Judge Sands called nearly every evening. He and Uncle Archie struck up quite a friendship. The Judge took him on auto trips far into the country, Kate, Patty, and Ethel going along.
One evening, after they all had gone back to Akron, Judge Sands called Patty into the library.
"I wish to have a little talk with you, my dear," he said.
"Are you going to scold me for running over my allowance last month?" she replied, "because if you are I just couldn't help it. I wanted to give all of the girls a little remembrance, and—"
"Patty, my child, have I ever scolded you for anything—think? Haven't you done exactly as you chose since your childhood?"
"Yes," replied the girl, "but I know that there are times when you should scold me, Papa, for I know I am self-willed and disobedient."
"Well, we shall forget that. You're a pretty good girl considering that you have but one parent. Now this is what I wish to see you about. Your mother died when you were three, dear, and you've been with me ever since. It's been lonely for both of us at times, and for me especially so while you are away at school. Patty, how should you like a mother? Of course, no one can take the place of her who has gone, but I mean another one."
The girl began to cry.
"I should not like it, Papa."
Then she looked at him. He was a handsome man, and if ever she were to marry he would be alone, in the prime of life.
"I suppose I'm selfish," she sobbed, clinging to him, "but I should hate a stepmother. Think of her taking Mamma's place. Oh, Papa! I couldn't bear it."
"But supposing she was a woman of whom you were fond. Would you feel that way then?"
"I couldn't be fond of her."
"You might be fond of her already," said the Judge.
"Who—who can it be?" asked Patty, wiping her eyes and pushing back her hair.
The Judge smiled.
"Think, my dear."
"Is it Miss Kate Hollister?" cried the girl joyfully. "Tell me quick."
Then Judge Sands blushed like a schoolboy.
"Yes," he said, "she is the only woman who can take your mother's place, Patty. No—not that—no one can take her dear place; but she is the only woman upon earth whom I should ask to be my wife."
Then Patty jumped up and kissed her father many times.
"Oh, Papa!" she said, "why didn't you tell me at first and not frighten me to death. Oh! I should love her so, and I should never be jealous of her. Are you engaged?"
"No," laughed the Judge, "I have never asked her. I thought you deserved the compliment of being first consulted on the matter."
"But, Papa, perhaps she'll refuse you."
"That's my end of it," laughed her father, "but when I do ask her I wish to say that you desire it, too, for Kate might not think it agreeable to you."
"Papa, she's got to say 'yes.' I'll go along and make her if you wish. I'd just love her for a mother," and the girl clung to his neck and wept. "I only now realize how lonely you must have been all these years, and you've done it for me. But don't let her refuse. Tell her I desire it above all things."
"All right, dearie," said the Judge. "I'll go tonight."
"And wake me up, Papa. I shall be so anxious."
Judge Sands laughed and promised.
That night no matter how hard Patty tried she couldn't keep awake. Now that she knew who it was that her father desired she was happy, and one can always sleep when one is happy.
The Judge ran up the stairs two steps at a time and woke his daughter with a kiss.
"Will she, Papa?"
"Yes, dear," he answered. "She has been good enough to say 'yes.' We'll make her happy, won't we, Patty?"
"We shall," replied the girl. "And how young you seem to have grown!" she gasped. "I never noticed it before. I'm glad for you and I'm glad for her. She's a dear. I've always loved her and she's such a stunning looking woman, too. I tell you, we'll be proud of her, Papa."
They talked for half an hour over the virtues of Miss Kate, and each went to sleep thinking of how lovely she was.
When Kate and Patty met they said not a word, but from the quiet, sincere embrace each knew that the other would try and make her happy.
Congratulations poured in from all sides. Archie and his wife with Aunt Susan, Grandmother and Tom, motored all the way over to Columbus to offer theirs. Ethel was wild with joy.
"Why," she exclaimed, "everything is getting better! People are doing such sensible things lately, just as they should do. Isn't it wonderful? But, Tom, I always thought that you cared for Cousin Kate."
"So I have all along, but just as I was considering, in walked the Judge and took her off under my very nose. While I was a poor lawyer I felt that she might refuse me and I took no chances, but I never imagined she'd look at a man of his age. She's certainly met the one for her. What a splendid couple they'll make."
"You always were slow, Tom; that's your fault," laughed Ethel, "and you'll always get left. It serves you right."
"Yes, that's going to be my fate, I fear. Before I can muster up courage to propose, these girls will be snatched up—every one of them."
Judge Sands and Kate were to be married in November. They were to go to New York, Washington, etc., on a wedding trip, after which they were to meet Patty and sail for Egypt to be gone indefinitely.
"Oh, dear! who can take your place at Camp?" said the girls. "We'll never find another Guardian like you."
