"That man is your rival," they announced, smiling, to Mrs. Smith.
"My rival! How is that?" inquired Mrs. Smith.
"He wants to buy the field."
They all exclaimed and looked again at the man who sat quietly eating his ice cream as if he had no such dreadful intentions. The Ethels, however, recognized him as he pushed back a lock of hair that fell over his forehead.
"Why, that's our werwolf!" they exclaimed after taking a good look at him, and they explained how they had seen him several times in the field, always digging a stick into the ground and examining what it brought up.
"He says he's a botanist, and he finds so much to interest him in the field that he wants to buy it so that he may feel free to work there," said Miss Clark the younger.
"That's funny," commented Ethel Blue. "He almost never looks at any flowers or plants. He just pokes his stick in and that's all."
"He offered us a considerable sum for the property but we told him that you had an option on it, Mrs. Smith, and we explained that we couldn't give title anyway."
"Did his interest seem to fail?"
"He asked us a great many questions and we told him all about our aunt and the missing cousin. I thought you might be interested to know that some one else besides yourself sees some good in the land."
"It's so queer," said the other Miss Clark. "That land has never had an offer made for it and here we have two within a few weeks of each other."
"And we can't take advantage of either of them!"
The Ethels noticed later on that the man was joined by a girl about their own age. They looked at her carefully so that they would recognize her again if they saw her, and they also noticed that the werwolf, as he talked to her, so often pushed back from his forehead the lock of hair that fell over it that it had become a habit.
The full effect of the flower costumes was seen after the lanterns were lighted, when some of the young married women attended to the tables while their youngers marched around the lawn that all might see the costumes and be attracted to the entertainment in the hall and behind the screen in the open.
Roger led the procession, impersonating "Spring."
"That's a new one to me," ejaculated the editor of the Star in surprise. "I always thought 'Spring' was of the feminine gender."
"Not this year," returned Roger merrily as he passed by.
He was dressed like a tree trunk in a long brown cambric robe that fitted him closely and gave him at the foot only the absolute space that he needed for walking. He carried real apple twigs almost entirely stripped of their leaves and laden with blossoms made of white and pink paper. The effect was of a generously flowering apple tree and every one recognized it.
Behind Roger came several of the spring blossoms—the Ethels first, representing the yellow crocus and the violet. Ethel Brown wore a white dress covered with yellow gauze sewn with yellow crocuses. A ring of crocuses hung from its edge and a crocus turned upside down made a fascinating cap. All the flowers were made of tissue paper. Ethel Blue's dress was fashioned in the same way, her violet gauze being covered with violets and her cap a tiny lace affair with a violet border. In her case she was able to use many real violets and to carry a basket of the fresh flowers. The contents was made up of small bunches of buttonhole size and she stepped from the procession at almost every table to sell a bunch to some gentleman sitting there. A scout kept the basket always full.
Sturdy James made a fine appearance in the spring division in the costume of a red and yellow tulip. He wore long green stockings and a striped tulip on each leg constituted his breeches. Another, with the points of the petals turning upwards, made his jacket, and yet another, a small one, upside down, served as a cap. James had been rather averse to appearing in this costume because Margaret had told him he looked bulbous and he had taken it seriously, but he was so applauded that he came to the conclusion that it was worth while to be a bulb if you could be a good one.
Helen led the group of summer flowers. As "Summer" she wore bunches of all the flowers in the garden, arranged harmoniously as in one of the old-fashioned bouquets her grandmother had spoken of in the morning. It had been a problem to keep all these blossoms fresh for it would not be possible for her to wear artificial flowers. The Ethels had found a solution, however, when they brought home one day from the drug store several dozen tiny glass bottles. Around the neck of each they fastened a bit of wire and bent it into a hook which fitted into an eye sewed on to the old but pretty white frock which Helen was sacrificing to the good cause. After she had put on the dress each one of these bottles was fitted with its flowers which had been picked some time before and revived in warm water and salt so that they would not wilt.
"These bottles make me think of a story our French teacher told us once," Helen laughed as she stood carefully to be made into a bouquet. "There was a real Cyrano de Bergerac who lived in the 17th century. He told a tale supposed to be about his own adventures in which he said that once he fastened about himself a number of phials filled with dew. The heat of the sun attracted them as it does the clouds and raised him high in the air. When he found that he was not going to alight on the moon as he had thought, he broke some of the phials and descended to earth again."
"What a ridiculous story," laughed Ethel Blue, kneeling at Helen's feet with a heap of flowers beside her on the floor.
"The rest of it is quite as foolish. When he landed on the earth again he found that the sun was still shining, although according to his calculation it ought to be midnight; and he also did not recognize the place he dropped upon in spite of the fact that he had apparently gone straight up and fallen straight down. Strange people surrounded him and he had difficulty in making himself understood. After a time he was taken before an official from whom he learned that on account of the rotation of the earth under him while he was in the air, although he had risen when but two leagues from Paris he had descended in Canada."
The younger girls laughed delightedly at this absurd tale, as they worked at their task. Bits of trailing vine fell from glass to glass so that none of the holders showed, but a delicate tinkling sounded from them like the water of a brook.
"This gown of yours is certainly successful," decided Margaret, surveying the result of the Ethels' work, "but I dare say it isn't comfortable, so you'd better have another one that you can slip into behind the scenes after you've made the rounds in this."
Helen took the advice and after the procession had passed by, she put on a pretty flowered muslin with pink ribbons.
Dorothy walked immediately behind Helen. She was dressed like a garden lily, her petals wired so that they turned out and up at the tips. She wore yellow stockings and slippers as a reminder of the anthers or pollen boxes on the ends of the stamens of the lilies.
Dicky's costume created as much sensation as Roger's. He was a Jack-in-the-Pulpit. A suit of green striped in two shades fitted him tightly, and over his head he carried his pulpit, a wire frame covered with the same material of which his clothes were made. The shape was exact and he looked so grave as he peered forth from his shelter that his appearance was saluted with hearty hand clapping.
Several of the young people of the town followed in the Summer division. One of them was a fleur-de-lis, wearing a skirt of green leaf blades and a bodice representing the purple petals of the blossom. George Foster was monkshood, a cambric robe—a "domino"—serving to give the blue color note, and a very correct imitation of the flower's helmet answering the purpose of a head-dress. Gregory Patton was Grass, and achieved one of the successful costumes of the line with a robe that rippled to the ground, green cambric its base, completely covered with grass blades.
"That boy ought to have a companion dressed like a haycock," laughed Mr. Emerson as Gregory passed him.
Margaret led the Autumn division, her dress copied from a chestnut tree and burr. Her kirtle was of the long, slender leaves overlapping each other. The bodice was in the tones of dull yellow found in the velvety inside of the opened burr and of the deep brown of the chestnut itself. This, too, was approved by the onlookers.
Behind her walked Della, a combination of purple asters and golden rod, the rosettes of the former seeming a rich and solid material from which the heads of goldenrod hung in a delicate fringe.
A "long-haired Chrysanthemum" was among the autumn flowers, his tissue paper petals slightly wired to make them stand out, and a stalk of Joe-Pye-Weed strode along with his dull pink corymb proudly elevated above the throng.
All alone as a representative of Winter was Tom Watkins, decorated superbly as a Christmas Tree. Boughs of Norway spruce were bound upon his arms and legs and covered his body. Shining balls hung from the twigs, tinsel glistened as he passed under the lantern light, and strings of popcorn reached from his head to his feet. There was no question of his popularity among the children. Every small boy who saw him asked if he had a present for him.
The flower procession served to draw the people into the hall and the screened corner. They cheerfully yielded up a dime apiece at the entrance to each place, and when the "show" was over they were re-replaced by another relay of new arrivals, so that the program was gone through twice in the hall and twice in the open in the course of the evening.
A march of all the flowers opened the program. This was not difficult, for all the boys and girls were accustomed to such drills at school, but the effect in costumes under the electric light was very striking. Roger, still dressed as an apple tree, recited Bryant's "Planting of the Apple Tree." Dicky delivered a brief sermon from his pulpit. George Foster ordered the lights out and went behind a screen on which he made shadow finger animals to the delight of every child present. Mrs. Smith gave her little talk on the arrangement of flowers, illustrating it by the examples around the room which were later carried out to the open when she repeated her "turn" in the enclosure. The cartoonist of the Star gave a chalk talk on "Famous Men of the Day," reciting an amusing biography of each and sketching his portrait, framed in a rose, a daisy, mountain laurel, a larkspur or whatever occurred to the artist as he talked.
There was music, for Mr. Schuler, who formerly had taught music in the Rosemont schools and who was now with his wife at Rose House, where the United Service Club was taking care of several poor women and children, had drilled some of his former pupils in flower choruses. One of these, by children of Dicky's age, was especially liked.
