"It is probable that she has been stolen by the Indians," said Lieutenant Miller, of the Fort; "and we must adopt other means to recover her."
Once more dusk was approaching, and they were about to turn back, when—hark! there was a shout from the borders of the canon beyond. A few moments before, Abe, the old scout, had disappeared in that direction. As he pressed onward he presently discovered that, in a wavering line, the brambles seemed to have been recently trodden down. A little farther on, almost hidden among the briers and dry leaves, lay a withered wild flower, like those that grew in the plain below; and farther still, caught upon a bush, was a bit of the fringe of a shawl, so small that it might have escaped any but his "hunter's eye." As he stood still, with senses alert, he heard a sound amid the brush; and, turning quickly, saw that which made him send forth the ringing halloo to his comrades. It was a little dog crawling down toward a hollow, where a spring of water gushed from the ground.
"Fudge!" he called, softly. The dog started, fawned upon him with a low whine; and, with many backward glances to make sure that he was following, led the way to a high rock which shelved inward, forming a sort of canopy above the bank. There, in the rude recess, as he felt confident would be the case, was the lost child. At first he feared she might be dead, so pale and motionless she lay; but when he whispered gently, "Tilderee!" the white eyelids fluttered, then unclosed; the dull eyes lighted up in recognition, and she smiled a wan, weak little smile. Once more Abe's cheery voice rang out, calling, "Found! found!" and the woods and cliffs made merry with the echoes. His companions hastened toward the ravine; but he met them half way, carrying the little one in his arms.
What a shout of joy greeted the sight! What a feeling of thankfulness filled each heart! Mr. Prentiss, strong man though he was, at the relaxing of the terrible tension, fainted like a woman. For a second Peter felt his brain in a whirl, then he leaped upon Twinkling Hoofs, whom he had been leading by the bridle, breathed a word in the ear of the clever mustang, and sped away like the wind, "to tell them at home." Who could describe the emotions of the fond mother when, half an hour later, she clasped her darling to her breast?
What a happy stillness reigned in the house for hours, while Tilderee was tenderly brought back from the verge of starvation! In the beginning she was too feeble to speak; but after a while Mrs. Prentiss noticed that she wanted to say something, and, bending over her, caught the tremulous words: "Oh mother, I'll never be disobedient any more!" It was then that the good woman, who, as the saying is, "had kept up" wonderfully, was overcome, and wept unrestrainedly.
As for Joan, it seemed to her that there could never be any mourning or sadness again. When she had done everything possible for Tilderee, she lavished attentions upon Fudge, and announced to him that henceforth he was to be called Fido (faithful); at which he wagged his tail, as if he found the role of hero quite to his liking. Joan's heart was so light that she wished everyone in the world could share her happiness; but whether she laughed or chattered, or hummed a little song to herself, the refrain of all this gladness was "Oh, how good God is! How good God is!"
A LITTLE WHITE DRESS.
"Only three weeks more, Constance. Aren't you glad?" said Lillie to her little companion and neighbor as they hurried to school.
"Indeed I am. But it's so long in coming!" sighed Constance. "The days never seemed to go so slowly before."
"I have made a calendar, and every morning I cross off a date; there are already seven gone since the 1st of May," explained Lillie, with a satisfied air, as if she had discovered the secret of adding "speed to the wings of time." "We shall not have a great while to wait now."
Was it a grand holiday that our young friends were anticipating so eagerly, or the summer vacation, now drawing near? One might suppose something of the kind. But not at all. On the approaching Feast of the Ascension they were to make their First Communion; and, being convent-bred little girls, every thought and act had been directed to preparation for this great event, to which they looked forward with the artless fervor natural to innocent childhood. No one must imagine, however, that they were diminutive prudes, with long faces. Is not a girl or boy gayest when his or her heart has no burden upon it? In fact, it would have been hard to find two merrier folk, even upon this bright spring morning.
Lillie was a sprightly creature, who, somehow, always reminded Sister Agnes of one of the angels in Murillo's picture, "The Immaculate Conception,"—a lively, happy-go-lucky, rollicking angel, who plays hide-and-seek among the folds of Our Lady's mantle, and appears almost beside himself with the gladness of heaven's sunlight. Yet Lillie was by no means an angel. She had her faults of course, and these often sadly tried the patience of the good Sister. She was quick-tempered, volatile, inclined to be a trifle vain. Alas that it is so hard to keep a child's heart like a garden enclosed as with a fragrant hedge, laden with the blossoms of sweet thoughts,—safely shut in from the chilling winds of worldliness! She was lovable withal, generous, affectionate, and would make a fine woman if properly trained.
Constance, a year older, was more sedate, though with plenty of quiet fun about her. But, as a general thing, she knew when to be serious and when to play,—a bit of wisdom which Sister Agnes frequently wished she could manage to impart to the others of the band of aspirants, of whom the gentle nun had special charge.
Constance and Lillie were nearly always together. Now, as they tripped, onward, they were as happy as the birds in the trees above them, and their voices as pleasant to hear. Having turned the corner, they began to meet a company of children, who came along, sometimes in groups, again in detachments of twos and threes, all clad in white, with white veils upon their heads and floating about them as they passed joyously on, as if keeping time to the music of their own happy hearts. Poor children they were, most of them, with plain, ordinary faces, but upon which now shone a light that made one think of old sweet stories,—of St. Ursula and her throng of spotless maidens; of Genevieve, the child-shepherdess of Nanterre. Who that has ever witnessed such a scene can forget it!—this flock of fair, spotless doves amid the dust or mire of the city streets, that by their very passing bring even to the indifferent spectator a thought above gain or traffic,—a memory perhaps of guileless days and noble aspirations, as, looking up at the blue, calm sky, perchance he likens them to the snowy cloudlets that gather nearest to the sun and are irradiated by its brightness.
"Why," exclaimed Constance, "here come the first communicants of St. Joseph's parish! They must be just going home from Mass. How happy they all are, and how pretty in their white dresses!"
"They do look lovely," assented Lillie, readily. "How could they help it? And some of the dresses are nice, but surely you see, Connie, that others are made of dreadfully common material, and the veils are coarse cotton stuff."
"Well, I suppose they couldn't afford any better," returned Constance, regretfully.
"I declare there's Annie Brogan, whose mother works for us!—don't you know?" cried Lillie, darting toward a girl who had parted with several others at a cross-street and was walking on alone.
As Constance did know, she hastened to greet her, and to vie with Lillie in congratulating her. "O Annie, what a happy day for you!"—"What a favored girl you are!"—"I almost envy you!"—"We have three whole weeks to wait yet!" This is about what they said, again and again, within the next few minutes; while Annie turned from one to the other, with an added gentleness of manner, a smile upon her lips, and a more thoughtful expression in her grey eyes.
Yes, she was happy; she felt that this was indeed the most beautiful day of her life. To be almost envied, too, by such girls as Lillie Davis and Constance Hammond! This was almost incredible; and so she continued to smile at them, putting in a word now and then, while they chattered on like a pair of magpies, and all three were in perfect sympathy.
Presently Lillie chanced to glance at the little communicant's white gown, which, though fresh and dainty as loving hands could make it, was unmistakably well worn, and in some places had evidently been carefully darned; indeed, her sharp eyes discovered even a tiny tear in the skirt, as if Annie had unwittingly put her fingers through it when searching for the pocket.
"Why, Annie Brogan," she exclaimed, thoughtlessly, "you did not wear that dress to make your First Communion!"
"Yes, to be sure. Did not mother do it up nicely?" answered Annie, with naive appreciation of the patient, painstaking skill which had laid the small tucks so neatly, and fluted the thin ruffles without putting a hole through them. "And mother was saying, when she was at work on it, how thankful we ought to be to have it; since, much as she wished to buy a dress for me, she would not have been able to do so, with the rent and everything to pay; and how good your mamma was to give it to me."
"Pshaw!" rejoined Lillie. "I could have given you a dress ten times better than that if I had only remembered. Mamma just happened to put that in with a bundle of some of my last summer's clothes, which she hoped Mrs. Brogan might find useful. But she never dreamed you would wear it to-day."
"I thought it was so nice!" said Annie, coloring, while a few tears of chagrin and disappointment sprang to her eyes; somehow, a shadow seemed to have unaccountably arisen to dim the brightness of this fairest of days,—a wee bit of a shadow, felt rather than defined.
"So it is nice!" declared Constance, frowning at impulsive Lillie, to warn her that she had blundered. "It is ironed perfectly; your mother has made it look beautiful. And what a pretty veil you have!"
"Yes, I did buy that," replied Annie, in a more cheerful tone.
"Oh, it's all right! And Our Lord must have welcomed you gladly, Annie, you are so good and sweet," added Lillie. "I didn't mean any harm in noticing your dress; it was only one of my stupid speeches."
Lillie looked so sorry and vexed with herself that Annie laughed. The shadow was lifted; the children wished one another good-bye; Annie went homeward, while the others quickened their pace, fearing that they would be late for school.
But the circumstance had made an impression, especially upon Lillie; and at the noon recreation, which the first communicants spent together, she hastened to tell her companions about it.
"Just imagine!" she cried; "Annie Brogan made her First Communion this morning, and she wore an old dress of mine,—an old dress, all mended up, that mamma gave her!"
"The idea!"—"What was she thinking of?" etc., etc.; such were the exclamations with which this announcement was greeted. Most of the girls did not know in the least of whom Lillie was speaking, but it was the fact which created such a sensation.
"Why didn't she get a new one?" inquired Eugenia Dillon, a girl of a haughty disposition, who attached a great deal of importance to costly clothes.
