AND OTHER STORIES
Annie Fellows Johnston
"The Little Colonel's House Party," "The Little
Colonel's Holidays," "Two Little Knights
of Kentucky," etc.
Sears Gallagher and others
L.C. Page & Company
by Perry Mason Company
by L.C. Page & Company
All rights reserved
Published, May, 1902
Electrotyped and Printed by C.H. Simonds & Co.
Boston, Mass., U.S.A.
These stories first appeared in the Youth's Companion and Forward.
The author wishes to acknowledge the courtesy of the editors in
permitting her to republish them in the present volume.
Messrs. L.C. Page & Company wish also to acknowledge the courtesy of
the editors, by which they were able to arrange for the use of the
The Hand of Douglas
Elsie's "Palmistry Evening"
Their Ancestral Latch-String
There was a noisy whir of sewing-machines in Madame Levaney's large
dressmaking establishment. Cicely Leeds's head ached as she bent over
the ruffles she was hemming. She was the youngest seamstress in the
room, and wore her hair hanging in two long braids.
It seemed a pity that such girlish shoulders should be learning to
stoop, and that her eyes had to bear such a constant strain. The light
was particularly bad this afternoon. Every curtain was rolled to the
top of its big window, but the dull December sky was as gray as a fog.
Even the snow on the surrounding housetops looked gray and dirty in
the smoky haze.
Now and then Cicely looked up from her work and glanced out of the
window. The cold grayness of the outdoor world made her shiver. It was
a world of sooty chimney-tops as she saw it, with a few chilly
sparrows huddled in a disconsolate row along the eaves. It would soon
be time to be going home, and the only home Cicely had now was a
cheerless little back bedroom in a cheap boarding-house. She dreaded
going back to it. It was at least warm in Madame Levaney's
steam-heated workrooms, and it was better to have the noise and
confusion than the cold solitude.
Cicely's chair was the one nearest the entrance to the parlour where
madame received her customers, and presently some one passing through
the door left it ajar. Above the hum of the machines Cicely could hear
a voice that she recognised. It was that of Miss Shelby, a young
society girl, who was one of madame's wealthiest customers.
"I've brought my cousin, Miss Balfour," Cicely heard her say, "and we
want to ask such a favour of you, madame. You see my cousin stopped
here yesterday on her way East, intending to remain only one night
with us, but we've persuaded her to stay over to our party on New
Year's eve. Her trunks have gone on, and of course she hasn't a thing
with her in the way of an evening dress. But I told her you would come to the rescue. You are always so clever,—you could get her up a
simple little party gown in no time. So, on the way down, we stopped
at Bailey's, and she bought the material for it. Show it to madame,
Rhoda. It's a perfect dream!"
Cicely heard the snapping of a string, the rustling of paper, and then
madame's affected little cry of admiration. But at the next word she
knew just how the little Frenchwoman was shrugging her shoulders, with
clasped hands and raised eyebrows.
"But, mademoiselle," Cicely heard her protesting, "it is impossible!
If you will but step to ze door one instant and obsairve! Evair' one
is beesy. Evair' one work, work, work to ze fullest capacitee. Look!
All ze gowns zat mus' be complete before ze New Year dawn, and only
two more day!"
She stepped to the door, and with a dramatic gesture pointed to the
busy sewing women and the chairs and tables covered with dresses in
all stages of construction.
"Only two day, and all zese yet to be feenish for zat same ball! Much
as I desire, it is not possible!"
Every one looked up as the two girls stood for a moment in the
doorway. Miss Shelby glanced around in a coldly indifferent way,
holding up her broadcloth skirt that it might escape the ravellings
and scraps scattered over the floor. She was a tall brunette as
elegantly dressed as any figure in madame's latest Parisian
"Why can't you put somebody else off to accommodate me just this
once?" she said. "It is a matter of great importance. My cousin has
already bought the material on my promise that you would make it up
for her. I think you might make a little extra effort in this case,
madame, when you remember that I was one of your first customers, and
that I really brought you half your trade."
The little Frenchwoman wrung her hands. "I do remember,
mademoiselle! Indeed! Indeed! But you see for yourself ze situation.
What can I do?"
"Make some of the women come back at night," answered Miss Shelby,
turning back into the parlour, "and have them take some of the work
home to finish. I'm sure you might be obliging enough to favour me."
Miss Balfour had taken no part in the conversation. She stood beside
her cousin, fully as tall and handsome as she, and resembling her in
both face and figure, but there was something in her expression that
attracted Cicely as much as the other girl had repelled her.
Miss Shelby had not seemed to distinguish the sewing women from their
machines, but Rhoda Balfour noticed how pallid were some of the faces,
and how gray was the hair on the temples of the old woman in the
corner bending over her buttonholes. When her glance reached Cicely,
the appealing little figure in the black gown, she could not help but
notice the admiration that showed so plainly in the girl's face, and
involuntarily she smiled in response, a bright, friendly smile.
As she turned away she did not see the sudden flush that rose to
Cicely's cheeks, and did not know that her recognition had sent the
blood surging warmly through the sad and discouraged heart. It had
been two months since Cicely Leeds had been left alone in the strange
city, and this was the first time in all those weeks that any one had
smiled at her.
Sometimes it seemed to her that the loneliness would kill her if she
knew it must go on indefinitely. But Marcelle's promise helped her to
bear it. Marcelle was her older sister, the only person in the world
left to her, and Marcelle was teaching the village school at home. In
another year the last penny of the debts their father had left when he
died would be paid, and Marcelle would be free to send for Cicely
then, and life would not be so hard. Just now there was no other way
for Cicely to live but to take the small wages madame offered, and be
thankful that she was having such an opportunity to learn the
dressmaker's trade. She could set up a little establishment of her own
some day, when she went back to Marcelle.
Cicely did not hear the final words of Miss Shelby's argument, but a
few minutes later madame came back to the workroom with a bundle in
her arms. There was a worried frown on her face as she unrolled it and
called sharply to her forewoman.
Every seamstress in the room bent forward with an exclamation of
pleasure as the piece of dress-goods was unrolled. It was a soft,
shimmering silk, whose creamy surface was covered with rosebuds, as
dainty and pink as if they had been blown across it from some June
garden. Cicely caught her breath with a little gasp of delight, and
thought again of the sweet face that had smiled on her. Miss Balfour
would look like a rose herself in such a dress.
The next day Cicely saw the cutter at work on it, and then the
forewoman distributed the various parts into different hands. Cicely
wished that she could have a part in making it. She would have enjoyed
putting her finest stitches into something to be worn by the beautiful
girl who had smiled on her. It would be almost like doing it for a
friend. But she was kept busy stitching monotonous bias folds.
Just as she was slipping on her jacket to go home that evening, the
forewoman came up to her with a bundle. "I am sorry, Cicely," she
said, "but I shall have to ask you to take some work home with you
to-night. We are so rushed with all these orders we never can get
through unless every one of you works over-hours. Miss Shelby's extra
order is just the last straw that'll break the camel's back, I'm
afraid. Try to get every bit of this hand work done some way or other
It was no part of the rose-pink party dress that Cicely had to work
on; only more monotonous bias folds. But as she turned up the lamp in
her chilly little room and began the weary stitching again, she felt
that in a way it was for Miss Balfour, and she sewed on
She had intended to write to Marcelle that evening in order that her
sister might have a letter on New Year's day, but there would be no
time now. She wrapped a shawl around her and spread a blanket over her
feet, but more than once she had to stop and warm her stiff fingers
over the lamp. It was long after midnight when she finished, and she
crept into bed, her head still throbbing with a dull ache.
"The last day of the old year!" she said to herself, as she waded
through a newly fallen snow to her work the next morning. "Oh,
Marcelle, how can I ever hold out ten months longer? Nobody in this
whole city cares that I caught cold sitting up in a room without a
fire, or that I feel so lonely and bad this minute that I can't keep
back the tears."
It seemed to Cicely that she had never had such a wretched morning.
The loss of sleep the night before left her languid and nervous. Her
cold seemed to grow worse every moment, and madame and the forewoman
were both unusually cross. She felt ill and feverish when she took her
seat again after the lunch hour.
Presently madame came in, looking sharply about her, and walked up to
Cicely with the rosebud silk skirt in her hands. "Here!" she said,
hurriedly. "Put ze band on zis. Ze ozair woman who do zis alway have
gone home ill. An' be in one beeg haste, also, for ze time have arrive
for ze las' fitting. You hear?"
Cicely took it up, pleased and smiling. After all, she was to have a
part in making the beautiful rose gown that would surely give Miss
Balfour such pleasure. Her quick needle flew in and out, but her
thoughts flew still faster.
She had had a gown like that herself once; at least it was something
like that pattern, although the material was nothing but lawn. She had
worn it first on the day when she was fifteen years old, and her
mother had surprised her by a birthday party. And they had had tea out
in the old rose-garden, and had pelted one another with the great
velvety king roses, and she had torn her hand on a thorn. Ah, how
cruelly it hurt! It was a very present pain that made her cry out
now, not the memory of that old one.
Some one had overturned a chair just behind her, and Cicely's
nervousness made her jump forward with a violent start. With that
sudden movement the sharp needle she held was thrust deep into her
hand and two great drops of blood spurted out. With that sudden
movement, also, the silk skirt slipped from her lap, and she clutched
it to save it from touching the floor. Before she was aware of
anything but the sharp pain, before she saw the blood that the needle
had brought to the surface, two great stains blotted the front breadth
of the dainty skirt.
She gave a stifled scream, and grew white and numb. Almost instantly
madame saw and heard, and pounced down upon her. "I am ruin'!" she
shrieked, pointing to the stains. "Nozzing will take zem out!
Mademoiselle will be so angry I will lose ze trade of her!"
The irate woman took Cicely by the shoulders and shook her violently,
just as Miss Shelby and Miss Balfour were announced. They had come for
the final fitting, expecting to take the dress home with them.
Madame, still wildly indignant, went storming in to meet them, and
poor Cicely shrank back into the corner, with her face hidden against
the wall. Never in her life had she been so utterly friendless and
Miss Balfour's disappointed exclamation over the stained dress reached
the girl's ears. She heard madame's eager suggestions of possible
remedies, and then Miss Shelby's cold tones:
"Now if it had been the bodice, it would not have been so bad. It
could have been hidden by some of the ribbons or lace or flowers; but
to have it right down the middle of the front breadth—that's too
hopeless! There's nothing for it but to make over the skirt and put in
a whole new breadth. There isn't time for that, I suppose, before this
Madame looked at the clock and shook her head. "Ze women air rush to
ze grave now," she said. "Zay work half ze night las' night. Zat is
why zis girl say she air so nairvous zat she could not help ze needle
"I could just sit down and cry, I am so disappointed!" exclaimed Miss
Balfour. "I had set my heart on going to the party, and in that
Cicely's sobs shook her harder than ever as the words reached her, and
her tears started afresh. Miss Shelby's voice broke in:
"I am surprised that you would keep such a careless assistant, madame.
Of course, you will expect to make the loss good to my cousin. It will
ruin your trade to keep incompetent employees. It would be better to
let the woman go."
"It is a young girl which I have jus' take," said madame, with another
shrug. "I have feel for her because she was an orphan, and I take her
in ze goodness of my heart. Behold how she repay me! Disappoint my
customers, ruin my beesness!"
She was pointing to the stains and working herself up into a passion
again, when Miss Balfour interrupted her.
