conjectures, “you had better bring
the little dear right over to my place.”

“No, no, Mrs. Jones; I dare not do that. I cannot let any one see Elfie
or know that I have her here till I can get Mrs. Abbott. Madame Belotti
or some of those people may be hiding and watching, and if they saw
Elfie and claimed her how could I prove that I had a right to keep her
from them?”

“My gracious! Aint she got a wise old head on her young shoulders?”
said Mrs. Jones, shaking her own head at the bowl and pitcher on the
washstand as if they were, like herself, lost in admiration of such
youthful sagacity.

“What I hope you will do for me, Mrs. Jones, is to go and telegraph to
Mrs. Abbott.”

“Of course I will; what shall I say?”

“I’ve pricked the message all down with a pin on the inside of an
envelope I had in my pocket; I had no pencil. I will read it to you,
but if you forget you can make it out again from this, I know; or if
you will lay this on a clean sheet of paper and rub dry bluing on it it
will mark down the words plainly. I have often done embroidery patterns
that way at school.”

Mrs. Jones gave another admiring shake of her head toward the washbowl
and pitcher, and rose to go on her errand, promising to come back
directly.

  “COVENTRY SCHOOL: Elfie is with me. Come at once to the Secor
  House, Troy, N. Y.
                                                   “M. A. STUBBS.”

So ran the dispatch which Marion had pricked upon the paper after
a fashion she had learned from the girls at school for copying and
transferring braiding patterns.

Sally, the good-natured maid, came to the door then with a tray of
breakfast which Marion put on the table and partook of very sparingly,
reserving the best for Elfie, who still slept on, although it was
almost twelve o’clock.

There were three little taps with a finger-nail on the door in about
half an hour, and Marion, recognizing the signal agreed upon, let in
Mrs. Jones, who had sent off the dispatch, and as the result of talking
over the matter with “pa,” to whom some explanation of her visit to the
hotel had to be made, had thought of a new cause for anxiety, which
was a possibility that Elfie’s long sleep might be the effect of an
overdose of the quieting drops.

“And pa,” said Mrs. Jones, “advises waking of her up directly, and, if
it can’t be done, getting in a doctor to see her.”

Frightful fears suggested themselves to Marion as Mrs. Jones gave
“pa’s” impressive advice, and she turned Elfie’s face toward her and
gently tried to awaken her; it was not an easy thing to do, but at last
the heavy lids were lifted, and, with a little fretful cry Marion had
never heard from her till the night before, she had lifted her head up
and looked around.

“Marion is with you; look, look, dear, it is your own Marion. Can’t you
see me? Don’t you know me?”

The child looked up at her sleepily a moment with neither wonder nor
recognition in her eyes, and then laid her head on the pillow and slept
again.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

MARION IS HAPPY.


“Them tiger-cats has got somethin’ to answer for,” Mrs. Jones said
fiercely, “ef they’ve given that poor lamb laudlum enough to hurt her!”

“There must be some antidote for it,” said Marion, whose white lips
trembled so with fear that she could hardly speak. “I will have a
doctor if you will tell me whom to have. Surely he wouldn’t tell anyone
about Elfie if you asked him not to.”

“Doctor Mitchell wouldn’t tell any thing we didn’t want him to,” said
Mrs. Jones; “but we’ll try something ourselves first. Strong coffee is
a good wake-up, I’ve heard tell; so’s ginger tea and foot-baths.”

But all of the home remedies failed to do much good. Elfie waked
frequently as they pursued their kindly efforts, but took very little
notice of any thing. Once, indeed, as she sat on Mrs. Jones’s lap with
her feet in a basin of hot water, she looked down at the little jersey
trousers that were part of her disguise; she shuddered and moaned:

“O, take those things off, take them off!”

Then the lethargy overcame her again.

“I am going over home,” said Mrs. Jones, with tears in her eyes,
“to bring in a little night-gown from the clothes I put away in a
trunk when my little Sarah Jane died ten years ago. It’s homely and
old-fashioned, but it’s more decent for a little girl than pants and
jacket, and then I guess I better have Dr. Mitchell come in and take a
look. He’s safe, safe and sure; you needn’t be feared of him.”

The doctor’s coming to see a sick little girl caused no surprise to
clerk and landlord, for they supposed it was Marion herself, who, the
chamber-maid had told them, was ill and had sent for Mrs. Jones. Marion
liked Dr. Mitchell at once; there was something about the very tones of
his voice that gave her confidence, but she watched him anxiously as
he carefully examined Elfie and asked a few questions which Marion was
not afraid to answer, although to account for the condition in which he
found the child she was obliged to tell something of their experience
for the last two days.

