"No, no," protested her mother, but Jennie persisted in forcing at least one upon her. When Marty saw how the berries were enjoyed she felt very well repaid for having been satisfied with a smaller portion herself.
Mrs. Ashford inquired what had been done for Jennie, and found she had had no doctor since coming to the city.
"I have no money to pay a doctor," said poor Mrs. Scott, wiping her eyes, "and I can't go to a stranger and ask him to attend her for nothing. I give her the medicine the doctor told me to get when she was first hurt, but it don't seem to do any good now."
Mrs. Ashford said she would speak to a doctor not far from there, with whom she was well acquainted, and she was sure he would be willing to come and see what could be done for the child.
"It is very hard that you have to be away from her so much, when she is sick, and almost helpless."
"It is hard, mem, but what can I do? I must work to pay the rent and get us bread, and glad enough I am to have the work. And she's not always so forlorn as you found her, for mostly she can move herself. She's a bit weak to-day. Then when I go for all day, I leave things handy on a chair by the bed, and the people in the house are real kind, coming in to see if she wants anything and to mend the fire."
In the meantime the children were not saying much, for Jennie, besides being somewhat shy, appeared tired and weak. She was greatly pleased with the book and cards, holding them tenderly in her hands. Marty sat in silence a while, and then asked,
"Have you a doll?"
"No," replied Jennie. "I never had one."
"Never in your whole life!" exclaimed Marty, extremely astonished.
"No," said Jennie quietly. "But wunst we lived next door to a girl who had one, and sometimes she let me hold it. It was the very beautifulest kind of a doll, I think," she added with great animation: "had light curly hair and big blue eyes."
Marty was so overcome that she could do nothing but stand and gaze at the little girl who never had a doll, and nothing more was said until her mother was ready to go home.
On their way home Mrs. Ashford stopped at Dr. Fisher's, and finding him in his office, made her plea, and readily obtained his promise to see Jennie.
All the way Marty was unusually silent and appeared to be thinking intently. When they were nearly home she said impressively,
"Mamma, do you know, Jennie never had a doll—never in her whole life!"
"No, ma'am; and I've been thinking I'd like to give her one of mine."
"Do you think you could part with any of yours?"
"I love them all dearly, but I think I could do it to make Jennie happy. I know she'd like to have a doll, and it would be a long time before I could save money enough to buy her one."
"Well," said Mrs. Ashford, "I'm sure she would be very happy with one of yours, but you had better take time to think it over well, and not do anything you would afterward regret."
Marty thought it over until the next evening, and then said she still wished to give Jennie the doll.
"Very well, then," said her mother, "I am willing you should do it. Which doll do you think of giving her?"
"Why, she is your third largest and one of your prettiest! Why do you choose her?"
"Because Jennie would like a fair doll, and she's the only fair one I have except the one Grandma Brewster gave me, and I shouldn't like to give that away." And then she repeated what Jennie had said about the next-door girl's doll.
So it was settled that Laura Amelia was to leave home the next Saturday. Her clothes were put in good order, and Mrs. Ashford made her a travelling dress.
On Friday night when Marty, in her little wrapper and worsted slippers, made her appearance at the sitting-room door to say "Good-night," she had Laura Amelia clasped in her arms.
"Halloa! Miss Moppet," said her papa. "Are you off? What's the matter with that dolly? Do you have to walk her to sleep?"
"Oh, no. She's very good, but she's going to sleep with me, because it's the last night she'll be here."
Marty tried to reply steadily, but her voice trembled.
"Ah!" said her papa sympathizingly. "Where is she going?"
"I'm going to give her to Jennie."
Of course Mr. Ashford had heard all about Jennie. He approved of her being helped, but did not like to see Marty in distress, and he noticed her eyes were full of tears.
"It is a shame for the child to give away playthings she is fond of," he said to his wife.
"I didn't tell her to give it," replied Mrs. Ashford. "It was her own notion."
"Here, Marty," said her father, putting his hand in his pocket, "you keep that doll yourself and I'll give you some money to get Jennie another one."
"Oh! no, papa," said Marty earnestly. "Thank you ever so much, but I want to give Jennie a doll all myself, and I've quite made up my mind to give her this one. I thought it over a whole day—didn't I, mamma? You mustn't s'pose I don't want to give Laura Amelia to Jennie, because I do, but you know such things make one feel a little sad for a while."
"I presume they do," said Mr. Ashford, smiling as he lifted both Marty and the doll to his knee. "How many dolls have you?"
"Seven, counting the two little china ones."
"Well, that's a pretty numerous family for one small girl to care for. I guess you can spare Lucy Aurelia."
"Lucy Aurelia!" Marty laughed heartily. "O papa, what is the reason you never can remember my dolls' names?"
"I don't see how you can remember them yourself." Then as he kissed her goodnight he said,
"I am glad my little girl is learning to be kind to the poor and friendless."
The next day there was some prospect that Marty would not get to Jennie's after all, as Mrs. Ashford could not very well go with her and would not let her go alone. Marty was preparing to be dreadfully disappointed, but her mother said, "Wait until after lunch and we will see what can be done."
Just then there was a tap at the door, and a tall, dark-eyed, smiling young lady entered.
"Why, here's Cousin Alice!" exclaimed Marty, and the warm welcome the visitor received from them all showed what a favorite she was.
"I've come to stay to lunch if you will have me," she announced, throwing her wrap and gloves on the couch. Marty immediately invited her to stay for ever, and Freddie began building a wall with his blocks all around her chair so that she could not possibly get away.
"Alice," said Mrs. Ashford, after there had been a good deal of talk and play, "I am going to ask you to do something for me."
"I shall be only too happy to do it, Cousin Helen," said Miss Alice in her bright way. "You have only to speak."
"Marty wants to do an errand down near the old postoffice this afternoon. I don't like to have her go into that part of the town by herself, and I can't go with her. Would you be willing to go with her?"
"Most certainly," was the cordial reply.
"Oh! that will be splendid," cried Marty.
Then both she and her mother proceeded to tell their cousin all about Jennie, after which Marty dressed the doll and packed its clothes in a box.
"What a good idea it is of Marty's to give that doll and all its belongings to Jennie!" said Miss Alice. "It will be such amusement and occupation for her when she is alone so much. It must be perfectly dreadful to lie there all day, and day after day, with nothing to do and nothing to interest her. I suppose she cannot read."
"Not very well, I fancy, for her mother said they had moved about so much before she was hurt that she had very little chance to go to school. I suppose there is really not much of anything she could do now, as she is so weak and miserable, but it has just occurred to me that if she gets stronger under Dr. Fisher's treatment, you might help her to a light, pleasant occupation which would enliven her dull life."
"I? How? I'm sure I should be very glad to do anything possible for the poor girl."
"You might teach her to crochet or knit. You do such work to perfection and know so much about it. I know you have plenty of odds and ends of worsted and other materials, and I can furnish you with a good deal more. If she is able to learn, I think it would be a charming work for her, and might be very useful in coming years."
"That is an excellent suggestion. I shall be very glad to teach her, or at least try to teach her, for I don't know how I should succeed in the attempt."
"Oh! you would succeed beautifully, and it need not take up much of your time, as Landis Court is nearer you than it is to us, and you could run over for a little while any time. But you can see when you go whether it is worth while to speak of the matter."
"It would be just lovely!" was Marty's opinion.
"Now, Marty," cautioned her mother, "don't you say anything about it to Jennie. Just let Cousin Alice do it in her own nice way."
"A thousand thanks," said Cousin Alice with her gay laugh. "I'll be sure to do my prettiest after that."
When they made the visit, however, it was found useless to mention crocheting or any other subject to Jennie. Her attention was altogether absorbed by the doll. Mrs. Scott happened to be at home, and while she was bustling around getting chairs for her visitors and Marty was introducing her cousin, Jennie never took her eyes from Laura Amelia. Presently she said in a trembling voice,
"May I hold your doll a minute?"
"I brought her for you," said Marty, handing the doll.
"For me to hold a minute?"
"No; to keep. She's your dolly now."
Jennie looked perfectly bewildered at first, and then when she began to understand the matter she clasped the doll in her arms and burst into tears.
Marty was very much frightened. "Oh! don't let her cry," she said to Mrs. Scott. "It will make her sick."
"Never mind, missy; she'll soon be all right. Come now Jennie, don't cry. Sit up and thank the little lady for the beautiful present. But it's too much to give her. Who'd ha' thought of you bringing such a handsome doll! And just what she's always wanted but never looked to having. I'm sure I don't know how to thank you," and the poor woman threatened to follow Jennie's example, and cry over their good fortune.
Then Cousin Alice came to the rescue by suggesting that Marty should tell Jennie the doll's name and show her wardrobe. The little girls were soon chattering over the contents of the box, and Miss Alice learned from Mrs. Scott that the doctor had been to see Jennie. He said he saw no reason why with proper treatment she should not become well again, though it was likely she would always be somewhat lame and perhaps never very strong. He had sent her strengthening medicine and said she must drink milk every day.