"Hadn't any money," responded Lillie, nibbling at a delicious pickled lime which she had produced from a corner of her lunch basket.
"Then I'd wait till I had—"
"Oh, not put off your First Communion!" protested one of the group.
"Why, yes," returned Eugenia, conscious that she had scandalized them a little and trying to excuse herself. "It is not respectful or proper not to be fitly dressed for such a great occasion."
"But Annie was as neat as could be," said Constance; "and looked as pretty as a picture, too. I'm sure Our Lord was as pleased with her as if she were dressed like a princess, because she is such a good little thing."
"Come, Connie, don't preach!" objected Eugenia, impatiently. "Besides, how could she have looked pretty in a mended dress? I wish you could see the one I'm going to have! It's to be of white silk,—the best that can be got at Brown's."
"It won't be any more beautiful than mine. I'm to have tulle," said Lillie.
"And I—" continued Constance.
"Mine is to be trimmed with point-lace," broke in another.
"And I'm to wear mamma's diamonds," boasted somebody else.
"You can't," demurred a quiet girl, who had not spoken before. "Sister Agnes said that we are not to be allowed to wear jewelry or silk either; and that, though the material for the dresses may be of as fine a quality as we choose, they ought not be showy or elaborate."
"That is all very well to say," answered Eugenia. "The nuns can enforce these rules in their boarding-schools, but hardly in a day-school like this. We'll wear what we please, or what our mothers select. Mamma has decided to get the white silk for me, because so many of our friends will be present, and she wants my dress to be the handsomest of any."
This information was received without comment, but it aroused in some foolish little hearts a feeling of envy, and in others a desire of emulation.
Eugenia Dillon was the richest girl in the school. Her father, a plain, sensible man, who had lacked early advantages, had within a few years amassed a considerable fortune, which he would gladly have enjoyed in an unostentatious, unpretending manner. This, however, did not suit his wife at all. Mrs. Dillon, though a kind-hearted, charitable woman, was excessively fond of style, lavishly extravagant, and inclined to parade her wealth upon all occasions. She did not realize that the very efforts she made to attain the position in society which would have come to her naturally if she had but the patience to wait, caused her to be sneered at as a parvenu by those whose acquaintance she most desired. Unconscious of all this, she pursued her way in serene self-satisfaction,—a complacency shared by Eugenia, who delighted in the good fortune and bad taste which permitted her to wear dresses of silk or velvet to school every day in the week, and caused her to be as much admired as a little figure in a fashion-plate by those of her companions who were too unsophisticated to know that vain display is a mark of vulgarity.
"Oh children, children!" exclaimed Sister Agnes, who caught the drift of the conversation as she came into the room. "Do not be troubling your precious little heads about the fashions. We must all trust something to the good sense of your mammas that you will be suitably gowned. Certainly it is eminently fitting that one should be beautifully attired to honor the visit of the King of kings. Considered in this light, no robe could be too rich, no ornament too splendid. But, lest a small thought of vanity should creep in to spoil the exalted motive, the custom is to adopt a lovely simplicity. If you notice, we never think of the angels as weighed down with jewels. Bestow some of this anxiety upon the preparation of your hearts; see that you are clothed in the royal robes of grace; deck yourself with the jewels of virtue,—rubies for love, emeralds for hope, pearls for contrition, diamonds for faith, and purity. It was with gems like these that the holy maidens, Saints Agnes, Philomena, and Lucy, chose to adorn themselves, rather than with the contents of their trinket caskets."
Thus the nun continued to speak to the band of little girls, who had eagerly gathered around her; thus was she wont to teach them lessons of wisdom in a sprightly, gay, happy-hearted way, as if generosity, unselfishness and self-denial were the most natural traits imaginable, and the whole world fair because it is God's world, and we are all His children. Was it this spirit of joyousness which attracted young people especially to her, and gave her such an influence with them?
"Somehow, when Sister Agnes talks to me," even so flighty a little personage as Lillie Davis said one day, "I feel as if I could make any sacrifice quite as a matter of course, and without a speck of fuss about it."
"Yes," agreed Connie. "She seems to take your hand in her strong one and to lead you up a stony, hilly path; and then, when you come to the roughest, steepest places, she almost carries you onward; and you are ashamed to complain that you are tired, because, though she is so gentle with you, she does not mind such trifles at all herself—"
"She makes me think," interrupted Lillie, "of the pleasant, sunshiny breeze that comes up sometimes on a cloudy morning, and chases away the mists through which everything looks so queerly, and lets us see things as they really are."
Lillie's quaint comparison was an apt one, as was proved in the present instance.
When Sister Agnes had gone the subject which the girls had been discussing presented a different aspect, and the keynote of her character which always impressed them—"Do noble deeds, not dream them all day long,"—caused them now to feel dissatisfied with themselves and to cast about for something to do. This reminded Constance again of Annie Brogan and the white dress that Lillie had regarded with so much scorn.
"Girls," said she, "wouldn't it be nice if we could give a dress and veil, and whatever is necessary, to some poor child who is to make her First Communion on the same day as ourselves? Perhaps, too, we could arrange to have her make it with us. Don't you think this would make us happy, and be a good way to prepare?"
"It's a grand idea, Connie!" proclaimed Lillie, with ready enthusiasm.
"How could we do it?" asked the quiet girl, coming to the practical question at once.
"By giving up some of our ribbons and candies and knickknacks during the next few weeks, maybe," continued Constance earnestly, thinking it out as she went along. "Suppose we all agree to get the pretty dresses the nuns wish us to wear on that day, instead of the showy ones we want? They would not cost as much, and our mothers would, I am sure, let us use the extra money in this way."
"What! give up the white silk! Oh, I couldn't!" objected Eugenia, disconcerted. "Anyhow, I don't believe mamma would like to have me do it."
"Tulle is so lovely!" sighed Lillie. "And I never did like plain mull."
On the whole, the proposal was not received with favor. It was discussed with much animation, but the bell rang before any decision had been arrived at. Later, however, after a consultation with Sister Agnes, who promised her cordial co-operation, the children concluded to adopt Connie's suggestion, if their mothers would consent.
"I must acknowledge that I am disappointed," remarked Mrs. Davis to her husband that evening. "To-day I ordered the material for Lillie's First Communion dress,—an exquisite tulle. But she came home from school with a story about furnishing an outfit for a poor child, and she assures me that her companions are to wear plain dresses for the occasion." Thereupon the lady proceeded to give the details of the plan as she had understood it.
"A very creditable determination," said Lillie's papa, approvingly. "I endorse it heartily. If attired simply, the children will not be distracted by the thought of their gowns, while at the same time some deserving little girl will be provided with an appropriate costume. I advise you to send back the tulle by all means, my dear, and apply the difference in price between it and the fabric agreed upon to the fund the children are trying to make up."
"Well, I suppose it will be best to do so," decided his wife. "Anyhow, tulle is so delicate a tissue, and Lillie is such a heedless little creature, that it would probably be badly torn before the end of the ceremonies."
"I am sorry," soliloquized Connie's mother when she heard of the project. "Connie's First Communion will be so important an event for her that I feel as if I could not do enough in preparation for it. I should like to dress her more beautifully than on any day in her life. If she were grown and about to enter society, or if I were buying her wedding-dress, I would select the handsomest material procurable,—why not now, for an occasion so great that I ought hardly mention it in comparison? But, after all," mused she, later, "the children's arrangement is the best. I am happy that Constance is so free from frivolity, and has shown so edifying a spirit."
For Eugenia Dillon, the giving up of the white silk was, as the girls generously agreed, "the biggest act of all." At first Mrs. Dillon would not hear of it; "though," said she, "I am quite willing to buy the dress for the poor child myself, if you wish, Eugenia." But Eugenia explained that this would not do, unless she carried out the plan like the others. In fact, she found that one of the hardest things in the world is to argue against what we want very much ourselves. At last, however, her mother good-naturedly yielded the point, saying, with a laugh, "Oh, very well, child! But I never before knew you to object to having a pretty dress." And Eugenia was very sure she never had.
The great day finally arrived. To picture it, or to describe the joy which filled the soul of each of our first communicants, is not the purpose of this story. But as the white-robed band entered the convent chapel, to the incongruous throng of fashionable people there assembled their appearance was the strongest possible sermon against vanity. Their soft white gowns were as simple as the most refined taste could make them, and as beautiful; their fleecy veils enfolded them as with holy thoughts; their wreaths of spotless blossoms signified a fairer crown. They numbered seven originally, but now among them walked another. Which little girl was the stranger, however, only one mother knew,—a humble woman, who, as she knelt amid the congregation, silently invoked a blessing upon the children who by their thoughtfulness had made possible her pious desire that her child might be appropriately and respectfully attired to welcome the coming of Our Lord.
The first communicants remained at the convent till dusk. During the afternoon somebody noticed, indeed, that Eugenia's dress, though of mull like the rest, was more fanciful, and her satin sash twice as wide as that of any one else. But the discovery only caused a smile of good-humored amusement; for it was hardly to be expected that Eugenia would conform absolutely to the rule they had laid down for themselves.
After Benediction, as they prepared to go home, they said to one another: "What a truly happy day this has been! How often we shall think of it during our lives!"
A MISER'S GOLD.
"Never mind, mother! Don't fret. We'll get on all right. This little house is much more comfortable than the miserable flat we have been living in. The air is good, and the health of the children will be better. It is quite like having a home of our own again. Now that Crosswell & Wright have raised my wages, we shall be able to make both ends meet this winter,—you'll see!"
