"What are their names?" The three girls hung breathlessly on his answer.
"That's one reason I am here now," the minister replied gravely. "Elspeth and I couldn't discover any suitable names for the twinnies, so she sent me down here to consult with Peace—"
"O—ee!" squealed the girls.
"Mercy!" whispered Peace in awed amazement. "Does she really want me to name her babies?"
"Shouldn't you like to?"
"O, so much! But most mothers would thank other folks to let them do their own naming. Or, if the mothers didn't mind, prob'ly the children themselves would kick when they grew up. There was our family, for one. Grandpa Greenfield named the most of us, and see what a job he made of it. He went to the Bible for us, too."
The minister's lips twitched, but Peace was so very serious that he dared not laugh; so, after an apologetic cough behind his hand, he suggested politely, "Then suppose we arrange it this way,—if the first names you select don't suit, we will tell you so, and you can pick out some others."
"O, don't I have to think them up today? I s'posed you would want 'em right away. Grandpa named us the first time he looked at us, Gail says."
"Well, we needn't be in such a big hurry as that, girlie. It took us a month to decide what we should call our boy, and if you want that long a time, take it."
"I don't think I shall," she replied, viewing her unusual and unexpected privilege with serious eyes. "Not being a mother or a father, I don't expect it will take me more'n a few days to find very pretty names." Then, as if struck by an important thought, she asked, "But how will you Christian them, s'posing I don't hit on some likely names before a month is up?"
"Yes. Like they did Tommy Finnegan's baby brother. He was only seven days old, but he had to have a name before the priest could Christian him."
"Oh!" Mr. Strong was enlightened. "There is no set time in our church for christening babies, dear. We call it baptizing in our church, and sometimes parents don't have their children baptized until they are old enough to understand for themselves what it means."
"Then you won't be having the twins chris—baptizzened for some time yet!"
"No, probably not until Children's Day—"
"Why, that's already gone by! There won't be another until next summer!"
"Next June. But that is usually the time we perform that ceremony in our church, although any other time is just as good."
"Well, I'll have your children named by that time,—don't you fret. Allee, won't you bring me 'Hill's Evangel' from the Library? I 'member that has strings of names in it."
"'Hill's Manual,'" corrected the preacher, picking up his hat and preparing to depart.
"Is it? St. John says it is 'Hill's Emanuel,'" she called after the fleeing sister. "It's a big dirty-red book and you will find it in the furthest corner of the bookcase on the next to the lowest shelf. Why, St. John, must you hustle away so soon? You've hardly got here yet. Perhaps I could have some names ready for you to take home with you if you'd wait a while longer."
"Thanks, Peace," he bowed courteously. "But I must hurry home and mind the kiddies. There is no one there to look after them and Elspeth except the nurse and Aunt Pen. I told them I shouldn't be gone but a few minutes, and here it is almost an hour. Good-bye, Peace. Good-bye, Cherry. I'll come again soon."
"Good-bye, St. John, and next time bring the twins with you."
"O, Peace," gasped Allee, who was just returning with the heavy book in her short arms, and overheard the sister's parting admonition; "they're too fresh yet. Grandma says it will prob'ly be several weeks 'fore they get taken anywhere."
The preacher, convulsed with laughter, glanced back over his shoulder and seeing the look of disappointment in the brown eyes, rashly promised, "This shall be the first place they visit, girlies, and we'll bring them just as soon as they are old enough."
So he swung out of sight down the driveway, and Peace turned to her delightful task of finding suitable names for the little strangers at the parsonage.
"They ought to begin with the same letter," suggested Cherry, wishing it had fallen to her lot to name a pair of twins, "like Hazel and Helen Bean."
"Or else rhyme with each other," put in excited Allee, thinking it a most wonderful privilege which had been granted Peace, "like Pearl and Beryl Whittaker."
"Or they might suggest the same thing," ventured Hope, who had heard the good news and had come out to see what progress the favored sister was making. "For instance, Opal and Garnet Ordway. The opal and the garnet are precious stones, you know."
"These twins are precious babies," interrupted Peace in decided accents, "and we shan't call them such heathenish names as stones. This book, now, has a long line of names,—here it is,—and there ought to be some pretty ones amongst them, though I can't say the a's sound very nice. There is only one decent one in the bunch and that's Abigail."
Hope, leaning over the back of her chair, scanned the list beginning with a's and thoughtfully read aloud, "Abigail, Achsa, Ada, Adaline, Addie, Adela, Adelaide, Adora, Agatha, Agnes, Alethea, Alexandra, Alice, Almeda, Amanda, Amarilla, Amy, Angeline, Anna, Annabel, Antoinette, Augusta, Aurelia, Aurora, Avis,—that last one isn't so bad—"
"It isn't so good, either," Peace retorted. "It sounds like the thing you fall into when you tumble off a steep mountain. I wouldn't want a baby of mine called that."
"Abyss, you mean," suggested Hope, when the other sisters looked mystified. "No one else would ever think of such a thing."
"No one else needs to. I'd do thinking enough for all if I tacked such a name on a little baby that couldn't help itself."
It was very evident that Peace had taken a deep dislike to the name, so Hope said no more, and they turned their attention to the next letter with no better success. Peace was too critical to be easily satisfied, and when the whole list had been thoroughly considered several times, she sighed, "There is only one nice name on the page."
"And that is—?" Hope ventured.
"But that is Mrs. Strong's name!" all three chorused.
"Don't I know it? And can't a baby be named for its mother? Gail was. The only trouble is there is no other pretty name to go with it. Nothing rhymes with it, and none of the other e's are nice enough."
"Hasn't Mrs. Strong a sister named Esther?" asked Cherry, consulting the list again.
"Ye—s, but since I knew Esther Kern, I've lost my liking for that name. I can't bear to think of one of those lovely twins growing up into such a pug-nosed, freckle-faced sauce-box."
"Well, here is 'Evelyn,'—that is pretty enough, I'm sure."
"And Evelyn Smiley would say the baby was named for her. I'd sooner call it Peace, and be done with it."
"Then how about Edith, for Miss Smiley?"
"It's too short. Elizabeth has four pieces to it, and it wouldn't be fair to give less than four to the other one."
So the search for a name went on, and each succeeding day found Peace no nearer her goal. Whenever the busy pastor appeared for a brief chat, she had to own defeat, and beg for a little more time. One day a brilliant thought occurred to her, and the next time the preacher's shining black head appeared at the gate he was greeted with the excited yell, "What is Elspeth's middle name? It isn't right to call one baby after its mother and the other after nobody."
"Elspeth has no middle name—"
"Neither have I," sighed Peace. "When I marry, my middle name will be Greenfield, but until then I haven't got any."
"That's the way with Elizabeth."
"I was afraid it would be, but I hoped she would be more fortunate than me."
Another idea buzzed through her brain.
"What's your middle name? Maybe we could make something out of that."
"I am afraid not," he smiled. "I was named John Solomon, after my two doting grandfathers."
"Solomon!" she echoed in great disappointment. "Mercy! I wouldn't name a cat that!"
"Neither would I," he agreed quite cheerfully, and Peace returned to the much thumbed 'Hill's Manual' once more to consider the list of e's.
"I've a notion to call the Tiniest One Evangeline," she mused. "It's exactly as long and almost as pretty. Only it sounds so much like these preachers that get up and rage and dance all over the pulpit while they are trying to think of what they meant to say. I should hate to think of either twin growing up to be a woman preacher, 'specially the Tiniest One. I always wanted to call her Elizabeth, 'cause she is so much gooder than the Tiny One, but St. John says she has dark eyes. Elspeth's are blue, so it ought to be the blue-eyed baby that's named for her, I s'pose, even if it does cry more. Mercy, in another two days the month will be up, and I must have those names by then. It's hard work always to say the Tiny One and the Tiniest One."
Again she fell into a brown study, but two days later found her as undecided as ever, and she concluded to ask for just one more week in which to make up her mind. However, when Mr. Strong appeared for his brief visit that morning, his face looked so sadly grave as he bent over the crippled child to give her his usual kiss of greeting that she cried apprehensively, "What's the matter, St. John! Has anything happened to the twins?"
"One of them—the Tiniest One—flew away with the angels last night," he answered simply, turning his face away that she might not witness his grief.
For a moment his reply dazed her; then she threw both arms about his neck, and burst into tears, sobbing as if her heart would break, while he dumbly sought to soothe her sorrow, by cuddling her head on his shoulder and rubbing his quivering cheek against hers, for he could not trust his voice to speak.
The first outburst of grief over, Peace shook the tears from her eyes, loosened her strangling grasp about his neck and gulped, "Well, that makes the naming of them easier, doesn't it, St. John! I was so fussed up to find something nice enough to go with Elizabeth, but now we'll just call the Tiniest One 'Angel Baby' and be glad that God didn't lug off both twins. But oh, I do wish He had waited a little while longer until I could have seen the two live twins."
So they comforted each other, and when the grave-eyed minister left her a few moments later, she was smiling ever so faintly, while the heaviness of his heart had lifted a bit, and he felt better for the child's sympathy.
Sitting alone in her chair under the trees after the tall, black-frocked figure had disappeared down the avenue, Peace suddenly heard the voice of Mrs. Campbell through the library window saying in troubled tones, "I really ought to go up to the parsonage myself and see Mrs. Strong in person. She would appreciate it more than anything else, but it is utterly impossible to go today, with that Board Meeting to attend to. I suppose I might write a little note of condolence now and make my call tomorrow, but such things are so stiff at best—"
Abruptly Peace remembered that she had sent no message by St. John to her sorrowing Elspeth, and with feverish eagerness she caught at her grandmother's suggestion of a note, turning to the table beside her chair where lay the dirty-red book which she had consulted so often during the past few weeks.
