The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Girl from Arizona, by Nina Rhoades, Illustrated by Elizabeth Withington

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Title: The Girl from Arizona

Author: Nina Rhoades

Release Date: May 18, 2010 [eBook #32417]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1



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and the Project Gutenberg Online Distributed Proofreading Team
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"Aren't You Going to be Friends with Me?" "Aren't You Going to be Friends with Me?"—Page 225.






Emblem: Knowledge No More Shall Be A Fountain Closed



Making the Best of Things1
II The Coming of Undine13
III Trying To Remember29
IV A Visitor From the East43
Uncle Henry's Proposition58
VI The Last Evening70
VII Marjorie Writes Letters81
VIII Aunt Julia and Elsie91
IX Marjorie Takes a Morning Walk110
New Friends and New Fashions127
XI Marjorie Engages in Battle137
XII A Motor Ride and a Football Game155
XIII Marjorie Surprises Her Relatives170
XIV The Poetry Club182
XV Elsie Triumphs197
XVI The Things That Hurt216
XVII Beverly Sings "Mandalay"236
XVIII In the Sunny South254
XIX A Virginia Christmas266
XX Marjorie Sees a Photograph275
XXI Undine Remembers290
XXII Undine Tells Her Story306
XXIII Breaking the News317
XXIV Marjorie Has Her Wish331
XXV Elsie Redeems Herself341


"Aren't you going to be friends with me?" (Page 225)Frontispiece
"Where in the world did you come from?"20
With one quick movement she seized the whip handle146
"Oh, Mother dear, I'm so sorry!"244
"Land sakes, Missy! What is it?"284
"It takes a lot of pluck to get up and say a thing like that"354






The clear call rang out, breaking the afternoon stillness of the ranch, but there was no response, and after waiting a moment Miss Graham gave her wheeled chair a gentle push, which sent it rolling smoothly across the porch of the ranch house, down the inclined plane, which served the purpose of steps, to the lawn. It was very hot, the sun was blazing down as only an Arizona sun can blaze, and not a breath of air was stirring. But Miss Graham was accustomed to the heat and the glare. She paused for a moment, gazing off over the vast prairie to the California mountains, nearly a hundred miles away. She generally paused on that same spot for one look, although the landscape was the only one she had seen in twelve years. Then she moved on again, across the lawn, now parched and dry from the long[2] summer's heat, toward the stables and out-buildings. It was before the smallest of these out-buildings, a tiny log cabin, that she finally brought the chair to a standstill.

"Marjorie, are you there?"

There was a sound of some one moving inside, and a girl of fourteen, with a book in her hand, appeared in the doorway. She was a pretty girl, with soft light hair that curled over her temples, and bright, merry blue eyes, but just now the eyes were red and swollen, and there were unmistakable tear-marks on the girl's cheeks. At sight of the lady in the wheeled chair, however, Marjorie's face brightened, and she hurried forward, exclaiming remorsefully:

"Oh, Aunt Jessie dear, did you come all this way by yourself? I'm so sorry. Do you want me to do something for you?"

"You needn't be sorry," said her aunt, smiling. "The exercise will do me good, and I am quite proud of being able to manage this chair so easily. I called you from the porch, but you didn't hear. Your mother and Juanita are busy in the kitchen making jam, and I wasn't of any use there, so I thought I would come and see what you were about. I felt pretty sure of finding you in the old playhouse."[3]

"Come in," said Marjorie, eagerly. "You haven't been in the playhouse in ages; not since I grew too big to invite you to "make-believe" tea, but the door is just wide enough for the chair; don't you remember? Let me help you in?" And springing to Miss Graham's side, Marjorie seized the handle of the chair, and carefully guided it through the narrow entrance, into the little house her father had built for her own special use, and which had always been known as the playhouse. It might still have been regarded as a playhouse, although its owner had grown too old to play there. A couple of battered dolls reposed upon a toy bedstead in one corner, and an array of china dishes, all more or less the worse for wear, adorned the shelves. Marjorie loved her few possessions dearly, and in a place where one's nearest neighbor lives five miles away, there are not many people on whom to bestow things which have ceased to be useful to one's self, and they are therefore likely to be preserved.

"Now we're all nice and cosy," remarked Marjorie, seating herself comfortably on the floor at her aunt's feet. "There wouldn't be room for another person in here, even if there were anybody to come. What good times we[4] used to have here when I was little, didn't we, Aunt Jessie?"