Every one was pleased and the financial result was so satisfactory that Rosemont soon began to blossom like the flower from which it was named.
"Team work certainly does pay," commented Roger enthusiastically when the Club met again to talk over the great day.
And every one of them agreed that it did.
ENOUGH TO GIVE AWAY
At the very beginning of his holidays Stanley Clark had gone to Nebraska to replace the detective who had been vainly trying to find some trace of his father's cousin, Emily Leonard. The young man was eager to have the matter straightened out, both because it was impossible to sell any of the family land unless it were, and because he wanted to please Mrs. Smith and Dorothy, and because his orderly mind was disturbed at there being a legal tangle in his family.
Perhaps he put into his search more clearness of vision than the detective, or perhaps he came to it at a time when he could take advantage of what his predecessor had done;—whatever the reason, he did find a clue and it seemed a strange coincidence that it was only a few days after the Miss Clarks had received the second offer for their field that a letter came to them from their nephew, saying that he had not only discovered the town to which Emily's daughter had gone and the name of the family into which she had been adopted, but had learned the fact that the family had later on removed to the neighborhood of Pittsburg.
"At least, this brings the search somewhat nearer home," Stanley wrote, "but it also complicates it, for 'the neighborhood of Pittsburg' is very vague, and it covers a large amount of country. However, I am going to start to-night for Pittsburg to see what I can do there. I've grown so accustomed to playing hide-and-seek with Cousin Emily and I'm so pleased with my success so far that I'm hopeful that I may pick up the trail in western Pennsylvania."
The Clarks and the Smiths all shared Stanley's hopefulness, for it did indeed seem wonderful that he should have found the missing evidence after so many weeks of failure by the professional detective, and, if he had traced one step, why not the next?
The success of the gardens planted by the U.S.C. had been remarkable. The plants had grown as if they wanted to please, and when blossoming time came, they bloomed with all their might.
"Do you remember the talk you and I had about Rose House just before the Fresh Air women and children came out?" asked Ethel Blue of her cousin.
Ethel Brown nodded, and Ethel Blue explained the conversation to Dorothy.
"We thought Roger's scheme was pretty hard for us youngsters to carry out and we felt a little uncertain about it, but we made up our minds that people are almost always successful when they want like everything to do something and make up their minds that they are going to put it through and learn how to put it through."
"We've proved it again with the gardens," responded Ethel Brown. "We wanted to have pretty gardens and we made up our minds that we could if we tried and then we learned all we could about them from people and books."
"Just see what Roger knows now about fertilizers!" exclaimed Dorothy in a tone of admiration. "Fertilizers aren't a bit interesting until you think of them as plant food and realize that plants like different kinds of food and try to find out what they are. Roger has studied it out and we've all had the benefit of his knowledge."
"Which reminds me that if we want any flowers at all next week we'd better put on some nitrate of soda this afternoon or this dry weather will ruin them."
"Queer how that goes right to the blossoms and doesn't seem to make the whole plant grow."
"I did a deadly deed to one of my calceolarias," confessed Ethel Blue. "I forgot you mustn't use it after the buds form and I sprinkled away all over the plant just as I had been doing."
"Did you kill the buds?"
"It discouraged them. I ought to have put some crystals on the ground a little way off and let them take it in in the air."
"It doesn't seem as though it were strong enough to do either good or harm, does it? One tablespoonful in two gallons of water!"
"Grandfather says he wouldn't ask for plants to blossom better than ours are doing." Ethel Brown repeated the compliment with just pride.
"It's partly because we've loved to work with them and loved them," insisted Ethel Blue. "Everything you love answers back. If you hate your work it's just like hating people; if you don't like a girl she doesn't like you and you feel uncomfortable outside and inside; if you don't like your work it doesn't go well."
"What do you know about hating?" demanded Dorothy, giving Ethel Blue a hug.
"I know a lot about it," she insisted. "Some days I just despise arithmetic and on those days I never can do anything right; but when I try to see some sense in it I get along better."
They all laughed, for Ethel Blue's struggles with mathematics were calculated to arouse sympathy even in a hardened breast.
"It's all true," agreed Helen, who had been listening quietly to what the younger girls were saying, "and I believe we ought to show people more than we do that we like them. I don't see why we're so scared to let a person know that we think she's done something well, or to sympathize with her when she's having a hard time."
"O," exclaimed Dorothy shrinkingly, "it's so embarrassing to tell a person you're sorry."
"You don't have to tell her in words," insisted Helen. "You can make her realize that you understand what she is going through and that you'd like to help her."
"How can you do it without talking?" asked Ethel Brown, the practical.
"When I was younger," answered Helen thoughtfully, "I used to be rather afraid of a person who was in trouble. I thought she might think I was intruding if I spoke of it. But Mother told me one day that a person who was suffering didn't want to be treated as if she were in disgrace and not to be spoken to, and I've always tried to remember it. Now, when I know about it or guess it I make a point of being just as nice as I know how to her. Sometimes we don't talk about the trouble at all; sometimes it comes out naturally after a while. But even if the subject isn't mentioned she knows that there is at least one person who is interested in her and her affairs."
"I begin to see why you're so popular at school," remarked Margaret, who had known for a long time other reasons for Helen's popularity.
Helen threw a leaf at her friend and asked the Ethels to make some lemonade. They had brought the juice in a bottle and chilled water in a thermos bottle, so that the preparation was not hard. There were cold cheese straws to eat with it. The Ethels had made them in their small kitchen at home by rubbing two tablespoonfuls of butter into four tablespoonfuls of flour, adding two tablespoonfuls of grated cheese, seasoning with a pinch of cayenne, another of salt and another of mace, rolling out to a thickness of a quarter of an inch, cutting into strips about four inches long and half an inch wide and baking in a hot oven.
"'Which I wish to remark and my language is plain,'" Helen quoted, "that in spite of Dicky's picking all the blossoms we have so many flowers now that we ought to do—give them away.
"Ethel Blue and I have been taking some regularly every week to the old ladies at the Home," returned Ethel Brown.
"I was wondering if there were enough to send some to the hospital at Glen Point," suggested Margaret. "The Glen Point people are pretty good about sending flowers, but the hospital is an old story with them and sometimes they don't remember when they might."
"I should think we might send some there and some to the Orphanage," said Dorothy, from whose large garden the greater part of the supply would have to come. "Have the orphans any gardens to work in?"
"They have beds like your school garden here in Rosemont, but they have to give the vegetables to the house and I suppose it isn't much fun to raise vegetables and then have them taken away from you."
"They eat them themselves."
"But they don't know Willy's tomato from Johnny's. If Willy and Johnny were allowed to sell their crops they'd be willing to pay out of the profit for the seed they use and they'd take a lot of interest in it. The housekeeper would buy all they'd raise, and they'd feel that their gardens were self-supporting. Now they feel that the seed is given to them out of charity, and that it's a stingy sort of charity after all because they are forced to pay for the seed by giving up their vegetables whether they want to or not."
"Do they enjoy working the gardens?"
"I should say not! James and I said the other day that they were the most forlorn looking gardeners we ever laid our eyes on."
"Don't they grow any flowers at all?"
"Just a few in a border around the edge of their vegetable gardens and some in front of the main building where they'll be seen from the street."
The girls looked at each other and wrinkled their noses.
"Let's send some there every week and have the children understand that young people raised them and thought it was fun to do it."
"And can't you ask to have the flowers put in the dining-room and the room where the children are in the evening and not in the reception room where only guests will see them?"
"I will," promised Margaret. "James and I have a scheme to try to have the children work their gardens on the same plan that the children do here," she went on. "We're going to get Father to put it before the Board of Management, if we can."
"I do hope he will. The kiddies here are so wild over their gardens that it's proof to any one that it's a good plan."
"Oo-hoo," came Roger's call across the field.
"Oo-hoo. Come up," went back the answer.
"What are you girls talking about?" inquired the young man, arranging himself comfortably with his back against a rock and accepting a paper tumbler of lemonade and some cheese straws.
Helen explained their plan for disposing of the extra flowers from their gardens.
"It's Service Club work; we ought to have started it earlier," she ended.
"The Ethels did begin it some time ago; I caught them at it," he accused, shaking his finger at his sister and cousin.
"I told the girls we had been taking flowers to the Old Ladies' Home," confessed Ethel Brown.
"O, you have! I didn't know that! I did find out that you were supplying the Atwoods down by the bridge with sweetpeas."
"There have been such oodles," protested Ethel Blue.
"Of course. It was the right thing to do."
"How did you know about it, anyway? Weren't you taking flowers there yourself?"
"What were you doing?"
"I know; I saw him digging there one day."
"O, keep still, Dorothy," Roger remonstrated.