Then began better times for Jennie than she had ever had in her life before. First, as she would have said herself, there was the doll to love and cherish, to dress and undress, to talk to and to put to sleep. Then there were the books and pictures, for between Marty and Edith, who also came, her stock of them increased rapidly. Then there was the decrease of pain and the increase of strength, for what with the bathings and rubbings that the doctor ordered, and the nourishing food that Mrs. Ashford and Miss Alice sent, she began to get greatly better.
When she arrived at the point of sitting propped up in bed for several hours at a time, Miss Alice spoke of the crocheting and found her exceedingly willing to learn. She took it up quite rapidly too, and very much enjoyed working with the bright worsteds.
Miss Alice was greatly interested in her pupil and sometimes made quite long visits, teaching her or reading to her, and her visits made the little invalid so happy that she got better all the faster.
THE GOOD SHEPHERD.
Marty and Edith often accompanied Miss Alice when she visited Jennie. Sometimes they each took a doll to visit Laura Amelia, also carrying some of their dishes and having a dolls' tea-party. This always pleased Jennie very much, though at first she scarcely knew how to play in this quiet, lady-like fashion, as she had only been accustomed to playing in the street with rough children before she was hurt. Of course she had had no chance at all to play during the last year.
Sometimes the girls read little stories to her. This she viewed as a surprising accomplishment, as she could only spell her way along, not being able to read well enough to enjoy it. So in one way or another they entertained her, making her forget her weakness.
Sometimes they talked about other things, telling her of the mission-band, though, as it was something so outside of her experience, she could, with all their explanation, hardly form any idea of it. She took more interest in descriptions of the country, the green fields, shady woods, and pretty gardens. She was very fond of flowers, and during the early summer her friends kept the poor room quite bright with them. An old lady living near Mrs. Ashford, and having an unusually large yard for the city, had a great many flowers, and hearing of Marty's sick friend in Landis Court, told her whenever she was going over there to come and get some flowers for Jennie. This delighted both little girls extremely.
One day when they were all with Jennie, she picked up one of her cards that had on it a picture of a shepherd leading his flock and carrying a lamb in his arms. She wanted to know what it meant, and what a shepherd was, and what sheep were. After it had been explained, she said,
"'Shepherd' makes me think of a hymn they used to sing in the Sunday-school down in the Harbor."
"Did you ever go to Sunday-school?" asked Marty.
"I went a little while when we lived down in the Harbor. My teacher had a lovely velvet cloak trimmed with fur."
"Didn't she tell you about the Good Shepherd?" Edith inquired.
"No. She didn't seem to know about any kind of shepherd. Leastways she never let on that she did. But they used to sing beautiful hymns, and one was about a shepherd."
"Was it 'Saviour, like a shepherd lead us'?" asked Marty.
"That was the very one!" exclaimed Jennie in delight. "How did you know that was it?"
"I thought it might be."
"Would you like to have us sing it now?" Miss Alice inquired.
"Oh, yes, indeed!"
So they sang it, Jennie joining in whenever they came to the words, "Blessed Jesus," which, besides the first line, was all she knew.
"Is blessed Jesus a shepherd?" she asked.
"He is the Good Shepherd," replied Edith.
"Where's his sheep?"
"All who believe on Him are his sheep, for the Bible says, 'My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.'"
Miss Alice saw that Jennie did not altogether understand Edith, so in a few simple words she explained that Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, speaks of himself as the Good Shepherd, and calls us to follow him. Then taking up the picture again she repeated what she had said about shepherds and their flocks, and also went over some of the hymn they had been singing, until Jennie began to get into her little muddled brain quite a clear idea of Jesus, our Shepherd.
"Where is your Bible? I will show you the chapter about the Good Shepherd."
"I ha'n't got one. Mother has one, but I guess it's locked up in that little black trunk. It's a purple one with clasps that somebody gave her long ago, and she always had to keep it hid for fear papa'd sell it for whiskey."
Jennie said all this very coolly, she was so much accustomed to the kind of life in which there was more whiskey than Bible; but Edith and Marty looked much shocked.
"Never mind," said Miss Alice, "I will bring my Bible the next time I come and read the chapter to you."
Just then a beautiful plan flashed into Marty's head, and as Edith was included in it, she could not resist reaching over and giving her arm a tiny squeeze. Edith must have partly understood, for she answered with a smile.
In the meantime Miss Alice was saying to Jennie,
"Did you ever hear the Psalm beginning, 'The Lord is my Shepherd'?"
"I don't b'lieve I ever did," said Jennie.
"Marty, can't you and Edith repeat it for her?"
Marty was not sure she remembered it all, but Edith knew it, and the beautiful Psalm was reverently recited.
That evening as Mrs. Scott, wearied with the labors of the day, was seated in one of the stiff, hard chairs doing some mending by the uncertain light of a smoky lamp, Jennie told her all that had been said and done in the afternoon, and then asked,
"Mother, can't you find that about the shepherd in your purple Bible and read it over to me?"
"I'll try, but I'm a poor reader, Jennie, and anyways I don't know as I can find the place you want."
She unlocked the trunk and bringing forth, wrapped in soft paper, an old-fashioned, small-print Bible that had once been handsome, but was now sadly tarnished, she screwed up the smoky lamp and began to turn the leaves.
"I don't know where the place is, child. I'm none so handy with books, and there's a great many different chapters here."
"It was about green pastures and quiet waters. Miss Alice said a pasture is a field, and it minded me of that grassy field where Tim took me the summer before he died. You know there was a pond in it, and we paddled along the edge. It was the prettiest place I ever saw, and on awful hot days I wish I was there again. I think it must be just such a place the Bible shepherd takes his folks to."
Mrs. Scott turned the leaves back and forth, anxious to please Jennie, but unable to find what she wished.
"Now I mind," exclaimed Jennie presently: "Miss Alice didn't call the green pasture piece a chapter; she called it a Psalm."
"Oh! now I'll find it," said her mother. "I know about Psalms, for my good old grandfather used to be always reading them, and I used to think it was queer the way they was spelt—with a 'p' at the beginning. I saw them over here a minute ago."
Then after a little more searching she inquired,
"Is this it? 'The Lord is my Shepherd: I shall not want.'"
"The very thing!" Jennie exclaimed joyfully.
Mrs. Scott, though with some difficulty, managed to read it, while Jennie listened with closed eyes and clasped hands, thinking of the delightful places into which the Shepherd leads his flock.
"They're sweet verses," said Mrs. Scott, as she closed the book, after laying a piece of yarn in to mark the place, "and it rests a body to read them. I call to mind now that many's the time I've heard my granddad read 'em. And I've heard 'em in church, too, when I used to go."
"Why don't you go to church sometimes now, mother?" Jennie asked. "There's nobody to rail at you for going. You might borrow Mrs. O'Brien's bonnet after she's been to mass, and go round to the church on the front street, where we hear the singing from every Sunday."
Mrs. Scott began to think she should like to go. She cleaned off her old black alpaca as well as possible, and the next Sunday, borrowing her kindly Catholic neighbor's bonnet, she went to church for the first time in many years.
She came home delighted, and had much to tell Jennie about the pleasant gentleman who gave her a seat and invited her to come again, about the good sermon that she could understand every bit of, and the rousing hymns, which indeed Jennie could hear with the window open.
Not long after this, one of the ladies Mrs. Scott worked for gave her a partly-worn sateen dress and a black straw bonnet, so that she was fitted out to go to church all summer; and go she did with great enjoyment. It was a pleasure to Jennie also, for with listening to the singing as she lay in bed, and hearing about all that was said and done from her mother, she almost felt as though she had been at church herself.
The purple Bible was not locked up any more, but kept handy for Miss Alice to read, and to mark passages for Mrs. Scott to read in the evening, for Jennie liked to hear the same things over and over.
The plan that popped into Marty's head that day she told to Edith on the way home, after they had left Cousin Alice.
"O Edie!" she said, "wouldn't it be nice to give Jennie a Bible for her very own?"
"You mean for you and me together to give it?" said Edith.
"Yes. You know my birthday comes in August and yours in September, and we always get some money—"
"And we could each give half, and get Jennie a Bible," broke in Edith.
"Yes; or if we couldn't do it then, we might have enough by Christmas."
"And it would be a beautiful Christmas gift!"
"Oh! do let us do it," said Marty, seizing Edith and whirling her around and around.
"Yes, do," said Edith, panting for breath.
"NOW DON'T FORGET!"
It was well on in June, and Mrs. Ashford was very busy making preparations to go to the country with the children.
Two successive summers they had spent at a very pleasant mountain farmhouse, but the last year they had gone to the seashore. This summer Mrs. Ashford decided for the farmhouse again, to Marty's great delight, for it was a perfect paradise to her.
