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Killykinick
by Mary T. Waggaman
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And while he looked Captain Carleton explained his interest in his find.

"You see, my father was master and half owner of the 'Reina Maria,' though she was Spanish built and manned. But, luckily, Jack Farley, a first-class sailor, was second mate. There was a mutiny aboard, and it would have been all up with my father and his chief officer if brave Jack had not smelled mischief in time, and put down the hatches on the scoundrels at the risk of his own life. Ship and cargo (it was a pretty valuable ship) were saved; and this medal, that bears the stamp of her then Spanish Majesty, was Jack's reward. My father always felt that he ought to have had something more; but the Spanish owners were close-fisted, so my old man had to content himself with helping Jack (who was a rather reckless sort of chap ashore) in his own way. He got him out of many a tight place on the strength of that medal; and he would have looked out for him until the last, but he shipped on an East Indian, and drifted out of our reach. And this medal was left here by a boy, you say, my man?"

"Yes, sir" (Jonah had found his entry now),—"by a boy who said it was his: that it had been given him by an old sailor man who was dead; and he'd like to sell the medal now, for he wanted some money bad."

"Good!" said the old Captain, eagerly. "I'll give him his price. Who and where is the boy?"

"His name is Dan Dolan and he lives at Killykinick."

"Dan Dolan!" exclaimed Miss Stella.

"Oh, does he mean my—my Dan, Marraine?" chirped Polly, breathlessly.

"What! You know the boy?" cried the old sailor, in amazement. "God bless me,—you!"

"Why, yes, we know him,—don't we, Pollykins?" said Miss Stella. "But what he is doing with the medal we can't say. We're certain he has it rightfully and honestly; and as soon as 'The Polly' (my cousin's yacht) can spread her broken wings, we are going to Killykinick. Suppose you come with us, and see the owner of the medal, and strike a bargain yourself?"

"By George, I will,—I will! A sail with you, Miss Stella, is a temptation I can not resist. And I must have the medal. I must see the boy, and hear how he got it. I'll buy it from him at his own price; and you shall negotiate the sale, dear lady!"

"Take care," said Miss Stella, with a merry sparkle in her eyes,—"take care how you do business with me, Captain! Remember how I drew upon you for the babies' ward last winter! I can fleece without mercy, as you know."

"Fleece as you please," was the hearty answer. "I can stand it, for that soft little hand of yours did work for this old man that he can never repay."

So the agreement was made; and Miss Stella, having invested in a queer, twisted candlestick, which she declared was quite equal to Aladdin's lamp, and Polly having decided to reserve her dollar for a neighboring candy store, the party at Jonah's junk shop separated, with the promise of meeting as soon as "The Polly" should be ready for a flight to Killykinick.

But that pleasant excursion was indefinitely postponed; for when Miss Stella reached Polly's home it was to find two priestly visitors awaiting her. One was an old friend, the present pastor of St. Mary's Church, near the Foresters' home; the other, tall, pale even through his bronze, anxious-eyed, she had never met.

"Father Rayburn, Miss Allen," was the pastor's brief introduction. "We have come to throw ourselves on your mercy, my dear young lady. You are here for your summer holiday, I know; and I hesitate to interrupt it. But Father Rayburn is in sore need of experienced service that you alone can give."

"You need a nurse?" asked Miss Stella.

"Yes." (It was Father Rayburn who answered.) "My brother—or perhaps I should say my brother-in-law, as that is really our relationship,—is lying very ill at Killykinick. While still prostrated with fever, he was exposed to the storm of yesterday, in which he nearly lost his life. Between the shock, the excitement of his rescue by the life-savers, he is very, very ill,—too ill to be removed to a hospital; and he is at Killykinick with only boys and men to care for him," continued Father Rayburn. "The doctors tell me an experienced nurse is necessary, and we can find none willing to take so serious a case in such a rude, remote place. But my good friend Father John seems to think that you would take pity on our great need."

"Oh, I will,—I will!" was the eager answer. "I already have friends at Killykinick among those fine boys from St. Andrew's. My little goddaughter and I were to make an excursion there to-day, but the storm disabled Mr. Forester's yacht. I am so glad to be of service to you, Father! I will get ready at once."

* * * * *

In spite of the joyful return of laddie yesterday, there was gloom this morning at Killykinick. Daddy, who had been brought over at his own request from the Life-Saving Station, lay in the old Captain's room, which Brother Bart had resigned to him, very, very sick indeed.

"Sinking fast, I'm afraid," the doctor said. "The fever has broken, but the shock of yesterday's danger and rescue has been too much for a man in his weakened state. Still there's a chance for him—a fighting chance. But it will take very careful and experienced nursing to pull him through."

So Father Tom had gone in search of a nurse, leaving Freddy and Brother Bart watching by the sick bed; while Dan, who as second mate was assisting his chief officers to right and repair the "Sary Ann," listened with a heavy heart to the old salt's prognostications.

"He won't last the day out," declared Captain Jeb. "Blue about the gills already! But, Lord, what could you expect, doused and drenched and shaken up like he was yesterday? It will be hard on the little chap, who was so glad to get his father back. It's sort of a pity, 'cording to my notion, that, being adrift so long, he didn't go down in deep-sea soundings, and not come ashore to break up like this."

