Mr. Martin smiled.
"That is telling," he replied. "But you will know pretty soon."
It was very exciting to be present this last evening of the fair, for everyone was anxious to make the most of it, and Edna thought it great fun to watch the auctioneer who was selling off some of the larger articles. She was intensely interested when Mr. Martin began bidding on a set of books, and was quite as triumphant as he was when they were knocked down to him.
But all other interests fell flat when some one came up and said:
"Mr. Martin, they are going to count the votes for the doll."
Edna's eyes grew big, and she could scarcely sit still from anxiety. She kept craning her neck to see if anyone were coming from the direction of that special booth. Finally she was rewarded by seeing the doll delivered into the hands of a gentleman who made his way toward the platform.
There was another little girl who was quite as eager as herself. Edna had often seen her in church, and knew she was the daughter of wealthy parents. She wore very pretty, dainty clothes, and Edna found her eyes very often wandering in the direction of this little girl during service; but the object of her admiration once turned and made a face at Edna, which proceeding shocked her very much. "I wouldn't do that in church," she said to herself. "I don't care if she is rich and comes in that shining carriage; she is not a nice little girl. I like Maggie Horn much better."
Therefore it was a very thrilling moment when the gentleman holding the doll mounted the stand, and said, "I have here a very popular young lady. She comes from Mrs. Tuttle's booth, and has received so many votes that she must be quite anxious herself as to her future." Then reading from a paper, he said, "I will only announce the two candidates who have received the greatest number of votes: Clara Adams, one hundred and twenty-seven; Edna Conway—" the little girl's heart stood still, and she clasped Miss Martin's hand convulsively, while she looked at her with something like reproach—"in behalf of Maggie Horn," continued the gentleman, "three hundred and one votes." There was silence a moment. "I want to say," the gentleman went on, "that the little girl—whose representative I hope is here—is one of the inmates of the Home of the Friendless, rescued from a pitifully unhappy life by Edna Conway, who has also been the means of procuring for the little girl, no longer friendless, this beautiful doll. Will Miss Edna Conway please come forward?"
Growing red and white by turns; glad, fearful, ashamed, all at once, Edna went to the platform amid tremendous applause. Every eye was turned upon her, and she felt in this conspicuous position as if she should sink through the floor. Into her hands the lovely doll was given, and then the gentleman detained her by saying, "One moment, my dear. The ladies of the fair want you to accept this little basket of flowers, with their love;" and a basket of exquisite roses was handed down.
Edna hardly knew how she got back to Miss Martin's side, but when she did reach there the doll was laid upon the bench, the flowers were handed to Mr. Martin, and the little child hid her face on her friend's shoulder, overcome by the situation.
"We'd better go now," said Miss Martin, in a low voice, as she saw a body of girls ready to pounce upon Edna with hugs and kisses. "I am sure Mrs. Horner would not like this fuss over her niece," she continued to her father. And Edna was quite ready to leave, not liking herself to be fussed over.
Miss Martin and her father only stopped to see their little charge safe in the hands of her aunt and uncle, and with many thanks, Edna bade them a fervent good-night. In her delight she entered the sitting-room, forgetting to be a little girl that should "be seen and not heard."
"O, Uncle Justus!" she cried. "See! see! the doll for Maggie; and look at my flowers! Look, auntie!"
"Not so loud, child," reproved Aunt Elizabeth.
"Let me see. Yes, the doll is very pretty; and where did you get your flowers?"
"Why," returned Edna, innocently, "the man said that the ladies of the fair gave them to me with their love, and I don't know why, for I didn't get a single vote but yours and Uncle Justus's."
Aunt Elizabeth smiled, but she did not explain. "Well, child," she said, "it was very kind of the ladies to pay the compliment to Mr. Martin's little guest."
"O, yes," replied Edna, "of course it was, and he liked it, too. I wish I had given him and Miss Martin more of the roses."
"You had better put them in water, or they will all fade," said Aunt Elizabeth; "I have no doubt the ladies will remember Mr. Martin. Now go to bed, and try to get up when you are called so as to be ready for Sunday-school."
"O, Aunt Elizabeth, just please tell me when I can take Maggie her doll."
"I am afraid I shall not be able to go with you on Monday, for I have a meeting in the afternoon," answered Aunt Elizabeth.
"Couldn't you find your way alone?" asked Uncle Justus.
"I think perhaps I could," replied Edna, a little doubtfully, "but I am not very good at finding my way about. Papa says my bump of locality was left out. I don't know what that means, but he said so."
"Perhaps if I put you on the cars and tell the conductor to let you out at Pearl Street you could find your way," said Uncle Justus.
"And what about the getting back?" put in Aunt Elizabeth. "I think Edna will have to wait."
But here again Miss Martin came to her aid, for the next morning after Sunday-school she made her way over to where Edna was standing waiting for Louis, and asked her about the matter.
"I can't go till Tuesday," Edna told her, "for Aunt Elizabeth hasn't time to take me, and I do so want Maggie to have her doll. Won't she be s'prised. Miss Martin? I am just crazy to take it to her."
"Let me see," returned Miss Martin, thoughtfully. "If your aunt will allow you to go, perhaps I can take you. How would that do? I will see Mrs. Horner after church, and we'll try and arrange it."
And so it was settled that Edna should go with Miss Martin to the Home the next afternoon. In the meantime it was a great temptation to have the pretty doll so near and not resist the temptation of being a little envious of it. Many a peep was taken at the fine lady laid away in state in one of Edna's bureau drawers; but the child was honorable enough not to run the risk of spoiling the freshness of her attire by taking her out of her place.
"I think you were a goose not to try for the doll yourself," said Louis.
"O, Louis!" replied Edna. "I never could have had all those votes, and besides I have Moggins, so you see I ought to make up to Maggie for that."
"Well, that's so," replied Louis. "Anyhow I am glad that that stuck-up Clara Adams did not get her."
Edna was thoughtful. "So am I," she confessed. "But," she added, "I heard Miss Martin say, 'Poor Clara Adams, I'm very sorry for that child.'"
"Poor!" exclaimed Louis. "I don't know where you get your rich people from if she's poor. I reckon Miss Martin doesn't know what she's talking about."
"I'm going to ask her," declared Edna. And true to her word she did ask, that very afternoon, "What made you say, 'Poor Clara Adams,' Miss Martin?"
"Did I say that? Well, dear, she is a very poor little girl; with all her rich clothes and her ornaments there is one ornament which I am afraid she will never be able to wear."
Edna opened her eyes. "What is it, Miss Martin?" she asked, wondering if Clara were in any way deformed so she could not wear rings.
Miss Martin smiled. "Did you never hear about the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit?" she said.
"O," returned Edna, only half understanding.
"Clara is a restless, discontented, envious little girl," continued Miss Martin; "and although her mother and father come to church every Sunday, and give liberally to charities, their little girl is not taught to find happiness by thinking of others rather than of herself, and so that poor little self of hers often feels as much neglected as Maggie Horn ever did."
"But Clara isn't neglected," interposed Edna.
"She thinks she is, unless some one is paying attention to her all the time. She wants to be noticed and considered and amused from morning till night, and feels slighted at being set aside for a single instant. So you see she is a little girl to be pitied. 'Contentment is better than wealth,' says the old proverb."
That was a new way to look at Clara Adams, Edna reflected; but she had not time then to think much of the matter, for by this time they had reached the Home where Maggie was.
This was not visitors' day, but a note from Mrs. Horner to Miss Barnes gave Edna special permission to see Maggie. She came into the room looking very clean and neat in her blue dress and gingham apron. Her face brightened as she caught sight of Edna.
"Why," she exclaimed, "how did you happen to come to-day? How is Moggins? I hope he doesn't bother your aunt."
"Moggins is as fat as butter," answered Edna, "and I came—O, Maggie—I came to bring you this," and she thrust the doll into the little girl's arms.
Maggie looked from the doll to Edna and back again, perfectly bewildered. "Why, why," she said, "not for me! You don't mean for me!"
Edna nodded, "Yes," most decidedly. "It's for you, and came from the fair. O, so many people voted for her—three hundred. Isn't she sweet?"
"O! O!" cried Maggie, "I never had nothin' like this. I never expected nothin' like it. I feel like it was Christmas, an' I was a-dreamin, an' it was a story book all to once. Da'st I kiss you?"
"Why, of course," replied Edna, heartily, and she threw her arms around the little girl and gave her a fervent embrace. Then followed a close examination of the dolly's pretty clothes by both little girls, till Miss Martin came in accompanied by Miss Barnes, who said she was sorry to take Maggie away, but that it was study hour; and the children separated, one about as happy as the other.
Then Edna and her friend turned toward home, where a new surprise was awaiting.
A PECK OF TROUBLE.
"Where is uncle?" was Edna's first question when she reached home.
"Listen to the dear," replied Ellen. "She doesn't know that the two of them has gone away suddint."
"Why, where?" asked Edna, in astonishment.
"To Mr. Horner's sisther's, darlin'; wurred came by the bhy from the telegraph office thot the poor leddy's tur'ble low, and would they come right away? So the madam t'rows a bit o' their clothes intil a bag, an' says she, 'Ellen, we'll be back the mornin; ye must look out for the childer.'"
"O," cried Edna, "then we can eat supper in the kitchen; and you'll let me pour out, won't you?"