She herself had many preparations to make—deciding which dolls to take and which to leave at home, and getting them all ready for whatever was to be their fate. It also took a good deal of time to choose from her little library the few books her mamma allowed her to take for rainy days. It was a weighty matter, too, to select a suitable present for Evaline, the little girl at the farmhouse, as her father suggested she should do, and gave her money to buy it.
Then Jennie was very much on her mind.
"What will she do for soup and jelly and things when we are away, mamma?" she asked anxiously.
"I shall tell Katie to carry her something now and then," Mrs. Ashford replied. "Besides, Cousin Alice will be in town until August, and she will look out for Jennie. Then Mrs. Scott told me the other day that she had got all her back rent paid up now, and she expects to have three days' work every week all summer; so they will get on very well."
Another day Marty came home from Jennie's in distress.
"Mamma," she said, "the doctor says Jennie may soon begin to sit up in an easy-chair; and they haven't got any. Their two chairs are the most uneasy things I ever saw in my life. Now, how is she going to sit up?"
Mrs. Ashford laughed as she said, "Well, I was going to give you a surprise, but I may as well tell you now that I have sent that old rocking-chair that was up in the storeroom to be mended, and am going to give it to Mrs. Scott."
Marty was overjoyed to hear this.
"And, oh! mamma, wont you give them the small table that stands in the third-story hall? You always say it is only in the way there, and it would be so nice beside Jennie's bed to put her things on, instead of a chair."
"Yes, I suppose they might as well have it."
"And the red cover that belongs to it, mamma?"
"O Marty, Marty!" exclaimed her mother, laughing. "How many more things will you want for Jennie? But the red cover may go too."
These things were sent, together with some of Marty's underclothing, a pair of half-worn slippers, and a couple of Mrs. Ashford's cast-off gingham dresses, to be made into wrappers for Jennie. Edith and Cousin Alice also brought some articles for Jennie's comfort.
"She will need a footstool with that chair," said Cousin Alice. "I have an extra hassock in my room; I'll bring that."
Mrs. Howell sent an old but soft and pretty comfort to spread over the chair, and which would also be handy for an additional covering in case of a cold night.
"A curtain on the window would soften the light on hot afternoons," Miss Alice thought. So she made one of some white barred muslin she had and put it up. She also thought that as Jennie still had not much appetite, some prettier dishes than those Mrs. Scott had—they were very few, and very coarse and battered—might make the food taste better.
"I know, when I am ill," she said to Mrs. Ashford, "the way my food is served makes a great difference."
So she brought a cheap but pretty plate, cup, and saucer, with which Jennie was extremely delighted.
"After we all go away there wont be anybody to take flowers to Jennie," said Edith, "and I'm afraid she'll miss them. She does enjoy them so much. I've a great mind to buy her a geranium. May I, mamma? They're only ten cents."
"Of course you may. I think it would be very nice for Jennie and her mother to have something of the kind growing in their room," said Mrs. Howell.
She went with Edith to the florist's, and after helping her to select a scarlet geranium, she bought a pot of mignonette and another of sweet alyssum for Edith to give to Jennie.
Marty helped Edith to carry their plants to their destination, and what rejoicing there was over that window-garden!
"It's too much! too much!" exclaimed Mrs. Scott, wiping her eyes as she looked around the now really comfortable room.
Then when Miss Alice came in, as she did presently, with four bright-colored Japanese fans which she proceeded to fasten on the bare walls, that seemed to cap the climax.
"There never were kinder ladies—never!" exclaimed Mrs. Scott, while Jennie was too much overcome to say anything.
"It wont be so hard for Jennie to be shut up here, and she wont miss Marty and Edith so much, if she has these little bits of bright things to look at," said Miss Alice.
Marty took the greatest interest in helping to arrange all these things for Jennie's comfort and happiness, and in thinking, too, how much pleasure they would bring into poor Mrs. Scott's hard-working life. When she went home after her final visit to Landis Court, she said with a sigh of relief,
"Now they're fixed comfor'ble, and we can go as soon as we like."
All this time that she had been so engaged with Jennie she had not neglected the mission band, but attended the meetings regularly and became more and more interested in what she heard there.
She still pursued the plan of giving to missions at least a tenth of all the money she got. During the spring and early summer she had had two or three "windfalls"—one or two small presents of money, and once her father had given her a quarter for hunting out from an enormous pile certain numbers of a magazine he wished to consult. Besides she had made a little money solely for the missionary-box by hemming dusters for her mother.
The meeting on the third Saturday in June was very important, as it was the last regular meeting that would be held until September, and there were many arrangements to be made.
Most of the girls and Miss Walsh herself expected to be away two months, but several members were to be at home all summer and a few were only going away for a short time. Miss Walsh said she did not think it fair that those remaining in town should be deprived of their missionary meetings. It had therefore been decided that the meetings should be continued, though not just in the same way as during the rest of the year. No business was to be transacted and the girls were not to sew unless they wished.
At this "good-by" meeting, as they called it, Miss Walsh had a few words to say both to the stay-at-homes and to those who were going away. To the first she said,
"Dear girls, we leave the band in your hands knowing you will do all you can for its best interests. Mrs. Cresswell has kindly invited you to hold your meetings at her house. I have appointed four of the older girls to lead these meetings—Mary Cresswell and Hannah Morton in July, Ella Thomas and Mamie Dascomb in August. I have given each of these leaders some missionary reading in case you run short, but I dare say you will find plenty of things yourselves. I also intend to write you a little letter for each meeting, and should be glad to have any or all of you write to me."
To the others she said,
"Now when you are away having a good time, don't forget missions. Keep up your interest and come home ready to work more earnestly and faithfully than ever. There are many ways of keeping the subject fresh in your minds and of helping along with the work even in vacation times. But you know this as well as I do, and I should like the suggestions as to how to do it to come from you."
After a pause Edith said, "We all know the subjects for the next four meetings, and we might study and read just as we should do at home."
"That is a good suggestion," said Miss Walsh, "and one I hope you will all adopt; for if you don't, I'm afraid the go-aways will be far behind the stay-at-homes."
"We might remember what we hear about missions and tell it when we come back," said one of the others.
"That would be very instructive and pleasant," said their leader; "and you may have plenty of opportunity to hear, as in these days very interesting missionary meetings are often held at summer resorts. Besides you may meet individuals who can give you much information."
"We might do as you are going to do and write letters to the band at home," said another.
"I know the band at home would like that very much, but you must remember that they must be letters suited to a missionary meeting."
"We might join with others in holding meetings," suggested Rosa Stevenson. "In the cottage where I was last summer there were four other girls and two boys who belonged to mission-bands, and we had a meeting every Sunday."
"Good!" cried Miss Walsh.
"If we meet any children who don't know about missions, we might tell them about our band and what we do," said Daisy Roberts timidly.
"The very thing, Daisy!" exclaimed Miss Walsh, patting the tiny girl on the shoulder. "And you think that might start them up to become mission workers, do you?"
"Yes, ma'am," replied Daisy.
"I think," said Marty, after various other suggestions had been made, and she wondered that no one had thought of this, "I think we all should take our missionary boxes and banks and barrels and jugs along with us, and put money in regularly as we do at home."
"That is very important," said Miss Walsh, "because if we neglect to lay by our contributions at the right time, trusting to make up the amount when we return home, we may find ourselves in a tight place and our treasury will suffer. And now, dear missionary workers, wherever you may be, at home or abroad, don't forget to pray every day for the success of this work. Remember what we are working for is the advancement of the kingdom of our blessed Lord and Saviour."
And then before the closing prayer they all stood up and sang,
"The whole wide world for Jesus."
This meeting filled Marty with the greatest enthusiasm and she felt as though she could do anything for missions. She would not forget the subject for a single day, she was sure.
"Oh Miss Agnes," she said, "I sha'n't forget missions. I'll study the subjects every week and learn lots of missionary verses. I'll save all the money I can; and I'll tell somebody, if it's only Evaline, all I know about missionary work. I'll tell her the first thing when I get there. To be sure she can't have a band all by herself, but it may do good somehow."
OFF TO THE MOUNTAINS.
"Here's your train!" said Mr. Ashford, hurrying into the waiting-room where he had left his wife and children while he purchased their tickets. "I'll carry Freddie. Come, Marty."
While they were waiting their turn to pass through the gate Marty and her mother were jostled by the crowd against two small, ragged, dirty boys, who had crept by the officers and were looking through the railings at the arriving and departing trains.
"Lots of these folks are goin' to the country, where 'ta'n't so hot and stuffy as 'tis here," said the larger boy. "Was you ever in the country, Jimmy?"
"Naw," replied the other, a thin, pale little chap about seven, leaning wearily against an iron post. "Never seed no country, but I wants to."
Marty and her mother, who heard what was said and saw the wistful look on the small boy's face, pressed each other's hands and exchanged a sorrowful glance. Then they were obliged to move on; but after going through the gate Marty pulled her hand out of her mother's and, running back, took a couple of cakes from a paper bag she carried and passed them through the fence to the boys. How their faces brightened at this little act of kindness!
