"We are keeping to the routine you ordered except when Mrs. Hargrave has made some slight change, but of course I know that is all right, as you told me she might wish to do so.
And Mrs. Hargrave wrote from the country a letter full of praise for both little girls and for Minnie.
Mrs. Horton received all three letters the same day. She slipped them away in her portfolio, thinking as she did so, with a smile, of Cousin Hendy's trunks full of letters.
One thing troubled her a little. It seemed as though she could see in all the letters evidences that little Rosanna was undergoing some slight changes in her way of thinking and acting. And Mrs. Horton did not care to have Rosanna change in the least. She was perfectly satisfied the way she was. It had not occurred to Mrs. Horton to wonder if poor little motherless Rosanna was satisfied with her pampered, lonely life.
Mrs. Horton had Rosanna's life all mapped out. However, she remembered the high stone wall and reflected that the child could see very little of the outside world if she was kept behind that.
How the time did fly! The days were not long enough for all the two girls crowded into them.
In a few weeks Helen would be going away to a Scout camp where dozens of girls would live in tents and row and swim and fish and cook and listen to wise and sympathetic talks from their leaders. Helen knew all about it from past trips, and she spent hours while they sat working on their presents for Mrs. Hargrave, whose birthday was rapidly approaching, telling Rosanna all about their good times. Rosanna felt that she never could bear it if she couldn't be a Girl Scout. Helen, not knowing Mrs. Horton, did not see how any grown person could refuse such a request and she told Rosanna so.
They had made a great many plans for Mrs. Hargrave's birthday. She was coming to take dinner with them.
Mrs. Hargrave never looked more beautiful nor more imposing than when she arrived. The two girls were overcome with pride as they saw their guest descend from her little carriage and, laying her hand on the arm of the old colored man who attended her, walk slowly up the steps.
When dinner was served, it was perfectly splendid to hear Mrs. Hargrave exclaim over the flowers and the favors and everything.
During the meal the children told Mrs. Hargrave what they hoped to be.
Rosanna wanted to be an artist. Helen said she intended to grow up and marry and be the mother of a family.
"Bless my soul!" said Mrs. Hargrave, staring at her. "What put that in your head?"
"Something mother learned in college," said Helen simply. "She believes it, and of course so do I. There was a teacher in college who was very wise, mother says, and he warned them and warned them against what he called popular complaints. He said they must always be careful before they joined anything and promised to uphold it to understand exactly what it was and how far it would lead them. He said it didn't matter whether they were thinking of going into a nunnery or joining the Salvation Army or the Suffragets or what else, they wanted to ask themselves could they lift themselves and help humanity by doing that thing. And he said in this day and age when there were so many dissatisfied people everywhere, he thought the most important thing in the world was to teach everyone, and especially children, the love of country."
"Wise man," said Mrs. Hargrave, nodding. "What else?"
"He told them that love of country was not boasting about where you came from, and telling everybody how high the corn grows in New York, or how blue the grass is in Kentucky or things about places like that. He says that is nothing but bragging. But he said what people needed was to love all their country, east and west and south and north, to try to understand one another and to pull together for the United States.
"And he said that if every one of those girls who married and had children would teach them this as hard as ever they could, some day the states would really be united, and wiser laws would be made, and all the young Americans would love their country and be willing to live for her. He said it is harder to live faithfully for anything than to die for it because it takes so much longer."
"Bless my soul!" said Mrs. Hargrave again. "Go on!"
"That's all," said Helen. "I don't see what else I can do except teach some children of my own about it, do you, Mrs. Hargrave?"
"I think that would be the finest thing you could do," said the childless old lady. "Quite the finest! Are you going to college?"
"I want to," said Helen, "if we can afford it. We are saving up for it all the time."
"How do you save?" asked Mrs. Hargrave. She was certainly a curious old lady.
"Well," said Helen, "I wear my hair docked, and that saves a lot in hair ribbons, only this fall mother says I must let it grow. When mother takes me to buy a coat, we look at two good ones that will last two winters, but perhaps one has pretty braid or something on it, that makes it cost more. Then if one of us looks as though we wanted it the other one whispers, 'Rah rah rah, college ah,' which is our own college yell, and we take the plain one.
"Lots of ways it looks to be harder on mother than it is on me. I know she goes without so many things she would love—lectures and concerts and all that. I just hate that part!"
"I am glad you do," said Mrs. Hargrave.
"Helen and I are hoping that we can go to college together," said Rosanna.
"Rosanna is so dear," said Helen. "She wants to help me save, but of course that won't do."
"I don't see why not," said Rosanna. They had talked this over many times. "Do you see, Mrs. Hargrave? I never spend my allowance."
"No," said Mrs. Hargrave, "it wouldn't do at all. In the first place Helen is earning her education in a lovely way, and your allowance is given you. It is no effort for you to get it, so it does not benefit you, my little dear. Helen must go on herself. Her help could only come from a fairy godmother."
"There are no fairy godmothers," said Rosanna bitterly.
"I was beginning to think there might be," said Mrs. Hargrave.
"No," said Rosanna. "If there was a fairy godmother, just one in all the world, she would come and make my grandmother let me go out of the garden and know lots of little girls and go to school and be a Girl Scout."
Mrs. Hargrave sat thinking as she tasted her ice. Then she asked, "What are these Girl Scouts?"
"I have all the books," said Helen eagerly. "May I bring them around to show you? Then you can see just why Rosanna wants to be one. I am sure Rosanna could not be hurt by knowing a lot of little girls and learning all the things that are required of the Girl Scouts."
"Why should she be hurt?" said Mrs. Hargrave.
"Why, grandmother thinks I should not go out of my class."
"Class is all right," said Mrs. Hargrave. "It is very necessary, but what you want to look for, Rosanna, is worth. Suppose Helen here was not in your own class. Suppose her father was a laboring man of some sort, and she lived away from this part of town, that wouldn't change Helen."
Helen looked up in amazement. "But my father is—"
Mrs. Hargrave interrupted. "I will tell you what I will do, Rosanna, I will talk to your grandmother myself if she makes any objections to your going to school and all the rest." She rose as she spoke, and they wandered out to the rose garden where coffee was served for Mrs. Hargrave and where the children offered their gifts.
When she went home at last, she put an arm around each child. "This is the happiest birthday I have had. Good-night, and thank you! I will help you all I can, Rosanna, and I feel very sure, Helen, that your savings or the fairy godmother will take you to college with Rosanna. Two little girls as nice and sweet and well-bred as you ought to be friends all your lives."
She kissed them both and, carrying her presents, went down the steps leaning on the arm of her servant.
"I feel full of a happy sadness," Rosanna sighed. "I don't see why, do you?"
"No," said Helen, "only that she is so perfectly lovely. She is just as though there was two parts to her. The outside pretty, but old and wrinkled and kind of high and grand, while there is somebody just too sweet, and real young and dancy and loving on the inside. And the inside one can never grow old at all, but will go right on understanding how you feel, and when the outside gets too old to last any longer, why, she will just go and be a young, young angel."
"I guess that's it," said Rosanna. "But what a fuss there is about class and position and where you were born, isn't there?"
"Yes," said Helen. "When she was talking about workingmen I tried to tell her about my father working for your grandmother."
"Yes, she interrupted you," said Rosanna. "I don't see as it makes any difference what he does. No matter what anybody thinks, Helen, we are going to be friends? You promised me that."
"Of course," said Helen.
"Well, it was a nice party, wasn't it, Helen? I think Mrs. Hargrave did truly have a good time."
When Helen went home that night she was very quiet. Her mother thought she was tired, but Helen was thinking. She loved Mrs. Hargrave dearly, and she wanted her to know some things that she evidently was all mixed up about.
The following morning she did not go over to see Rosanna. Instead she dressed with even greater care than usual and went slowly around to Mrs. Hargrave's, where she found her in a bright little morning room, sitting before a large desk.
"I wanted to tell you something," said Helen, "and I am going to get it all mixed up. I sort of have the feeling that everything is mixed up and that I am doing something that is not quite right. So I came over to you. I didn't even tell mother because I was afraid it would worry her. You see she doesn't understand either."
"Dear me, how mysterious!" said Mrs. Hargrave.
"It is like this," said Helen, plunging into the middle. "You have been so good to me that I want to tell you that I am not one of the Culvers of Lee County or any other county. I am just the plainest sort of a little girl. I have the nicest father and mother in the whole world, but they are poor, and my father does work. He works for Mrs. Horton; he is her chauffeur, and we live in the apartment over the garage.
"What will she say, Mrs. Hargrave, when she knows what a plain little girl I am? I thought I would come and tell you about it. I don't see what difference being poor makes if one tries to be nice inside, do you?"
"No," cried Mrs. Hargrave. "It makes no difference at all. Don't let anyone make you think that. And your coming to tell me this shows me just what sort of a child you are," and she kissed Helen.
"Now, let's get this thing all straight as far as you understand it, my dear, and then I will tell you what I think about it."