Marjorie spoke fast and nervously, but there were pink spots in her cheeks, and Miss Graham was not easily deceived.

"What's the matter, Marjorie?" she asked simply. She and her niece had no secrets from each other.

Marjorie tried to laugh, but her lip quivered, and the tears started to her eyes.

"There isn't anything the matter," she said, frankly. "I've been a goose, that's all. It was all the fault of the book I was reading."

"What book was it?" Miss Graham inquired curiously, glancing at the volume Marjorie was still holding in her hand.

"It's called 'The Friendship of Anne,' and it's one of those in that box Father had sent from Albuquerque. It's all about a big boarding-school full of girls, and the good times they had there, but somehow it set me thinking, and—and, I don't know why, perhaps because it's been so hot and still all day, but I began to feel as if I wanted to cry, and so I came out here to have it out." Suddenly Marjorie dropped her head in her aunt's lap, with a sob.

For a moment Miss Graham was silent. She[5] stroked the soft, fluffy hair with her thin fingers, and a look of comprehension came into her face. When she spoke her voice was very gentle.

"I understand, little girl," she said tenderly. "You haven't said much about it, but I know it was a big disappointment that Father couldn't afford to send you to school at Albuquerque this winter. It was a disappointment to all of us, much as we should have missed you, but it is one of those things everybody has to bear sometimes."

"I know it," said Marjorie, checking her tears, and making a great effort to speak cheerfully. "It wasn't poor Father's fault that so many of the cattle died this year, or that the drought spoiled the alfalfa crop. I try to think that perhaps it's all for the best, and that if I really left you all, and went away to school, I might have died of homesickness. But when I read that story, and thought of all the people and things there are in the world that I've never seen, it was just a little bit hard to feel cheerful. Mother teaches me all she can, and so do you and Father, but I'm fourteen and a half, and I hate to think of growing up without any real education. If I were well educated, I might teach, and be a real help to you all, but there isn't anything I can do now but just sit still and make the best of things."[6]

"Making the best of things is what we all have to do," said Miss Graham, smiling rather sadly. "You do it very well, too, Marjorie dear. Your father and I were talking last evening of how bravely you have borne this disappointment. We all realize what it has meant to you, but we are not a family who are much given to talking about our troubles."

"I know we're not," said Marjorie, "and I'm glad of it. How uncomfortable it would be if you and Mother were always saying you were sorry for each other, and if Father looked solemn every time a cow died. I should hate to be condoled with, and treated as if I needed pity, but still I can't help wishing sometimes that I could do some of the things other girls do. Why, just think, Aunt Jessie, I've never had a friend of my own age in my life. I've never been on a train, or seen a city since I can remember."

Miss Graham continued to stroke the fluffy hair, and a troubled look came into her eyes.

"I understand, dear," she said, "and I don't blame you in the least. I know the feelings of loneliness and longing too well for that."

"Do you really, Aunt Jessie?" questioned Marjorie, looking up in surprise. "I didn't suppose you ever longed for anything; you're such[7] an angel of patience. I suppose it's wrong, but I can't help being glad you do, though, because it makes it so much easier to explain things to you. I can't bear to have Father and Mother think I'm not perfectly happy and contented; it makes Father look so sad, and I know Mother worries about my education. I never thought of it before, but you were a girl, too, when you first came here, weren't you?"

Miss Graham smiled. She was only twenty-eight, and girlhood did not seem so much a thing of the past, but Marjorie was fourteen, and to her twenty-eight seemed an age quite removed from all youthful aspirations.

"I was just sixteen when we came out here," she said, "and it seemed very strange at first to be away from all my friends, but girl-like I enjoyed the change, and it was not for a year or two that I began to realize what life on an Arizona ranch really meant. Your father and mother were very good to me, but they were absorbed in each other, and in their work, and you were too little to be any real company to me. There was plenty of work to be done, and I tried to do my share, but there were many lonely times when I rebelled bitterly against fate. I used to think of those times later on, after the accident,[8] and then it seemed strange that I should ever have fretted over such foolish trifles, but they were very real to me once."