"Yes, dear, I'm sure we shall," Mrs. Farrell forced herself to respond, though her tone did not express the absolute conviction which the words implied. But Bernard was in great spirits, and for his sake she assumed a cheerfulness which she was far from feeling, as she bade him good-bye, and from the window watched him hasten away to his work.
"God bless his brave heart!" she murmured. "He is a good boy and deserves to succeed. It worries me that he has such a burden upon his young shoulders; but Father Hamill says this will only keep him steady, and will do him no harm if he does not overtax his strength. What a shabby, contracted house this is! Well, I must try to make it as bright and pleasant as possible. I wish the girls were older and able to earn a trifle; every penny helps nowadays. Mary, indeed, might find a place to run errands for a dressmaker, or something of the kind; but I can not bear to think of her going around alone down town, becoming pert and forward. Besides, she is so bright and smart that it seems a pity to interfere with her studies. She will need all the advantages she can get, poor child!"
With a sigh the mother returned to her duties, prepared breakfast for the other children and in the course of an hour hurried them off to school. There were three: Mary, just twelve years old; Lizzie, ten; and Jack, who had attained the precocious and mischief-loving age of seven. Bernard was eighteen, and the head of the family,—a fact which Mrs. Farrell strove to impress upon the minds of the younger members, as entitling him to special respect and affection. He was also the principal bread-winner, and had ten dollars a week, which was considered a fine beginning for one so young. Still, it was not a great deal for them all to rely on, and his mother endeavored to eke out their scanty livelihood by taking sewing, and in various other ways.
Life had not always been such a struggle for the Farrells. Before the death of the husband and father they had been in good circumstances. Mr. Farrell held for years a responsible position as book-keeper and accountant in one of the largest mercantile establishments of the city. He had a fair salary, which enabled him to support his family comfortably. But, alas! how much often depends upon the life and efforts of one person! An attack of pneumonia, the result of a neglected cold, carried him out of the world in three days. There had been only time to attend to his religious duties, and no opportunity to provide for the dear ones he was about to leave, even if any provision had been possible. When the income derived from the father's daily labor ceased, they found themselves suddenly plunged into comparative poverty. His life-insurance policy had not been kept up; the mortgage on the pretty home had never been paid off, and was now foreclosed. The best of the furniture was sold to pay current expenses, and the widow removed with her children to the third floor of a cheap apartment house,—one of those showy, aggressively genteel structures so often seen in our Eastern cities, with walls of questionable safety and defective drainage and ventilation.
Mrs. Farrell was now obliged to dismiss her maid-of-all-work, and attend to the household duties herself. This was a hardship, for she was not a strong woman; but she did not complain. Bernard, fortunately, had taken two years of the commercial course at St. Stanislaus' College, and was therefore in a measure fitted for practical affairs. He obtained a place as clerk in the law office of Crosswell & Wright. As he tried to keep his mind on his duties, and was willing and industrious, his employers were well pleased with him, and he had been several times advanced. But the means of the family grew more and more straitened. The following year the rent of the flat was found to be higher than they could afford. They sought other quarters, and settled at last, just as winter was approaching, in the little house where we have discovered them, in a humble neighborhood and unpaved streets, with no pretensions whatever,—in fact, it did not appear to have even the ambition to be regarded as a street at all.
The young people took possession of the new dwelling in high glee. They did not see the drawbacks to comfort which their mother could have pointed out; did not notice how much the house needed painting and papering, how decidedly out of repair it was. Only too glad of their satisfaction, she refrained from comment, tried to make the best of everything, and succeeded in having a cosey home for them, despite all difficulties. For there was not a room of the small house into which at least a ray of sunlight did not find its way sometime during the day. It shone upon threadbare carpets and painted floors; upon sofas the upholstering of which had an unmistakable air of having been experimented with; and chairs which Mrs. Farrell had recaned, having learned the art from a blind boy who lived opposite. Yet the sunlight revealed as well an air of thrift and cheeriness; for the widow, despite her days of discouragement, aimed to train her children to look upon the bright side of life, and to trust in Providence.
"Bernard," said she one evening, "I have been thinking that if I could hire a sewing-machine I might get piecework from the shops, and earn more than by looking to chance patronage. I have a mind to inquire about one."
The boy was silent. She began to doubt if he had heard, and was about to repeat the remark when he answered:
"No, mother, don't. There are too many women doing that kind of sewing at starvation prices. But I'll tell you what would be a fine thing if you really had the time for it, though I do not see how you could,—it seems to me we keep you busy."
"What is your idea?" inquired Mrs. Farrell eagerly, paying no heed to the latter part of his speech.
"Well, if we could manage to pay the rent of a type-writing machine, I could probably get you copying from the firm as well as from some of the other lawyers in the building. I was wondering the other day if I could do anything at it myself, and thus pick up an additional dollar or two in the week. Of course, you would accomplish more than I could, and it would be a hundred times better than stitch! stitch! How I hate the whir of the thing!" And Bernard, with his juggler gift of mimicry, proceeded forthwith to turn himself into a sewing-machine, jerking his feet up and down in imitation of the motion of the treadle, and making an odd noise in his throat.
Mrs. Farrell laughed, as she replied: "I do not know that there is much choice between this and the click of the type-writer. But, anyhow, your plan, though it sounds plausible, would not do, because I should not be able to work the type-writer."
"There would be no difficulty about that," argued Bernard. "You know how to play the piano, and the fingering is very much easier. It will come naturally."
His mother laughed again, yet she sighed as well. Her father had given her a piano as a wedding present, but this had been the first article of value to be dispensed with when the hard times came. Bernard was so sanguine, however, that she consented to his project. He spoke to Mr. Crosswell on the subject; that gentleman became interested, succeeded in obtaining a type-writer for Mrs. Farrell on easy terms, and promised to send her any extra copying he might have. The manipulation of the machine did not, indeed, come quite as naturally as Bernard predicted, but after a few weeks of patient practice she mastered it sufficiently to produce a neat-looking page. Bernard brought her all the work she could do; it was well paid for, and a more prosperous season seemed to have dawned upon the little home.
Just at this time the children took scarlet fever at school. They had the disease lightly, but what anxiety the mother endured! Thank God, they got through it safely; but there was the doctor's bill to be settled, and funds were at a low ebb once more. To cap the climax, when the house had been thoroughly fumigated by the board of health, and Mrs. Farrell was prepared to take up her occupation again, an attack of rheumatism crippled her fingers and rendered them almost powerless. Then it was that, worn out and disheartened, she broke down and cried:
"Oh! why does not God help us?"
Her son's usually happy face wore an expression of discouragement also as she turned to him with the appeal. His lips twitched nervously; but in a moment the trustfulness which she had taught him was at hand to comfort her.
"Indeed, mother, He will—He does," said Bernard tenderly, though in the matter-of-fact manner which he knew would best arouse her. "You are all tired out, or you would not speak in that way. You must have a good rest. Keep the rooms warm, so that you will not take any more cold, and before long you will be able to rattle the type-writer at a greater speed than ever. That reminds me, mother," he continued—seeing that she was beginning to recover herself, and wishing to divert her thoughts,—"one of the things we have to be thankful for is that this house is easily heated. It beats all the way coal does last here! The ton we got two months ago isn't gone yet,"
"That is the way coal lasts when there is not any one to steal it, as there was in the flat, where the cellars were not properly divided off," answered Mrs. Farrell, brightening up.
"No, there's nobody living immediately around here whom I'd suspect of being mean enough to steal coal," returned Bernard, carelessly,—"except, perhaps, Stingy Willis, I don't think I'd wager that old codger wouldn't, though."
"I am afraid I should not have entire confidence in him, either," agreed Mrs. Farrell.
But the intelligence that there was still coal in the bin had cheered her wonderfully. Repenting of her rash conclusion, she hastened to qualify it by adding, "That is, if half of what the neighbors say is true. But, then, we have no right to listen to gossip, or to judge people."
Stingy Willis, the individual who apparently bore an unenviable reputation, was a small, dried-up looking old man, who lived next door to the Farrells,—in fact, under the same roof; for the structure consisted of two houses built together. Here he dwelt alone, and attended to his household arrangements himself, except when, occasionally, a woman was employed for a few hours to put the place in order. He was accustomed to prepare his own breakfast and supper; his dinner he took at a cheap restaurant. He dressed shabbily, and was engaged in some mysterious business down town, to and from which he invariably walked; not even a heavy rain-storm could make him spend five cents for a ride in a horse-car. And yet he was said to be very wealthy. Persons declared they knew "upon good authority" that he held the mortgage which covered the two connecting houses; that, as the expression is, he "had more money than he knew what to do with." Others, who did not profess to be so scrupulously exact in their determination to tell only a plain, unvarnished tale, delighted in fabulous stories concerning his riches. They said that though the floor of his sitting-room was carpetless, and the bay-window curtainless but for the cobwebs, he could cover the one with gold pieces and the other with bank-notes, if he pleased. Many were convinced he had a bag of treasure hidden up the chimney or buried in the cellar; this they asserted was the reason he would not consent to having the upper rooms of the house rented, and so they remained untenanted season after season. Thus, according to the general verdict (and assuredly the circumstantial evidence was strong), he was a miser of the most pronounced type,—"as stingy as could be," everybody agreed; and is not what everybody says usually accepted as the truth?