"O Captain Jeb, no, no!" Dan looked up from his hammering on the "Sary Ann" in quick protest against such false doctrine. "A man isn't like a ship: he has a soul. And that's the main thing, after all. If you save your soul, it doesn't make much difference about your body. And drifting ashore right here has saved the soul of Mr. Wirt (or Mr. Neville, as we must call him now); for he was lying over on Last Island, feeling that there was no hope for him in heaven or on earth. And then Freddy came to him, and Father Tom, and he turned to God for pardon and mercy; and now his dying is all right,—though I haven't given him up yet," concluded Dan, more cheerfully. "Poor little Freddy has been praying so hard all night, I feel he is going to be heard somehow. And I've seen Mick Mulligan, that had typhoid last summer, looking a great deal worse than Mr. Neville, and before Thanksgiving there wasn't a boy on the hill he couldn't throw. Here comes Father Tom back with—with—" Dan dropped his hammer entirely, and stood up to stare in amazement at the little motor boat making its way to the broken wharf. "Jing! Jerusalem! if—if it isn't that pretty lady from Beach Cliff that Polly calls Marraine!"



XXIV.—A STAR IN THE DARKNESS.

Marraine,—Polly's Marraine,—Aunt Winnie's old friend,—the lovely, silver-robed lady of the party who had stood by Dan in his trouble!—it was she, indeed, all dressed in white, with a pretty little cap on her soft, wavy hair, and her hands full of flowers. Miss Stella always made a first appearance at a patient's bedside with flowers. She said they were a friendly introduction that never failed.

"It's the nurse woman they went for," gasped Captain Jeb, as the new arrival proceeded to step from boat to wharf with a light grace that scarcely needed Father Tom's assisting hand. "Well, I'll be tee-totally jiggered! Who ever saw a nurse woman pretty as that?"

But Dan did not hear. He had dropped nails, hammer, and all present interest in the recuperation of the "Sary Ann," and was off down the beach to meet the fair visitor, whose coming he could not understand.

"Danny," she said, holding out her empty hand to him,—"Miss Winnie's Danny!—I told you I had friends here, Father Rayburn; and this is one that I expect to find my right-hand man. What a queer, quaint, wonderful place this Killykinick is! I am so glad you brought me here to help you!"

Help them! Help them! Dan caught the world in breathless amazement. Then Miss Stella, Polly's Marraine, was the nurse! It seemed altogether astounding; for sick nurses, in Dan's experience, had always been fat old ladies who had out-lived all other duties, and appeared only on important occasions, to gossip in solemn whispers, and to drink unlimited tea. And now Polly's Marraine was a nurse! It was impossible to doubt the fact; for Father Tom was leading her straight to Mr. Neville's side, Dan following in dumb bewilderment.

The sick man lay in the old Captain's room, whither, at his own request, the life-savers had borne him the previous evening. His eyes, deep-sunken in their sockets, were closed, his features rigid. Poor little Freddy, tearful and trembling, knelt by Brother Bart, who paused in his murmured prayers to shake his head hopelessly at the newcomer's approach.

"I'm glad ye're here before he goes entirely, Father. It's time, I think, for the last blessing. I am afraid he can neither hear nor see."

But Miss Stella had stepped forward, put her soft hand on the patient's pulse; and then, with a quick whisper to Father Tom, she had dropped her flowers, opened the little wrist-bag they had concealed, and proceeded to "do things,"—just what sort of things Dan did not know. He could only see the soft hands moving swiftly, deftly; baring the patient's arm to the shoulder and flashing something sharp and shining into the pale flesh; holding the fluttering pulse until, with a long, deep sigh, the sick man opened his eyes and stared dully at the white-robed figure bending over him.

"Who—what are you?" he said faintly.

Miss Stella smiled. It was the question that many a patient, struggling out of the Dark Valley, had asked before, when his waking eyes had fallen upon her fair, sweet face, her white-robed form.

"Only your nurse," she answered softly,—"your nurse who has come to help you, to take care of you. You feel better already?"

"Yes, better, better!" was the faint reply. "My boy,—where is my boy? Freddy! Freddy!" He stretched out his feeble hand. But it was met by a firm, gentle grasp that was not Freddy's.

"No boys now," said Miss Stella in the soft, steady voice of one used to such commands. "There must be no seeing, no talking, even no thinking, my patient. You must take this powder I am putting to your lips. Close your eyes again and go to sleep.—Now please everybody go away and leave him to me," was the whispered ukase, that even Father Tom obeyed without protest; and Miss Stella began her reign at Killykinick.

It was a triumphant reign from the very first. Old and young fell at once under her gentle sway, and yielded to her command without dispute. The cabin of the "Lady Jane" was given to her entirely; even Brother Bart taking to the upper deck; while a big, disused awning was stretched into a shelter for the morning and the noontime mess.