"Will I thin? av coorse I will, an' I'll make ye a bit o' short cake."
"O, that will be fine," replied Edna, "I'm going up stairs to take off my wraps, and then I'm coming down into the kitchen."
"Moind ye change yer dhress," called Ellen; "an' put on an apron, so ye'll not get yer clothes hurted."
Edna was down again in a twinkling, the cause of the sudden departure of her uncle and aunt lost sight of in this "happening" of a cosy time.
There was something particularly cheery and comfortable about the clean kitchen. Louis was already there playing with Moggins; the little kitty was whisking around after a string, his prancings and sidewise jumps making the children laugh merrily. Edna left this play to make a little short cake from some dough which Ellen gave her. She baked it on top of the stove, and, although it was neither very clean nor well baked, and was rather ragged looking, it was heartily enjoyed by the children and Moggins, who was a little cat ready to taste anything offered to him.
Edna poured out the cambric tea and mixed it with great gravity, giving Louis plenty of sugar in his, while the amount of short cake and syrup indulged in would have been considered shocking by Aunt Elizabeth. But the children had never so enjoyed a meal in that house.
Edna's doll, Ada, occupied a place at the table, being mounted upon a firkin placed upon a chair, and as Edna had to eat both her own and her doll's share of the short cake it was no wonder that the supply was more than she could manage.
Louis took Moggins under his care, but Moggins, it must be confessed, did not behave so well as Ada, for he slyly whipped off with his paw pieces of food from Louis' fork, and began lapping the cambric tea from his neighbor's cup, so finally he was sent from the table, a disgrace which did not affect him in the least, as it gave him a chance to scamper around after his tail, and race about without restraint.
"O, Louis," said Edna, when bedtime came, "aren't you afraid to sleep down here alone?"
Louis flushed up. "What did you say that for?" he replied. "I wasn't going to think about it, and now you've made me. I'm not exactly afraid, but it is a long way up to you and Ellen if anything should happen."
Ellen stood thoughtfully considering the question, one hand on her hip, and the other stroking her puckered-up lips. "Thrue for ye," she said. "I promised the mistress to hev an eye on ye, an' how can an eye pinitrate through the two flures? I'll bring a cot down for mesilf to your aunt's room, an' Edna shall sleep in the big bed, whilst I take the cot, so we'll all be commojus and neighborlylike."
There was much fun and laughter getting the cot down stairs, and Edna thought it a great experience to sleep in her aunt's big bed, while Louis was very glad not to be so far removed from the others, although he professed great indifference upon the subject after his first confession.
The next morning the school children began to gather. Nine o'clock came and no teacher, for, strange to say, even Miss Ashurst did not make her appearance. A note from her did arrive, but as it was addressed to Professor Horner no one opened it, and the cause of her absence was not explained.
"O, fun!" cried one of the girls. "No school to-day. We'll have a holiday."
"We'd better wait a little while," said Agnes Evans, who was the eldest as well as the brightest pupil in the school. "Professor and Mrs. Horner may come in any minute; we'll wait till ten o'clock. Come here, little sobersides," she said to Edna. "What are you so solemn about? What word did your aunt and uncle leave?"
"They left word that they would be back this morning," replied Edna. "Of course they supposed Miss Ashurst would be here, and that she would be able to get along till they came. Don't you think—" and Edna looked up hesitatingly.
"What, monkey dear?" said Agnes, passing her arm around the child. "Out with it."
"Don't you think we might have school just the same if you big girls were to take the teachers' places? Don't you think we ought to try to do the best we can?"
"You dear child," responded Agnes. "The idea of your having more conscience than us big girls! Of course that is what we should do. Miss Ashurst has been absent once or twice before, and one of us has always taken charge of the little girls. Helen Darby, come here," she called to one of her classmates. "Will you take charge of the little girls? We're going to be good and have school the best way we can. Find Florence Gittings and see if she'll undertake the boys. She'll be just the one to manage them," and springing forward to Professor Horner's desk, Agnes rapped sharply.
The girls who had been chattering like magpies suddenly became silent. "Girls!" said Agnes, "how many of you will stand by me, and do their best to-day? This little midget has made me ashamed of myself by telling me my duty, and I'll do my best to teach those in this room. Anyone who can't trust to my judgment can go home immediately, and any girl who can't promise to behave just as well as if the professor were here can also go home."
Not a girl left the room.
"Good!" cried Agnes. "Now let us go to work," and school was opened without further delay.
Agnes conscientiously kept strictly to the order of the day as mapped out by Professor Horner, and the girls, with good will, entered into the spirit of the occasion. "You are on your honor, girls," Agnes told them, "and I don't believe there is one here mean enough to slight her work." So even the most careless tried to keep up to the standard set for her, while the bright young teacher made everything as interesting as possible.
Florence Gittings managed the little boys fairly well, and Helen Darby did her best with the little girls. The latter, however, belonged to the most troublesome class, and Edna felt very much ashamed of some of them.
"O, dear!" she said to Miss Evans, "our class didn't behave well at all, and it will have to be reported to Uncle Justus."
"You dear thing!" replied Agnes, "you shall be reported for good behavior, I can tell you. I shall just tell your uncle what a dear little soul you were, and how you really were the one who started the plan of our day's doings."
Edna blushed at the praise. She was not often commended by Aunt Elizabeth, who did not believe in praising children, and so the little girl was very grateful for this.
"If anything happens to detain our teachers to-morrow, girls," said Agnes, at parting, "we shall do just as well, I hope. So please all put in an appearance."
Dinner was not served in the kitchen, and the two children ate their meal feeling a little forlorn at being so long left to themselves. It was very well for a time, but, as the day wore on, Edna missed Uncle Justus from his place in his easy chair, missed Aunt Elizabeth's heavy tread, and told Louis she did.
"Ho! that's just like a girl," he said. "I don't miss them that way, I can tell you. I'm glad enough to get a chance to have a fling. I know what I'm going to do this afternoon."
"What?" asked Edna.
"I'm going to have a lot of the boys in and have some fun."
"O!" exclaimed his cousin, with round eyes of disapproval.
"Why shouldn't I?" asked Louis, sharply. "I guess I have a right to do as I choose when there's nobody here to tell me I sha'n't."
Edna could not always answer Louis' arguments, but she knew it would be against the wishes of her aunt and uncle. "I wouldn't do it," she said.
"O, no, you wouldn't, good little baby girl; you're too much of a saint. I suppose you'll tattle, too."
The tears came into Edna's eyes. "Now, Louis, you know I never tell on you."
"Well, no, you don't; but if you're so down on a fellow's having any fun, what's he to expect?"
"I'm not down on your having fun, but I think we ought to do just as well as we can while uncle and aunt are away; better even, for it seems sort of—sort of dishonest to do things behind people's backs that you wouldn't do before their faces."
"Do you mean to say I am dishonest?" began Louis, blustering.
"O, no," cried Edna; "but—but—"
"Humph! I don't believe you know what you do mean. Now, see here; my father and mother ain't wicked people, are they?"
"Of course not."
"Well, then, if they let me have boys to come in and play with me at home, why isn't it just as right here? Answer me that!"
Edna could not answer, so she got up and walked away, Louis calling after her, "You needn't have anything to do with it, Miss Goody-goody. I don't suppose the boys will insist upon your playing with them." And a moment after Edna heard him go out of the house.
About a half hour later she heard him return, a troop of boys following him. They clattered into the house and up into the schoolroom. Ellen, hearing the noise, went up, but, as might have been expected, the boys only jeered at her, and paid no attention to what she said.
"Masther Louis must study his lessons," she told them.
"I don't have to," replied Louis. "I don't call that any school we had to-day, and I'm not going to study the same lessons twice. You don't know anything about it, Ellen. You just go along and tend to your business. We're not going to do any harm." And Ellen, after standing helplessly looking at them for a moment, went back to her work.
"Will she tell on you, Louis?" asked the boys.
"I don't care if she does," returned he. "If they make a fuss, I know what I can do. I can run away."
"Good for you!" cried Phil Blaney. "Of course you can. You can go out West. You can make your way to California, where your father and mother are. You'll have a fine time, Lou, for you'll meet cowboys, and maybe you'll have a whack at the Indians. That's what I'd like to do. You're no baby, to be ordered around by a little girl and a servant."
"You bet I'm not," returned Louis, feeling very big. "They'd better try bossing me. I'll let 'em know they can't do it."
The boys' play became more and more boisterous as time went on. The schoolroom presented a fine field for sport, and Edna, in her room above, trembled as now and then came a crash which made her jump.
"O, my!" she exclaimed; "I hope they won't go to Uncle Justus's chemical closet. I'm so afraid they will!" And, indeed, the boys were bent on investigating everything, with the intention of putting all in order before they left.
But in the midst of the din came a sudden quiet. Edna could stand it no longer, and she ran down stairs and peeped in the room. In flinging a book across the room one of the boys had upset a bottle of ink, the contents of which spattered floor and wall. The boys were busy mopping it up.
"You can say the cat got up here and did it," Phil Blaney was saying.
"No, he sha'n't," cried Edna, from the door, ready to defend Moggins.
The boys all stopped and looked fearfully around.
"O, it's only Louis' cousin! She won't tell; will you, Edna?"