Certain it is that Stingy Willis acted upon the principle, "a penny saved is a penny gained,"—denied himself every luxury, and lived with extreme frugality, as the man who kept the meat-market and grocery at the corner frequently testified. Even in the coldest weather, a fire was never kindled in the house till evening; for over its dying embers the solitary man made his coffee the following morning. A basket of coal lasted him a week, and he sifted the cinders as carefully as if he did not know where to find a silver quarter to buy more fuel. He had nothing to do with his neighbors, who really knew very little about him beyond what they could see of his daily life. They were almost all working people, blessed with steady employment; though they had not more than enough of this world's goods, there was no actual poverty among them. They were respectable, honest, and industrious; as Bernard said, not one of the dwellers in the street would ever be suspected of being "mean enough to steal coal," unless indeed Stingy Willis.
Gloomy days continued for the Farrells; yet the outside world never dreamed of the straits to which they were reduced, for a spirit of worthy independence and pardonable pride led them to keep their trouble to themselves. Mrs. Farrell would have died, almost, rather than reveal their need to any one; nothing save the cry of her children asking in vain for bread would bring her to it. Well, they still had bread and oatmeal porridge, but that was all.
Who would have imagined it! The little house was still distinguished from the others of the row by an appearance of comfort. Although Mrs. Farrell could not do any type-writing, the children were neat and trim going to school; Bernard's clothes were as carefully brushed, his boots as shining, linen as fresh, his mien as gentlemanly as ever. And they found great satisfaction in the reflection that no one was aware of the true state of affairs. The mother and Bernard agreed, when they began housekeeping under their changed circumstances, to contract no bills; what they could not afford to pay for at the time they would do without. So now no butcher nor baker came clamoring for settlement of his account. The doctor was willing to wait for his money; all they owed besides was the rent. Only the landlord knew this, and he was disposed to be lenient. Mrs. Farrell still tried to hope for the best, but sometimes she grew dejected, was sorely tempted to repine.
"Mother," little Jack once asked, "aren't people who, as you say, 'have seen better days' and become poor, much poorer than people who have always been poor?"
"It seems to me they are, my child," answered the widow, dispiritedly. "But why do you think so?"
"Because," replied the young philosopher, "we are much poorer than the woman who used to wash for us. She appeared to have everything she wanted, but we have hardly anything."
It was unreasonable, to be sure, but sometimes Mrs. Farrell used to wonder how her neighbors could be so hard-hearted as to go past unconcernedly, and not notice the necessities which, all the while, she was doing her best to keep from their knowledge. Often, too, as Stingy Willis went in and out of the door so close to her own, she thought: "How hard it is that this man should have riches hidden away, while I have scarcely the wherewith to buy food for my children! Walls are said to have ears,—why have they not also tongues to cry out to him, to tell him of the misery so near? Is there nothing which could strike a spark of human feeling from his flinty heart?" Then, reproaching herself for the rebellious feeling, she would murmur a prayer for strength and patience.
The partition between the two houses was thin. She and Bernard could frequently hear the old man moving about his dreary apartments, or going up or down the stairs leading to the cellar. "Old Willis is counting his money-bags again, I guess!" Bernard would say lightly, as the familiar shuffling to and fro caught his ear; while his mother, to banish the shadow of envious discontent, quietly told a decade of her Rosary.
The conversation anent the subject of the coal kept recurring to her mind with odd persistency. Repeatedly of late she had awakened in the night and heard the miser stumbling around; several times she was almost certain he was in her cellar, and—yes, surely, at the coal,—purloining it piece by piece, probably. Then just as, fully aroused, she awaited further proof, the noise would cease, and she would conclude she must have been mistaken. At last, however, it would seem that her suspicions were confirmed.
On this occasion Mrs. Farrell had not retired at the usual hour. It was after midnight, yet she was still occupied in a rather hopeless effort to patch Jack's only pair of trousers; for he evinced as remarkable an ability to wear out clothes as any son of a millionaire. The work was tedious and progressed slowly, for her fingers were stiff and the effort of sewing painful. Finally it was finished. With a sigh of relief she rested a moment in her chair. Just then the silence was broken by a peculiar sound, like the cautious shifting of a board. That it proceeded from the cellar was beyond question. A singular rattling followed. She rose, went into the hall and listened. Yes, there was no delusion about it: somebody was at the coal,—that coal which, she remembered bitterly, was now but a small heap in the bin. That the culprit was Stingy Willis there could be little doubt.
Bernard had fallen asleep on the sofa an hour or more before. His mother stole to his side, and in a low voice called him. He stirred uneasily. She called again, whereupon he opened his eyes and stared at her in bewilderment.
"Hark!" she whispered, signalling to him not to speak.
Once more came the noise, now more distinct and definable. The heartless intruder had become daring; the click of a shovel was discernible; he was evidently helping himself liberally.
Bernard looked at his mother in perplexity and surprise.
"Stingy Willis?" he interrogated.
"And at the coal, by Jove!" he exclaimed, suddenly realizing the situation, and now wide awake.
He started up, and presently was creeping down the stairs to the kitchen. Mrs. Farrell heard him open the cellar door with the least possible creak. She knew he was on the steps which led below, but he made no further sound. She had no other clue to his movements, and could only distinguish the rumble of the coal. She waited, expecting momentarily that it would cease, dreading the altercation which would follow, and regretting she had aroused her son.
"He is quick-tempered," she soliloquized. "What if words should lead to blows,—if he should strike the old man! How foolish I was to let him go alone!"
The suspense was ominous. What was the boy going to do? Why all this delay? Why did he not promptly confront the fellow and order him to be gone? In reality, only a few minutes had elapsed since she first heard the noise, but it seemed a quarter of an hour even since he left her. Should she go down herself, or call out to him? While she hesitated Bernard suddenly reappeared. She leaned over the banisters to question him; but, with a gesture imploring her to be silent, the astonished boy said, hardly above his breath: "Mother, come here!"
Cautiously she descended to the entry. He led her through the kitchen to the cellar steps. All the time the shovelling continued. Whispering "Don't be afraid," Bernard blew out the candle he carried, and, taking her hand, added: "Look!"
From the corner of the cellar in which the coal-bin was situated came the light of a lantern. Crouching down, Mrs. Farrell could see that it proceeded from a hole in the wall which separated the two houses. There was no one upon her premises, after all; but at the other side of the partition was Stingy Willis, sure enough! Through the opening she could just catch a glimpse of his grey head and thin, sharp features. Trembling with indignation, she peered forward to get a better view. Yes, there was Stingy Willis certainly; but—oh, for the charity, the neighborliness which "thinketh no evil!"—he was shovelling coal from his own into the Farrells' bin! As this fact dawned upon her she felt as if she would like to go through the floor for shame. Drawing back abruptly, she groped her way to the kitchen, and sank into a chair, quite overcome by emotion. Bernard, having relighted the candle, stood gazing at her with an abashed air. In a moment or two the shovelling ceased, and they could hear the old man, totally unconscious of the witnesses to his good deed, slowly ascending to his cheerless rooms again.
Stingy Willis alone had discovered their need. With a delicacy which respected their reticence, and shrank from an offer of aid which might offend, he had hit upon this means of helping them. Clearly, he had been thus surreptitiously supplying them with fuel for weeks,—a little at a time, to avoid discovery. And Mrs. Farrell, in her anxiety and preoccupation, had not realized that, with the steady inroads made upon it, a ton of coal could not possibly last so long.
"That, of all people, Stingy Willis should be the one to come to our assistance!" exclaimed the widow.
"And to think he is not Stingy Willis at all! That is the most wonderful part of it!" responded Bernard.
"Often lately," continued the former, "when I happened to meet him going in or out, I fancied that his keen old eyes darted a penetrating glance at me; and the fear that they would detect the poverty we were trying to hide so irritated me that sometimes I even pretended not to hear his gruff 'Good-morning!'"
"Well, he's a right jolly fellow!" cried Bernard, enthusiastically,
His mother smiled. The adjective was ludicrously inappropriate, but she understood Bernard's meaning, and appreciated his feelings as he went on:
"Yes, I'll never let anybody say a word against him in my hearing after this, and I'll declare I have proof positive that he's no miser."
"He is a noble-hearted man certainly," said Mrs. Farrell. "I wish we knew more about him. But, for one thing, Bernard, this experience has taught us to beware of rash judgments; to look for the jewels, not the flaws, in the character of our neighbor."
"Yes, indeed, mother," replied the youth, decidedly. "You may be sure that in future I'll try to see what is best in everyone."
The next morning Mrs. Farrell went about her work in a more hopeful mood. Bernard started for the office in better spirits than usual, humming snatches of a song, a few words of which kept running in his mind all day:
"God rules, and thou shall have more sun When clouds their perfect work have done."
That afternoon Mr. Crosswell, the head of the firm, who seemed suddenly to have become aware that something was wrong, said to him:
"My lad, how is it that your mother has not been doing the extra type-writing lately? I find a great deal of it has been given to some one else."
"She has been sick with rheumatism, sir," answered the boy; "and her fingers are so stiff that she cannot work the machine."
"Tut! tut!" cried the lawyer, half annoyed. "You should have told me this before. If she is ill, she must need many little luxuries" (he refrained from saying necessaries). "She must let me pay her in advance. Here are twenty-five dollars. Tell her not to hesitate to use the money, for she can make up for it in work later. I was, you know, a martyr to rheumatism last winter, but young Dr. Sullivan cured me. I'll send him round to see her; and, remember, there will be no expense to you about it."
"I don't know how to thank you, sir!" stammered Bernard, gratefully. Then he hurried home to tell his mother all that had happened, and to put into her hands the bank-notes, for which she could find such ready use.
Doctor Sullivan called to see Mrs. Farrell the following day,
"Why," said he, "this is a very simple case! You would not have been troubled so long but for want of the proper remedies."
He left her a prescription, which wrought such wonders that in a fortnight she was able to resume her occupation.