"You might as well tell us about it."
"It isn't anything. I did look in one day to ask if they'd like some sweetpeas, but I found the Ethels were ahead of me. The old lady has a fine snowball bush and a beauty syringa in front of the house. When I spoke about them she said she had always wanted to have a bed of white flowers around the two bushes, so I offered to make one for her. That's all."
"Good for Roger!" cried Margaret. "Tell us what you put into it. We've had pink and blue and yellow beds this year; we can add white next year."
"Just common things," replied Roger. "It was rather late so I planted seeds that would hurry up; sweet alyssum for a border, of course, and white verbenas and balsam, and petunias, and candytuft and, phlox and stocks and portulaca and poppies. Do you remember, I asked you, Dorothy, if you minded my taking up that aster that showed a white bud? That went to Mrs. Atwood. The seeds are all coming up pretty well now and the old lady is as pleased as Punch."
"I should think she might be! Can the old gentleman cultivate them or is his rheumatism too bad?"
"I put in an hour there every once in a while," Roger admitted reluctantly.
"It's nothing to be ashamed of!" laughed Helen encouragingly. "What I want to know is how we are to send our flowers in to New York to the Flower and Fruit Guild. Della said she'd look it up and let us know."
"She did. I saw Tom yesterday and he gave me these slips and asked me to tell you girls about them and I forgot it."
Roger bobbed his head by way of asking forgiveness, which was granted by a similar gesture.
"It seems that the National Plant, Flower and Fruit Guild will distribute anything you send to it at 70 Fifth Avenue; or you can select some institution you're interested in and send your stuff directly to it, and if you use one of these Guild pasters the express companies will carry the parcel free."
"Good for the express companies!" exclaimed Ethel Brown.
"Here's one of the pasters," and Roger handed one of them to Margaret while the others crowded about to read it.
APPROVED LABEL NATIONAL PLANT, FLOWER AND FRUIT GUILD, 70 Fifth Avenue, New York City.
Express Companies Adams American Great Northern National United States Wells Fargo Western
WILL DELIVER FREE
Within a distance of one hundred (100) miles from stations on their lines to any charitable institution or organization within the delivery limits of adjacent cities. If an exchange of baskets is made they will be returned without charge.
This property is carried at owner's risk of loss or damage. No box or basket shall exceed twenty (20) pounds in weight. All jellies to be carefully packed and boxed. All potted plants to be set in boxes.
For Chapel of Comforter, 10 Horatio Street, New York City.
From United Service Club, Rosemont, New Jersey.
KINDLY DELIVER PROMPTLY.
"Where it says 'For,'" explained Roger, "you fill in, say, 'Chapel of the Comforter, 10 Horatio Street' or 'St. Agnes' Day Nursery, 7 Charles Street,' and you write 'United Service Club, Rosemont, N.J.,' after 'From.'"
"It says 'Approved Label' at the top," Ethel Brown observed questioningly.
"That's so people won't send flowers to their friends and claim free carriage from the express companies on the ground that it's for charity," Roger went on. "Then you fill out this postcard and put it into every bundle you send.
Sender Will Please Fill Out One of These Cards as far as "Received by" and Enclose in Every Shipment. National Plant, Flower and Fruit Guild. National Office: 70 Fifth Avenue, N.Y.C.
Sender Town Sends to-day (Date) Plants Flowers (Bunches) Fruit or Vegetables Quarts or Bushels Jelly, Preserved Fruit or Grape Juice (estimated @ 1/2 pint as a glass) Glasses. Nature Material To (Institution) Rec'd by
Address Condition Date
"That tells the people at the Day Nursery, for instance, just what you packed and assures them that the parcel hasn't been tampered with; they acknowledge the receipt at the foot of the card,—here, do you see?—and send it to the 'New York City Branch, National Plant, Flower and Fruit Guild, 70 Fifth Ave., New York City.' That enables the Guild to see that the express company is reporting correctly the number of bundles it has carried."
"They've worked out the best way after long experience, Tom says, and they find this is excellent. They recommend it to far-off towns that send to them for help about starting a guild."
"Let's send our flowers to Mr. Watkins's chapel," suggested Ethel Blue. "Della told me the people hardly ever see a flower, it's so far to any of the parks where there are any."
"Our women at Rose House were pathetic over the flowers when they first came," said Helen. "Don't you remember the Bulgarian? She was a country girl and she cried when she first went into the garden."
"I'm glad we planted a flower garden there as well as a vegetable garden."
"It has been as much comfort to the women as ours have been to us."
"I think they would like to send in some flowers from their garden beds to the chapel," suggested Ethel Blue. "I was talking with Mrs. Paterno the other day and she said they all felt that they wanted all their friends to have a little piece of their splendid summer. This will be a way for them to help."
"Mr. Watkins's assistant would see that the bunches were given to their friends if they marked them for special people," said Ethel Brown.
"Let's get it started as soon as we can," said Helen. "You're secretary, Ethel Blue; write to-day to the Guild for some pasters and postcards and tell them we are going to send to Mr. Watkins's chapel; and Ethel Brown, you seem to get on pretty well with Bulgarian and Italian and a few of the other tongues that they speak at Rose House—suppose you try to make the women understand what we are going to do. Tell them we'll let them know on what day we're going to send the parcel in, so that they can cut their flowers the night before and freshen them in salt and water before they travel."
"Funny salt should be a freshener," murmured Dorothy, as the Ethels murmured their understanding of the duties their president assigned to them.
It was quite clear to the Clarks that the "botanist" had not given up his hope of buying the field, in spite of the owners' insistence that not only was its title defective but that the option had been promised to Mrs. Smith. He roamed up and down the road almost every day, going into the field, as the girls could see from their elevation in Fitz-James's woods, and stopping at the Clarks' on his return if he saw any of the family on the veranda, to inquire what news had come from their nephew.
"I generally admire persistency," remarked Mr. Clark one day to Mrs. Smith and Dorothy, and the Ethels, "but in this case it irritates me. When you tell a man that you can't sell to him and that you wouldn't if you could it seems as if he might take the hint and go away."
"I don't like him," and Mrs. Smith gave a shrug of distaste. "He doesn't look you squarely in the face."
"I hate that trick he has of brushing his hair out of his eyes. It makes me nervous," confessed the younger Miss Clark.
"I can't see why a botanist doesn't occasionally look at a plant," observed Dorothy. "We've watched him day after day and we've almost never seen him do a thing except push his stick into the ground and examine it afterwards."
"Do you remember that girl who was with him at the Flower Festival?" inquired Ethel Brown. "I saw her with him again this afternoon at the field. When he pushed his cane down something seemed to stick to it when it came up and he wiped it off with his hand and gave it to her."
"Could you see what it was like?"
"It looked like dirt to me."
"What did she do with it?"
"She took it and began to turn it around in her hand, rubbing it with her fingers the way Dorothy does when she's making her clay things."
Mr. Clark brought down his foot with a thump upon the porch.
"I'll bet you five million dollars I know what he's up to!" he exclaimed.
"What?" "What?" "What?" rang out from every person on the porch.
"I'll go right over there this minute and find out for myself."
"Find out what?"
"Do tell us."
"What do you think it is?"
Mr. Clark paused on the steps as he was about to set off.
"Clay," he answered briefly. "There are capital clays in different parts of New Jersey. Don't you remember there are potteries that make beautiful things at Trenton? I shouldn't wonder a bit if that field has pretty good clay and this man wants to buy it and start a pottery there."
"Next to my house!" exclaimed Mrs. Smith disgustedly.
"Don't be afraid; if we're ever able to sell the field you're the person who will get it," promised the old gentleman's sisters in chorus. "We don't want a pottery on the street any more than you do," they added, and expressed a wish that their brother might be able to convince the persistent would-be purchaser of the utter hopelessness of his wishes.
"What do you hear from Stanley?" Mrs. Smith asked.
"He's still quite at sea in Pittsburg—if one may use such an expression about a place as far from the ocean as that!" laughed Miss Clark. "He thinks he'll go fast if ever he gets a start, but he hasn't found any trace of the people yet. He's going to search the records not only in Allegheny County but in Washington and Westmoreland and Fayette Counties and the others around Pittsburg, if it's necessary. He surely is persistent."
"Isn't it lucky he is? And don't you hope he'll find some clue before his holidays end? That detective didn't seem to make any progress at all!"
Mr. Clark came back more than ever convinced that he had guessed the cause of the "botanist's" perseverance.
"Unless my eyes and fingers deceive me greatly this is clay and pretty smooth clay," he reported to the waiting group, and Dorothy, who knew something about clay because she had been taught to model, said she thought so, too.