"I sha'n't let Moggins be blamed when he can't speak for himself," she replied, firmly, although she was scared.
"If you dare to tell," began Phil, coming up to her threateningly, "I'll—I'll make it worse for you."
Edna grew very pale. She was afraid of this big, boastful boy, but she did not flinch.
"Say, will you tell?" demanded Phil, seizing her by the wrist.
Louis sprang forward. "Look out!" he cried. "Let my cousin alone, will you! Don't you dare to touch her."
Phil turned on him, the other boys standing off.
"You want to fight, do you?" cried Phil, with a swagger.
Louis' eyes flashed, and he made a step forward to wrench Phil's hold from Edna's wrist.
"O, don't, Louis; don't!" cried the little girl, making an effort and freeing herself to fling her arms around her cousin.
"Come on, boys!" called Phil "Don't let these youngsters down me."
The boys stood a little uncertain, till Charlie Stabler, who had been out of the room to get some water, returned. "Ah, let them alone!" he said. "Louis is littler than you, Phil."
"I don't care!" replied he. "I'll thrash him if Edna does not promise not to tell."
Poor little Edna! She trembled from head to foot. Louis had befriended her, and now, to choose between him and Moggins, what was she to do? But her courage came to her rescue. "You're a coward!" she cried.
Again Phil made a dive at her, but Charlie Stabler, leading the other boys, arose to the occasion, and made a rush forward, so that the little girl found herself in the midst of the group.
"Let her alone!" cried Louis.
"I shan't!" cried Phil, and the confusion arose higher and higher.
But suddenly a hush fell upon everyone, and, looking up, Edna saw Uncle Justus standing in the doorway.
ABOUT SEVERAL THINGS.
It seemed to Edna, as she looked up, that she had never seen Uncle Justus's eyebrows appear so shaggy, nor his eyes snap so. "Boys!" he thundered out, "leave the house."
Every one slunk out of the room and down the stairs without a word.
"Edna," he said, when the last one had left, "go to your room. I thought I could trust you," he added. "Come with me, Louis."
Edna crept up stairs, her bosom heaving, and such a hurt, dreadful feeling in her heart. It was so terrible to be judged in that way, as if she had taken part in all that disorder. She felt as if she could not stand it, but there was no room left for explanation, and she cried as if her heart would break over this dreadful condition of things.
It was not long, however, before she heard some one coming up stairs. "Edna, my child, where are you?" a voice said, quite gently. "Your uncle didn't understand," she heard Aunt Elizabeth say. "He is very sorry he blamed you unjustly. One of the boys, Charlie Stabler, has been here to acknowledge his part in the affair, and to offer to pay for any damage done. He is a very manly boy, although he did not do quite right to join the others. He has also said that you had nothing to do with the trouble, and has told of Louis' defense of you, which in some degree lessens the fault."
Edna jumped up and threw her arms around her aunt. "O, auntie," she cried, "I am so glad you have come back." Aunt Elizabeth smiled and bade Edna bathe her face and go down and see her uncle, who was waiting for her.
Uncle Justus stood at the foot of the stairs; he opened his arms as his little niece came down, and as he held her closely she knew he meant to make amends for the harsh judgment.
"How is your sick sister?" asked the little girl.
"She is better—a little better, but still very ill," replied Uncle Justus.
"I am so glad she is better," returned Edna, "And you won't have to go away again, will you?"
"I hope not. You had a hard time getting along, did you?"
"We didn't at first," acknowledged Edna, truthfully. "We had fun, but to-day it has been just horrid. Why didn't you come back this morning, uncle?"
"We missed the train; there are only two trains a day from that junction, and something happened to the carriage on the way, so we were too late for the morning train. You didn't have school, of course. I found Miss Ashurst's note when I reached here. She has an attack of grippe."
"O, yes, we did have school. I am sorry, uncle, but the little girls weren't as good as the others."
"And you are one of the little girls," returned Uncle Justus, smiling, and looking down at her. But Edna felt that whatever he might hear of the rest, he would not include her with the number of those who had misbehaved.
That he was highly pleased with Agnes Evans's account of the day was evident from his manner to his pupils, and he did not even reprimand the little girls, who continued under Agnes Evans's teaching while Miss Ashurst remained away. To Edna's surprise Louis was not shut up, but there was a sullen look on his face which told of his feelings. Edna's gratitude for his defense of her increased her affection for her cousin, and she tried in every way to show him little attentions, which he took graciously enough, but which did not seem to add very much to his happiness, and at times Edna felt very indignant at the sternness with which he was treated, and the cold tones in which he was addressed. It was very nice to have Uncle Justus give her credit for trying to be a good girl, and to have Aunt Elizabeth smile upon her, but it made her feel the coldness of their manner to Louis all the more.
To be sure Aunt Elizabeth did not seem to think Edna ever could be cured of certain faults. "You are a very careless child," she would say. "I am afraid you will never be the neat housekeeper your grandmother was;" or, "Edna, that exhibition of temper over little things must be controlled; it is a very serious fault." Again it would be, "You are very babyish, and lack self-control; there is no need of crying over such a small matter as a little blister on your finger." And Edna wondered if she were expected to be like the Spartan boy who held the fox under his coat while it gnawed at his heart. Aunt Elizabeth never pitied her, and even the little caresses from Uncle Justus were few and far between.
"I should like a real lap," said the little girl, wistfully, to her doll. "I should like to have mamma to hug and hug as hard as I wanted, and I should like to have sister to be silly with. I like to be silly sometimes, and sister does, too. It is a long time, Ada, since we saw them all, the boys, and the kittens, and Snowflake, and all the rest. I am afraid it is going to be a long time more, for mamma wrote that it would have to be quite warm weather before they could come back."
To be sure Ellen had a lap ready whenever there was time for her to sit down, but she was kept very busy, the one servant in a large house, and even on the days when the wash-woman came she worked just as hard. Then Aunt Elizabeth did not approve of much time spent in the kitchen by her niece, and so, with Louis grumpy, Ellen busy, Uncle Justus reading, and Aunt Elizabeth absorbed in her many interests, there were days which seemed very long to the little girl, and once or twice she went to her room at night so homesick that she threw herself, crying, on the bed, with her doll hugged up to her, and fell fast asleep without undressing, to awaken in the middle of the night chilly and uncomfortable, finding herself on the outside of the covers. She would then shiver out of her clothes and creep into bed, after groping around to get Ada and place her safely under the bedclothes. But this was only sometimes; generally speaking, the days were not unhappy ones, for lessons and practicing, so many squares of patchwork, so many pages of reading filled up the hours, and the playtime was not so long as to become tiresome.
Once a week there was a visit to Maggie, who was always overjoyed to see her little friend.
"I don't know what I shall do when you go home," Maggie said, sadly, one day. "And when you take Moggins so far off, I'll never hear of him."
Edna was thoughtful. "What becomes of little girls who live here till they grow up?" she asked.
"Some of 'em don't stay that long, they get 'dopted," replied Maggie, "an' some of 'em get places." And Edna bore this information in mind.
"What do you have to do to get 'dopted?" she asked her aunt.
"You don't do anything but try to behave yourself," replied she. "What are you thinking about, Edna? Surely you do not need to have anyone to adopt you?"
"No," was the reply, "I was thinking of Maggie."
"Well, if some lonely, childless person were to come along and take a fancy to Maggie, she might be adopted, but usually the younger children are preferred; little girls of her age are not often chosen."
Edna was disappointed. She had thought that maybe her aunt's influence might be all that was necessary, provided Maggie should care to be chosen as some one's possible daughter.
But she did not give up the hope. "Maybe some one will 'dopt you, Maggie," she said, "and then, of course, you can have Moggins back again. Your new mamma would want you to have him." And so the two children talked over this possibility, as if it were a delightful fairy tale.
All this time Louis' discontent seemed to increase and he chafed more and more under restraint. It is quite true that the same kind of treatment did not suit the two children. Edna, on the one hand, an honest, conscientious, self-sacrificing little girl, and on the other hand Louis, a spoiled, proud, rather selfish little boy. Gentle firmness would have been best for Louis, but firmness without gentleness did not suit him at all, and he resented the methods of his uncle and aunt.
"I'm not going to stand being ordered about as I am, and treated as if I were the worst person in the world" he said to Edna. "They're all right when you are concerned, but they act as if I were a criminal, and I don't want to be good for them."
Edna looked distressed. "O, Louis," she said, "I don't believe they feel that way."
"They act that way," replied he, "and I know what I am going to do."
"What?" asked Edna. "Tell me, Louis; I won't tell."
"Sure you won't?"
"Yes, I'm sure."
"Give your word of honor that you won't tell anyone I know."
"Yes, I promise."
"Well," and Louis lifted his hand emphatically, "I'm going to run away."
"Yes, I'm going to find my mother and father."
"Why don't you write to them to come take you away?"
"I have asked them, but they wrote back that this was the best place for me, and that I must stay, and I won't—I won't."
"Please stay," pleaded Edna. "Just stand it a little while longer. I'm so afraid you'll get into a herd of cattle out on the prairies where they have whole stampedes, and you might get caught by the Indians, and I'd never see you again," and Edna's eyes filled at the possibility.
"Ho! no fear of that. I'd skulk as well as the best of them, and I'd keep out of the way of the cattle. I might stop over night with some of the cowboys, but I wouldn't stay," replied Louis, with a very dim idea of what he might have to encounter.