He was much interested, and promised to find out for her what time
Mrs. Abbott could arrive, and he said Elfie was suffering from the
combined effects of fright and the continuous administration of some
anodyne. She was very feverish and must be kept quiet. He ordered some
medicine, and promised to come in again in two hours.

She was less feverish when he made his second call, and her sleep
seemed more natural. He told Marion it was very important that when she
should recognize any one her eyes should only rest upon familiar faces.
So Marion never for a moment left her chair by the bed or let go her
clasp of the little hand. Good Mrs. Jones came and went, spending all
the time she could with them, and bringing over on one of her visits a
tempting package of oranges and bananas.

There was a gentle knock at the door at nine o’clock, and Marion,
softly rising and unlocking it, was folded in Mrs. Abbott’s arms.

Candace was with her. As she said herself, rheumatism couldn’t keep
her back from her darling baby. She went directly to the bedside, and
tears poured down her dark face as she looked at the pale little face
she loved more than life. She lifted her gently to her shoulders. and,
sitting in the rocker, began to rock and sing as if Elfie was a baby:

“Ullallah, ullallah, baby dear; ullallah, ullallah, mammy’s near!”

Over and over she sang the simple lullaby which was a song that she had
hushed the child to sleep with every night of her babyhood, and at the
old, familiar sound, Elfie’s eyelids fluttered, then opened and looked
into the honest, loving black face above them, murmuring:

“Mammy, own mammy!”

Then with one or two long shuddering sighs she nestled down upon the
cushiony shoulders.

Doctor Mitchell, who was waiting for her down-stairs, followed Mrs.
Abbott to the room. He nodded his satisfaction as Elfie recognized her
nurse, and, beckoning the others out of the room, advised leaving her
with Candace.

“For the present she is safe,” he said, “but it may be long before her
nerves recover from the great strain of the last few days.”

The clerk, at a hint from Mrs. Jones, now came up with great politeness
and offered Mrs. Abbott the room vacated by Madame Belotti.

“Now, my dear, dear Marion,” she said, as the happy girl followed her
into the room, “tell me all about it.”

But before Marion told one word of her adventurous journey she put the
diminished package of bills in her hand with:

“O, Mrs. Abbott, it did seem so much like stealing to use your money!”

“My darling”--and the tears fell fast from Mrs. Abbott’s eyes--“we owe
you every thing. No money can ever pay you for saving our Elfie.”

Then Marion, with her hands tightly clasped in her friend’s, told all
the story of her pursuit of the child.

“It is wonderful, wonderful,” said Mrs. Abbott, when she had finished;
“you have shown more sense and judgment than most older people possess,
and your bravery is beyond praise. O, my dear, how much you have
undergone for that darling!”

In the morning Elfie was still better, and Mrs. Abbott went down with
Marion to breakfast, the latter being the object of intense interest to
every one in the house, for wild reports of the story had gone about,
and Marion, without wishing it, found herself famous in a small way.

Sally, the smiling and rosy chamber-maid, laid various traps for
enticing Candace down-stairs so she might extract a fuller version of
the story from her.

“But ef I never has a bit of food again,” said Candace, solemnly, “I’ll
not let my lamb out of my sight till we gets home!”

The good news was telegraphed back to Coventry school with a demand for
some of Elfie’s clothes. When the bag containing them came Elfie, very
white and weak, was propped up in bed with pillows, with her loving
eyes fixed on Candace, and listening, as if she were not hearing it for
the hundredth time, to her repetition of “Water, water, quench fire;
fire, fire, burn stick; stick, stick, beat dog,” etc.

She turned as the little dresses were taken from the bag, exclaiming:

“Elfie’s own girlie dresses! O, mammy, mammy, they dressed Elfie like a
boy!”

They did not know till then that she had recovered the recollection
of her experience with the Belottis, but after that she talked freely
about it, and was told how Marion had been near her all the time, but
had not dared to let herself be seen.

“Poor Marion!” she said, throwing her arms lovingly around her neck,
seeming to know by instinct how hard it must have been for Marion to
refrain from letting her know she was near.

It was several days before Dr. Mitchell felt as if it was quite
prudent for them to take Elfie home, and when they went Mrs. Jones went
too, having been persuaded by Mrs. Abbott to give herself a week’s
vacation.

When the train stopped at Coventry only Miss Blake and Robert, the
man, were on the platform to meet them, and they were as calm as if
Mrs. Abbott was only returning from an ordinary business trip, such as
she often took, for in her letters she had begged that there should be
nothing done that might cause Elfie any excitement; but on the side
piazza of the station, keeping well out of sight, was nearly every girl
who attended the school.

