One October afternoon he said: "To-morrow morning, Captain Tom" (the title was a pleasantry of his),—"to-morrow morning I shall be glad of your company. I am going some five miles back into the country to visit an invalid."
"Very well, Father," I answered. "I shall be ready."
Accordingly, the next day, at the appointed hour, I joined him at the gate of the convent, and we set out—this time in silence, for he carried the Blessed Sacrament. At first our course was through the open plain; but later it led, for perhaps a mile, across a corner of the pine forest, which extended all along the ridge and shut the valley in from the rest of the world. We entered the wood confidently, and for half an hour followed the windings of the path, which gradually became less defined. After a while it began to appear that we were making but little headway.
Father Friday stopped. "Does it not seem to you that we are merely going round and round, Tom?" he asked.
I assented gloomily.
"Have you a compass?"
I shook my head.
"Nor have I," he added. "I did not think of bringing one, being so sure of the way. How could we have turned from it so inadvertently? Well, we must calculate by the sun. The point for which we are bound is in a southerly direction."
Having taken our bearings, we retraced our steps a short distance, then pushed forward for an hour or more, without coming out upon the bridle-path which we expected to find. Another hour passed; the sun was getting high. Father Friday paused again.
"What time is it?" he inquired.
I looked at the little silver watch my mother gave me when I left home. "Nine o'clock!" I answered, with a start.
"How unfortunate!" he exclaimed. "There is now no use in pressing on farther. We should arrive too late at our destination. We may as well rest a little, and then try to find our way home. It is unaccountable that I should have missed the way so stupidly."
But it was one thing to order a retreat, as we soldiers would call it, and quite another to go back by the route we had come. We followed first one track and then another; but the underbrush grew thicker and thicker, and at length the conviction was forced upon us that we were completely astray. I climbed a tree—it was no easy task, as any one who has ever attempted to climb a pine will agree. I got up some distance, after a fashion; but the branches were so thick and the trees so close together that there was nothing to be discerned, except that I was surrounded by what seemed miles of green boughs, which swayed in the breeze, making me think of the waves of an emerald sea.
I scrambled down and submitted my discouraging report. The sun was now overhead: it must therefore be noon. We began to feel that even a frugal meal would be welcome. I had managed to get a cup of coffee before leaving my quarters; but Father Friday, I suspected, had taken nothing. We succeeded in finding some berries here and there; and, farther on, a spring of water. However, this primitive fare was of little avail to satisfy one's appetite.
Well, after wandering about, and shouting and hallooing till we were tired, in the effort to attract the attention of any one who might chance to be in the vicinity, we rested at the foot of a tree. Father Friday recited some prayers, to which I made the responses. Then he withdrew a little, and read his Office as serenely as if he were in the garden of the convent; while I, weary and disheartened, threw myself on the ground and tried again to determine by the sun where we were. I must have fallen asleep; for the next thing I knew the sun was considerably lower, and Father Friday was waiting to make another start.
"How strange," he kept repeating as we proceeded, "that we should be so entirely astray in a wood only a few miles in extent, and within such a short distance from home! It is most extraordinary. I cannot understand it."
It was, indeed, singular; but I was too dispirited to speculate upon the subject. Soldier though I prided myself upon being, and strong, active fellow that I certainly was, Father Friday was as far ahead of me in his endurance of the hardship of our position as in everything else.
Dusk came, and we began to fear that we should have to remain where we were all night. Again I climbed a tree, hoping to catch a glimpse of a light somewhere. All was dark, however; and I was about to descend when—surely there was a faint glimmer yonder! As the diver peers amid the depths of the sea in search of buried jewels, so I eagerly looked down among the green branches. Yes, now it became a ray, and probably shone from some dwelling in the heart of the wood. I called the good news to Father Friday.
"Deo gratias!" he exclaimed. "Where is it?"
"Over there," said I, pointing in the direction of the light.
I got to the ground as fast as I could, and we made our way toward it. Soon we saw it plainly, glowing among the trees; and, following its guidance, soon came to a cleared space, where stood a rude log cabin, in front of which burned a fire of pine knots. Before it was a man of the class which the darkies were wont to designate as "pore white trash." He was a tall, gawky countryman, rawboned, with long, unkempt hair. His homespun clothes were decidedly the worse for wear; his trousers were tucked into the tops of his heavy cowhide boots, and perched upon his head was the roughest of home-woven straw-hats.