"I'll write her, too," she decided. "There are some lovely corndolences in this 'Manual,' and I wouldn't for the world have her think I didn't care terribly bad because one of her babies has died."
With impatient fingers she turned the worn and ragged pages until she found the section she was seeking. Then pulling out pen and paper, she laboriously copied one of the stilted, old-fashioned epistles printed under the title of "Letters of Sympathy," and despatched it, hidden under a beautiful spray of white daisies and fern, to the little parsonage on the hill.
Elizabeth herself received the badly blotted missive, and with startled, mystified eyes, read the incongruous words penned by that childish hand.
"My dear Friend,—I realize that this letter will find you berried in the deepest sorrow at the loss of your darling little Angle Baby, and that words of mine will be intirely inacqueduct to assawsage your overwhelming grief; yet I feel that I must write a few words to insure you that I am thinking of you and praying for you. If there can be a coppersating thought, it is that your darling returned to the God who gave it pure and unspotted by the world's temptations. The white rose and bud I send (Jud says there haint any in blossom, so I'll have to take daisies) I trust you will permit to rest upon your darling's pillow.
With feelings of deepest symparthy, I remain, dear friend,
Yours very sincerely, PEACE GREENFIELD."
On the other side of the inky sheet were scrawled a few almost illegible lines, "My darlingest St. Elspeth, I have neerly squalled my heyes out because St. John says your Angle Baby has flewn back to Heaven and I wanted it to stay. But I am glad you have got another twin so the little crib St. John told us about won't be all empty and you will still have one reel live baby to rock to sleep besides Glen. This note of corndolence on the other page is the best I could find. All the others were too old. This one fits pretty well, but I had to change it a little, and even now it is stiff like Grandma says all notes of corndolence are. But I guess you will know I am as sorry as can be, for I love you and want you to be happy. YOUR PEACE."
And Elizabeth, looking with tear-dimmed eyes from the bungling little note to the lovely, snow-white daisies in the box, was strangely comforted.
AN ENDLESS CHAIN OF LETTERS
Peace closed the magazine with a reluctant sigh. "That," she said with decided emphasis on the pronoun, "is a good story. If all orthers wrote like that, 'twould make int'resting reading."
"What was it about?" asked Allee, looking up from a gorgeous splash of water-colors which she was pleased to call a painting.
"About a girl named Angelica Regina, who started an endless chain of letters to help the Ladies' Aid of her uncle's church c'lect scraps for silk quilts."
"Did the ladies ask her to?"
"Mercy, no! They didn't have an idea that she'd done such a thing, and they kept wondering where in the world all those scraps were coming from. Fin'ly it got so bad that the Post Office man was real mad and the husbands of the Ladies' Aid got mad, and the ladies themselves got mad and wouldn't take any more bundles that came through the mail. 'Twasn't till then that anyone knew 'bout the endless chain of letters. But at last one lady s'spected Angelica Regina had done the whole thing, and she made her own up to it."
"What is an endless chain of letters? I can't see how she worked it."
"Why, don't you 'member the letter Hope got last Christmas asking her to write five more just like it and send them to friends of hers?"
"Well, but that's only five letters."
"Yes, 'twould be if it stopped there, but each of those five people had to write five letters more and give them to their friends. Five times five is twenty-five, and then those twenty-five would write five letters. Don't you see how it would keep growing till there would be hundreds and hundreds of letters written?"
Allee nodded solemnly, and Peace fell into a brown study. Presently she announced decidedly, "I b'lieve I'll do it. I like the scheme."
"Do what? What scheme?" inquired Allee, somewhat absently, as she critically surveyed her brilliant splotch of color, and wondered if she had added enough red to her sunset.
"I'll start an endless chain myself."
"What do you want silk scraps for?" Allee's brush fell unheeded from her hand, and the blue eyes shot an amazed glance up at the figure in the wheel-chair.
"I don't want any silk scraps, but I can ask for something else, can't I?"
"What shall you choose?" Allee was now alive with curiosity.
"Well,—I don't really know—just yet," Peace was obliged to confess. "It wouldn't be right to ask 'em each for a dime, like Hope's letter did, to endower a hospital bed, 'cause I haven't got the bed, and anyway I don't need money. Grandpa's got enough for us all. Now if we'd just known of this plan in Parker, p'raps we could have paid off our mortgage without any trouble."
"But then Grandpa wouldn't have found us, and we prob'ly would still be living in the little brown house on that farm," responded Allee, with a frown.
"That's so. I hadn't thought of that. Well, it can't be money that I'll ask for, and I don't want silk scraps. Just now I can't think of a thing I want real bad which Grandpa can't get for me,—'nless it is buttons."
"Buttons!" repeated Allee, wondering if Peace had lost her senses altogether. "What do you want buttons for? What kind of buttons? Ain't your clothes got enough buttons on 'em now? Grandma—"
"Sh!" Peace cautioned, for in her surprise Allee had unconsciously raised her voice almost to a yell. "I don't mean that kind of buttons. I mean fancy ones just for a c'lection."
"But what good will a c'lection of buttons be?" demanded Allee, more puzzled than before. "What can you use 'em for?"
"What can you use any c'lection for?" sarcastically retorted Peace, exasperated at the little sister's stupidity. "What does Henderson Meadows use his c'lection of stamps for? Just to brag about and see how many more kinds he can get than the other boys."
"But—I never heard of such a thing as a c'lection of buttons," persisted Allee, privately worried for fear Peace was going crazy. "No one that I know has got one."
"They will have as soon as I get mine started," the other girl stoutly maintained. "You wait and see."
Allee shook her head doubtfully and slowly reached out her hand for her gorgeous sunset which strongly resembled a rainbow in convulsions.
"You don't seem to like the plan," suggested Peace, more than ever determined to make the venture, just to prove to this skeptical creature that she knew what she was talking about.
"I—don't think—it will work," replied truthful Allee.
"Well, I'll show you. Miss Edith said when she was a girl it was a fad one winter to see who could get the biggest and prettiest string of buttons, and when I was telling Grandma she laughed and said they had the same thing a-going when she was a girl."
"But I don't see any sense to it," protested the younger sister, still unconvinced.
"I never saw a c'lection yet that had any sense to it, when it comes to that," Peace reluctantly admitted. "What sense is there in saving up a lot of dead bugs like Cherry's been doing all summer, or a bunch of horrid, nasty, dirty old pipes, like Len Abbott was so proud of; or even all those queeriosities that Judge Abbott kept in his library and said was worth so much money! I ain't a-going to do it for the sense there is in it, but it'll be awful lonesome for me when you girls go back to school this fall, 'specially as the doctor says I mustn't have a teacher of my own yet, and I can't do any real studying all by myself." Privately, Peace was much pleased with this verdict, but she thought it unnecessary to say so. "That's why I thought it would be a good plan to get something like this started which would help fill up the time while you and Cherry were shut up in school, and Grandma was too busy to pay attention to me."
Allee's antagonism and skepticism vanished as if by magic. She had opposed this beautiful plan which would mean so much to her crippled sister! In deepest contrition she enthusiastically proposed, "Let's write the letter now and send it off so's your answers will begin coming in as soon as they can. I guess I didn't 'xactly see what you meant at first. I think it'll be a nice plan."
"All right," Peace replied, quick to take advantage of favorable circumstances. "You get the paper and ink. I've used mine all up out here. And say, s'posing we keep this endless chain plan a secret among our two selves. You can have half the buttons that come in; but if Cherry should know, she would prob'ly want a share, too."
"Maybe 'twould be better," Allee agreed, as she ran away to the house for writing materials.
Then began the task of composing a letter which should cover their wants; but so many obstacles presented themselves to the inexperienced writers, that the afternoon had waned before a satisfactory epistle had resulted.
"There," sighed Peace at length, "I guess that will do. It is short enough so's it won't take anyone long to make five copies, and it's long enough so's no one can be mistaken about what we mean. I wish I knew whether Hope kept the one she got. Maybe we could have gone by that and made a better letter of ours. This one in the magazine didn't help very much 'cause it talks about the Ladies' Aid, and we couldn't use that, for everybody would know a Ladies' Aid would want something besides buttons in their work. Do you think ours will do?"
"Yes, it's perfectly elegant," the younger child replied, lovingly fingering the inky page of tipsy letters which she had just finished. "Now who are you going to send them to?"
"I've been thinking of that all the while we were writing, and I've already got a list of more'n five."
"Well, there's Lorene Meadows for a starter. She lives in Chicago and is acquainted with slews of kids which we don't know. Then there's Mrs. Grinnell in Parker, and Hec Abbott and Tessie and Effie and Jessie and Miss Dunbar and Annette Fisher and Mrs. Bainbridge and Mrs. Hartman and oh—all the Parker folks."
"Then s'posing we write more'n five to begin with."
"I hadn't thought of that. There's no reason why we shouldn't. Let's make it ten,—that's all the stamps I've got."
Both girls set to work laboriously scribbling the ten copies of their chain letter, then sealed and addressed them, and Allee dropped them into the mail box on the corner just as the dinner bell pealed out its summons to the dining-room.
School began the next Monday. The following day the first link in the endless chain was received from Lorene, who enclosed twelve handsome buttons and asked full particulars about the button collection, as she desired to start one for herself, and could Peace send her twelve buttons in exchange for hers? This was an unforeseen development, but Peace was so delighted with this first dozen that she set Allee to hunting up stray buttons about the house with which to satisfy the demands of any other youthful collectors. On Wednesday two more answers were received, one from Mrs. Grinnell, containing forty of the oddest looking buttons the girls had ever seen; and one from a stranger in Chicago, probably a friend of Lorene's, for she, too, asked for buttons in return.
Peace sighed, divided the contents of the two packages with an impartial hand, and remarked, "It's lucky Mrs. Grinnell don't want forty in exchange. We had only thirty-six to begin with, and Lorene's twelve and this girl's eight leaves us only sixteen, s'posing we get many more answers asking for some."