"I'll ask Louise Morehouse," said Miss Kate. "She's lovely, and very much interested in this Camp Fire movement. She'll be one of you just as I have been."
"Yes, and then she'll meet someone and go off and marry," said Mollie Long. "There should be a law against it. A Guardian should be obliged to serve for five years unmarried—it isn't fair," and the girls voted that Mollie was correct.
MATTIE MAKES GOOD
After Camp had broken up, Mattie Hastings, who was now associated with a Woman's Exchange in Columbus, started one afternoon to call for Patty Sands. It was Saturday and the Exchange closed early. Mattie was doing well. She received a good salary and her heart was light. Her sister was beginning to walk. The doctors considered that next year she could discard her brace. The child was not only attending school but she was learning many useful things and Mattie was happy. Her mother had entirely given up the drug habit; her father was with Judge Sands and everything seemed as though it had come straight like a fairy story.
This lovely autumn afternoon they were going to Sallie Davis's to look at a wonderful centerpiece done by her mother. Mattie, whose fingers were extremely clever, had offered to do the work of copying it, while Patty was to pay for the silks, linen, etc. Then, jointly, they were to give it to Miss Kate for an engagement present. In case the servant should be out Sallie had given Patty her latch key.
"This is Sophronia's day out, and mother is going to a bridge party. I have an engagement, so here's the key. When you leave the flat, put it on the hall stand. Sophronia and mother will be back before I am, and they will let me in. I'll leave the centerpiece on the piano."
The apartment was on the seventh story and commanded a wonderful view of the city. After looking at the centerpiece and studying the different stitches the girls went to a window and looked out.
"Have you put the key on the hall stand?" asked Mattie.
"Yes," replied Patty. "I put it there when I first came in."
Suddenly Mattie exclaimed:
"I smell smoke."
They looked around. The odor was plainly perceptible.
"Let's go into the kitchen," said Patty.
Together they ran through the pantry and opened the kitchen door. The smoke was very thick.
"Why, Mattie, the house is afire!" said Patty Sands. "Let's get out quickly."
They opened the hall door, closing it tightly after them. They had far better have stayed in the apartment and have descended by the fire escape, but they thought of it too late. The hall door had locked behind them. The outer halls were black with smoke. People were rushing wildly up and down. The entrance leading to the roof was locked. The elevator boy called "last trip," and opened the iron doors. Frightened women and little children crowded in with servants and elderly people.
"Room for one more," yelled the boy, "quick, for God's sake!"
"You go, Mattie," said Patty.
"You go." Then Mattie Hastings lifted Patty Sands up bodily and fairly threw her into the crowded elevator.
"If the cable holds I'll come back, Miss," cried the boy half choked with smoke.
Through the smoke Mattie peered at the cable. Through the shaft she saw the angry flames shooting upward. The sparks were flying. The elevator had made its last trip and she realized it. She turned to the hall window and looked down upon the crowd. A ladder was raised. Someone had seen her.
"Thank God!" she said, "I may yet be saved."
The smoke was now black and the flames came nearer and nearer to the brave girl, who so unselfishly had given her place to her friend. She leaned out of the window. She watched the fireman ascending. Then she knew no more but fell back into the flames unconscious.
"I've got her," said the fireman, "but I guess she's gone. No one could live in the smoke up there. She's badly burned, too, poor girl—her back and arms. Lift her carefully, boys."
Patty rushed forward. "She has given her life for me," she shrieked. "Mattie, Mattie dear! don't you hear me? Speak—oh! speak to Patty."
The dying girl opened her eyes and half smiled. Patty knelt beside her and put her ear close to Mattie's mouth.
"Patty," she whispered, "tell Ethel that I made good."
Then she closed them wearily and the brave soul of Mattie Hastings passed on.
It took Patty Sands many years to recover from the shock of her friend's death. She was too ill to even know when the funeral took place. She had told her father and Kate of Mattie's last words. Ethel Hollister sent a telegram requesting that Mattie's funeral might be postponed until she arrived. The Camp Fire girls were the pallbearers.
Fortunately the cruel flames had left Mattie's face untouched and she looked lovely. The church was crowded to overflowing, as well as the street. The text of the sermon was:
"Greater love hath no man than he who lays down his life for a friend."
Mattie had "given service" as well as laying down her life for a friend, and the whole town marvelled at her bravery.
JUDGE SANDS AND KATE MARRY
In November Kate was married. The wedding was quiet, as Patty was still an invalid. They took her with them and left her at Mrs. Hollister's while they went on their trip. Nora had arrived for the winter two weeks before. Mrs. Hollister had entered her in Madam La Rue's school. Ethel had insisted upon giving Nora her room and had moved up stairs.