"Well, anyhow, it wouldn't be right," replied Edna.
"I'd like to know why; it isn't as if I were running away from my father and mother. I'm going to run to them; that makes all the difference."
But Louis had talked so before, and Edna did not take it very much to heart, especially as just about that time came an invitation from Agnes Evans which Uncle Justus accepted for Edna without consulting anyone.
Miss Evans asked if Edna might be allowed to spend Saturday and Sunday in the country. The girl had taken quite a fancy to the child, and had won her confidence so that nowadays Miss Agnes was consulted upon all points, and although Aunt Elizabeth frowned upon the decision, Uncle Justus would not allow it to be changed, and so Edna set out very gayly, and thought nothing could be more delightful than to spend this time with her beloved friend.
"You know," said Agnes, "I have a little sister, so I am sure we can make you have a good time. Do you like the country?"
"O, I like it much better than the city," was the reply. "I live in a half-and-half country place. We have chickens and a cow. O, it has been so long since I saw a real chicken."
Miss Agnes laughed. "Where did you see any make-believe ones?"
Edna laughed, too. "O, I mean live running-about chickens. I am a little afraid of cows. Ours hasn't any horns; it is the horny kind I am afraid of."
They were then on their way to the pretty country home in which Miss Evans lived. She spent her time during the week at a married sister's, in order to attend Professor Horner's school, but she always went home on Friday afternoons, returning Monday.
It was a mild day in March when the spring seemed quite near, although snow and frost might still be expected. At the station a carriage met them, and they were driven about half a mile to where a low, old-fashioned house stood. Two great cedar trees stood, one on each side the walk which led up to the house, and which was bordered by a box hedge so high that Edna could not see over it. A little girl, a trifle younger than Edna, came dancing down to meet them. She had yellow curly hair and big blue eyes. Edna thought her very pretty and was ready at once to make friends with her.
"Take Edna up to your room, Dorothy," said Miss Agnes. "You are to be roommates, you know. Show her your dolls, and make her at home," and Edna followed her new acquaintance up the broad staircase, feeling that this was much more like being at home.
"She is a dear little child," Agnes said to her mother, "and I am sure is often homesick, and longs for her own little playmates."
"You must bring her out often," replied motherly Mrs. Evans. "I can imagine how glad I should be to have some one take a little notice of Dorothy if she were away from home."
"How long are you going to stay?" asked Dorothy, not meaning to be rude, but like most children, wanting to crowd all she could into the time.
"Till Monday evening," answered Edna. But it was not on the next Monday nor the one following that which found Edna back again in the city.
"To-morrow," said Dorothy, "we will have a good time. We can play the whole day long."
"That will be so nice," returned Edna, with a little sigh of content; "I just love to play with dolls—don't you? I believe if I had a hundred dolls I should love every one."
"I don't know about a hundred dolls," replied Dorothy; "but I know I could love twenty-five. I am going to hunt up all I have—broken ones and all. We'll get Agnes to help us mend them; then to-morrow we can divide them, and you can have half while you are here," said the little girl, generously.
So a delightful morning it was—choosing dolls, dressing them, playing party, and all done in such a merry humor that Mrs. Evans and Agnes, sitting in the room opposite the nursery, often smiled to hear peals of laughter.
"Those children are having a good time," remarked Mrs. Evans; "there has been nothing but peace between them."
"I thought they would suit one another," returned Agnes.
"I think I shall send them over to Mrs. MacDonald's this afternoon," Mrs. Evans went on. "Edna will like the walk, and I promised to let Mrs. MacDonald know about some flower bulbs."
Therefore, after an early dinner, the two little girls set out to take a walk over the country road to this neighbor's.
Mrs. MacDonald was a widow, who lived all alone in a big house, substantially built of gray stone. She had once been a dressmaker, had married when no longer young a man of wealth, who died a few years after their marriage, leaving her very well off. She had no children, was a little peculiar, but a thoroughly good woman, and a neighbor whom Mrs. Evans much esteemed. She was very fond of Dorothy, and met the little girls very cordially.
"Bless my little Goldilocks," she said, in greeting; "and who is this?"
"This is Edna Conway," Dorothy informed her. "She is making me a visit. O, Mrs. MacDonald, may I show her the greenhouse?"
"To be sure you may; but you must be hungry after your long walk. Go ask Lizzie to get you some doughnuts. You know where to find her."
Edna did not know whether or not to follow her friend, but thought it would be more polite to sit with her hostess. Mrs. MacDonald had nothing to say for a while, and Edna was puzzling her brain as to what suitable remark she could make, when Mrs. MacDonald surprised her by saying:
"How should you like to come here and be my little girl?"
This was a difficult question to answer, but Edna got through bravely by saying, "If I didn't have any mamma and papa of my own I should like it very much, 'cause it is very pretty here, and I'd like to be near Dorothy, and—" she added, timidly, "you look like a very good lady." She would like to have said, "You are a very pretty lady," but Mrs. MacDonald was not handsome.
A hearty laugh was the little girl's reply.
"Well, dear," was then made answer, "I'll not rob your father and mother of such a bonny little lass, if it is too big a place for one lonely old woman to have to herself."
"Are you lonely?" asked Edna, with much sympathy in her tones. She jumped down from her chair and came closer. A bright idea had occurred to her. "I know a little girl that wants very much to be 'dopted," she said, earnestly.
"You do? Tell me about her."
So Edna began a story which Dorothy's reappearance did not interrupt, so interested were both herself and her listener.
"You see," said Edna, in conclusion, folding her little, warm hands very closely, as was her fashion when much interested. "You see, Maggie doesn't have a chance to be 'dopted like the littler girls, 'cause people like the baby ones best, though if I were a grown-up lady like you I'd 'dopt Maggie," she concluded.
At this moment Lizzie made her appearance with the plate of doughnuts. She was a middle-aged woman, with rather a sad face, though a kindly one.
"What is Maggie's last name?" asked Mrs. MacDonald.
"Her name is Maggie Horn."
Lizzie, putting down the plate, turned with a look of surprise to Edna. "What Maggie Horn?" she asked. "What about her?"
"Why, do you know my Maggie?" asked Edna.
"I know a Maggie Horn," and she turned to Mrs. MacDonald. "Excuse me, ma'am, but my breath was quite taken away by hearing the young lady speak of a Maggie Horn."
"That is all right, Lizzie. Perhaps you can tell us something of the little girl who has been treated unkindly," said Mrs. MacDonald. "I am interested in Edna's story of her."
"Well, ma'am, the little child that I used to know was left quite alone by a poor lady who died in the house where I lodged. She had been quite well to-do in her day—a milliner, ma'am, and a good one, I take it—but she married a bad man, who went through with her bit of a fortune and then went on, leaving her with this one child. The trouble, and all, ma'am, wore on her, and with weak lungs, she grew worse and worse, poorer and poorer, though always proud, ma'am, and most a respectable lady, with a good education. She died when the little one was three years old, and left the child with me. But, as you know, ma'am, I had my own troubles; and when a family by the name of Hawkins moved into the street, as wanted a bit of a girl to give an eye to the baby, I thought it was a chance for Maggie to begin to make her living. Indeed, ma'am, I didn't mean to turn her off to be ill-treated, but I thought it was none too soon for her to begin to look out for herself. She was eight years old."
"Why, you must be Mrs. Ryan," exclaimed Edna, putting this and that together, "and you were good to Maggie. She was, Maggie told me so," she continued, turning to Mrs. MacDonald.
"It was a sorry day I parted from her," said Lizzie: "but, ma'am, I had my own flesh and blood to look after, and my husband's funeral and doctor's bills to stand, and so—I did my best."
"You meant to do right, I have no doubt," said Mrs. MacDonald. "It was an error of judgment. Now, when the children have finished their doughnuts, I want you to tell John to show them the greenhouses."
Lizzie led the way, asking many questions about Maggie, and expressing her thankfulness that she was freed from an unhappy life.
The greenhouses were a delight to Edna. She was specially pleased to see ripe strawberries this early in the year, and gave the gardener a beaming smile when he told her to pick one for herself.
"I am going to carry it home to Miss Agnes," she declared.
"And I'll take mine to mamma," determined Dorothy, who had been allowed the same privilege.
Mrs. MacDonald had ordered the gardener to give them each a little bunch of violets, so they said their good-byes, much pleased with the visit.
"Wasn't it queer that I should have seen Mrs. Ryan?" said Edna. "I shall have so much to tell Maggie."
"I think it is funny for you to be friends with a little orphan asylum girl," returned Dorothy.
"Well, you see, she isn't zactly a orphan, 'cause they don't know whether she has a father or not, and then, you know, I feel so sorry for her."
"So do I," replied Dorothy. "I don't mean I wouldn't help her if I could, but I never knew anyone before who had a friend like that."
"O!" said Edna, suddenly, "my strawberry is getting so soft I shall have to eat it. I wish I had held it by the stem, instead of in my hand. Yours isn't a bit soft."
"Perhaps yours was the ripest. I'll eat mine, too, if you eat yours, and we can give mamma and sister the violets."
This was agreed upon, and the children disposed of the strawberries lingeringly.
Miss Agnes was lying on the lounge when they found her in the sitting-room.