Marjorie took her aunt's hand and kissed it. Demonstrations of affection were rather rare in the Graham family, but the girl could never think of that accident without a lump rising in her throat. She had heard the story dozens of times. She had even a dim recollection of the day it had happened—the day on which her pretty, merry young aunt had started for a canter over the prairie, on a wild young bronco, and had been carried home white and unconscious, never to ride, or even walk again. Just how it had all happened nobody ever knew. An Indian boy, coming suddenly out of a cabin, had shouted and waved his hands to a companion. The noise had frightened the bronco, and he had dashed off at full speed, and Jessie Graham, experienced horsewoman though she was, had lost her balance, and been thrown violently to the ground, striking her back against a sharp stone. That was eight years ago, and during all that time her life had been passed, first in bed, and then in a wheeled chair.

Marjorie rose suddenly. There were some things it wasn't possible to make the best of, and it was wisest not to talk about them.[9]

"It's getting a little cooler," she said irrelevantly; "I think I'll saddle Roland, and go for a ride before supper. You're an angel, Aunt Jessie, and I'm glad you told me how you used to feel. I'm ashamed of myself, but it makes the disappointment easier to bear because you understand. Shall I wheel you back to the house, or is there anything else I can do for you before I go?"

Fifteen minutes later, Marjorie mounted astride her bay pony, was trotting briskly out over the prairie. Her aunt watched her from the porch of the ranch house.

"Poor little girl," she said, with a sigh, as horse and rider disappeared from view in a cloud of dust, "she bears her disappointment bravely, but it's hard—hard for her, and for us all."

A footstep was heard, and her sister-in-law, Marjorie's mother, came out on the porch. Mrs. Graham had once been very pretty, but twelve years of hard work, and constant anxiety as to ways and means, had brought a careworn expression into the eyes that were so like Marjorie's, and the hand she laid on the back of Miss Graham's chair was rough and hardened from housework.

"It's been a hot day, hasn't it?" she said, "but[10] it's cooler now," and she smiled the brave, cheerful smile she had never lost through all their troubles and anxieties. "Juanita and I have put up six dozen jars of blackberries to-day; not a bad day's record, is it? Have you heard the whistle of the East Bound?"

"I am not sure; I thought I heard a whistle about half an hour ago, but I have been with Marjorie in the playhouse. We have been having a talk."

"Has she said anything about her disappointment?"

"Yes, a little. She is bearing it splendidly, but it is a real grief to her, notwithstanding."

Mrs. Graham sighed.

"I was afraid it would be," she said. "It would almost have broken my heart to part from her, but Donald and I had made up our minds to let her go. It seemed the only way of giving the child a chance in life, and now this disease among the cattle has put an end to everything. Donald says we may be able to send her next year, but she will be nearly sixteen then, and time is precious. I wish I knew more myself, so that I could help my little girl, but, like so many other girls, I wasted my time at school. O dear! if children only realized what an education might[11] mean to them some day, they wouldn't fritter away their time, as half of them do."

"Susie," said Miss Graham, impulsively, "have you ever thought of writing to your brother Henry about Marjorie?"

The sensitive color rose in Mrs. Graham's cheeks, and for a moment she looked almost as pretty as in the days when Jessie, in the rapturous devotion of her teens, had considered her "the loveliest sister-in-law in the world."

"Yes, I have thought of it," she said, "but—but somehow I haven't been able to make up my mind to do it. You know my family never approved of Donald's coming out here. My brother offered him a position in his office in New York, but Donald said he had no head for business, and he loves this wild life, hard as it has been. I have never let my people know of our difficulties; they would have been kind, I daresay, but one hates to ask favors."

"I know," said Miss Graham, comprehendingly; "still, for Marjorie's sake—"

Mrs. Graham looked troubled.

"Donald and I were talking about it only last night," she said. "It isn't right to deprive the child of advantages she might have, but think of sending her all the way to New York, even if[12] Henry and his wife were willing to take her. Albuquerque would have been different; she could at least have come home for the holidays, but New York—why, think of it, Jessie, she has never been away from us for a night in her life!"

Mrs. Graham paused abruptly, her face contracted with pain. The tears started to Miss Jessie's eyes, but her voice was still quite firm when she spoke again.

"It would be very hard," she said, "harder for us perhaps than for Marjorie herself, and yet if it were the best thing to do—"

Here the conversation was interrupted by Juanita, the Mexican maid of all work, who appeared with the startling announcement that the jam was boiling over on the stove, and Mrs. Graham hurried away to the kitchen, leaving her sister-in-law to her own reflections.