"Marty, Marty!" called her father, who had not seen what she did and was afraid she would get lost in the crowd, "where are you? Hurry up, child!"
Then, when he had made them comfortable in the car and was about bidding them good-by, he said,
"Now, Marty, when you change cars stick closely to your mother and don't be running after strangers, as you did a moment ago."
"Why, papa," Marty protested earnestly, "they weren't strangers; at least I know that littlest boy with the awfully torn hat. He is Jimmy—"
"Well, well, I can't stop now to hear who he is, but I didn't know he was an acquaintance of yours. However, don't run after anybody, or you will get lost some of these days. Good-by, good-by. Be good children, both of you."
"Who was that boy, Marty?" asked Mrs. Ashford presently.
"He's Jimmy Torrence, and he lives in Jennie's house. Don't you remember I told you that one day, when we were all in Mrs. Scott's room singing to Jennie, a little boy came and leaned against the door-post and listened? Mrs. Scott told him to come in and took him on her lap. She gave him a cup of milk, and after he went away she said he had been sick with a fever and his folks were very poor. There's a good many of them, and they live in the third-story back-room."
"Oh, yes, I remember. So that is the boy. Poor little fellow! He looks as if he needed some country air."
"Doesn't he!" said Marty. "O mamma, don't you think that society Mrs. Watson belongs to would send him to the country for a week? That would be better than nothing."
"I fear they cannot, for Mrs. Watson told me the other day that there are a great many more children who ought to be sent than they have money to pay for."
"I wish he could go," said Marty.
The boy's pale, wistful face haunted her for a while, but in the excitement of the journey it faded from her mind.
After the rush and roar of the train how perfectly still it seemed in the green valley where stood Trout Run Station! How peaceful the mountains! how pure and sweet the air!
"Mamma," said Marty almost in a whisper, "everything is exactly the same as ever."
"Mountains don't change much," replied Mrs. Ashford as she seated herself on one of the trunks and took Freddie on her lap.
"But I mean this funny little station and the tiny river and the old red tannery over there, and the quietness and everything! And oh, there's Hiram! He looks just as he did summer before last, and I believe he's got on the very same straw hat!"
Hiram, Farmer Stokes' hired man, who had come to meet the travellers, now appeared from the rear of the station, where he had been obliged to stay by his horses until the train had vanished in the distance. His sunburnt face wore a broad smile, and though he did not say much, Mrs. Ashford and Marty knew that in his slow, quiet way he was very glad to see them. He seemed to be particularly struck by the fact that the children had grown so much, and when Freddie got off his mother's lap and ran across the platform, Hiram gazed at him in admiration, also seeming highly amused.
"I can't believe this tall girl's Marty, and as for the little boy—why, he was carried in arms the last time I saw him!"
"Two years makes a great difference in children," said Mrs. Ashford.
"That's so," Hiram assented. "Well, I reckon we'd better be moving."
"How I dread the steep hills," said Mrs. Ashford as they were being helped into the wagon after the baggage had been stowed away. "I do hope your horses are safe, Hiram. Now, Marty, be sure to hold on with both hands when we come to the worst places."
"Don't you be 'fraid, Mrs. Ashford; there isn't a mite of danger," said Hiram, gathering up the reins. "Get up!"
"Get up!" cried Freddie, who had watched the process of getting started with the greatest interest, and who was now holding a pair of imaginary reins in one tiny fist and flourishing an imaginary whip with the other.
Hiram laughed aloud. That Freddie could walk was funny enough, but that he could talk and make believe drive was too much for Hiram. It was some time before he got over it.
"How's Evaline?" asked Marty. "Why didn't she come to meet us?"
"She's spry. She wanted to come along down, but her ma was afraid 'twould crowd you."
After a drive of about three miles among the mountains, the winding road gradually ascending, with here and there a somewhat steep incline, they approached an open, level place from which there was a magnificent view of what Marty called the "real mountains." For these wooded or cultivated hills they were driving among were only the beginnings of the range. Here was a cluster of houses and a white frame "hotel" with green blinds.
"They've been doing right smart of building in Riseborough since you were up," said Hiram to Mrs. Ashford. "You see the hotel's done, and Sims has built him a new store, and Mrs. Clarkson's been building on to her cottage."
"Is the hotel a success?" asked Mrs. Ashford.
"First-rate. Full all last summer, and Dutton expects a lot of folks this season. A big party came up t'other day."
They had a chance to see the guests at the hotel, ladies on the piazzas and children playing in the green yard, while Hiram stopped to do an errand at the store, which was also the postoffice.
Nearly another mile of up-hill brought them to their destination—a brown farmhouse with its red barns and granaries standing in the midst of smiling fields and patches of cool, dark woods, while in the distance rose grand, solemn mountains.
There was Evaline, seated on the low gatepost, and Mrs. Stokes and her grownup daughter, Almira, in the doorway, all on the lookout and ready to wave their handkerchiefs the moment the wagon appeared.
"It's more like going to see some cousins or something than being summer-boarders, isn't it, mamma?" said Marty.
"Here we all are, Mrs. Stokes!" cried Mrs. Ashford from the wagon. "Quite an addition to your family."
"The more the merrier! I'm right down glad to see you," said good-natured Mrs. Stokes, coming to lift the children down and kissing them heartily.
The travellers were very tired after their long day's journey. Mrs. Ashford and Marty were ready to do justice to the good supper provided, but Freddie was only able to keep his eyes open long enough to eat a little bread and milk. The next morning, however, he was as bright as a button, and took to country life so naturally that he was out in the yard feeding the chickens before his mother knew what he was about.
A PLAN AND A TALK.
Marty so enjoyed being back at the farm, and there was so much to see and to do, that for four or five days she could think of nothing else. She and Evaline raced all over the place, climbing trees and fences, playing in the barn or down in the wood, paddling in the little brook, riding on the hay-wagon, and going with the boy to bring home the cows.
In short, the delights of farm life for the time being drove everything else out of Marty's head, and it was not until Sunday morning that she gave a thought to missions. Perhaps she would not have remembered even then had not her mother said,
"Marty, here are your ten pennies. I forgot to give them to you yesterday."
"There!" thought Marty. "In spite of what Miss Agnes said the very last thing, I've forgotten all about missions. I've never told Evaline a breath about them, and I haven't prayed or done anything."
She got out her box and put in it her tenth, and four pennies for a thank-offering for the happy time she had been having. She also got the list of subjects Miss Walsh had furnished her with, and some of her books; but there was no time to read then, for her mother had said she might go to church with Mr. and Mrs. Stokes, and she must get ready. Evaline was not at home, her uncle having called the previous evening and taken her to spend a couple of days at his house.
There was preaching that Sunday in the schoolhouse at Black's Mills, a village between four and five miles distant in the opposite direction from Riseborough. It was quite a novelty to Marty to go so far to church, but it was a lovely drive and she enjoyed it extremely. It certainly seemed strange to attend service in the battered little frame schoolhouse, without any organ or choir, and to eat crackers and cheese in the wagon on the way home, as Mrs Stokes was afraid she would be hungry before their unusually late dinner. But Marty was so charmed with country life and all belonging to it that she considered the whole thing an improvement upon city churchgoing.
In the afternoon she took her Bible and some missionary leaflets, and going into a retired place in the garden read and studied for more than an hour. The missionary spirit within her was fully awake that day. She longed to talk with Evaline and could hardly wait until it was time for her to come home. But by Tuesday, when she did come, Marty's head was full of other matters, such as a discovery she had made in the wood of a hollow in an old tree which would be a lovely playhouse, and an expedition to Sunset Hill that was being talked of. So in one way or another nearly two weeks of vacation had passed before this Missionary Twig, who had been so ardent to begin with, had redeemed her promise of trying to interest somebody in the work.
But in the meantime she had thought of Jimmy Torrence. The way he was brought to her mind was this. She was with her mother on the side porch, Monday morning, when Mrs. Stokes, coming out of the kitchen with floury hands, inquired,
"Mrs. Ashford, did you see the little boy in the carriage that just passed 'long?"
"Yes," replied Mrs. Ashford.
"Well, you just ought to have seen him when they brought him up here three weeks ago—his folks are boarding over at Capt. Smith's; such a pale, peaked child I never saw! Had been awful sick, they said, and now you see he looks right down well."
"Why, yes, he does," said Mrs. Ashford. "I should never imagine he had been ill very recently. The country has certainly done him good."
"That's just it!" said Mrs. Stokes. "There's nothing like taking children to the country a spell after they've been sick. Makes 'em fat and rosy in less than no time."
"Oh! mamma," exclaimed Marty. "That makes me think of poor little Jimmy. I wish we could do something to get him sent to the country."
"I wish we could, but I don't see any way to do it. I have given all I can afford this summer to the different Fresh-Air Funds."
"Can't you think of anything, clothes or such things, that you were going to get me, and that I could do without, and send the money to Mrs. Watson?" pleaded Marty.