And, to say nothing of her patient—who lay, as Brother Bart expressed it, "like a shorn lamb" under her gentle bidding, gaining health and strength each day,—every creature in Killykinick was subservient to Miss Stella's sweet will. Freddy was her devoted slave; lazy Jim, ready to move at her whisper; even Dud, after learning her father's rank in the army, was ready to oblige her as a gentleman should. But it was Dan, as she had foreseen from the first, who was her right-hand man, ready to fetch and carry, to lift any burden, however heavy, by day and night; Dan who rowed or sailed or skimmed to any point in the motor boat Father Tom kept waiting at her demand; Dan who, when the patient grew better, and she had an hour or two off, was her willing and delighted escort over rocks or sea.

And as they sailed or rowed or loitered by beach and shore, Miss Stella drew from Aunt Winnie's boy the hopes and fears he could not altogether hide. She learned how Aunt Winnie was "pining" for her home and her boy; she read the letters, with their untold love and longing; she saw the look on the boyish face when Dan, too mindful of his promise to Father Mack to speak plainly, said he 'reckoned she wouldn't be here long if he didn't get her somehow home.' She learned, too, all Dan could tell about poor old Nutty's medal.

"Get it for me the next time you go to town, Danny," she said to him. And Danny drew it from old Jonah's junk shop and put it in Miss Stella's hand.

And then, when at last her patient was able to sit up in Great-uncle Joe's big chair in the cabin doorway and look out at the sea, Miss Stella wrote to dad and Polly to come and take her home.

"Lord, but we'll all miss her!" Captain Jeb voiced the general sentiment of Killykinick when this decision was made public. "I ain't much sot on women folks when you're in deep water, but this one suttenly shone out like a star in the dark."

"And kept a-shining," added Neb,—"a-shining and a-smiling straight through."

"She's a good girl," said Brother Bart. "And I'm thinking—well, it doesn't matter what I'm thinking. But it's a lonely time laddie's poor father will be having, after all his wild wanderings; and it will be hard for him to keep house and home. But the Lord is good. Maybe it was His hand that led Miss Stella here."

"Oh, what will we do when she is gone, daddy?" mourned Freddy. "Of course you are getting well now, and Dan and I can wait on you and get you broth and jelly; but it won't be like having dear Miss Stella. Oh, I just love her! Don't you, daddy? She is almost as good as a real mother."

And daddy's pale cheek had flushed as he answered:

"Almost, little Boy Blue!"

"Well, we're all going home in a week," said Dan, as he stood out under the stars that night. "But I'll miss you sure, Miss Stella; for you don't mind being friends with a rough sort of a boy like me, and you know Aunt Winnie; and if I give up and—and go down you'll—you'll understand."

"Give up and go down!" repeated Miss Stella. "You give up and go down, Danny? Never,—never! You're the sort of boy to climb, however steep and rough and sharp the way,—to climb to the stars."

"That's what Aunt Winnie dreams," was the answer. "That's what I dream, too, sometimes. Miss Stella. But it isn't for me to dream: I have to wake up and hustle. I can't stay dreaming and let Aunt Winnie die. So if I have to give up and go down, Miss Stella, you'll—you'll understand."

And Miss Stella steadied her voice to answer:

"Yes, Danny, I'll understand."

But, in spite of this, Miss Stella's parting from Killykinick was not altogether a sad one; for "The Polly" came down next morning, with flying colors, to bear her away. Dad was aboard; also Polly, jubilant at recovering her dear Marraine after three weeks of desertion; and Captain Carleton, and Miss Stella's girl friends who had been picked up from the camp at Shelter Cove. It was such a picnic party altogether that sighs and tears seemed quite out of place; for, after all, things had turned out most cheerfully, as everybody agreed.

So, with "The Polly" glittering in new paint and gilding necessitated by the storm, with all her pennants flying in the wind, with the victrola singing its merriest boat song, and snowy handkerchiefs fluttering gay farewells, Miss Stella was borne triumphantly away. It was to be an all-day cruise. Great hampers, packed with everything good to eat and drink, were stored below; and "The Polly" spread her wings and took a wide flight to sea, turning back only when the shadows began to deepen over the water, and the stars to peep from the violet sky. The young people were a trifle tired; Polly had fallen asleep on a pile of cushions, while the girls from Shelter Cove sang college songs.

In the stern, Captain Carleton had found his way to Miss Stella's side. She was leaning on the taffrail, listening to the singing, her white fleecy wrap falling around her like a cloud.

"You look your name to-night," said the Captain: "Stella,—a star. By George, you were a star to me when the sky looked pretty black! I was thinking of that yesterday when some Eastern chap came along with a lot of diamonds for sale. I don't know much about such folderols, but there was one piece—a star—that I'd like to give you, if you would take it and wear it in remembrance of a rough old fellow who can't speak all he feels."

"Ah, Captain Carleton,—Captain Carleton!" laughed the lady softly. "Take care! That Eastern chap was fooling you, I'm sure."

"Not at all,—not at all!" was the quick reply. "I got an expert's opinion. The star is worth the thousand dollars he asked."

"A thousand dollars,—a thousand dollars!" repeated Miss Stella, in dismay. "And you would give me a thousand dollar star? Why, you must have money to burn, indeed!"