"I have a bad headache," she told Edna. "Did you enjoy your walk?"
"Yes," replied she; "but I'm awfully tired."
"Come cuddle up here by me," said Miss Agnes. "You have had such an exciting time I don't wonder you are tired. You must go to bed early."
Edna was quite ready to share with Dorothy the pretty little brass bedstead, but she did not lie awake long, and in the morning was very loath to move when Dorothy called her.
"How red your face is," said Dorothy, as Edna sat up. "You look sort of queer."
"I feel sort of queer," replied she, putting her head down on the pillow again.
Dorothy slipped out of bed, and ran into the next room, where her sister slept. At her gentle little shake Agnes turned over with a sigh.
"What is it?" she asked, sleepily.
"Why—" began Dorothy. "O, sister, your face is red, too."
"Is it? I feel headachy."
"You and Edna look just the same way," declared Dorothy. And sure enough, both showed well-developed cases of measles.
Edna was not very ill, but it was not considered safe for her to go back to the city for some time, much to Dorothy's delight.
Hearing of the two sick girls, Mrs. MacDonald came over and took Edna under her especial care. She was an excellent nurse, and made the little child as comfortable as a tender mother could. Then when Edna was able to be up, and Mrs. MacDonald was no longer needed, every day came fruit or flowers from the kind woman.
One day Edna was much surprised by a visit from Uncle Justus. Two whole weeks since she had seen him; and he brought her—who would have thought it!—he brought Edna's doll, Ada, with him.
"Why, Uncle Justus," said Edna, looking at her doll with pleased eyes. "How did you happen to know that I wanted to see Ada so much?"
"I did not know; I only thought that a little girl who was so fond of her doll would be very likely to be glad to see it. When are we going to have you back again?"
"Next week," replied Mrs. Evans. "We cannot let her go till then. I am afraid that Dorothy will be very disconsolate at the loss of her little friend. They have had such good times together."
"I am afraid Edna will be very far behind her classes," said Uncle Justus, "and will have to study hard to make up for lost time."
Having seen Uncle Justus, and heard all the news, Edna felt that she should like to stay on indefinitely. It was very nice to be just sick enough to be considered, and to have good things to eat; to have such cosy little meals with Miss Agnes, before either of them were well enough to go down stairs; to receive from Mrs. MacDonald every day some dainty, and to have Mrs. Evans appear every evening with a delightful story book from which she would read aloud. Then it was pleasant to be thrown with such a bright companion as Dorothy, who was always ready to devise some new play or to shake out a bag of pretty pieces for doll clothes. Altogether, Edna thought herself very fortunate to have fallen into such good hands.
"It is almost like being at home," she said. "I wish you knew my mamma, Mrs. Evans."
"It will not be very long before you see her, will it?" asked Mrs. Evans, stooping to tuck in a shawl around the child.
"Not till May," replied Edna; "I s'pose mamma will stay till then."
"Well, perhaps you will come back next year, and then we shall see more of you."
Edna looked thoughtful. She knew there had been some talk of her returning another year. She loved all these friends, but she was still quite sure that home was best. Mrs. Evans' speech made her a little homesick. She wanted her mamma. To be sick without any mother at hand seemed a very unnatural thing. She was a little tired, perhaps. She would try to go to sleep.
She dozed off just as Dorothy came tiptoeing into the room. There was a look of pleased excitement upon her face, and she fidgeted about till Edna awoke from her little nap.
"Did I wake you?" she asked, contritely. "O, Edna, I know such a splendid something."
"What?" asked Edna, raising herself on her elbow.
"I can't tell you just now. You'll know pretty soon. O, you'll be so glad."
"I think you might tell me," returned Edna, a little peevishly.
"Don't be cross," said Dorothy, winningly. "I had to promise not to tell; but I did want you to expect something awfully nice."
"When shall I know?"
"O, I know what it is. I'm going to take a drive. Your mamma told me."
"That's not all," replied Dorothy, gleefully.
"I can hardly keep from telling, so please don't ask me. Here comes your supper—Mrs. MacDonald has sent you some lovely jelly."
Several times before bedtime Dorothy almost let out the secret, but Edna never suspected, so when the next day the carriage stood waiting to take her to drive she did not in the least know where they were going, nor why.
As the carriage turned into the driveway which led up to Mrs. MacDonald's house, Edna exclaimed, "O, I know the s'prise! We are going to see Mrs. MacDonald."
Dorothy clapped her two hands over her mouth as if to keep in the secret that trembled upon her lips. Then she looked up at her mother, repressing a little chuckle.
"Yes, we are going to Mrs. MacDonald's," said Mrs. Evans, smiling.
They were ushered into the cosy library, where an open wood fire was blazing. Some one was curled up in a big chair before the fire—a little girl with curly auburn locks falling about her face; she wore a soft cashmere frock, and was a very dainty-looking little maid. She glanced up quickly as the visitors entered the room. Then a bright smile broke over her face, and she ran forward to meet them.
"Why," exclaimed Edna, "it's Maggie! Maggie Horn!"
"No," and the auburn locks shook a decided negative; "no, it isn't Maggie Horn; it's Margaret MacDonald! O, Edna, I'm 'dopted!"
Edna danced up and down in sheer delight, and Dorothy followed suit. Then Edna gave Maggie a great hugging. "Tell me all about it," she said. "How did it happen? O, Dorothy, this is the most delicious secret that ever was. How did you keep it?"
Mrs. Evans left the children in order to find Mrs. MacDonald, who was in the conservatory, and Maggie began:
"Well," she said, smoothing down her frock, and taking a long breath, "I was in the schoolroom, you know, when Miss Barnes was called out to see a lady, and after a while she came back and said some one wanted to see me. I thought it was my beautiful Mrs. Ramsey, so I was very glad; but it wasn't Mrs. Ramsey at all, it was a lady I had never seen before. She looked at me very hard, and asked me a lot of questions, all about my mother and lots of things; and Miss Barnes told me to bring my Bible that belonged to my mother and show it to the lady, and when she saw my mother's name, 'Agnes Wallace, from her loving mother, Margaret Wallace, Glasgow, Scotland,' she said, 'Why, she has my name, Margaret, and she has Scotch blood in her, the same as I and my husband. She shall be my own little lassie!' That was what my mother called me, Mrs. Ryan used to say, and it sounded so natural. So she told me her name was Mrs. MacDonald, and asked me if I would like to be her own little girl, and—O, Edna! I was so glad. And that was three days ago. And O, it was like a dream, for when I got here who should run and meet me but dear old Mrs. Ryan. She told me my father died just after my mother did, and that nobody had a claim on me, so I could be Margaret MacDonald forever and ever."
"Well, chatterboxes," here a voice interrupted, "have you had your talk out? We must be going," and Mrs. Evans, with Mrs. MacDonald, entered the room.
Edna ran toward the latter. "O, Mrs. MacDonald," she cried, "I do want to kiss you. You won't be lonely any more, will you?"
"No, I think not," replied Mrs. MacDonald, "and I don't want my little daughter to be. So Mrs. Evans has promised that you and Dorothy shall spend day after to-morrow with us."
This was a delightful prospect, and Edna declared that the drive and the pleasure of seeing Maggie had made her feel entirely well.
"I can't get over it," she said. "To think of Maggie's living in that dear old house, and having that great big garden to play in and being just like any nice little girl. O, it is just too lovely for anything."
That was a happy day which the three little girls spent together. Margaret—as the two others delighted to call her—brought out the doll which had been awarded her at the fair, to be displayed to Dorothy's interested eyes.
"I must tell Miss Martin. She will be so glad," said Edna. "And O, Margaret, you must have Moggins. I shall have to send him out to you;" but there was a tinge of regret in her tone.
"Will Mrs. MacDonald let you keep him?" asked Dorothy, turning to Margaret.
"I'll go and ask her," decided Edna, and straightway took herself to Mrs. MacDonald, and was not long in winning her consent. But Margaret was not willing to rob her friend at once of such an amusing companion as Moggins. "Wait till you go home," she said, "and then you will not miss him." And Edna, although she protested, was secretly glad when this was decided upon.
A pretty little room had been prepared for Margaret to use as her very own. Mrs. MacDonald believed in substantials, and did not indulge in much ornament. She was extremely fond of flowers, and her greenhouse was her greatest luxury. The house in which she lived was large, old-fashioned, and exceedingly comfortable, but was not as tasteful in its appointments as that of Mrs. Evans, "I am a plain woman," said Mrs. MacDonald to Mrs. Evans, "and I'm not given to fal-lals, I like my flowers and my book; and now my little daughter suits me much better than if she were a beauty."
"She has a nice, sensible, interesting face," returned Mrs. Evans.
"And, please God, she shall be a nice, sensible, interesting woman," replied Mrs. MacDonald, "and I hope a contented one. It's just wonderful what one little child can do. I'm thinking, Mrs. Evans, of that little child Edna. She has brought gladness to more hearts than one by the loving little spirit in her."
"She's a dear little body," replied Mrs. Evans, "She always makes the best of things; her little cheery ways are good to see, and are a lesson to us older growlers."
"I think my Margaret is going to be much the same," said Mrs. MacDonald. "It's no wonder they took to each other. When poor little Margaret has forgotten how ill a world she lived in, I think she'll brighten many a life by her own content."