"We know his reason for wanting the land, then," declared Mr. Clark; "now if we could learn why he can't seem to take it in that he's not going to get it, no matter what happens, we might be able to make him take his afternoon walks in some other direction."
"Who is he? And where is he staying?" inquired Mrs. Smith.
"He calls himself Hapgood and he's staying at the Motor Inn."
"Is the little girl his daughter?"
"I'll ask him if he ever comes here again," and Mr. Clark looked as if he almost wished he would appear, so that he might gratify his curiosity.
The Motor Inn was a house of no great size on the main road to Jersey City. A young woman, named Foster, lived in it with her mother and brother. The latter, George, was a high school friend of Helen and Roger. Miss Foster taught dancing in the winter and, being an enterprising young woman, had persuaded her mother to open the old house for a tea room for the motorists who sped by in great numbers on every fair day, and who had no opportunity to get a cup of tea and a sandwich any nearer than Glen Point in one direction and Athens Creek in the other.
"Here are we sitting down and doing nothing to attract the money out of their pockets and they are hunting for a place to spend it!" she had exclaimed.
The house was arranged like the Emerson farmhouse, with a wide hall dividing it, two rooms on each side. Miss Foster began by putting out a rustic sign which her brother made for her.
MOTOR INN TEA and SANDWICHES LUNCHEON DINNER
it read. The entrance was attractive with well-kept grass and pretty flowers. Miss Foster took a survey of it from the road and thought she would like to go inside herself if she happened to be passing.
They decided to keep the room just in front of the kitchen for the family, but the room across the hall they fitted with small tables of which they had enough around the house. The back room they reserved for a rest room for the ladies, and provided it with a couch and a dressing table always kept fully, equipped with brushes, pins and hairpins.
"If we build up a real business we can set tables here in the hall," Miss Foster suggested.
"Why not on the veranda at the side?" her mother asked.
"That's better still. We might put a few out there to indicate that people can have their tea there if they want to, and then let them take their choice in fair weather."
The Inn had been a success from the very first day when a car stopped and delivered a load of people who ate their simple but well-cooked luncheon hungrily and liked it so well that they ordered dinner for the following Sunday and promised to send other parties.
"What I like best about your food, if you'll allow me to say so," the host of the machine-load said to Miss Foster, "is that your sandwiches are delicate and at the same time there are more than two bites to them. They are full-grown sandwiches, man's size."
"My brother calls them 'lady sandwiches' though," laughed Miss Foster. "He says any sandwich with the crust cut off is unworthy a man's attention."
"Tell him for me that he's mistaken. No crust on mine, but a whole slice of bread to make up for the loss," and he paid his bill enthusiastically and packed away into his thermos box a goodly pile of the much-to-be-enjoyed sandwiches.
People for every meal of the day began to appear at the Motor Inn, for it was surprising how many parties made a before-breakfast start to avoid the heat of the day on a long trip, and turned up at the Inn about eight or nine o'clock demanding coffee and an omelette. Then one or two Rosemont people came to ask if friends of theirs might be accommodated with rooms and board for a week or two, and in this way the old house by the road grew rapidly to be more like the inn its sign called it than the tea room it was intended to be. Servants were added, another veranda was built on, and it looked as if Miss Foster would not teach dancing when winter came again but would have to devote herself to the management of the village hotel which the town had always needed.
It was while the members of the U.S.C. were eating ices and cakes there late one afternoon when they had walked to the station with the departing Watkinses that the Ethels had one of the ideas that so often struck them at almost the same moment. It came as they watched a motor party go off, supplying themselves with a box of small cakes for the children after trying to buy from Miss Foster the jar of wild iris that stood in state on the table in the hall. It was not fresh enough to travel they had decided when their hostess had offered to give it to them and they all had examined the purple heads that showed themselves to be past their prime when they were brought out into the light from the semi-darkness of the hall.
"Couldn't we—?" murmured Ethel Blue with uplifted eye-brows, glancing at Ethel Brown.
"Let's ask her if we may?" replied Ethel Brown, and without any more discussion than this they laid before Miss Foster the plan that had popped into their minds ready made. Ethel Brown was the spokeswoman.
"Would you mind if we had a flower counter here in your hall?" she asked. "We need to make some money for our women at Rose House."
"A flower counter? Upon my word, children, you take my breath away!" responded Miss Foster.
"We'd try not to give you any trouble," said Ethel Blue. "One of us would stay here every day to look after it and we'd pay rent for the use of the space."
"Upon my word!" exclaimed Miss Foster again. "You must let me think a minute."
She was a rapid thinker and her decision was quickly made.
"We'll try it for a week," she said. "Perhaps we'll find that there isn't enough demand for the flowers to make it worth while, though people often want to buy any flowers they see here, as those people you saw did."
"If you'll tell us just what space we can have we'll try not to bother you," promised Ethel Blue again, and Miss Foster smiled at her eagerness.
"We want it to be a regular business, so will you please tell us how much rent we ought to pay?" asked Ethel Brown.
Miss Foster smiled again, but she was trying to carry on a regular business herself and she knew how she would feel if people did not take her seriously.
"We'll call it five per cent of what you sell," she said. "I don't think I could make it less," and she smiled again.
"That's five cents on every dollar's worth," calculated Ethel Brown seriously. "That isn't enough unless you expect us to sell a great many dollars' worth."
"We'll call it that for this trial week, anyway," decided Miss Foster. "If the test goes well we can make another arrangement. If you have a pretty table it will be an attraction to my hall and perhaps I shall want to pay you for coming," she added good naturedly.
She pointed out to them the exact spot on which they might place their flowers and agreed to let them arrange the flowers daily for her rooms and tables and to pay them for it.
"I have no flowers for cutting this summer," she said, "and I've been bothered getting some every day. It has taken George's time when he should have been doing other things."
"We'll do it for the rent," offered Ethel Blue.
"No, I've been buying flowers outside and using my own time in arranging them. It's only fair that I should pay you as I would have paid some one long ago if I could have found the right person. I stick to the percentage arrangement for the rent."
On the way home the girls realized with some discomfiture that without consulting Mrs. Morton and Mrs. Smith they had made an arrangement that would keep them away from home a good deal and put them in a rather exposed position.
"What do you suppose Mother and Aunt Louise will say?" asked Ethel Brown doubtfully.
"I think they'll let us do it. They know we need the money for Rose House just awfully, and they like Miss Foster and her mother—I've heard Aunt Marion say they were so brave about undertaking the Inn."
Her voice quavered off into uncertainty, for she realized as she spoke that what a young woman of Miss Foster's age did in connection with her mother was a different matter from a business venture entered into alone by girls of fourteen.
The fact that the business venture was to be carried on under the eye of Mrs. Foster and her daughter, ladies whom Mrs. Morton knew well and respected and admired, was the turning point in her decision to allow the girls to conduct the affair which had entered their minds so suddenly. She and Mrs. Smith went to the Inn and assisted in the arrangement of the first assortment of flowers and plants, saw to it that there was a space on the back porch where they could be handled without the water or vases being in the way of the workers in the Inn, suggested that an additional sign reading
PLANTS and CUT FLOWERS
be hung below the sign outside and that a card
FOR THE BENEFIT OF ROSE HOUSE
be placed over the table inside, and then went away and left the girls to manage affairs themselves.
It was while Ethel Blue was drawing the poster to hang over the table that the "botanist" walked into the hall and strolled over to investigate the addition to the furnishings. He asked a question or two in a voice they did not like. They noticed that the young girl with him called him "Uncle Dan" and that he called her "Mary."
The girls had arranged their flowers according to Mrs. Smith's and Mrs. Emerson's ideas, not crowding them but showing each to its best advantage and selecting for each a vase that suited its form and coloring. Their supplies were kept out of sight in order not to mar the effect. The tables of the tea rooms were decorated with pink on this opening day, both because they thought that some of the guests might see some connection between pink and the purpose of the sale, helping Rose House—and for the practical reason that they had more pink blossoms than any other color, thanks to their love of that gay hue.
It was noon before any people outside of the resident guests of the Inn stopped at the house. Then a party of people evidently from a distance, for they were covered with dust, ordered luncheon. While the women were arranging their hair in the dressing room the men came over to the flower table and asked countless questions.
"Here, Gerald," one called to another, "these young women have just begun this business to-day and they haven't had a customer yet. I'm going to be the first; you can be the second."
"Nothing of the sort; I'll be the first myself," and "Gerald" tossed half a dollar on to the table with an order for "Sweetpeas, all pink, please."
Ethel Blue, flushed with excitement over this first sale, set about filling a box with the fresh butterfly blossoms, while Ethel Brown attended to the man who had begun the conversation. He wanted "A bunch of bachelor's buttons for a young lady with blue eyes." An older man who came to see what the younger ones were doing bought buttonholes for all the men and directed that a handful of flowers of different kinds be placed beside each plate on the large table on the shady porch where they were to have their meal.