"Well, I suppose I have," was the answer,—"much more than a lonely old fellow of sixty odd, without chick or child will ever need. Will you take the star, dear lady nurse?"

"No," said Miss Stella, gently; "though I thank you for your generous thought of me, my good friend. But I have a better and a wiser investment for you. Have you forgotten this?" She took Dan's medal from the bag on her wrist.

"By George, I did forget it!" said the old man. "Somehow, it slipped my memory completely in our pleasant hurry. Poor Jack Farley's medal! You've found the chap that owns it, you say?"

"Yes," was the answer—"a brave, sturdy, honest little chap, who stood by your poor old friend in his last lonely days, and helped him in his last lonely cruise, and took the medal from his dying hands as the last and only legacy he had to give. Would you consider him Jack Farley's heir, Captain Carleton?"

"Most certainly I would," was the rejoinder.

"Then make him his heir," she said softly.

"Eh!—what? I don't understand," muttered the old gentleman.

Then Miss Stella explained. It was such an explanation as only gentle speakers like Miss Stella can make. She told about bright, brave, plucky Dan and Aunt Winnie, of the scholarship at St. Andrew's and of the Little Sisters of the Poor. She told of the attic home over the Mulligans' for which Aunt Winnie was "pining," and of the dreams that Dan dreamed.

"It would seem a pity," Miss Stella said, "for him to give up and go down."

"By George, he must not,—he shall not!" said the old sailor. "You want me to do something for him? Out with it, my lady!"

"Yes. I want you to invest, not in diamond stars, Captain, but in Jack Farley's medal. I was to negotiate the sale, you know."

"Yes, yes! And you warned me you were going to fleece me; so go on,—go on! What is the boy's—what is your price?" asked the Captain.

"A pension," said Miss Stella, softly, "the pension you would give Jack Farley—if he were here to claim it,—just the little pension an old sailor would ask for his last watch below. It will hold the little nest under the eaves that Danny calls home for the old aunt that he loves; it will steady the young wings for their flight to the stars; it will keep the young heart brave and pure and warm as only love and home can."

"You're right,—you're right,—you're always right, dear lady! If old Jack were here, I'd pension him, as you say, and fling in a little extra for his grog and his pipe. Old Jack could have counted on me for four or five hundred a year. But a sturdy, strapping young chap like yours is worth a dozen groggy old salts. So name your figure, my lady. I have money to burn, as you say. Name your figure, dear lady, and I'll invest in your boy."

"Old Jack's pension, then, Captain Carleton,—old Jack's pension for Aunt Winnie and Dan,—old Jack's pension, and nothing more."

"It's theirs," was the hearty answer,—"or, rather, it's yours, my dear lady!"

"Oh, no, no, no!" she disclaimed. "The generous gift is all your own, dear friend,—all your own. And it will be repaid. Dan and his good old aunt may have no words to thank you, to bless you; but some day" (and the glad voice grew softer, sweeter),—"some day when life's long voyage is over for you, Captain, and the log-book is open to the Master's gaze—"

"It will be a tough showing," interrupted the old man, gruffly,—"a tough showing through and through."

"Oh, no, no, no!" she said gently. "One entry, I am sure, will clear many a page, dear friend. One entry will give you safe anchorage—harbor rights; for has not the Master Himself said, 'As long as you did it to one of these My least brethren, you did it to Me'?"



XXV.—GOING HOME.

"We're to be off to-morrow," said Brother Bart, a little sadly. "And, though it will be a blessed thing to get back in the holy peace of St. Andrew's, with the boys all safe and sound—which is a mercy I couldn't expect,—to say nothing of laddie's father being drawn out of his wanderings into the grace of God, I'm sore-hearted at leaving Killykinick. You've been very good to us, Jeroboam,—both you and your brother, who is a deal wiser than at first sight you'd think. You've been true friends both in light and darkness; and may God reward you and bring you to the true faith! That will be my prayer for you night and day.—And now you're to pack up, boys, and get all your things together; for it's Father Regan's orders that we are to come back home."

"Where is our home, daddy?" asked Freddy, with lively interest. "For we can have a real true home now, can't we?"

"I hope so, my boy." They were out on the smooth stretch of beach, where daddy, growing strong and well fast, spent most of his time, stretched out in one of Great-uncle Joe's cushiony chairs; while Roy and Rex crouched contentedly at his feet, or broke into wild frolic with Freddy on the rocks or in the sea. "I hope so; though I'm afraid I don't know much about making a home, my little Boy Blue!"

"Oh, don't you, daddy?" said Freddy, ruefully. "I have always wanted a home so much,—a real true home, with curtains and carpets, and pictures on the walls, and a real fire that snaps and blazes."

"Yes, I heard you say that before," answered his father, softly. "I think it was that little talk on the boat that brought me down, where I could take a peep at my homeless little boy again; though I was afraid Captain Jeb would find me out if I ventured to Killykinick. I was just making up my mind to risk it and go over, when this fever caught me."

"But why—were you hiding, daddy? Why did you stay away so long?"