Meanwhile the children thus discussed were making the most of their opportunities, for the day was at hand when Edna must return to the city. It must be confessed that all these good times had rather spoiled the little girl for the taking up of her life at school. But she was very brave about it, and, indeed, rather reproached herself for having any regrets at all in leaving these pleasant friends. Then she began to wonder about Louis, feeling quite selfish at having been too much taken up in the affairs which had lately interested her to think of how he might be faring, and she set out with a serious mind for her journey home.
"We will stop at the post-office and see if there are any letters," said Mr. Evans, who had taken the little girl under his protection. "The train will not be due for some minutes."
And Edna stood on the platform until he should return.
"I did find a letter for you," he said, as he joined her, and she was handed an envelope addressed in Louis' schoolboy hand.
The train was now in sight, and, after establishing the little girl in a seat by the window, Mr. Evans left her for a few minutes and Edna opened her letter.
It was dated a day or two earlier. "Dear Edna," it read, "I am going to run away. Don't tell anyone. I know you won't go back on me. I am going to my father and mother in Pasadena.
A distressed little child it was who turned the letter over and over, helplessly. She had been having such a good time; all unhappy things had been smoothed away from her, and it seemed as if this going back became suddenly more dreadful than she could possibly have expected. She was very quiet during the short trip, once in a while casting furtive glances at Mr. Evans, who, absorbed in his newspaper, did no more than address a word or two to her. He set her down at her uncle's door, bidding her good-by pleasantly, and telling her that they should hope to see her in the country often.
The latch of the door being up, Edna went in, feeling very heavy-hearted.
It was early on Saturday afternoon, the house was very quiet; there was no one in the sitting-room and Edna went through the dining-room and on to where she heard voices.
Ellen in a freshly scoured kitchen was chatting with a friend while she set things to rights. She turned with an exclamation at the sight of Edna.
"Bless the choild!" she cried. "Comin' in like a bit of a ghost! It's good to see ye, darlint. An' are ye well again? Let me see. Thim cheeks bid to be a bit more rosy."
"Where is uncle?" asked Edna.
"Sure the two of thim is after foll'in' Masther Louis."
"And Louis?" Edna's lip quivered. She hoped against hope.
"Hear now; he's gone, av coorse."
"When did he go?" asked Edna, her voice shaking.
"Poor dear; don't mourn; to be sure ye'll be missin' him. He went to-day. Let Ellen take off your wrap, and thin ye can go up and see how nate an' nice yer room looks," and Ellen turned to continue an exciting bit of gossip for her friend's benefit.
Edna slowly went up stairs. She felt, O, so lonely, and such a weight as Louis' secret gave her. Ellen couldn't understand, and didn't seem to care. What should she do? If Louis' father and mother only knew, perhaps they could do something; grown people had so many ways of preventing mishaps; time and space were often no obstacles to them. Suppose Uncle Justus and Aunt Elizabeth should find him and bring him back. Edna's sympathies were divided. She knew her cousin would be punished, and yet she knew the others would be troubled sorely if he did not return.
She sat on the top step of the stairs, thinking, thinking harder than ever before in her life. Louis had run away because he was unhappy. He had not let his parents know for fear they would tell his aunt and uncle to take measures to prevent it. But if they knew he had actually started, they would realize, maybe, how miserable he had been and would take his part. If she could only let them know. Why, she could, of course she could. She could send a telegram. She knew she could. There was a telegraph office down at the depot from which she had just come. Perhaps she could get there and back before her aunt and uncle returned, and no one would miss her.
Fired by this idea, she started out intent upon the business in hand. She had little difficulty in finding the place, and went timidly up to the desk.
She stood still, not knowing just what to do until the clerk, looking up, said, "Well, little girl, what is it?"
"I want to send a telegram;" she answered.
"Where?" asked the man, pulling a blank toward him.
Edna carefully unfolded the letter from Louis. "Pasadena, California," she said.
"Name?" continued the man.
"Mr. William Morrison."
"Well, what is the message?"
Edna looked doubtfully at him.
"Have you forgotten it?" he asked.
"No, but I—but I—"
"Well, then, out with it." The man was a trifle impatient.
"I think I had just better say Louis has runned away."
The man looked at her a moment, and a smile came over his face. "O, you are sending it yourself, are you?" he said.
"Do you want to pay for it, or shall it paid at the other end?"
Here was another dilemma; but Edna concluded that since the contents of her little purse might not cover the expense, it would best be paid for at Pasadena. Then having asked her name, the man told her it was all right, and she left with a sense of relief.
She was making her way home again as fast as possible, when suddenly she stood still with terror, for coming up the street, directly toward her, was a herd of Texas cattle on their way to the stock yards.
If there was anything that Edna feared, it was these creatures; their wide-spreading horns seemed to menace her even a block away, and as the foremost one was quite near, she turned in a perfect agony of fear and went tumbling pell mell up the first high flight of steps which she happened to see. It seemed to her that she would never be able to get out of the way of those dreadful horns, and the rushing sound of hoofs and the bellowings which were issuing from the creatures appeared to surround her completely.
How she reached the top step she hardly knew, but, scrambling, falling, in her haste she gained her place of safety, sprawling flat on her face as she did so.
Meanwhile Uncle Justus had returned and was told by Ellen that Edna had arrived.
A pleased look came into Professor Horner's face. "Send her to me, Ellen," he said, and Ellen hastened up stairs to do his bidding. Failing to find the child in her room, she hunted high and low, but no Edna, and she returned to Professor Horner in perplexity.
"Shure, sor, I've looked the house over, an' the choild is nowhere at all, at all," she informed him.
Uncle Justus looked annoyed. "Some one should have been here when she came," he said to himself. "Perhaps she went to the candy shop to spend some pennies; no doubt that is it. She will be here in a few moments;" and he settled himself comfortably.
But the time passed and Edna did not appear. Professor Horner walked the floor thoughtfully, then putting on his hat and coat he went out, first to the candy shop, where nothing was learned of Edna, then to the different houses in the neighborhood in which the little girl's schoolmates might be found, but no one had seen the child, and Uncle Justus returned home to find that his wife had arrived.
She, too, looked anxious as her husband appeared with no little niece. "Edna is an obedient child," she said, "and she is not prone to get into serious mischief, but—"
"That is why I am the more anxious," replied Uncle Justus.
"I was about to say that this influence, under which she has been, may have spoiled her," continued Aunt Elizabeth, remembering that it was at her husband's suggestion that the visit to the country was made.
Uncle Justus frowned. "That is not likely; and if it were, what has it to do with the case?"
"She may have taken a fancy to go back there."
Uncle Justus caught at the suggestion. He rose to his feet.
"Where are you going?" asked Mrs. Horner. "I am going to see if she has gone back;" and he was soon on his way to Mr. Evans' office. That gentleman insisted on making the journey with the perturbed professor, and the two set out together But on arriving they found only the family, and the situation grew more and more perplexing. "I am sure Edna is too conscientious to start back here without leave," said Mrs. Evans. "She talked very cheerfully of her return."
"I am so afraid she is run over by a trolley car," said Agnes, in distress.
"Or maybe she is lost and will be out in the dark night all alone," wept Dorothy. "O, papa, do try and find her." And the two men returned to the city together.
No news at police stations of a lost or injured child, and to the railway depots as a last resource they betook themselves. As Uncle Justus was making his inquiries some one stood by listening. It was one of the colored porters.
"'Scuse me, sah," he said, "but I b'leeves I seen de little lady you all's inquirn' fo'. I 'members her on account of de 'casion of a accident when she was on boa'd our train along o' her pa. I reckleck she went to de telegraph office dis afternoon. I were gwine to call myse'f to her remembers, but she slip out whilst I were busy, sah."
Yes, the man at the telegraph office did remember her. "A little girl," he said, "yes, sir, wore a plain frock and a big hat. Yes, she came here and got us to send a message."
"What was it?" asked Uncle Justus, eagerly. The man smiled. "As near as I can recollect, it was, 'Louis has runned away.' It was sent to Mr. William Morrison, Pasadena, California."
Uncle Justus looked puzzled. "I cannot understand why the message was sent," he said, and after some further questions he concluded to return home.
Meanwhile how fared it with Edna? At the instant that she fell upon the stone step, in her flight from the cattle, the door opened and she was lifted to her feet by a pleasant-looking boy, who, followed by another, came out of the house.
"Why, little girl," said the boy who gave her his help, "you've cut your lip; it is all bleeding. Did you fall down? That is too bad." And he began tenderly to wipe off the stains of blood. "Come in and let mother wash it off," he continued. "You call mother, Steve," he said to the other boy, and Edna was drawn into the house whether or no.
Some one came swiftly down the hall. "What is the matter, Roger?" a voice asked. "Why, I know this little girl. I have wondered for a long time if I should see her again. It is little Edna Conway;" and, looking up, Edna recognized her kind travelling companion, Mrs. Porter.
"And you never came to see me," continued the lady, reproachfully. "I had quite given you up, but 'better late than never,' and now that I have you I mean to have a good long visit to make up for your not coming before."
"I couldn't come before," replied Edna; "my aunt doesn't allow me to visit." She looked up wistfully, not liking to explain that this appearance of herself was purely accidental. "But I'm very, very glad to see you," she added.