So for a long time they sat together, Helen's hand in Mrs. Hargrave's while Helen told all about herself and her friendship with Rosanna, and Mrs. Hargrave chuckled when she thought of her letters to Mrs. Horton and how she had innocently misled her.
Rosanna had just finished her luncheon that very same day, when she heard Minnie talking to someone over the telephone. Minnie, seeing Rosanna behind her, merely said yes and no and hung up as soon as she could.
"What are you planning to do, Miss Rosanna?" she asked.
"This afternoon?" said Rosanna. "Well, Helen is coming over with her mother and we are going to sit on the porch of the playhouse and sew. Helen and I are going to make a couple of rompers for Baby Christopher. Helen and her mother went over to see Gwenny the other day, and Mrs. Culver says that baby actually has nothing to put on. And there is no money to buy anything with because Gwenny has had to have a new brace that cost thirty dollars. Oh, Minnie, will I be rich when I grow up?"
"Yes, you will," said Minnie.
"How much; millions?" wistfully.
"A good lot anyhow," said Minnie.
"Oh, I am so glad!" said Rosanna. "I am going to make so many people happy with it. There is such a lot of things you can do with money, Minnie, to help people. I was so sorry when I heard about that brace. I am going to save more of my allowance after this and keep listening so I will hear when somebody wants something like that. Only there are some things that you can't buy with money. I couldn't buy Helen, could I? And I couldn't buy Mrs. Hargrave."
"No, dearie, you couldn't," she said. "And I have got to trot along now because I have to go out this afternoon, and if Mrs. Culver and Helen are coming over, I know you will be all right."
Rosanna found her little workbasket and, taking a book to read until her guests came, went over to the playhouse and commenced rocking in one of the little wicker chairs.
Minnie dressed carefully but plainly and went out. Rosanna would have been much surprised if she had seen her hurry down the street and turn into Mrs. Hargrave's big house.
Mrs. Hargrave was waiting for her and after a kindly greeting she said: "Minnie, I want you to tell me all about this Culver family, and how Rosanna found Helen, and how they happen to be such good friends, and how it is that you allowed it when you know just how Mrs. Horton feels about family and all that."
Minnie did not flinch.
"I have been wanting to come and tell you all about it," she said, "but I thought that you would find out things from the children. Mrs. Horton just won't let Rosanna know any children at all. But I don't feel like saying all I would like to say, seeing how I work for Mrs. Horton."
"You would free your mind, I reckon, if you were at your own home, wouldn't you?"
"Yes, ma'am, I would!" said Minnie.
"Well, then," said Mrs. Hargrave, "suppose you and I talk as though we were just a couple of human beings who want to do a kind turn for two little girls. That Helen child was over here this morning, to tell me that she was afraid I thought she belonged to some fine family like the Culvers of Lee County. Lee County indeed! Those Culvers are scalawags, every man of them! She is lucky she doesn't own one of them for a father.
"And the honest little angel was afraid I would be disappointed when I found out who she really is. Well, Minnie, I was never so pleased with a child in my life! I am going to do something for her some day.
"Now I want to hear from you just how this friendship started. It seems a letter that I wrote to Mrs. Horton put the seal on it and I want to know where we all stand."
"Whatever we do there is going to be an awful fuss," said Minnie, sighing. She sat on the edge of the chair facing Mrs. Hargrave and told that lady more of Rosanna's lonely, friendless little life than Mrs. Hargrave had ever guessed. She told her of the difference in Rosanna since Helen had come, and her fears for the child if Mrs. Horton should come back and forbid their friendship.
"I shall just leave!" concluded Minnie.
"Don't be an idiot!" said Mrs. Hargrave, frowning. "That would be a nice thing to do with Rosanna heartbroken. Now, Minnie, all there is to this is that Mrs. Horton years and years ago had a younger sister who eloped with a no-account man whom she met when she visited his sister. They were really very common people, and Mrs. Horton's little sister died of a broken heart.
"When Mrs. Horton married, her children were boys, as you know, and she carried her bitterness in her heart until her son's little orphan girl came to live with her. She is making a great mistake with Rosanna and she must somehow be made to see it before it is too late. But that is the reason for her foolishness.
"She adored her little sister, and she adores Rosanna. I am sorry the affair is so mixed up, but you just leave it to me. In the meantime do just as you are doing and give the girls all the chance you can to have a good time. I will stand back of little Helen if I have to adopt her. I suppose her parents are healthy?"
Minnie giggled. "Yes, ma'am; healthy and real young."
"Well, well, there must be some other way then," said Mrs. Hargrave, smiling. "To start, I will write Mrs. Horton a letter just before she returns, and I think a heart-to-heart talk will arrange things nicely."
In the meantime, Mrs. Culver had helped the girls cut out two sets of dark, comfortable rompers, and Rosanna had sewed them up on her little machine.
Mrs. Culver was also making a romper for Baby Christopher. Hers was a cunning one for Sunday, a little pink check with bands of plain pink, and buttons nearly as big as tea saucers sewed on wherever a button would go.
Mrs. Culver was a wise woman, and she knew that Baby Christopher, small as he was, would have a good effect on his many brothers and sisters if he could be made beautiful and dressy on the one day in the week when the busy family had time to enjoy his cunning ways. So Christopher was to have three rompers—good, new, beautiful rompers of his own.
While Mrs. Culver sat thinking the two girls talked about the opening of the Girl Scout troop in the school Helen was to enter in the fall.
One morning Mrs. Hargrave was called to the telephone to speak with Mrs. Culver. Mrs. Culver wanted to know if Mrs. Hargrave thought it would be all right to take the two girls to Fontaine Ferry for the afternoon, eat their supper there, and return when the children had had a chance to see the electrical display.
"It is the sort of a place one always wants to see once, like Coney Island," she said, "and I think the girls are about the right age to have a good time there for a few hours without being disillusioned."
Mrs. Hargrave agreed with her.
"It will be a wild adventure for Rosanna," she said. "I have faith in Helen keeping her head, but you must watch Rosanna. If she looks too feverish, bring her home, please."
"I will indeed," promised Mrs. Culver.
"Of course you will; I am not afraid," said Mrs. Hargrave. "Send the children around here before you start."
Once more Uncle Robert's hamper was dragged out and stocked with good things. They were to start at three o'clock. When they were ready they went skipping down the street to Mrs. Hargrave's house.
"Well, Rosanna," she said, "I wonder what your grandmother will say to me when she finds out that I have given you permission to go to Fontaine Ferry? I know you will have a splendid time. I have never been there myself, and I am sorry that I can't go today. I am obliged to take the six o'clock train for the country. Cousin Hendy has sent for me post haste. She says she is at the point of death. I suppose this time it is cucumbers. They are about ripe now.
"I want you both to remember everything you do, so you can tell me about it. If I stay in the country for a few days, Rosanna, I will write a letter to your grandmother telling her just what I think about a great many things, and urging her to let you join the Girl Scouts.
"And as long as I can't go and have a good time spending my money, I want you children to take it and spend it for me. This is not for your education, Helen. I want you to promise to spend it, every bit."
They kissed her good-by and calling their thanks went dancing away.
The car was waiting, and off they went on the pleasant ride through the city and out Broadway. As there was plenty of time, they drove through Shawnee Park and along the bluff overlooking the Ohio River creeping sluggishly past. Then they turned, and went a short mile to the entrance to the Ferry.
Parking the car, they went in, Mr. Culver bringing the hamper of supper. The Ferry is a very large place and every foot of it is covered with tan-bark, smooth and brown and springy. Rosanna felt as though she was walking in a riding academy. Everything was exquisitely clean.
As the children walked along, they commenced to hear music everywhere and to see the merry-go-rounds whirling, the Ferris wheel spinning high in the air, the squeals from the shute-the-shutes, and hundreds of other fascinating noises. They found a place where they could check the hamper and coats, and sat down on a bench for a little to look around.
Presently Helen's father said, "Well, we will have to start if we want to see everything. Shall we have a ride on the merry-go-round to start with?"
Rosanna drew out her envelope.
"We must spend our dollar," she said and tore it open. Helen did the same. Each envelope held a clean new ten dollar bill. The children looked at them in amazement.
"And I can't use it for college!" Helen wailed. "She made me promise to spend it."
When they reached the merry-go-round, they chose the wildest looking horses and mounted them in fear and trembling. When they had finished the wonderful five minutes, they tried the chariots. Then there was a certain camel that looked safe and steady, and Helen rode a lion.
They wanted to ride all day, but Helen's father warned them that there were other things to see. They walked along looking everywhere at once when Rosanna gave a scream. She found herself looking into a mirror, clear and bright; but what had it done to Rosanna? She was really a thin little girl who had often had to take cod liver oil. In the mirror she gazed at a fat chunk with Rosanna's features and hair and about ten times Rosanna's breadth. It was quite terrifying. Then she heard an awed gasp from Helen followed by a shriek of laughter, and ran over to see what was left of Helen in a mirror that had drawn her out to the thickness of a needle. Together the girls looked and laughed.