Fortunately for her peace of mind, however, only one other letter made such a request, but a new dilemma arose. Packages began to arrive with insufficient postage, and the crippled girl's pocket money vanished with alarming rapidity. The letter carrier always delivered the daily budget of mail to the little maid under the trees when the weather permitted of her being at her post, and it chanced that for a fortnight after the answers to her endless chain began pouring in, she received her own mail, so no one but Allee knew her secret, and there was no one but Allee to help her out with her heavy postage bills.
"I never s'posed anyone would send out packages without enough stamps on 'em," she complained to her loyal supporter one night, after an unusually heavy mail and a correspondingly heavy drain on her pocketbook. "And the trouble is, the letters that have the most money to pay on them hold the ugliest buttons. I spent twelve cents for stamps today. That's the worst yet. Yesterday it was ten, and seven the day before. There won't be much of my monthly dollar left if it keeps on this way. The postman got sassy this morning and asked me if I'd started a—a correspondence school, or if I was having a birthday shower every day. I'm tired of the sight of buttons!"
"Already?" cried Allee. "Why, I think they are fine. If your dollar is all spent before the month is up, you can use mine. I ought to pay half the stampage anyway, as long as I get half the buttons. All the girls at school are wild to know where we get so many, but I won't tell. There's eight hundred on your string and seven hundred and fifty on mine."
"But I divided 'em even—"
"I know you did, but you see, I traded some, and Dolly Thomas cried 'cause she had only twenty buttons on her string, so I gave her a few of mine."
"Well, I wish we had some way to make the chain end," sighed Peace disconsolately. "I've got as big a c'lection as I want now and still they keep a-coming. That's just the way those silk scraps did to the Ladies' Aid in the story. O, dear, don't I get into the worst messes! I wouldn't mind if they'd pay their own stamps, but I want my money for Christmas, and if this keeps up I'll have to break into my bank. I thought it would be such fun to get mail every day, but the very sight of the postman now makes me sick."
"We might tell Grandpa. He'd know what to do," suggested Allee, seeing that Peace was really heartily tired of this deluge of buttons.
"I—I hate to do that. He'd think we were little sillies and I guess we are."
"'Twas your plan," Allee briefly informed her, for she did not care to be called a "silly" by anyone.
"Of course it was," Peace hastily acknowledged. "And I'm tired of it. Maybe—don't you think Miss Edith could tell us what to do?"
"I b'lieve she could. Ask her tomorrow. She'll be sure to pass, even if she doesn't have time to stop awhile. O, see who's coming!"
"Elspeth!" cried Peace, almost bouncing out of her chair in her eagerness to greet the dear friend whose face she had not seen for many weeks.
"My little girlies!" The woman's sweet face bent over the eager one among the pillows and lingered there. It was the first time she had seen the crippled child since the doctors had pronounced her case hopeless, and she had feared that her presence might recall to Peace's mind the great misfortune, and bring on a deluge of tears. But Peace was thinking of other things than wheel-chairs. This was the first time she had seen her Elspeth since the Angel Baby had slipped away to its Maker, and she glanced apprehensively into the tender blue eyes above her, expecting to find them dim with tears of grief for the little one she had lost. Instead, they were smiling serenely. She had locked her sorrow deep down in her heart, and only God and her good St. John knew what a heavy ache throbbed in her breast.
So the brown eyes smiled bravely back, and after a moment the eager voice asked reproachfully, "Didn't you bring the b—the children? I haven't seen Baby Elspeth yet, and she is—"
"Two months old tomorrow," proudly answered the mother. "Yes, we brought her. We call her Bessie to avoid confusion of names. St. John has her now, but he happened to meet our postman on the street back there and stopped to tell him about some mail that he doesn't want delivered any longer."
"What kind of mail?" Peace breathlessly demanded, suddenly remembering her endless chain of letters.
"O, some cheap magazines that keep coming. He wrote the publishers two or three times to discontinue them, but it didn't do any good, so now he is telling the postman not to bring them any more."
"Is that all you have to do?" The brown eyes were glowing with eagerness.
"Yes. Refuse to accept them when the postman brings them and they will soon stop coming."
"Will it work with packages?"
"With anything, I guess."
"What happens to the things you refuse?"
"O, some of them are returned to the sender, some go to the dead-letter office, and others are just destroyed, I guess."
"Oh!" Peace had received all the information she needed, and as St. John now appeared at the gate with Glen in tow and Baby Bessie in his arms, she turned her attention to her guests, who, as a special surprise for the invalid, had been invited to stay for dinner.
The next day, however, when the postman made his appearance with his arms bulging with packages, and a grin of amusement stretching his mouth from ear to ear, he was astounded to hear the little lady in the wheel-chair say crisply, "Take 'em all back. I won't receive another one you bring me. I s'pose there is postage to pay on most of 'em, too, ain't there?"
"Fifteen cents," he acknowledged.
"Well, this is the time you don't get your fifteen cents," she announced calmly but with decision.
"But I can't deliver these packages until that is paid."
"Goody! I'm tired of the sight of them. The very looks of you coming up the walk gives me a pain. Don't bring me another single package. Take them back to the—the letter undertaker—"
"The what?" His eyes were twinkling, and he had hard work to keep his twitching lips from breaking into an audible chuckle.
"The place you send mail when it ain't wanted by the person it's supposed to go to. I've had all I care to do with chain letters. I really didn't think they were endless or I never would have started mine. We've got buttons enough to start a department store already."
The light of understanding broke over the postman's rugged features. "So it was a chain letter, was it?"
"And you don't want any more packages?"
"I won't accept any more." She bobbed her head emphatically and set all the short curls to dancing.
"All right, Miss Peace. I'll see that you aren't bothered with any more packages."
Peace heaved a great sigh of relief, and turned energetically back to her basket weaving, which had been sadly neglected of late. The parcels actually did cease coming, and the two conspirators hugged themselves with delight that it had not been necessary to tell their secret so no one knew what sillies they were. By common consent they barred chain letters as a topic of conversation, and had almost forgotten the hateful packages when one morning Peace received a letter from Miss Truman, still a teacher in the Parker School, saying that she had just mailed a large box addressed to the little invalid, and hoped that Peace would enjoy its contents. The girl was wild with anticipation, but the parcel did not put in appearance that afternoon, nor the next day, nor the next.
"I am afraid it has gone astray," said Grandpa Campbell when the third morning passed without it coming.
"And won't I ever get it?" asked Peace disconsolately.
"Such things sometimes happen, though Parker is such a short distance from here that it seems almost impossible for it to have been lost. I will call at the Post Office and inquire. Perhaps for some reason it is stalled there."
That afternoon he appeared with the coveted parcel in his hand and a mystified look in his eyes.
"You got it?" shrieked Peace in ecstasy.
"Yes, I got it, but if the Postmaster had not been a very good friend of mine, you would never have seen it."
"Why not?" Peace was genuinely amazed. "What right had the Postmaster to my package? Did he want to keep it?"
"He tells me that you issued orders two weeks or more ago not to deliver any more packages to your address."
"He—oh, that was buttons! I didn't mean this kind of packages."
"Buttons!" the President looked even more puzzled.
"O, dear," sighed Peace unhappily. "Now I've got to tell what a silly-pate I've been." So she poured out the tale of the endless chain to the astonished man, ending with the characteristic remark, "And I told the letter-carrier to send all the rest of the button packages to the letter graveyard at Washington, but I s'posed of course he'd bring me packages like this."
"He has no way of distinguishing between them, my dear," the President gravely informed her, trying hard to keep his face straight. "You ordered all parcels addressed to you stopped. You refused to accept them, and there will be no more delivered to you."
"Never?" gasped Peace.
"Well,—not for months and months and months. I don't know exactly how we can get the matter fixed up now."
"And will they keep all my Christmas packages, too?"
"If they come addressed to you."
"Where's my pencil and postcards?" She began a wild, scrambling search, through the drawers of the table which always stood beside her chair.
"What do you want of them?" the man inquired with considerable curiosity.
"Why, I've got to write everyone I know and tell 'em if they want to send me anything for Christmas or my birthday, or any other time, to address it on the outside to Allee," she retorted, scribbling away energetically.
"You are late, Allee." Peace had watched the little figure ever since it had turned the corner a block further down the street, and noted with increasing anxiety that the usually swift feet tonight were lagging and slow. Indeed, so abstracted was the belated scholar that she almost forgot to turn in at her own gate, and in Peace's mind this could mean only one thing,—Allee had fallen below grade in her arithmetic that afternoon and had been kept after school to make it up. As a further indication that this was the case, she was intently studying the front page of a scratch-tablet, and when Peace called to her, she hastily hid the paper under her apron, while her rosy cheeks grew rosier still, and a look of guilty alarm flew into her blue eyes.
"Am I?" She tried to speak naturally, but suspicious Peace detected the strained note in her voice, and demanded, "Were you kept after school?"
"Yes,—no,—not really school."
"What do you mean by that? Cherry's been home for more'n half an hour."
"That long?" Allee's amazement was too genuine to doubt.
"Yes, and you said you'd come home the minute school was out so's we could finish that puzzle and send it off."
"I didn't mean to stay so long. It seemed only a minute, Peace, truly." Allee was deeply penitent.
"Where have you been? To see Miss Edith?"
"And what's that you are hiding under your apron? Allee Greenfield, you've got a secret from me!" cried Peace, much aggrieved.
Poor Allee's face flushed crimson, the frank eyes wavered and fell, and a meek voice stammered, "I—I—'tisn't really a secret, Peace."
"What is it then?"
"I was afraid you would laugh at me—"
"Why? What is there to laugh at?"
