"How now, Tommy, what's to pay? It isn't possible your firm has failed and foreclosed? What are you all bolted and barred at this time of day for?"
Tommy arched his eyebrows.
"Have you been out of town, sir?" he asked, in a tone which plainly said, "It isn't possible that you've been in town and not heard the cause of this closed store?"
"Just so," answered the good-natured gentleman. "I've been West, and I want to see Messrs. Stephens and Mallery in a twinkling."
"Can't do it," said Tommy, promptly, and with the air of a policeman. "They are otherwise engaged, both of them—all three of them, I may say. Mr. Hastings is in it, too. There's been a double wedding. Haven't you heard of it, sir?"
"Not a word," answered his listener, with commendable gravity. "They've been as whist as mice. Tell us all about it."
"Well, sir, it was to-day at twelve o'clock, in the First Church—Dr. Birge's, you know. He married 'em. Splendid ceremony, too! and they looked—well, they all looked just grand, I tell you!"
"Don't doubt it in the least, Tommy, but who the mischief were they?"
"Why, Mr. Mallery and Miss Hastings, and Mr. Hastings and Miss Winny McPherson, and they're both of our firm, you know; at least Mr. Hastings he's our confidential clerk now, and we all say that he'll be partner one of these days, as sure as guns. We all went to the wedding, every one of us, cash boys and all; then we all went to Mr. Stephens', and had just the grandest kind of a dinner with the brides and grooms. And Dr. Birge and Mr. Ryan they toasted them."
"Wine or brandy?" interposed the gentleman, slily.
"Neither!" answered indignant Tommy, with flashing eyes and glowing cheeks. "They had pure water, ice water. They don't have any wine or brandy in that house nor in our firm, I can tell you, sir."
"Good for you, Tommy—stand up for your principles. Well, what came next after you were all toasted and ice-watered? Is Mrs. Hastings, senior, in town? Dear me, how long is it since she went away?"
"It's pretty near three years. No, she isn't in town. She's in feeble health, and they're going out there to Chicago to see her, the whole tribe of them. They take the four o'clock Express, and we're all going to the cars with them, about a dozen carriages. It's time they were on hand, too. I had to come down to the store after a package that was left here, and there they are this minute; and so you see, sir, you can't see either Mr. Stephens or Mr. Mallery in a twinkling. I ride in the eighth carriage." And at this point Tommy's shining boots bounded away.
* * * * *
After the visit to Chicago was concluded, interspersed by several pleasant side trips, the bridal party separated one bright June morning at the Cleveland depot, Pliny and his wife preparing to settle down in their new home, while Mr. and Mrs. Mallery went on to New York. Theodore had been there perhaps a dozen times since he took that first surreptitious trip with Mr. Hastings, but in these visits he had always been a hurried business man, with little leisure or taste for retrospect. Now, however, it was different, and traversing the streets with his wife leaning on his arm, he had a fancy for going backward, and painting pictures from the past for her amusement. The hotel to which he had escorted Mr. Hastings on that day had advanced with the advancing tide, and was just now in the very zenith of its prosperity. Thither he found his way, and led Dora up the broad steps and down the splendid halls, and finally booked his name, "Theodore S. Mallery and wife," and tried in vain, while he issued his orders with the air of one long accustomed to the giving of orders, to conceive of himself and that ridiculous little wretch who squeezed in among the gentlemen on that long ago morning to discover, if perchance he could, what his traveling companion's name might be, as one and the same.
"Now, I am going to show you some of the wretchedness that abounds in this elegant city," he said to his wife one morning as he dismissed the carriage after an hour's exciting drive, and proposed a walk. "It is a remarkable city in that respect. I am never struck with the two extremes of humanity as I am when in New York."
"I was thinking only this morning," Dora answered, "how very few wretched people I had met in the streets."
"Wait a bit; see if in ten minutes from this time you are not almost led to conclude that there is nothing left in this world but wretchedness and filth and abomination."