Miss Blake, after seeing the others into the carryall, brought Marion
around to the expectant crowd, who surrounded her with cries of
enthusiastic delight. The story had been very sketchily told in a
letter from Mrs. Abbott, and all the way home the girls were clamorous
for more particulars, which Marion was very modest about giving. But
her reserve did not matter so much for the moment, for the others were
beginning to tell her of their own fright and distress about Elfie.

“Tell me,” said Marion, so softly that no one heard her but Lily and
Katie, who were walking with their arms around her, “did any one think
I had run away with Mrs. Abbott’s money?”

“No, indeed!” exclaimed the girls in the same breath, “except Edna.”

“That troubled me terribly,” said Marion. “I was so afraid of being
suspected of dishonesty.”

“What nonsense!” said Lily. “Why, Mrs. Abbott told us it was the
greatest comfort to know you had the money.”

“But why did Edna think I was so wicked?”

“I suppose because she is so mean herself,” said Lily. “And you see
she was so dreadfully blamed by every body for taking Elfie out of the
gate that she wanted to make it appear that other girls would do wicked
things as well as she could.”

“She wasn’t the only one to blame for going out of the gate,” said
Katie, sorrowfully.

“No, indeed, and we all insisted on sharing the blame with her, as we
ought to! O, Marion, it was heart-breaking to see Candace’s agony, and
Mrs. Abbott kept saying, ‘What _shall_ I say to her grandfather?’ It
was an awful house here, I can tell you. I wouldn’t live through the
fright and worry again for the world.”

“Mrs. Abbott has decided now not to tell Mr. Bellamy any thing about
it till he comes home, hasn’t she?” said Marion.

“Yes; she thinks that is best,” said Katie, “because it’s all right
now; but, Marion, you should have seen Candace when that queer telegram
came from ‘A. Manning!’ Who in the world is it? we thought. May be you
were somewhere under an assumed name.”

“I’ll tell you all about it by and by; but what did Candace say?”

“She fell on her knees in the school-room and clasped her arms just as
if she were holding Elfie in them. ‘Lord, Lord, let old Candace see her
lamby again afore she dies!’ But after that she sat on the bottom step
at the front door waiting for another telegram.”

That evening Mrs. Abbott, understanding and fully appreciating Marion’s
shrinking from publicity, sent her to sit with Elfie while she gave the
whole family a graphic account of the pursuit and rescue, being aided
and abetted by Mrs. Jones, who was becoming a great favorite with the
girls.

And then there was something for Mrs. Abbott to hear. During her
absence Edna had telegraphed to her mother that she was sick and wanted
to be sent for. This was not known to any one at the time, but her
older sister, who came for her the next day, told Miss Blake of it.
Certainly Edna was not very well, for fright and the fear of punishment
had taken away her appetite and brought on a prostrating headache;
so she was permitted to go home with her sister. And hardly had Miss
Blake made this explanation to Mrs. Abbott when a letter came from Mrs.
Tryon, in which, after stating that Edna appeared to have malaria,
for which her family physician prescribed a change of scene, she had
decided not to allow her to return to school, at least for the present,
but take her with her to Europe, and, if her stay there was prolonged,
place her in an English school.

There was a great feeling of relief in Mrs. Abbott’s mind as she read
Mrs. Tryon’s letter, for she knew she should have to punish Edna by
expulsion or in some very marked way, and she was not sorry to have it
taken out of her hands. But the P. S. amused her very much:

“P. S. Hearing that you are far from particular about the social
standing of your young ladies, I have less regret in removing my
daughter than if you only kept aristocratic scholars, for I am very
particular about my children’s associates.”

She handed the letter to Miss Blake, who read it with indignation, and
then, supposing she was expected to do so, although Mrs. Abbott had not
intended it, passed it on to Mrs. Jones.

“I declare!” said that lady, when, after some struggling with her
spectacles, she had mastered the contents and read the signature, Mrs.
B. J. Tryon, “Belindy Jones Tryon is coming on. I guess she forgets
when her mother kept a bake-shop and she had to carry around rolls for
customers’ breakfasts, and her brother--that’s my husband--was proud
to be earning money getting out of bed at four o’clock to go around
selling newspapers. He aint ashamed of his folks’ poverty. His sister
is, and she’s ashamed of owning them, too!”