"I can't think of anything just this minute," answered her mother with a gentle smile, "but if you will bring Freddie in out of the hot sun, and get something to amuse him near here, I'll try to think."
"Oh! do, please. And mind, mamma, it must be something for me to do without—not you."
Marty ran down the yard to where Freddie, with red face and without his hat, was rushing up and down playing he was a "little engine."
"Freddie," she called, "don't you want to come and make mud pies?"
This was a favorite amusement of the small boy, and instantly the little engine subsided into a baker. Marty led him up near the porch, where there was a nice bed of mould—"clean dirt," Mrs. Stokes called it—and they were soon hard at work on the pies.
Marty enjoyed this play as much as Freddie, and it was some time before she thought of asking,
"Mamma, have you thought of anything yet?"
Mrs. Ashford smiled and nodded.
"What is it?" exclaimed Marty, bounding up on the porch.
"I don't know whether you will like the plan or not, but it is the only thing that occurs to me. Your school coat will be too short for you next winter, and I was going to get you a new one. But the old one could be altered so that you might wear it. I have some of the material, and could piece the skirt and sleeves and trim it with braid. As it always was a little too large for you about the shoulders, it would fit next winter well enough that way. Doing that would save about five dollars as near as I can calculate."
"Then we should have five dollars for Jimmy?"
"But would it be much trouble to you to alter the coat?"
"It would be some trouble, but I am willing to take that for my share."
"Oh! then let's do it," cried Marty.
"Wait, wait," said her mother. "You must think it over first. You know when you do things in a hurry, sometimes you regret them afterwards."
"I know I sha'n't regret this," Marty protested; "but I'll go and think a while."
She went and sat down on her last batch of pies, resting her head on her knees, with her eyes shut. In a very short space of time she was back at her mother's side.
"Oh! you have not thought long enough," said Mrs. Ashford. "I meant for a day or two."
"There's no use thinking any longer, for I know I'll think just the same. I've thought all about how the coat will look when it's pieced, and how all the girls will know it's pieced, and how I'd a great deal rather have one that isn't pieced. Then I thought how pale and sick Jimmy looks, and how much he wants to go to the country, and how much good it would do him to go, and how he has no nice times as I have, and, I declare, I'd rather wear pieced coats all the rest of my life than not have him go." She winked her eyes very hard to keep back the tears.
"Very well," said Mrs. Ashford, stroking the little girl's flushed cheek, "we will consider it settled. I will write to Mrs. Watson this afternoon, inclosing the money, and telling her about Jimmy."
By Saturday a reply came from Mrs. Watson saying that arrangements had been made to send Jimmy to a kind woman in the country, who would take good care of him, and it was probable the money Marty had sent would pay his board there for nearly three weeks. She also said that Jimmy had been very poorly again. Dr. Fisher, finding him in Mrs. Scott's room one day when he called, had seen how miserable the boy was, and had given him medicine, and had said, when he heard he was going to be sent to the country, that it would be just the thing, better than any amount of medicine. The letter also stated that Mrs. Fisher had fitted Jimmy out in some of her little boy's clothes. So he would be very comfortable.
"Could anything be nicer!" exclaimed Marty. "I'm so glad of it all!"
The same mail that brought Mrs. Watson's letter brought Marty's little missionary magazine, which she always wanted to sit right down and read.
"Now," said her mother, after they had got through talking over the letter, "I wish you would mind Freddie while I write some letters."
Marty took her magazine into the back yard where Freddie was playing with his wheelbarrow under the lilac-bushes. She sat down by the big pear-tree to read, though not forgetting to keep an eye on her little brother's proceedings. Missions seemed as interesting as ever as she read. Presently she saw Evaline coming out of the kitchen with a pail of water and brush to scrub the back steps.
"Evaline," she called, "when you get through your work come down here where I'm minding Freddie, wont you? I want to tell you something."
"Yes," replied Evaline, "I'll come pretty soon. This is the last thing I've got to do."
She soon came and threw herself on the grass beside Marty, who forthwith began showing her the magazine and telling her in a rather incoherent way about mission work in general and their band in particular. She told how many belonged to the band, what they did at the meetings, how much money they had, and what they were going to do with it; how this band was only one of hundreds of bands that were all connected with a big society; and how the object of the whole thing was to teach the heathen in foreign lands about God and try to make Christians of them.
"That must be the same thing that Ruth Campbell was talking so much about a while ago," said Evaline when Marty stopped, more to take breath than because she had nothing further to say.
"Who's Ruth Campbell? and what was she saying?"
"Why, the Campbells live in that house that you can just see the top of from our barn. Ruth's as old as our Almiry, but she knows a heap more, for she went to school in Johnsburgh. She taught our school last winter, and is going to again next. She told us about something they have in Johnsburgh, and it sounds very much like yours, so it must be a mission-band. She said she wished we could have one here, but none of us paid much attention to it."
"Oh, I think you would like it ever so much," said Marty; "only maybe there wouldn't be enough children round here to make a band," she added doubtfully.
"How many does it take?" asked Evaline.
"Oh, bands are of different sizes. I s'pose you could make one of four or five."
"There's a sight more children than that on the mountain," said Evaline with some contempt. "But then some of 'em mightn't want to send their money away to the heathen; and anyhow, I don't know where they'd get any money to send. Folks up here, 'specially children, don't have much."
"Why, I thought the country was just the place to make money for missions," cried Marty. "There's 'first-fruits' and such things that are a great deal easier got at in the country than in town. And I have heard of children raising missionary corn and potatoes, and having missionary hens that laid the very best kind of eggs regularly every day, that brought a high price."
"Yes, but who's going to buy the things up here? Folks all have their own corn and potatoes and hens. And how'd we children get a few little things miles and miles to market?"
Marty was rather taken aback by this view of the subject. "The children I read about got somebody to buy their things," she said.
She was rather discouraged because Evaline was not more enthusiastic about missions, and thought there was no use trying to further the cause in this region; but fortunately she happened to tell Almira what they had been talking of, and she took up the subject as warmly as Marty could wish, saying she thought it would be very nice to have a missionary circle of some sort.
"Ruth has talked to me about it," she said, "and I promised to help, but we can't seem to get the children interested."
"Aren't there any interested, not even enough to begin with?" inquired Marty.
"Well, there are Ruth's two brothers and sister, and I think Joe and Maria Pratt, who live just beyond Campbell's, might be talked into it. Then there's Eva, but she doesn't seem to care much about it."
"I care a great deal more since I heard Marty tell about her band," Evaline declared, "and I wouldn't mind belonging to something of the kind, only I don't see where I'd get any money to give."
"We'd try to manage that," said Almira.
After that for a few days there was a good deal of talk among them all on the subject, and some reading aloud afternoons from Marty's missionary books. Finally Mrs. Stokes said she thought it would be a very good thing for the young people in the neighborhood to have a society, and proposed that Almira and the little girls should go over and spend the next afternoon with Ruth, when they could talk the matter over.
THE MOUNTAIN MISSION-BAND.
"I am very glad Marty came up here this summer, for I do believe, with her to help us, we shall get the mission-band started at last," said pretty, blue-eyed Ruth Campbell, after they had all been talking for an hour or so as hard as their tongues could go.
When she had learned what her visitors' errand was, she had called her sister and brothers and had sent Hugh over for Maria and Joe Pratt. Then they had quite a conference on the shady porch, Ruth sewing busily all the while.
"I'm afraid I can't help much," said Marty.
"Why, you have helped and are helping ever so much. You've got Evaline all worked up, and Maria too, and by telling us what you do in your band you have given us many hints for ours."
"Now, Ruth," said Evaline, "let's begin the band right away, so that we can have some meetings while Marty's here. You must be president, of course."
"Evaline has it all settled," said Ruth, laughing. Then turning to Almira she asked, "Which do you think would be best—just start a kind of temporary band and wait until school opens to organize, or organize now, trusting to persuade others to join?"
"I think it would be best to organize now. It will be easier to get them to join a band already started than it will be to get them stirred up to begin," was Almira's opinion.
Then she wished to know what they would do about her. She wanted to belong, but then she was not a child.
"Do you know of any band, Marty, that has both children and young ladies?" she asked.
"No," replied Marty. "In our church the young ladies have a band themselves."
"But this isn't a church band; it's a neighborhood band," Ruth interposed; "and as we haven't many folks up here, I think it will be well not to divide our forces, but to include all in one organization. Of course Almira must belong. I think, though, before organizing we had better see and invite some of the other neighbors. Effie, couldn't you and Maria go over to McKay's and see what they think of it?"
Effie, a gentle girl of thirteen, just as pretty and blue-eyed as her sister, thought she could.
Joe Pratt said he knew a boy he thought might come.
"How about the Smiths, Evaline? Do you think any of them would be interested?" Ruth inquired.
"Sophy might," Evaline replied rather doubtfully.
"Well, you see her, wont you? They are not far from you."