"I should like to see the girl, madame. Will you please call her?"
"Certainement! Willingly, mademoiselle! Ze plaisure shall be yours
for to scold ze careless creature."
Cicely heard and shivered. It had been hard enough to bear madame's
angry reproaches, but to have the added burden of Miss Balfour's displeasure was more than she could endure—the displeasure of the
only one who had smiled on her since she left Marcelle! A moment later
madame confronted her, and Rhoda could hear the girl's sobs.
"Oh, I can't go in! Indeed I can't, madame! It nearly kills me to
think I have spoiled that lovely dress, and that she cannot go
to-night after all. I wouldn't have done it for the world, for it was
almost like having her for my friend. She—she smiled at me—the other
Rhoda looked at her cousin wonderingly. Could it be some one that she
knew, who seemed to care so much about her pleasure?
Then her eyes fell on the shrinking Cicely, whom madame was pushing
somewhat unceremoniously into the room. Rhoda saw the little
black-gowned figure with the tear-swollen face, and suddenly the
crimson spots on her evening gown held a new significance.
It flashed through her mind that the very life-blood of such girls was
being sacrificed for her own selfish pleasure. If she had not hurried
madame so, there would have been no night-work for this poor child, no
fagged-out nerves for her the next day.
Suddenly Miss Balfour crossed the room and, to her cousin's
astonishment, caught Cicely's cold hands in hers.
"Look up here, you poor little thing," she said, kindly. "Now don't
cry another tear, or grieve another bit about this. It's no matter at
all. I'll just get some new stuff to replace the front of the skirt,
and madame can make it over next week for me and send it on East after
me. I'll pay for it myself, of course, for I'll be very glad to have
the silk that must be ripped out. Mamma is making me a silk quilt, and
the rosebuds will work in beautifully. I shall have it put in,
blood-spots and all, to remind me that my selfish pleasure may often
prove a cruel thorn to somebody else. I don't want to go through the
world leaving scratches behind me."
"Why, Rhoda!" gasped Miss Shelby; but with a proud lifting of her
head, Miss Balfour went on:
"I realise it is my own fault in rushing you with the work, madame,
and the consequences of my own unreasonableness are not to be laid at
this girl's door. Do you understand, madame? Not a cent is to come out
of her wages, and you are to keep her and be good to her, if you want
my good-will. I am coming back this way in the spring, and this gown
is so beautifully made that I shall be glad to order my entire summer
wardrobe from you."
"Why, Rhoda Balfour!" exclaimed her cousin again, while madame bowed
and smiled and bowed again.
As for Cicely, she went back to the workroom almost dazed, and
tingling with the remembrance of Miss Balfour's friendly tones. It was
several hours later when she climbed the stairs to her little back
bedroom to light her coal-oil stove, and make her toast and tea. Her
eyes were still swollen from crying, but she had not felt so
light-hearted for weeks.
Just inside her door she stumbled over a big pasteboard box. There was
a note on top, and she hurried to light her lamp. "I know that you
will be glad to hear I am going to the party, after all," she read. "I
have found a very pretty white dress in my cousin's wardrobe that fits
me well enough. As long as you have had such a thorny time on my
account, it is only fair that you should share my roses; so I send
them with the earnest wish that the coming year may bring you no thorn
without some rose to cover it, and that it may be a very, very happy
New Year indeed to you. Sincerely your friend, Rhoda Balfour."
Cicely tore aside the paraffine paper, and found six great roses, each
with a leafy stem half as long as Cicely herself. She caught them up
in her arms and laid her face against their velvety petals. For a
moment, as she stood with closed eyes, drinking in their summer
fragrance, she could have almost believed she was back in the old
"Marcelle, dear," she murmured, "I can be brave now! I can hold out a
little longer, for she wrote, 'Sincerely your friend.'"
The little room was glorified in Cicely's eyes that night by the
flowers she loved best. She ate her scant supper as if she were at a
festival, sent a little letter of thanks that made the tears come to
Miss Balfour's handsome eyes, and afterward wrote a bright, hopeful
letter to Marcelle that lifted a burden from the elder sister's heart.
Marcelle had been half afraid that Cicely would be growing bitter
against all the world.
"Think of it, sister!" Cicely wrote. "American Beauties are a dollar
apiece, and I have six! There is a music-teacher who has the room
across the hall from mine. She is at home this week with a cold on her
lungs, and to-morrow, when I go to work, I am going to loan her all my
beautiful roses. It's too bad to have them 'wasting their sweetness on
the desert air' all day while I am gone. So she shall have them until
I come home at night."
Madame Levaney gave no holiday to her employees on New Year's day, but
Cicely did not care. She left her roses at Miss Waite's door with the
announcement that they were hers for the day, but that she would have
to call for them and claim them at night. The oddness of the
arrangement, and the quaint way in which Cicely made it, won Miss
Waite's heart, and when she heard the girl's step in the hall that
evening, she opened the door.
"Come right in," she called, cordially. "I can't spare the roses until
after supper, so you will have to come in and eat with me. You've no
idea how much I have enjoyed them!"
Cicely paused timidly on the threshold. There were the gorgeous
American Beauties in a tall vase in the middle of the table, between
some softly shaded candles. And there was a bright lamp on the open
piano, and a glowing coal fire in the grate. The little table was
spread for two, and a savoury smell of oysters stole out from the
chafing-dish Miss Wade had just uncovered.
"We'll celebrate the New Year together, and drink to our friendship in
good strong coffee," said Miss Waite, lifting the steaming pot from
the hearth. "Draw your chair right up to the table, please, while
everything is hot."
Only one who has been as cold and hungry and homesick as Cicely was,
can know how much that evening meant to her, or how the cheer and the
warmth of it all comforted her lonely little heart. The best of it was
that it was only a beginning, and there were few nights afterward,
during that long winter, when the warmth and light of Miss Waite's
room was not shared for awhile, at least, with the little seamstress.
The roses lasted more than a week; then Miss Waite helped Cicely to
gather up the petals as they fell, and together they packed them away
in a little rose-jar, according to an old recipe that Miss Waite read
out of her grandmother's time-yellowed note-book.
Then Cicely brought Miss Balfour's note.
"THE CHEER AND WARMTH OF IT ALL COMFORTED HER."
"I want to preserve this, too," she said, dropping it in among the
dried rose-leaves. "You told me that Rhoda means 'little rose,' and
that line, 'Sincerely your friend,' was as sweet to me that day as the
flowers themselves. As long as I live I shall think of her as an
She lifted the little rose-jar for one more whiff of its faint, sweet
fragrance, and said, slowly, as she closed it again, "And as long as I
live the thought of her will help to take the sting out of all my
With a sigh of relief Alida Gooding saw the dentist put away his
instruments. Her nerves seemed all aquiver as she slowly rose and went
into the little dressing-room to put on her hat and coat, and to wait
for the family carriage which was to call for her at this hour.
She was a plain-looking girl of eighteen, with homely, irregular
features, a sallow complexion, and a reserved, haughty manner that
tended to repel all friendly advances. All that clothes could do to
improve a girl's appearance had certainly been done for her. Every
part of her costume, from her fashionable gown to her stylish hat,
indicated wealth and good taste; but the face that looked wistfully
back at her from the little dressing-room mirror was not pretty.
The door into the adjoining parlour was slightly ajar, and she could
hear some one pacing restlessly about, awaiting his turn. "I'll be
ready for you in about three minutes, Charley!" called the dentist
from the inner room; and Alida heard the reply, "No hurry. I want to
speak to one of the boys I see coming down the street."
The voice was a familiar one. She recognised it as belonging to
Charley Jarvis, a friend of her sister. The next instant she heard a
window thrown up, and a shrill whistle sounded out on the snowy air.
Peering cautiously out of the window where she stood watching for the
carriage, she saw another acquaintance, Phil Bently, look up and wave
his hand in response to the whistle. A moment later he came bounding
up the stairs, three steps at a time, and into the adjoining parlour.
"What's up, old fellow?" he asked. "What's wanted now?"
"I've been trying to see you for three days," answered Charley, "but
they told me that you were out of town when I inquired at the office.
Mrs. Lancaster has a pretty little girl visiting her from Alabama, and
she intends to give an old-fashioned valentine party for her
entertainment next week. I am helping with the invitations. Here's
the list of the boys she wants, and each one is to bring one of the
girls of our set as his valentine, in fancy costume, you know. I've
seen all the boys but you and Ben Fuller, and they've chosen the girls
they want to invite."
"Who's left for us?" queried Phil. "Let me see the list a minute.
Nannie Mason," he read, slowly. "No wonder she was left to the last;
she's such a silly little thing and does nothing but giggle. Alida
Gooding! Jarvis, you haven't left me much choice. Alida's the
homeliest girl in town. It is a pity that she is so ugly when her
sister May is such a beauty. Now if it were only May who was one of
the left-overs, I'd jump at the chance. Any fellow would be proud to
"But you see," interrupted Charley, with a tantalising drawl, "May is
my valentine. Come on, now, which do you choose—Nannie or Alida?
Ben is good-natured; he'll take whoever is left."
"Well, then—Nannie," said Phil, in a martyrlike tone. "Ben can escort
the comic valentine."
"Oh, I say, Bently," exclaimed his friend, "you needn't talk about
the girl that way! She can't help being so plain!"
"That's so. It's brutal of me, and I'm sorry I said that. But she
might at least be jolly," answered Phil. "You wouldn't want to take a
girl that wasn't even—"
Alida did not hear the rest of the sentence. The moment that she
realised they were talking about her, she had begun to struggle into
her coat in order to leave. Without looking into the mirror,—her eyes
were too full of tears to see, even if she had done so,—she pinned on
her hat and hurried out into the hall. The coupé had just drawn up at
the curbstone, and with a curt order to the coachman to drive home as
rapidly as possible, she sank down on the cushions, shrinking back
from the carriage windows.
Mortified by the cruelly careless speech that she had overheard, she
gave herself up to an uncontrollable fit of crying. "I know that I've
always been uh-uh-ugly," she sobbed, "but I never knew before that
people felt and talked that way about me! I'll never show my face
outside of the house again, and Ben Fuller shall certainly be spared
the mortification of escorting a 'comic valentine' to Mrs.
Lancaster's party. Oh, I would rather be dead than so homely and
She was still sobbing when she reached the house, and stood shivering
on the steps in the chill February wind while she waited for the front
door to open. A cheerful wood fire blazed in the fireplace in the wide
reception hall. A bowl of hothouse violets greeted her with their
fragrant springlike odour; but heedless of the luxurious warmth and
cheer that pervaded the house, she hurried up-stairs, with the gloom
of the cloudy winter day in her tear-stained face.
"Lunch is served, Miss Alida," said the maid, meeting her in the upper
"Tell mamma that I don't want any," she answered, passing into her own
room. "I'm going to lie down. My head aches, and I do not wish to be
disturbed by any one."
A slight expression of annoyance crossed Mrs. Gooding's handsome face.
She and May were alone at lunch, and when the servant had left the
room she said impatiently to May: "I particularly wanted Alida to go
out with us this afternoon to call on Mrs. Lancaster's guest. She
takes so little interest in people outside the family, and it really
mortifies me to see how silent and stiff she is in company. She always
has some excuse to stay at home. She can never overcome her reticence
unless she goes out more. Oh, May, I wish she were more like you!"