They turned suddenly around the corner of a pleasant street, and as if they were among the shifting scenes of a panorama, the entire foreground had changed. Wretchedness! that word no more described the horrors of their surroundings than could any other that came to Dora's mind. The scene beggared description. "Swarms of horrors!" she called them in speaking of the people afterward. Just now she clung silent and half frightened to her husband's arm. He, too, became silent, and appeared occupied solely in guarding his wife and shielding her from disagreeable collisions. Suddenly he uttered an exclamation of delight:
"Look, Dora! this is the building of which I have read but have never seen. I have not had time to come so far down before this. Can you imagine a more delightful oasis in this desert of filth and pollution?"
There it stood, the great, clean, splendid building! towering above its vile and rickety neighbors. And in bright, clear letters, that seemed to Theodore to be written in diamonds, gleamed the name; far down the street it caught the eye, "Home for Little Wanderers."
Dora looked and smiled and caught her breath, and then the tears dropped one by one on her husband's sleeve. It almost seemed like the voice of an angel speaking to the world from out of that moral darkness.
"Oh, if I had known that day when I was in New York of such a spot as this in all the world, what a different world it would have looked to me. The idea that there could be a home anywhere in all the universe, or beyond it, for such as I had never occurred to me." Theodore spoke in low, earnest tones, full of deep and solemn feeling.
"But, Theodore," said Dora, gently, "if you had known of this home, or any like it, and gone thither instead of to Cleveland on that day, where would you have been now, and what would have become of me?"
Theodore smiled down on his fair young bride, and drew the hand that rested on his arm a little closer as he answered:
"I am quite content, my darling. I am not complaining of the guiding Hand that led me home. I have surely reason to be utterly and entirely satisfied with my lot in life; but there are not many boys such as I was who find little blue-eyed maidens to bring precious little Bible cards to them, and so write lessons on their hearts that will tell for all time—yes, and for all eternity."
"There are not many Dr. Birges and Mr. Stephenses," said Dora, emphatically. And Theodore's response was quite as emphatic:
"Very few indeed! If there were only more. But, Dora, isn't it a grand enterprise? Let us go in. I have always intended to go through the mission; but, you see, I waited for you."
They went up the broad, pleasant flight of steps. The children, hundreds of them, were at dinner. Such an array of clean, and, for the most part, pleasant faces! Such a wonderful dinner as it must have been to them! Dora's face glowed and her eyes sparkled as she watched them. Then they all went together to the great, light, pleasant chapel, with its hanging baskets, and its white flower urns, and its creeping vines, and fragrant blossoms; its grand piano on the platform as perfect in finish and as sweet of tone as if it were designed to chime with the voices of more favored childhood. Dora's bright eye took in the scene in all its details with great delight and satisfaction, but she did not feel the solemn undertone of thanksgiving that rang in Theodore's heart. How could she? What did she know in detail of the contrast between the present and the past lives of these children? And who knew better than he the awful scenes from which they had been rescued! How they marched to the sound of the quickstepping music! How their voices rang out in songs such as the angels might have loved to join! It was a sort of jubilee day with them, and there were many visitors and many speeches, and much entertainment. As he looked and listened, Theodore had constantly to brush away the starting tears. Presently Mr. Foote came with brisk step and smiling face toward the spot where Theodore and his wife were sitting.
"You are interested in the children, I know, sir," he said, confidently. "Come forward please, and give us a brief speech. The children will like to hear one who shows his love for them beaming in his face."
Theodore answered promptly:
"No, sir, I will not detain them; they have had speeches enough. Besides, my heart is quite too full for talking." At the same time he arose. "I would like to write my speech, though, if you please, sir. Have you pen and ink convenient?" And he went forward with the leader to the desk. A few quick dashes of the pen over a blank from his check-book, and he stood pledged for five hundred dollars for "Howard Mission."
"How much I have to thank Dr. Birge for preaching that glorious sermon on the 'tenths,' and dear grandma for teaching me with her white buttons the meaning of the same," he said to Dora as they made their way out from that beautiful haven into the reeking street. "How every single impulse for good counts back to some influence touched long ago by an unconscious hand! I wonder if the Christian world has an idea of what it is doing?"