"Yes. You know Hope has to write 'em in High School, and even Cherry's teacher took a notion to make her scholars try thinking up poetry."
"Has your teacher?"
"O, no, but at recess we play school and one of our games is making up rhymes. The leader says anything she wants to, and we have to answer so it will make a jingle. It's like spelling down. If we miss we have to go to the foot of the class."
"Mercy me! the whole house will be talking poetry next," ejaculated Peace. "Gail's just written one that the—the—what is the name of that paper?—has printed with her name at the bottom of it, and Cherry came home tonight with her head so big that she can hardly lug it, 'cause her verses were the best in her room. But I didn't think it would hit you. Why, there's getting to be a reg'lar emetic of poetry 'round here."
Allee looked crestfallen. "It's fun when you know how," she ventured, apologetically. "Gussie showed me, and helps me get the feet straight."
"Feet! Gussie! Is she at it, too?"
"Gussie writes perfectly elegant rhymes," Allee defended. "You haven't forgotten those dishes she cooked for you and rhymed over, have you?"
"I guess not! They were so funny. I pasted 'em into my 'Glimmers of Gladness.'"
"And I stuck mine into my album," confessed Allee.
"Your album? What album?"
"A little book Gussie gave me to write my jingles in. The name on the cover is 'Album,' so that's what I call it."
"Would—would you let me see it?"
Allee hesitated. "You won't laugh?"
"Not a single snicker."
"Well, then,—I don't mind."
She darted away to the house, returning almost immediately with a small, thick note-book in her hand, partly filled with round, even writing, which Peace instantly recognized as Gussie's. "That ain't—" she began, but Allee forestalled her.
"Gussie copies 'em all for me, 'cause my letters are so dreadfully big the pages won't hold all I want to write," she explained.
"Why don't you get a bigger book and write your own poems in it? The pages are too small in this. I'll tell you,—Grandma gave me a big, fat book a long time ago to keep a dairy in."—Peace never could remember the proper place for the words 'dairy' and 'diary.'—"But I wrote only one day. It wasn't at all int'resting to scribble all by myself, but if you'll use my book we'll both write. How'd you like that?"
Allee's eyes were shining happily. "I think it would be fine. I—I really wanted your book, 'cause it is so nice and wide, but I thought likely you would find some use for it yourself some day."
"Well, I have. We'll use it for a scrap album."
"A scrap album?"
"Yes. I mean, we can each of us write in it whenever we feel poetry, but we needn't have to do it at any time."
"And I can paste my 'lustrations in it between leaves, can't I?"
"What kind of 'lustrations?"
"Why, like Hope's note-book. She has to draw pictures of plants and flowers in her botany, and just for fun she makes skitches to picture out the stories they study in some of her other classes."
"But her skitches are nice," Peace remarked skeptically. "Why, Grandpa thinks some day she will make a good 'lustrator for magazines and books."
"My pictures are nice, too," Allee contended. "Here is a sunset I painted a long time ago—"
"It looks like a prairie fire," murmured the older sister, gravely eyeing the highly-colored sheet upside down.
"It just matches a lullaby I made up yesterday," continued Allee, unmindful of Peace's criticism. Rapidly her fingers turned the pages until she had found the lines she wanted, and with a heart filled with pride, she passed the book to her companion, who read,
"The sun is sinking in the west, 'Tis time my baby dear should rest,— Sleep, baby, sleep."
"You haven't got any baby," the reader interrupted.
"It don't need babies to write lullabies," Allee scornfully retorted. "A real poet can write about anything."
"Well, anyway, I like this one better." Peace's eyes had travelled rapidly through the lines, and lingered over some stanzas on the opposite page:
"I wonder why the fairies hide? I'm sure I'd like to see them dance, But though my very best I've tried, I never yet have had a chance. I wonder why, don't you?
I wonder why the birdies fly, While I alone can cry and talk; But though I often try and try, I cannot do a thing but walk. I wonder why, don't you?"
"Yes, Gussie liked that, too," said Allee, much pleased.
"Did you write it all yourself?" Peace was incredulous.
"Well, Gussie showed me how to fix it up so it didn't limp, but it's almost like I wrote it."
"I don't see how you can think of the things to say."
"They think themselves, I guess," replied Allee after a moment's study. "Teacher last year used to read us stories and make us tell them ourselves, just as pretty as we could; and you and I 'magine so many things about the moon lady and the mountain elves and water sprites. It's easy to tell them like stories, so I just tried writing them out. That ain't so easy, 'cause I can't always spell the words, but it's fun now that I'm used to it. Then Gussie showed me how rhymes were made into real poetry, so I tried that, too. It's just fitting words into a tune like you used to do, only you don't need a tune either. The poems in our Readers are what I go by."
Peace was very much interested. In her "Glimmers of Gladness" she had essayed a poem or two, as she was pleased to call them; but Allee's were far superior to any of her attempts, and Allee was two years younger. "Bring me all the old Readers in the library," she abruptly commanded, "and while you are copying your poems in my book, I'll write a few of my own."
Allee ran to do her bidding, and soon the two embryo poets were so busy with pen and pencil that they were amazed when Jud appeared to carry the invalid into the house.
"It's surely not dinner time yet!" Allee protested. "Why, I've got only one poem and half of a story copied."
"That's better'n me," Peace dolefully sighed, closing the First Reader with reluctant hands and laying it aside. "I haven't done a line yet. I haven't even found a poem to pattern after, though I guess I'll take 'Long Time Ago' for my first one. That's easy, and when I get onto the hang of it, I'll try something harder. If it's dinner time already the days must be getting lots shorter again."
"You are right, they are," Jud agreed. "Soon it will be too cold out here for you—"
"I shan't mind," Peace interrupted. "I'm going to write a good deal this winter. Gussie'll teach me to be a poet, and I always could write better inside the house. There's too much to look at out-of-doors."
Jud heaved a gusty sigh. "You all think a heap of Gussie, don't you?" he asked with a jealous pang, for he found it almost impossible to get a quiet word with that busy and important member of the household, and now that winter was coming on, it would be harder than ever, for even the little after-dinner chats in the garden would have to be discontinued.
"I sh'd say we do!" both girls chorused. "She is worth thinking a lot of—"
"That's where you are right again," the man agreed heartily.
"She can do anything" said Peace, who was never tired of singing Gussie's praises.
"Even to making poets," he teased.
"Yes, sir, even to making poets, and some day you will see for yourself."
"I hope I may," he sighed again, and the little group slowly trundled up the walk into the house.
Jud's prophecy of cold weather came true sooner than he had expected, and as if to make up for the long, lovely autumn of the year before, wintry winds descended early upon Martindale. Heavy frosts wrought havoc in the gardens, the yellow and crimson leaves fell in showers, September died in a blaze of glory, and October found the trees naked and vines shivering in the keen, sharp air. It was too cold to spend the hours out-of-doors any longer, and the Campbells dreaded the long days of confinement that stretched out in such an appalling array before the crippled child. So they were amazed and agreeably surprised to hear no word of lament from the small maid herself, who was suddenly seized with such a studious fit that she found hardly time to eat her meals.
"I'm learning to be a poet," she told them by way of explanation. "Gussie's teaching me, and some day maybe you can read our poems,—Allee's and mine."
"God bless Gussie," they smiled tenderly, and went their way content, leaving the young student to toil with inky fingers over pages of impossible rhymes, for they knew that when this new play should have lost its attraction, they must have something else to hold the patient's interest.
Perhaps it was Gussie's teaching, perhaps Allee's unflagging enthusiasm which kept restless Peace pouring over the ancient Readers unearthed from obscure corners of the President's great library; but however that may be, more ink was used in the big house during those early Fall days than had ever been used before, and the fat notebook was filled at an alarming rate with contributions from its two owners, and an occasional skit, by way of encouragement, from Gussie, the cook.
As neither Peace nor Allee ever offered to share their secrets with their elders, the sisters soon lost interest in the new amusement; but one night when both scribes were fast asleep in their beds, Hope chanced to find the precious volume on the couch by the fireplace where Allee had carelessly dropped it when the dinner hour had been announced. Picking it up, she opened it idly, before she recognized what book she had in her hand. Then, just as she was about to lay it aside, one of Allee's contributions caught her eye, and with amazement she read the little story, retouched and polished up by Gussie, but breathing the small sister's winsomeness in every word.
"Why, the little mouse!" she exclaimed in her astonishment. "If that isn't just like her!"
"Where's the mouse?" demanded Cherry, curling her feet up under her and searching wildly about the floor with eyes full of fear and loathing.
"In bed," promptly answered Hope. "I've got her stories here in my hand. Grandma, do you know what the youngsters have been doing all this while?"
Mrs. Campbell glanced at the book on Hope's knee, and smilingly answered, "Learning to be poets under Gussie's instruction."
"But Allee really does write splendidly," Hope insisted very seriously. "I can hardly believe she wrote all this; yet it sounds just like her. She always did have such a beautiful way of saying things." Then she burst out laughing.
"What is it?" demanded the sisters, scenting something unusual, and laying aside their lessons to listen.
"A poem by Peace," gasped Hope. "O, it's too funny!" Wiping her eyes, she dramatically read:
"'In the yard the little chicklets Ran to and fro, Digging up the worms and buglets Squirming down below.
Came a hawk and grabbed a chicklet, Right by the toe, And the little chicklet hollered, "O, let me go."
But the hawklet hugged him tighter, Wouldn't turn him loose, Cause he thought he'd make good dinner When there was no goose.
So the hawklet went a-flying Up in the sky, With the chicklet still a-crying, "I don't want to die."'"
By the time she had finished reading the queer stanzas, five heads were clustered about hers, for even the President cast aside his paper to listen; and five pair of eager eyes were striving to read the uneven scrawls with which the pages were filled.