When the women appeared they were equally interested, and inquired all about Rose House. One of them directed that enough ferns for the renewal of a centerpiece should be ready for her to take away when they left and the other bought one of the hanging baskets which Roger had arranged as a sample of what they could supply if called upon.
"Roger will be tickled to pieces that his idea caught on at once," Ethel Brown murmured to Ethel Blue as they sorted and packed their orders, not very deftly, but swiftly enough for the posies to add to the enjoyment of the people at the table and for the parcels to be ready for them when the motor came to the door.
"We'll tell all our friends about you," the guests promised as they left.
These were the only patrons until afternoon brought in several parties for tea. Almost every one of them was sufficiently drawn by the "Rose House" placard to make inquiries, and several of them bought flowers and potted plants. The same was true of the dinner arrivals.
When the girls examined their receipts for the day they found they had taken in over seven dollars, had booked several orders and already had learned a good deal about what people liked and what they could carry conveniently in their machines.
"We shan't need to have so many cut flowers here," they decided after the day's experience. "It's better to leave them on the plants and then if we run short to telephone to the house and have Dicky bring over an extra supply."
"These potted plants are all right here, though. We can leave them on the back porch at night, Miss Foster says, and bring them in to the table in the morning."
"We must get Roger to fill some more hanging baskets and ox muzzles and make some ivy balls; those are going to take."
The plan worked out extremely well, its only drawback being that the girls had to give more time to the table at the Inn than they liked. They were "spelled" however, by other members of the Club, and finally, as a result of a trip when they all went away for a few days, they engaged a schoolmate of the Ethels who had helped them occasionally, to give her whole time to the work at the Inn.
Financially the scheme worked out very well. When it came time to pay the rent for the first week the Ethels decided that they were accepting charity if they only paid Miss Foster five per cent. of their gross earnings, so they doubled it.
"I am buying the cut flowers at the same price that the girls are selling them to other customers, and I am glad to pay for their arrangement for it releases me to attend to matters that need me more," she had explained. "Even if it should be a few cents on the wrong side of my account, I am glad to contribute something to Rose House. And the motoring season is comparatively short, too."
Every once in a while they received an idea from some one who asked for something they did not have. One housekeeper wanted fresh herbs and the Ethels telephoned directions for the picking of the herb bed that Roger had planted for their own kitchen use.
"We need the herbs ourselves, Miss Ethel," came back a protest from Mary.
"I don't want to refuse to fill any order I get, Mary," Ethel Brown insisted. "Next year we'll plant a huge bed, enough for a dozen kitchens."
This unexpected order resulted in the making of another poster giving the information that fresh kitchen herbs might be had on order and would be delivered by parcel post to any address.
Several of their customers demanded ferns for their houses indoors or for their porches or wild gardens. This order was not welcome for it meant that some one had to go to the woods to get them as none had been planted in the gardens as yet. Still, in accordance with their decision never to refuse to fill an order unless it was absolutely impossible, the girls went themselves or sent one of the boys on a search for what they needed.
One steady customer was an invalid who lived in Athens Creek and who could drive only a few miles once or twice a week. She happened in to the Inn one day and ever after she made the house her goal. Her especial delight was meadow flowers, and she placed a standing order to have an armful of meadow blossoms ready for her every Thursday. This necessitated a visit to the meadows opposite Grandfather Emerson's house every Wednesday afternoon so that the flowers should have recovered from their first shock by the next morning.
"This takes me back to the days when I used to follow the flowers through the whole summer," the invalid cried delightedly. "Ah, Joe-Pye-Weed has arrived," she exclaimed joyfully over the handsome blossom.
When the Ethels and Dorothy received their first order for the decoration of a house for an afternoon reception they were somewhat overcome.
"Can we do it?" they asked each other.
They concluded they could. One went to the house two days beforehand to examine the rooms and to see what vases and bowls they should have at their disposal. Then they looked over the gardens very carefully to see what blossoms would be cut on the appointed day, and then they made a plan with pencil and paper.
Mr. Emerson lent his car on the morning of the appointed day and Roger went with them to unload the flowers and plants. They had kept the flowers of different colors together, a matter easy to do when cutting from their beds of special hues, and this arrangement made easy the work of decorating different rooms in different colors. The porch was made cool with ferns and hanging vines; the hall, which seemed dark to eyes blinded by the glare outside, was brightened with yellow posies; the dining room had delicate blue lobelia mingled with gypsophila springing from low, almost unseen dishes all over the table where the tea and coffee were poured, and hanging in festoons from the smaller table on which stood the bowl of grape juice lemonade, made very sour and very sweet and enlivened with charged water. The girls profited by this combination, for the various amounts used in it were being "tried out" during the morning and with every new trial refreshing glasses were handed about for criticism by the workers.
In the drawing room where the hostess stood to receive, superb pink poppies reared their heads from tall vases, pink snapdragons bobbed on the mantel piece and a bank of pink candytuft lay on the top of the piano. A lovely vine waved from a wall vase of exquisite design and vines trailed around the wide door as naturally as if they grew there instead of springing from bottles of water concealed behind tall jars of pink hollyhocks.
"It is perfectly charming, my dears, and I can't tell you how obliged I am," said their hostess as she pressed a bill into Ethel Brown's hand. "I know that every woman who will be here will want you the next time she entertains, and I shall tell everybody you did it."
She was as good as her word and the attempt resulted in several other orders. The girls tried to make each house different from any that they had decorated before, and they thought that they owed the success that brought them many compliments to the fact that they planned it all out beforehand and left nothing to be done in a haphazard way.
Meanwhile Rose House benefited greatly by the welcome weekly additions from the flower sale to its slender funds.
"I'm not sure it isn't roses ye are yerselves, yer that sweet to look at!" exclaimed Moya, the cook at Rose House, one day when the girls were there.
And they admitted themselves that if happiness made them sweet to look at it must be true.
UNCLE DAN'S RESEARCHES
"Uncle Dan," whose last name was Hapgood, did not cease his calls upon the Clarks. Sometimes he brought with him his niece, whose name, they learned, was Mary Smith.
"Another Smith!" ejaculated Dorothy who had lived long enough in the world to find out the apparent truth of the legend, that originally all the inhabitants of the earth were named Smith and so continued until some of them misbehaved and were given other names by way of punishment.
No one liked Mr. Hapgood better as time went on.
"I believe he is a twentieth century werwolf, as Dorothy said," Ethel Brown insisted. "He's a wolf turned into a man but keeping the feelings of a wolf."
The girls found little to commend in the manners of his niece and nothing to attract. By degrees the "botanist's" repeated questioning put him in command of all the information the Clarks had themselves about the clue that Stanley was hunting down. He seemed especially interested when he learned that the search had been transferred to the vicinity of Pittsburg.
"My sister, Mary's mother, lived near Pittsburg," he told them when he heard it; "I know that part of the country pretty well."
For several days he was not seen either by the Clarks or by the girls who went to the Motor Inn to attend to the flowers, and Mrs. Foster told the Ethels that Mary had been left in her care while her uncle went away on a business trip.
At the end of a week he appeared again at the Clarks', bringing the young girl with him. He received the usual courteous but unenthusiastic reception with which they always met this man who had forced himself upon them so many times. Now his eyes were sparkling and more nervously than ever he kept pushing back the lock of hair that hung over his forehead.
"Well, I've been away," he began.
The Clarks said that they had heard so.
"I been to western Pennsylvania."
His hearers expressed a lukewarm interest.
"I went to hunt up the records of Fayette County concerning the grandparents of Mary here."
"I hope you were successful," remarked the elder Miss Clark politely.
"Yes, ma'am, I was," shouted Hapgood in reply, thumping his hand on the arm of his chair with a vigor that startled his hosts. "Yes, sir, I was, sir; perfectly successful; en-tirely successful."
Mr. Clark murmured something about the gratification the success must be to Mr. Hapgood and awaited the next outburst.
It came without delay.
"Do you want to know what I found out?"
"Certainly, if you care to tell us."
"Well, I found out that Mary here is the granddaughter of your cousin, Emily Leonard, you been huntin' for."
"Mary!" exclaimed the elder Miss Clark startled, her slender hands fluttering agitatedly as the man's heavy voice forced itself upon her ears and the meaning of what he said entered her mind.
"This child!" ejaculated the younger sister, Miss Eliza, doubtfully, adjusting her glasses and leaning over to take a closer look at the proposed addition to the family.
This comment came from Mr. Clark.
A dull flush crept over Hapgood's face.
"You don't seem very cordial," he remarked.
"O," the elder Miss Clark, Miss Maria, began apologetically, but she was interrupted by her brother.