The three girls were sad. They talked of Mattie and Patty cried constantly. So after a while they avoided speaking of her in her presence.
Nora looked like one to the manner born. Mrs. Hollister, having carte blanche to buy for her anything she saw fit, purchased the loveliest second mourning costumes imaginable, and Nora wore them remarkably well. She had grown more quiet since Mattie's death. A great change seemed to have come over her. She was one of Madam's brightest pupils and very popular. Mrs. Hollister was genuinely fond of her and they went everywhere together.
When Mr. Casey came to New York he was surprised at the change. He'd say to Mrs. Hollister:
"Faith, ma'am, it's a perfect lady you're afther makin' of my girl. Her mother would bless you were she here," and Mrs. Hollister would reply:
"She is naturally a perfect lady, Mr. Casey, so it's not hard work. I consider Nora a very superior girl and I'm very fond of her," at which the father's eyes would grow half tearful, and he'd seem proud to hear it.
Nannie Bigelow and Nora became very intimate and she was made much of by Dorothy Kip and Sara Judson. Nora took an active interest in the Day Nursery and donated generously for its maintenance. Twice a week she'd go and read to the elder children and get on the floor and play with the younger ones, for she adored babies. She was especially sweet and generous to Grandmother, spending hours with her lest she should become lonely. It was like a mother and daughter, instead of a girl and chaperon, to see Mrs. Hollister and Nora go about together.
"I wish I had a son, Nora," said that lady one day. "Then I should never have to see you leave me."
Nora blushed rosy red, saying:
"I wish you had, Mrs. Hollister. I dislike to think of our separation."
Mr. Casey sent the most wonderful barrels of apples and potatoes from his own place to the Hollisters, and when he came to New York he'd order fruit from the most expensive fruiterers to be sent three times a week, say nothing of boxes of flowers which came regularly throughout the entire winter.
A BIRTHDAY PRESENT
On one of Mr. Casey's flying trips to the city it happened to be Mrs. Hollister's birthday. Nora told him of the fact and after school together they whisked away in a taxi to shop. Upon their return he presented Mrs. Hollister with a large box, and in the most delicate manner begged her to accept it as a slight token of his gratitude for her interest in and kindness to Nora.
"Ye've been a mother to my girl and she loves ye well. Her own mother—God rest her soul—as I've often told ye, would be proud of her, and she'd know better what to give a lady, but if ye'll accept these, ma'am, Nora and I will be pleased."
Mrs. Hollister was visibly affected. She actually wiped her eyes.
"I will accept them with pleasure, Mr. Casey," she said, "but don't forget Nora is a great comfort to all of us. We have grown to love her as our own," and she opened the box thinking it might contain a pretty waist or something of that sort when to her surprise there she beheld a most magnificent set of sables. She couldn't speak. The poor woman had never dared to dream of owning such a thing. Her heart stood still and she turned and took Nora in her arms, kissing her fondly. Then she shook Mr. Casey's hand as though she would never stop.
"Mr. Casey, you are too generous. I have always loved sables, but I never expected to own a set. I don't know how to thank you for your kindness."
"Say nothing about it," replied the man. "Nora and I consider it a privilege if ye'll wear our gifts, don't we, Nora?"
"Indeed we do," replied the girl. "There are so many things that you do for me, Mrs. Hollister, that money can not compensate."
Ethel was now eighteen. One evening Harvey Bigelow invited her to the theatre. On their way home he asked her if she ever could care for him enough to become his wife.
"Oh, Harvey!" gasped Ethel, "I am so sorry. Why did you spoil our lovely friendship? I'll have to answer 'no,' and I dislike to hurt your feelings."
"That's all right, little girl," said Harvey, swallowing hard. "I was an ass to even imagine that you could care for me, but you see I'm coming on so well that I shall soon put out my sign, and I felt that you might be such a help to me; that is, if you could care for me a little bit."
"And there are so many nice girls," she said, "waiting for just such a good man as yourself."
"But, Ethel, I don't want any girl. I want one. If I can't have her I guess I'll stay single. Anyway, I suppose a man needs to practice a lot before he marries. There's a couple of years in the Hospital. But I'm glad I know the truth, Ethel. By Jove! it's off my chest. I've tried to speak of it before but I couldn't."
"I wish I could say 'yes,' Harvey; but can't we still remain the good pals that we are?"
"Why, sure," replied the man, and he took her hand. "A man needs a woman friend, don't you think?"
"Yes," replied Ethel, "and I hope to prove my friendship for you."
Ethel never spoke of her proposal, nor did Harvey; but there was a firmer bond between them than formerly.
Patty wrote often. "You never saw two people so in love as Papa and Kate. It is wonderful and remarkably right. I only feel sorry to think that through all of these years they might have been so happy, and I'm sure papa kept single for me. How selfish daughters are, Ethel; and at the same time how little they realize that they are selfish."