At the sound of our footsteps he turned, and to say that he was surprised at our appearance would but ill describe his amazement. Father Friday speedily assured him that we were neither raiders nor bush-rangers, but simply two very hungry wanderers who had been astray in the woods all day.
"Wa-all now, strangers, them is raither hard lines," said the man, good-naturedly. "Jest make yerselves ter home hyere ternight, an' in the mornin' I'll put yer on the right road to A———. Lors, but yer must a-had a march! Been purty much all over the woods, I reckon.—Mirandy!" he continued, calling to some one inside the cabin. "Mirandy!"
"I'm a-heedin', Josh. What's the matter?" inquired a scrawny, sandy-haired woman, coming to the door, with her arms akimbo. "Mussy me!" she ejaculated upon seeing us.
"Hyere's two folks as has got lost in this hyere forest, an' is plum tired out an' powerful hongry," explained her husband.
"Mussy me!" she repeated, eyeing my blue coat askance, and regarding Father Friday with suspicious wonder. She had never seen a uniform like that long black cassock. To which side did he belong, Federal or Confederate?
"Mirandy's Secesh, but I'm for the Union," explained Josh, with a wink to us. "Sometimes we have as big a war as any one cyares ter see, right hyere, on 'ccount of it. But, Lors, Mirandy, yer ain't a-goin' ter quarrel with a man 'cause the color of his coat ain't ter yer likin' when he ain't had a bite of vittles terday!"
"No, I ain't," answered the woman, stolidly. Glancing again at Father Friday's kind face, she added, more graciously: "Wa-all, yer jest in the nick of time; the hoe-cake's nyearly done, and we war about havin' supper. Hey, Josh?"
"Sartain sure," said Josh, ushering us into the kitchen, which was the principal room of the cabin, though a door at the side apparently led into a smaller one adjoining. He made us sit down at the table, and Mirandy placed the best her simple larder afforded before us.
As we went out by the fire again, our host said, with some embarrassment: "Now, strangers, I know ye're fagged out, an' for sure ye're welcome to the tiptop of everythin' we've got. But I'm blessed if I can tell whar ye're a-goin' ter sleep ternight. We've company, yer see, in the leetle room yonder; an' that's the only place we've got ter offer, ordinar'ly."
Father Friday hastened to reassure him. "I propose to establish myself outside by the fire. What could be better?" said he.
Father Friday, you remember, had the Blessed Sacrament with him; and I knew that, weary as he was, he would pass the night in prayer.
"I am actually too tired to sleep now," I began. "But when I am inclined to do so, what pleasanter resting-place could a soldier desire than a bit of ground strewn with pine needles?"
"Wa-all, I allow I'm glad yer take it the right way," declared Josh; then, growing loquacious, he continued: "Fact is, this is mighty cur'ous company of ourn—"
"Josh, come hyere a minute, can't yer?" called Mirandy from within.
"Sartain," he answered, breaking off abruptly, and leaving us to conjecture who the mysterious visitor might be.
"Yes, I allow I'm right glad yer don't mind passin' the night out hyere by the fire," said Josh, taking up the thread of the conversation again upon his return, shortly after. "Wa-all, I was a-tellin' about this queer company of ourn. Came unexpected, same as you did; 'peared all of a sudden out of the woods. It's a leetle girl, sirs; says she's twelve year old, but small of her age—nothin' but a child, though I reckon life's used her hard, pore creetur! Yer should a-seen her when she 'rived. Her shoes war most wore off with walkin', an' her purty leetle feet all blistered an' sore. Mirandy 'marked to me arterward that her gown war a good deal tore with comin' through the brambles, though she'd tried to tidy it up some by pinnin' the rents together with thorns. But, land sakes, I did not take notice of that: my eyes were jest fastened on her peaked face. White as a ghost's, sirs; an' her dull-lookin', big black eyes, that stared at us, yet didn't seem ter see nothin'.
"Wa-all, that's the way the leetle one looked when she stepped out of the shadders. Mirandy was totin' water from the spring yonder, an' when she see her she jest dropped the bucket an' screamed—thought it was a spook, yer know. I war a-pilin' wood on the fire, an' when the girl saw me she shrank back a leetle; but when she ketched sight o' Mirandy she 'peared to muster up courage, tuk a step forward, an' then sank down all in a heap, with a kinder moan, right by the bench thar. She 'peared miserable 'nough, I can tell yer: bein' all of a shiver an' shake, with her teeth chatterin' like a monkey's.