As Alida lay up-stairs, battling with her tears and a throbbing
headache, a note was brought to her. It was from Ben Fuller, asking
her to be his valentine at Mrs. Lancaster's party. By this time she
had worked herself up to such a state of morbid sensitiveness that she
could not even write a gracious refusal. It was so curt and cool that
Ben gave a low whistle of surprise when he received it.
"I shall never ask her to go anywhere again!" was his mental
comment, as he tossed the note into the fire.
All the rest of the week Alida stayed in her room as much as possible.
Phil Bently's speech so rankled in her mind that she could take no
pleasure in anything, not even in the making of May's costume, in
which all the family were interested. It was an odd affair—a white
silk gown dotted with red hearts and bordered with dozens of
old-fashioned lace-paper valentines, with their bright array of
cupids and doves and flowers; and to May it was most becoming.
"Where did you ever get all the things to put on it?" asked her father
as she slowly revolved before him the night of the party.
"Oh, I saved them as an Indian brave does his scalp-locks," she
answered. "They were sent to me ages ago, before I left the nursery. I
had them all packed away, and had forgotten them until I began
planning this costume. I wonder if Charley Jarvis will recognise that
row, or Phil Bently remember when he sent this. They were barely out
of the kindergarten then."
The judge looked at the trophies with an amused smile. "I remember
sending valentines to your mother once upon a time. It is too bad the
custom is dying out. Young people seem to be discarding their patron
"Oh, no, indeed, father," answered May. "We have got beyond hearts and
darts and lace-paper affairs; but cast your judicial eye over that
table at all I have received to-day: books and music and boxes of
candy and no end of flowers."
"Where is your share, Alida?" asked the judge, kindly, peering over
his eye-glasses at his youngest daughter. "What did St. Valentine
"Nothing," answered Alida, rising suddenly to leave the room, lest he
should notice the tears she could not force back. "He's like everybody
else," she added, bitterly, as she reached the door. "He doesn't care
for homely people."
The judge looked annoyed. "I wish she were not so self-conscious and
sensitive!" he exclaimed.
"She hasn't seemed well for some time," said her mother,
apologetically. "It might be a wise thing to have the doctor see her
soon. The next time Agnes drops in I shall speak to her."
"If the child is ailing, have her come at once," said the judge,
decidedly, and a few minutes later he was at the telephone, sending a
message for Doctor Agnes Mayne to call that evening, if possible.
Instead of going to her own room, Alida opened the door of the old
nursery, turned on the gas, and began searching through closets and
drawers. At last she found the object of her search, a little
portfolio in which she had laid away some of her childish treasures,
as her older sister had done. Kneeling on the floor beside it, she
took out the valentines it contained and counted them. There were only
six—all that she had ever received; and now she noticed that each
little lace envelope was addressed in her father's familiar
handwriting. She had failed to see that in those earlier years.
"So, really, St. Valentine has never brought me anything," she
thought, bitterly, "and he never will! I wonder how it feels to be
loved and admired by everybody, as May is!"
Going into her own room, she sat down before her little mahogany
dressing-table, and tilting back the oval mirror, studied the
reflection in it. As she looked, the tears began to roll down her
cheeks, and finally she crossed her arms on the table and laid her
head on them with a choking sob. There was a knock at the door
presently, but she paid no attention. It was repeated, and then some
one came in softly, pausing as she saw the girl's dejected attitude.
Alida looked up, "Oh, Doctor Agnes!" she exclaimed; then, despite a
strong effort to control her nervous tears, down went her head on the
table, and she sobbed harder than before.
Doctor Agnes Mayne was the warm friend of all the family, and on the
most familiar footing with them. As she was a woman of strong
personal magnetism, and knew just how to win Alida's confidence, it
was not long before her judicious questions had drawn out the reason
of the girl's grief. After Alida had finished her recital of the
conversation at the dentist's, there was a long silence.
"Well, Alida," said Doctor Agnes at last, "what you need is a dose of
definitions, and I am going to give them to you at once. I wish you
would go to your dictionary and look for the word 'homely.' That seems
to be such a bugbear to you."
Much surprised, Alida crossed the room and opened the ponderous volume
on her writing-table. While she ran her finger slowly down the page,
the doctor continued: "It has several definitions, but the original
meaning was homelike, and it is only in that archaic sense that I
want you to take it. Now, what is given as the definition of
"Comfortable; cheerful; cozy; friendly," read Alida.
"Now look for comfortable," directed the doctor. "Not any modern
meaning. I want the good old ones that have become obsolete."
"Strong; vigorous; serviceable; helpful," read Alida again.
"Now just one word more," said the doctor. "Find cozy, the meaning
that the English give it."
Alida searched the columns a moment and then read: "Chatty; talkative;
"There!" exclaimed the doctor, taking the girl's feverish wrist in her
firm, cool hand. "That is my prescription for you. Take those
definitions faithfully to heart for a year, and you will become so
homely, in the good old sense of the word, that by another St.
Valentine's day you will find yourself admired by everybody."
Alida shrugged her shoulders so incredulously that the doctor took out
her watch and showed her a picture inside the case. "There is my
proof," she said. It was the picture of a sweet, kindly old face,
plain in features, but with a beauty of expression that made Alida's
eyes soften as she looked at it.
"My mother," said Doctor Agnes, gently. "She might be called a homely
woman in both senses of the word. Every one feels the cheer of her
presence as of a warm, comfortable fire-side. Nobody can come into
contact with her without being helped by her sunny, friendly interest.
People feel at home—at their easiest and best—with her, and she is
the 'cozy corner' they naturally turn to, old and young alike."
"Then she must have been born with such a nature," interrupted Alida.
"No, she was as reserved and timid as you are—always worrying about
her appearance and thinking that people were criticising her, until
she went to visit an eccentric old aunt, who spent her time in finding
employment for friendless young girls.
"Aunt Winifred soon found that mother was in as great need of
employment as the poorest little seamstress on her list. So she
interested her in her charities, drawing her by degrees into the
active work of them until her unhappy little niece had learned the
beautiful gospel of self-forgetfulness. Afterward, when mother was
married and had the happiness of her five daughters at heart, she
induced each one of us to take up something of absorbing interest, in
order that there might be no empty, idle days when discontent could
creep in. That is how I came to study medicine, and that is how I
learned to love the word 'homely' in its first and best sense. She
taught me the definitions which I have just given you."
Half an hour later Judge Gooding was surprised to see Alida and Agnes
Mayne coming gaily into the room with their arms around each other.
There was more animation in Alida's face than it had shown for days.
"Papa, I am going to study medicine," she announced. "Doctor Agnes has
told me so many interesting things about her profession, and the cases
she has in the children's hospital, that I can hardly wait to begin.
She has promised to take me round with her and lend me all her books.
I think I shall begin to-morrow morning."
The judge smiled indulgently. "I have no fears of your going into the
practice of medicine seriously," he said. "I should not like a
daughter of mine to do that; but if you think you would enjoy the
study as a pastime and Doctor Mayne recommends it, I shall not object
if your mother is willing."
The family thought that "Alida's fad," as they called it, would not
last long; but under Agnes Mayne's wise supervision it became an
unfailing source of pleasure to the girl. Winter slipped into spring,
and the crocuses gave way to the summer roses, and still her interest
grew daily. She even begged not to be taken to the seashore, where the
family always spent their summers.
"Mrs. Mayne has asked me to stay with her," she said, "and she has
such a dear little house, and I am sure that the children at the
hospital would miss me now if I were to go away. There is so much that
I can do to make the poor little things happier."
Alida had her own way finally. She studied on through the summer,
learning much about anatomy and physiology from the doctor's big books
in the office, but unconsciously learning the higher wisdom of a
spiritual hygiene from her sweet-souled old hostess, the doctor's
mother. It cleared her mental vision. It made her quick to understand
other people, warm in her sympathies, and forgetful of self in her
intercourse with them.
"She do be such a comfortable sort of body, that young doctor," said a
poor washerwoman, suffering from a scalded arm, as Doctor Mayne made
her rounds alone one morning. "She is that chatty and sociable that I
forget the pain while she is about, and it would do your heart good to
see how she do cozy up the place before she leaves it."
Doctor Mayne repeated this to Alida. "You are getting on bravely with
your definitions," she said, with an approving pat on her shoulder.
"What do you think of 'Alida's fad' now?" she asked Mrs. Gooding,
several months later. It was a dull December day, and she had called
for a hasty visit.
"My dear Agnes," said Mrs. Gooding, "we are simply delighted! It has
waked her up and made a different creature of her. She is almost as
easy and sociable with May's friends now as May is herself. Yesterday
afternoon half a dozen of them came in with May to get warm after a
long sleigh-ride. Alida prepared a delicious little chafing-dish lunch
for them, and made herself so agreeable and entertaining that I was
"I thought that she looked almost pretty, too. Her complexion is so
clear now, since she has put to such good use what she has learned
about hygiene. She looked so bright and animated, laughing and
talking there in the firelight, that it did not seem possible she had
ever been a cold, reticent girl, who always repelled people."
One morning, not long after this conversation, the family were
surprised by Ben Fuller's driving up in his sleigh soon after
breakfast, and asking for Alida. They were all in the library, and he
announced his errand without taking a seat. "My sister Ada—Mrs.
Cranford, you know—is very anxious for you to come over for a little
while. She was so prostrated yesterday by the shock of what happened
in her absence that she couldn't talk coherently to you then; but she
feels that she must see you for a few moments, if possible, and she is
unable to come out this morning. May I take you over in my sleigh?"
Alida, showing no trace of surprise at the message, rose at once to go
up-stairs for her hat, but Mrs. Gooding plied him with astonished
"Is it possible that she has not told you?" he exclaimed. "My sister
is spending the winter here with her little daughter Doris. We all
idolise the child, and she is never left alone a moment. But yesterday
we were all out of town at a wedding, and Doris had to be left with
only the nurse. Nobody will ever know how it happened, but she slipped
away and got into the little cottage around the corner. There was a
child there that she had taken a fancy to from seeing it at the window
whenever she passed.
"Nobody can find out how long she was there, or what the two children
did. She says that they played party and had 'good fings' to eat that
they 'finded' by themselves. Miss Alida met her coming home about four
o'clock, and turned to walk with her and see her safely into the
house, for she suspected that Doris had run away. Doris was eating
some of the pink candy that she had brought home from the cottage,
although we did not know where it came from until this morning.
"She offered Miss Alida a taste out of the little pasteboard box she
carried. To Miss Alida's horror, she found it was a package of roach
paste, warranted to be a deadly poison to insects. Miss Alida hurried
the child into the house and set to work so skilfully that by the time
the doctor reached there, nothing was left for him to do. He said that
Doris would have died but for Miss Alida's medical knowledge and
immediate attention. If nothing had been done until he arrived, it
would have been too late to save the child.
"Ada got home about the time he pronounced Doris entirely out of
danger, and was so frightened when she heard what had happened that
she went from one fainting spell into another. This morning we found
where Doris got the poison, and learned that the little child at the
cottage died in the night. Ada is so unnerved that she is nearly
frantic, thinking how near she came to losing Doris. She is so
grateful to Miss Alida that she would go through fire and water to
serve her in any way. Well, we all would, in fact," added the young
man, with a suspicion of huskiness in his voice. "You see, Doris is
the only grandchild in the family, and we are almost foolishly fond of
Detaching a locket from his watch-chain, he handed it to the judge.