Ethel folded the letter and said:
"What she writes is true. You and Papa might have had all of the years of my youth to be happy in, but you sacrificed them for me, and they'll never, never come back."
"That's all right," said her mother, kissing her. "My happiness since you entered college has compensated for it, believe me, my dear little girl," and she kissed her tenderly.
MRS. HOLLISTER ENTERTAINS
That winter Mrs. Hollister again had her teas and bridge parties, but there was no more worry about where the money was coming from; in fact, thanks to Mr. Casey's generosity she was able to pay all of her bills and put some away for a rainy day. Her little functions were delightful as usual, and the young people came in throngs to the house.
Ethel was happy in seeing her mother so contented, and in knowing that her father had no more worries. Grandmother had grown younger, and better than all, after Christmas Tom was coming to bring Aunt Susan. He had business East and he was to leave her for three weeks, after which he was to return for her.
Nora seemed less sad. She had developed into a very stylish up-to-date young woman and everyone admired and liked her.
Mrs. Hollister was in her glory. Things for her were now so comfortable and easy that she couldn't believe but what it was a dream from which she might awaken and find everything the same old way.
Mrs. Bigelow made much of Nora, taking her around and introducing her to her friends. Harvey called regularly and invited her twice a week to the theatre. He was now a young surgeon in Roosevelt Hospital on the ambulance, with a fine career open before him, and what's more he worked very hard—often until late at night. People prophesied a great future for Harvey and his parents were delighted, but none more so than Ethel, whose encouragement was genuine and like the encouragement of a sister.
Teddy Kip kept up a great correspondence with Patty, who sent him postals from every place.
"By George!" he said to the Hollisters, "do you know I correspond with three girls who are abroad and they never write letters—only postals—and if you believe it, I've got nearly a hamper filled with them—'pon my word I have. If only Miss Patty would write a fellow a real letter once in a while I'd be grateful."
Nora received a letter from Edna Whitely.
"I have some news for all of your girls. Mollie Long and Sallie Davis are going to marry clergymen. They are brothers. Sallie's husband is going to be a missionary to China."
"Isn't that awful?" said Mrs. Hollister. "Sallie will be massacred as sure as fate—that's the end of missionaries. I had a second cousin who went and both she and her husband were victims. I wouldn't allow a child of mine to marry one. Let him stay in his own country, but to drag a young girl out into those heathen places—it's an outrage."
"Well, our Ohio Camp Fire will resolve itself into only half, I fear," said Nora. "There's poor Mattie, Miss Kate, Sallie and Mollie from right there. I wonder who's going to take their places."
"Perhaps," said Ethel, "little Mollie Hastings if she's pronounced cured. It may be of great benefit to her. Let's see what can be done."
"Dorothy Kip might become an Ohio girl and spend her summers up there with us too," suggested Nora. "And if Dr. Bigelow goes with the Scouts Nannie can join."
"We'll see," replied Ethel. "It's quite a few months before next summer. 'Sufficient unto the day, etc.'"
Ethel was getting along famously at Barnard.
"What profession shall you follow—the law or ministry?" Harvey would ask jokingly.
"Something that shall enable me to become self supporting," Ethel would reply seriously.
"There's where you make a mistake," said Harvey. "A woman was made to be supported by a man—not to support herself."
"Why not?" asked Ethel. "How many wives today support their husbands? Have you any idea of the number?"
"Oh, well, then it's because the men are lazy or sick. No decent, self-respecting man would allow it."
"Supposing a woman can not marry. She can't propose to a man. What can she do in that case—starve? No, Dr. Bigelow, you can't even argue. Every woman should have in her hand, say, a weapon or trade with which to take care of herself. Then when the time comes she's ready to start in the battle of life, and not sit around helpless while others do for her, or become dependent upon charity, or worse. The day of Elsie Dinsmores has gone. In her place we have strong, capable, broad-minded women. Seldom do we hear of a woman fainting today, yet look back sixty years and recall the Lydia Languish females with long ringlets and wasp waists, who invariably carried smelling salts. I'm proud to belong to the women of today—healthy, strong, athletic, and brave—women who do and are not ashamed of it. Look at Aunt Susan. There's a woman who is an example. I hope I may amount to as much as she before I die."
"Ethel, I fear you are strong-minded," laughed Harvey.
"Don't fear, but know it. I try to be strong in mind and body. I believe in a woman getting all that's coming to her and working for that end."
"Well, I shan't argue with you."
"Because you agree with me, and you know it," said Ethel quietly. "You have made yourself amount to something. Look where you were three years ago. What were your views of life then? A rich marriage. Behold the change! Now you are a man."