After they had torn themselves away from this amusement, they came to a booth where dozens of rings like embroidery hoops could be thrown over pegs in the wall. Each peg had a prize hanging above it: gold watches, diamond rings, wrist watches, gold and silver bracelets, and dozens of other things. But most of the pegs had little bright tin tags or medals and you had to get ten of those before you could exchange them for a near-gold breast-pin.
Helen and Rosanna were very much excited over this, and could have been quite covered with medals. They would not throw the rings on any peg that was worth while. Finally they moved on in disgust, after paying the man about a dollar apiece.
On a corner were a group of little burros, the tiny Mexican donkeys and children could ride along to the corner and back for ten cents. Nothing in the whole world could make those donkeys go off a slow walk. They knew perfectly well that it didn't pay to frisk up their heels and bolt, so they simply wagged an ear or flirted a tail if the children slapped them.
"I suppose they have traveled to that corner fifty million times," said Helen, watching the solemn procession take its way with the donkey boys following close on the donkeys' heels and shouting to them to "Giddap!"
"Poor dears!" said Rosanna. "How tired of it all they must be!"
It took a lot of argument before they decided to try the Ferris wheel, but Rosanna wisely said that it would probably be the last chance she would ever have to try it, and Helen said that she wouldn't want to come unless Rosanna could, so the children seated themselves and were strapped in the basket, and presently when all the little basket seats were full, off they went. It was perfectly frightful when you have just been a simple human being all your life and suddenly try sailing up and around all at the same time! At the top there was a drop, a sort of launching out right into space, and the girls clung to each other and shut their eyes.
After they had rested awhile they went along, threading their way through the crowds until they came to the roller coaster.
Here they sat in a little car which held four people, but Mrs. Culver still refused to leave the ground. They embarked from a little platform, and were in one car of a little train of four. On the other side of the platform four other cars were filling up. When all the seats were taken, someone gave a signal and off went the little trains down such a steep grade that their rush carried them far up another incline. This was repeated over and over until they had reached a great height. Here there was a sheer drop as straight as it could be made without taking the cars off the rails, and down they went, turning and twisting. All at once they were plunged into a pitch black tunnel.
"Oh, oh, oh!" cried Rosanna. It was the first time she had screamed, but she did not hear herself because everyone else was screaming too.
Then as suddenly as they had plunged into the dark, they came out into the light again, gave a few more turns and drops for good measure, and stopped at the very identical place where they started.
They got out of their car, and staggered, rather than walked, over to Mrs. Culver, who was laughing at them. Rosanna's long curls were blown every which way around her small, dark face, and Helen's bobbed hair was sticking straight up.
"There is a Trip to the Moon right over here," said Mr. Culver. "Don't you want to go?"
"No, thank you," said Rosanna feebly, and Helen said, "Why, daddy, I couldn't bear another thing today! Let's go back and ride those nice steady wooden horses."
They walked back to the merry-go-round, and spent a happy half hour riding the menagerie. After that it was time to get supper. It always takes a long time to eat a picnic supper, and dusk was close when at last they finished. One by one the stars came out and then as though touched by a great spring, Fontaine Ferry burst into a dazzling blaze of electric lights.
Blazing, twinkling, winking, the lights hung or turned or whirled. White, colored groups, and single stars, among the trees, down the wide drive-ways, the Ferry had turned into fairyland.
"This is the best of all," said Rosanna softly.
"Isn't it?" answered Helen, her eyes wide. "How I wish Mrs. Hargrave could see it! That young Mrs. Hargrave that is inside the old shell of a Mrs. Hargrave would have all sorts of pretty thoughts about it. Don't you know she would?"
"Tomorrow you must come over real early," said Rosanna as they rode home, squeezing Helen's hand. "And I owe grandmother a letter. It will be easy to make a nice letter out of all we have seen. I wish Mrs. Hargrave would come home to-morrow."
The car drove up before the big house, and Rosanna, tired out, but so very, very happy, thanked Mr. and Mrs. Culver and ran up the steps. The car waited, purring at the curb, to see that the door was promptly opened. Rosanna heard the lock shoot back and the knob turn.
"It's all right," she said, looking down at the car. With a wave and a smile Mr. Culver drove off, and happy little Rosanna turned slowly, speaking as she did so.
"Oh, Minnie dear, I have had the bestest sort of a time!" she said. "I only wish you—" She looked up. Her grandmother stood before her.
"Why, grandmother, when did you get home?" said Rosanna with a smile, lifting her face to be kissed.
Her grandmother did not bend down. Instead she stood very stiff and straight, looking at Rosanna with hard, cold, angry eyes that cut her like swords.
"Go to your room!" said Mrs. Horton in a dreadful voice.
Rosanna turned pale, but she looked steadily into her grandmother's cold eyes.
"I have done nothing wrong, grandmother," she said. "I—"
"Go to your room!" repeated Mrs. Horton, pointing to the stairs. "I will attend to you later."
Rosanna slowly climbed the broad staircase, clinging to the handrail and dragging her feet like a very tired old woman instead of a dear little happy girl. She felt herself trembling. Over and over she thought of what she had just said to Helen of her grandmother: "I am sure she means to be kind." Yet here, without a word of explanation, she was ordered to her room without a single greeting, as though she had indeed done something very naughty. Reaching her room, she sat down on the side of her bed and tried to think it out. What had she done? Where was Minnie?
Minnie: where was she? Minnie could tell her what had come to pass to make her grandmother so angry. She walked unsteadily over to the table and pressed the electric button by which she always summoned Minnie when she needed her.
Almost at once the door opened; but it was not Minnie. Mrs. Horton came in and closed the door.
"What do you want?" she asked harshly.
"I rang for Minnie," said Rosanna in a low voice.
"You can get to bed as best you can," said Mrs. Horton. "Minnie will not be allowed to see you. Minnie has been discharged. She is untrustworthy, and I would have sent her packing to-night, but she insisted on her right to stay under this roof until morning. So she is in her room where I have ordered her to remain."
"Can't I see her again ever, grandmother?" asked Rosanna, with trembling lips.
"Certainly not!" said Mrs. Horton. "You are a bad, ungrateful child. Get to bed as best you can! I cannot trust myself to talk to you to-night. Tomorrow I will tell you what I think of the way you have acted in my absence."
"I have not been naughty," said Rosanna. "I did just as you told me I could do. I saved your letter so I could show you if you said anything about it. Oh, grandmother, please, I have not been naughty! I have been so happy."
"Happy!" sneered Mrs. Horton. "Happy! There is a low streak in you. To think of the way you have been acting—I will see you to-morrow after I have seen Mrs. Hargrave, and when I can control myself."
She swept from the room without saying good-night, and Rosanna remained seated on the bed, her head whirling, her mouth dry and quivering.
Rosanna did not try to undress. Warm as it was, she was chilled to the bone. What would happen to Helen? And of course Mr. Culver would have to go. An hour went by, and another. She heard her grandmother coming up the stairs. Quick as thought she pressed the button and the room was pitch dark. Her grandmother approached her door, opened it a crack and listened. Hearing nothing, seeing nothing, she closed it and went on to her own room.
Rosanna breathed freely again, and turned on the light. An overpowering desire to see Minnie swept over her. She must see Minnie, must comfort her and be comforted. She felt that she would go mad if she had to spend the night alone. She looked at the little gold clock on her table. It was eleven o'clock.
She slipped off her shoes, and noticed for the first time that she was still wearing her coat and hat. She tossed them aside, once more put out the light, and tiptoed toward the door. She was going to Minnie.
With the greatest care she turned the knob and opened the door a crack. She opened the door wide and stepped into the blackness of the hall.
Something soft and warm and human collided with her. Hands clutched her, and a well-known voice whispered, "Dearie!"
After the first moment of fright, Rosanna felt herself go limp. She clung fast.
"Oh, Minnie, Minnie!" she choked.
"Hush!" whispered Minnie. She drew Rosanna into her own room, closed the door, and switched on the light.
"Oh, my precious lamb!" she said. "What did she do to you? Oh, why didn't I come sooner? You look fit to die. Come, dearie, and let your Minnie do for you to-night."
She took Rosanna on her lap and tenderly undressed her. Then she folded a warm kimono around the shivering, nervous child and, sitting down in a deep chair, took her on her lap and held her tight.
Rosanna stiffened and sat up. "Suppose she comes in?" she said.
"No danger!" said Minnie. "I turned the key." She laughed. "If she wants to see you again she will have to wait until to-morrow, no matter what. I don't intend to see that look on your pretty dear face much longer. Now tell your Minnie just what happened."