"You have the proofs, I suppose."
Hapgood could not restrain a glare of dislike, but he drew a bundle of papers from his pocket.
"I knew you'd ask for 'em."
"Naturally," answered the calm voice of Mr. Clark.
"So I copied these from the records and swore to 'em before a notary."
"You copied them yourself?"
"Yes, sir, with my own hand," and the man held up that member as if to call it as a witness to his truth.
"I should have preferred to have had the copying done by a typist accredited by the county clerk," said Mr. Clark coolly.
Hapgood flushed angrily.
"If you don't believe me—" he began, but Mr. Clark held up a warning finger.
"It's always wise to follow the custom in such cases," he observed.
Hapgood, finding himself in the wrong, leaned over Mr. Clark's shoulder and pointed eagerly to the notary's signature.
"Henry Holden—that's the notary—that's him," he repeated several times insistently.
Mr. Clark nodded and read the papers slowly aloud so that his sisters might hear their contents. They recited the marriage at Uniontown, the county seat of Fayette County, Pennsylvania, on the fifteenth day of December, 1860, of Emily Leonard to Edward Smith.
"There you are," insisted Hapgood loudly. "That's her; that's the grandmother of Mary here."
"You're sure of that?"
"Here's the record of the birth of Jabez, son of Edward and Emily (Leonard) Smith two years later, and the record of his marriage to my sister and the record of the birth of Mary. After I got the marriage of this Emily straightened out the rest was easy. We had it right in the family."
The two sisters gazed at each other aghast. The man was so assertive and coarse, and the child was so far from gentle that it seemed impossible that she could be of their own blood. Still, they remembered that surroundings have greater influence than inheritance, so they held their peace, though Miss Maria stretched out her hand to Mary. Mary stared at it but made no move to take it.
"Your records look as if they might be correct," said Mr. Clark, an admission greeted by Hapgood with a pleased smile and a complacent rub of the hands; "but," went on the old gentleman, "I see nothing here that would prove that this Emily Leonard was our cousin."
"But your nephew, Stanley, wrote you that he had found that your Emily had removed to the neighborhood of Pittsburg."
"That's true," acknowledged the elder man, bending his head, "but Emily Leonard isn't an unusual name."
"O, she's the one all right," insisted Hapgood bluffly.
"Further, your record doesn't state the names of this Emily Leonard's parents."
Hapgood tossed back the unruly lock of hair.
"I ought to have gone back one step farther," he conceded. "I might have known you'd ask that."
"I'll send to the county clerk and get that straightened out."
"It might be well," advised Mr. Clark mildly. "One other point prevents my acceptance of these documents as proof that your niece belongs to our family. Neither the investigator whom we had working on the case nor my nephew have ever told us the date of birth of our Emily Leonard. We can, of course, obtain that, if it is not already in my nephew's possession, but without it we can't be sure that our cousin was of marriageable age on December fifteenth, 1860."
It was Mr. Clark's turn to rub his hands together complacently as Hapgood looked more and more discomfited.
"In fact, my dear sir," Mr. Clark continued, "you have proved nothing except that some Emily Leonard married a man named Smith on the date named."
He tapped the papers gently with a thin forefinger and returned them to their owner, who began to bluster.
"I might have known you'd put up a kick," he exclaimed.
"I live, when I'm at home, in Arkansas," replied Mr. Clark softly, "and Arkansas is so near Missouri that I have come to belong to the brotherhood who 'have to be shown.'"
Hapgood greeted this sally with the beginning of a snarl, but evidently thought it the part of discretion to remain friendly with the people he wanted to persuade.
"I seem to have done this business badly," he said, "but I'll send back for the rest of the evidence and you'll have to admit that Mary's the girl you need to complete your family tree."
"Come here, dear," Miss Clark called to Mary in her quiet voice. "Are your father and mother alive?"
"Father is," she thought the child answered, but her reply was interrupted by Hapgood's loud voice, saying, "She's an orphan, poor kid. Pretty tough just to have an old bachelor uncle to look after yer, ain't it?"
The younger Miss Clark stepped to the window to pull down the shade while the couple were still within the yard and she saw the man give the girl a shake and the child rub her arm as if the touch had been too rough for comfort.
"Poor little creature! I can't say I feel any affection for her, but she must have a hard time with that man!"
The interview left Mr. Clark in a disturbed state in spite of the calmness he had assumed in talking with Hapgood. He walked restlessly up and down the room and at last announced that he was going to the telegraph office.
"I might as well wire Stanley to send us right off the date of Emily Leonard's birth, and, just as soon as he finds it, the name of the man she married."
"If she did marry," interposed Miss Maria. "Some of our family don't marry," and she humorously indicated the occupants of the room by a wave of her knitting needles.
At that instant the doorbell rang, and the maid brought in a telegram.
"It's from Stanley," murmured Mr. Clark.
"What a strange co-incidence," exclaimed the elder Miss Clark.
"What does he say, Brother?" eagerly inquired the younger Miss Clark.
"'Emily married a man named Smith,'" Mr. Clark read slowly.
"Is that all he says?"
"Dear boy! I suppose he thought we'd like to know as soon as he found out!" and Miss Eliza's thoughts flashed away to the nephew she loved, forgetting the seriousness of the message he had sent.
"The information seems to have come at an appropriate time," commented Mr. Clark grimly.
"It must be true, then," sighed Miss Maria; "that Mary belongs to us."
"We don't know at all if Hapgood's Emily is our Emily, even if they did both marry Smiths," insisted Mr. Clark stoutly, his obstinacy reviving. "I shall send a wire to Stanley at once asking for the dates of Emily's birth and marriage. He must have them both by this time; why on earth doesn't he send full information and not such a measly telegram as this!" and the old gentleman put on his hat and took his cane and stamped off in a rage to the Western Union office.
The sisters left behind gazed at each other forlornly.
"She certainly is an unprepossessing child," murmured Miss Maria, "but don't you think, under the circumstances, that we ought to ask her to pay us a visit?"
Miss Clark the elder contemplated her knitting for a noticeable interval before she answered.
"I don't see any 'ought' about it," she replied at last, "but I think it would be kind to do so."
Meanwhile Mr. Clark, stepping into the telegraph office, met Mr. Hapgood coming out. That worthy looked somewhat startled at the encounter, but pulled himself together and said cheerfully "Just been sending off a wire about our matter."
When the operator read Mr. Clark's telegram a few minutes later he said to himself wonderingly, "Emily Leonard sure is the popular lady!"
Mr. Clark was not at all pleased with his sister's proposal that they invite Mary Smith to make them a visit.
"It will look to Hapgood as if we thought his story true," he objected, when they suggested the plan the next morning. "I don't believe it is true, even if our Emily did marry a Smith, according to Stanley."
"I don't believe it is, either," answered Miss Maria dreamily. "A great many people marry Smiths."
"They have to; how are they to do anything else?" inquired the old gentleman testily. "There is such a lot of them you can't escape them. We're talking about your name, ladies," he continued as Dorothy and her mother came in, and then he related the story of Hapgood's visit and the possibility that Mary might prove to belong to them.
"Do you think he honestly believes that she's the missing heir?" Mrs. Smith asked.
The ladies looked uncertain but there was no doubt in their brother's mind.
"Not for a moment of time do I think he does," he shouted.
"But what would be his object? Why should he try to thrust the child into a perfectly strange family?"
The elder Miss Clark ventured a guess.
"He may want to provide for her future if she's really an orphan, as he says."
"I don't believe she is an orphan. Before her precious uncle drowned her reply with one of his roars I distinctly heard her say that her father was alive," retorted the exasperated Mr. Clark.
"The child would be truly fortunate to have all of you dear people to look after her," Mrs. Smith smiled, "but if her welfare isn't his reason, what is?"
"I believe it has something to do with that piece of land," conjectured Mr. Clark. "He never said a word about it to-night. That's a bad sign. He wants that land and he's made up his mind to have it and this has something to do with it."
"How could it have?" inquired Mrs. Smith.
"This is all I can think of. Before we can sell that land or any of our land we must have the consent of all the living heirs or else the title isn't good, as you very well know. Now Emily Leonard and her descendants are the only heirs missing. This man says that the child, Mary, is Emily Leonard's grandchild and that Emily and her son, the child's father, are dead. That would mean that if we wanted to sell that land we'd be obliged to have the signatures of my sisters and my nephew, Stanley, and myself, and also of the guardian of this child. Of course Hapgood will say he's the child's guardian. Do you suppose, Mrs. Smith, that he's going to sign any deed that gives you that land? Not much! He'll say it's for the child's best interests that the land be not sold now, because it contains valuable clay or whatever it is he thinks he has found there. Then he'll offer to buy the land himself and he'll be willing enough to sign the deed then."