"Well, I declare!" ejaculated the learned Doctor of Laws, rubbing his spectacles vigorously, and bending over the ink-blotted book again. "I had no idea that Allee was far enough advanced in school to write compositions and—and—rhymes.'
"She is nearly up with Peace," said Gail proudly. "I predict that she will be a poet yet."
"Wouldn't be at all surprised," replied the doctor. "Her grandfather might have shone in literature if he had chosen that field instead of the ministry."
"I like Peace's contributions almost the best," murmured the grandmother apologetically, brushing a tear from her cheek as she finished reading some incomplete lines penned by the brown-eyed maid:—
"Shut up here with no trees nor plants, I can't tear my close on a barb wire fence. With my feet on a pillow where I can't use 'em There's nothing on earth can ever bruise 'em. But oh, how I hate to lie here all day, When I want to be out in the garden at play. I want to get up and run and shout, I want to see what's happening about. There'll be no more climbing up roofs so high, I must live in a wheel-chair until I die."
Hope's eyes, too, had seen the pathetic lines, and closing the book, she softly said, "Let's all write something in it as a surprise,—something of our own, I mean."
"And you make little margin pictures like Mrs. Strong did in Peace's Brownie Book," suggested Cherry.
"You mean her 'Glimmers of Gladness,'" Faith corrected, smiling a little in remembrance of the brown and gold volume which had helped while away the rainy days at the parsonage more than a year before.
"And paint the name in fancy letters on the front cover," Gail added.
"What shall you call it?" asked the grandmother, already searching for pen and paper that she might make a first draft of some lines running through her mind.
"The same title they have given it," Gail answered. "'Allee's Album.'"
"And God bless 'Allee's Album,'" reverently whispered the deeply-touched President, blowing his nose like a trumpet to relieve his feelings.
PEACE INTERVIEWS THE BISHOP
"Well," sighed the President, laying down the evening paper and leaning wearily back among the cushions of his great Morris chair, "it really looks as if South Avenue Church is to have Dr. Henry Shumway for its pastor this year."
Mrs. Campbell glanced up hastily from her sewing with consternation in her eyes and asked, "Has the bishop really confirmed the report?"
"No, but he won't deny it, either. According to an article in this paper, our beloved Dr. Glaves is to be transferred to the Iowa Conference, and Dr. Shumway takes his place."
"I sh'd think you'd be glad enough to see Dr. Glaves go," remarked an abstracted voice from the corner of the room where Peace and Allee were absorbed in the task of sorting and stringing bright-colored beads. "He reminds me of tombstones and seminaries,—not only his name, but the pomperous way he has of crawling up the aisle. He walks like a stone yimage."
"Porpoise, you mean," gently suggested Allee.
"Pompous," corrected the President, smiling a little at their blunders. "I can't say I am exactly sorry to see the Reverend Philander N. Glaves transferred,"—his tone was mildly sarcastic,—"for he was a misfit in South Avenue Church. We didn't want him in the first place, but we tried to be decent to him during his year's sojourn with us. However, that's neither here nor there. When three times in succession we are given a man we don't want, I think it is time to kick. We have quietly accepted the other two men when we wanted Dr. Atkinson, but now—"
"You oughtn't to kick the preacher," mused Peace, studying the effect of some green and purple beads together. "He has to go where he is sent, doesn't he?"
"Ye—s," reluctantly conceded the President.
"Then 'tisn't his fault if he gets stuck in a good-for-nothing church which he doesn't want—"
"South Avenue Church is considered one of the choicest pastorates our Conference affords," hastily interrupted Dr. Campbell, while his wife quickly buried her face in her sewing again, to hide the smile dancing in her eyes.
"Is it?" Peace looked genuinely surprised. "It's always scrapping. I'd hate to be its preacher. Papa had a nawful time in his last church 'cause they picked on him to scrap about. He got sent where he didn't want to go, and in the end he had to quit,—just plumb worn out by being jumped on. He was a good man, too."
The President looked uncomfortable. "But Peace," he argued, "you are too young to understand such matters. I haven't the slightest doubt that Dr. Shumway is a good man and an excellent preacher. In fact, he comes most highly recommended. We aren't objecting to him personally. It's the principle of the thing—"
"Well, if the Pendennis Church people had kicked the principle instead of Papa, maybe he'd be a live preacher yet and not an angel."
Dr. Campbell lapsed into silence. What was the use of arguing with a child? He was tired from a strenuous day's work at the University and disgusted with the bishop's pig-headed perversity. It was early in the evening yet, but perhaps bed was the best place for him in his state of mind; so excusing himself and bidding the trio good-night, he stalked off upstairs.
Peace had forgotten all about the bishop and Dr. Shumway when she awoke the next morning, and might have paid no more attention to the South Avenue Church discussions, had she not chanced to overhear a conversation not intended for her ears. It was after luncheon, Cherry and Allee had returned to school, the older sisters were not expected for hours yet, and Peace was just composing herself for a nap, having nothing else to fill in the long afternoon until school should close for the day, when the telephone bell rang, and Mrs. Campbell herself answered it.
Thinking it might be a message from her St. Elspeth or Aunt Pen, who never were too busy to remember the little prisoner at the other end of the city, Peace popped her head up to listen, and heard her grandmother say slowly and with evident regret, "I'm so sorry, Mrs. York, but I don't see how I can.—O, yes, indeed, I had planned on it, but circumstances, you know.—She's doing nicely, but I can't very well leave her alone all the afternoon.—No, but the two smaller girls are in school until half-past three, Gail and Faith have recitations up through the sixth hour at the University, and Hope went with her class to view that collection of antiquities at the Public Library.—Well, you see, this is Gussie's afternoon out, and—No, never with Marie.—I had counted upon Hope's being here to keep her company.—I am sorry to disappoint you, but I assure you I am very much more disappointed on my own account—"
"Good-bye. I suppose I shall see you Sunday!"
"All right. Good-bye."
"Grandma! Can't you hear me?"
"Yes, dearie, but I was at the telephone."
"I know it, and I wanted you to tell Mrs. York that you'd come."
"But, childie, I can't leave you here all alone. You and Marie—"
"Fight. Yes, I know. But you might take me along. Couldn't you?"
Mrs. Campbell was startled. This was the first time since the accident that Peace had showed any desire to go beyond the boundaries of the garden; and the woman glanced suspiciously at the eager face, thinking that the suggestion meant a sacrifice of the child's own wishes. But the eyes were shining with their old-time enthusiasm, and Mrs. Campbell said hesitatingly, "It's a Missionary Conference, dear."
"I always did like missionary meetings," Peace reminded her.
"But this will be different,—mostly statistics, reports and discussions. I am afraid you would find it very dull."
"Women can be awfully dull sometimes," Peace admitted cheerfully. "But you want to go, I haven't anything to do, and I might just as well be watching the crowds there as taking a nap here at home. Then both of us would be amused, while here, you would be thinking of what you'd missed, and I'd be just itching for something to do."
"But supposing the proceedings don't amuse you?" smiled the woman.
"Then I'll go to sleep like Deacon Skinner always did in Parker. Or I might take along something to read, s'posing things get too awfully dry."
"Would you really like to go?" Mrs. Campbell was still a little doubtful, though from her manner of glancing at the clock, and then down the street, it was evident that she herself very much desired to attend that afternoon's session of the Conference.
"Sure," Peace answered promptly, and Mrs. Campbell allowed herself to be persuaded. So half an hour later the brown-eyed maid found herself trundling down the familiar streets in her wheel-chair.
It was a clear, cold day, and the crisp air smelled of fallen leaves and bonfires; and both woman and child sniffed hungrily at the delicious odors of Autumn. Peace was almost reluctant to enter the big church when they reached it, for the lure of the open air was great, the blue sky charming, and even the leafless trees and frost-blackened shrubs were enticing.
Once inside the building, however, she forgot all else in watching the crowd of enthusiastic ladies trotting to and fro and mingling with the throng of black-frocked ministers gathered for the closing sessions of the Annual Conference. Even when the meeting was called to order and the afternoon's business begun, Peace did not lose her interest, though she understood very little of what was going on, and wondered how her grandmother or any other sensible soul could be interested in the long lists of stupid figures that were read from time to time.
"Sounds 's if they were learning their multiplication tables," she giggled, "and when they all get to gabbling at once,—that's the Chinese of it."
"What's the Chinese of it, if I may ask?" inquired a deep voice in her ear; and thinking it was her beloved St. John, she whirled about to find a friendly-eyed stranger just sitting down in the pew behind her chair.
She had forgotten her surroundings, and had spoken her thoughts aloud. "Mercy!" she gasped. "I thought I had this corner all to myself. I never s'pected anyone was near enough to hear what I said. Once before I did that same thing, and a minister caught me at it that time, too. Your voice sounds like his,—deep and bull-froggy. I 'most called you St. John before I saw it was someone else. Are you a missionary?"
"O, no. Just a—"
"Plain preacher?" finished Peace, as he hesitated a moment with his sentence incomplete.
"Yes, just a plain preacher," he laughed.
"Well, I thought you had a missionaryish look about you. That's why I asked. I've been trying all the afternoon to sort out the gang—"
"Do what?" He was frankly amazed.
"Now I s'pose I've shocked you," she cried penitently. "Grandma doesn't like me to use such words, but I keep forgetting. I meant I'd been trying to pick out the missionaries and ministers, and the bishop. I 'specially wanted a look at the bishop, but I haven't seen a wink of him yet."
"And why are you so anxious to see the bishop, my girl?" asked her newly found acquaintance, smiling in amusement. "He surely ought to be flattered—"
"I want to see if he looks beery."
"Beery!" The broad face of her companion looked like an enlarged exclamation point.
"Yes,—he's got such a beery name. Fancy a man called Malthouse being a minister, and a bishop at that! I couldn't help wondering if his face fitted his job any better than his name."