"Mirandy stood off, thinkin' the creetur was wild or half-witted, likely; but I says: 'Bullets an' bombshells, Mirandy'—escuse me, gentlemen, but that's a good, strong-soundin' espression, that relieves my feelin's good as a swear word,—bullets an' bombshells, woman, don't yer see the girl's all broke up with the ague?'—'Why, sur 'nough!' cried she, a-comin' to her senses. 'I'd oughter known a chill with half an eye; an' sartain this beats all I ever saw,' With that she went over an' tuk the girl in her arms, an' sot her on the bench, sayin', 'You pore honey, you! Whar'd you come from?' At this the leetle one began to cry—tried to speak, then started to cry again. 'Wa-all, never mind a-talkin' about it now,' says Mirandy, settin' to quiet her, an' pettin' an' soothin' her in a way that I wouldn't a-believed of Mirandy if I hadn't a-seen it; for she hasn't had much to tetch the soft spot in her heart sence our leetle Sallie died, which is nigh onto eight year ago. 'Come, Josh,' she called ter me, 'jest you carry this hyere child inter the house an' lay her on the bed. I reckon she can have the leetle room, an' you can sleep in the kitchen ternight.'—'I'm agreeable,' answers I; so I picked her up (she war as limp an' docile as could be), an' carried her in, an' put her down on the bed. That was three weeks come Sunday, an' thar she's been ever since."
Our host had finished his story, yet how much remained untold! All the care and kindness which the stranger had received at the hands of these good simple people was passed over in silence, as if not worth mentioning.
Josh rose and went to the fire to relight his brier-wood pipe, which had gone out during the recital.
"And is the little girl still very ill?" asked Father Friday, with gentle concern.
"Yes; an' the trouble is, she gets wus an' wus," was the reply. "The complaint's taken a new turn lately. She's been in a ragin' fever an' kind of flighty most of the time. Yer see, she'd had a sight of trouble afore she broke down, an' that's what's drivin' her distracted. She'd lost her folks somewhar way down South,—got separated from them in the hurly-burly of a flight from a captured town; an', childlike, she set about travellin' afoot all over the land to find them. How she got through the lines I can't make out, unless she got round 'em some way, comin' through the woods. Anyway she's here, and likely never to get any farther in her search, pore honey! But what's her name, or who her people are, is more nor I can say; for, cur'ous as it seems, she has plum forgotten these two things.
"Thar's another matter, too, that bothers us some. She keeps a-callin' for somebody, an' beggin' an' prayin' us not to let her die without somethin', in a way that would melt the heart of a rock. It makes me grow hot an' then cold all in a minute, jest a-listenin' to her. To-day she war plum out of her head, an' war goin' to get right up an' go off through the woods after it herself. Mirandy had a terrible time with her; an' it wasn't till she got all wore out from sheer weakness that she quieted down an' fell asleep, jest a leetle before yer 'peared, strangers. What it is she keeps entreatin' an' beseechin' for we never can make out, though I'd cut my hand off to get it for her, she's sech a patient, grateful leetle soul. But"—Josh started up; a sudden hope had dawned upon him as he looked across at Father Friday's strong, kind face—"perhaps you could tell. Bullets an' bombshells, that's a lucky idee! I'll go an' ask Mirandy about it."
That any one was ill or disquieted in mind was a sufficient appeal to the sympathy and zeal of Father Friday. He put his hand to his breast a moment, and I knew that he was praying for the soul so sorely tried.
In a few moments Josh returned, saying, "Mirandy says the leetle girl is jest woke up, an' seems uncommon sensible an' clear-headed. Perhaps if yer war ter ask her now, she could tell yer it all plain."
Father Friday rose, and I followed too, as the man led the way to the little room, the door of which was immediately opened by his wife, who motioned to us to enter. Never shall I forget the sight that greeted my eyes. Upon the bed lay a childish form, with a small, refined face, the pallor of which was intensified by contrast with the large dark eyes, that now had a half startled, expectant, indescribable expression. The sufferer had evidently reached the crisis of a malarial fever; reason had returned unclouded; but from that strange, bright look, I felt that there was no hope of recovery.
How shall I find words to portray what followed! The others waited beside the door; but Father Friday advanced a few steps, then paused, so as not to frighten her by approaching abruptly. As he stood there in his cassock, with his hand raised in benediction, and wearing, as I knew, the Blessed Sacrament upon his breast, I realized more fully than ever before the grandeur of the priestly mission to humanity. The girl's roving glance was arrested by the impressive figure; but how little were any of us prepared for the effect upon her! The dark eyes lighted up with joyful recognition, her cheek flushed, and with a glad cry she started up, exclaiming, "Thank God, my prayer is granted! God has sent a priest to me before I die!"