"Here is a miniature of her," he said. The judge looked at the
beautiful baby face framed in its golden curls, and then glanced up at
Alida, who had returned, dressed for her drive.
"HID HER FACE IN A GREAT BUNCH OF ROSES."
"Thank God for such a sensible little daughter!" he said with
fervour, as he rose and kissed her.
This was not the last time that Ben Fuller was sent to escort Alida to
his sister. Mrs. Cranford's gratitude grew into an intense affection
for the girl. All winter she sent for her on every possible occasion,
to drive with her, to dine, to go to the opera, or attend some
entertainment. She was constantly planning some new way to give Alida
pleasure. Finding her deeply interested in the children at the
hospital, she sent a beautiful tree out to them on Christmas day, in
Alida's name. When February 14th came again, a great package of
valentines found its way to Alida for the children—enough for every
child in every ward, and the finest that could be bought in the city.
Doctor Agnes came up to Alida's room to help her sort and address
them. "You certainly have your share this year," she said, laughing.
"Do you remember what a slough of despond you were in a year ago?"
Alida smiled happily, and then hid her face in a great bunch of roses
on her dressing-table. The little note that had come with the flowers
was still in her hand, and she had just reread it.
"St. Valentine has brought me something else," she said, hesitatingly.
"Doctor Agnes, I'm to be Ben's valentine at the party to-night, and
he—he thinks that I am really homely in the archaic sense."
THE HAND OF DOUGLAS
"Hurry, Mary Lee, it is nearly train time!" called Mrs. Marker, where
she sat in a dingy little dining-room, pouring out a cup of coffee in
nervous haste for her daughter's early breakfast. The brand-new
hand-satchel on the lounge, packed for its first journey, was the only
thing in the room undimmed by service. Even at this early hour the
house felt hot and stuffy, for the August sun was fast warming the
great Southern city to a heat that would be intolerable by noon.
"I wish you were going with Mary Lee, Henry," said Mrs. Marker,
looking across the table at her husband as he seated himself. "You
need the rest."
There was a weary stoop in the man's shoulders that told of years
spent over a bookkeeper's desk, and his face was pale and worn. "Don't
say that in Mary Lee's hearing," he answered. "It is the child's first
real outing, and I would not have her pleasure marred by a single
thought of my work or ill health."
It was the greatest disappointment of Henry Marker's life that he had
not been able to give his daughter all that other fathers gave theirs.
Both he and his wife had been gently reared, and it was through no
fault of his that their property had been swept away just as he was
launching into his profession. A place at a bookkeeper's desk had been
the first thing that he had been able to obtain.
He felt Mary Lee's lack of advantages more than she did. With the
exception of a few excursions into the country, she had lived all her
seventeen years in this dingy little house on a side street. Her
mother had been her only teacher, and the men and women found in the
books of her father's library her only companions. Mary Lee was a
sociable creature; she longed for the companionship of girls of her
own age. To be a debutante, to have the seasons filled with a round of
visiting and receiving, to meet brilliant people, and to number one's
friends by the score—this to her simple little heart seemed the
height of happiness.
Now for the first time in her life she was to have a taste of it. Miss
Travis Dent had invited her to spend a month with her at Wicklett
Springs, a fashionable summer resort, in a house full of interesting
people, whose sayings and doings were already familiar to her through
the society columns of the daily papers. She was to be Travis's guest.
The rest of it, the railroad expenses, the new trunk and the new
clothes which footed up to such an enormous sum in her eyes, were of
her father's giving, and she promised herself a happiness in
proportion to the sacrifice he had made to provide for her.
"Hurry, Mary Lee!" called her mother, again. At the second call there
was a light rustle through the hall, and the bright face looking in at
the door seemed to transform all its surroundings.
"I couldn't come any sooner, mother dear, for admiring myself in my
new travelling-clothes. Oh, I'm such a fine peacock in all my fine
feathers!" she said, pausing to give her father a quick hug before she
took her place at the table. "Do tell me that I look like a real
born-to-the-purple, tailor-made girl."
Her father looked at her critically from the crown of her simple
travelling-hat to the tips of her little shoes, and there was an
unmistakable gleam of pride in his eyes as he completed his survey.
"Yes, you do," he said, slowly. "You would pass muster anywhere. I
don't mean your clothes alone; but it is written all over you, so
plainly that even a stranger must see at a glance, 'This is a real
A little later they were bidding each other good-bye on a parlour car
in the Union Depot. Travis Dent had joined them.
"I could not send my little girl in better company," thought Mr.
Marker, as he shook hands with the serene young woman who came forward
to meet them, with a sweet unconsciousness of self in her greeting.
There were depths in Travis Dent's grave, gray eyes that bespoke a
strong, self-reliant character.
The train was beginning to move. Mary Lee waved a last good-bye and
went back to Travis. Settling herself luxuriously in the big cushioned
chair, she smiled across at her friend. "Isn't it lovely!" she
exclaimed. "I want to begin a letter home this minute and tell them
the good times have begun."
For ten summers the ancestral home of the Wickletts had been turned
into a boarding-house, but apparently it ignored the change with the
same high-born ease of manner that characterised its gentle old
mistress. The hospitality it extended to its paying guests was the
same with which it welcomed its many visitors in ante-bellum days. And
Miss Philura Wicklett was the same. They were wonderfully alike, the
aristocratic old mansion and Miss Philura. Indeed, one could scarcely
think of her apart from her familiar background of tall, white
pillars, as stately and dignified as herself. The old portraits
looking down on the faces round the great polished table, saw familiar
ones, for the same family types were repeated there year after year
among the boarders that had been welcomed at Wicklett generations
before. The long mirrors, reflecting dimly the young faces peering
into them now, had flashed back the smiles of mothers and grandmothers
of these girls many a time, when gay house parties thronged the old
People flocked from all over the country to drink the waters of the
chalybeate springs near by, which the name of Wicklett made famous;
but a new hotel had been built for the strangers. Only the first
families, who claimed Miss Philura's friendship, knew the open sesame
to her great front door. It was for this reason that there was much
surprise and many exclamations of wonder, and a stir all round the
luncheon table, when Miss Philura announced that she was expecting
Miss Marker and Miss Dent to spend August with her. "Where are they
from, Miss Philura?" asked Molly Glendenning, a tall brunette, who was
the acknowledged belle of the springs that season.
"From your own city, my dear," was the placid answer. "They live
somewhere on Bank Street, I believe."
"Why, I have never even heard of them," said Molly Glendenning, with a
slight arching of her black eyebrows at mention of the street.
"'WHY, I HAVE NEVER EVEN HEARD OF THEM'"
Miss Philura hesitated and coloured slightly. "I must acknowledge,"
she said, with some hesitation, "that I have departed from my usual
custom, and it is only fair to you to inform you that they do not move
in your set at home. Miss Dent's father was a painter by trade, but is
now a wealthy contractor. She has had every advantage, is a college
graduate, and has had her voice cultivated abroad. She will be quite
an acquisition to us. Miss Marker is just a little schoolgirl, but
well connected, I understand. Her mother was a Monroe. I knew her
father when he was just beginning the study of law. He had a very
brilliant career in prospect, apparently, but through some sad freak
of fate lost his money and was obliged to abandon it. He is bookkeeper
now for Bement & Ahlering."
A stony silence greeted Miss Philura's explanation, for a moment, and
then several expostulatory voices asked in chorus, "Oh, Miss Philura!
How could you consent to their coming? A common workingman's daughter!
We don't want to know her, I'm sure!"
There was a touch of hauteur in Miss Philura's manner, that any one
should question any act of hers. "As I stated before," she said,
coldly, "I had the best of reasons. Surely, if I with my conservative
ideas can endorse them, that ought to be enough. There are not two
more ladylike girls in the South than Travis Dent and Mary Lee Marker.
I hope you will find one another agreeable during the little time they
will be here."
Miss Philura, somewhat deaf, did not hear the undertone passing round
the table, as she turned her attention to the making of the salad
dressing. "A sign-painter's daughter!" said Molly Glendenning, with a
shrug of the shoulders. "Well, I for one do not care to know her.
People educated above their station in life are apt to be presuming.
It might make matters a trifle awkward next winter if she should
attempt to push her acquaintance when we go back to town."
"It will be easy enough to ignore them," answered her cousin Cora,
"and I shall do it with a vengeance. It is one thing to be nice and
friendly with shopgirls and factory hands, and quite another to take
up with the well-to-do middle class. Give them an inch and they'll
take an ell every time. First thing you know they'll turn round and
The subject was still under discussion when they rose from the table
and followed Molly Glendenning out into the wide hall. "They'll not
stay long!" she exclaimed when they were well out of Miss Philura's
hearing; "I'll promise you that. They can push in here if they want
to, but they'll have to learn Marmion's lesson—'The hand of Douglas
is his own!'" She swept her pretty pink palm outward with a tragic
gesture, as she ran lightly up the stairs, and the girls, laughing as
they flocked after her, scattered to their rooms for their afternoon
It was in the heat and drowsiness of mid-afternoon that Travis and
Mary Lee reached Wicklett, and stood looking down the long shady
avenue leading to the house.
"Oh, Travis!" exclaimed Mary Lee, catching her breath with a gasp of
admiration. "Isn't it beautiful and still? It seems as if we might be
on enchanted ground, and that the palace of the Sleeping Beauty. I
never dreamed that anything could be so lovely."
She nodded toward the velvety green terraces, with their marble urns
of flowers, stretching one above another until they reached the
stately white pillars of the old mansion, where two stone lions
guarded the white steps. On the highest terrace a peacock stood
motionless, his resplendent feathers spread to the sun. Here and there
deserted hammocks swung under the trees, with books and magazines
scattered invitingly underneath. Mary Lee turned aside from the path
to look at the title of one in passing.
"'Gray Days and Gold,'" she read aloud. "How can any one leave such a
treasure on the grass? Surely, Travis, they must be all golden days
here. I have never imagined anything so beautiful."
Miss Philura met them in the hall in a white wrapper, waving a huge
palm-leaf fan. "I was up waiting for you," she said, cordially. "Every
one else in the house is asleep. That is all one can do these hot
"I shall soon follow everybody's example," said Travis, when they had
been shown to their rooms and the trunks brought up.
"And I shall begin a long letter home," said Mary Lee, spreading out
her writing material on an old claw-footed table, by the window
overlooking the peacock.
All the trivial incidents of the trip had been stored away for this
very purpose. They ceased to be trivial when recorded as Mary Lee's
alert eyes had seen them, and with the colour her amusing descriptions
lent. It was a letter that seemed to carry a breath of fresh air with
it into the stuffy dining-room on Bank Street, where her mother first
read it, and into the hot office where Henry Marker took it later to
reread at his leisure. Just that one enthusiastic letter, bubbling
over with a young girl's happiness, was enough to repay him for any
sacrifice he had made to give her such pleasure, and the smile the
letter awakened stayed on in his tired eyes all day.
A sound of voices broke out through the house long before Mary Lee had
finished writing. There was much opening and shutting of doors, and
calling of gay messages across the halls as the old mansion awoke to
life. Long before she was dressed for dinner, Mary Lee saw a flutter
of ribbons and white gowns under the trees as some of the girls
strolled down to the springs through the lengthening shadows. Soon she
and Travis would be strolling there, too.