"Well—as to that—I'm not—prepared to say," stammered the big man beside her.
"Don't you know him?"
"O, yes, quite well."
"Is he good-looking?"
"Well, you know folks differ in their ideas of what good-looking means," he hedged, seeming somewhat embarrassed.
"I took that extinguished looking man over there in the corner for the bishop—"
"Yes, the one with the extra long tails on his coat and bushy white hair; but he's been opening and shutting windows all day long, and I expect they'd give the bishop something better than that to do."
The puzzled divine glanced curiously in the direction the child's thin forefinger was pointing, and chuckled outright as he beheld the aged figure of the new janitor moving slowly down the aisle with the long window-stick in his hand. "So you think he looks like a bishop?" he managed to articulate soberly.
"Yes, I do. He's the best-looking man in the bunch. He's so tall and straight, too, and so—so bishop-y in the set of his clothes. They fit him. But he doesn't jabber as much as the rest. I s'pose 'twould be just like the things that happen to me to find out that that giant bean-pole which keeps teetering around the room is the bishop." She indicated a very tall, very slender man, who at that moment chanced to pass their retreat.
"No," her companion answered promptly, "that is not the bishop. His name is Shumway,—Dr. Shumway—"
"Dr. Shumway!" echoed the child. "The man the bishop is going to send to our church? Well, I don't wonder the people mean to kick! Ain't he the homeliest ever?"
"Who told you that?" gravely asked the stranger preacher, all the smile gone from his kindly eyes.
"That he's homely? No one. I can see it for myself."
"I mean who told you that the people intend to kick?"
"Oh! Grandpa was talking to Grandma last evening. The paper said Dr. Shumway was to take the place of Dr. Glaves. It's a pity they can't divide up, ain't it? Dr. Glaves would look less like an elephant if he didn't have so much meat on him and Dr. Shumway needs a lot more'n he's got."
"Who is your grandfather?" interrupted the man beside her, ignoring the candid criticisms of his entertainer.
"Dr. Campbell, President of the State University," she answered proudly.
"Oh!" He was silent a moment; then as if musing aloud, he murmured, "So they mean to kick, do they?"
"Well, wouldn't you? This is the third time South Avenue Church has asked for one partic'lar man and got a different fellow. It's time they kicked, seems to me. I guess the bishop likes to lord it over the churches and have his own way in things."
"Perhaps he thinks he knows best what kind of a man is needed in his different charges."
"P'r'aps he does, but he made an awful bungle when he sent Dr. Glaves down here,—that's sure."
"Possibly that was a mistake," replied her companion in a queer, strained voice. "But no one is sorrier than the bishop himself when he blunders."
"Then I sh'd think he would be more careful about giving us another misfit. We are tired of 'em."
"Dr. Shumway is a man whom everyone loves," said the ministerial-looking gentleman warmly.
"I'm glad of that, then; but I am sorry he is coming to South Avenue Church just the same. He doesn't look as if he could stand being kicked any more'n Papa could. Has he got any children?"
"Yes, five, I believe."
"Any my size?"
"I think his family is pretty well grown up, my girl."
"That's lucky, for if the church should happen to wear him out like they did Papa, why, his children could take care of themselves when he died and not have to dig like we did, and fin'ly be adopted or else sent to the poor farm."
The big man fidgeted in his pew and looked quite uncomfortable as the relentless voice continued, "I sh'd hate to be a bishop and have such things blamed onto me; but if the bishop hadn't insisted on sending Papa to that Pendennis Church when they had asked for someone else, maybe he might be living with his family yet, instead of with the angels."
"Who was your Papa?" the gruff voice gently asked.
"Did you know him?"
"Yes. Yes, indeed. He was one of my—I am the—I knew him well. He was a good preacher and a splendid man. The Church suffered a great loss in his death."
"His family suffered a worser one, 'cause Mamma got sick and then we had two angels behind the Gates, and no one here to tell us what to do, and Gail not eighteen."
"Tell me about it."
The missionary meeting had long since dissolved into several committee meetings, and the hum of voices in the great auditorium drowned the conversation in the dim recess at the rear of the room; but Peace had entirely forgotten her surroundings, and without restraint she poured out the simple story of her father's sacrifices in her concise, forceful way, laying bare family secrets and relating with telling effect the pathetic struggle of the six sisters left alone to face the battle with the world.
"And then we came to live with Grandpa and Grandma Campbell," she finished. "They are just like truly relations to us, but they can never make up for our own father and mother, any more than we can really take the place of their own little girls which died. Why, has the Conference quit? Everybody's bustling all around the room now. I wonder where Grandma went? Is it time to go home?"
"In a moment or two," replied the man, thoughtfully stroking his smoothly-shaven chin. "Some of the committees are evidently still in session."
"And I never looked at Allee's Album all the while I was here! I had to come, else Grandma couldn't, 'cause the girls are all in school 'xcept Hope, and she has gone to see the iniquities at the Library. So I brought this along to keep myself awake with, 'cause I thought it would likely be a stupid, sleepy meeting today. They always are when a lot of fat old ladies get to talking ecstatics,"—she meant statistics—"but I've had a very nice time listening and watching those funny preachers; and I'm glad you came along to talk to me—"
"Bishop Malthouse!" someone from the rostrum shouted.
The dignified gentleman rose hastily, stooped and kissed the white cheek of the child, and departed after a hurried, "Sounds as if I was wanted."
At that moment Mrs. Campbell rustled up to the little recess where the wheel-chair stood, glanced apprehensively at the figure reclining among the cushions, and briskly asked, "Tired, dearie?"
"No, Grandma. I've had a lovely time. But who is that minister just going up the aisle?"
Mrs. Campbell glanced over her shoulder. "Bishop Malthouse, dear."
"Bishop—!" Words failed her.
"Yes, the man who appoints the ministers of this Conference."
"O, Grandma! And I told him some dreadful things about himself. We've been talking most of the afternoon."
Mrs. Campbell's heart smote her. "What did you say to him, girlie?"
Peace briefly recounted their conversation as she remembered it, and sighed tragically, "I talk too much. Faith says I tell all I know to everyone I meet."
"That little tongue of yours does run away with itself sometimes," replied the woman, dismayed at Peace's revelations; but perceiving how distressed the child felt over her blunder, she forbore to chide her; and in silence they wound their way homeward.
The President was late for dinner that night, but when he did arrive, the whole family knew from his very step that he was the bearer of good news.
"Grandpa's glad," sang Peace, as he hurried into the room and took his place at the table.
"Did—have you been—?" began Mrs. Campbell, hesitatingly.
"To the Official Board Meeting?" he finished. "Yes, that is why I am so late."
"The meeting was in regard to the new preacher?"
"Yes, and the bishop was there in person."
"Oh!" Seven pair of eyes regarded him expectantly.
"He very frankly stated his reasons for not wishing to send us Dr. Atkinson, and why he thought Dr. Shumway was the man for the place. Then he left us to decide which minister we would have."
"And you chose—?"
Involuntarily Mrs. Campbell glanced across the table toward Peace; and that young lady, busy buttering a hot roll, paused long enough to remark complacently, "I guess the bishop ain't as lordy as he looks, after all, is he?"
THE NEW PASTOR OF SOUTH AVENUE CHURCH
"Marie, if that is anyone to see Grandma, show them in here, and tell 'em she will be back in a few minutes. Well, that's what she said to do when she went out." For Marie had paused uncertainly on her way to answer the doorbell, and eyed Peace skeptically.
"O, very well," retorted the maid crossly. "But mind your manners and be a lady."
Before Peace could think of a suitable reply to that studied insult, the girl had flung open the door and ushered in a very tall, angular person, who at first sight seemed all arms and legs. But when one caught a glimpse of his face, one straightway forgot all other characteristics, for in rugged homeliness it would have been hard to surpass him, and yet there was a striking kindliness of feature, a certain gentleness of eye that instantly drew people to him, so that instinctively they knew him to be their friend. Up into this face sulky Peace found herself staring, as the tall figure crossed the parlor threshold, and came to meet her with hand outstretched in greeting.
"How do you do?" a rich voice rumbled. "Are you the mistress of the house today?"
"You're as homely as Abraham Lincoln," she gasped, scarcely aware that she had spoken aloud. "In fact, you look very much like his pictures,—as much as a gray, bald-headed, whiskerless man could look like a black-bearded one."
"Thanks," he laughed genially. "That is the greatest compliment anyone could pay me. I only wish I were as noble a man."
"We grow to be like our highest ideas," Peace answered primly, recalling a little lecture she had received that morning. "You are Dr. Shumway, ain't you? Pastor of South Avenue Church?"
"Yes, mademoiselle; and you are one of Dr. Campbell's granddaughters?"
"By adoption. My name is Peace Greenfield, and my father and real grandfather were ministers in their time. That's why I am so much interested in preachers. Have you any children?" she asked.
"Five," he answered, amused at the grown-up air she had assumed. "How many are there of you?"
"Six. Four older'n me and just Allee younger. The bishop said he thought all of yours were grown up. Are they?"
"We—ll, none of them are very small now. Pansy is the youngest, and she is nearly fourteen."
"Pansy! Of all names! I s'pose she is as big as an elephant, ain't she?"
"She is rather large for her age," acknowledged the surprised minister, hardly knowing how to receive these candid remarks of his youthful hostess.
"All the Pansies I ever knew were," sighed Peace. "I don't see why people will name their biggest children Pansy."
"But how is one to tell how fat a child will be when it grows up?" argued the puzzled man.
"It's never safe to name a baby Pansy. It's sure to be a whale. Besides, Pansy isn't a pretty name for a person. It is all right for a flower, but for a real live thing—well, ministers do have awfully queer notions about pretty names, anyway. Are all your children girls?"