* * * * *
They tarried but a few hours in Albany, long enough to visit that quiet grave with its simple tribute, "Dear Mother." And there again came to Theodore's heart sad memories of his father. Oh, if his body only lay there in quiet rest underneath those grasses; if he could have the privilege of setting up his headstone, and marking it with a word of respectful memory; if he could have but the faint hope of a meeting place for them all in that city beyond, what more could he ask in life? And yet who could tell? Perhaps it was even so; perhaps there had come even to his father an eleventh hour? The "arm of the Lord was not shortened" that it could not save where and when and how he would. And there had been prayers, constant and fervent, sent up for him; and perhaps the eleventh hour was yet to come; he might be still in this world of hope. Theodore's heart swelled at the thought.
"My darling," he said, turning toward the young face looking up to his, and full of tender sympathy, "he may be living yet—my poor father, you know. We will never cease to pray that if he is still on earth God will have mercy. We will pray together, will we not?"
And then both remembered that other father, about whose grave June roses were blossoming to-day, for whom they could pray nevermore; and so though she laid her hand in his in token of sympathy, she made no answer on account of fast falling tears.
* * * * *
"For our own room, Dora, in lieu of many pictures let us have some of these exquisite illuminated texts. I like them so much; and we can never tell how much good they may do a servant or a chance passer through. There are some in particular that I want to select." This Theodore said to his wife as they stood together in a picture store.
"There! I want that one above all others," and he held it up for her admiration. It was a beauty; the letters were exquisitely formed, and the words were: "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good." Then they chose, "Peace be to this house"—this for the hall. And another favorite, "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us."
"This is yours, Dora," Theodore said, presently, laying before her a delicately shaded sentence on tinted board, "The Lord bless thee and keep thee." And she smilingly answered: "Then this for you," "He shall keep thee in all thy ways."
And so their homes were filled with lessons from the great guide-book, speaking silently on every hand.
* * * * *
It might have been something like three years after this date that the Buffalo Express was behind time one day. Pliny Hastings was at the depot in a state of impatient waiting. I do not know that it occurred to him that he had been in precisely that spot and condition one evening years ago. The whistle of the train rang out at last, and Pliny stepped back near the restive horses, ready for emergencies. He swung open the carriage door as Theodore Mallery advanced from the train.
"You're a pretty man to be late to-day of all days in the world," was Pliny's greeting, in a sort of good-humoredly impatient tone.
"Scold the engineer, not me," responded Theodore, in the same manner. "I fretted inwardly all the way from C——. All well at home?"
And then the two gentlemen entered the carriage, Theodore waiting to give the order, "Home, Jacob." And he had not a thought of the ill-favored urchin who had once tumbled up on the driver's seat of a carriage similar to this one, and peered down curiously at the boy Pliny inside. He even did not remember that he made a resolution to become the driver some day of a pair of horses like those behind which he was luxuriously riding, so utterly do we grow away from our intentions and ambitions.
The carriage swept around the fine old curve and stopped at the side door of Hastings' Hall that was. The place had a familiar look, but the present inmates disliked the old aristocratic sounding name, and in view of the wide green lawn and the noble shade trees had named it simply "Elm Lawn." Dinner was waiting for the master of the house, and it was a birthday dinner, too, in honor of the first anniversary of that great day to another heir of the grand old house. He was sleeping now, tucked into a great easy chair, while his lace-curtained crib was given up to a younger, tinier baby, who sucked his thumb and did not sleep. Both babies frowned and choked and sneezed over their respective father's kisses or whiskers, or both. Both appeared in all their glory at the dinner table; and all the bright happy company were in blissful ignorance of a scene so nearly similar that had occurred when the supposed young heir of Hastings' Hall reached the close of his first year. Yet this was different, for Mr. Stephens asked a blessing on this bright glad scene, and Dr. Birge returned thanks for the joy and beauty of the day, and the health and hopes of these two babies were remembered in glasses of sparkling water.
And the supposed heir of other days was the fond proud father of the precious crowing bundle now pulling at his beard. What cared he for Hastings' Hall? It was a fine old place enough, and he had enjoyed coming there every day of his life; but his own bright home was just around the corner, and contained more life and joy and beauty than did all Cleveland. So he thought.
"What have you named your babies?" questioned a chance caller.