"I don't seem to be able to remember much about it," said the tired and frightened child; "only when I came home,—and oh, Minnie, we did have such a good time!—there was grandmother at the door instead of you. And she seems to think that I have done something that has disgraced her, and she won't tell me anything at all until to-morrow, only she told me to come to my room and go to bed if I could get to bed without you and she said you were untrustworthy—and—and that she had sent you to your room to stay until to-morrow, and then she is going to make you go, and oh, Minnie, Minnie, what shall I ever do without you?"
"There, there! Minnie will find some way of staying near you if she has to wear a wig and make believe she is somebody else entirely."
"What have I done?" asked Rosanna. "Was it all because we went to Fontaine Ferry? Mrs. Hargrave said I might go."
"A little of it is that," said Minnie, "but the worst of her madness is because you have been playing with a little girl clean out of your own class, as she puts it, and she blames everybody. Everybody that she can discharge has got to go—and I guess that will be about everybody but you."
"Then I might as well die," said Rosanna. "I can't go back and live the way I used to live. You know I can't do it, Minnie. I can't; I just can't! Oh, Minnie, it seems as though I had only been happy for three weeks in all my life, and what shall I do? I do love Helen, and she is just as nice as I am, and so are her mother and father. Oh, don't you suppose Uncle Robert can fix it?"
"He didn't come home with her," said Minnie. "When he does the mischief will be done. It is just her sinful pride, if I do say it about your grandmother, and sure as sure there will come a day and that soon, when her pride will have a fall. I only wish I could run away with you, dearie. But you will have to be brave, and I will see you as soon as ever I can. You know my telephone number, and if she ever goes out you just call me up."
"I don't feel brave," whispered Rosanna, hiding her face on Minnie's shoulder. "I don't see how I will ever bear to stay alone all night."
"That you needn't if you would like your Minnie," said she. "Just you get into your bed and be quiet, and I will be back in a minute." She tucked Rosanna between the sheets, and hurried away as silent as a shadow.
In a few minutes she returned, ready for the night. She drew a big couch close beside Rosanna's little bed and lay down.
"There we are!" she said, taking Rosanna's hand. "Now look here, Rosanna. In the morning when your grandmother talks to you, don't try to talk back, and whatever you do, don't be afraid. Just let her talk, and tell her to see Mrs. Hargrave. She has seen me all she ever wants to, I guess, but Mrs. Hargrave is not afraid of anybody. I wish she was here. Now you will remember what I say, won't you, dear? Don't be afraid."
"What will she do to Helen?" asked Rosanna.
"Do to Helen?" said Minnie, sitting up. "Do to Helen? Well, she won't get within shouting distance of Helen. I guess I have not been shut up in my room all evening so as anyone would notice it. The Culvers are all prepared, and Helen won't know anything about it until long after it is all over."
"That is good," sighed Rosanna. "I can't bear to have Helen unhappy as I am. It does seem as though I have to be unhappy such a lot, don't you think so, Minnie?"
Minnie leaned over and kissed her.
"Poor child!" she said softly. "Never you mind! I have a feeling that there is something good coming out of this. I don't know what, but you must bear whatever your grandmother says to you with that thought in mind, and remember what I say."
"I will try," promised Rosanna, and then because she was exhausted with the shock of the evening after the tiresome but glorious day Rosanna, clasping Minnie's hand tight, went to sleep immediately.
When she awoke next day it was very late, and the sun was shining through the flowered chintz curtains. She felt something queer and crackly in the bed by her foot, and threw back the covers. There was a letter tied to her ankle by a piece of ribbon. Rosanna could not help laughing, it was such a funny place to put a letter.
"Dearie," it read, "we slept like tops both of us, and now I must get out of here before your grandmother wakes up. I am going to tie this to your ankle because that is the only place she would never think to look if she should come in while you are still asleep, and go to looking through things, though the saints know there is nothing she is not welcome to see as we have every button on, and not a rip anywhere.
"I take this pencil in hand to tell you that I stayed all night and held your hand. At any rate you were holding mine when I woke up not long ago.
"Now I am going to leave right off, as I do not care to eat again under this roof, things being as they are. I don't know about your going down to breakfast. If you wake late enough, she will be over at Mrs. Hargrave's and you could have your breakfast up here. Just ring the bell three times. I will fix it with Hannah to bring you a tray as soon as ever you call.
"Don't forget what I told you last night about being afraid. There is nothing for you to be afraid of, and you can do for yourself now just as nicely as though you were a grown-up young lady. And don't forget that just as soon as your Minnie is married you can come to see me just as often as you please, and I don't think it will hurt you to come and see your own nursemaid in her own little house which is already being paid for in instalments, and you can cook candy in my kitchen which is to be blue and white in honor of the playhouse, and we will feel honored to have you, and no one to object whatever you do.
"I must go now. Oh, dear, I'll worry every second: but don't you fret one mite, Rosanna dear, as there is nothing at all to worry about.
Her kind, good Minnie! There was one who loved her anyway. And she knew Helen loved her.
She determined to be brave. When she thought everything over, she could not feel that she had done anything wrong in the least. But when her grandmother talked to her, she always felt guilty of everything that her grandmother wanted her to feel guilty about. She dreaded seeing Mrs. Horton. There was a knock on the door and there was her breakfast, the best that cook could send up.
Rosanna was very hungry, and there was nothing left but plates and cups and saucers when she finished and pressed the bell button. Hannah hurried up and took the tray.
"We think you had better not say anything about this until you see what your grandmother is going to do," said Hannah and hurried off while Rosanna settled herself to wait.
Presently the door opened. Mrs. Horton, more pale and angry than ever, came in. She was carrying a plate. There was a glass of water and a slice of bread on it. She set it down hard on the table.
"There is your breakfast," said Mrs. Horton, looking at Rosanna with her steely eyes. "Bread and water will be part of your punishment."
"I am not hungry," said Rosanna in a low tone.
"Then you may leave it there until you are," said her grandmother. "Bread and water will be your fare until you have apologized to me and have proved that you regret your disgraceful conduct while I was away."
"I don't think that I did anything that was disgraceful, grandmother," said Rosanna gently.
"You will when I get through with you," said her grandmother grimly. "I hope I may be able to bring you to your senses. I am only sorry you are too big a girl to punish as I would like to punish you."
"Have you seen Mrs. Hargrave?" asked Rosanna.
"She is away. I suppose that is one reason that you went wild."
"I did nothing without asking her if it would be all right," said Rosanna.
"That seems impossible," said Mrs. Horton.
"It is true," asserted Rosanna.
"Rosanna, be careful what you say!" exclaimed her grandmother angrily.
Remembering what Minnie had advised, Rosanna said nothing.
Her grandmother continued, "I have thought this all over and you know as well as I do what you have done, and how you have offended me, and I see no use in talking about it at all. You will stay here on a diet of bread and water until you are in a different frame of mind. I don't need to have you tell me how you feel, or what you think. A look at your face is quite sufficient. You are stubborn and unrepentant. Perhaps after a week or two spent thinking, you will see things in a different light. You will not be allowed any privileges at all. You will not even have your lessons. When your Uncle Robert comes home, you will not see him unless you have repented enough to be allowed to come down to your meals. Do you understand?"
Something queer and hard and grown-up came into Rosanna's soul. She looked her angry grandmother straight in the eye.
"Grandmother," she said very gently, "I hope you will not say anything that you will be sorry for."
"Don't be impertinent!" said Mrs. Horton.
"I don't mean to be," said Rosanna.
"You are!" said Mrs. Horton.
Rosanna turned around. "Oh, grandmother!" she commenced, then stopped.
"Oh, grandmother what?" asked Mrs. Horton.
"Nothing. Excuse me," said Rosanna.
"Then that's all," said Mrs. Horton. "You understand me?"
"I think I do," said Rosanna. She did not look up, and Mrs. Horton, unable to catch her eye, left the room.
Lunch time came, and with it her grandmother with a fresh glass of water and another slice of bread. Immediately after, Hannah appeared with a tray of luncheon.
Rosanna was really not hungry, but she was wise enough to know that it was a very bad thing to go without eating, especially when one has decided on a very serious and terrifying step. The afternoon dragged away.
At five her grandmother came in and offered her still another glass of water and slice of bread. Rosanna thanked her.
"Have you anything to say to me?" asked Mrs. Horton.
"No, grandmother," replied Rosanna, "only that I am very sorry that you are angry with me, and I hope some day you will be sorry too that you did not love me when I was here to love."
"Do you think of leaving?" said Mrs. Horton sneeringly. "You had better tell me where you are going so I can send your clothes. I believe that is the way they do with the sort of people you have been making friends with."
Rosanna did not reply:
"Let me catch you leaving this room!" said Mrs. Horton. She went out and closed the door. Rosanna nodded her head. Her mind was made up. She crossed to the dainty dresser, and switching on the lights did something she had never done in her life. Rosanna was not vain in the least, but if you could have seen her then, turning this way and that, lifting her long, heavy curls, wadding them on top of her head, or trying them in a long braid, you would have said that she seemed to be a very vain little girl indeed.
She appeared satisfied at last with what she saw in the glass, and noticed that it was growing quite dark.