"Life had grown very black for me; and I didn't want to make it black for you, Freddy. I lost faith and hope and love when I lost your mother. I couldn't settle down to a bare, lonely life without her. I felt I must be free,—free to wander where I willed. It was all wrong,—all wrong, Freddy. But daddy was in darkness, without any guiding star. So I left you to Uncle Tom, gave up my name, my home, and broke loose like a ship without rudder or sail. And where it led me, where you found me, you know."

"Ah, yes!" Freddy laid his soft young cheek against his father's. "It was all wrong. But now you have come back; and everything is right again, Uncle Tom says; and we'll have a real home together. He said that, too, before he went away,—you and I would have a home, daddy."

"We'll try," replied daddy, cheerfully. "With you and the dogs together, Freddy, we'll try. We'll get the house and the cushions and the carpets, and do our best."

Going home! Dan was thinking of it, too, a little sadly, as somewhat later he stood on the stretch of rocks, looking out at the fading west. He was going home to "give up." Only yesterday morning a brief scrawl from Pete Patterson had informed him he would be ready for business next week, and Dan must come back with an answer—"Yes" or "No." So it was good-bye to St. Andrew's for Dan to-night; good-bye to all his hopes and dreams to-morrow. Something seemed to rise in Dan's throat at the thought. To-morrow he must go back, a college boy no longer, but to Pete Patterson's wagon and Pete Patterson's shop.

And while he stood there alone, watching the deepening shadows gather over rock and reef and shoal where he had spent such happy days, there came a sudden burst of glad music over the waters, and around the bending shore of Killykinick came a fairy vision: "The Polly," fluttering with gay pennants, jewelled in colored light from stem to stern; "The Polly," laden with a crowd of merrymakers in most hilarious mood, coming on a farewell feast in charge of three white-capped and white-coated waiters; "The Polly," that swept triumphantly to the mended wharf (where the "Sary Ann" was slowly recuperating from her damages, in a fresh coat of paint and brand-new mainsail), and took undisputed possession of Killykinick.

"I just had to come and say good-bye," declared Miss Polly; "and dad said I could make a party of it, if Marraine would take us in charge. And so we're to have a real, real last good time."

Then all sat down on the moonlit sands; and the victrola played its gayest tunes, and the white-capped waiters served good things that quite equalled Polly's last party. And when that was nearly over, and the guests were still snapping the French "kisses" and cracking sugar-shelled nuts, Dan found Miss Stella, who had been chatting with her late patient most of the evening, standing at his side. Perhaps it was the moonlight, but he thought he had never seen her look so lovely. Her eyes were like stars, and there was a soft rose-flush on her cheek, and the smile on her sweet lips seemed to kindle her whole face into radiance.

"Come sit down on the rocks beside me, Danny,—Miss Winnie's Danny. I've got some news for you."

"News for me?" Danny lifted his eyes; and Miss Stella saw that, in spite of all the fun and frolic around him, they looked strangely sad and dull.

"You're not having a good time to-night, are you?" she asked softly.

"Yes, I am—or at least I'm trying," said Dan, stoutly. "It was surely nice of you all to give us this send off. But—but, you see, I can't help feeling a little bad, because—because—" and he had to stop to clear the lump from his throat. "It seems to sort of end things for me."

"O Danny, Danny, no it doesn't!" And now Miss Stella's eyes were stars indeed. "It's the beginning of things bright and beautiful for you."

And then, in sweet, trembling, joyful tones, she told him all,—told him of Captain Carleton and the medal; of the pension that was to be his and Aunt Winnie's; of the kind, strong hand that had been stretched out to help him, that he might keep on without hindrance,—keep on his upward way.

"To the stars, Danny," concluded the gentle speaker softly. "We must take the highest aim, even if we fail to reach it,—to the stars."

"O Miss Stella,—dear, dear Miss Stella!" and the sob came surely now, in Dan's bewildered joy, his gratitude, his relief. "How good you are,—how good you are! Oh, I will try to deserve it all, Miss Stella! A home for Aunt Winnie, and St. Andrew's,—St. Andrew's again!" And Dan sprang to his feet, and the college cry went ringing over the moonlit rocks. "It's St. Andrew's for Dan Dolan, now forever!"

The rest of that evening seemed a bewildering dream to Dan,—more bewildering even than Miss Polly's party. The story of his medal and his luck went flying around Killykinick, with most dazzling additions. Before the guests departed, Dan was a hero indeed, adopted by a millionaire whose life his father or uncle or somebody had saved from sharks and whales fifty or seventy-five years ago.

"Oh, I'm so glad!" said Polly, as she shook hands for good-bye. "I always did say you were the nicest boy in the world. And now you needn't ever be a newsboy or bootblack again, Dan."

"I'll see you again before very long," said Miss Stella, as he helped her on the boat, and she slipped a gold piece in his hand. "Here is the price of Jack Farley's medal. You must take Aunt Winnie home right away."

"Oh, I will,—I will, indeed!" said Dan joyfully. "She will be back in Mulligan's as soon as I can get her there, you bet, Miss Stella!"

"I'm durn sorry to see you go, matey!" said Captain Jeb next morning, as they pulled out the new sails of the "Sary Ann" for a start. "But whenever you want a whiff of salt air and a plunge in salt water, why, Killykinick is here and your job of second mate open to you."