In the meantime, Marjorie, quite unconscious of the anxieties of her family regarding her future, was cantering away over the prairie on her bay pony. Having passed the last buildings of the ranch, and trotted through the Indian village, where more than one woman, and numerous copper-colored children smiled a friendly greeting, she turned her pony's head in the direction of the railroad. The nearest town was more than twenty miles away, but the line of the Santa Fé Railroad ran within a comparatively short distance from the ranch, and twice every day the stillness was broken by the whistles of the east and west bound trains, as they rushed by on their way across the continent, from Los Angeles to Chicago. To watch the trains go by had been one of the amusements of Marjorie's life, ever since she could remember. When she was a little girl, it had been a great treat to be taken by[14] her father, on his big chestnut horse, and to have him draw rein in full view of the tracks, and wait to see the great iron horse come rushing by. As soon as she was old enough to ride out by herself, this spot had become one of her favorite afternoon excursions. There was a wonderful fascination in watching the long line of sleepers and day coaches, filled with people, and to wonder where they could all be going, and speculate as to what might be happening on the other side of those moving windows. Sometimes of late the longing to know more of the outside world, and to follow those ever moving cars, had become almost irresistible.

"If I could only take one real journey I believe I should be happy forever," she would say to herself, and the hope of going to school at Albuquerque, two hundred miles away, had filled her with a wild kind of joy that was not unmixed with fear. But now that hope had been crushed, for the present at least, and Marjorie, who was a sensible little soul, had decided that it might be wiser to avoid watching the trains go by just now. For a week she had kept away from the line, at the hours when trains were likely to pass, but this afternoon she felt more cheerful. The little talk with her aunt had done her good, and[15] she resolved to take Aunt Jessie's advice, and try to make the best of things. So when the pony manifested a desire to take the familiar turning, she let him have his way, and trotted on quite cheerfully toward the railroad.

"I'm afraid we're too late to-day, Roland," she remarked aloud, as the pony plodded on bravely through the dust and heat. "I didn't hear the whistle, but I'm sure the East Bound must have passed, and the West Bound went through at two o'clock."

Having very few people to talk to, Marjorie had formed the habit of talking to her live pets, of which Roland was her favorite. Her father had given him to her when he was only a month old, and she had trained him herself, as soon as he was old enough to bear the saddle, to say nothing of the many romps the two had enjoyed together in the days of his colthood. It seemed to her sometimes as if Roland must really understand some of the things she told him, and now, at her remark about the train, he slackened his pace to a leisurely trot, as if under the impression that there was no use in hurrying.

"It is hot, isn't it, Roland?" said Marjorie, sympathetically. "You and I will be glad when winter comes, and we can have some fine gallops.[16] I thought I might be going away to leave you this winter, but I'm not."

Roland pricked up his ears, and quickened his pace.

"What is it, Roland?" Marjorie inquired in surprise. "Oh, I see, it's José on his black bronco."

Her face brightened, and she waved her hand in friendly welcome to the approaching figure of a small Mexican boy, mounted on an equally small pony.

"Hello, José!" she called, as the two came within speaking distance of each other; "Do you know whether the East Bound has passed yet or not?"

"See there," said the boy, pointing in the direction from which he had come. "Something wrong with engine. She been there three hours. My father tell me, and I go see."

"How exciting!" cried Marjorie, everything else forgotten for the moment in the interest of this news. "Do you think she'll stay much longer?"

José shook his head; he could not say. He was a rather dull boy, but Marjorie had known him all her life, as she had known every inhabitant, Mexican or Indian, who had made a home[17] in that desolate region. She could speak Spanish almost as well as English, and could carry on a conversation in two Indian dialects. She did not wait for any more conversation with José on this occasion, however, but with a chirp to Roland to indicate that she wished to go faster, hurried the pony along at such a pace that in less than five minutes they came in sight of the waiting train.

No, she was not too late. The long transcontinental express was standing still, and a number of the passengers had left the cars and were sauntering leisurely about. Marjorie's heart beat fast with excitement, and she drew the pony in sharply.

"We mustn't go too near, Roland," she whispered. "Oh, look, isn't it interesting? See those girls in shirt-waists and straw hats. They look just about my age. How I should like to speak to them, but I suppose they would think it queer."