Some one began playing on the piano in the drawing-room below, and a
familiar air came floating up to her, clear and sweet. It thrilled her
with a festive holiday feeling that seemed to give wings to her
spirits. "Listen, Travis," she cried, running into the adjoining room,
"to-morrow you'll be singing with them."
The music stopped, and the singer came out of the house and stood on
the white steps below between the lions, still humming. It was Molly
Glendenning, in her rose-coloured hat and dainty ruffled dress of
palest pink organdy.
"Oh, isn't she beautiful!" exclaimed Mary Lee, peeping out between the
curtains. "Look, Travis. What a picture she makes! 'Queen rose of the
rosebud garden of girls,'" she quoted softly. "Oh, I know I shall love
her," she declared, with all the intense enthusiasm of seventeen.
Four more pages were added to Mary Lee's letter that night. She
described everybody whom they had met at dinner, from her Queen Rose,
as she called Molly Glendenning, to the courtly old Confederate
general at the end of the table. She had been so absorbed in the
repartee and bright speeches round her that she had not noticed that
she and Travis were not included in the conversation. But Travis had
noticed. There were many callers that night after dinner; men who took
the girls away singly, in groups, and in pairs, to some sort of an
entertainment at the Inn near by. Travis and Mary Lee, sitting all
alone on the porch in the moonlight, could hear the music of the band
stealing across the lawn. There was a wistful little note in Mary
Lee's voice as she exclaimed, "I wish that we had been here long
enough to know everybody and go, too. Oh, Travis, it will be so nice
when we're really acquainted and are a part of it all," and again her
first enthusiasm manifested itself in her voice.
When the end of the week came, Mary Lee's lonely little heart still
cried out at being kept "a stranger within the gates." It puzzled her
that all her gentle advances should be politely ignored. Nobody seemed
to hear either Travis or herself if they ventured a remark. Not an
eyelid lifted in recognition if they joined a group on the porch or
under the trees by the hammocks. But Travis did not seem to notice.
She planned drives and excursions and long walks that kept them away
from the house much of the time after the first two days, and Mary Lee
was still more puzzled that Travis should be so blind. She wondered if
she were not overly sensitive herself, and decided not to cloud
Travis's evident enjoyment by a single whisper of her suspicions.
Still it was not drives and excursions for which Mary Lee had longed.
It was companionship and many friends she wanted, and it was hard to
hide her disappointment when she wrote home, and to make her letters
as buoyant and cheery as at first. One evening, after one of these
expeditions, she left Travis on the porch and went up-stairs with a
heavy heart to write the usual daily letter. She had heard the girls
planning a musicale to be given the following night, and she had a
sore, left-out feeling, because Travis had not been included. Sitting
down by the lamp, she picked up the pen and wrote three words: "Dear,
dear father!" Then she laid down her pen and leaned wearily back in
the chair. Somehow there seemed so little to tell. Her door was open
into the hall to admit the breeze, and she heard some one coming up
the stairs. There were voices passing her door, and she recognised the
first as Hester Tyler's. She was a young artist, lately arrived, who
was a favourite with every one. "It's hardly fair, Molly," she was
saying. "People who are sure of their own social position have no need
to snub anybody. Miss Dent is certainly a lady, any one can see that,
and if her voice is as good as Miss Philura says, she ought to be
included in the programme."
"That might do for you, Hester,"—and Mary Lee recognised the voice of
her Queen Rose,—"but you are too absorbed in your art to know
anything about conventionalities. We society girls have to put up some
sort of hedge. If people of that class want to push themselves in
where they are not wanted, and Miss Philura lets them come, that's
their affair. But, as I told the girls in the beginning:
"'The hand of Douglas is his own, and never shall in friendly grasp
The hand of such as—the mushroom aristocracy of Bank Street—clasp!'
"No sign-painter's daughter nor bookkeeper's daughter, whichever she
may be, on the programme with me, thank you. If there is, I'll not
sing. That's all there is about it."
"Molly Glendenning, you're a snob! The worst sort!" replied Hester,
but she laughed as she said it, and in a moment they were out of
hearing. Several minutes later they passed the door again on their way
Mary Lee sat staring at the paper before her with dazed, tear-blinded
eyes, as bit by bit her innocent little air-castle crumbled into
nothingness. Then her glance fell on the words she had written, and
laying her face down on them she began to sob. "Dear old father," she
whispered, brokenly. "I asked them for bread and they gave me a stone.
And it's because you have to work. They despise you for that, you dear
old daddykins, with your high ideals and knightly notions of honour.
Oh, how can they be so snobbish and blind! I'll not stay another day
under the same roof with such heartless people!"
Wiping her eyes, she went slowly down-stairs to look for Travis, but
the porch and halls were deserted. Every one must have gone over to
the Inn, she thought, as she heard the notes of the violins stealing
out on the night air. Travis was nowhere to be found. At last Mary Lee
wandered into the empty, dimly lighted drawing-room, and throwing
herself face downward on a long velvet divan, gave way to the feelings
she could no longer control. She had never been so miserable in all
her life before. Great, choking sobs shook her convulsively.
"Why, my dear child! What is the matter?" asked a deep voice,
suddenly, and Mary Lee started up to see the kind face of the old general bending anxiously over her. "Are you ill? What is the mutter?"
"'WHAT IS THE MATTER?' HE REPEATED"
Mary Lee sat up, wiping her eyes with a little, wet ball of a
handkerchief. "Nothing, thank you, sir," she said, politely, feeling
all of a sudden that the wise old general would think her very silly,
if he knew the cause of her crying. She tried to keep the sobs out of
her answer, but the effort was a dismal failure, and the tears began
to flow again.
"People often break their hearts over nothing," answered the general,
courteously, but with a smile lurking under his white moustache. "It
isn't wise to do it, and maybe I could convince you of the fact, if I
knew what particular nothing is making you unhappy."
The general had often noticed the eager, attentive little face at the
table, and had been attracted by its bright intelligence. Mary Lee
blinked up with red, tear-swollen eyes into the fatherly old face with
its crown of white hair, and recognised the stamp of the true knight
in every aristocratic feature. With a sudden, instinctive feeling of
confidence she cried out: "You are not like the rest. You would
understand, and I must tell somebody."
It was a pitiful little tale that she poured out to her sympathetic
listener, revealing a sweet, unspoiled nature as she laid bare her
fond girlish hopes and longings, in a way that would have surprised
her had she realised what she was doing. It gave him an insight into
her home life, too, and when she had finished, he could appreciate
what a cruel wound had been given her sensitive heart by the words
which disparaged her father. For a minute after she stopped speaking,
the general sat quite still. Then he said:
"Will you take the advice of an old man who has lived a long time and
learned a great many lessons? Don't go home to-morrow, as it is your
first impulse to do. Be brave and unselfish enough not to say anything
to your friend that will mar her enjoyment." He broke off suddenly and
sat musing a minute. "Do you know Browning's 'Saul'?" he asked, after
a little pause. Mary Lee nodded, a gleam of pleasure lighting her eyes
for an instant.
"Then you will remember these lines:
"'Round me the sheep
Fed in silence—above, the one eagle wheeled slow as in sleep;
And I lay in my hollow and mused on the world that might lie
'Neath his ken, though I saw but the strip 'twixt the hill and the sky.'
"Now these girls who have hurt you so cruelly, have done it solely
through ignorance. They have never seen anything beyond their own
little strip ''twixt the hill and the sky,' and they can only follow a
leader like a flock of pretty sheep. It is true that they ought to
have a broader horizon than the boundary of the little social circle
in which they were born, but you must make allowances for them, my
child. From their cradles they have been hedged round with
conventionalities which have made them short-sighted. It is your
privilege to rise above the petty social hollows of life. Learn to
take an eagle view, my dear. What does the eagle care for the
happenings down in the hollows?
"'With wing on the wind, and eye on the sun,
He swerves not a line, but bears onward—right on!'
That is a true American motto, learned from our national emblem.
"It is absolute foolishness for us to prate of old-world castes when
it is a part of our national creed that any one among us may rise as
high as the best of us, provided he can grow the wings wherewith to
soar. That little speech which almost broke your heart is a part of
our creed, too. 'The hand of Douglas is his own.' The American
Douglas reserves the right to extend it, regardless of all arbitrary
social lines, to any palm that has proved itself worthy, no matter
how hard and toil-stained it may be. Only snobbishness refuses."
There was a long pause, while Mary Lee considered the old general's
little sermon, and he watched her, with a kindly twinkle in his eyes.
"Are you strong enough to do that, child?" he asked, presently; "to
rise to the eagle view of the situation, and stay on here regardless
of the slights that have stung you, for your friend's sake? And your
father's sake, too," he added. "It would grieve him sorely to know of
your disappointment, as he would have to know it, if you went back
before the appointed time."
Mary Lee looked up quickly. "I don't believe that you understand,
after all," she cried. "I could rise above the snubbings. It is not
that that hurts, but it is the disappointment. Oh, you don't know how
I longed to be friends with those girls! They are so bright and
attractive, and seem to have such good times together. It is the
missing of all that I had hoped to find that hurts."
The wistfulness of the fair little face touched the general's gallant
soul to the quick. "'Pon my word," he declared. "If you care as
much as that for their friendship, you shall have it. I'll conduct
a campaign into the enemy's quarters, and capture it for you, myself!"
"IT WAS NOT HER VOICE ALONE WHICH DREW SO MANY
And nobly the old general kept his promise. The night of the musicale
Travis Dent was not on the programme, but she sang more than once, and
each time, except the first, at the request of the most noted musical
people among the guests. It was the general who led her to the piano,
first saying that no programme was complete without his favourite
But Mary Lee saw, with a thrill of gratified pride in her friend's
triumph, that it was not her voice alone which drew so many admirers
round her, and kept them drifting back many times during the evening.
It was the charm of Travis Dent's own gracious personality. Mary Lee
had her share of the lions, too, that evening, for the general saw to
that. He introduced them himself, and his deferential attentions to
the two girls had the effect he intended. It argued that they were
well worth the knowing.
"Didn't I tell you they were a flock of pretty sheep?" he asked,
several days afterward. "Hasn't a change come over the spirit of your
"Yes, indeed," answered Mary Lee, gaily. "All thanks to you. And it
seems so funny. All the girls have been talking so much about that Mr.
Hendrick Lang, and exclaiming over his new novel. He has called on
Travis twice since the musicale, and this afternoon he took us both
out for a drive. When we came back Miss Glendenning asked us to walk
down to the spring with her as cordially as if we had been old friends
"'The hand of Douglas!'" exclaimed the general, with a laugh. "Well,
it's the way of the world to give it in that fashion, and I'm glad
you've got what you wanted, at last."
"And to think," cried Mary Lee, "that Travis knew from the first they
were trying to freeze us out. But she didn't care a bit. All those
drives and excursions she planned were simply to keep me away from the
house so that I should not notice it. She was going on perfectly
serene and untroubled, herself."
"'With wing on the wind, and eye on the sun,'"
quoted the general, softly. "Ah, my little friend, Miss Travis has a
broader outlook than the petty hollows. She has risen to the eagle's
ELSIE'S "PALMISTRY EVENING"
ELSIE'S "PALMISTRY EVENING"
As Helen Jaynes stood before the mirror in her room, putting the last
touches to her toilet, there was a rap at the door.
"I'm ready, Jane," she called, thinking it was the maid who had come
to tell her the carriage was ready. But instead, her fifteen-year-old
sister Sara peeped into the room. "Oh, sister Helen!" she exclaimed,
in a disappointed tone. "Are you going out? Olive and I wanted to ask
you something very particularly."