She went over to her little bed, and knelt.
"Please, dear Lord," she whispered, "I don't want to do anything wrong. Please help me because I am so afraid. And now that Minnie is gone and Helen, please give me somebody to love me. Amen."
She felt better after that, and sat down by the window. It was almost dark....
When Mrs. Horton left Rosanna, she went down to the big, dim library and, seating herself at her desk, commenced to write letters. She found it difficult to collect her thoughts and there was a bad feeling in her heart, as though she was wrong, as though she was doing something unwise, unkind, and perhaps really wicked. But she thrust it out of her thoughts because she didn't think that she ever could do anything really wrong.
Something pressed hard on her heart, and she grew very restless. Some impulse led her to go to the telephone and call Mrs. Hargrave on the long distance line.
Mrs. Hargrave, who was very much bored by Cousin Hendy, was delighted to hear her old friend's voice. She did not let Mrs. Horton get a word in edgewise for the first two minutes. She seemed to think Mrs. Horton didn't care how much that telephone call was going to cost. She asked how she was, and how Robert was, and had he found his lost friend, and she certainly hoped he had, and when had they returned, and oh, wasn't it too bad Robert had been unable to come with his mother?
Then like a person who saves the best to the last, she asked with a note of triumph in her voice:
"Well, how do you think your darling Rosanna looks? I suppose you know she has gained five pounds while you were away. I think she is vastly improved. And so happy! My dear, of course, it is hard for us to realize it, but I think once in awhile it is a good thing to get right out and let the home people do for themselves and learn to depend on themselves a little. Don't you?"
Mrs. Horton smiled grimly. "It has certainly not worked out here to any great advantage, during my absence," she said.
"What?" asked Mrs. Hargrave. "I don't believe I hear you."
Mrs. Horton spoke into the telephone with careful distinctness. "If you do not know what has happened during my absence," she said, "I will tell you the state of affairs existing here in my home now, and you may be able to guess that something serious has occurred. In the first place Rosanna is in her room on a diet of bread and water. My chauffeur, with his pushing wife and ordinary child, has been discharged, and told to vacate to-morrow. Rosanna's maid, Minnie, had been discharged and is gone. All the servants have had severe scoldings."
There was a long silence, then Mrs. Hargrave said, "Are you crazy?"
"Not at all!" said Mrs. Horton.
"I will be home to-morrow morning," said Mrs. Hargrave. "I'll have to get there as soon as I can to keep you from making more of your dreadful mistakes. In the meantime, I am ashamed of you. Don't you go near Rosanna with your cutting speeches until I see you. Oh, I can't talk to you! Good-night!"
She rang off and Mrs. Horton slowly replaced the receiver. No, she did not intend to go near Rosanna. Rosanna was settled for the night so far as she was concerned. On her way up to bed, she opened the door of Rosanna's room, and listened. The child was sleeping so calmly that her grandmother could not even hear her breathe. She could see the little mound that Rosanna's body made on the bed, but she did not go into the room. She went on to her own room and sat down to think. The light was dim; just one small night light burning, and Mrs. Horton sat down in her favorite lounging chair and gave herself up to her unhappy thoughts. She was conscious of a feeling of wrongdoing yet she did not recognize it as such. Instead, she was sure that she had been very deeply wronged. After all her teaching, after all the years she had spent guarding Rosanna, on the first chance the child had slipped away from all she had been told. She shuddered when she thought of it, remembering her own young sister and her unhappy fate. She did not realize that she was judging all humanity by the commonplace young scamp her sister had unfortunately married. It did not occur to her to ask herself if all the fine young men and women her son knew were also of that type.
The next thing she knew, the cold woke her. It was dawn, and she had slept in her chair all night. She was chilled to the bone. She slowly undressed, and feeling sore and stiff, took a hot bath and wrapped up in a warm kimono. She was about to lie down and finish the night when she thought of Rosanna.
Mrs. Horton stepped into a pair of slippers and crossed the room. As she passed her desk, she looked up full at the picture of her dead son and his wife, Rosanna's father and mother. She stopped. Somehow those faces would not let her pass. They held her with sad, questioning eyes.
"What are you doing with our little child?" they seemed to say. "Have you loved her, mother? Have you been tender with her? Have you tried to understand her? Have you remembered that she is just a baby?"
Mrs. Horton thought of Rosanna in her beautiful, lonely room way down the corridor. She commenced to have a very guilty feeling.
"Have you loved her?" asked the two sad faces. "Have you been tender with her, mother?"
"I have done my duty by the child," answered Mrs. Horton. She went down the corridor to Rosanna's room, her head held high. The cold, pallid light of the hour just before day filled the house.
Mrs. Horton opened Rosanna's door and went in. She looked long at the little bed as though she could not believe her eyes. Then crossing, she opened the bathroom door, and then the clothespress, calling Rosanna's name sharply. There was no reply. The little dog followed her into the room and went sniffing and whining about. Mrs. Horton rushed back to the bed and saw that the little mound she had thought in the dark the night before was Rosanna was only a neat pile of little dresses.
Rosanna was gone!
Mrs. Horton remembered that the child was very fond of a wide seat in the library. She hurried down the broad stairs, expecting to find that the lonely child had crept down there to sit awhile and, like herself, had dropped to sleep, but the big room was empty. Mrs. Horton's heart commenced to hammer in a very strange way. Of course Rosanna must be in the house somewhere, and although she felt it was a very undignified thing to do, she went from room to room making a close and careful search of every nook where a child could hide. There was not a single sign of the little girl. Mrs. Horton had hoped to find Rosanna without calling the servants, but as she looked and looked, and the knowledge came to her that perhaps Rosanna was not in the house at all, she was filled with terror. She commenced to press the electric buttons frantically and, wide-eyed and half dressed, the household commenced to gather from the servants' wing.
She managed somehow to let them know that Rosanna had disappeared, and everyone commenced a search that stretched to the playhouse, the pony stable and the garden.
She staggered up to her room and with shaking hands commenced to dress herself. The two sad faces on the wall stared at her.
"Oh, mother, mother, where is our baby?" they asked.
"Gone—gone—" said Mrs. Horton.
Rosanna was gone. When or where or how no one could tell. By eight o'clock on that dreadful morning the neighborhood had been scoured, the alleys searched and the police were talking darkly of kidnapers and of dragging the river.
Mrs. Horton knew that no one could have entered the house, but she was at a loss to see how Rosanna could have been taken out or have gone out without being seen, even if she had not gone before dark. The neighborhood was full of children, and no one, young or old, had seen Rosanna, who was well known by sight by everyone on the block.
At quarter past eight, to Mrs. Horton's surprise, Mrs. Hargrave walked in. It was evident by her distressed look and trembling hands that she had learned what had happened.
"Well, Virginia, you have done it this time!" she said. "I have been telling you for the last forty years that your unholy pride would get you into trouble, and it has. If anything happens to hurt Rosanna—well, I just won't tell you what I think; I reckon you know without my saying it. Now begin at the beginning and tell me in as few words as possible just what you did to her. I don't want to know now what you thought she had done or what you thought about it yourself. I want to know what you did to Rosanna."
Mrs. Hargrave seated herself on the edge of a chair as though she might fly off at any moment. She listened intently while Mrs. Horton, still thinking of the accusing eyes in the two pictures, told how she had punished Rosanna.
When she had finished, Mrs. Hargrave spoke. "I don't see how you will ever forgive yourself."
"I couldn't bear to have her grow up rough and coarse like so many of these modern children. I wanted to keep her away from all lowering influences."
"Fiddle-dee-dee!" said Mrs. Hargrave, beating a tiny hand on the arm of her chair. "Fiddle-dee-dee and fiddlesticks with your 'lowering influences'! What did you do but leave her to her own thoughts and no one to talk to but a stiff old woman and a houseful of servants? Well, you have done it! What are you doing to find her?"
"I have put it in the hands of the police, and they have an extra shift of detectives searching the city." Mrs. Horton trembled so she could scarcely speak.
"Detectives, yes!" said Mrs. Hargrave. "Walking around the alley, two and two, looking for all the little girls with long, black curls. That's about all that will do for you. Have you called Minnie?"
"I don't know where she lives," parried Mrs. Horton.
"Well, I do!" said Mrs. Hargrave.
She hurried to the telephone, and after a moment returned. "She will be right over," she said.
"That does not seem necessary," said Mrs. Horton. She dreaded to see Minnie.
"It does to me," said Mrs. Hargrave. She softened a little. "Now, my dear," she said, "you are not able to carry this thing through alone. A frightful thing has happened, and it is likely that we may never see our little Rosanna again." She choked back the tears. "Have you spoken to Mr. Culver?"
"Who is he?" asked Mrs. Horton. "The name sounds familiar."
"It ought to!" said Mrs. Hargrave. "A splendid fellow—your chauffeur."