The sight of a girl in a striped khaki skirt, with a sombrero on her head, sitting astride a bay pony, had quickly attracted the attention of some of the passengers, and Marjorie soon realized that she was being stared at in a manner that was slightly disconcerting. Not that she was in the least shy, but these strangers had a way of looking[18] at her, as if they found something amusing in her appearance, and Marjorie did not like being stared at any more than any other girl.

"I don't think we'll stay any longer, Roland," she said, conscious of the fact that her cheeks were burning uncomfortably. And turning the pony's head abruptly, she galloped away in the direction of home.

But it was some minutes before her cheeks had regained their natural color.

"I wonder why they stared so," she kept repeating to herself. "Was it the sombrero—I don't suppose girls wear sombreros in the East—or was it something else? Oh, there's the whistle; thank goodness they're off!" And Marjorie gave a sigh of relief, and let Roland drop into a trot.

It was still early when she reached home, and having delivered Roland to the Indian boy, whose duty it was to look after him, and finding that her mother and aunt were both busy, she betook herself once more to the playhouse, intending to spend the hour before supper in learning more of the fortunes of Anne and her friends. But her ride in the heat had made her sleepy, and after turning a few pages rather listlessly, her eyes drooped, and letting the book slip into her lap,[19] she rested her head against the wall of the cabin, and dropped off into an afternoon nap.

How long she had been asleep she did not know, but she started up, wide awake, aroused by a sound close beside her. Then for a moment she sat staring stupidly at the apparition before her; for there, standing in the doorway, regarding her with big, hungry, brown eyes, was a girl—not a Mexican or an Indian, but a pale-faced, dark-haired girl of about her own age, in a faded linen dress, much too short in the skirt, and a battered straw hat, decidedly the worse for wear.

"Goodness gracious me!" gasped Marjorie in amazement; "where in the world did you come from?"

"I'm hungry," said the stranger, in a remarkably sweet voice; "Won't you please give me something to eat?"

"Who are you?" demanded Marjorie, fully convinced that this was a dream.

A frightened expression came into the big brown eyes, and the girl's lip began to tremble.

"I don't know," she said; "I can't remember. Won't you please give me something to eat?"

"Where in the World Did You Come from?"—Page 19. "Where in the World Did You Come from?"—Page 19.

"I know I'm dreaming," said Marjorie, and she pinched her arm, but though the pinch hurt[20] considerably, she did not wake up. The strange girl continued to stand in the doorway.

"How—how did you get here?" she repeated; "where did you come from?"

"I got off the train. I've walked ever so far, and it was so hot. I thought there would be houses, but there weren't any. You won't be cross with me, will you? I'm afraid of cross people."

"Why did you get off the train?" inquired Marjorie. If this were not a dream, then it was certainly the most extraordinary adventure she had ever had.

The brown eyes filled with tears, and the stranger clasped her hands nervously.

"Don't scold, ah, please don't," she pleaded; "I'm so tired of being scolded. I got off the train because Mrs. Hicks was so cross I couldn't stand it any longer. She said I was a lazy, good-for-nothing girl, and she wished she had never promised to take me to Kansas. I said I wished she hadn't either, and that I didn't want to go to Kansas or anywhere else with her, and then she said I was an impudent little wretch, and she wished she could get rid of me. She slapped me, too, and that made me furious, so when she sent me to the dining-car to get some milk for the[21] baby, and the train was standing still, I just got off. I don't want to stay with people who don't like me, and I can't stand being slapped."

"But think how frightened your friend must have been when the train started and you didn't come back," said Marjorie, reproachfully. She did not know quite what to make of this singular young person, who appeared to think nothing of deserting her friends, and wandering off by herself on the prairie.

"Mrs. Hicks isn't my friend, and she won't care, anyway; she'll be glad to get rid of me. I heard her telling a woman on the train that I was an awful nuisance, and she couldn't think why she had ever promised her sister to take me to Kansas with her. She doesn't want me—nobody wants me, nobody in the whole world!" And suddenly this extraordinary visitor put both hands before her face, and burst into tears.

Marjorie sprang to her feet, wide awake at last. She had not seen many people cry, and the sight always affected her deeply.

"Oh, don't, please don't!" she cried, and almost without realizing what she was doing she had slipped an arm about the shaking shoulders. "We'll take care of you, of course we will, and you can tell us about everything. Oh, please do[22] stop crying; you make me so very uncomfortable."