From this time also Mr. Crosswell gave Bernard many opportunities by which he earned a small sum in addition to his weekly salary, and soon the Farrells were in comfortable circumstances again.
By degrees they became better acquainted with old Willis; but it was not till he began to be regarded, and to consider himself, as an intimate friend of the family that Bernard's mother ventured to tell him they knew of his kind deed done in secret,—a revelation which caused him much confusion. Bernard had discovered long before that their eccentric neighbor, far from being a parsimonious hoarder of untold wealth, was, in fact, almost a poor man. He possessed a life-interest in the house in which he dwelt, and the income of a certain investment left to him by the will of a former employer in acknowledgment of faithful service. It was a small amount, intended merely to insure his support; but, in spite of his age, he still worked for a livelihood, distributing the annuity in charity. The noble-hearted old man stinted himself that he might be generous to the sick, the suffering, the needy; for the "miser's gold" was only a treasure of golden deeds.
THAT RED SILK FROCK.
You could not help liking little Annie Conwell; she was so gentle, and had a half shy, half roguish manner, which was very winning. And, then, she was so pretty to look at, with her pink cheeks, soft blue eyes, and light, wavy hair. Though held up as a model child, like most people, including even good little girls, she was fond of her own way; and if she set her heart upon having anything, she wanted it without delay—right then and there. And she usually got it as soon as possible; for Mr. Conwell was one of the kindest of fathers, and if Annie had cried for the moon he would have been distressed because he could not obtain it for her; while, as the two older children, Walter and Josephine, were away at boarding-school, Mrs. Conwell, in her loneliness at their absence, was perhaps more indulgent toward her little daughter than she would otherwise have been.
Annie's great friend was Lucy Caryl. Lucy lived upon the next block; and every day when going to school Annie called for her, or Lucy ran down to see if Annie was ready. Regularly Mrs. Conwell said: "Remember, Annie, I want you to come straight from school, and not stop at the Caryls'. If you want to go and play with Lucy afterward, I have no objection, but you must come home first."
"Yes, um," was the docile answer she invariably made.
But, strange as it may seem, although Annie Conwell was considered clever and bright enough in general, and often stood head of her class, she seemed to have a wretched memory in regard to this parting injunction of her mother, or else there were ostensibly many good reasons for making exceptions to the rule. When, as sometimes happened, she entered the house some two hours after school was dismissed, and threw down her books upon the sitting-room table, Mrs. Conwell reproachfully looked up from her sewing and asked: "What time is it, dear?"
And Annie, after a startled glance at the clock, either stammered, "O mother, I forgot!" or else rattled off an unsatisfactory excuse.
"Very well!" was the frequent warning. "If you stay at Lucy Caryl's without permission, you must remain indoors on Saturday as a punishment for your disobedience."
Nevertheless, when the end of the week came, Annie usually managed to escape the threatened penalty. For Saturday is a busy day in the domestic world; and Mrs. Conwell was one of the fine, old-fashioned housekeepers—now, unfortunately, somewhat out of date—who looked well after the ways of her household, which was in consequence pervaded by an atmosphere of comfort and prosperity.
One especial holiday, however, she surprised the little maid by saying,
"Annie, I have told you over and over again that you must come directly home from school, and yet for several days you have not made your appearance until nearly dusk. I am going down town now, and I forbid you to go out to play until I return. For a great girl, going on ten years of age, you are too heedless. Something must be done about it."
Annie reddened, buried her cheeks in the fur of her mother's sable muff with which she was toying, and gave a sidelong glance at Mrs. Conwell's face. The study of it assured her that there was no use in "begging off" this time; so she silently laid down the muff and walked to the window.
Mrs. Conwell, after clasping her handsome fur collar—or tippet, as it was called—over the velvet mantle which was the fashion in those days, and surveying in the mirror the nodding plumes of her bonnet of royal purple hue, took up the muff and went away.
"A great girl!" grumbled Annie, as she watched the lady out of sight. "She always says that when she is displeased. 'Going on ten years of age!' It is true, of course; but, then, I was only nine last month. At other times, when persons ask me how old I am, if I answer 'Most ten,' mother is sure to laugh and say, 'Annie's just past nine.' It makes me so mad!"
There was no use in standing idly thinking about it though, especially as nothing of interest was occurring in the street just then; so Annie turned away and began to wonder what she should do to amuse herself. In the "best china closet" was a delicious cake. She had discovered that the key of the inner cupboard, where it was locked up, was kept in the blue vase on the dining-room mantel. She had been several times "just to take a peep at the cake," she said to herself. Mrs. Conwell had also looked at it occasionally, and it had no appearance of having been interfered with. Yet, somehow, there was a big hole scooped in the middle of it from the under side. The discovery must be made some day, and then matters would not be so pleasant for the meddler; but, in the meantime, this morning Annie concluded to try "just a crumb" of the cake, to make sure it was not getting stale.
Having satisfied herself upon that point, and being at a loss for occupation, she thought she would see what was going on out of doors now. (If some little girls kept account of the minutes they spend in looking out of the window, how astonished they would be at the result!) At present the first person Annie saw was Lucy Caryl, who from the opposite sidewalk was making frantic efforts to attract her attention.
"Come into my house and play with me," Lucy spelled with her fingers in the deaf and dumb alphabet.
Annie raised the sash. "I can't, Lucy!" she called. "Mother said I must stay in the house."
"Oh, do come—just for a little while!" teased naughty Lucy. "Your mother will never know. She has gone away down town: I saw her take the car. We'll watch the corner; when we see her coming, you can run around by the yard and slip in at the gate before she reaches the front door."
The inducement was strong. Annie pretended to herself that she did not understand the uneasy feeling in her heart, which told her she was not doing right. The servants were down in the kitchen, and would not miss her. She ran for her cloak and hood—little girls wore good, warm hoods in those days,—and in a few moments was scurrying along the sidewalk with Lucy.
The Caryls lived in a spacious brown stone house, which exteriorly was precisely like the residence of the Conwells. The interior, however, was very different. Contrasted with the brightness of Annie's home, it presented an appearance of cheerless and somewhat dingy grandeur. The parlors, now seldom used, were furnished in snuff-colored damask, a trifle faded; the curtains, of the same heavy material, had a stuffy look, and made one long to throw open the window to get a breath of fresh air. The walls were adorned with remarkable tapestries in great gilt frames, testimonials to the industry of Mrs. Caryl during her girlhood. Here and there, too, hung elaborate souvenirs of departed members of the family, in the shape of memorial crosses and wreaths of waxed flowers, also massively framed. They were very imposing; but Annie had a nervous horror of them, and invariably hurried past that parlor door.
The little girls usually played together in a small room adjoining the sitting-room. They had by no means the run of the house. Annie, indeed, felt a certain awe of Lucy's mother, who was stern and severe with children.
"I'm sure I shouldn't care to go to the Caryls', except that Lucy is so seldom allowed to come to see me," she often declared.
On this particular afternoon Mrs. Caryl had also gone out.
"My Aunt Mollie sent me some lovely clothes for my doll," said Lucy. "The box is up on the top story. Come with me to get it."
Remembering the "funeral flowers," as Annie called them, she had an idea that Lucy's mother kept similar or even more uncanny treasures stored away "on the top story," which her imagination invested with an air of mystery. So she hesitated.
"Come!" repeated Lucy, who forthwith tripped on ahead, and looked over the baluster to see why she did not follow.
Annie hesitated no longer, but started up the steps. Just at that moment a peculiar sound, like the clanging of a chain, followed by a strange, rustling noise, came from one of the rooms above. A foolish terror seized upon her.
"O gracious! what's that?" she panted; and, turning, would have fled down the stairs again, had not Lucy sprung toward her and caught her dress.
"It's nothing, goosie!" said she, "except Jim. He's been a naughty boy, and is tied up in the front room. Ma thought she'd try that plan so he could not slip out to go skating. I suppose I ought to have told you, though. Maybe you thought we had a crazy person up here."
Annie forced herself to laugh. Reassured in a measure, and still more curious, she ventured to go on. When she reached the upper hall, she saw that the door of the front room was open, and, looking in, beheld a comical spectacle. Fastened by a stout rope to one of the high posts of an old-fashioned bedstead was a rollicking urchin of about eight years of age, who seemed to be having a very good time, notwithstanding his captivity. Upon his shoes were a pair of iron clamps resembling spurs, such as were used for skates. It was the clank of these against the brass balls, of which there was one at the top of each post, which made the sound that had so frightened Annie.
"Hello!" he called out as he caught sight of her. And, fascinated by the novelty of the situation, she stood a moment watching his antics, which were similar to those of a monkey upon a pole. Again and again he climbed the post, indulged in various acrobatic performances upon the foot-board, and then turned a double somersault right into the centre of the great feather-bed. And all the while his villainous little iron-bound heels made woful work, leaving countless dents and scratches upon the fine old mahogany, and catching in the meshes of the handsome knitted counterpane.
"You'd better stop that!" Lucy called to him.
In response to her advice, he clambered over and seated himself upon the mantel.
"Oh! oh!" she expostulated in alarm, lest the shelf should fall beneath his weight.
As that catastrophe did not occur, he coolly shifted his position, made a teasing grimace at her, and when she turned away slipped down and resumed his gymnastic exercises.
There was nothing else on the top story to excite Annie's surprise, but she was glad when Lucy secured the box and led the way downstairs.
"When the little friends were again in their accustomed play corner, Lucy, with much satisfaction, displayed her present.