"This is Master Pliny Hastings Mallery at your service," responded Theodore, tossing his boy aloft until he tried to reach the ceiling and yelled with glee. While Winny, after glancing at her husband's face and noting his moved look, answered simply: "We call ours Baby Ben."
After Dr. and Mrs. Birge, and he who called himself Grandfather Stephens, had departed, they went, these two fathers, to the room above, where the babies cuddled and slept, and the loving mothers watched and talked. They all went over and stood by the crib and the easy chair.
"Let us have a special celebration of this day," said Theodore. "Let us consecrate these two boys anew to the beloved Giver of all our blessedness."
Then they all knelt down, each husband encircling with one arm the form of his honored wife, and resting the other hand on the forehead of his darling, and Theodore first, then Pliny, laid their hearts' dearest treasures at the feet of their common Lord.
"We are very happy," Dora said, when they had risen, still clinging to her husband's hand.
"Very happy," answered Theodore, clasping tenderly the dear true hand. "And it is a happiness that will continue whatever comes, so we remain always at the feet of the Master and keep our treasures there."
Pliny was looking at the babies, with a face full of humble tenderness.
"We have quite given them up to Him," he said, in an earnest, solemn tone. "Now let us pray that he will consecrate them peculiarly to the sacred cause of temperance."
And Theodore and the two mothers said: "Amen."
THE PANSY BOOKS
BY MRS. G. R. ALDEN ("PANSY")
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As in a Mirror Aunt Hannah, Martha, and John The Browns at Mt. Hermon By Way of the Wilderness Chautauqua Girls at Home Chrissy's Endeavor Christie's Christmas David Ransom's Watch Doris Farrand's Vocation Eighty-seven An Endless Chain Ester Ried Ester Ried Yet Speaking Ester Ried's Namesake Four Girls at Chautauqua Four Mothers at Chautauqua The Hall in the Grove Her Associate Members Household Puzzles Judge Burnham's Daughters Julia Ried King's Daughter Links in Rebecca's Life Little Fishers and their Nets The Long Way Home Lost on the Trail Mag and Margaret Making Fate Man of the House Mara Mrs. Solomon Smith Looking On A New Graft on the Family Tree One Commonplace Day Overruled Pauline The Pocket Measure The Prince of Peace The Randolphs Ruth Erskine's Crosses Ruth Erskine's Son A Seven-fold Trouble Spun from Fact Stephen Mitchell's Journey Those Boys Three People Tip Lewis and His Lamp Twenty Minutes Late Unto the End Wanted What They Couldn't Wise and Otherwise Yesterday Framed in To-day
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LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO., Boston
THE FAMOUS PEPPER BOOKS
By MARGARET SIDNEY
I N O R D E R O F P U B L I C A T I O N
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Five Little Peppers and How they Grew.
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It is the story of Phronsie, the youngest and dearest of all the Peppers.
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The "Peppers Abroad" adds another most delightful book to this famous series.
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LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO., BOSTON
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Ester Ried Four Girls at Chautauqua Tip Lewis and His Lamp Three People Chautauqua Girls at Home Julia Ried Ruth Erskine's Crosses The King's Daughter Judge Burnham's Daughters Wise and Otherwise
Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co.
* * * * *
Obvious punctuation errors repaired.
This text uses the archaic spelling of "height" as "hight." This was retained.
Page 29, "would'nt" changed to "wouldn't" (me I wouldn't)
Page 61, "agoing" changed to "a going" to conform to rest of text. (ain't a going to)
Page 94, "seeemed" changed to "seemed". (evil that seemed)
Page 135, "wan't" changed to "want" (want to get it)
Page 142, "sraight" changed to "straight" (straight down to)
Page 146, "tha" changed to "that" (did that little)
Page 188, "refreshement" changed to "refreshment" (get any refreshment)
Page 205, "Wan't" changed to "Want" (Want you to say)
Page 215, "millioniare" changed to "millionaire" (the millionaire moved)
Page 224, "posibly" changed to "possibly" (Could he possibly)
Page 228, "unceremoneously" changed to "unceremoniously" (He unceremoniously appropriated)