But the brown-eyed girl did not stop crying. On the contrary, she cried all the harder, and buried her face on Marjorie's shoulder.

"You're kind, oh, you're kind!" sobbed the poor child, clinging convulsively to her new friend. "Nobody was ever kind to me before except old Mr. Jackson, and now he's dead. I've been so miserable, and it's so dreadful not to remember anything, not even my name."

"Your name?" repeated Marjorie stupidly; "do you mean you don't even know your own name?"

The stranger shook her head mournfully as she searched for a missing pocket-handkerchief. Marjorie supplied the handkerchief from her own pocket, and sympathetically wiped her visitor's eyes.

"But I don't understand," she said doubtfully; "I never heard of a person's not knowing her own name. Haven't you any relatives?"

"I suppose I had once, but I can't remember them. The first thing I remember is waking up in a hospital. It was just after the earthquake in San Francisco, and they told me I was found in the street under some ruins. They thought a[23] stone or something must have fallen on my head, and that was what made me forget everything. Nobody knew whom I belonged to, and I had only a nightgown on when I was found, so they couldn't trace me by my clothes. At first the doctors thought I would remember soon, and they used to ask me questions, but I never could answer any of them. They kept me at the hospital a long time, but I was always frightened because I couldn't remember anything. At last when I was strong again, and nobody came to look for me, they said they couldn't keep me there any longer. They sent me to the 'Home For The Friendless in Oakland,' but I had only been there a week when Miss Brent came to look for a girl to run errands, and carry home parcels. They told her about me, and she said she would take me, because I might have rich friends, who would come for me, and pay her well for taking care of me. So I went to live with her, and she put an advertisement about me in the newspapers. For a long time I kept hoping some one would come for me, but nobody ever did. Miss Brent was a dressmaker, and she had a lot of girls working for her, but I didn't like any of them, they were so rough, and they used to laugh at me, and call me 'loony.' Miss Brent called me Sally,[24] but I know that isn't my real name. I got so tired running errands, and carrying the heavy boxes home made my back ache. I don't think I could have stood it if it hadn't been for Mr. Jackson. He boarded with Miss Brent, and lived in a little room on the top floor. He was very old, and nobody paid much attention to him, but I was sorry for him, and I used to carry up his meals, and he talked to me so kindly. He never made fun of me, because I couldn't remember, but he lent me books to read, and asked me questions like the doctors at the hospital. It's very queer, but I could always remember how to read. I can write, too, and I can even remember things in history, but I can't remember a single thing about myself. Mr. Jackson said he was sure my memory would come back some day, and then I would be able to find my friends. He died last winter, and after that it was dreadful. Miss Brent was always busy and cross, and the girls were worse than ever. A month ago Miss Brent told us she was going to be married, and give up the business, and that all the girls would have to leave. Most of them didn't mind, because they had homes, but Miss Brent said she didn't know what in the world to do with me. She didn't think any one would take me, because I wasn't[25] strong enough to do hard work, and she was afraid I was too old to go back to the 'Home For The Friendless.'

"The wedding was last week, and Mrs. Hicks came on from Kansas. She is Miss Brent's sister, and her husband has a big cattle farm. Mrs. Hicks brought her baby with her, and they got me to help take care of it, and then Miss Brent persuaded her sister to take me home with her. I didn't want to go, for I knew I shouldn't like Mrs. Hicks, but Miss Brent said I must. We started yesterday, and it was awful. Mrs. Hicks kept saying she knew I would never be any use to her, and the baby was so heavy, and cried all the time. I had just about made up my mind to run away when Mrs. Hicks slapped me, and that settled it. I never was slapped before, and I couldn't stand it."

The brown eyes flashed indignantly, and there was a crimson spot in both the girl's cheeks. Marjorie had been listening to this strange story in breathless astonishment. It did not occur to her for a moment to doubt its truth. Before she could ask any more questions, however, she was brought back to a recollection of every-day life once more by the sound of her father's voice calling from the porch:[26]

"Supper's ready, Marjorie."

Marjorie came down to earth with a rush, and hastily explaining to her new friend that she would be back in a minute, dashed away to the house, there to electrify her family with the astounding news that there was a strange girl in the playhouse, who had walked all the way from the railroad, and didn't know her own name.