"Shake on that!" said Dan, gripping his old friend's hand. "If I know myself, I'll be down every summer."

"Looks as if I owed you something for all that fishing," remarked old Neb, pulling out his leather wallet.

"Not a cent!" said Dan, briskly. "I'm a monied man now, Neb,—a regular up-and-down plute. Keep the cash for some new nets next summer when we go fishing again."

And so, with friendly words and wishes from all, even from Dud, whom recent events had quite knocked out of his usual grandeur, the whole party bade adieu to Killykinick. Freddy and his father were to remain a while at Beach Cliff with Father Tom, who was taking his holiday there.

At Brother Bart's request, the home journey was to be made as much as possible by rail, so after the "Sary Ann," still a little stiff and creaky in the joints, had borne them to the steamboat, which in a few hours touched the mainland and made connections with the train, the travellers' route lay along scenes very different from the rugged rocks and sands they had left. As they swept by golden harvest fields and ripening orchards and vineyards whose rich yield was purpling in the autumn sun, good Brother Bart heaved a sigh of deepest content.

"Sure you may say what you please about water, Danny lad, but God's blessing is on the good green land. If it be the Lord's will, I'll never leave it again; though we might have found worse places than Killykinick and those good old men there,—may God lead them to the Light!"

And as the Limited Express made its schedule time, Pete Patterson was just closing up as usual at sundown, when a sturdy, brown-cheeked boy burst into his store,—a boy that it took Pete's keen eyes full half a minute to recognize.

"Dan Dolan!" he cried at last,—"Dan Dolan, grown and fattened and slicked up like—like a yearling heifer! Danny boy, I'm glad to see you,—I'm glad to see you, sure! You've come to take the job?"

"No, I haven't,—thank you all the same, Pete!" was the quick answer. "I've struck luck for sure,—luck with a fine old plute, who is ready to stake me for all I could earn here, and keep me at St. Andrew's."

"Stake you for all you could earn here?" echoed Pete, in amazement.

"I'll tell you all about it later," said Dan, breathlessly. "Just now I'm dumb struck, Pete. I came flying back to take up my old quarters at the Mulligans' and find the house shut up and everybody gone. Land! It did give me a turn, sure! I was counting on that little room upstairs, and all Aunt Winnie's things she left there, and Tabby and the stove and the blue teapot. But they're all gone." And Dan sank down on a big packer's box feeling that he was facing a dissolving world in which he had no place.

"Oh, they're not far!" said Pete, a little gruffly; for Dan's tidings had been somewhat of a blow. "The old woman's father died and left a little bit of money, and they bought a tidy little place out on Cedar Place, not far from St. Mary's Church. You'll find them there. You've made up your mind for good and all to stick to the highbrows? I'd make it worth your while to come here."

Dan rose from the packer's box and looked around at the hams and shoulders and lard buckets and answered out of the fulness of his grateful heart:

"Yes, I've made up my mind, Pete. It's St. Andrew's for me,—St. Andrew's now and, I hope, forever. But—but if you want any help with writing or figuring, I'll come around Saturday nights and give you a lift; for I won't be far. I'm sticking to old friends and the old camping ground still."

And, with this cheery assurance, Dan was off again to find the vanished roof tree that had been all he ever knew of home. He recalled the place. It was only a short walk from the college gate. Indeed, the row of cedars that fronted the little whitewashed house had been once the boundary of the college grounds. There was a bit of a garden in front, and a porch with late roses climbing over it, and—and—

Dan stood stock-still for a moment,—then he flung open the little gate, and with a regular Sioux war-whoop dashed up the gravelled path; for there—there seated in Mrs. Mulligan's best rocker, with Tabby curled up at her feet—was Aunt Winnie herself, drinking a cup of tea!



XXVI.—RAINBOWS.

"Danny!" cried Aunt Winnie, clutching her teacup with trembling hand. "God save us, it's Danny himself!"

"Nobody else," said Dan, as he caught her in a bearish hug and kissed the withered cheek again and again. It looked paler than when he had left her,—paler and thinner; and there were hollows under the patient eyes.

"But what are you doing here, Aunt Win?" he asked in amazement.

"Just spending the day, Danny. Mrs. Mulligan sent Molly for me this morning. She wanted me to see her new place, and to tell her what was to be done with my bit of things. She is thinking of renting her rooms, and my things are in the way. They are fine rooms, with rosebud paper on the walls, and a porch looking out at the church beyant; and she could be getting seven dollars a month for them. But she's got the table and stove and beds, and all our old furniture that nobody would want; so I've told her to send them off to-morrow to sell for what they will bring. Sure" (and the old voice trembled) "we'll never have any call for them again, Danny lad,—never again."

"Oh, we won't?" said Danny, with another hug that came near doing for teacup completely. "Just take back your orders quick as you can, Aunt Winnie, I'm renting those rooms right now."

"Sure, Danny,—Danny boy, have ye come back with a fever on ye?"