"Come in, dear," answered Helen, nodding pleasantly to the
rosy-cheeked girl who peered over Sara's shoulder. "What do you want?
I am at your service."
"What is it you want, Sara?" asked Helen again, as the girls seated
themselves by the cozy, tiled fireplace, and looked round admiringly.
Sara hesitated. "I had planned to break it to you gently," she began,
"but as you are going out there is no time to lead up to the subject
gradually. I hope you'll not be shocked, but there is a clairvoyant at
the Metropole this week. Some of the girls have been there, and they
say it is simply wonderful how she can tell fortunes. She charges only
fifty cents. Olive and I are wild to go, and we thought maybe you
might take us Saturday afternoon."
Helen buttoned her gloves as if considering. "Do you think it would
make you any happier, little sister, to know what the future holds for
"Oh, yes!" answered Sara, decidedly. "The clairvoyant told Addie
Roberts things in her past life that positively nobody but Addie knew
had happened. Then she told her that a large fortune is coming to her
soon, and she has a long journey ahead of her. She is to fall in love
with a young man whom her parents will oppose her marrying, but 'love
will find out a way,' and all will end happily."
"Does Addie believe all that the clairvoyant told her?" asked Helen.
"I don't know," answered Sara, but Olive put in eagerly, "I am sure
she does, for she talks so much about it, and says if the woman could
tell her past so accurately, she cannot help thinking that there must
be some truth in her predictions for the future."
"Sara," said Helen, gravely, "suppose that woman were to tell you that
sometime you will quarrel with your family, and be driven from home,
and finally die in a poorhouse. Wouldn't it make you miserable every
time you thought of it?"
"No, indeed, sister," answered the girl, indignantly. "I hope I am not
quite so weak-minded as to believe all that. I'd simply think that she
had made a mistake. Imagine me quarrelling with my family!"
"But clairvoyants often tell people things that seem just as
improbable. What is the use of wasting half a dollar to hear
predictions that you might not be able to believe, or if you could
believe them, would make you utterly miserable?"
"Oh, it is just for the fun of it, Helen," urged Sara. "Please take
us. All the girls are going, and we have never had our fortunes told
in our lives."
Before there was time for a reply, Jane came to the door. "The
carriage is waiting, Miss Helen," she said. For a moment Helen stood
irresolutely beside her dressing-table, stroking her muff in an
absent-minded sort of way. Then she said: "I shall have to think about
it awhile before I can promise. I shall not be out long. If you girls
have nothing planned for the afternoon, suppose you wait for me here.
Get out my old college chafing-dish and make yourselves some
chocolate, string up my banjo, and I'll give you a package of old
letters to read, telling of some of our pranks at school."
"Oh, that will be lovely, Miss Helen," cried Olive; "especially the
letters;" and Sara ran to give her sister an impulsive hug.
Unlocking her desk, Helen selected a bundle of letters from one of the
pigeonholes. It was tied with her class colours and marked "From
Sophia Gordon." "She was my best friend at school," explained Helen,
"and my roommate for three years; but being in the class just below
me, she had to go through her senior year without me. These letters
were written during that time. I have a reason for asking you to read
them. Perhaps you will be able to discover it before I come back."
With a smile and nod to Olive, and a light kiss on Sara's cheek, she
left them to amuse themselves during her absence in any way they
"You read the letters aloud while I make the chocolate," said Sara, as
the door closed behind her sister. "We can do the other things
"There is a photograph in this one, of a girl about your size, Sara,"
announced Olive, as she opened the first letter. "What's this written
under it? 'Timoroso.' What a queer name! But see what a sweet face she
has. I wonder who it can be?"
"The letter will probably tell," answered Sara, striking a match to
light the alcohol-lamp. "Go on, I am ready to listen."
"My dearest Helen," read Olive. "Here I am back at school in our
sunshiny old south room in Baxter Hall, with the same jolly set of
girls popping their heads out of their doors, all along the corridor,
to joke with each other; the same old teachers and furniture and surroundings; the same dear old everything, with one exception—my old
"I know you are dying to hear about my new roommate. She is a freshman
by the name of Susannah Talbot, but we have never called her that
since the first day. You will find her photograph enclosed, and can
see for yourself what a shy little rabbit she is.
"Elsie Gayland came into our room while I was showing Susannah where
to put her things as she unpacked. You know how regardlessly outspoken
Elsie is, and how thoroughly saturated with her music. She is worse
than ever this year, and talks almost entirely in musical terms.
"'How are you two going to chord?' she said, abruptly, to Susannah.
'If Sophia were a sheet of music, she would be marked on every score,
Fortissimo, because she is so forcible and aggressive. But you are
just the opposite; it seems to me that Timoroso would just suit you.
You do not object to a nickname, I hope? Everybody has to put up with
"Susannah blushed and managed to stammer out that she didn't mind, and
ever since then she has been 'Timoroso' to us all. You know Elsie
Gayland. She is the same old Elsie. What the Pied Piper was to
Hamelin town, she is to this school. We all still flock after her in
spite of ourselves, and no matter what she chooses to pipe for us, we
dance after her.
"She has a new fad now—palmistry. Yesterday she showed me a book on
the subject, that she studied all vacation. It is the weirdest looking
thing, bound in black, with white serpents crawling all over the
cover. It made me creep to look at it. She says that she is going to
give a 'Palmistry Evening' soon, whatever that may be, and tell our
fortunes. Timoroso has just come in and says that Elsie is waiting for
me, so with 'these few broken remarks,' and a heart full of love, I
must leave you for the present. Devotedly,
As Olive laid down the letter and took up another, Sara exclaimed, "I
see now why sister wanted us to read them. It is something about
"The next letter is dated a week later," said Olive, beginning to read
"It was so lovely of you, Helen, dearest, to write me that good long
letter in answer to the scrap I sent. I have put off answering it
until I could tell you about our palmistry evening which Elsie gave us
last night. She almost got into trouble by passing round little slips
of paper in class, on which was written:
8# XXIV. Lc.
"Miss Hill caught sight of one as it was being passed to Timoroso, and
called her up to the desk. Seeing that Tim was almost ready to faint
from embarrassment, Elsie spoke up quickly: 'It's mine, Miss Hill. It
is just a reference. I had several slipped in here, between the leaves
of my algebra.'
"Of course it was a reference. You can easily tell what it referred to
when interpreted in the old way. Eight o'clock sharp. Room 24.
"'A reference to what, Miss Gayland?' asked Miss Hill, in her most
"'To palmistry,' answered Elsie, calmly. 'A subject which I have been
investigating for some time.'
"With that Miss Hill sent Tim back to her seat, and read us a lecture
on the folly of such things, and the harm of allowing them to absorb
our valuable time. Elsie was cross at some of the things she said, for
she firmly believes in chiromancy. 'There can't be anything wrong in
it,' she declared to us afterward, 'for papa would not have given me
this big, expensive book about it, with all these fine plates. See!
Here is an impression of Gladstone's hand, and lots of celebrated
people. Miss Hill has no right to class all believers in palmistry
with mountebanks and gypsies, and she certainly betrays her ignorance
of a noble science when she mixes it up with clairvoyance and common
"Still, Miss Hill's remarks made some change in Elsie's plans, for
when we gathered in her room at the appointed time, it looked just as
usual, although she had intended to have it darkened and hung with
"After we had all taken our seats, Elsie retired behind a heavy screen
in the corner. She had previously cut two slits in it, through which
we were to thrust our hands. She made us take off our rings, so that
she could not recognise us by them, and commanded absolute silence.
The light was on her side of the screen, and the semi-darkness in
which we sat, added to the breathless silence, made us unnaturally
solemn. The girls motioned me to put my hands through the screen
first; and I wish you could have seen the pantomime they went through
as she enumerated my familiar traits of character. They nodded their
heads in emphatic agreement, each one growing more eager every moment
for her turn, as all recognised the truth of Elsie's reading. Some of
us found that we had very odd propensities, but it was Timoroso who
made the sensation of the evening. When her turn came I could see that
she had become almost frightened at Elsie's remarkable power of
discernment, and was much wrought upon by the impressive silence of
the dimly lighted room.
"After a moment of careful examination Elsie began: 'This is a psychic
hand which shows a delicate constitution, great sensitiveness, and
abnormal nervousness. The life line is very short, the head line good,
but running too far down into the mount of Luna. That may indicate
only unusual imaginative power, or if other lines confirm it, it may
mean a tendency to insanity.' Then she gave a startled exclamation and
paused a moment. 'Oh, girls!' she cried. 'How interesting! I have
never found this mark in a hand before, but it is in one of the
"'What?' we cried in chorus, breaking the long-enforced silence.
"'It is the suicide line!'
"Poor little Timoroso jerked her hands away, and turned toward us with
a frightened face gleaming through the dusk as white as her collar.
Her distress was pitiful.
"You see, Elsie had been telling so many truths about us, that poor
little Tim believed implicitly in her fortune-telling ability. She
felt that her doom was sealed; that the cruel finger of a relentless
fate had written it so plainly in her tell-tale palm, that all who saw
it might read. She hid her face on my shoulder and sobbed so violently
that it put an end to the seance.
"Elsie had to come out from behind the screen to help soothe her.
'Why, Tim, dear, you mustn't take it so to heart!' she insisted. 'Let
me look at your hands again. There may be plenty of lines to
counteract that one; besides, I am only a beginner, and liable to make
a wrong interpretation.'
"By sheer force of her strong, cheery personality, she calmed Tim
after awhile, and had her laughing like the gayest of us. Nobody but
Elsie could have done it.
"When Miss Hill made an excuse to come in a little after nine o'clock,
we were eating apples and telling riddles as demurely as Quaker
"'SHE HID HER FACE ON MY SHOULDER'"
When Olive had finished reading this letter aloud, she had to read
several more before she came to another mentioning the subject in
which she and Sara were most interested; and after that there were
only occasional paragraphs scattered here and there among pages of
personal news and school happenings.
"I am afraid that Timoroso is going to be ill," wrote Sophia, in one
of those gossipy epistles. "She is as white and listless as a tired
little ghost. She has slept scarcely any since our palmistry evening,
but I did not discover the fact until last night. I woke suddenly to
find her standing by the window in the moonlight, with a blanket
thrown round her. She was catching her breath in long, choking sobs,
and wringing her hands in the greatest distress. The idea that she
must sometime take her own life haunts her night and day. I found that
she had been brooding over it, taking a morbid interest in all the
sensational reports of suicides that she can find in the papers, and
that she has been rereading Cleopatra's experiments with poisons."
"Timoroso's case is growing alarming. I have told Elsie, and she feels
she is directly responsible for her condition, and bemoans her
thoughtlessness in ever telling Tim what she saw in her hand. She is
doing all she can now to cheer Tim up and ridicule her out of her
morbidness. She is always running in with some funny speech to make us
laugh. Of course, all the other girls follow her example, so that
poor little Tim is the most popular girl in school now; but I catch
her looking at her hand a dozen times a day, with all the horror in
her face that Lady Macbeth's had, over the spots that would not out."
"The crisis came last night. I was awakened by hearing a window
stealthily opened, and the moonlight was bright enough to show me
Timoroso stepping up on the sill.