There was an immense sensation then, when some well-directed questions
brought out the fact that the lofty-minded mother of their elegant,
high-born Edna was really the sister-in-law of plain Mrs. Jones, the
restaurant-keeper, and Edna herself was her niece, although it was
quite possible that the knowledge had been kept from the young lady,
for Mrs. Jones told them that long ago Mrs. Tryon had given up all
association with her family when the worthy young carpenter, who had
married her for her pretty face, by some lucky chance was taken into a
building firm and found himself on the way to make his fortune.

The girls had promised themselves much fun in humbling Edna’s pride,
and were disappointed on finding that she would not return.

“Not even,” said Mrs. Abbott, “if the English school be abandoned and
her mother make an application to re-enter her here. I am sorry that
she ever came here. Even if she had not brought upon us the misfortune
of losing Elfie, I should deeply regret the influence she has exerted
over some of my scholars--some, too, whom I supposed firm enough in
their principles not to be betrayed into violating them.”

That was the only reproof Mrs. Abbott ever gave to those whose folly
had helped to make much trouble. She had thought over the matter and
talked over it with the teachers, and it seemed to her that by their
distress at the evil consequences that had followed their wrong-doing
they were already sorely punished.

It was many months before Elfie entirely recovered from the nervous
shock she had suffered, and came among the girls again. Candace could
never be induced to trust her out of her sight except with Marion.

“If dat dere rheumatiz goes an’ curls me up like a whip-snake,” she
said, “it sha’n’t hinder me crawlin’ ’round after dat lamby!”

It may be said in passing that the blue Tam o’ Shanter became so
interesting to the girls, after hearing the share Miss Manning had in
helping, that many of the girls wanted them, and when Marion wrote,
according to promise, to tell that friendly lady the sequel to her
journey, she had the pleasure of encouraging the church-organ scheme by
ordering six blue and as many red caps.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

THE PRIZE AWARDED.


A whole year had passed since Mr. Bellamy had made the memorable
address to the Coventry school in which he offered a prize of three
hundred dollars to the most deserving.

He had come from England, as the whole school knew by his telegram to
Mrs. Abbott, but business detained him in New York for a few days, as
they also learned from the same source.

Now he had come and for hours had been shut in the parlor with
Mrs. Abbott, Elfie, and Candace, hearing, the girls all supposed,
the history of that year which had brought danger and such blessed
deliverance from it to his grandchild. There was very little to do but
to wait, for, foreseeing the occupation of her time to-day, Mrs. Abbott
had yesterday read the reports, given the averages, made her “little
preach,” and attended to all the few ceremonies of school closing.

“‘They also serve who only stand and wait,’ I have understood,” said
Lily, “but I don’t believe I like to be a server.”

“‘To wait is to conquer,’” quoted Katie from the commonplace book.

“Conquer what, I wonder?” asked Lily. “Not the prize, for all of us are
waiting, and there is only one prize.”

“What do you think you conquer by waiting, Marion?” asked Miss Blake
of the girl, who had been showing no impatience, but busied herself
working on a new strip of her favorite fan-pattern lace.

“I suppose,” said Marion, thoughtfully, “by exercising patience we
conquer our own restless spirits.”

“Now, Marion,” said Lily, in a despairing tone, “you’re going to turn
goody-goody, I know you are! You’ll live to be a female exhorter or
something horrid of that sort if you get off such solemn sentences as
that! Extemporate in your callow youth! just think of it! But reflect
on what you’re giving up, for, though I love you to distraction now, my
affection is not proof against preaching; so don’t, I beseech you, show
symptoms of it!”

For answer Marion fired a big air-filled ball of Elfie’s at her as a
convincing proof that she was not utterly given over to solemnity,
and, Lily gayly returning the throw, the two were soon so deeply
engaged in a riotous game that Mr. Bellamy stood smiling at them in the
door for some minutes before they saw him.

The general confusion which was allowable because school had virtually
closed the day before being instantly quieted, Mr. Bellamy took his
place on the platform, and, looking kindly down on the bright young
faces upturned to him, said:

“You will remember me, I think, and give me credit for keeping my
engagement. It is just one year since I spoke to you before and offered
a prize in memory of my daughter.”

Here he laid upon the table a long envelope.

“This,” he said, “contains a check for three hundred dollars, with a
blank yet to be filled in. What name is to fill the blank is indicated
by the words upon the envelope, ‘For the most deserving,’ and who that
title describes I am going to leave you to decide. My little Elfie will
hand you each a slip of paper upon which I beg you to write the name of
the one whom you individually think most worthy of the prize according
to your own estimation of the word ‘deserving.’”

Elfie skipped around with the slips of paper, and after ten minutes,
which were spent by her grandfather and Mrs. Abbott in earnest,
low-toned conversation, she re-gathered the paper slips in a little
covered basket, each girl folding her paper so that the writing was
concealed.