Had a miracle been wrought before us we could not have been more astounded. Instinctively I fell upon my knees. Mirandy followed my example; and Josh looked as if he would like to do so too, but was not quite sure how to manage it.
Father Friday drew nearer.
"I knew you would come, Father," she continued, with a happy smile. "This is what I have prayed for ever since I have been lying here. I thought you would come to-day; for since early morning I have been imploring the Blessed Virgin to obtain this favor for me."
She sank back on the pillow exhausted, but after a few minutes revived once more.
It was apparent, however, that there was no time to be lost. I beckoned Josh and his wife out into the kitchen, and left Father Friday to hear her confession. Soon he recalled us. I have but to close my eyes to see it all as if it were yesterday: the altar hastily arranged upon a small deal table; the flickering tallow dips, the only light to do homage to the divine Guest; the angelic expression of the dying girl as she received the Holy Viaticum.
After that we all withdrew, Father Friday and I going out by the fire again. He resumed his breviary, and I remained silently musing upon all that had passed within the last hour. After a few moments he paused, with, his finger and thumb between the leaves of the book, and looked toward me. I hastened to avail of the opportunity to speak my thoughts.
"This, then, is the meaning of our strange wandering in the woods all day, Father," said I. "You were being providentially led from the path and guided to the bedside of this poor girl, that she might not die without the consolations of religion."
"I cannot but believe so," he replied, gravely. "We missionaries witness strange things sometimes. And what wonder? Is not the mercy of God as great, the intercession of Mary as powerful, as ever? To me this incident is but another beautiful example of the efficacy of prayer."
Before long Father Friday was again summoned within, and thus all night he watched and prayed beside the resigned little sufferer, whose life was slipping so fast away. In the grey of the early morning she died.
"Mussy me, I feel like I'd lost one of my own!" sobbed Mirandy.
"Yes, it's cur'ous how fond of her we grew; though she jest lay there so uncomplainin', an' never took much notice of nothin'," said Josh, drawing his brawny arm across his eyes.
An hour later he led the way before Father Friday and myself, and conducted us to the bridle-path, which joined the turnpike several miles below the town. By noon we were safely at home.
Two days after, however, I again accompanied Father Friday to the forest, when, with blessing, the little wanderer was laid to rest among the pines. One thing he had vainly tried to discover. Though during that night her mind had been otherwise clear and collected, memory had utterly failed upon one point: she could not remember her name. As we knew none to put upon the rude cross which we placed to mark her grave, Father Friday traced on the rough wood, with paint made by Josh from burnt vine twigs, the simple inscription: "A Child of Mary."
"I am so glad May-day is coming!" exclaimed Ellen Moore. "What sport we shall have hanging May-baskets!"
"What do you mean?" inquired Frances, who lived in Pennsylvania, but had come to New England to visit her cousins.
"Never heard of May-baskets?" continued Ellen, in astonishment. "Do you not celebrate the 1st of May in Ridgeville?"
"Of course. Sometimes we go picking wild flowers; and at St. Agnes' Academy, where I go to school, they always have a lovely procession in honor of the Blessed Virgin."
"We have one too, in the church," replied Ellen; "but hanging May-baskets is another thing altogether—"
"That is where the fun and frolic come in," interrupted Joe, looking up from the miniature boat which he was whittling out with his jackknife.
"You see," explained Ellen, "the afternoon before we make up a party, and go on a long jaunt up hill and down dale, through the woods and over the meadows, picking all the spring blossoms we can find. Finally, we come home with what we have succeeded in getting, and put them in water to keep fresh for the following day. Then what an excitement there is hunting up baskets for them! Tiny ones are best, because with them you can make the flowers go farther. Strawberry baskets—the old-fashioned ones with a handle—are nice, especially if you paint or gild them. Burr baskets are pretty too; and those made of fir cones. Joe has a knack of putting such things together. He made some elegant ones for me last year."
"Are you trying to kill two birds with one stone?" asked her brother, with a laugh. "Your compliment is also a hint that you would like me to do the same now, I suppose?"
"I never kill birds," rejoined Ellen, taking the literal meaning of his words, for the purpose of chaffing him. "Nor do you; for you told me the other day you did not understand how some boys could be so cruel."
"No, but you do not mind their being killed if you want their wings for your hat," continued Joe, in a bantering tone.