It was finally resolved that as everybody was so busy through the week during this harvesting season, a meeting should be held the next Sunday afternoon. The place chosen was a grove which was just half way between Mr. Stokes' and Mr. Campbell's. If, however, the day was not suitable for an out-door meeting, they were to assemble in Mr. Stokes' barn, a fine, new affair, much handsomer than his house, and occupying a commanding situation from which there was a beautiful view.
When everything was settled the children ran off to play, and Almira helped Ruth and her mother to get supper.
The next Sunday was a lovely day, not too warm, and the meeting in the grove was a decided success. Altogether there were fourteen present, though two were visitors, Marty and one of Capt. Smith's summer boarders, who came with Sophy. Ruth had a nice little programme made out, and after the exercises they organized. Ruth was elected president, Almira, for the present, secretary, and Hugh Campbell, treasurer. They decided as long as the weather remained pleasant to meet every Sunday afternoon. In winter, of course, they could not get together so frequently.
They had already had, and continued to have, many discussions about ways of earning their missionary money. One thing the boys thought of was to gather berries and sell them to the people in the valleys, mountain blackberries being esteemed very delicious. There would be plenty of work about that—first climbing the heights and then carrying their burdens for miles.
Ruth was so much taken with Marty's plan of making tenths the basis of what she gave to missions that she concluded to adopt the same plan.
"That's easy enough for you," said Almira. "You have your salary and half the butter-money, but I have no income. You know we don't sell much butter. I'll have to think of some other way to earn a little money."
"Well, do hurry and think what we can do, Almira," said Evaline fretfully. She depended on her sister always to do the thinking. "I'm afraid we wont have anything to give."
"I am thinking," said Almira.
The result was she asked her father if he would let her and Evaline have a strip of the field adjoining the garden next summer, where they might raise vegetables. When he consented she asked Mrs. Dutton at the hotel if she would buy these vegetables. To this Mrs. Dutton, who knew the good quality of everything from the Stokes farm, and what a "capable" girl Almira was, readily agreed.
"There now, Eva," said Almira, "by weeding and gathering vegetables you can earn your missionary money."
"But, Almira," said Marty, "how will you ever get the things down to the hotel?"
"Well, the evenings Hiram has to go to Trout Run to meet the market train, he can take my baskets for the next day along. Other days, if I can't do any better, I can harness Nelly and take them down in the morning myself before she is needed in the fields."
"You'd have to get up awfully early."
"Oh, yes!" said Almira, laughing. "I'll have to get up about three o'clock, I suppose, to have the things ready in time."
"Three o'clock!" exclaimed Marty in dismay.
"There's going to be plenty of hard work about your missionary money, Almira," said Mrs. Ashford.
"Oh, I'm willing to do the work," replied Almira. "From all Ruth says, it is a cause worth working for."
"Yes; but all that wont be till next summer—a year off," objected Evaline. "How are we going to get any money sooner?"
But Almira had another plan.
"Father," she said, one evening, "instead of hiring an extra hand this fall to sort and barrel apples, wont you let Evaline and me do it, and pay us the wages?"
"Do you think you could do as much work as a man?" inquired the farmer good-humoredly.
"I'll back Almiry for fast and good work against any man I ever saw," said Hiram emphatically.
Mr. Stokes laughed quietly. "Well," he said, "'t will be hard work, with all else you have to do, but I'm willing you should try."
"I can do it," Almira answered determinedly.
After another spell of thinking she said to Evaline, "We might raise some turkeys next summer. They bring a good price."
"Oh, turkeys are such a bother!" cried Evaline. "They take so much running after—always going where they might get hurt."
She had had some experience in minding young turkeys.
"But just think of the money we'd have," Almira reminded her. "And you know we'll have to work for our missionary money somehow."
"That's so," said Evaline, who was not fond of work. "It might as well be turkeys as anything else."
"Mamma," said Marty one morning, "Hiram says he'd like to join the band. But a great big man can't belong to a mission-band, can he?"
"He might be an honorary member," suggested Mrs. Ashford.
"What sort of a member is that?"
"He could attend the meetings, take part in the exercises, and contribute money, but he could not vote."
"Well, maybe Hiram would like to join that way. S'pose we ask him;" and off she and Evaline flew in search of Hiram.
They found him up by the barn.
"O Hiram!" said Marty. "I just now told mamma about your wanting to join the mission-band, and she says you might join as an honorary member."
Hiram stuck his pitchfork in the ground, rested his hands on the top of it, and his chin on his hands.
"What's that kind of a member got to do?" he asked slowly.
"You may give money, but you can't vote," Marty instructed him.
Hiram thought over it a good while, and then said very gravely, though his eyes twinkled, "Well, I guess giving money's the main thing after all, isn't it? I reckon I'll join if you'll let me."
"We'll be ever so glad to have you," said Marty warmly. She felt as if it was partly her band, and was interested in seeing it growing and flourishing.
They were nearly back to the house when Evaline suddenly stopped, exclaiming,
"You never told him he might come to the meetings!"
"Neither I did! How came I to forget that! We must go right back and tell him."
When they reached the barn again, they saw Hiram at the foot of the hill, just entering the next field; but hearing the girls shouting, "Hiram! Hiram!" and seeing them running to overtake him, he strode back across the fence, and seated himself on the top rail to wait for them.
"I forgot a most important thing," said Marty, panting for breath. "Mamma says honorary members may attend the meetings."
"Maybe I hadn't better attend them," said Hiram with a quizzical look. "I might want to vote."
"Oh, do you think you should?" asked Marty anxiously.
Hiram bit off a piece of straw and chewed it, slowly moving his head from side to side, appearing to meditate profoundly, while the little girls waited in suspense.
"Well," he said, after he had apparently thought the matter over, "I suppose I can hold up from voting; and I reckon you can count on me to come."
And come he did, the very next Sunday, appearing to take great interest in the proceedings.
A FLOWER SALE.
"Oh, look! Look over there!" exclaimed Marty. "What are those lovely white flowers?"
"Wild clematis," replied Evaline.
"O Hiram, wont you please stop and let us get some?" pleaded Marty. "I'd like so much to take some to mamma."
Hiram was obliged to go to Black's Mills on an errand that morning, and Marty and Evaline had been allowed to go with him for the ride. Returning he had driven around by another road, as he said one of the horses had lost a shoe, and this road, though longer, was less stony, and therefore easier for the horse than the other. Besides it would take them by McKay's blacksmith-shop, where he could get the horse shod.
It was when going through a valley, which the country folks called "the bottom," that they saw the clematis. It was growing in the greatest profusion in the meadows and the woods on both sides of the road, rambling over bushes, rocks, fences, everything, with its great starry clusters of white blossoms.
"I don't think you had better go after any," said Hiram in reply to Marty's request. "Them low places are muddy after the rain yesterday, and your ma might be angry if you was to go home with your shoes all muddied. Besides, there may be snakes under them bushes."
"Snakes! Oh, dear!" said Marty with a shudder. "But I should like some of those flowers for mamma."
"Well," said Hiram, reining in the horses, "if you promise to sit still in the wagon and not be up to any of your tricks of climbing in and out, I'll get you some."
"Oh, thank you ever so much! I'll sit as still as a mouse. But then I shouldn't like the snakes to bite you."
"I reckon they wont bite me," said Hiram, as he leaped over the fence, and taking out his knife proceeded to cut great clusters of flowers.
"Oh, just see the loads he is getting!" cried Marty.
Then as Hiram returned with a huge armful which he carefully laid in the back of the wagon, she said, "Thank you many times, Hiram. You are very kind. How pleased mamma will be! But half these are yours, Evaline."
After this they had what was to Marty the pleasure of fording a small stream, where the horses were allowed to stop and drink. Presently they had a distant view of a cascade, called Buttermilk Falls. As the road did not approach very near, only a glimpse could be caught of the creamy foam; but Hiram said that some day, if Mr. Stokes could spare him, he would drive them all down to that point, and they could walk from there to the falls.
"I reckon Mrs. Ashford would like to see 'em," he said.
"Indeed she would," said Marty.
Altogether the drive was what Marty considered "just perfectly lovely." And she was delighted also to be able to go home with such quantities of pretty flowers. She was already planning with Evaline what vases and pitchers they should put them in. "How surprised the folks will be when they see us coming in with our arms full!" she said.
When they reached a little wood back of Mr. Stokes' barn, Hiram stopped the horses, saying,
"Now, I've got to go 'round to McKay's, and may have to wait there a considerable spell, so you'd better just hop out here and go home through the woods."
He helped them out, gave them the flowers, and drove on. The girls sat down under a tree and divided the spoils. Marty contrived to make a basket of her broad-brimmed brown straw hat, in which she carefully placed her flowers. Evaline's basket was her gingham apron held up by the corners.
When they came within sight of the grove where their missionary meetings had been held, Evaline whispered,
"Look, Marty! there are some ladies sitting on our log."