“Now write one for Elfie and one for Candace,” said the child, “’cause
we can’t write and we both want the same girl to get the money.”

It was not easy to make her understand that none but pupils were
allowed a vote, and she was so far from being convinced that she
slipped two papers in with the others upon which she had scribbled
some hieroglyphics which she understood herself if no one else could.
There were thirty papers to examine, for the ten day-scholars were also
included in the competition. Upon examination twenty-two were found to
bear the name of Marion Stubbs!

Her face was scarlet as she went up at a sign from Mrs. Abbott to
receive the envelope, Mr. Bellamy having put her name on the check.
It was in her mind to tell him that she did not feel deserving of
such good fortune; for, aside from the pleasure of being chosen by
the majority of her school mates, the money meant more to Marion than
it would to any other girl in the school. It meant added comforts for
the delicate mother and the little brothers and sisters, and some
independence of feeling in regard to her own clothes, which through the
year had been provided by Mrs. Abbott. She longed to say something of
her pleasure and gratitude, but not one word would her trembling lips
utter, and Elfie’s “Don’t cry, Marion,” as she threw her arms around
her, broke down her composure, and with the child in her arms she ran
out of the room, slowly followed by Candace, whose dark face was lit
up with profound satisfaction. In fact, Candace’s delight led her into
unusual irregularity of conduct, for, turning as she was leaving the
room, she said:

“I think dem young ladies is de right sort dis term, an’ ole mammy, she
tanks dem from de bottom of her heart.”

Then, with a dignity that would have become the queen whose name she
bore, old Candace bowed low and followed her darling.

“And now,” said Mrs. Abbott, “I will read you, with her permission, a
letter that Marion received to-day. I hope it will give you as much
pleasure as it has given me:

  “‘DEAR MARION: I think you will be surprised to get a
  letter from me after the bad treatment I gave you, but I have
  been very sick in Rome, and for a long time the doctors gave my
  mother no hope that I would live. I have had a long time to think
  about every thing since I have been slowly getting better, and
  every thing looks very different to me. One night when I was very
  sick I thought I saw you crying all alone in your room because
  I had made fun of you and been so unkind, and I dreamed little
  Elfie was hanging over a deep pit and I was holding her from
  falling, but I could not pull her out because I had not asked you
  to forgive me for my bad treatment. That dream came back to me
  night after night; it was terrible, for I was always so afraid I
  should let Elfie drop. The cold perspiration used to break out
  all over me and I would wake screaming. Then I would wish, O, so
  hard, that I could ask your forgiveness; and now I am writing
  this letter a little at a time, for I am very weak, to ask you if
  you can ever forgive me. I have told my mother all about Elfie,
  and how it was my fault, and how you saved her; and though she
  tried not to have me blame myself so much I know she feels very
  sorry I was so bad, for mamma seems very different since I was so
  sick--ever so much nicer--and she has written to Tiffany, in New
  York, to have them send you a watch and chain just like mine.

  “‘Dear Marion, will you say you forgive me?
  “‘Your friend, if you will have her,
                                   “‘EDNA.’”

Most of the girls were crying when the letter was finished, for there
were few who had not helped to make Marion’s life among them very
miserable when she was a new scholar, and loving her as they did now it
was a very bitter memory.

To a story that is told should there be any thing more added? From
a critical point of view after “lastly” there should be no “in
conclusion;” but the readers who have been interested in Marion will be
glad to hear that Mr. Bellamy, whose gratitude was as unbounded as his
means were ample, seeing the love his grandchild bore to her, legally
adopted Marion and provided a yearly income for her mother, so that it
was no longer necessary for her to look forward to teaching as a means
for supporting them.

To be Elfie’s elder sister, her loving guide and steadfast friend, is
Marion Bellamy’s pleasure, and the traits which made her lovable are
not dimmed by the love and luxury with which she is surrounded.



Transcriber’s Note:

Spelling and spelling variations have been retained as published in the
original publication except as follows:

  Page 81
    demanded her assistence _changed to_
    demanded her assistance

  Page 101
    its very obliging of her _changed to_
    it’s very obliging of her

  Page 115
    I dont think so _changed to_
    I don’t think so

  Page 117
    but a roystering, turbulent storm _changed to_
    but a roistering, turbulent storm

  Page 167
    thought irrestisibly funny _changed to_
    thought irresistibly funny

  Page 188
    speaking aloud. I do hope _changed to_
    speaking aloud. “I do hope

  Page 276
    one for Elfie and one for Condace _changed to_
    one for Elfie and one for Candace





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