"No, only four. Keturah, Caroline, Penelope and Pansy."
"Mercy! What outrageous names! It is very plain that you didn't go to the Bible for your children, but you couldn't have done any worse if you had."
"Why, child, what do you mean?" gasped the thoroughly uncomfortable pastor, mentally deciding that this was the rudest specimen of humanity that he had ever met in his life.
"Well, you see after my sister Gail was born and named after Mamma, Grandpa came to stay with us and while he lived he took the job of naming the rest of us,—all but Allee. He died before she came. But he hunted out words from the Bible to call us, and they are all misfits but Hope."
"Hope is a very pretty name," murmured the minister, somewhat hesitatingly.
"Yes, and Hope is a very pretty girl, too. The name and the girl go together all right in that case. But look at Faith and Cherry—her real name is Charity—and me. Look at my name. There ain't a thing peaceful about me. I seem bound to make a stir wherever I go, no matter how hard I try to be good. It just ain't in me to be quiet and keep my mouth shut. Now, if Grandpa had waited till I grew up, he never would have called me 'Peace.' Still, I'm glad he didn't call me 'Catarrh.' That's outlandish. I thought that was something which ailed folks."
"Catarrh is," agreed Dr. Shumway, amusement supplanting the indignation which he had felt welling up within him. "My girl's name is Keturah. We call her Kitty—"
"Yes, I s'pose so. The girls named Kitty are always big and homely, too."
"Well, our Kitty is neither big nor homely—"
"O, doesn't she look like you?"
He smiled grimly. "No," he answered. "She resembles her angel mother."
"Have you got an angel in your family, too?" Peace's brown eyes were softly tender, and the busy minister suddenly loved the talkative little sprite who was so very frank in her observations.
"Yes, two. The mother of my five children, and my only grandson, Keturah's child."
"Yes." His eyes sought the live embers in the great fireplace, and he sat apparently lost in thought.
Peace sighed and was thoughtfully silent a moment; then as the pause grew oppressive to her, she observed, "So Keturah's married."
The minister looked up startled, then smiled in amusement. "Yes, and Caroline also, but Carrie has no children."
"Who keeps house for you if your wife is an angel and your biggest children are married? Do they live with you still?"
"O, no. Both girls have homes of their own in other towns. My sister Anne stays with us, and with the help of Penelope and Pansy manages the house very well."
"What did you do with your boy? You haven't said a word about him yet."
"Dickson? O, he doesn't live at home any more, either. He is a doctor at Danbury Hospital in Fairview. He is getting to be quite a remarkable surgeon and we are all proud of him, I can tell you."
"How nice!" exclaimed Peace, glancing involuntarily at the slippered feet resting on the cushioned stool of Dr. Campbell's great Morris chair. "I wish we had a good doctor in our family. Then p'r'aps he could make me walk again."
"Walk again!" Amazement, consternation showed in the minister's face, and his eyes also sought the useless little feet on their cushion. "Why, child," he whispered, all the pity and sympathy of his great heart throbbing in his voice, "are you lame?"
It seemed incredible, and yet he recalled now that all the while he had sat there listening to her chatter, those gay slippers had not once moved.
"Yes," Peace answered simply, surprised at his question. "Didn't you know that before?"
He shook his head.
"I'll have to live in chairs all my life," she explained. "They said maybe after a time I could have crutches, but it's my back that's hurt and crutches won't be much good to me, I guess. I clum a roof and fell—oh, months and months ago."
Briefly she recounted the unlucky adventure and the sad, weary days that had followed, while the preacher listened spell-bound,—shocked at the sorrowful tale.
When she had finished, his quivering lips whispered tenderly, "Poor little girl!" and two great tears stole down his rugged cheeks.
Peace was deeply touched at this unusual display of sympathy, and laying her thin little hand on his knee, she said softly, "I love you." There was a pause. Then before Dr. Shumway could think of any appropriate words in which to voice his turbulent thoughts, the crippled girl abruptly exclaimed, "Why, do you know, you've got eyes like my cat!"
The reverend gentleman fairly bounced from his chair in his astonishment. "Eyes like your c—cat!" he stuttered.
"Yes," Peace calmly answered. "One brown and one blue. I've been watching you ever since you came in, trying to make out why you looked so queer, and now I know,—it's your eyes. Does it feel any different having two colors instead of one?"
"N—o," he managed to reply, still staring with fascinated eyes at the child in the chair opposite.
"Well, I should think it would," she began, but at that moment there was a brisk step on the wide veranda, the front door opened and Mrs. Campbell entered.
Dr. Shumway rose to meet her, and Peace's interview with the new pastor of South Avenue Church was at an end.
But the face of the small cripple haunted the minister, her pathetic story lingered in his mind, and he found himself constantly thinking of the long, weary years of helpless waiting stretching out before her.
"O, it can't be," he protested over and over again. "She was never meant for a life like that! Activity is written all over her. She is right when she says she can't keep quiet. What wonderful good such energy could accomplish if trained in the right direction! I wonder if Dickson—I believe I will write him. No, it would be better for him to see her first without having heard anything about the case. How can we bring it to pass?"
Straightway he began to plan how he might carry out a certain scheme which was gradually taking shape in his brain, until at length a practicable idea at last presented itself and he broached the subject to the other members of his household.
They were seated at the dinner table one night when he casually observed to his two youngest daughters, "Girls, what do you think of a Christmas party at the parsonage this year? Can we manage one?"
"A Christmas party!" gasped both girls in dismay.
Even his sister Anne stared at him aghast.
"Well, why not?" he inquired, when no one ventured an explanation of the family's evident consternation.
"I don't know how to entertain," wailed Pansy. "I'm too clumsy."
"We are hardly settled here," ventured sister Anne deprecatingly.
"Keturah is coming home for Christmas," whispered Penelope.
"So are Dick and Carrie," said the preacher briskly. "We all will be together once again and I want my whole family to meet the young folks of my new flock. What if we aren't in apple-pie order? We'll be less so by the time the party is over, I'll wager. As for Kitty,—I think we better plan for our Christmas party."
"That settles it," whispered Pansy to the youngest sister, as her father began to discuss some household problem with his sister. "But I'll bet he's got some pet scheme up his sleeve. His party isn't just to introduce us,—you see."
Penelope was shrewd in her observations and knew her father like a book, but she did not guess his secret, nor was she particularly curious this time. She did not want a Christmas party at the parsonage. It meant so much work and clutter. Besides, it was so much nicer to have just a little family gathering, such as they were accustomed to each year. There would be Kitty and Ed, Carrie and Phil, and Dick.—Dickson was still unmarried.—That would make five extra in the little family, and five people were a plenty to plan for, without having a party. But then, what was the use of objecting? Her father had said party, and a party there would be. The only thing to do was to make the best of it and plan the most unique program the brains of the whole household could devise. So Aunt Anne, Penelope and Pansy set to work.
True to his convictions, Dr. Shumway wrote nothing of his plans to his son, nor did he once mention his hopes to the distracted Campbell family, although he had skilfully managed that his son's professional reputation should reach the ears of them all. To be doubly sure that his pet scheme should not fail, he gave Peace a personal invitation to attend his Christmas party, and made several visits to the Campbell home apparently to discuss his plans with members of that household, while in reality his object was to rouse the invalid's curiosity and interest so she would be sure to join the merrymakers at the parsonage on that night of nights. Then Dickson could not fail to meet her and their acquaintance would come about naturally. He could not feel that Dr. Coates and the specialists had really found the seat of the trouble yet, but Dickson would know if there was any hope for the little sufferer. Dickson,—stalwart, genial, gentle Dickson,—his boy,—his boy would know.
So it was with great eagerness that he looked forward to the Christmas party, for Peace had solemnly promised to be there in her wheel-chair, and it was hard to refrain from telling the whole story to his boy before the time was ripe.
But when at last the night arrived, Peace was not among the guests who thronged the gayly decorated parsonage. The old-time pain had come back, and she lay white and spent upon her bed in the Flag Room, watching with anguish in her heart while the other sisters made ready for the festivities. They had demurred at leaving her. It seemed so selfish to go and enjoy themselves when she must stay behind and suffer, but she had insisted.
"Because I can't go to the pastorage myself isn't any reason why you should stick at home, too," she told them. "Besides, I want to know all about it, and it takes the whole family to see everything."
"What in the world do you mean?" they chorused.
And she explained, "Well, Gail remembers the speeches and what folks say just to each other. Faith hears only the music. Hope sees the pretty things folks wear. Cherry tells what they had to eat, and Allee fills up the chinks."
They laughed merrily at the small invalid's powers of discernment, and were finally persuaded to attend the party which was barred to her. So they donned their daintiest dresses, robbed the greenhouse for their adornment, kissed the little sister fondly and hurried away into the night. Peace listened to the sound of their footsteps crunching through the hard-packed snow, until the last echo died away. Then turning her face to the wall, she gave way to a flood of bitter tears.
"Why, darling," cried the watchful Mrs. Campbell, kneeling beside the sobbing child and striving to soothe and comfort her, "what is the matter? Did you want to go so badly?"
"No, no, it ain't that," poor Peace hiccoughed, burying her head on the grandmotherly shoulder. "But I thought I was 'most well, and now the hurt has begun again. I ain't crying 'cause the girls have gone, truly. It's just that dreadful ache in my back. O, Grandma, am I going to be like my Lilac Lady after all? She had well days when she could read and sew; and then there were times when the pain was so bad that she couldn't bear to see folks at all. I don't want to die, but oh, Grandma, how can I stand that awful ache?"
"O God," prayed the woman's heart, torn with agony at the sight of her darling's suffering, "help us to make it easier for her."
And as if in answer to her petition, there was a step on the stair, and a big, stalwart, fur-coated figure stood unannounced in the doorway. Mrs. Campbell rose hurriedly to her feet and confronted the stranger. What right had he in her house? How came he there?