"But we might not be," interposed Miss Maria.
"I should say not," returned her brother emphatically, "but he'd probably make a lot of trouble for us and be constantly appealing to us on the ground that we ought to sell the land for the child's good—or he might even say for Stanley's good or our good, the brazen, persistent animal."
"Brother," remonstrated Miss Maria. "You forget that you may be speaking of the uncle of our little cousin."
"Little cousin nothing!" retorted Mr. Clark fiercely. "It's all very nice for the Mortons to find that that charming girl who takes care of the Belgian baby is a relative. This is a very different proposition! However, I suppose you girls—" meaning by this term the two ladies of more than seventy—"won't be happy unless you have the youngster here, so you might as well send for her, but you'd better have the length of her visit distinctly understood."
"We might say a week," suggested Miss Eliza hesitatingly.
"Say a week, and say it emphatically," approved her brother, and trotted off to his study, leaving the ladies to compose, with Mrs. Smith's help, a note that would not be so cordial that Brother would forbid its being sent, but that would nevertheless give a hint of their kindly feeling to the forlorn child, so roughly cared for by her strange uncle.
Mary Smith went to them, and made a visit that could not be called a success in any way. She was painfully conscious of the difference between her clothes and the Ethels' and Dorothy's and Della's, though why theirs seemed more desirable she could not tell, since her own were far more elaborate. The other girls wore middy blouses constantly, even the older girls, Helen and Margaret, while her dresses were of silk or some other delicate material and adorned with many ruffles and much lace.
She was conscious, too, of a difference between her manners and theirs, and she could not understand why, in her heart, she liked theirs better, since they were so gentle as to seem to have no spirit at all, according to her views. She was always uncomfortable when she was with them and her efforts to be at ease caused her shyness to go to the other extreme and made her manners rough and impertinent.
Mrs. Smith found her crying one day when she came upon her suddenly in the hammock on the Clarks' veranda.
"Can I help?" she asked softly, leaning over the small figure whose every movement indicated protest.
"No, you can't," came back the fierce retort. "You're one of 'em. You don't know."
"Don't know what?"
"How I feel. Nobody likes me. Miss Clark just told me to go out of her room."
"Why were you in her room?"
"Why, shouldn't I go into her room? When I woke up this morning I made up my mind I'd do my best to be nice all day long. They're so old I don't know what to talk to 'em about, but I made up my mind I'd stick around 'em even if I didn't know what to say. Right after breakfast they always go upstairs—I think it's to be rid of me—and they don't come down for an hour, and then they bring down their knitting and their embroidery and they sit around all day long except when that Belgian baby that lives at your house comes in—then they get up and try to play with her."
Mrs. Smith smiled, remembering the efforts of the two old ladies to play with "Ayleesabet." Mary noticed the smile.
"They do look fools, don't they?" she cried eagerly.
"I think they look very dear and sweet when they are playing with Ayleesabet. I was not smiling at them but because I sympathized with their enjoyment of the baby."
"Well, I made up my mind they needn't think they had to stay upstairs because I wasn't nice; I'd go upstairs and be nice. So I went upstairs to Miss Maria's room and walked in."
"Walked right in? Without knocking?"
"I walked right in. She was sitting in front of that low table she has with the looking glass and all the bottles and boxes on it. Her hair was down her back—what there was of it—and she was doing up her switch."
Mrs. Smith was so aghast at this intrusion and at the injured tone in which it was told that she had no farther inclination to smile.
"I said, 'I thought I'd come up and sit with you a while,' and she said, 'Leave the room at once, Mary,' just like that. She was as mad as she could be."
"Do you blame her?"
"Why should she be mad, when I went up there to be nice to her? She's an old cat!"
"Dear child, come and sit on this settee with me and let's talk it over."
Mrs. Smith put her arm over the shaking shoulders of the angry girl and drew her toward her. After an instant's stiffening against it Mary admitted to herself that it was pleasant; she didn't wonder Dorothy was sweet if her mother did this often.
"Now we're comfortable," said Mrs. Smith. "Tell me, dear, aren't there some thoughts in your mind that you don't like to tell to any one? thoughts that seem to belong just to you yourself? Perhaps they're about God; perhaps they're about people you love, perhaps they're about your own feelings—but they seem too private and sacred for you to tell any one. They're your own, ownest thoughts."
"Do you remember your mother?"
Mary nodded again.
"Sometimes when you recall how she took you in her arms and cuddled you when you were hurt, and how you loved her and she loved you I know you think thoughts that you couldn't express to any one else."
Mary gave a sniff that hinted of tears.
"Everybody has an inner life that is like a church. You know you wouldn't think of running into a church and making a noise and disturbing the worshippers. It's just so with people's minds; you can't rush in and talk about certain things to any one—the things that he considers too sacred to talk about."
"How are you going to tell?"
Mrs. Smith drew a long breath. How was she to make this poor, untutored child understand.
"You have to tell by your feelings," she answered slowly. "Some people are more reserved than others. I believe you are reserved."
"Me?" asked Mary wonderingly.
"It wouldn't surprise me if there were a great many things that you might have talked about with your mother, if she had lived, but that you find it hard to talk about with your uncle."
"He's fierce," she commented briefly.
"If he should begin to talk to you about some of the tender memories that you have of your mother, for instance, it might be hard for you to answer him. You'd be apt to think that he was coming into your own private church."
"I see that," the girl answered; "but," returning to the beginning of the conversation, "I didn't want to talk secrets with Miss Maria; I just wanted to be nice."
"Just in the same way that people have thoughts of their very own that you mustn't intrude on, so there are reserves in their habits that you mustn't intrude on. Every one has a right to freedom from intrusion. I insist on it for myself; my daughter never enters my bedroom without knocking. I pay her the same respect; I always tap at her door and wait for her answer before I enter."
"Would you be mad if she went into your room without knocking?"
"I should be sorry that she was so inconsiderate of my feelings. She might, perhaps, interrupt me at my toilet. I should not like that."
"Is that what I did to Miss Maria?"
"Yes, dear, it was. You don't know Miss Maria well, and yet you opened the door of her private room and went in without being invited."
"I'm sorry," she said briefly.
"I'm sure you are, now you understand why it wasn't kind."
"I wish she knew I meant to be nice."
"Would you like to have me tell her? I think she'll understand there are some things you haven't learned for you haven't a mother to teach you."
"Uncle Dan says maybe I'll have to live with the old ladies all the time, so they might as well know I wasn't trying to be mean," she whispered resignedly.
"I'll tell Miss Maria, then, and perhaps you and she will be better friends from now on because she'll know you want to please her. And now, I came over to tell you that the U.S.C. is going into New York to-day to see something of the Botanical Garden and the Arboretum. I'm going with them and they'd be glad to have you go, too."
"They won't be very glad, but I'd like to go," responded the girl, her face lighted with the nearest approach to affection Mrs. Smith ever had seen upon it.
FUR AND FOSSILS
When the Club gathered at the station to go into town Mary was arrayed in a light blue satin dress as unsuitable for her age as it was for the time of day and the way of traveling. The other girls were dressed in blue or tan linen suits, neat and plain. Secretly Mary thought their frocks were not to be named in the same breath with hers, but once when she had said something about the simplicity of her dress to Ethel Blue, Ethel had replied that Helen had learned from her dressmaking teacher that dresses should be suited to the wearer's age and occupation, and that she thought her linen blouses and skirts were entirely suitable for a girl of fourteen who was a gardener when she wasn't in school.
This afternoon Dorothy had offered her a pongee dust coat when she stopped at the Smiths' on her way to the cars.
"Aren't you afraid you'll get that pretty silk all cindery?" she asked.
Mary realized that Dorothy thought her not appropriately dressed for traveling, but she tossed her head and said, "O, I like to wear something good looking when I go into New York."
One of the purposes of the expedition was to see at the Museum of Natural History some of the fossil leaves and plants about which the Mortons had heard from Lieutenant and Captain Morton who had found several of them themselves in the course of their travels.
At the Museum they gathered around the stones and examined them with the greatest interest. There were some shells, apparently as perfect as when they were turned into stone, and others represented only by the moulds they had left when they crumbled away. There were ferns, the delicate fronds showing the veining that strengthened the leaflets when they danced in the breeze of some prehistoric morning.
"It's wonderful!" exclaimed the Ethels, and Mary asked, "What happened to it?"
"I thought some one would ask that," replied Mrs. Smith, "so I brought these verses by Mary Branch to read to you while we stood around one of these ancient rocks."
THE PETRIFIED FERN
"In a valley, centuries ago Grew a little fern-leaf, green and slender, Veining delicate and fibers tender; Waving when the wind crept down so low. Rushes tall and moss and grass grew round it, Playful sunbeams darted in and found it, Drops of dew stole in by night and crowned it, But no foot of man e'er trod that way; Earth was young and keeping holiday.