"'Tim!' I cried, 'what on earth are you doing?' She turned and looked
at me wildly for an instant, and then, running across the room, flung
herself down on the bed beside me.
"'Oh, I am so glad I did not do it!' she cried, with a little moan. 'I
felt that I must jump out of the window. I am glad you called me.
Still,'—she looked round wildly again,—'if I am doomed to such an
awful fate, it will have to come sometime, and it might be better to
have it over with soon, than to live in this constant dread.'
"When I told Elsie about it, this morning, she cried, and that is
something I never saw Elsie Gayland do before.
"'You've got to go with me to see Doctor Phelps about Tim!' she
said. 'I can manage to get leave of absence for both of us in one way
or another, for I am desperate enough to accomplish anything.'
"'LOOKING AT HER HAND A DOZEN TIMES A DAY.'"
"Doctor Phelps listened like a father to Elsie's confession of her
thoughtlessness in giving Tim such a nervous shock. 'I used to dabble
in phrenology and chiromancy, and such things, when I was young,' he
said. 'As guides to character they are certainly interesting and often
helpful, but, one should remember, by no means infallible.'
"Then he showed us a little mark on his palm. 'Years ago,' he said, 'I
was told that that presaged an early death by drowning. It was to
occur between the ages of twenty and twenty-five, and although I was
on the water almost daily, I never had the slightest accident. I am
over sixty now. Had I been a nervous man, I would probably have
suffered much from my apprehensions of danger. Tell that to Miss
Talbot for her comfort.'
"He walked back to school with us, and while he waited for Miss Hill
to be summoned, Elsie went up-stairs to get her book. When she came
down there was the queerest expression on her face I ever saw. 'I
have made such a mistake!' she said, in an embarrassed way. 'I can
never forgive myself for it. I mistook one line for another, and the
one in Tim's hand means something entirely different from what I
thought it did. That poor little soul has been suffering all this time
solely on account of my ignorance!'
"Doctor Phelps smiled. 'When I was a lad,' he said, 'there was a
couplet in my grammar that I often had to parse, which ran in this
"'A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring!'"
"Tim's father came to-day. Doctor Phelps telegraphed for him
immediately after leaving here yesterday, and they have taken her away
to a sanitarium. Doctor Phelps said that she was not able to stand the
long journey home, and that her nervous condition was so serious that
she must have immediate attention.
"Elsie is inconsolable, although Doctor Phelps assures her that Tim
would undoubtedly have broken down before the close of the year, from
the mere strain of school life; she is such a delicate little thing."
"Just a month to-day since Tim left. It will be a full year before she
is well and strong again, Doctor Phelps says, and maybe longer. He was
invited to speak in the chapel, this morning, and I wish you could
have heard what he said on the influence of the imagination. He told
some comical stories of patients he had had, who could imagine
themselves possessed of a new disease every week.
"Then he spoke of clairvoyants, and mediums, and fortune-tellers of
every kind. 'It is one of the kindest provisions of Providence,' he
added, 'that we are allowed to see only one minute at a time. Suppose
that we could look ahead into the years, and see some terrible
calamity coming upon us, with the deadly certainty that every
nightfall was bringing it one step nearer. What an agony of
apprehension we would be in as the month approached—then the week,
the day, and finally the hour! What man could stand the strain of such
"'Or, suppose it were some joy that we looked forward to. When it came
it would be robbed of its bloom by those long years of constant
anticipation. It is the unexpected good fortune, the bits of happiness
that come to us as complete surprises, which give us the keenest
thrills of enjoyment.'
"'ASKED ME TO HUNT UP ALL THE REFERENCES'"
"Whatever Doctor Phelps says is law and gospel with Elsie Gayland, and
as she never does anything half-way, I was not surprised when she
walked into my room with her book on chiromancy, and put it in the
fire. As she stood, grimly watching it burn, she said: 'I thought I
should go through the floor when Doctor Phelps called me into the
library just now. He gave me this big concordance, and asked me to
hunt up all the references in my Bible under the words "hand" and
"path," and all the promises for guidance and safety that are given to
those who commit themselves into the Eternal keeping. He wants me to
read them to Timoroso sometime soon, for he says that nothing but an
abiding consciousness that she is in the hollow of an Omnipotent hand
will bring her the peace of mind that is essential to her recovery.'"
Olive gathered the letters together, and as she tied them with the
white and scarlet ribbons, Helen came back from her frosty drive.
"I thought you would want to hear the sequel," she said, smiling at
their eager questions, as she sat down to the cup of steaming
chocolate that Sara poured for her.
"Timoroso is entirely well now. She spent this winter in the south of
France, and I want you to see the calendar she sent me this Christmas.
Such a beautiful little water colour, with the text illuminated as the
old monks used to do it."
Sara and Olive leaned over her shoulder to examine the card Helen took
from her desk, and read the verse together, half under their breath:
"Build a little fence of trust
Fill the space with loving deeds
And therein stay.
Look not through the sheltering bars
God will help thee bear what comes
Of joy or sorrow."
Helen did not see the glance that passed between the girls as they
finished reading, but she was not surprised that there was never
anything more said about consulting the clairvoyant at the Metropole.
THEIR ANCESTRAL LATCH-STRING
THEIR ANCESTRAL LATCH-STRING
It was an ideal day for a picnic; mid-June in the heart of the Blue
Grass. On the rose-covered back porch of an old Southern mansion two
pretty girls were enthusiastically preparing for their day's outing.
It did not cloud their happiness that Claribel had to iron her own
shirt-waist for the occasion, or that the dainty lunch Wilma was
packing into the basket would leave the larder almost empty. They had
always been used to that order of things.
But old Mam Daphne, bumping her scrubbing-brush over the kitchen
floor, shook her woolly head sadly. She could remember the time when
every day was a gala day in the old mansion, because it was always
overflowing with guests to be entertained with free-handed
hospitality. Store-room and smoke-house were filled to overflowing
then, and there was a swarm of negro servants always in attendance. It
hurt the faithful old mammy's pride to see one of her young mistress's
daughters bending over the ironing-board, and to hear the other
exclaiming over the fried chicken and frosted spice cake in the picnic
basket, when such luxuries had once been their family's daily fare.
She was their only servitor, now, coming once a week to scrub and
"IT HURT THE FAITHFUL OLD MAMMY'S PRIDE"
This morning she looked down the grass-grown walk to the broken-hinged
gate and sighed. She was looking through a bower of climbing roses,
but even the Gloire de Dijon, with its thousands of gold-hearted
blossoms, could not hide the fact that the old place was fast going to
To Claribel and Wilma, not yet out of their teens, repairs on the old
house did not seem half so important as their own personal ones of
shoe soles and skirt braids. It was their sister Agnes, ten years
older, who shouldered all such worries.
There had been girls in the country place where they lived, girls of
the best old families, too, who, feeling the pinch of poverty that
followed the changed conditions of the South after the war, had gone
away to teach school or learn typewriting. But Agnes, bringing up her
sisters in strict accordance with the old family traditions, carefully
weeded out of their young minds any such tendencies toward
self-support. With the city only fifteen miles away, where they might
have had the society and advantages they longed for, her prejudices
and family pride kept them in their cage of circumstances, waiting
helplessly like two irresponsible little canaries, for some outside
hand to open the door.
"PAUSING IN HER SCRUBBING"
"Honey," said Mam Daphne, pausing in her scrubbing as Claribel came
into the kitchen for a hot iron, "I'se been studyin' ovah you-all's case right smaht, lately. You'se done had to move out'n de front o' de
house, count o' de roof leakin', an' you shet up de west wing, so many
windows was broke. Soon you-all will be movin' into de kitchen. Why
don't you sell this great place fo' it goes clean to destruction, an'
buy a little cottage jes' big enough fo' you three chillun? You'd be
so much more comf'table."
"Sell Marchmont, Mam Daphne," cried Claribel. "Why, it has never
belonged to any one but a Mason since the days of Boone! Besides," she
explained, with the consideration they had always shown their mother's
old nurse, "there'll be no need for it when sister's book is
published. Last spring, when the Southern Sentinel gave her their
book reviewing to do every week, we discovered that she had been at
work for years on a novel of her own. When that is published she is
going to take us to the city every winter. She'll be so rich and
famous then we'll meet all the lions and people worth knowing. Wilma
and I will study designing and take painting lessons, and we'll go to
parties and concerts and have as many beaux as mamma had when she was
young. And, best of all, we'll repair Marchmont, and you are to come
and live with us again. That is part of sister's plan."
Mam Daphne listened with a look of incredulous wonder on her old face.
"Aw, go 'long, honey, you'se a-foolin' me!" she exclaimed, dipping her
brush into the suds again. But an eager voice in the doorway made her
look up to see the careworn face of the oldest sister.
"Yes, it's true, Mam Daphne," cried Agnes. "I am almost through, now,
and as soon as these noisy children are off to the picnic I shall
begin my last chapter. I am just in the mood for it, and I shall not
even stop to get any lunch."
"Then I'll leave you a devilled egg and a spice cake to nibble on,"
said Wilma, "for there won't be a crust of bread left in the house
when this lunch is taken out of it. I'm glad genius burns. What a
heavenly day this is going to be for all of us!"
As she spoke, they were startled by a loud bang of the knocker on the
big front door. Rarely in their remembrance had the great brass
griffin's head sent that hollow booming through the hall. Since they
had been living in the south wing the neighbours always came to the
"Who can it be at this hour of the morning?" cried Claribel, dropping
her iron and clutching at her light curly hair, which was always in
pretty disorder. "We're none of us dressed to meet strangers. Run, Mam
Daphne! How fortunate you are here to go to the door!"
A moment later the old coloured woman was fumbling at the long unused
bolts, while the girls listened breathlessly at the dining-room door.
It was a lady's voice that reached them. Evidently some one who had
been at the house in its palmy days, for she recognised Mam Daphne as
an old servant.
"I want to see all the young ladies, Daphne," she said. "Tell them
that it is Mrs. Gorham, their mother's old friend and schoolmate, from
Lexington. Tell them I am on my way to Louisville, and have taken the
liberty of stopping off to spend the day, without sending them word."
Then, as if to herself, they heard her say: "I've lived in Kentucky
too long, and enjoyed Alice Mason's hospitality too often not to be
sure of a welcome from her daughters."
Wilma sank down limply in a disconsolate heap on the floor. "Oh,
sister, what shall we do?" she whispered to Agnes. "Must we give
up the picnic, and that glorious ride home by moonlight, when it's
probably the only outing of the kind we'll have this summer? The boys
were going to take their banjos and mandolins, and they counted on us
to help serenade—"
Claribel interrupted her with a grim face. "There's no help for it.
Don't you see, Wilma, that we've got to give it up? Don't you know
that everything fit to eat in the house went into that picnic basket?
We can't go without it, and we can't take it and leave sister to
entertain the company without its help. But oh, it's certainly too
provoking! Why, of all days in the year, should she drop down on us
to-day, when this is the first time she has been here since we were
out of the nursery!"
"I'm afraid there's nothing left for us to do but to keep up the old
traditions, and entertain her in the best style we can, dears," said
Agnes, gently. "Poor mamma's best friend must be showed the
hospitality that she always found here. But, oh, girls, I did hope
to finish that book to-day! It may be weeks before I'm keyed up to
the pitch again where I feel equal to writing the climax as it should
There were tears in Wilma's eyes as she carried the lunch-basket into
the pantry, but she giggled as, passing the old portraits on the
stairs, as they went up to dress, Claribel shook her fist in their
"That's what we get for having the latch-string of our ancestors in
our keeping," she exclaimed. "It's pretty well frayed out by this
time, and cannot stand many more strains like this. It seems to me
that we are sort of acting a lie. Mam Daphne will wait on the table
to-day, and Mrs. Gorham will see what a spread we have, and will think
that we live that way all the time."