Sure enough, there were three young ladies, evidently resting after a mountain climb, for their alpenstocks were lying beside them, and one, a bright, black-eyed girl wearing a stylish red jacket, was fanning herself with her broad hat. As Marty and Evaline drew near this young lady called out gaily,
"Well, little flower girls, where did you come from?"
"We've been to Black's Mills in the wagon with Hiram, and when we were coming through the bottom he got this clematis for us," explained Marty, who always had to be spokesman.
"And it is beautiful!" exclaimed the young lady. "What wouldn't I give for some like it! Did Hiram leave any or did he gather all for you?"
"Oh, there's plenty left!"
"Then I must have some," said the young lady, jumping up. "Come, girls, follow your leader to this bottom, wherever it is, and let us gather clematis while we may."
"Fanny, Fanny, you crazy thing! Sit down and behave yourself," cried one of her friends, laughing. "You have no idea where the place is, and we have been walking for three or four hours already."
"Oh, you can't go," said Marty earnestly to Miss Fanny. "It's miles and miles away; down steep hills and across the ford. Besides, Hiram says there may be snakes among the bushes."
"Well, that settles it," said Miss Fanny, reseating herself on the log, while the others laughed heartily.
Then Marty said with pretty hesitation, "Wont you have some of my flowers? I'd like to give you some."
"Some of mine, too," said Evaline, her generosity overcoming her shyness.
"Oh, no, indeed!" protested Miss Fanny. "Thank you very much, but I would not for the world deprive you of them. Very likely you have got it all arranged exactly how you are going to dispose of them at home."
So they had, but neither of them was a bit selfish. Marty had already placed her hat on the end of the log and was busily engaged in separating a large bunch of flowers from the rest, and Evaline, approaching the young ladies, held out her apronful towards them.
"Perhaps," suggested the tall, fair girl, whom her companions called "Dora," "perhaps you would be willing to play you are real flower girls and would sell us some."
"Yes, yes," exclaimed Miss Fanny, "let us make a play of it. Little girls, how much are your flowers?" and she drew forth a long blue purse.
"'T would be mean to sell what didn't cost us anything, and what we didn't have to move a finger to get," said Marty. "I'd a great deal rather you would let me give you as many as you want."
"No, it would not be mean at all when you are giving up what you have so much pleasure in. It would only be fair to take something in exchange," said Miss Fanny. "Just think!" she added persuasively, "isn't there something you'd each like to have a quarter for?"
Marty still held out against taking money for the flowers, but all at once Evaline exclaimed brightly, "Oh, the mission-band!"
"Mission-band!" cried Miss Fanny. "Familiar sound! Are you mission girls?"
"Yes," they said.
"Why, so are we all. We must shake hands all around."
They did so, laughing, and feeling like old friends. Then in ten minutes' chatter the young ladies told what cities they were from and what bands they belonged to, found out about Marty's home band, and the newly-formed mountain band she took such an interest in, and which Evaline persisted in saying Marty started. They were particularly delighted in hearing about this last; they thought it highly romantic that the meetings were held in that lovely grove, and were amused by the idea of meeting in the barn in case of rain, and also of Hiram's consenting to join as an honorary member.
"Now," said Miss Fanny, "you will agree to sell some of your flowers, wont you? See how nicely it all fits in—we want some flowers very much, and you want some money for your mission work. So it's a fair exchange. Girls," she said, turning to her friends, "you know this is Mrs. Thurston's birthday. Wouldn't it be lovely if we could have about half this clematis to decorate her room with?"
Marty declared if she was going to give them a quarter apiece, she must take all, or most of the flowers, instead of half. After much talk it was finally arranged that the little girls were each to keep what Miss Fanny called "a good double-handful," and the rest was handed over to the young ladies.
"This is my first missionary money," said Evaline, caressing her bright silver quarter in delight.
Marty, also, appeared very well pleased with the unexpected increase to her store.
Before separating Miss Fanny proposed another plan. She had already stated that she and her friends were staying at the hotel in Riseborough, and had caused Evaline to point out where she lived.
"Day after to-morrow," said Miss Fanny, "a party of five or six of us are going to take a drive to see some falls, and coming back we pass right by your house. We shall probably be along towards the close of the afternoon. Now couldn't you be on the lookout for us, and have some more missionary clematis for sale?"
"It doesn't grow very near here," said Evaline, "and I don't believe Hiram would have time to take us to the bottom again after any. He's busy harvesting."
"Of course I don't wish you to go to so much trouble about it; but cannot you get us flowers of some kind near here—in some of these woods?"
Evaline, who was anxious for more missionary money, said she thought there were still some cardinal flowers down in the glen, and Miss Fanny said they would be the very thing.
"And then it would be more like earning the missionary money if we had to work ourselves to get the flowers," said Marty.
"You have been brought up in the orthodox school, I see," said Miss Fanny, and all the young ladies laughed.
After many last words and kindly adieus, they parted, and the children ran home to relate their adventures.
When the plan for Thursday was announced, both Mrs. Ashford and Mrs. Stokes objected to the little girls going so far into the woods by themselves; and nobody could go with them.
"Then we'll have no flowers for the ladies," sighed Marty.
"And no more missionary money," added Evaline.
"Why not give them flowers out of the garden?" said Mrs. Stokes. "Sakes alive! there's plenty there. And they're just the kind I've seen city folks going crazy over. Some of the hotel folks were up here last summer, and deary me! but they did make a to-do over my larkspur, sweet-william, china pinks, candytuft, cockscomb, and such. You just give the ladies some of 'em, and they'll be pleased enough; for there's hardly any flowers in Riseborough—too shady, I guess."
"That's all well enough for Evaline," said Mrs. Ashford, "but Marty has no right to sell your flowers."
"She has if I give 'em to her, hasn't she? I'm sure she's welcome to every bloom in the garden to do what she pleases with. Not that I want my flowers sold; I'd rather give 'em to the ladies, but as long as it is for mission work—" and the good woman finished with a little nod.
But Mrs. Ashford still objected to Marty's taking the flowers, and Evaline would not have anything to do with the scheme unless Marty could "go halves."
"Dear Mrs. Stokes," said Marty, "can't you think of some way I could work for the flowers, and then mamma wouldn't object to my taking them?"
"Well, I'll tell you. The gravel walk 'round the centre bed is pretty tolerable weedy, and if you and Evaline'll weed it out nice and clean, you may have all the flowers you want all summer."
That satisfied all parties, and the weeding began that afternoon. When Marty was going to do anything she always wanted to get at it right away. Besides Almira advised them to do some that afternoon.
"Then maybe you can finish it up to-morrow morning before the sun gets 'round there," she said. "This is a very good time to do it too—just after the rain."
The girls were armed with old knives—not very sharp ones—to dig out the weeds with, if they would not come with pulling.
"You must be sure to get them up by the roots," said Almira, "or they'll grow again before you know where you are."
"Oh, we are going to do it good," Marty declared.
They divided the walk into sections, and set to work vigorously. In a few moments Marty remarked complacently,
"The bottom of my basket is quite covered with weeds. But then," she added in a different tone, "I don't see where they came from. I hardly miss them out of the walk."
A few moments more of quiet work, and she called out,
"Evaline, are many of your weeds in tight?"
"Awful tight," answered Evaline disconsolately. "They've got the longest roots of any weeds I ever saw. 'T would take a week of rain to make this walk fit to weed."
"Well," said Marty, "of course it isn't just as easy as taking a quarter for some clematis that was given to us in the first place, but as it is for missions I think we ought to be willing to do it, even if it is a little hard."
"That's so," Evaline replied, brightening up.
"And I'm very glad your mother thought of this," Marty went on, "for it would be dreadful disappointing not to have any flowers for the ladies when they come, and not to get any more missionary money."
Again Evaline agreed with her, and the work went on.
In about half an hour there was quite a large clean patch, and much encouraged by seeing the progress they were making, they worked more diligently than ever. Then Marty had a sentimental idea that it might help them along to sing a missionary hymn, but found upon trial that it was more of a hindrance than a help.
"I can't sing when I'm all doubled up this way," she said, "and anyway when I find a very tough weed I have to stop singing and pull. Then I forget what comes next."
"I guess it's better to work while you work and sing afterward," was Evaline's opinion.
Here they heard somebody laughing, and looking up saw Mrs. Ashford, who had come out to see how they were getting on.
"I think Evaline is about right," she said; "singing and weeding don't go together very well. But how nicely you have been doing! Why, you are nearly half through!"
"Yes, ma'am," said Evaline, "and the other side of the circle a'n't half so bad as this was. We'll easy get it done to-morrow morning."
"Yes; and, mamma," cried Marty, "we've got them out good. I don't believe there'll ever be another weed here!"
"They'll be as bad as ever after a while," said Evaline, who knew them of old.
Marty was pretty tired that evening and did not feel like running about as much as usual.
"There now!" exclaimed Mrs. Stokes, looking at Marty as she sat on the porch steps after supper leaning back against her mother, "there now! you're all beat out. 'T was too hard work for you. I oughtn't to have let you do it."