"I thought his name was Carver," said Mrs. Horton. "You all write so badly. No, I have not seen him; he is the cause, or part of the cause of this dreadful affair."
"Not so much as I am if you are going to look at it like that," said Mrs. Hargrave. "Next to Rosanna, his daughter is the nicest little girl I ever saw. I am going to do something for her some day, and I will thank you, my dear, not to abuse her. Now I want you to send for John. I want to see him if you don't."
"I think the police captain saw him," said Mrs. Horton.
"Shall I ring that bell or will you?" demanded her friend.
Mrs. Horton rose.
"Send for the chauffeur," she ordered the house boy.
"I think they's gone, ma'am," he said.
"Well, you run as fast as ever you can and tell them not to go," said Mrs. Hargrave. "Mrs. Horton wants to see both Mr. and Mrs. Culver."
The house boy bolted.
The Culvers came gravely in. Both looked pale and distressed. Mrs. Horton studied Mrs. Culver with surprise. Well dressed, beautiful and refined, she was not the woman Mrs. Horton had expected to see.
Mrs. Hargrave took charge.
"Good-morning, my dears," she said. "There is just one thing for us all to do now, and that is to put aside all personal feelings, just as you would want your friends to do if something dreadful had happened to our dear Helen, and all work together to see if we cannot save our little Rosanna from whatever fate has overtaken her. I wondered if you have ever heard her say anything that would lead you to think that if she did leave this house of her own accord, she would go to any one person?"
"Only Minnie," said Mrs. Culver in a voice as cultivated and low as Mrs. Hargrave's own.
"I have sent for Minnie," said Mrs. Hargrave. "I talked to her over the telephone and she knows nothing at all about Rosanna, but she is coming over at once. I want you to tell us, Mrs. Culver, if you ever heard Rosanna say anything that would lead you to think that she would run away."
Mrs. Culver hesitated, then with a flush said:
"I think it is only my duty to say that Rosanna was the loneliest child I have ever seen. If she is found, I hope that something can be done to place her among people who will give her not only care, but love."
"How dare you say that I did not love her?" cried Mrs. Horton.
"I say it because I love Rosanna," said Mrs. Culver, "and I cannot help thinking that if my child should be left motherless, I would rather wish her dead than brought up as you are trying to bring her up, Mrs. Horton.
"Oh, why, why did you not let her have her friends? If you object to us because we are simple people and poor, why did you not see to it that she had friends in her 'own set' as you call it? And as for the friendship between my child and Rosanna, we had your own letter for our permission."
"We certainly did," said Mrs. Hargrave.
"I cannot talk about this now," said Mrs. Horton. "Please leave me."
"Don't you go a step farther than your own house, John," said Mrs. Hargrave briskly. "I am going to give orders for awhile. Mrs. Horton, as you see, is overcome. We need you. Take one of the cars and ride about and see what you can see, John, and you, my dear, stand ready to do anything that you can, like the fine girl that you are." She smiled and the two left the room, tears streaming down the face of Mrs. Culver. As they went slowly through the garden, Minnie burst through the gate, and rushed toward the house. She did not even see them. She hurried to the library, and hesitating for a second to pull herself together, knocked on the door and entered as Mrs. Horton called, "Come!"
Minnie bowed, and Mrs. Hargrave at once said: "Minnie, can you imagine where Rosanna would go if she left home, when she was as unhappy as she was last night?"
"Only to my house," said Minnie. "If anybody abused her as I will say they did, yet mentioning no names, and if anybody made a prisoner of her, and spent most of their time year in and out making her unhappy, and with you away, Mrs. Hargrave, I know if my darling Miss Rosanna was let to go anywhere of her own free will, she would come to her Minnie who loves her. That child needed to be cuddled and loved, Mrs. Hargrave, ma'am, and I was the only person about here who ever held her on a lap, and I know she would start for me. But you'll not find her for one long while. How she got out of the house I don't know. But why she went I can pretty well guess, and what if a gang of robbers should meet Miss Rosanna going along all alone and her so beautiful with her long curls and pretty dresses? What would they do but pick her up right off, and carry her away and hold her for some people who didn't appreciate her when they had her, to pay them a fortune to get her back?" Here Minnie commenced to cry.
"Don't do that!" said Mrs. Horton sharply. "I can't stand it!"
Minnie turned to her.
"Mrs. Horton, now that the dear child is stolen and by this time probably murdered and buried, and no one the wiser, I think it is only right to tell you that it is all your fault. While I was working here and felt that I could do for Miss Rosanna, I was careful to say nothing at all, and it can never be laid to me that I said one word against you to your granddaughter. No, ma'am, Mrs. Horton, I was true to the wages I earned. I never said one word even to my young man about the way you froze all the happiness out of that dear departed child. And what I could do I did. I tucked her in at night and always kissed her, and when I found out how she wanted to be held tight, I held her and told her fairy stories. And I found out all I could about her father and mother from the other servants, and from cook who has been here for forty years or so, and I told her all the funny things her father did when he was a little boy, and she said it made her feel real acquainted with 'em.
"And she heard or read about putting candles and flowers in front of the statues and paintings of the saints, and she wanted to do it with her mother and father, but she knew she would be told not, so she used to put little bunches of flowers back of the pictures between them and the wall, and mercy knows if they have stained the wall paper. And when they was faded I used to take them out, and oh dear, she was so sweet!"
Minnie choked, Mrs. Hargrave cried quite openly, and Mrs. Horton, deadly pale and dry-eyed, sat shaking like a leaf, her eyes fixed on the painting of her son on the opposite wall.
"And I think it was a shame and a SIN and a CRIME," said Minnie hotly, "that nobody but me did these things for her, Mrs. Hargrave, ma'am!
"And now she's gone, and I'll say she's somewhere dead of a broken heart just because she wasn't let to have a single friend and that Helen, the nicest child I ever did see except Miss Rosanna, and what if she was poor? And I don't know what good blood is if it don't show in nice manners and pretty speech and pleasant thoughts and Helen Culver had nothing else.
"Oh, I just feel we will never see Miss Rosanna again, and what did she wear off?"
"I don't know," said Mrs. Horton, speaking for the first time.
"You better find out!" said Minnie tartly.
"The detectives know," said Mrs. Horton.
"Oh, Mrs. Horton I sound hard on you, but it's all true, and I can't take it back, and I'm not working here or I wouldn't have said it: but I wish there was something I could do. What can I do? I'd like to pick up her room if I might, please."
"The detectives do not want it touched," said Mrs. Horton. "There is nothing you can do."
Minnie, wiping her eyes, vanished in the direction of the kitchen to see the cook, and Mrs. Horton turned to Mrs. Hargrave.
"Does it seem to you that these people have any right to attack me like this?" she asked with dry lips. "I was not hard with Rosanna. I loaded her with toys and pleasures, and I think they are all very hard on me."
"What do you think about yourself?" asked Mrs. Hargrave gently. "Did you ever hold her and laugh with her, and tell her stories?"
"No; it was not my way," said Mrs. Horton.
"But it was the way of a child," said Mrs. Hargrave. "The way of a tender little motherless child! I do not want to be hard on you, but I have told you for forty years that your pride would be your undoing."
"The telephone!" said Mrs. Horton. She rushed to the instrument and talked for a little with a member of the police force, then she came dragging back to the library.
"They have finished searching the hospitals, and nowhere is there a child answering to the description of Rosanna. I was actually hoping to find her in one of the hospitals."
Suddenly she buried her proud head in her hands and broke into hard sobs. Mrs. Hargrave went over and put an arm around the bowed shoulders. Presently Mrs. Horton said: "If we only get her back! I never meant to be hard, but I did try so hard to bring her up so she would never have to live and die as unhappily as my little sister, and I felt that if she could be made unbending and proud she would never choose unworthy friends."
"But you were wrong, my dear," said Mrs. Hargrave. "Don't you see it now? There is nothing to be gained in this life by remaining narrow. We must know life and our fellowmen in order to be able to choose wisely and well. How can we tell the worthy from the unworthy unless we have known enough of people to be able to recognize both the good and bad? Oh, Virginia! I feel that Rosanna will come back to you, to us, and we must remember that we are old women, and she is a child, and like calls to like. We must remember that God expects us to love and guide her but she must have friends and outside interests."
"Oh, if she only, only comes back!" cried Mrs. Horton.
The dreadful day dragged to a close, while the detectives and the entire police force scoured the city and the surrounding country.
For the one day they had succeeded in keeping the disappearance out of the papers, hoping that if Rosanna was actually in the hands of kidnapers they would not be frightened into taking her away or harming her to insure their own safety.
Mrs. Hargrave went restlessly back and forth between her own house and Mrs. Horton's, while Mrs. Horton walked endlessly up and down near the telephone, listening and praying for news and imagining horrible things.