Mrs. Porter was busy washing off the stain. "It isn't very much of a cut," she said. "I do not think it will trouble you much."
"I was so afraid of the cows," replied Edna, "and I ran up the steps as hard as I could scramble out of the way."
"They are rather terrifying, I admit. How came your aunt to allow you away down here alone, when she is so particular?" asked Mrs. Porter.
Edna was silent, and stood with downcast eyes. Then she looked up, saying, candidly, "My aunt didn't have anything to say about it. I had to come. I had to, indeed I did, but I'd rather not tell why."
Mrs. Porter looked down into the clear eyes, but they answered her look too innocently for her to suspect any wrong motive. So she smiled and kissed her little visitor. "Never mind, then," she replied. "Now you are here you must stay and take tea with us. I want you to know my boys. You look rather pale. Have you been sick?"
"I've had the measles. But I must go home, Mrs. Porter. They will be worried about me."
"No, they won't. I will send Steve with a note right away. I will tell your aunt that you tumbled up my steps, and that I am going to keep you a while. I will make it all right."
And this was done forthwith. There was no resisting Mrs. Porter, but yet Edna had a little uneasy feeling at heart that it was not just right for her to remain, although she felt tired and her head ached.
Stephen was dispatched with the note, and soon returned, saying he had delivered it safely into Ellen's hands. And the two boys proceeded to amuse their little visitor with as much gallantry as possible. Roger brought out his Punch and Judy figures. Stephen displayed his electric motor and his gold-fish; therefore the afternoon passed very quickly, and Edna forgot her fright and her troubles in all the new and interesting games the boys had to show.
"I wish we had a little sister," said Roger.
"And I wish my two brothers were here," returned Edna.
"We'll be your two brothers while you are here," said Stephen.
Edna laughed. "Then I'll have to call you Frank and Charlie," and she proceeded to decide which should be which, and to tell the boys of her brothers' pranks and funny sayings.
This was after tea, when the three were having a fine time over a game of "Parchesi," sitting around a big table.
Presently the bell rang; there were voices in the hall—questions and answers—and Mrs. Porter was summoned; then, in another minute, in walked Uncle Justus.
A look at his face told Edna something of his anxiety; but he held out his hand, and she went straight to him, where he kept her close, as if he could not let her go.
"We thought you were lost," he said, in trembling tones; "I have been looking for you since early in the day."
"O," cried Edna, "Uncle Justus, I am so sorry."
"Didn't Mrs. Horner get my note?" asked Mrs. Porter.
"That she didn't receive it made the trouble," replied Uncle Justus. "The maid took the note and put it on the hall table, where it was not discovered until an hour ago, Ellen having forgotten it and not connecting it with Edna. In the meantime I have been searching everywhere."
"It is my fault," cried Mrs. Porter; "I should not have kept Edna this time, but I was so glad to see her, and she had hurt herself; besides, she looked so pale and tired."
"Where were you going when you started down town?" asked Uncle Justus.
"O," Edna said, "Uncle Justus, I felt so dreadfully about Louis. I couldn't stand it."
"Well, my child, I don't understand why you should; but we had better go straight home now, and relieve the minds of your friends."
Edna did not talk much on the way home, but she held Uncle Justus' hand very tightly. "Was I very bad?" once she asked, softly.
Uncle Justus, for answer, gave her hand a little squeeze, and she was satisfied. She did not ask about Louis, for she thought her uncle had been troubled enough. She felt that somewhere and somehow she had made a mistake.
"I don't believe little girls know just what is right to do without asking grown people," she said, as they left the car and neared home. "It's awfully hard to do right every time by yourself, isn't it, Uncle Justus?"
"Yes; it is best to ask advice," he replied, as he opened the front door with his latch-key.
Edna rushed in. The sitting-room seemed full of people. Who were they all? Why, there was Louis—not run away at all, but safe and sound, with an arm fondly around his mother's neck. And there—no, it could not be! There were her own father and mother. Edna gave one scream of joy—ignoring Aunt Elizabeth, whom she had not seen for three weeks, scarcely seeing Louis or anyone, but throwing herself into the dear arms for which she had so often longed during these last months.
"So, my little runaway, we have you safe and sound," said her father.
Edna looked around bewildered. She a little runaway! Did he mean her? Why, it was Louis who ran away. "I didn't run away," she said, indignantly; "it was Louis," and then everybody laughed—why, she didn't know.
"Now, give an account of yourself," said Mr. Conway. "Who told you Louis had gone away?"
"Why, Ellen did," replied Edna.
"So I had gone!" piped up Louis; "I went with papa and mamma to the hotel. They came this morning, and uncle and aunt came to take dinner with us there."
"O," exclaimed Edna, "and I sent word by the telegraph that you had runned away."
"What made you think that?" asked Mrs. Conway.
Edna looked at Louis; he looked rather sheepish, but he was brave enough to help Edna out of the difficulty now that he had his father and mother at hand. "Why—I—I—wrote to Edna," he faltered; "I said I was going to run away, and—and—what did Ellen say?"
"She said—let me see—she—why I asked where you were, and she said you were gone, and, of course, I thought you had run away, and when she said aunt and uncle had followed you I thought it must be so, and I was in such trouble I didn't know what to do 'cept to telegraph your father so he would get you, somehow; and, O, dear! I saw some dreadful cows, and I was so scared that I tumbled up the steps and Mrs. Porter's boys let me in. Then Mrs. Porter made me stay; and O, just think of it! I never knew my own papa and mamma were so near. Did you get my telegram?" she asked Mr. Morrison, innocently.
"No," he said, laughing, "it may be at the hotel now, if it was re-sent by my friends in Pasadena. You were a dear child to think of doing something for Louis, although it turned out to be such a time of trial."
"I think," said Mrs. Conway, "that Uncle Justus is the one who has had the hardest time. We knew Edna was safe as soon as we reached here, for then the note from Mrs. Porter had been found. Poor Ellen was so distressed at your loss that she never once thought of giving Aunt Elizabeth the note. You meant well, daughter, but you were too young to take matters into your own hands."
Then Mr. and Mrs. Morrison took their leave, and Louis went with them.
"I'm going home soon," he said to his cousin. "Say, Edna, I'm awfully sorry about all this fuss. It was all my fault, but I did mean to run away, only father and mother came."
"I'm very glad you didn't go," answered Edna.
It is very doubtful if Louis would have gone any great distance, even if he had started, although he stuck to it that the arrival of his parents alone prevented his making the venture.
"O, mamma! O, mamma! it is really you," said Edna, when her cousin had gone. "When am I going home with you?"
"In a few days," replied her mother.
Uncle Justus, looking at her, sighed.
"Don't you want to stay with us?" asked Aunt Elizabeth, as if she, too, felt that it would be hard to part.
With the dear mother-arms so near it was not easy to think of anyone else, but the feeling sorry for people was always ready to rise in Edna's heart, and she looked from one to the other. Poor Uncle Justus! she did not like to leave him, and even Aunt Elizabeth seemed more lovable when she considered the distance that would soon be between them.
"O," she cried, "I want you all!"
"Well," replied her father, cheerfully, "I don't know but what that can be managed. I have been thinking of a plan which we will talk over to-morrow. Just now it is high time for runaways to be in bed;" and with a kiss all around Edna said "Good-night."
Edna stood at her high-up window fastening her frock and looking out at the scene before her. She saw the white sails in the far distance; the smoke of the train which wound its way along the outskirts of the city past the green meadows beyond; she counted over again the chimneys of the houses opposite.
To-morrow, and to-morrow—and still another to-morrow she would have her mother. It seemed to her that she was never so glad in her life. All the unhappy things seemed to have melted away like snow. Louis was safe; Maggie had a happy home; mamma and papa were with her, and soon she should see sister and the boys; and Edna gave a long sigh of content as she fastened her last button and turned to go down to breakfast.
"Now, mamma, what are we going to do?" she asked, when the meal was over.
"I have concluded not to let you return to school," mamma replied, smiling. "All this excitement has been too much for one little girl to stand, without lessons; besides, the measles do not leave one's eyes in the best condition, and we shall be going home in a day or two, so it is not worth while to begin for so short a time; so we will go shopping this morning."
Edna's face beamed. "O, mamma, then we can get sister's buckle, and take it to her. I never had a chance to go to many shops, because Aunt Elizabeth only deals at one or two places, and so I could not find the buckle I promised sister."
"Very well. Then I want to call upon Mrs. Porter and thank her for her kindness to my little girl, who has had so many rough places to go over."
Edna was thoughtful. "It has been very mixy up, hasn't it, mamma? So many things have happened. What made you come back a month sooner than you expected?"
"Because I was feeling so much better, and papa had business in the city. Should you like to live in the city, daughter?"
Edna laid her head on her mother's shoulder. "I should like to live anywhere that you are mamma; but I think it is nice out where Dorothy Evans and Maggie live. O, mamma, I have a whole bushel of things to tell you. I believe my tongue will wear out before I get through."
And truly, mamma told her before the day was over that her tongue must be "hung in the middle to wag at both ends." But what a delightful day it was! So many pretty things to see. Something to be chosen for the boys, and for Celia a buckle, just like Grace Neal's, which was found after some hunting.
"Mamma," said Edna, "I should like to get something for Ellen, she has been so good to me."
"Of course," replied mamma, "that must not be forgotten;" and material for a pretty frock was chosen.