"Your Aunt Mollie must be awful nice!" exclaimed Annie. "How lucky you are! Three more dresses for your doll! Clementina has not had any new clothes for a long time. I think that red silk dress is the prettiest, don't you?"
"I haven't quite decided," answered Lucy. "Christabel looks lovely in it; but I think the blue one is perhaps even more becoming."
They tried the various costumes upon Lucy's doll, and admired the effect of each in turn.
"Still, I like the red silk dress best," said Annie.
"It would just suit Clementina, wouldn't it?" suggested Lucy.
"Yes," sighed Annie, taking up the little frock, and imagining she saw her own doll attired in its gorgeousness. After regarding it enviously for a few moments, she said: "Say, Lucy, give it to me, won't you?"
"Why, the idea!" cried Lucy, aghast at the audacity of the proposal.
"I think you might," pouted Annie. "You hardly ever give me anything, although you are my dearest friend. I made you a present of Clementina's second best hat for Christabel, and only yesterday I gave you that sweet bead ring you asked me for."
These unanswerable arguments were lost upon Lucy, however. She snatched away the tiny frock, and both little girls sulked a while.
"Lucy's real mean!" said Annie to herself. "She ought to give it to me,—she knows she ought! Oh, dear, I want it awfully! She owes me something for what I've given her.—I am going home," she announced aloud.
"Oh, no!" protested Lucy, aroused to the sense of her duties as hostess. "Let us put away the dolls and read. There is a splendid new story this week in the Young Folks' Magazine."
Taking Annie's silence for assent, she packed Christabel and her belongings away again, and went to get the book. Annie waited sullenly. Then, as her friend did not come back immediately, she began to fidget.
"Lucy need not have been in such a hurry to whisk her things into the box," she complained. "To look at the red dress won't spoil it, I suppose. I will have another look at it, anyhow!"
She raised the cover of the box and took out the dainty dress. Still Lucy did not return. A temptation came to Annie. Why not keep the pretty red silk frock? Lucy would not miss it at once; afterward she would think she had mislaid it. She would never suspect the truth. Annie breathed hard. If she had quickly put the showy bit of trumpery back into the box and banished the covetous wish, all would have been well; but instead, she stood deliberating and turning the little dress over and over in her hands. Meantime a hospitable thought had occurred to Lucy. She remembered that there was a new supply of apples in the pantry, and had gone to get one for Annie and one for herself. On her way through the dining-room she happened to look out of the window.
"Goodness gracious!" she exclaimed; for there was Mrs. Conwell getting out of the car at the corner!
At Lucy's call of, "Annie, here comes your mother!" Annie started, hesitated, glanced at the box, and, alas! crammed the red silk frock into her pocket. Then she caught up her cloak and hood, and rushed down the stairs. Lucy ran to open the yard gate for her, and thrust the apple into her hand as she passed.
Flurried and short of breath, she reached home just as Mrs. Conwell rang the door-bell. She did not hasten as usual to greet her mother; but, hurrying to her own little room, shut herself in, and sat down on the bed to recover from her confusion.
It happened that the cook claimed Mrs. Conwell's attention in regard to some domestic matter, and thus she did not at once inquire for her little daughter, supposing that the child was contentedly occupied. Annie, therefore, had some time in which to collect her thoughts. As her excitement gradually died away, she found that, instead of feeling the satisfaction she expected in having spent the afternoon as she pleased and yet escaped discovery, she was restless and unhappy. Upon her neat dressing-table lay the apple which Lucy had given her. It was ripe and rosy, but she felt that a bite of it would choke her. Above the head of the bed hung a picture of the Madonna with the Divine Child. Obeying a sudden impulse, she jumped up and turned it inward to the wall. Ah, Annie, what a coward a guilty conscience can make of the bravest among us!
Glancing cautiously around, as if the very walls had eyes and could reveal what they saw, she drew from her pocket the red silk frock. She sat and gazed at it as if in a dream. It was as pretty as ever, yet it no longer gave her pleasure. She did not dare to try it on Clementina; she wanted to hide it away in some corner where no one would ever find it. Tiny as it was, she felt that it could never be successfully concealed; Remorse would point it out wherever it was secreted. Annie began to realize what she had done. She had stolen! She, proud Annie Conwell, who held her head so high, whom half the girls at school envied, had taken what did not belong to her! How her cheeks burned! She wondered if it had been found out yet. What would Lucy say? Would she tell all the girls, and would they avoid her, and whisper together when she was around, saying, "Look out for Annie Conwell! She is not to be trusted."
She covered her face with her hands, and burst into tears. And all the while a low voice kept whispering in her heart with relentless persistency, till human respect gave way to higher motives. She glanced up at the picture, turned it around again with a feeling of compunction, and, humbled and contrite, sank on her knees in a little heap upon the floor.
A few moments afterward her mother's step sounded in the hall. When one finds a little girl's cloak flung on the baluster, stumbles over a hood on the stairs, and picks up an odd mitten somewhere else, the evidences are strong that the owner has come home in a hurry. Mrs. Conwell had, therefore, discovered Annie's disobedience. She threw open the door, intending to rebuke her severely; but the sight of the child's flushed and tear-stained face checked the chiding words upon her lips.
"What is the matter, Annie?" she inquired, somewhat sternly.
"O mother, please don't scold me! I'm unhappy enough already," faltered Annie, beginning to cry again.
Then, as the burden of her miserable little secret had become unendurable, she told the whole story. Mrs. Conwell looked pained and grave, but her manner was very gentle as she said:
"Of course, the first thing for you to do is to return what you have unjustly taken."
Annie gave a little nervous shudder. "What! go and tell Lucy I stole her doll's red silk dress?" she exclaimed. "How could I ever!"
"I do not say it is necessary to do that," answered her mother; "but you are certainly obliged to restore it. I should advise you to take it back without delay, and have the struggle over."
She went away, and left the little girl to reflect upon the matter. But the more Annie debated with herself, the more difficulty she had in coming to a decision. Finally she started up, exclaiming,
"The longer I think about it the harder it seems. I'll just do it right off."
She picked up the dress, darted down the stairs, hurriedly prepared to go out, and in a few moments was hastening down the block to the Caryls'. Lucy saw her coming, and met her at the door.
"Did you get a scolding? Was your mother very much displeased?" she asked; for she perceived immediately that Annie had been crying, and misinterpreted the cause of her tears.
"Oh, no!—well, I suppose she was," hesitated Annie. "But she did not say much."
"How did she happen to let you come down here again?" continued Lucy, leading the way to the sitting-room.
Annie cast a quick glance at the table. The box which contained Christabel and her wardrobe was no longer there. It was useless, then, to hope for a chance to quietly slip the red dress into it again.
Lucy repeated the question, wondering what had set her playmate's thoughts a-wool-gathering.
"I'm not going to stay," began Annie.
Lucy's clear eyes met hers inquiringly. To her uneasy conscience they seemed to accuse her and to demand the admission of her fault. Her cheeks grew crimson; and, as a person in a burning building ventures a perilous leap in the hope of escape, so Annie, finding her present position intolerable, stammered out the truth.
"I only came to bring back something. Don't be vexed, will you, at what I'm going to tell you? I took that red silk dress home with me; but here it is, and I'm sorry, Lucy,—indeed I am!"
A variety of expressions flitted across Lucy's face as she listened. Incredulity, surprise, and indignation were depicted there. Annie had stated the case as mildly as possible, but Lucy understood. After the first surprise, however, she began to comprehend dimly that it must have required a good deal of moral courage thus openly to bring back the little dress. She was conscious of a new respect for Annie, who stood there so abashed. For a few moments there was an awkward pause; then she managed to say:
"Oh, that is all right! Of course I should have been vexed if you had not brought it back, because I should have missed it as soon as I opened the box. I was mean about it, anyway. I might have let you take it to try on Clementina. Here, I'll give it to you now, to make up for being stingy."
Annie shook her head, and refused to take the once coveted gift from her companion's outstretched hand.
"Then I'll lend it to you for ever and ever," continued Lucy, impulsively.
"No, I don't want it now," answered Annie. "Good-bye!"
"Will you go to walk with me to-morrow after Sunday-school?" urged Lucy, as she followed her to the door.
"P'rhaps!" replied her little friend, hastening away.
The inquiry brought her a feeling of relief, however. Lucy evidently had no thought of "cutting" her acquaintance. The sense of having done right made her heart light and happy as she ran home. The experience had taught her that one must learn to see many pretty things without wishing to possess them; and also that small acts of disobedience and a habit of meddling may lead further than one at first intends.
Annie became a lovely woman, a devoted daughter, a most self-sacrificing character, and one scrupulously exact in her dealings with others; but she never forgot "that red silk frock."
"A LESSON WITH A SEQUEL."
"How strange that any one should be so superstitious!" said Emily Mahon. Rosemary Beckett had been telling a group of girls of the ridiculous practices of an old negro woman employed by her mother as a laundress.
"People must be very ignorant to believe such things," declared Anna Shaw, disdainfully.
"Yet," observed Miss Graham, closing the new magazine which she had been looking over, "it is surprising how many persons, who ought to know better, are addicted to certain superstitions, and cannot be made to see that it is not only foolish but wrong to yield to them."
"Well," began Rosemary, "I am happy to say that is not a failing of mine."
"I think everything of the kind is nonsensical," added Kate Parsons.
"I'm not a bit superstitious either," volunteered Emily.
"Nor I," interposed Anna.
"I despise such absurdities," continued May Johnston.
"My dear girls," laughed Miss Graham, "I'll venture to say that each one of you has a pet superstition, which influences you more or less, and which you ought to overcome."
This assertion was met by a chorus of indignant protests.