When Marjorie returned five minutes later, she was accompanied by an excited group, consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Graham, Miss Jessie, and the Mexican servant, Juanita. At sight of so many strangers the visitor shrank into a corner, and her eyes seemed to grow bigger and more frightened than ever, but when Mrs. Graham spoke to her in her kind, motherly voice, the pale face lighted up, and holding out both hands to Marjorie's mother, she exclaimed joyfully:

"You're kind, too; I can see it in your face. Oh, please don't send me away; I'm so tired and hungry, and I don't know where else I can possibly go."

"And what are we to call you, my dear?" Mrs. Graham inquired, late that evening, when the uninvited guest had been refreshed by a bath and a hearty supper, and was lying back comfortably[27] in the big rocker in the living-room. "Did I understand Marjorie to say that you had been called Sally?"

The stranger pouted. Now that her face was washed she was really very pretty.

"I hate 'Sally,'" she said, impatiently; "it's not my name, and I don't see why I need be called by it. I wish you'd call me something pretty."

Mrs. Graham looked a little doubtful, but Marjorie, who was regarding this singular young person in a kind of fascinated awe—half expecting to see her vanish at any moment as mysteriously as she had come—hastened to the rescue.

"I've thought of a beautiful name for her, Mother," she said, eagerly. "Why can't we call her Undine—at least till she remembers what her name really is? She didn't come out of a fountain, but she really did come almost as mysteriously as Undine came to the fisherman's hut, in the story. Would you like to be called Undine, Sally?"

"I should love it," declared the visitor in a tone of satisfaction and as Marjorie generally had her way, and Undine really seemed as good a name as any other, the matter was settled, and[28] the new Undine fell asleep that night, happier than she had ever been since that strange waking in the California hospital, more than two years before.




"And so Undine went back into the fountain, carrying the knight, Hildebrand, with her, and nobody ever saw either of them again. I always wished it hadn't ended there, but had gone on to tell what became of the fisherman and his wife, and all the other people. That's the great trouble with stories; they are so apt to end just where you want to hear more. If I ever wrote a book I should put a chapter at the end, telling what became of all the characters afterward."

The two girls were sitting together on the porch; Marjorie busily engaged in darning stockings; the new Undine patiently hemming a towel. It was a week since the arrival of "the mysterious stranger," as Marjorie called her, and she had already become an established member of the household. Marjorie accepted the mystery of a girl who didn't know her own name, and who apparently belonged to nobody, just as she would have accepted any other girl friend who might[30] have come into her rather uneventful life. It had never even occurred to her to doubt the truth of Undine's strange story. The rest of the family had not been quite so easily satisfied, and for several days Mr. and Mrs. Graham had been inclined to regard the stranger with some doubt, even suspicion; but there was something very winning about this new Undine—she seemed such a simple, innocent child—so grateful for every kindness, and so eager to be of use in the household—that they gradually found themselves coming to believe in her, in spite of appearances.

"I am sure the child is telling the truth as far as she knows it," Aunt Jessie had said to her sister-in-law that morning. "It all sounds very strange and incredible, I know, but I can't doubt the truth in those honest eyes of hers. I am really growing quite fond of her already." To which Mrs. Graham had replied, with a smile:

"We shall know when Donald receives the answers to the letters he sent to the Home in Oakland and to the dressmaker."

As Marjorie concluded her remarks on the story of Undine, she glanced critically at her friend's work.

"You are hemming much better to-day," she[31] said in a tone of satisfaction; "I am sure Mother will say you have improved."

Undine's face brightened.

"I hope she will—oh, I do hope so!" she said eagerly. "She is so dear, and I want to please her so much, but I'm afraid I'm very stupid."

"You are not stupid at all," declared Marjorie loyally. "You are much cleverer than I am about lots of things. It isn't your fault if you've never been taught to sew."

"There wasn't any time to learn at Miss Brent's," said Undine; "there were always such a lot of errands, and so many parcels to be carried home. I suppose if I had learned before the earthquake I shouldn't remember now."

"I don't know," said Marjorie thoughtfully; "you must have learned to read, and you haven't forgotten that."