Throwing her pride to the winds, Minnie settled herself at Mrs. Horton's, determined to be on hand if her darling Miss Rosanna needed her. Minnie, for all her dismal predictions, did not give up hope but the thought of what might be happening to Rosanna almost drove her wild. She could not keep out of Rosanna's room, yet she could not bear to touch a thing that the delicate little hands had handled. She wouldn't dust. Rosanna's brush and comb lay on the dresser, and Minnie looked at them tenderly, thinking of the long curls and wondering where and how that lovely head was resting.
Mr. Culver went down town to a friend of his and borrowed a small car. In this he scoured the city, and penetrated the most disreputable portions with carefully worded questions concerning a child that had strayed away. At lunch time Helen asked him if he would take her over to see Mary and Gwenny. Helen had been spending her money for Gwenny, and wanted to get her purchases where she could not see them and have them remind her of Rosanna. Poor Helen had cried herself almost sick. With all her broken, loving little heart she had prayed that she might be of some help in finding Rosanna, for she too was sure that she would be restored.
Mr. Culver was glad to take Helen over to Gwenny's, so Helen did the things up in a neat parcel and they started.
"Don't you suppose if everyone knew that Rosanna was lost that they would all help to look for her?" asked Helen.
"It will all come out in to-morrow morning's paper," answered Mr. Culver. "They were afraid of scaring the people who are holding her, if someone is holding her. The police hoped to find her before the kidnapers were scared into carrying her a long ways off, or hiding her perhaps in some of the caves around here. You see, Helen, with a family as rich as the Hortons are, a child is sometimes held for what they call ransom; that is, an immense sum of money which the parents are glad to pay rather than have the child killed."
Mary and Gwenny were greatly shocked at the news, and wanted to hear all about it over and over. Mr. Culver went on an errand and Helen waited there with the two girls.
"Are they sure she wasn't hurt when she was trying to go somewhere?" asked Mary.
"Mary saw a little girl run over by an automobile last night," said Gwenny.
"She wasn't really run over," corrected Mary, "but pretty near."
"You don't think it was Rosanna?" cried Helen eagerly.
"Oh, no, it wasn't Rosanna," said Mary. "Rosanna never had on a dress like that; it was just the kind of a dress I would wear and, besides, her hair was cut short. And she wasn't pretty like Rosanna."
"Did you see her close up?" asked Helen curiously.
"Not very," confessed Mary. "She was all covered with dust where the automobile had rolled her into the gutter, and her head was cut, and she was unconscious: but she didn't look like Rosanna any more than I do. I was just wondering if they had been to the hospitals."
"Yes, they went through them all," said Helen. "There were lots of children that had been hurt one way and another, and there was one little girl who had been hurt on the head, and couldn't tell who she was, but she was not Rosanna. The detectives took a picture of Rosanna along so they could be sure."
"That must have been the little girl I saw hurt," said Mary. "It was right on Third Street, and they took her down to the Morton Memorial Hospital right away. But it wasn't Rosanna."
"No, of course not," sighed Helen.
"Of course not!" echoed Mary.
"I wish it was Rosanna," said Helen with a sob. "I wish it was!"
Leaving these thoughts to worry Mary and Gwenny, Helen went off with her father, and in the course of time reached home.
There was a message from Mrs. Horton asking Helen to come to her as soon as she could.
"I wish you would go with me," said Helen wistfully to her mother.
"I do not think I had better," said Mrs. Culver. "She asked particularly for you. Don't get excited whatever is said. I trust you to act as though I was at your side. You know, darling, that I always trust you."
Helen burst into tears. "Oh, mother, dear, dear mother, think of poor, poor Rosanna who has no mother at all to go to for advice!"
Mrs. Culver hugged her little girl tight, wondering if little Rosanna had perhaps gone to the young mother she had lost so long ago.
When Helen entered the library, she found that old Mrs. Horton had collapsed, and was lying on the sofa covered with a blanket. There was a chill in the large, dark room. Mrs. Hargrave, very sober and haggard looking, drew Helen to her and kissed her. Then to Helen's amazement Mrs. Horton kissed her too.
"My dear little girl," she said feebly, "I want to tell you that I find I have made a great mistake, and I am sorry for everything. When Rosanna comes back, I want you two little girls to be the best of friends. And I want you to ask your father to stay with me. Perhaps he will do it if you ask him. Mrs. Hargrave says that he is working on an invention of some sort. He will certainly have as much spare time to give to his studies here as he could in any business I know of. I want you to tell him all this from me."
"Thank you so much," said Helen in her soft little voice. Then there being nothing that she could think of to say, she stood waiting for Mrs. Horton to speak. But Mrs. Horton wearily turned her gray face to the wall and sighed.
"Would you mind if I go up and speak to Minnie?" Helen asked timidly.
"Not at all," answered Mrs. Horton. "It comforts me to know that there is a child in the house. I think you will find Minnie in Rosanna's room. You know the way."
Again she turned to the wall as though she had parted with hope, and Helen ran quietly up the broad stairs and down the corridor to Rosanna's room. Minnie was there sitting in her little sewing chair, mending a dress of Rosanna's. Her tears fell on it as she worked.
"Don't do that, Minnie!" she said, throwing her arm around her. "I know we will find Rosanna, and then everything will come out right."
She sat down on Minnie's lap, and told her everything that her father had said, and all that Mrs. Horton had said, and then all about her visit with Mary and Gwenny.
"As far as I go," said Minnie crossly, "the sooner they get all this in the paper the better I will like it. Why, if there is one thing on earth more than another that will stir folks up it is a lost child. All the people, and the Boy Scouts and everybody will be hunting around everywhere."
"And where do the Girl Scouts come in?" asked Helen hotly. "They will do just as good work as the Boy Scouts will." She got up and commenced to walk around the room. Minnie, having finished her sewing, arose too and after a moment's thought produced from somewhere a silk duster, and began wiping off the chairs and other furniture.
Helen watched her idly as she moved about the room, then the two large portraits caught her attention.
"Wasn't Rosanna's mother beautiful?" she said, staring. "Her eyes seem to look right at you as if she was trying to tell you something."
"I don't doubt she is, the dear saint!" said Minnie. "You can't begin to know what a heap Rosanna thinks of those pictures. She used to want to keep flowers in front of each one the way they do in churches in front of the saints; but she didn't dare because she knew her grandmother wouldn't let her. So she used to pick posies and tie little bunches and slip them down behind the picture next the wall. She asked me if I didn't think it would mean just as much. And I know it did, the lamb, the dear, dear lamb! I told her grandmother about it too, every word.
"Why, the day you went to Fontaine Ferry—gracious, it seems a year ago!—she fixed a little bit of a wreath of sweet peas and tucked it behind the picture. It must be there yet all withered."
Minnie went over to the picture, and taking the heavy frame in both hands held the picture away from the wall a little.
Something fell to the floor, but it was not the withered flowers.
When Minnie looked down, she stared and stared and, still staring, crumpled down on her knees, wild, round eyes on the object. Helen ran to her.
"Oh, oh, oh," moaned Minnie, "have I gone mad?"
On the floor tied by a ribbon, was Rosanna's beautiful hair!
For a space Minnie and Helen stood as though they had been frozen. Minnie touched the long, soft locks and again moaned but all at once Helen commenced to dance up and down.
"Now we have her, now we have her!" she cried. "Come down and tell Mrs. Horton, Minnie! We have found Rosanna! Come, come!"
She tried to drag Minnie to the door, but Minnie pulled back.
"What do you mean?" she demanded.
"Why, don't you see?" cried Helen. "She cut it off because she didn't want anybody to know who she was, and everyone always looked at her lovely hair. She gave it to her mother. Oh, don't you see, Minnie? And then she started for your house, and the automobile hit her, and I just know that is our Rosanna in the hospital! Of course Mary was sure it was not Rosanna on account of her hair. Oh, come, let's tell her grandmother. She does truly and truly love Rosanna, Minnie. Come, let's tell her!"
"Yes, and then find out that it isn't Rosanna at all and break her heart for sure," said the practical Minnie. "You go down and tell Mrs. Hargrave will she please come up here a minute, and you see that she comes. She will know what's best to do."
Minnie bent over the long locks so carefully brushed and tied, and again her tears flowed while Helen sped down the stairs on her errand.
Mrs. Hargrave, who had plenty of common sense, followed at once, and her shock and surprise when she saw the curls of dark hair equalled theirs.
"Minnie is quite right," she said, nodding her head. "Mrs. Horton is in a very bad condition. I feel as though the little girl in the hospital may be Rosanna, but if we should find ourselves mistaken I don't know what the effect on Mrs. Horton would be. Say good-by to Mrs. Horton, Helen, and go tell your mother what we have found. Then ask your father to bring you around to my house in the car. You, Minnie, slip out the back door and meet me outside. Don't say one word until we see who this child is. I don't see why they have not reported her if it is Rosanna. She must have been asked to tell her name, and Rosanna is not grown up enough to think of making up a name for the occasion. Besides she would be glad to come home. If it is Rosanna—let me hurry!"