"Thanks," said Harvey, rising and making a low bow.
Christmas was near. The Hollisters wrote and invited Mr. Casey to spend the Christmas holidays with them. They also wrote Tom Harper to see if it were possible to bring Aunt Susan to be with them during the holidays. Tom replied he would make it possible. So they were to have a house full.
Nora and Ethel vied in dressing up the rooms tastefully with holly and mistletoe. Every chandelier and door had a piece of mistletoe fastened above it.
"What a grand kissing time there'll be," said Archibald. "When do we begin—on Christmas morning?"
"Now, Papa, don't you get gay," laughed Ethel. "You've led an exemplary life for fifty years. Please keep on and don't let this mistletoe make of you a different man."
Well—first came Mr. Casey. Every day he and Nora boarded a taxi and went shopping, returning with huge boxes and parcels which gradually filled Nora's closets as well as under her bed.
Then came Tom and Aunt Susan, even looking younger than before.
"Really it's ridiculous, Aunt Susan," said Ethel, "for you to keep growing so much younger and more stylish. You've got to stop."
And the bell rang so often that Mrs. Hollister was obliged to hire an extra maid for Christmas week. Everyone was so perfectly happy that it was a joy to enter the house. Harvey was there as often as his hospital practice would admit of, and he was the first to kiss Aunt Susan under the mistletoe; and Aunt Susan, if you please, now appeared in the daintiest of gowns—up-to-date and rather youthful. Ethel and Grandmother laughed over it.
"Why, Grandmother, how old is Aunt Susan?"
"She's about sixty-one," said her sister—"why?"
"Nothing, but I've been thinking wouldn't it be funny if she should marry again? She's mighty attractive in her up-to-date gowns."
"I don't see whom she could marry," said Grandmother with some asperity, "unless Mr. Casey or Dr. Bigelow." Ethel laughed.
Christmas eve arrived. They had a large tree and distributed the gifts. Everyone received exactly what he or she desired. Mr. Casey's generosity was boundless. He gave Mrs. Hollister a small limousine with the understanding that all bills should be sent to him.
"Madam," he said, "you and Nora have a great deal of shopping and social duties to perform. Nora tells me that you go by the cars and rarely in a taxi, and that you seldom allow her to pay her fare. Now this will set everything right, and Grandmother—God bless her—must have her ride daily. It is money well invested, for you and Nora can take comfort. I have engaged a good chauffeur and have made arrangements with a garage near by. All bills are to be sent to me. Nora will attend to the sending of them."
Mrs. Hollister couldn't speak. They stood under the mistletoe. She just raised herself up and gave Mr. Casey two hearty smacks, at which there arose a shout.
"I shan't try to thank you," she said, "for I can not."
Then another surprise came in shape of a wonderful diamond la valliere or pendant, and poor Mrs. Hollister was most embarrassed.
"Mr. Casey," she said, "you are going to get me in wrong. People may criticise me."
Then Tom's present came—a lovely grey silk evening wrap trimmed with chinchilla, and verily Mrs. Hollister was nearly off her head.
Grandmother received a long silk coat lined with fur and trimmed with a large lynx collar and cuffs—from Mr. Casey also.
"Don't think that I bought out a furrier," he said, "but I know people always need them."
Ethel received a lovely pendant from Mr. Casey and one from Tom, while Nora presented her with a beautiful diamond ring.
Everyone was happy this Christmas eve and strange to say Mr. Casey took Aunt Susan right under the mistletoe and kissed her, which made Grandmother laugh immoderately.
During one of the moments when people were rather quiet, Harvey Bigelow took Nora by the hand and walked up to Mr. Casey who was standing under the mistletoe; in fact, he had stood nowhere else during the evening.
"Mr. Casey," he said, "I ask of you the most valuable gift that a father can give. I ask the hand of this dear girl," and he kissed Nora gently.
Mr. Casey, who had imbibed somewhat plentifully of punch, and who was quite warm, looked at the two for a moment.
"An' is it this that ye two have been up to?" he said. "Nora, me child, do ye wish it to be?"
"Yes, Papa," faltered the girl, "I love Harvey."
"An' suppose I withhold my consent—what then?"
"Then I shall still love him, but I shall never marry without it."
"Hear that now. Nora, my good girl," and taking her hand he placed it in Harvey's, "I give her to ye. All I ask is that ye shall make her happy. Let her niver regret this day—that's all," and he wiped his eyes.
Nora flung her arms around him while Harvey wrung his hand.
"You'll never have cause to regret, nor shall she," he said. "I'll love and cherish her until death parts us, and I'll work for her so that she'll be proud of me."
Ethel kissed them both; in fact, so did everyone. Aunt Susan and Tom were delighted.