"Not at all," said Ellen, triumphantly. "In future I am going to wear only ribbons and artificial flowers on my chapeau. I have joined the Society for the Prevention of the Destruction of the Native Birds of America."
"Whew!" ejaculated Joe, with a prolonged whistle. "What a name! I should think that by the time you got to the end of it you'd be so old that you wouldn't care any more for feathers and fixings. I suppose it is a good thing though," he went on, more seriously. "It is just as cruel to kill birds for the sake of fashion as it is for the satisfaction of practising with a sling; only you girls have somebody to do it for you; and you don't think about it, because you can just step into a store and buy the plumes—"
"But what about the May-baskets?" protested Frances, disappointed at the digression.
"Oh, I forgot!" said Ellen. "Bright and early May-morning almost every boy and girl in the village is up and away. The plan is to hang a basket of wild flowers at the door of a friend, ring the bell or rattle the latch, and then scamper off as fast as you can. You have to be very spry so as to be back at home when your own baskets begin to arrive; then you must be quick to run out and, if possible, catch the friend who knocks, and thus find out whom to thank for the flowers."
"How delightful!" cried Frances, charmed at the prospect.
"It is so strange that you did not know about it!" added Ellen.
"Not at all," said Mrs. Moore, who had come out on the veranda where the young folks were chatting,—Frances swinging in the hammock, Ellen ensconced in a rustic chair with her fancy-work, and Joe leaning against a post, and still busy whittling. "Not at all," repeated Ellen's mother. "In America it is but little observed outside of the Eastern States. This is one of the beautiful traditionary customs of Catholic England, which even those austere Puritans, the Pilgrims, could not entirely divest themselves of; though among them it lost its former significance. Perhaps it was the gentle Rose Standish or fair Priscilla, or some other winsome and good maiden of the early colonial days, who transplanted to New England this poetic practice, sweet as the fragrant pink and white blossoms of the trailing arbutus, which is especially used to commemorate it. In Great Britain, though, it may have originated in the observances of the festivals which ushered in the spring. On the introduction of Christianity it was retained, and continued up to within two or three hundred years,—no doubt as a graceful manner of welcoming the Month of Our Lady. That it was considered a means of honoring the Blessed Virgin, as well as of expressing mutual kindness and good-will, we can see; since English historians tell us that up to the sixteenth century it was usual to adorn not only houses and gateways, but also the doors as well as the interior of churches, with boughs and flowers; particularly the entrances to shrines dedicated to the Mother of God."
"And the 1st of May will be the day after to-morrow!" remarked Frances, coming back to the present.
"Yes. And to-morrow, right after school—that will be about three o'clock, you know,—we shall start on our tramp," said Ellen. "As you do not have to go to school, Frances, you will be able to prepare the baskets during the morning. Come into the house with me now, and I'll show you some which I have put away."
The next afternoon many merry companies of young people explored the country round about Hazelton in quest of May-flowers. That in which we are interested numbered Frances, Ellen, her brother Joe, their little sister Teresa, and their other cousins, Elsie and Will Grey.
"I generally have to join another band," Ellen confided to Frances, as they walked along in advance of the rest; "because Joe does not usually care to go. He is very good about making the baskets for me; but, as he says, he 'don't take much stock in hanging them.' Yet, to-day he seems to be as anxious to get a quantity of the prettiest flowers as any one. Will comes now because Joe does. But Joe has some notion in his head. I wish I could find out what it is!"
Frances speculated upon the subject a few minutes; but, not being able to afford any help toward solving the riddle, she speedily forgot it in the pleasure of rambling through the fields, so newly green that the charm of novelty lingered like dew upon them; and among the lanes, redolent with the perfume of the first cherry blossoms,—for the season was uncommonly advanced.
Before long everybody began to notice how eager Joe was in his search.
"What are you going to do with all your posies?" queried Will, twittingly.
"They must be for Frances," declared Elsie.
"Maybe he is going to give them to Aunt Anna Grey," ventured Teresa.
"Perhaps to mother," hazarded Ellen.
"Yes: some for mother," admitted Joe; "and the others for—don't you wish you knew!" And Joe's eyes danced roguishly as he darted off to a patch of violets.
"He has some project. What can it be?" soliloquized Ellen, looking after him.
Joe, unconscious of her gaze, was bending over the little blue flowers, and humming an air which the children had learned a few days before.
"That tune is so catchy I can't get it out of my mind," he remarked to Will.