"Monster fishes swam the silent main; Stately forests waved their giant branches, Mountains hurled their snowy avalanches Mammoth creatures stalked across the plain; Nature revelled in grand mysteries, But the little fern was not of these, Did not number with the hills and trees; Only grew and waved its wild sweet way, No one came to note it day by day.
"Earth, one time, put on a frolic mood, Heaved the rocks and changed the mighty motion Of the deep, strong currents of the ocean; Moved the plain and shook the haughty wood Crushed the little fern in soft, moist clay,— Covered it and hid it safe away. O, the long, long centuries since that day! O, the changes! O, life's bitter cost, Since that useless little fern was lost!
"Useless? Lost? There came a thoughtful man Searching Nature's secrets, far and deep; From a fissure in a rocky steep He withdrew a stone, o'er which there ran Fairy pencilings, a quaint design, Veinings, leafage, fibers clear and fine, And the fern's life lay in every line! So, I think, God hides some souls away, Sweetly to surprise us, the last day."
From the Museum the party went to the Bronx where they first took a long walk through the Zoo. How Mary wished that she did not have on a pale blue silk dress and high heeled shoes as she dragged her tired feet over the gravel paths and stood watching Gunda, the elephant, "weaving" back and forth on his chain, and the tigers and leopards keeping up their restless pacing up and down their cages, and the monkeys, chattering hideously and snatching through the bars at any shining object worn by their visitors! It was only because she stepped back nimbly that she did not lose a locket that attracted the attention of an ugly imitation of a human being.
The herds of large animals pleased them all.
"How kind it is of the keepers to give these creatures companions and the same sort of place to live in that they are accustomed to," commented Ethel Brown.
"Did you know that this is one of the largest herds of buffalo in the United States?" asked Tom, who, with Della, had joined them at the Museum. "Father says that when he was young there used to be plenty of buffalo on the western plains. The horse-car drivers used to wear coats of buffalo skin and every new England farmer had a buffalo robe. It was the cheapest fur in use. Then the railroads went over the plains and there was such a destruction of the big beasts that they were practically exterminated. They are carefully preserved now."
"The prairie dogs always amuse me," said Mrs. Smith. "Look at that fellow! Every other one is eating his dinner as fast as he can but this one is digging with his front paws and kicking the earth away with his hind paws with amazing industry."
"He must be a convict at hard labor," guessed Roger.
"Or the Mayor of the Prairie Dog Town setting an example to his constituents," laughed James.
The polar bear was suffering from the heat and nothing but the tip of his nose and his eyes were to be seen above the water of his tank where he floated luxuriously in company with two cakes of ice.
The wolves and the foxes had dens among rocks and the wild goats stood daintily on pinnacles to see what was going on at a distance. No one cared much for the reptiles, but the high flying cage for birds kept them beside it for a long time.
Across the road they entered the grounds of the Arboretum and passed along a narrow path beside a noisy brook under heavy trees, until they came to a grove of tall hemlocks. With upturned heads they admired these giants of the forest and then passed on to view other trees from many climes and countries.
"Here's the Lumholtz pine that father wrote me about from Mexico," cried Ethel Blue, whose father, Captain Morton, had been with General Funston at Vera Cruz. "See, the needles hang down like a spray, just as he said. You know the wood has a peculiar resonance and the Mexicans make musical instruments of it."
"It's a graceful pine," approved Ethel Brown. "What a lot of pines there are."
"We are so accustomed about here to white pines that the other kinds seem strange, but in the South there are several kinds," contributed Dorothy. "The needles of the long leaf pine are a foot long and much coarser than these white pine needles. Don't you remember, I made some baskets out of them?"
The Ethels did remember.
"Their green is yellower. The tree is full of resin and it makes the finest kind of kindling."
"Is that what the negroes call 'light wood'?" asked Della.
"Yes, that's light wood. In the fields that haven't been cultivated for a long time there spring up what they call in the South 'old field pines' or 'loblolly pines.' They have coarse yellow green needles, too, but they aren't as long as the others. There are three needles in the bunch."
"Don't all the pines have three needles in the bunch?" asked Margaret.
"Look at this white pine," she said, pulling down a bunch off a tree they were passing. "It has five; and the 'Table Mountain pine' has only two."
"Observant little Dorothy!" exclaimed Roger.
"O, I know more than that," laughed Dorothy. "Look hard at this white pine needle; do you see, it has three sides, two of them white and one green? The loblolly needle has only two sides, though the under is so curved that it looks like two; and the 'Table Mountain' has two sides."
"What's the use of remembering all that?" demanded Mary sullenly.
Dorothy, who had been dimpling amusedly as she delivered her lecture, flushed deeply.
"I don't know," she admitted.
"We like to hear about it because we've been gardening all summer and anything about trees or plants interests us," explained Tom politely, though the way in which Mary spoke seemed like an attack on Dorothy.
"I've always found that everything I ever learned was useful at some time or other," James maintained decidedly. "You never can tell when this information that Dorothy has given us may be just what we need for some purpose or other."
"It served Dorothy's purpose just now when she interested us for a few minutes telling about the different kinds," insisted Ethel Blue, but Mary walked on before them with a toss of her head that meant "It doesn't interest me."
Dorothy looked at her mother, uncertain whether to take it as a joke or to feel hurt. Mrs. Smith smiled and shook her head almost imperceptibly and Dorothy understood that it was kindest to say nothing more.
They chatted on as they walked through the Botanical Gardens and exclaimed over the wonders of the hothouses and examined the collections of the Museum, but the edge had gone from the afternoon and they were not sorry to find themselves on the train for Rosemont. Mary sat with Mrs. Smith.
"I really was interested in what Dorothy told about the pines," she whispered as the train rumbled on; "I was mad because I didn't know anything that would interest them, too."
"I dare say you know a great many things that would interest them," replied Mrs. Smith. "Some day you must tell me about the most interesting thing you ever saw in all your life and we'll see if it won't interest them."
"That was in a coal mine," replied Mary promptly. "It was the footstep of a man thousands and thousands of years old. It made you wonder what men looked like and how they lived so long ago."
"You must tell us all about it, some time. It will make a good addition to what we learned to-day about the fossils."
When the Mortons reached home they found Mr. Emerson waiting for them at their house.
"I've a proposal to make to these children, with your permission, Marion," he said to his daughter.
"Say on, sir," urged Roger.
"Mr. Clark is getting very nervous about this man Hapgood. The man is beginning to act as if he, as the guardian of the child, had a real claim on the Clark estate, and he becomes more and more irritating every day. They haven't heard from Stanley for several days. He hasn't answered either a letter or a telegram that his uncle sent him and the old ladies are working themselves into a great state of anxiety over him. I tell them that he has been moving about all the time and that probably neither the letter nor the wire reached him, but Clark vows that Hapgood has intercepted them and his sisters are sure the boy is ill or has been murdered."
"Poor creatures," smiled Mrs. Morton sympathetically. "Is there anything you can do about it?"
"I told Clark a few minutes ago that I'd go out to western Pennsylvania and hunt up the boy and help him run down whatever clues he has. Clark was delighted at the offer—said he didn't like to go himself and leave his sisters with this man roaming around the place half the time."
"It was kind of you. I've no doubt Stanley is working it all out well, but, boy-like, he doesn't realize that the people at home want to have him report to them every day."
"My proposal is, Marion, that you lend me these children, Helen and the Ethels and Roger, for a few days' trip."
"Wow, wow!" rose a shout of joy.
"Or, better still, that you come, too, and bring Dicky."
Mrs. Morton was not a sailor's wife for nothing.
"I'll do it," she said promptly. "When do you want us to start?"
"Can you be ready for an early morning train from New York?"
"We can!" was the instant reply of every person in the room.
All day long the train pulled its length across across the state of Pennsylvania, climbing mountains and bridging streams and piercing tunnels. All day long Mr. Emerson's party was on the alert, dashing from one side to the other of the car to see some beautiful vista or to look down on a brook brawling a hundred feet below the trestle that supported them or waving their hands to groups of children staring open-mouthed at the passing train.
"Pennsylvania is a beautiful state," decided Ethel Brown as they penetrated the splendid hills of the Allegheny range.
"Nature made it one of the most lovely states of the Union," returned her grandfather. "Man has played havoc with it in spots. Some of the villages among the coal mines are hideous from the waste that has been thrown out for years upon a pile never taken away, always increasing. No grass grows on it, no children play on it, the hens won't scratch on it. The houses of the miners turn one face to this ugliness and it is only because they turn toward the mountains on another side that the people are preserved from the death of the spirit that comes to those who look forever on the unlovely."