"Yes," grinned Dan,—"regular gold fever, Aunt Winnie! Look at that!" He clapped the twenty dollar gold piece into Aunt Winnie's trembling hand. "That's for you, Aunt Winnie,—that's to rent those pink-flowered rooms."

"Sure it's mad the poor boy is entirely!" cried Aunt Winnie, as Mrs. Mulligan and Molly came hurrying out on the porch.

"Do I look it?" asked Dan, laughing into their startled faces.

"Ye don't," said Mrs. Mulligan. "But spake out plain, and don't be bewildering the poor woman, Danny Dolan."

And then Danny spoke out as plain as his breathless eagerness would permit, and told the story of the "pension."

"It will be thirty-five dollars a month, Captain Carleton says; he'd have to throw in the five to poor old Nutty for grog and tobacco."

"Ah, God save us,—God save us!" was all Aunt Winnie could murmur, tearfully.

"And I guess thirty-five dollars will run those rosebud rooms of yours pretty safe and slick; won't they, Mrs. Mulligan? So put Aunt Winnie and me down as tenants right off."

"I will,—I will!" answered Mrs. Mulligan, joyfully. "Sure my heart was like lead in my breast at the thought of giving up yer bit of things, Miss Winnie. But now,—now come along, Molly girl, and we'll be fixing the rooms, this minute. What's the good of yer going back to the Sisters at all?" And Mrs. Mulligan put a motherly arm around Aunt Winnie's trembling form. "Give her another cup of tea, Molly; for she's all done up with joy at having her own home and her own boy again, thank God for that same!"

And then, leaving dear Aunt Winnie to this good friend's tender ministrations, Dan kept on his way to St. Andrew's, taking a flying leap over the college wall to the sunset walk, where perhaps he would find Father Mack saying his Office. He was not mistaken: his old friend was there, walking slowly under the arching trees. His face kindled into light as he stretched out a trembling hand.

"I thought perhaps you would come here, my boy," he said. "I was just thanking God, Danny. Brother Bart has told us the good news. It is all right, as I hoped and prayed,—all right, as I knew it would be, Danny. Now tell me, yourself, all about this wonderful blessing."

And again this father and son sat down upon the broken grave slab, and Danny told Father Mack all.

"Ah, it is the good God's hand!" the old priest said softly. "But this is only the start, my son. The climb is still before you,—a climb that may lead over steeps sharp and rough as the rocks of Killykinick."

But the fading light seemed to aureole Father Mack's silvery head as he spoke.

"You will keep on and up,—on and up; for God is calling you, my son,—calling you to heights where He leads His own—heights which as yet you can not see."

The speaker laid his hand upon Dan's head in benediction that thrilled the boy's heart to its deepest depths,—a benediction that he never forgot; for it was Father Mack's last. Only a few days later the college bell's solemn note, sounding over the merry greetings of the gathering students, told that for the good old priest all the lessons of life were over.

And Dan, climbing sturdily up the heights at his saintly guide's bidding, has found the way, so far, smoothed and softened beyond his hopes by his summer at Killykinick. Even his stumbling-stone Dud was removed to another college, his father having been ordered to a Western post. With Jim and Freddy as his friends, all the "high-steppers," old and young, of St. Andrew's were ready to welcome him into rank and line. And, with Aunt Winnie as administratrix of Captain Carleton's pension "there isn't a dacinter-looking boy in the college," as Mrs. Mulligan stoutly declares.

How Aunt Winnie stretched out that pension only the Irish fairies, or perhaps the Irish angels, know. The little pink-flowered rooms have blossomed out into a very bower of comfort and cheer. There are frilly curtains at the windows, a rosy-hued lamp, and a stand of growing plants always in bloom. There are always bread and cheese and apple sauce, or something equally "filling," for hungry boys to eat.

And when Aunt Winnie was fairly settled, who should appear but Miss Stella, who had come to nurse a dear old friend near by,—Miss Stella, who dropped in most naturally in her off hours to chat with dear old Aunt Winnie and take a cup of tea! And Freddy's daddy, who had plunged into life and law business with zest, often brought his big automobile round to take Freddy for a spin after study hours, and called on the way very frequently to take Miss Stella home.

It was on one of those bright afternoons that they all went to look at the new house that was going up on a wooded hillside not very far from the college—the house that was to be Freddy's long-wished-for home. It had been a lot of fun watching it grow. Now it was nearly done,—the big pillared porch ready for its climbing roses; the pretty rooms waiting their rugs and curtains; the great stone chimney, that was to be the heart and life of things, rising in the center of all.

"My! but this in fine!" said Freddy, who had not seen this crowning touch before. "Let's light it up, daddy,—let's light it up and see how it burns."

And, dashing out for an armful of wood left by the builders, Freddy soon had a glorious blaze on the new hearthstone,—a blaze that, blending with the sunset streaming through the west windows, made things bright indeed.

"This is great!" said Freddy. "And when we have the chairs and tables and cushions and curtains—who is going to pick out the cushions and curtains, dad?"

"Oh, I suppose we can have them sent up from the store!" answered dad, anticipating such matters by pushing up a big packing box to the fire, to serve as a seat for their smiling guest.

"Oh, can't you do it, daddy?"