Suddenly Ellen started up. "I know!" she said to herself. Then for a time she was silent, flitting to and fro with a smile upon her lips, her thoughts as busy as her fingers. "Ha, Master Joe! I believe we'll all try that plan!" she exclaimed at length, laughing at the idea of the surprise in store for him. Presently she glanced toward Teresa and Elsie, who were loitering under a tree, talking in a low tone. Ellen laughed again. "Those two children are always having secrets about nothing at all," mused she.
Ellen was a lively girl, and greatly enjoyed a joke. After a while, when she discovered Elsie alone, she whispered something to her. The little girl's brown eyes grew round with interest. She nodded once or twice, murmuring, "Yes, yes!"
"And you must not breathe a word of it to anybody—not even to Teresa!" said Ellen.
"Oh, no!" said Elsie, quite flattered that such a big girl should confide in her.
Then—ah, merry Ellen!—did she not go herself and tell Teresa, charging her also not to reveal it? Later she took occasion to say a word to Frances upon the same topic.
"Splendid!" cried the latter. "I'll not speak of it, I promise you."
Finally, Ellen suggested the very same thing to Will, who chuckled, looked at Joe, and asked:
"Are you sure you're on the right track?"
"You'll see if I'm not!" replied Ellen.
"Well, all I say is," he went on, condescendingly, "you've hit upon a capital scheme; and you may bet your boots on it that I won't do anything to spoil it."
The girl looked down at her strong but shapely shoes (she was a bit vain of her neat foot), and thought that she would not be so unladylike as to 'bet her boots' on anything. But, as Will's observation was entirely impersonal, and intended as a pledge that he would follow her instructions, she made no comment. Moreover, she had now brought about the state of affairs which she had mischievously designed. Each of the party except Joe supposed that he or she had a secret with Ellen which the others knew nothing about; to each she had whispered her conjecture regarding Joe's purpose, and planned that they, the two of them, should please him by joining in it, without intimating their intention to him or any one. What a general astonishment and amusement there would be when it came out that all had known what each had been enjoying as a secret!
Meantime they had been active, and each had gathered a fair quantity of pretty flowers—arbutus, violets, anemones, and cherry blooms; to which Teresa and Elsie insisted upon adding buttercups and even dandelions. Now the sun was going down, and they gaily turned their steps toward home.
"A happy May-day!" the children called to one another the next morning, as they set out, at a very early hour, upon their pleasant round of floral gift-leaving. Before doing so, however, each had held a special conference with Ellen.
"Yes, I've managed it. Won't everybody be surprised?" she quietly agreed again and again. And yet how surprised everybody would be only sportive Ellen knew.
At half-past seven they reassembled for breakfast, which Elsie and Will took with their cousins. What a comparing of notes there was during the meal! Teresa had been caught hanging a basket at her little friend, Mollie Emerson's. Will's mother had seen him dodging round the corner after fastening one on the front gate for her.
"O Joe! what did you do with that beautiful basket you arranged with so much care,—the large one with the freshest flowers, I mean?" asked Frances, with an ingenious air.
"Never mind!" answered Joe laconically, helping himself to another glass of milk.
Everyone stole a knowing look at Ellen, without noticing that everyone else was doing so; but that young lady imperturbably buttered a second muffin, and studiously fixed her eyes on the tablecloth.
"Come, there is the Mass bell ringing!" called Mr. Moore from the hall. A stampede followed. To be late for Mass on May-day would be inexcusable.
Shortly afterward, our friends filed into the Moore's family pew in the village church. As Joe knelt down he turned his gaze with a gentle, happy expression to the Blessed Virgin's shrine. The next moment he started, and cast a glance of pleased inquiry toward Ellen. His sister smiled back at him, then bowed her head to recover her gravity. Hanging from the altar-rail, directly before the statue of Our Lady, was Joe's handsomest May-basket, just as he knew it would be; for he had fastened it there himself the first thing in the morning. But there also were five other pretty baskets,—the offering which each of his sisters and cousins had made, unknown to one another. The pleasant discovery created a momentary flutter in the pew, but that was all—then.
So this was Ellen's surprise! Each silently admitted that it was a good one. When they left the church, however, they had a merry time over it.
"But, Ellen, how did you know what I was going to do with my basket?" asked Joe at last.
"I didn't until I heard you humming the new May hymn which we learned last Sunday," replied Ellen; "that reminded me of what mother said about the old May customs. I wondered if you were thinking of this too, and presently it all flashed upon me."
"Well, if you are not a true Yankee at guessing!" was his only answer.