"I always liked him," she said. "Anyone who looks me square in the eye, Mr. Casey, I'll bank on every time."
It was long after midnight when the Xmas party broke up. The young man who had always played at Mrs. Hollister's teas for the sum of three dollars played the Virginia Reel, and everyone danced,—even Grandmother. Mr. Casey took so many funny fancy steps that it was hard to get him through with the figures, after which Nora and Ethel showed the elderly people how to dance the turkey trot, which of course was shocking. When the young musician left he was richer by fifty dollars—gifts of Mr. Casey, Tom Harper, and Mrs. Hollister, for she told of how lovely his mother was and how she had been her bridesmaid.
"And here's a gift for her," said Mr. Casey. "Take it and buy her a fur-lined coat," at which everyone shouted, for poor Mr. Casey's gifts had all been so comfortable and warm.
"Niver mind," he laughed, "I bet she'll like one. And give her me compliments and a Merry Christmas. And let me have your address, sir."
It was a typical Christmas day. There was even snow on the ground. The pretty limousine stood before the Hollisters' door and a well-groomed good-looking chauffeur was taken in and presented to Mrs. Hollister, his future mistress. Grandmother, in her handsome new cloak, and Aunt Susan with Mr. Casey, took the first ride. Mr. Casey was in high spirits over Nora's choice.
"Shure they till me that he has a great future."
"Of course he has," said Grandmother. "Why, he's advanced to the operating room and he is in line to be second assisting surgeon. Think, Mr. Casey, of the lives he may save. I think Nora has made a wise choice, and he cared for her for herself—not for her money—for he's always said that his wife's money should be settled on herself—that only the husband should pay the bills. And Nora, dear child, has improved so. She's grown so handsome and has a face full of character."
"That's so, ma'am. I would that her poor mother—God rest her soul—could but see her."
"She does," said Aunt Susan. "I firmly believe that our loved ones see us and are near us constantly. Wait a bit; I have to stop," and Mr. Casey got out at a market.
"Now what is he up to?" said Grandmother. "Susan, he's the kindest-hearted and most generous man that I ever knew."
They could catch a glimpse of him now and then. Presently he emerged with an immense basket containing a large turkey, a pair of ducks, and paper bags of vegetables, and in one corner a smaller basket of delicious fruit and a couple of wreaths. From a card he read an address to the chauffeur, who placed the Christmas basket beside him.
"Now where is he going, I wonder?" said Aunt Susan. "Perhaps some of his poor relations."
The chauffeur drove up before a cheap flat, alighted, and left the basket. Returning he nodded "yes" to Mr. Casey.
Mr. Casey said in a hesitating manner:
"The young piano player,—I thought I'd surprise him and his mother. Mrs. Hollister speaks highly of the mother and I need just such a young man with me in Columbus. I think I can find an opening for him in my office; if not, in the office of some of my friends. There are too many young men in New York; there are not enough places for them all. Now wid me they have a chance to advance, and when I'm gone they'll take my place. I've no son."
"Yes," said Grandmother, "this young musician supports his mother. My daughter-in-law says that the mother comes from a good old family. She and Mrs. Hollister were at school together in Elmira, New York state. Then when my son married Bella this lady was her bridesmaid. Bella said she was a raving beauty, but she married a man who drank himself to death, leaving her with her child alone in the world and without a penny. The boy was musical and someone taught him how to play. He used to go to school through the day and practice at night. Then he graduated and obtained a position as clerk, receiving a very moderate salary. Bella met them one night in the cars and had them come up to the house. She did all that she could for them, and employed him every time she had a tea or needed music. He played well and was glad to get his little three dollars. I know that Bella always sent home a box of refreshments to the mother."
"Well, I shall persuade them to go back wid me, and they'll have enough then, I'm thinkin'."
"Mr. Casey, you are a good man," said Aunt Susan. "The world would be better if we had more like you."
"But, Mrs. Carpenter, I think this way. The Lord has been good to me. He has caused me to prosper. Why should I consider it all me own? No, I think whenever I can help a fellow man He expects me to do so—that's all—and I try to make good."
The elderly women made no reply. He was a rough self-made man—a Roman Catholic, although not a churchman, who could give them points on charity and who did his good deeds quietly and without boasting. Mr. Casey was a Scout, although not a young one, for that was the way they were taught to do their good deeds.
Upon their arrival home he directed the chauffeur to get his dinner or luncheon and return, and after the Hollister luncheon, Nora, Harvey, Ethel and Tom went to Van Courtlandt Park, where there was skating, returning in time for six o'clock dinner.
"I think, ma'am," said Mr. Casey, "we have monopolized your car pretty well, and you never have been inside of it."