"Oh! indeed, Mrs. Stokes, I'm not so very tired," cried Marty, "and I was glad to do it."
Another hour's work the next morning finished the weeding, and the girls reflected with satisfaction that they had earned their flowers. Mrs. Stokes said the work was done "beautiful," and Hiram, who was brought to inspect it, said they had done so well that he had a great mind to have them come down to the field and hoe corn.
Thursday morning early they gathered and put in water enough flowers for seven fair-sized bouquets, thinking they had better have one more than Miss Fanny mentioned in case an extra lady came. By four o'clock these flowers—and how lovely and fragrant they were!—with Mrs. Ashford's valuable assistance were made into tasteful bouquets, placed on an old tray with their stems lightly covered with wet moss, and set in the coolest corner of the porch. The children, including Freddie, all nicely dressed, took up position on the steps, partly to keep guard over the flowers and prevent Ponto from lying down on them, and partly to watch for their callers.
Marty's bright eyes were the first to see the carriages.
"There they come around the bend!" she exclaimed, and shortly a carryall driven by Jim Dutton, and containing three ladies and two children, followed by a buck-board wherein sat Miss Fanny and Miss Dora, drew up at the gate.
Evaline's shyness came on in full force and she hung back, but Marty, with Freddie holding her hand, proceeded down the walk. They were met by Miss Fanny, who had thrown the reins to her friend and jumped out the moment the horse stopped. She kissed Marty, snatched up Freddie, exclaiming, "What a darling little boy!" and called out, "Come down here, Evaline! I want to see you."
Mrs. Stokes, who was too hospitable to see people so near her house without inviting them in, now came forward to give the invitation, and as they were obliged to decline on the score of lateness, she called Almira to bring some cool spring water for them. Seeing Freddie approaching dangerously near one of the horses, Marty cried, "Freddie, Freddie, come away from the horse!" and he gravely inquired, "What's the matter with the poor old horse?"
This made every one laugh and brought Mrs. Ashford from the porch to take his hand and keep him out of danger. So they were all assembled at the roadside, and quite a pleasant, lively time they had.
The flowers were asked for and Evaline brought them, while Marty explained why they were garden instead of wild flowers, and Mrs. Stokes told how the girls earned them. The bouquets were extremely admired. When proposing the plan in the woods, Miss Fanny had suggested "ten-cent" bouquets, but everybody said ten cents was entirely too cheap for such large, beautifully arranged ones, that fifteen cents was little enough. There was one composed entirely of sweet peas, as Mrs. Ashford said those delicate flowers looked prettier by themselves. This Miss Fanny seized upon, insisted on paying twenty cents for, and presented to a pale, sweet-faced lady in mourning.
She drew Marty to the side of the carriage where this lady was, and said in a low voice,
"Mrs. Thurston, this is the little girl I told you of—the Missionary Twig who doesn't leave her missionary zeal at home when she goes away in vacation."
The lady smiled affectionately as she pressed Marty's hand, and said,
"I am glad to meet such an earnest little comrade."
"Oh! but you don't know," protested Marty. "I came very near forgetting the whole thing. Indeed, it went out of my head altogether from Tuesday till Sunday."
The ladies laughed, and Miss Fanny said,
"Mrs. Thurston was a missionary in India for many years, Marty, and would be there yet if she was able."
"India!" exclaimed Marty, with wide-open eyes. "In Lahore!"
She had heard more about Lahore than any other place, and to her it seemed like the principal city in India.
"Oh, no!" replied Mrs. Thurston. "Far from there, hundreds of miles. Lahore, you know, is in Northern India, in the part known as the Punjab, while my home was in the extreme south near a city called Madura. Are you especially interested in Lahore?"
"Yes, ma'am. It's where our band sends its money. We have a school there. That is, we pay the teacher. It is one of those little schools in a room rented from a poor woman, who does her work in one corner while the school is going on, and the teacher is a native."
"Ah, yes; I understand."
"Mrs. C—— is the missionary who superintends it, along with a lot of other schools. Do you know her?"
"No, but I have seen her name in the missionary papers."
"Did you have some of those little schools when you were a missionary, Mrs. Thurston?" Marty inquired.
"Yes, I did some school work, but more zenana work."
"What is zenana work?"
Just then Mrs. Thurston noticed that preparations were being made to drive on, so she merely replied,
"Come down to the village and see me, and we will have a good missionary talk."
"Thank you ever so much," said Marty. "I do hope mamma will let me go."
Evaline was quite overcome when she learned that Mrs. Thurston was a "real live missionary," and said,
"She's the first one I ever saw. I wonder if they're all as nice as that."
After consultation with her mother, Marty decided to give half her "flower money"—which altogether amounted to eighty cents—to the mountain band, and keep the other half for the home band. "Because, you see, this is all out-and-out missionary money; there's no tithing to be done," she said.
Evaline never felt so large in her life as she did when going to the band meeting the next Sunday, with her eighty cents ready to hand to Hugh Campbell.
The Saturday following that memorable Thursday, Miss Fanny and Miss Mary again presented themselves at the farmhouse, where they were welcomed like old friends. After some pleasant chat, and a lunch of gingerbread and fresh buttermilk, Miss Fanny said,
"We came this morning chiefly to bring you an invitation from Mrs. Thurston. She wants you all, or as many as possible, to come to an all-day missionary meeting at the hotel next Tuesday."
"All day!" exclaimed Almira.
"Yes. That sounds formidable, doesn't it?" laughed Miss Fanny. "But I'll tell you about it. We are going to sew for a home missionary family. You must know that Mrs. Thurston, after spending the best part of her life and the greater part of her strength in the foreign field, still does all, in fact, more than her poor health will allow her to do for missions both at home and abroad. She heard the other day that a missionary family, acquaintances of hers, in Nebraska, had been burnt out, and lost everything but the clothes they had on. She told us about them with tears in her eyes, and some of us discovered she was laying aside some of her own clothes for the missionary's wife and planning how she could squeeze out a little money—for she is not rich by any means—to buy some clothes for the children. Well, the result was we took up a collection of clothes and money at the hotel, and Mrs. Thurston got Mr. Dutton to go to Trout Run and telegraph to the Mission Board that this missionary is connected with that we would send a box of things in a few days that will keep the family going until some church can send them a good large box."
"But how will you know what kind of garments to send?" asked Mrs. Ashford. "I mean, what sizes?"
"Mrs. Thurston knows all about how many children there are, and their ages, so we can guess at their sizes."
Mrs. Ashford, discovering there was a little girl near Freddie's age, and as he was, of course, yet in "girl's clothes," said she could spare a couple of his suits, having brought an ample supply. Some of Marty's clothes also were found available.
"We have had some things given us for the lady," said Miss Fanny, "a wrapper, a jersey, a cashmere skirt, a shawl; also two or three children's dresses. We have bought nearly all the muslin in Mr. Sims' store, with some flannel and calico. He is going to Johnsburgh Monday, and will get us shirts for the missionary, stockings, and such things. Monday is to be a grand cutting-out day. Tuesday we are to have three sewing-machines. Several of the village ladies are coming to help, and we shall be very glad if some of you will come. Mrs. Thurston particularly desires that the little girls shall come."
"Oh, do let us go," Marty said, while Evaline looked it.
Mrs. Ashford could not leave Freddie, and it was not possible for both Mrs. Stokes and Almira to go, so it was settled that the latter, the little girls, and Ruth Campbell, whom Miss Fanny wished Almira to invite, should walk down pretty early in the morning, and Hiram should bring the light wagon for them in the evening.
THE HOTEL MISSIONARY MEETING.
"It was an elegant sewing-meeting," Marty confided to her mother when she got home Tuesday evening, "and it wasn't a bit like that one Aunt Henrietta had the last time we were in Rochester. I liked this one best. There, you know, the ladies came all dressed up, carrying little velvet or satin work-bags, and we just had thin bread and butter and such things for tea—nothing very good. Here some of the ladies—of course I mean the ones from the village—came in calico dresses and sun-bonnets. And they were so free and easy—sewed fast and talked fast while they were there; and then if they had to go home a little bit, they'd just pop on their bonnets and off they'd go. Mrs. Clarkson thought it was going to rain, and she ran home to take in her wash, and another lady went home two or three times to see how her dinner was getting on.
"Some of them stayed at the hotel to dinner, and all that did stay brought something with them, pies mostly, though some brought pickles, preserves, and frosted cake. And every time Mrs. Dutton saw something being smuggled through the hall she'd call out,
"'Now I told you not to bring anything. The dinner is my part of this missionary meeting.'
"Then they'd all laugh. They were all real kind and pleasant. And such a dinner! I do believe we had some of everything. And supper was just the same way."
The hotel, though the boast of the surrounding country, was a very plain establishment, being nothing more than a tolerably large, simply furnished frame house accommodating about forty persons. But it was bright and home-like and beautifully situated.