"Well," said Wilma, hopefully, "we will live that way all the time
when sister's 'Romance of Carrington' is published. How good it will
be to feel able to ask the girls to stay to lunch any time they happen
to drop in, and not have to be wondering if the butter will hold out!"
Despite their disappointment, the day proved a pleasant one, for Mrs.
Gorham brought with her a breath from the outside world for which
they longed. She entertained them with stories of her travels, of her
daughter's experiences at boarding-school and her son Tom's escapades
at college. She praised Claribel's embroidery and Wilma's little
water-colour sketches, and she left without discovering all the
ravages time had wrought in beautiful old Marchmont. For they sat out
on the porch nearly all day, and the rose mantle of the Gloire de
Dijon hid a multitude of sins of omission in the way of neglected
"SHE ENTERTAINED THEM WITH STORIES OF HER TRAVELS"
Several days later, when Mrs. Gorham wrote to Agnes, thanking her for
the pleasure the visit had given her, she added: "I have talked so
much about Marchmont since my return, of its roses, of its hospitality
and its charming girls, that Tom declares he intends to follow my
example and drop by some day for a call. He may carry out his threat
this summer, as a little business matter may call him to that part of
the State. I have assured him your latch-string will be out to him as
it was to me, for old time's sake. I shall be very glad to have him
know the daughters of my old friend."
"Oh," cried Wilma, as Agnes read the letter aloud, "if he is half as
interesting as his mother's tales of him, he must be a real Prince
Charming. But, oh, girls, don't you hope he'll wait until
'Carrington' is out? It would be dreadfully embarrassing if, after his
mother's account of our hospitality, we could give him only scraps.
There can't always be a picnic basket to fall back on."
The prospective guest was often discussed during the summer that
followed; and, although he never came, Wilma was always alarming the
family, when affairs were especially unpropitious, by the query,
"What if he should suddenly drop in upon us now?"
"There's no use of your crying 'wolf' any longer," said Claribel,
impatiently, one rainy morning, near the middle of September. "He's
surely gone back to college by this time. What if a letter did come to
sister this morning, addressed in a strange handwriting? It is from
some new man on the Sentinel, probably."
"At any rate," insisted Wilma, "I wish it had come before sister went
to town, and if it should be from Mrs. Gorham's son, of all the
unlucky days in creation, he couldn't have chosen a worse time to
arrive. The situation is absolutely hopeless."
The two girls were in the attic, arrayed in their oldest wrappers.
Claribel, with her curly hair carefully tied up in a towel, was
ripping open an old feather bolster to convert it into sofa pillows.
Wilma, dragging out dusty boxes from under the eaves, was looking
through them for some remnants of linen for covers.
Their noses were blue with cold, for the wind whistled through the
broken panes of the attic windows. Early that morning Agnes had
started on her weekly trip to town to the Sentinel's office. Her
face was white and set, and she had passed a sleepless night. The day
before, her manuscript, that was to have made the fortunes of her
little world, was returned to her from the publishers. It was more
than a disappointment to the three who had counted so confidently upon
its success. It was almost a tragedy in the shattering of such high
hopes. An intangible sense of loss had weighed on their spirits ever
since, almost as if some one lay dead in the great empty parlours
It was a desire to rid themselves of the strange feeling of desolation
that brooded over the familiar rooms that sent the girls to the attic
as soon as Agnes left. Mam Daphne had brought the mail, as she often
did in rainy weather, and gone again. The sight of the letter
addressed to Agnes had given rise to Wilma's usual supposition, and
then silence followed for nearly an hour. It was broken by a sudden
thundering of the griffin's head against the great front door. The
girls' hearts seemed to leap up in their throats. They had not heard
that sound since the June day of Mrs. Gorham's visit.
"Tom!" ejaculated Wilma, in a terrified whisper, looking wildly
into Claribel's startled eyes. "Oh, we can't let him in! Neither of us
is fit to go down, and there isn't a spark of fire in this big barn of
a house, even in the kitchen stove."
"I can't go," announced Claribel. "I am simply covered with feathers.
It will take an hour at least to pick them off."
Wilma held up two grimy hands, and pointed to the front breadth of her
wrapper, which had been torn to ribbons on a lurking nail.
"Do you think he would recognise in either of us one of the 'charming
girls of Marchmont' that his mother painted?"
"Maybe it's only a book-agent after all," suggested Claribel,
hopefully. But the knocking sounded again, and Wilma shook her head.
"No, there was that letter to sister, you know, and it sounds just as
I've imagined Tom would knock, from what his mother told of him—so
peremptory and lordly, somehow, as if he wouldn't take no for an
"What shall we do?" groaned Claribel, desperately. "Even if we were
fit to go down, there's nothing but bread and tea for lunch. Oh, if
sister were only home!"
"AT THE GATE HE TURNED FOR A LONG BACKWARD LOOK."
While they hesitated and exclaimed and debated, they heard a step
crunch on the gravel far below, and looking down, saw a dripping
umbrella, a broad back, and two long legs striding down the walk. Just
above the attic window where they crouched, a grinning gargoyle
spouted a stream of water past the tiny diamond panes. Through this
miniature cataract they watched their departing guest. At the gate he
turned for a long backward look, and they had a glimpse of a handsome
boyish face, as he gazed up at the stately pillared old mansion. The
roses were gone, and the rain beating against it made it look
unspeakably old and cheerless. All the front shutters were closed, and
no smoke wreathed from any of its chimneys. Evidently he thought the
place deserted, seeing no signs of life anywhere about it.
As his gaze wandered upward to the grinning old gargoyle, the girls
hastily drew back. When they peeped out again, he had gone.
"Do you realise what we have done?" asked Claribel, with tears of
mortification springing to her eyes. "We have kept still and acted
another lie for the sake of our ancestral latch-string. Oh, why
haven't we servants and plenty to eat and wear as they had in the good
old times Mam Daphne tells about, so that we could always be at home
"And he looked so interesting," wailed Wilma. "I'd love to know a
man like that—a real, wide-awake college fellow—and now he's walked
right out of our lives as everything else worth while has done. Now
that 'Carrington' has failed and sister lost hope—"
She did not finish the sentence, but sat there on the attic floor in a
disconsolate little heap, staring out the tiny window while the rain
beat a dirge on the leaky roof. Suddenly she was startled by Claribel
scrambling to her feet.
"You hear me, Wilma Mason," she cried. "I'll never be mortified again
in this way! I don't care what sister says, I am going to work for the
honour of the family latch-string. I swear this shall never happen
again." Her tragic manner was in such comical contrast to her
befeathered appearance that Wilma laughed, for the first time since
the return of the manuscript. Then they went down to rekindle the
kitchen fire, and plan for the repairing of their family fortunes.
"I don't know what practical shape your fine resolutions will take,"
said Wilma, as they took their bread and tea at lunch, "but for my
part, no one shall ever again look at that poor old broken-hinged gate
with the quizzical glance Tom gave it. His very eyebrows seemed to say
'Lor', how shiftless!' I shall put on a new hinge myself as soon as it
stops raining. There's a big box of screws and locks and things down
in the granary, and the remains of a tool-chest."
Once started on her round of repairs, Wilma found herself viewing the
entire premises from the standpoint of the sharp gray eyes that had
looked so reprovingly at the broken-hinged gate.
"If Tom ever comes here again," she vowed to herself, "he shall not
see this grand old place in such a pitiful state of dilapidation. I
can at least see that the porch floor has paint, and the garden chairs
more than three legs apiece. I feel that I have the making in me of a
first-class carpenter." So here and there she went, hammering, and
screwing, and puttying, and painting, finding an outlet for much
latent energy, and a use for her long repressed, although long
suspected mechanical ability.
Claribel's plans did not put themselves into practical shape so
readily. For days she went about with a preoccupied air. There was
some mysterious correspondence that Agnes wondered over, many hours
spent in her room with locked doors. Then one day she stole down the
stately stairway with a little valise in her hands.
"You needn't look at me in that way," she whispered, defiantly, as she
met the disapproving gaze of the long line of family portraits. "It is
to keep up your own old traditions that I am doing it."
Then something of the proud spirit of her ancestors seemed to take
possession of her as she passed out of their patronising presence. It
helped her to hold her head high, and carried her through a trying
interview with the most fashionable dressmaker in the city, whither
she had slipped away with some little models of children's dresses of
her own designing and making.
At the end of an hour she came away triumphant. Madame, impressed by
her references, quick to see the value of her original ideas, and
shrewd enough to know how useful this artistic young girl could be to
her, consented to her proposition to establish a department for the
making of children's fancy costumes, of which Claribel was to be in
charge. At first the woman named a salary so low that she would not
have dared propose it, had she not thought that necessity had driven
the girl to such a step. She was used to beating down her employees to
absurdly low wages. Then it was that the pride of all her ancestors
seemed to blaze out of Claribel's eyes, and she drew herself up
"'YOU NEEDN'T LOOK AT ME IN THAT WAY,' SHE WHISPERED,
"You know that the designing alone would be worth four times that sum,
madame," she said, quietly. "If that is the best you can do, we will
not discuss the subject farther."
Madame hastily retracted then. She knew it would never do to let this
opportunity slip into the hands of a rival, and the names of
Claribel's references were too prominent to overlook. So a little
later, when the next train bore the excited young girl homeward, it
was a triumphant voice that poured out the story of her success to
Wilma, who met her at the gate.
"And at a salary that will put new shingles on old Marchmont," she
cried, "and put Daphne in the kitchen, and picnic fare in the pantry
"You needn't think you're going to do it all," exclaimed Wilma. "This
very day I discovered all the old hothouse frames stored away in the
carriage-house, as good as new; and Mam Daphne told me so many tales
about the violets and the lettuce that used to be the boast of
Marchmont every winter, that I went over to consult papa's old
gardener. Sister has actually consented to let me try my hand at
raising both. I haven't told her yet that it is my ambition to furnish
the fashionable club houses this winter with extra fine lettuce at
fancy prices. Poor sister! She'll be horrified, after all her
precautions, to have one of us turn out a market-gardener and the
other a dressmaker."
"Say designer, if you please, when you break my news to her, and tell
her that my creative ability simply had to have an outlet of some
kind, and that this will be a stepping-stone to my career as artist.
Maybe that will help to soften the blow."
"Really, it was Tom who began it. He ought to have all the credit, or
otherwise," said Wilma, as they passed on into the wide front hall. "I
hadn't realised the condition of our family latch-string until I saw
it through his eyes. Then I began to trace it back and found that it
began in the door of a pioneer log cabin; and oh, what do you think,
Claribel, the two ancestors we are proudest of, the ones we all quote
the oftenest, and plume ourselves the most on being their descendants,
had to dig and delve for everything they got. Old Mrs. Carter told me
so this morning." She pointed to the two portraits that headed the
long line. "Now if sister makes any objections to our plans, I'll
just refer her to the first of the grandmammas who made our
hospitality proverbial, and, hardening her hands with the work of the
wilderness, was yet the truest gentlewoman of them all."