"But I'm too busy, Mr. Casey. Today is Christmas and I love to view it from the window. Just to think that it belongs to me! I can't realize it. Mr. Casey, you are my fairy Godfather and nothing else. How can I ever repay you?"
"By always being a mother to my girl, ma'am, as ye have been since she met ye. Why, ye deserve a whole garage of automobiles for the kindness ye've shown her, and see the good man she now has through ye. Don't thank me, ma'am. It's ourselves who can't thank ye enough."
After a delicious Christmas dinner the Bigelows came over. They welcomed and embraced Nora. Mrs. Bigelow really seemed sincere on this occasion. Mr. Casey liked them at once, especially Mr. Bigelow and Nannie.
"They'll make her happy all right. My girl has chosen wisely," he thought.
Tom and Ethel went out together during Christmas week. They skated and visited all the art galleries, enjoying every moment. They had many serious talks, and Ethel took Tom to call on several of her friends. The girls voted him delightful and Ethel was proud of him. They spoke of Mattie Hastings.
"Tom, Patty will never get over it," she said, "of that I'm sure."
"Ethel, don't you see, Patty witnessed it, and the shock is indelibly stamped on her memory. Time will help remove it—nothing else."
"But what a brave act, wasn't it?" continued Ethel. "Patty sends orders for flowers once a week for her grave, and they say it looks very lovely. And I even disliked her once. I said her eyes were too close together and I misjudged her. Then I fairly hated Nora—think!—she who saved my life. Each one has done something. What have I done? Whom have I benefited? Who is better for having had me for a friend?"
They were sitting on a bench in the picture gallery of the Metropolitan Museum Ethel looked very lovely. She wore a bunch of Tom's orchids and a grey velvet suit. Her eyes were bright and her cheeks were burning red. She was visibly excited. Tom saw that she felt her life had been a failure.
"Ethel," he said, taking her hand, "think of the joy you have brought to Aunt Susan. Can't you see how much happier she is today than when you first knew her? Look at Nora. Through you she has changed from an awkward girl into a cultivated and charming woman, engaged to a fine young physician belonging to one of New York's oldest families. Indirectly you are responsible for it all. Look at little Mary Hastings. Through you she has been, or will be completely cured of her spine trouble. And lastly, look at me, Ethel, you have brought sunshine and happiness into my life. It is not always the big things that go to make happiness. It is the small things as well; and in your sweet, quiet way you have scattered light and joy in many paths. I had not intended, my dear, to speak to you of my love. I wished to wait until I had more of a name for you, and until you had come out and had a chance to choose from many men more worthy perhaps than I, but I can not keep my secret. I love you, dear, and I would have you for my wife. Can I hope? Do you care for me a little?"
Ethel's eyes shone like stars. She looked up into his face and said:
"I care for you a great deal,—until you spoke I never knew how much. If you wish I will be your wife."
Then Tom lifted her hand to his lips.
"I will make you as happy as I know how," he said. "I had a feeling that I couldn't keep my secret back after today. Come, dear, let us go and tell them all; and never under-rate yourself again."
People stared at the handsome couple and at their beaming faces. Joy was stamped on their countenances and happiness shone from their eyes.
When they arrived home, Tom walked up to Mrs. Hollister, and kissing her he said:
"I have asked Ethel to be my wife. Will you and Mr. Hollister give her to me?"
Mrs. Hollister gasped.
"Why Tom! Ethel! Is it true?"
Ethel put her arm around her mother.
"Yes, Mamma, Tom has asked me to marry him and I said 'yes,' for I know that you and Papa like him. Now you say 'yes'—do dear."
"Yes, I will say it gladly. Tom, I have always liked you and I'm sure you and Ethel will be happy. I give my consent with all my heart," and Tom took her in his arms and kissed her tenderly.
"Thank you," he said, "you have given me a precious gift. You shall never regret it."
Then they sought Mr. Hollister and were closeted with him for a long time, after which Grandmother and Aunt Susan had to be told, and lastly Nora.
So that Christmas brought two engagements in the Hollister circle.
Ethel decided to finish college before marrying, and Nora her school. The men had to be content.
"We'll have one more year at Camp anyway," said Nora. "I shall be glad to spend my last single summer there."
"And Tom and Harvey will practically be with us," said Ethel. "Nora, are you not a happy girl?"
"I am," said Nora.
"So am I," rejoined Ethel.
MR. CASEY BUYS A HOUSE
Aunt Susan at once began to make plans. In the meanwhile Mr. Casey asked Mr. Hollister and his mother to give him a few moments conversation on business.
"I understand that ye own this house, ma'am," he began. "What would ye sell it for?"
Mrs. Hollister looked at her son.
"Why?" she asked.
"Because I'm about to buy a house for Nora and the Doctor, and I want to buy one in this neighborhood. I also have a proposition to make to ye, Mr. Hollister. Frankly, what might be yere salary?"