"And, mamma," continued Edna, as with much satisfaction she saw the breadths measured off, "could I get some tiny little something for Uncle Justus?"
"And Aunt Elizabeth?" added mamma.
"Ye-es," said Edna, rather doubtfully; "but—but—"
"But what, dear?"
"I should like what we get for Uncle Justus to be the nicest."
Mrs. Conway smiled. "You love Uncle Justus, don't you, dear? He has always seemed so stern and distant I hardly fancied you would find the way to his heart."
"But, mamma," said Edna, sagely, "it is such a big heart when you do find your way there." A remark which mamma considered a very wise one for such a little girl to make.
"What should you like to get for Uncle Justus?" asked Mrs. Conway. "What very nice thing do you think he would fancy?"
Edna looked perplexed.
"How would a nice umbrella do?" her mother asked.
"He might lose it, and it would wear out. I want something that will not wear out."
"That is not easy to find, although a book comes near it. How would that do?"
Edna shook her head. That didn't seem to please her, and her eyes wandered around the shop in which they were. Suddenly she jumped down from the high stool upon which she had been sitting.
"I know," she exclaimed. "A clock—I'd like a clock, 'cause he'd have to wind it up, and it would remind him of me, and I'll tell him when it is ticking it says 'Ed-na, Ed-na,' just as if it were talking."
Mamma laughed, but thought it a very good choice. A pretty little memorandum tablet was then bought for Aunt Elizabeth, and the shopping for that day was finished.
"I am afraid we shall be too late for a noonday meal if we go back," said Mrs. Conway. "I told Aunt Elizabeth not to expect us, so we will take a luncheon downtown."
This was a very delightful experience, and one that had never come to Edna before; therefore she enjoyed her meal hugely.
"Now we must go to see Mrs. Porter," said mamma, and Edna was made quite happy by having her mother say that she quite agreed with her little daughter in thinking Mrs. Porter a very charming woman.
"And, mamma, don't you think we ought to go to see Mr. and Mrs. Martin before we go home?" asked the little girl.
"To be sure, I want to meet all your friends, Mrs. Evans, Mrs. MacDonald, and all, but next we shall have to go to the hotel, where your Aunt Clara and Uncle William are."
"And Louis," added Edna.
"This is a jolly place," said Louis, when the two children were left alone. "I tell you I enjoyed my supper last night. No one said to me, 'Butter or molasses,'" and Louis' imitation of Aunt Elizabeth made Edna laugh.
"Now tell me," she said, settling herself in a big chair, "were you really going to run away? How was it?"
"Why," replied Louis, a little awkwardly, "I might have gone; but, you see, when I wrote to father and mother about not getting along well and all that, and when Uncle Justus wrote about that time, you know when the boys were there, and said I ought to be in a regular boys' school, where I'd have companions, they concluded they'd send me to a military school next year. I'd like that; I'll learn to drill and have a fine time, with boys to play with all the time, although," he added, seeing a little hurt look on Edna's face, "to tell you the truth, Edna, if it hadn't been for you I don't know how I should have managed; we did have some good times, and you made me ashamed of myself lots of times; so I didn't get into trouble near as often as I might have done if you hadn't been there; but while you were away I couldn't stand it, and I really did think I'd run away—I should have stopped on the way to say good-by to you, though—but when father and mother came I forgot all about everything, you see. I tell you, you are a brick, and stood up for me like a Trojan. I told father and mother all about it."
Praise like this was very sweet to Edna.
"You stood up for me when that boy, that Phil Blaney, was so dreadful," she made answer.
"Ho! that was nothing, I found out what a mean sort of a chap he was that day, and I've not liked him since. I like Charlie Stabler much better. Say, how will you like living here?"
"What do you mean? Am I really to come back? Did you hear mamma say so? And you will not be here. O, dear!"
"I heard some talk of you all coming here to live."
"That was what papa meant then. O, I wish I knew."
"He's in the other room now talking to my father. Let's go ask him," and the children ran tumultuously in to Mr. Conway.
"Well, I'm thinking of it," was his reply to their questioning. "It looks now as if my business would bring me here."
"And we'll really all come here to live?" cried Edna.
"Yes, I think so."
"O, then! O, papa! Couldn't we live in the country where Dorothy Evans lives? Mr. Evans comes to the city every day. It isn't far."
Mr. Conway looked at his wife. "That would not be a bad idea," he said.
"It would be an excellent one provided we can find the right place. I think it would be much better for the children," she replied.
So then and there it was arranged that a trip in that direction should be made the next day.
"Edna will be so happy to be near her friends," said Mrs. Conway to Mrs. Morrison; "although I do believe the child would try to be contented anywhere," she added.
"She has a very helpful spirit," returned Mrs. Morrison. "I don't know what Louis would have done without her. She has been much braver than he." An admission which, while perfectly true, Mrs. Conway thought was a very generous one for a mother to make.
"I can take Moggins to Margaret," said Edna, delightedly, on their way back to Aunt Elizabeth's; "and you can see all the people I like so much, mamma, my dear Miss Agnes, and all."
The gifts were duly presented, and Uncle Justus promised that the clock should say, "Ed-na, Ed-na" to him, and, many a time after, as he sat beside the fire in his easy chair, did the cheerful ticking remind him of the little loving child.
The expedition to the country was a great success. Moggins behaved beautifully, for he was curled up asleep in his basket most of the way. Margaret's delight on again having him was good to see. She was overjoyed at the possibility of having Edna for a neighbor, and Dorothy fairly screamed at the news.
"I know just the place to suit you," said Miss Agnes to Mrs. Conway. "It is about halfway between here and the depot. You know that white house, Edna, with the vines over the porch and the big oak tree on the lawn; it is so pretty there in summer, and is very convenient to the station." And true enough it proved to suit exactly.
After this came the preparations for returning home. At first the question was raised as to whether or not Edna should be left with her aunt and uncle until after the removal, but the sight of the little, wistful, disappointed face went to the mother's heart, although Edna made no protest.
"We expect too much of the child," she said to her husband. "She has been more courageous than most children under many sore trials to a sensitive little heart; and she loves her pets, and has been separated from us all so long." Therefore, Edna was told she could pack up Ada's belongings and make ready for the return.
"We shall not be ready to remove for a couple of months," said mamma, "and you will have a good time running about for that length of time."
It was not hard to say good-by when there was such a near prospect of coming back, and even the parting with Louis was made easy because he was to spend part of the summer with his cousins.
"When we get to our new home we shall have such a good time," said Edna. "The Porter boys can play with our boys, and I can play with Dorothy and Margaret, and sister can have Miss Agnes, and O, it will be just splendid!"
It was very delightful to be at home again; to find everything looking just the same; to discover that Snowflake was nearly ready to hatch out a brood of chickens; that Mooly had a dear little calf; that the boys were as funny as ever; that sister was so, so glad to see the little traveler. And, of course, they were all ready to chatter and question and wonder over the events which had taken place and which were to take place. So the weeks went so quickly that it seemed no time before they were busy making preparations for going to their new home. By the end of the summer they were cozily settled in the white house, and had found corners for gardens and places for their pets. Uncle Justus made frequent trips to see them, and was consulted on such grave subjects as whether a gray kitten or a black one were the prettier, and what flowers would look best in a certain little garden bordered around with pebbles. He was taken to see Mrs. MacDonald, and actually seemed pleased to meet Moggins again—a fact which no one appeared to believe when Edna told it. But, then, no one understood Uncle Justus quite as well as this little niece of his.
Aunt Elizabeth is much more of a favorite than her husband with people generally; she is so bland and affable. She too enjoys an occasional trip to the country, and is always interested in telling Margaret how matters progress at the Home of the Friendless.
Later in the year three little girls, with the sister of one of them, started together to school, going to the city in the morning and returning when school was out; but during the winter months, when the days were shorter, they all remained under Uncle Justus's roof, from Monday until Friday, as Agnes had done—Agnes, who was then going to college. The Porter boys—nice little fellows—are great friends of Edna's brothers, and often come out to spend Saturday with Frank and Charlie. Louis sometimes comes for a holiday, and shows himself much more manly; he is gradually outgrowing his peevishness and selfishness, so that he bids fair to be a fine man.
The three little girls get along famously. It was whispered among the school children that Margaret was an "orphan asylum girl," and there were some who disdained her in consequence, but Edna's love and loyalty, with Dorothy's help, came to the rescue, and now Margaret MacDonald is one of the most popular girls in the school. She is so bright and amiable; moreover, the little romance about her being lost and found gives a zest to the friendships she has formed.
Celia has her own friends, and is a great stronghold for the three little girls when matters go wrong with them, as they must sometimes do. She has never found the way to the heart of Uncle Justus as Edna has, but it is unlikely that any one can do that, for, although the little clock ticking away on the mantel often says "Ed-na, Ed-na" to Uncle Justus, it often speaks another name which he has given to his favorite, but which she has never heard—"Heart Content."
The Popular MARY LEE Books for Girls
MARY LEE'S FRIEND MARY LEE AT WASHINGTON MARY LEE, THE RED CROSS GIRL MARY LEE, THE CAMPFIRE GIRL
These delightful girls' stories are each written by an authority; one well versed in the particular subject. The stories are timely. At the same time the books make absorbing reading.