"George! no! I wouldn't know a curtain from a rug, my boy!"

"And you don't know about dishes or cups, or pans to make gingerbread," continued Freddy, the glow fading from his face as he realized all these masculine disabilities.

"Not a thing," was dad's reply.

"Gee!" said Freddy, in a much troubled voice. "We'll be right bad off for a real home, after all, daddy."

"Perhaps we can find a nice old black mammy who will take care of us all," observed daddy, his eyes twinkling almost as they used to twinkle in the days of little Boy Blue.

"Yes, I suppose we can," said Freddy, with a wistful little sigh, "I suppose that is what we will have to do, daddy. But I wish—it's going to be such a pretty house every other way,—I wish we could have a pretty lady to sit at the head of the table and pour our tea."

"Would I do, Freddy?" asked Miss Stella, stealing a soft little hand into his.

"You, Miss Stella,—you,—you?" gasped Freddy. "Oh, that would be rip-roaring, sure enough! But you couldn't,—you wouldn't!"

"I might," was the low answer; and Miss Stella arose and drew little Boy Blue to her loving heart. "I might come if you want me very much, Freddy,—so I promised daddy last night."

"For there is no real right home without a mother, son," said daddy; and his arm went around to meet Miss Stella's until Freddy was locked in their double clasp. And, looking from one glad face to the other, a thousand rainbows seemed to burst upon his troubled sky, and little Boy Blue understood.

So there was a wedding in the little church at Beach Cliff when the hydrangeas were in bloom the next summer,—a wedding that drew the Forester clan from far and near. Even the two grandmothers, after they had inspected the Neville family tree through their lorgnettes, declared their satisfaction that Stella was going to do the proper thing at last.

Daddy was the daddy of old times, before the dark clouds of doubt and despair had gathered around him and he had drifted about, the derelict Mr. Wirt; while Miss Stella, veiled in soft mists of tulle, looked what she had been, to him, what she would ever be to him—his guiding star. Polly, who was the only bridesmaid (for so Marraine would have it), carried a basket of flowers as big as herself; Father Tom said the Nuptial Mass; and Freddy stood at daddy's side, the very happiest of "best men." And Dan who was off on his summer vacation at Killykinick, came down in the "Sary Ann," with Captain Jeb slicked up for the occasion in real "store clothes." And there was a wonderful wedding feast at the Forester home, with a cake three stories high, and three tables full of wedding presents; Captain Carleton's diamond star, that he would send, shining with dazzling light among the rest.

And, then, such a house-warming followed as surpassed Freddy's wildest dreams with a real fire leaping on the hearth, with the rugs and curtains and cushions just right; for Miss Stella (or Marraine as she chose that Freddy should call her,—for, as she said, "Your own dear mother is in heaven, my boy"),—Miss Stella had picked them all out herself. And Father Tom beamed happily on his reconstructed family; and the Fathers and Brothers and boys from St. Andrew's dropped in without ceremony; for Marraine had welcome for all, now that she was a fixed star in her real home and her real place.

Though dear Aunt Winnie has dropped at least ten years of her life, and old Neb's whale oil has done more for her rheumatism than all the store medicines she ever tried; though more joy and comfort has come into these sunset years than she ever dared hope, she still sits on her little porch in the evening, with a look in her old eyes that tells she is dreaming.

"What do you see, Aunt Win?" asked Dan one evening as after a tough pull up the Hill of Knowledge, he bounded up the Mulligan stairs to drop at her feet and lay his head in her lap.

"Sure it's not for an old woman to spake, Danny dear!" she answered again as of old. "It's too great, too high. What was it that holy saint, Father Mack, said to you, alanna? Sometimes I forget the words."

"That it would be a hard climb for me against winds and storms," said Dan. "And, golly, it will! I am finding that out myself, Aunt Win."

"Go on, lad! There was more,—there was more," said the old woman, eagerly.

After a moment's pause, Dan added, in a voice that had grown low and reverent:

"That God was calling me to His own. And, Aunt Win,—Aunt Win" (there was a new light in the blue eyes uplifted to her face), "I am finding that out, too."

But it is a long way to the starlit heights of Aunt Winnie's dream,—a long, hard way, as Danny knows. We leave him climbing sturdily on over its rocky steeps and sunlit stretches, but finding many a sunlit resting place on the way. Brightest of all these to Danny is Killykinick, where he goes every summer to spend a happy holiday,—to boat, to swim, to fish, to be "matey" again with the two old men, who look for his coming as the joy of the year.

"It's hurrah! hurrah, Aunt Win!" he wrote jubilantly one glad summer day. "Your Danny is at work before time, doing a little missionary business already. Two real true converts, Aunt Win,—baptized yesterday! It was the 'Padre's preaching' that set Jeb thinking first, and then he got hold of some of Great-uncle Joe's books. I sort of took a hand, and altogether we've got the dear old chaps into the fold. Peter and Andrew,—they chose the names themselves, even good old Neb's dull wits seeming to wake at his Master's call. Brother Bart's prayers for his old friends have been answered. The Light is shining on Killykinick, Aunt Win,—the Light is shining on Killykinick!"

THE END

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