"Why, Cousin Irene!" cried Emily.
"O, Miss Graham, how can you think so!"
"The very idea!" etc., etc., chimed in the others.
Everybody liked Miss Irene Graham. She lived with her cousins, the Mahons, and supported herself by giving lessons to young girls who for various reasons did not attend a regular school. Her classes were popular, not only because she was bright and clever, and had the faculty of imparting what she knew; but because, as parents soon discovered, she taught her pupils good, sound common-sense, as well as "the shallower knowledge of books." Cousin Irene had not forgotten how she used to think and feel when she herself was a young girl, and therefore she was able to look at the world from a girl's point of view, to sympathize with her dreams and undertakings. She did not look for very wise heads upon young shoulders; but when she found that her pupils had foolish notions, or did not behave sensibly, she tried to make them see this for themselves; and we all know from experience that what we learn in that way produces the most lasting impression.
The girls now gathered around her were members of the literature class, which met on Wednesday and Saturday mornings at the Mahons'. As they considered themselves accomplished and highly cultivated for their years, it was mortifying to be accused of being so unenlightened as to believe in omens.
"No, I haven't a particle of superstition," repeated Rosemary, decidedly. "There's one thing I won't do, though. I won't give or accept a present of anything sharp—a knife or scissors, or even a pin,—because, the saying is, it cuts friendship. I've found it so, too. I gave Clara Hayes a silver hair-pin at Christmas, and a few weeks after we quarrelled."
"There is the fault, popping up like a Jack-in-the box!" said Miss Irene. "But, if I remember, Clara was a new acquaintance of yours in the holidays, and you and she were inseparable. The ardor of such extravagant friendship soon cools. Before long you concluded you did not like her so well as at first; then came the disagreement. But is it not silly to say the pin had anything to do with the matter? Would it not have been the same if you had given her a book or a picture?"
"If I'm walking in the street with a friend, I'm always careful never to let any person or thing come between us," admitted Kate Parsons. "It's a sure sign that you'll be disappointed—"
"Oh, it will be all right if you remember to say 'Bread and butter!'" interrupted Anna, eagerly.
They all laughed; but Miss Irene saw by the tell-tale faces of several that they clung to this childish practice.
"We used to do so in play when we were little girls," said Emily, apologetically; "and I suppose it became a habit."
"The other day," Miss Graham went on, "I heard a young lady say: 'If you are setting out upon a journey, or even a walk, and have to go back to the house for anything, be sure you sit down before starting off again.' It is bad luck not to do so.'"
"Yes, we are very particular about that!" cried Rosemary, impulsively, as her companions did not contradict the avowal; it was evident that she knew what she was talking about.
The conversation turned to other subjects. Presently Anna and Rosemary were planning an excursion to a neighboring town.
"To visit Elizabeth Harris, who was at the convent with us last year," explained the latter. "Suppose we go to-morrow?"
"I have an engagement with the dentist," was the doleful reply.
"Well, the day after?"
"Let me see," mused Anna. "Oh, no!" she added, hastily. "I could not start on a journey or begin any work on a Friday; it would not be lucky, you know!" Then she flushed and looked toward Miss Irene, who shook her head significantly and wrote in her note-book, "Superstitious practice No. 4."
As it was Emily's birthday, the girls had been invited to stay for luncheon. Emily now led the way to the dining-room, where a pretty table was spread. Everything was as dainty as good taste and handsome auxiliaries could make it: the snowy damask, fine glass, and old family silver; the small crystal bowls filled with chrysanthemums, and at each plate a tiny bouquet.
Mr. Mahon was down town at his business, but there stood Mrs. Mahon, so kind and affable; and the boys and girls of the family were waiting to take their seats. The party paused, while, according to the good old-fashioned custom (now too often neglected), grace was said; and Cousin Irene, contemplating the bright faces and pleasant surroundings, thought she had seldom seen a more attractive picture. But now she noticed that May, after a quick look around, appeared startled and anxious. The next moment the foolish girl exclaimed:
"O Mrs. Mahon, there are thirteen of us here! You do not like to have thirteen persons at your table, do you? Pardon me, but I'm so nervous about it!"
A shadow of annoyance flitted across Mrs. Mahon's motherly countenance, but she answered gently: "My dear, I never pay any attention to the superstition. Still a hostess will not insist upon making a guest uncomfortable. Tom," she continued, addressing her youngest son, "you will oblige me by taking your luncheon afterward."
Tom scowled at May, flung himself out of his chair, mumbled something about "stuff and nonsense;" and, avoiding his mother's reproving glance, went off in no amiable humor.
May was embarrassed, especially as she felt Miss Irene's grave eyes fixed upon her. But Mrs. Mahon was too courteous to allow any one to remain disconcerted at her hospitable board. With ready tact she managed that the little incident should seem speedily forgotten. After a momentary awkwardness the girls began to chatter merrily again, and harmony was restored.
On their return to the drawing-room, May whispered to Miss Graham: "I hope Mrs. Mahon will excuse me for calling her attention to the number at table. I did not mean to be rude, and I suppose it is silly to be so superstitious; but, indeed, I can not help it."
"Do not say that, dear; because you can help it if you wish," was the gentle reply, "Mrs. Mahon understood, I am sure, that you did not intend to be impolite; but I know she must have felt regret that you should give way to such folly." Then, turning to the others, Miss Irene continued: "Well, girls, considering the revelations of this morning, perhaps you will admit that you have, after all, a fair share of superstition."
"I'm afraid so," acknowledged Rosemary; and no one demurred.
"Do you know how these superstitions originated, Miss Graham?" asked Anna, who was of an inquiring mind.
"Many of them are very ancient," replied Cousin Irene. "That which predicts that the gift of anything sharp cuts friendship probably dates back farther than the days of Rome and Greece, and is almost as old as the dagger itself. No doubt it originated in an age of frequent wars and quarrels, when for a warrior to put a weapon in the hands of a companion was perhaps to find it forthwith turned against himself. In those days of strife also, when men were more ready in action than in the turning of phrases, and so much was expressed by symbolism, the offering of a sword or dagger was frequently in itself a challenge, and a declaration of enmity. Thus, you see, that what was a natural inference in other times is meaningless in ours. The adage which advises the person obliged to turn back in his journey to be careful to sit down before setting out anew, was at first simply a metaphorical way of saying that having made a false start toward the accomplishment of any duty, it is well to begin again at the beginning. The custom which restrained comrades in arms, or friends walking or journeying together, from allowing anything to come between them, had also a figurative import. It was a dramatic manner of declaring, 'Nothing shall ever part us,—no ill-will nor strife, not even this accidental barrier, shall interrupt our friendly intercourse.' In the times, too, when there were few laws but that of might, when danger often lurked by the wayside, it was always well for a traveller to keep close to his companion, and not to separate from him without necessity.
"Many other superstitions, as well, have a symbolical origin. But the nineteenth century does not deal with such picturesque methods of expression. We pride ourselves upon saying in so many words just what we mean; therefore much of the poetic imagery of other days has no significance in ours. And is it not symbolism without sense which constitutes one of the phases of superstition? As for your bread-and-butter exorcism, Anna, I presume it was simply the expression of a hope that nothing might interfere between hungry folk and their dinner. This is, indeed, but a bit of juvenile nonsense; just as children will 'make believe' that some dire mishap will befall one who steps on the cracks of a flagged sidewalk; and so on through a score of funny conceits and games, innocent enough as child's play, but hardly worthy of sensible girls in their teens.
"You know, the practice of refraining from beginning a journey or undertaking on Friday," continued Miss Irene, "arose from a religious observance of the day upon which Our Lord was crucified. As the early Christians were accustomed to devote this day to meditation and prayer, it followed that few went abroad at that time, or set about new temporal ventures. Superstition early perverted the import of this pious custom. As on that day Satan marshalled all the powers of evil against the Son of God, so, said the soothsayers, he would beset with misfortune and danger the path of those who set forth on a Friday. As regards the case in point, since we do not go into retreat once a week, I presume Anna and Rosemary have not this reason for refusing to visit their young friend on Friday."
There was a general laugh, after which Miss Irene went on:
"For the rest, we know God's loving providence carefully watches over us at all times, and constantly preserves us from countless dangers; that nothing can betide us without His permission, and that He blesses the work of every day if we ask Him. Far from being influenced by the common superstition with regard to Friday, it would seem as if we should piously prefer to begin an undertaking (and in this spirit seek a special blessing on the work thus commenced) on the day of the week which commemorates that most fortunate of all days for us, on which was consummated the great act of Redemption.
"The superstition with reference to thirteen at table dates from the Last Supper, of which Our Lord partook with His twelve Apostles on the eve of His crucifixion. Hence the saying that of thirteen persons who sit down together to a repast, one will soon die. I think it was originally the custom to avoid having thirteen at the festive or family board, not so much from this notion, as to express a horror of the treachery of Judas. Such would be, for instance, the chivalrous spirit of the Crusaders. We can understand how, in feudal times, a knight would consider it an affront to his fellows to bid them to a banquet spread for thirteen. In those days, when a feast was so apt to end in a fray,—when by perfidy the enemy so often entered at the castle gate while the company were at table, and frequently a chief was slain ere he could rise from his place,—the circumstance would point an analogy which it has not with us, suggesting not merely mortality but betrayal; a breach of all the laws of hospitality; impending death by violence. Since we can not live forever, among every assemblage of individuals there is likely to be one at least whose life may be nearly at its close. The more persons present, the greater the probability; therefore there is really a greater fatality in the numbers fourteen, twenty, thirty, than in thirteen.