Mr. Hollister reddened.
"I mean no disrespect or pryin', sir. It is a business proposition I have to make to ye, before I do to anyone else."
"My salary is three thousand a year, Mr. Casey," said Archibald Hollister. "I'm with an old and respected firm and have been with them for thirty years."
"Thin they don't value your services as they should,—pardon my sayin'. This minnit they ought to give ye more. Now I need a man like yourself to be me representative in New York. I give you the first option. Will ye come and accept the position for six thousand a year?"
Mr. Hollister acted dazed. Grandmother spoke up:
But still Archibald kept quiet.
"Is it because ye think it not honorable to leave them? Thin tell thim that I have offered ye more and see if they will do the same. I'll give you a week to see."
"And now, ma'am, I have heard that ye wished to sell. Yere Granddaughter will marry and this house will be too big for the three of yees. A pretty apartment on the Park will be far better for ye. What is yere price for the house?"
"We refused thirty thousand for it in 1900," replied Mrs. Hollister, "and real estate has increased in value since that."
"Very well," said Mr. Casey, "I know what ye say is true, and I will pay a fair price. I will give ye fifty thousand for this house, ma'am, and I will have it remodeled for my girl."
"I will accept," said Mrs. Hollister, in a prompt businesslike way. "There is no mortgage on the house," she added.
"Yere more of a business woman than yere son. Faith, he's worryin' over hurtin' feelings of his employers I do be thinkin'," and Mr. Casey laid back and laughed.
But Archibald felt as though the earth was slowly slipping from under his feet. His luck was changing too rapidly. It was coming upon him too late in life, and Mr. Casey! Well, he was indeed the fairy Godfather. He and his wife had so longed for an apartment overlooking the Park, but Grandmother would never hear of selling.
"When I die will be time enough," she would say, and now she had actually seemed glad. And to think she would have fifty thousand dollars to live on for the rest of her life. Then this new offer from Mr. Casey, double the salary he was now receiving—it was like a dream. And his girl engaged to one of the finest men in the West. God was too good to him—he didn't deserve it.
His wife was overjoyed.
"Oh, Archie," she said "how wonderful it all is. It seems to have happened since Ethel joined the Camp Fire girls. I'm sure they have brought her luck. They have brought Nora to us and her dear father, who has been so generous, and but for the Camp Fire she never would have met Nora. Isn't it strange?"
Archibald Hollister laid the case before the Company by which he had been employed for thirty years, not telling how much his new salary was to be.
"Mr. Hollister," they said, "we can not afford to increase your salary. To be sure you have served us faithfully, but you are no longer young, and you know we need young blood in business. There are plenty waiting for your place."
That was a terrible blow to Archibald. He had not expected to get three thousand extra, but he had looked for an increase of a thousand rather than they should let him go, and to hear them calmly sit and tell him that they needed young blood was too much. He left the office, and the next morning in place of Archibald Hollister there arrived his resignation. So thirty years of faithfulness to their interests and strict attention to business didn't count with them, and there he had been so loyal to the concern!
"Ah!" said Mr. Casey, "what did I tell ye? Do ye think these corporations care for the man? No. It's for what they can get out of him—for the amount of work he can do, and for how small a salary. Let them hire their young blood and you come along with me, and we'll see how much better off they'll be!"
ARCHIBALD'S CHANGE FOR THE BETTER
So Archibald Hollister found himself the New York manager of a large Ohio Realty Company, with four clerks under him and a couple of handsome offices; and Mr. Casey was proud of his personal appearance, for Archibald was a handsome man. One of the clerks was the young fellow who on Christmas eve had played Money Musk for them to dance the Virginia Reel, and whose mother received on the following morning the Christmas basket from Mr. Casey.
"Now yere where ye belong," said the kind-hearted man. "I tell ye, Mr. Hollister, an honest employee should have been appreciated, and ye were not."
The family moved from the house and took a pretty apartment overlooking the Park. They were delighted with the change and every day Ethel took long walks around the reservoir.
Mr. Casey began to renovate the interior of the house and modernize the outside.
The family lived in the limousine, and everyone seemed happy. Aunt Susan did not go home with Tom but stayed on until the family were settled in their new house. Then Tom who only wished for an excuse came on East for her. It was nearly Easter. They persuaded him to stay over, which he did.
And so here we shall leave them. After one more year there will be a double wedding, and Ethel and Nora will marry. We see Harvey making rapid strides in his profession, and Tom building a pretty home for his Ethel, while Aunt Susan will be busy embroidering towels, napkins, etc., for their linen chest; and not only for them, but for Nora as well, for was it not through Nora and Mr. Casey that much of their happiness came?