He smiled reassuringly at her look of alarm, and something in his boyish face made Peace exclaim, "You look like Pansy Shumway, though you're not so fat and homely."
At that, he laughed outright. "It's because I am her brother, I expect," he answered simply.
"O, are you Dr. Dick?" she cried eagerly.
"Yes," he replied. "They told me you could not come to our party, so I have brought the party to you,—a bit of it, at least."
Fishing into the depths of his great pockets, he brought forth a marvelous array of cakes, candies, nuts and pop-corn, finally producing what looked to be a scarlet carnation in a tiny plantpot of rich loam, but upon investigation Peace found that her little nosegay was merely a flower thrust into a mound of chocolate ice-cream; and her delight made her forget her pain for a moment.
"You're a reg'lar Santy Claus," she giggled. "Did you come down the chimbley? I never heard the door bell."
"O, I met Prexy on the steps and he told me where to find you, so I came right up without further invitation." He did not add that for more than an hour he had been closeted with Dr. Campbell in the parsonage study, where the anxious President had sought him to learn if there could be any hope for their little Peace.
"I s'pose the door is a safer way of getting into houses than falling down chimbleys would be," said the girl, pleased with her own fancies. "But it would have seemed a little realer if you had tumbled out of the fireplace. Where is your pack, and what have you brought for me?"
"What would you like best?" he parried, studying the drawn face among the pillows.
"O, let me see—A new back, I guess," she sighed ruefully, as a sharp twinge of pain recalled her to her surroundings and caused her to writhe in agony, "and a pair of legs to match. You are a sure-enough doctor, ain't you? Can't you mend me up again? The other doctors' job didn't last very long."
"Perhaps if you will let me rub the little back—"
"O, I can't bear to have a doctor touch it!" she shuddered. "They always make it hurt worse."
"I'll be very careful," he promised, "and if it hurts, I'll stop right away."
Still she hesitated.
"'F I could just go to sleep," she sighed. "I'm so tired."
"You will go to sleep if you will let me rub the back a little."
She looked incredulous, but another stinging pain brought the tears to her eyes, and she cried pitifully, "Yes, oh, yes,—just rub me now. It does hurt so bad I can't help crying, and you don't look as if you liked to poke people to pieces."
"It is my business to put people together again," he said gravely, turning the pain-racked little body with deft hands, all the while keeping up a lively chatter to amuse the small sufferer. So light was his touch, so sympathetic his personality, that very soon the tense muscles began to relax, the drawn lines in the childish face gradually smoothed themselves away, and the brown eyes grew heavy with sleep.
Realizing that the Santa Claus stranger had kept his promise, Peace murmured drowsily, as she felt herself drifting away to slumberland, "You are a good doctor, Dr. Dick. I'll hire you the next time I fall off a roof. I b'lieve you could have mended me up if you'd had first chance."
"Please God, it may not be too late now," he muttered under his breath, and stole softly from the room to report his convictions to Dr. Campbell, who was waiting in the hall below.
It was Christmas Day, but the Campbell house was very still. All sounds of revelry and mirth were hushed, for Peace, worn out by her long struggle with pain, had wakened only long enough to view the many gifts heaped about her cot, and then sleep had claimed her again. So the two younger girls had been despatched to the Hill Street parsonage, where St. John and Elspeth were having a Christmas tree for Glen and tiny Bessie; and the three older sisters settled down to a quiet day at home, refusing all invitations from their many friends, because of a nameless fear that tugged at each breast, a feeling that perhaps they might be needed before the day was done.
It had been such a strange day, so un-Christmas-like, so uncanny. All the long hours through, they had scarcely caught a glimpse of Dr. or Mrs. Campbell. Dr. Coates had made repeated trips to the house, the minister's son had spent several hours in the President's study, the minister himself had been there a time or two, but through it all no one had come to tell them what it was about, and Peace had slept wearily on.
Then as the winter twilight gathered over the city, Gussie appeared to summon them to the library below, but she could not answer their eager questions, for she knew no more than they; and each girl looked at the others with apprehensive eyes, as each heart whispered, "It can't be that we have lost her,—that she is dead instead of sleeping." So with quaking limbs they hurried to the dimly-lighted study where the haggard President and his wife awaited them.
"What do you think about another operation for Peace?" Dr. Campbell began, with distraught abruptness.
Three hearts beat wildly with relief. She was still alive!
"Is there no other hope?" Gail implored.
He shook his head.
"Will a second operation give her a chance?" Hope eagerly questioned.
"A fighting chance, we think."
"And without the operation—will she die?" asked Faith.
"She will suffer as her Lilac Lady suffered and go as she went. Perhaps in five years, perhaps in ten. Perhaps—one will tell the story."
A deep silence fell upon them. Mrs. Campbell sat with her head buried in her arms, and from the occasional convulsive shiver of her shoulders, they knew that she was crying. Was the situation then so desperate?
"Who will operate?" Hope's low-voiced question sounded like the notes of a trumpet through the stillness of the room.
"The minister's son?"
"But he is so young!"
"He has made a marvelous name for himself already as a children's surgeon. He seldom loses a case."
"But—but he is a physician in Fairview, is he not?" asked Gail in worried tones.
"Yes, that is where the rub comes. I thought perhaps if we offered him enough money he might operate here in Martindale and be with her through the worst of it at least, before returning to his work in Fairview, but he can't see his way clear. He wants to take her back with him—"
"O, that would be dreadful," the girls broke in. "Supposing she should—die—there all alone!"
"She wouldn't be alone," the President explained. "Mother and I would go, too."
"But the University—doesn't it take months for a patient to get well after such an operation?" protested Faith.
"Yes, but we would not stay until she had entirely recovered; only long enough to be sure all was well, and then—"
"I would go," said Gail simply.
"Wouldn't I do?" asked Hope. "This is Gail's last year at the University, and she can't graduate if she loses a whole term."
"Peace is worth dozens of terms," Gail answered softly. "Besides, I am the oldest, and Mother left her in my care. It is my place to go."
"But we haven't decided yet whether or not Peace herself is going to Fairview," Faith reminded them.
"That's so," agreed Dr. Campbell. "What is your wish in the matter?"
"It seems to me we have decided," suggested Gail. "We want to do everything we can for her, and if you think there is a—a chance—"
"Does she know?" interrupted Faith.
"Then why not leave the decision with her?"
The President shook his head. "She is too young to know what is best for her, and we cannot raise false hopes in her heart. She has suffered too much already to be disappointed again—should the operation fail to accomplish the desired results."
"But how are you going to get her to Fairview without her knowing?" Hope frowned in bewilderment.
"O, she will have to know about the operation, but not what we hope will result. Hark! Don't I hear her calling?"
Just then the library door opened behind them, and Marie announced young Dr. Shumway.
"Right on time," said the President, consulting his watch, "and your patient is just now awake. Will you tell her, doctor? We have decided to take the chance, but think you will make a better job of breaking the news to her."
"Very well," replied the doctor promptly, not pausing to meet the other members of the family. "I'll go right on up."
So he mounted the stairs to the Flag Room, wondering how he should broach the subject to the small maid soon to become his patient, but she gave him no chance for speech, for the instant she saw him bending over her, she exclaimed, "I dreamed about you last night,—the queerest dream!"
"You did! Well now, isn't that strange! I dreamed about you, too."
"O, tell me your dream," she commanded, delighted at his words.
"You first, my girl. Then you shall hear mine."
"Well, I thought I was on a hard, hard bed in the middle of a great, big room, and all around the room were rows and rows of shelves, just like the pickle closet in our Parker cellar. They were empty at first, but just as I was beginning to wonder what they were all for, I noticed a funny little hump-backed man sitting in one corner, dangling his legs over the edge of the shelf, and when I asked him who he was, he said he was one of my naughties. I didn't know what he meant, so he 'xplained that he was the bad spirit inside of me, which painted Mr. Hardman's barn once when I got mad at him. Then all of a sudden, I saw that the shelves were full,—just plumb full of people. Some were little and ugly, like the hump-back, and some were big and beautiful. The big ones were the goodies I had done. There was the time I sang for the hand-organ man, and the time I gave my circus money to the miss'nary, and the time I took the sick monkey home, and the time I carried pansies to my Lilac Lady, and—oh, crowds of 'em. But I 'most believe there were more naughties than goodies like Faith's State Fair cake which I spoiled, and the faces I made at old Skinflint when he wouldn't let us pick raspberries and all the times I bothered Grandpa by giving away my own and other folks's junk. O, I could see them all piled up on those shelves, and I began to cry about it, when who should come into the room but you and what do you s'pose you did, Dr. Dick?"
"I haven't the faintest idea," he confessed. "Tell me quickly."
"You fished a pair of wooden legs out of your pocket and laid them on the bed, and when I asked you what they were for, you said you had brought them for me, so I could get up and chase the naughties away, to leave more room for the goodies."
"And did you do it?" the doctor gravely inquired as the story-teller ceased abruptly.
"I don't know," she answered wistfully. "I woke up just then. That's always the way,—you never find out anything from a dream."
"Well, I think I must have finished up your dream for you," said the doctor musingly, "for in my dream I was back at my old job in the hospital and I found the head nurse making up a bed in one of the little rooms one day. The head nurse, mind you, who has altogether too many things to attend to without making up beds. So I asked her what she thought she was doing, and she said there was a little girl in the office downstairs, who wanted a new pair of legs, and she was getting the room ready so we could mend this child right away. So I went off to see if I could find some nice, strong legs for the little girl, and when I came back she was lying in the bed, and I was surprised to discover that I knew her. Who do you suppose it was?"
"I s'pose you dreamed it was me," said Peace, not much impressed by the narrative, which sounded quite flat and tame to her.