"But to return to the point from which we started—no, Emily, it is not necessary to sit down. You will observe that many persons who declare emphatically that they are not superstitious, are nevertheless influenced by old-time sayings and practices; some of which, though perhaps beautiful originally, have now lost all significance; others which are simply relics of paganism. Men are often as irrational in this respect as women; and, notice this well, you will find superstition much more common among non-Catholics than among Catholics. As we have seen, however, some of us do not realize that what we are pleased to call certain harmless eccentricities, are very like the superstitious practices forbidden by the First Commandment."
Kate and Emily were not giving to this little homily the attention it deserved. They had begun to trifle as girls are wont to do. Catching at the tiny bisque cupid that hung from the chandelier, Emily sportively sent it flying toward Kate, who swung it back again. Thus they kept it flitting to and fro, faster and faster. Finally, Emily hit it with a jerk. The cord by which it was suspended snapped; the dainty bit of bric-a-brac sped across the room, and, striking with full force against a mirror in a quaint old secretary that had belonged to Mr. Mahon's uncle, shivered the glass to pieces. Instantly every trace of color fled from her face, and she stood appalled, gazing at the mischief she had done. There was, of course, an exclamation from her companions, who remained staring at her, and appeared almost as disturbed as herself.
Cousin Irene went over and patted her on the shoulder, saying, "Do not be so distressed, child. I know you are sorry to have damaged the old secretary, which we value so much for its associations. But there is no need of being so troubled. We can have a new mirror put in."
"It is not only that," faltered the silly girl; "but to break a looking-glass! You know it is a sure sign that a great misfortune will befall us—that there will probably be a death in the family before long."
"Oh, but such sayings don't always come true! There are often exceptions," interposed Kate, anxious to say something consolatory, and heartily wishing they had let the little cupid alone.
"Too bad; for it really is dreadfully unlucky to have such a thing happen!" sighed Rosemary, with less tact.
"I know it," murmured May.
"Yes, indeed," added Anna.
Miss Graham drew back astonished. "Young ladies, I am ashamed of you!" she said, reproachfully, and went out of the room.
There were a few moments of discomfiture, and presently the girls concluded, one after another, that it was time to be going home.
Left alone, Emily approached the secretary and examined the ruined mirror. It was cracked like an egg-shell,—"smashed to smithereens," Tom said in telling the story later; but only one or two bits had fallen out. Idly attempting to fit these into place again, Emily caught sight of what she supposed was a sheet of note-paper, that had apparently made its way in between the back of the mirror and the frame.
"An old letter of grandpa's, probably," she said aloud, taking hold of the corner to draw it out. It stuck fast; but a second effort released it, amid a shower of splintered glass; and to her amazement she found in her possession a time-stained document that had a mysteriously legal air. Trembling with excitement she unfolded it, and, without stopping to think that it might not be for her eyes, began to read the queer writing, which was somewhat difficult to decipher:
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. I, Bernard Mahon, being of sound and disposing mind, do hereby declare this to be my last will and testament."
"Uncle Bernard's will!" gasped Emily. "It must be the one father always said uncle told him about, but which never could be found. Perhaps he slipped it in here for safe-keeping." Eagerly she scanned it, crying at last, "Yes, yes! Hurrah! O Cousin Irene!" she called out, hearing the latter's step in the hall.
When Miss Graham entered Emily was waltzing around the room, waving the document ecstatically. "See what I've found!" she cried, darting toward her with an impulsive caress.
Cousin Irene took the paper, and, as she perused it, became, though in a less demonstrative fashion, as agitated as Emily. "Your father!" she stammered.
Mr. Mahon had come into the house and was now in the little study, which he called his den. Cousin Irene and Emily almost flew thither, and a few minutes later his voice, with a glad ring in it, was heard calling first his wife and then the children to tell them the joyful news.
The will so long sought, so strangely brought to light, made a great change in the family fortunes. By it Bryan, the old man's son, who was unmarried and dissipated, was entitled to merely a certain income and life-interest in the estate, which upon his demise was to go to the testator's nephew William (Mr. Mahon) and Cousin Irene. In fact, however, at his father's death, Bryan, as no will was discovered, had entered into full possession of the property; and when within a year his own career was suddenly cut short, it was learned that he had bequeathed nothing to his relatives but a few family heirlooms.
"I did not grudge Bryan what he had while he lived," said Mr. Mahon; "but when, after the poor fellow was drowned, we heard that he had left all his money to found a library for 'the Preservation of the Records of Sport and Sportsmen,' I did feel that, with my boys and girls to provide for and educate, I could have made a better use of it. And Cousin Irene would have been saved a good deal of hard work if she could have obtained her share at the time. Thank God it is all right now, and the library with the long name will have to wait for another founder."
The girls of the literature class soon heard of their friends' good fortune, and were not slow in offering their congratulations.
One day, some two years after, when Anna and Rosemary happened to call at the Mahons', a chance reference was made to the discovery of the will. "Only think," exclaimed Rosemary, "how much came about through the spoiling of that mirror! Emily, you surely can never again believe it unlucky to break a looking-glass?"
"No, indeed!" replied Emily, thinking of the uninterrupted happiness and prosperity which the family had enjoyed since then.
"It was a fortunate accident for us," said Cousin Irene; "but I should not advise any one to go around smashing all the looking-glasses in his or her house, hoping for a similar result. It certainly would be an unlucky sign for the person who had to meet the bill for repairs."
"Miss Graham, how do you suppose this superstition originated?" asked Anna, as eager for information as ever. After a general laugh at her expense, Cousin Irene said:
"The first mirrors, you must remember, were the forest pools and mountain tarns. As the hunter stooped to one of these to slake his thirst, if perchance so much as a shadow should break the reflection of his own image in its tranquil depths, he had reason to fear that danger and perhaps death were at hand; for often in some such dark mirror a victim caught the first glimpse of his enemy, who had been waiting in ambush and was now stealing upon him from behind; or of the wild beast making ready to leap upon him. But the popular augury that the mere fact of breaking a looking-glass portends death, is, you must see, senseless and absurd. And so, as I think you have become convinced, are all superstitions. It is true we sometimes remark coincidences, and are inclined to make much of them; without noting, on the contrary, how many times the same supposed omens and signs come to nought. When God wills to send us some special happiness or trial, be assured He makes use of no such means to prepare us for it; since He directs our lives not by chance, but by His all-wise and loving Providence."
UNCLE TOM'S STORY.
Some pine logs burned brightly upon the andirons in the wide, old-fashioned chimney; and the Tyrrell children were comfortably seated around the fire, roasting chestnuts and telling stories.
"Come, Uncle Tom, it is your turn!" cried Pollie, breaking in upon the reverie of their mother's brother, who, seated in the old red arm-chair, was gazing abstractedly at the cheery flames.
"Yes, please let us have something about the war," put in Rob.
"But everybody has been telling war stories for the last twenty-five years. Do you not think we have had enough of them?" said the gentleman.
"One never tires of hearing of deeds of bravery," answered Rob, dramatically.
"Or of romantic adventures," added Pollie.
Uncle Tom looked amused; but, after some hesitation, said; "Well, I will tell you an incident recalled by this pine-wood fire. It may seem extraordinary; but, having witnessed it myself, I can vouch for its truth. You consider me an old soldier; yet, though I wore the blue uniform for more than a year and saw some fighting, I was only a youth of eighteen when the war closed; and, in spite of my boyish anxiety to distinguish myself and become a hero, I probably would never have attained even to the rank of orderly, had it not come about in the following manner:"
Our regiment was stationed at A———, not far from the seat of war. Near our quarters was a Catholic church, attended by the ——— Fathers. I early made the acquaintance of one of them, who was popularly known as Father Friday, this being the nearest approach to the pronunciation of his peculiar German name to which the majority of the people could arrive. In him I recognized my ideal of a Christian gentleman, and as such I still revere his memory.
He was one of the handsomest men I ever saw—tall and of splendid physique, with light brown hair, blue eyes, and a complexion naturally fair, but bronzed by the sun. Though in reality he was as humble and unassuming as any lay-brother in his community, his bearing was simply regal.
He could not have helped it any more than he could help the impress of nobility upon his fine features. The youngsters used to enjoy seeing him pass the contribution box in church at special collections. It must have been "an act" (as you convent girls say, Pollie). He would move along in his superb manner, looking right over the heads of the congregation, and disdaining to cast a glance at the "filthy lucre" that was being heaped up in the box which from obedience he carried. What were silver and gold, let alone the cheap paper currency of the times, to him, who had given up wealth and princely rank to become a religious! Yet, in fact, they were a great deal, since they meant help for the needy—a church built, a hospital for the sick poor. In this sense none appreciated more the value of money.
Father Friday was accustomed to travel about the country for miles, hunting up those of his flock who, from the unsettled state of affairs, either could not or would not come into the town to church. Like the typical missionary, from necessity he always walked; though, in my youthful enthusiasm, I used to think how grandly he would look upon a charger and in the uniform of a general. In his old cassock, and wearing a hat either of plain brown straw or black felt, according to the season, he was as intrepid as a general, however; and went about alone as serenely as if the times were most peaceful. Our colonel often remonstrated with him for doing so, and finally insisted upon appointing an orderly to attend him. Father Friday at first declined; but upon hearing that the duty had been assigned to me, he in the end assented—partly, I suppose, to keep me from bad company and out of mischief. Many a pleasant tramp I had with him; for he would beguile the way with anecdotes and jokes, and bits of information upon geology, botany, the birds of that section—everything likely to interest a boy. What wonder that I regarded a day with him as a genuine holiday?