One by one they carefully left the house. It was late, and Mrs. Horton seemed to be dozing. Telling the cook to put off getting dinner until Mrs. Horton had rested, Minnie slipped out, and reached Mrs. Hargrave's house just as the car drove up. Mrs. Hargrave came briskly trotting along the walk a moment later and was helped in.
"It is a good thing that I am a trustee and director over at that hospital," she remarked, "so they won't try to fuss about our seeing the child, whoever she is. If it is only Rosanna—"
It was a swift ride. Every heart was beating quickly. If it was only Rosanna!
Entering the hospital, Mrs. Hargrave went to the superintendent's office, where a firm, stern looking woman met them.
"A child was hurt by an automobile last night and brought here," she said briefly.
Mrs. Hargrave interrupted her. "I want to see her," she said.
"It is not the Horton child, if that is what you mean," said the superintendent. "This was a short-haired child in a very ordinary dress. She was struck on the head and was unconscious for hours. We are surprised that no inquiry has been made."
"I am making one now," said Mrs. Hargrave crisply. "I said I wanted to see this child."
"You know it is against the rules, Mrs. Hargrave," the superintendent objected.
"Fiddle-dee-dee!" said Mrs. Hargrave. "What ward is she in?"
The superintendent gave up. She had known that she would. Mrs. Hargrave always had her own way. She led them down to the elevator, where they waited and waited with what patience they could gather until the car came slowly down and took them up to the general wards.
They tiptoed in. The little girl was bandaged and pale and sleeping heavily; but oh, joy of joys, it was Rosanna!
"And it was just like a fairy story," said Helen, telling her mother about it afterwards, "because even while the nurse was telling how the little girl had not spoken a word, or even looked at anybody, Rosanna just opened those big eyes of hers, and said, 'Hello, Helen!' And I simply didn't know what to say, so I just said 'Hello,' too."
It was indeed Rosanna, and Rosanna was herself again, aside from a very badly bumped head that had come near being a very seriously hurt head. She was too weak and ill to seem to wonder why she was in a hospital room with a couple of trained nurses feeling of her pulse, and dear Mrs. Hargrave with the tears rolling down her faintly pink old cheeks.
All Mrs. Hargrave said was, "We will be back in a minute, Rosanna," and shooed everybody out into the hall, even the stern superintendent.
"Now then," said Mrs. Hargrave with one peek back to see that the nurse that had stayed was doing her full duty, "now the thing is, how are we going to get her home?"
"Oh, she can't go home," said the superintendent in a shocked voice. "She ought to stay here for three or four days anyway."
"Fiddle-dee-dee!" said Mrs. Hargrave. "Home is the place for her, and besides I have reasons for wanting her to be under the care of her grandmother right away."
"I can't take the responsibility," said the superintendent stubbornly. "You will have to see the house doctor, Mrs. Hargrave."
"Very well," said Mrs. Hargrave. She turned to a nurse passing. "Go get Doctor Smith, my dear; tell him Mrs. Hargrave wants him at once."
Doctor Smith came sooner than the superintendent hoped he would.
"Well," he said, "if it is possible to get her home without jarring her, I think it would be a good thing. Her head is not injured, but her nerves are shaken, and if she can be at home in her own room she will regain her strength very quickly. I want you to take a trained nurse with you, however."
"Of course!" said Mrs. Hargrave briskly, "Now how shall we take her? In an ambulance, or can we manage in the car? It is very large."
"Could one of you hold her?" said the doctor.
"I can and will," said Minnie decidedly. "I know just how she likes to be held, the lamb!"
"Then she can go now if you like," said the doctor, and the superintendent pursed up her mouth and stalked downstairs, scorning the elevator.
How smoothly Mr. Culver drove that car! Not a jounce or bump disturbed the pale little patient, and he "drove the car at a walk" as Mrs. Hargrave had asked him.
When they reached home, Mrs. Hargrave asked Rosanna if she could be comfortable there for a couple of minutes, and seeing her nod feebly, she went briskly into the house. She looked into the library. Mrs. Horton, exhausted by her regrets and sorrow, had fallen into a heavy sleep.
Quickly Mrs. Hargrave went back and beckoned. Mr. Culver gathered Rosanna up in his arms, and with Minnie leading the way, carried her to her pretty room. She gave a sigh of happiness when she felt herself tucked into her own soft, pleasant bed, and a tear squeezed itself from under her closed lids, but it was a tear of joy.
Mrs. Hargrave returned to the library and sat down. It was a half hour before Mrs. Horton awoke.
"No news?" she asked with a groan.
"The best in the world!" said Mrs. Hargrave, patting her friend's hand. "The best in the world, Virginia, and you must take it bravely."
"Tell me quickly," begged Mrs. Horton. "They have found her? Where is my child?"
"Yes, we have found her," said Mrs. Hargrave, "and she is in her own little bed upstairs."
"Oh, oh!" cried Mrs. Horton, covering her eyes.
"She was nearly run over on Third Street, and has a pretty bad bump and a cut on her head. We found her in the hospital. No one knew who she was because she had cut off her curls, and she had on a dress I never saw before. Helen thinks it is one she bought to give that Mary child I told you about. Now don't mind her hair, Virginia; it will grow, and do be gentle with her."
"Mind her hair—be gentle with her!" repeated Mrs. Horton indignantly. "I will tell you what I am going to do from this time on, and just you try to interfere if you dare! I am going to spoil Rosanna. I thought I was doing the right thing, and you don't know how I wanted to pet her and love her and play with her, but I was such a goose that I thought if I didn't keep her at a distance she wouldn't respect me. Why, she cares a thousand times more for you than she does for me this very minute! So you just watch me. I am going to make her love me best! I am going to begin now." She rose and started for the door.
"Don't you want to fix your hair first?" asked Mrs. Hargrave in amazement. "It is all tousled up, and your nose is red and shiny."
"It can stay so!" said the elegant Mrs. Horton. "I don't mind at all letting her see that I was breaking my heart for her. Perhaps it will help her to believe that I have one."
Followed by Mrs. Hargrave, Mrs. Horton mounted the stairs as lightly as a girl. Minnie was just coming down.
"Miss Rosanna keeps asking for you, Mrs. Horton," she said, "and the nurse thought if you would mind coming in to see her she would drop off to sleep."
"I am coming!" said Mrs. Horton. She entered the room, and Mrs. Hargrave again felt a keen pride in her friend. She approached the bed and, smiling down brightly, bent and kissed the little girl softly on the cheek.
"Well, darling," she said, "how are you feeling now?"
Rosanna lifted her arms. "Oh, grandmother, I am so sorry I ran away and made you so unhappy! I can see it in your face. Please forgive me! I will be such a good little girl when I get well!"
"You have always been a good little girl, my precious," said her grandmother, kneeling by the bed and laying her arm over Rosanna. "Only we didn't just understand each other, and now everything is going to be different. I want you to go to sleep now, and we can talk about everything when you are well again. And you must sleep all you can, because the very first meal you can sit up for, Helen is coming over to have with you. A party, you know, right up here. And Helen is very lonesome. Now go to sleep. Minnie, your good Minnie, will stay right with you, and I will come back soon." Once more she kissed Rosanna and silently left the room. Outside the door she turned to Mrs. Hargrave and for a moment cried soft and happy tears on her shoulder. Then the two old ladies kissed each other tenderly.
"It is going to be all right, Amanda," said Mrs. Horton.
"Indeed it is, Virginia," said Mrs. Hargrave. "I am more thankful than I can say. And now I wonder when we are going to have anything to eat. I am not sure when I had a meal last. Down at Cousin Hendy's, I believe, and as she was just coming out of one of her attacks, that was mostly prepared breakfast foods. I don't mind saying that I am starved. Do you suppose you will have enough to eat here to-night to be any inducement for me to accept your invitation for dinner when I get it?"
Half an hour later just as they sat down to the table, in walked Mrs. Horton's son Robert. Mrs. Hargrave shook her head when after the first greetings he asked for Rosanna.
"In bed," said Mrs. Horton. "I will have something to tell you about her later, Robert, but now tell us what has happened since I left you."
"The kiddie isn't in disgrace for anything, is she?" insisted Robert.
"Not at all!" said Mrs. Hargrave. "Did you find your friend?"
"I certainly did!" said the young man, smiling, "and it's a good thing too. He was hurt worse than I was, and it is going to be a long time before he will be able to do much of anything. He has a wife and a child or two, so I thought the best thing to do was to get them all down on the stock farm. That's what kept me. I went down to Lexington with them instead of coming straight home. He took one of the kiddies with him, and the others will follow. That is a great little girl of his, mother. She told me some of the greatest yarns about what she did in an organization called the Girl Scouts. It certainly is interesting and a wonderful thing for girls. Teaches them all sorts of things, you know. Why, that child was more self-reliant than lots of the grown girls I know. You must be sure to have Rosanna join it, mother. She needs it, I feel sure. I scarcely know Rosanna, but her letters always had about as much originality as a sheet of blank paper."