"No, nor to write either. It's very queer about the things I remember and those I don't. Mr. Jackson used to asked me a great many questions, and he wrote down some of the things I told him, to show to a society he belonged to. Once a very funny thing happened. I had taken a dress home to a lady, and was waiting in the hall while she tried it on, to see if it had to go[32] back for any alterations. There were some people in the parlor talking French. I don't know how I knew it was French, but I did, and I understood almost everything they said. I told Mr. Jackson, and he was so interested. He made me tell Miss Brent, too, and he wanted her to put another advertisement in the newspapers, but she said she hadn't any money to waste in advertising, and that if I had any relatives they would have come for me long ago."

"It's the most interesting thing I ever heard of in my life," declared Marjorie. "Aunt Jessie says she is sure your friends must have been educated people, because you never make mistakes in grammar."

Undine looked pleased.

"I'm glad your aunt thinks that," she said. "I should hate to talk in the way some of the girls at Miss Brent's did. They used to laugh at me and call me stuck up, but I didn't want to be like them. I hate rough girls. I dream about my mother sometimes, and I know she would be sorry to have me grow up rough and coarse."

"It seems so strange that you can't even remember your mother," said Marjorie, reflectively. "I can't imagine that anything could possibly[33] happen to me that would make me forget Mother."

A shadow crept into Undine's face, and the troubled, frightened look came back into her eyes.

"I don't know," she said, wearily; "I don't know anything. Oh, Marjorie, it frightens me so sometimes."

There was a quiver in the girl's voice, and kind-hearted Marjorie laid a protecting hand on hers.

"Never mind," she said, soothingly; "don't think any more about it than you can help. Perhaps it will all come back some time; Father thinks it will. He thinks the stone, or whatever it was, that fell on you, must have given your brain a terrible shock. He says he heard of a man once who was very badly hurt in a railroad accident, and couldn't remember anything for a long time. His family thought he must be dead, but suddenly his memory all came back to him, and he went home, and gave them a great surprise. Perhaps it will be like that with you some day."

"Miss Brent thinks all my people must have been killed in the earthquake," said Undine, with[34] a sigh. "That might be the reason why nobody ever came to look for me. They say more people were killed than any one knew about. If I could only remember the very least thing that happened before, but I can't; it's just as if I came alive for the first time that day in the hospital. Oh, here comes your aunt; I'll go and help her with her chair." And dropping her towel on the floor of the porch, Undine darted into the house, whence she returned in a moment, carefully guiding Miss Graham's wheeled chair over the door-sill.

"Thank you, dear," Miss Graham said, kindly. "You are a very helpful little girl, but when you are as accustomed to me and my chair as Marjorie is, you will realize that I can manage very well. I heard your voices, and thought I would come out here for a little while; it's so much cooler than in the house."

"Won't you let me get your sewing, or your book, or something?" inquired Undine, hovering solicitously over the invalid.

"No, thank you. I have been sewing all the afternoon; helping Mrs. Graham with the new parlor curtains, and I'm going to be lazy for a little while. I am afraid you dropped your own sewing, in your anxiety to help me."[35]

Undine blushed as she stooped to pick up the discarded towel.

"I'm afraid I'm very careless," she said apologetically; "Miss Brent said I was, but I love to wait on people."

Miss Graham laughed, and she had such a merry, contagious laugh that she was speedily joined by Marjorie, and even Undine herself.

"It is very pleasant to be waited on," she said, "and I am sure you would make a capital nurse, Undine."

Undine looked pleased.

"I should like to be a nurse," she said. "I used to do lots of things for Mr. Jackson, and he liked to have me. I wish I could wait on you, because then I should feel that I was of some use, and that you weren't just keeping me because you were sorry for me."

There was an unmistakable wistfulness in Undine's tone, and Miss Graham was touched.

"My dear little girl," she said, "I am sure there are many ways in which you can make yourself useful if you stay with us. You will soon learn to be a great help to Mrs. Graham, and there will be many little things you can do for me as well."

Marjorie gave her aunt a grateful glance, and[36] Undine looked relieved. At that moment the afternoon stillness was broken by a sound of distant hoof-beats, and a clear tenor voice singing:

"'On the road to Mandalay,
Where the old flotilla lay.'"

"It's Jim coming with the mail," cried Marjorie joyfully; "I should know his voice anywhere, and that's his favorite song. Oh, I wonder if there will be an answer to Father's letter to Miss Brent. What's the matter, Undine?"

For Undine, who was still standing by Miss Graham's chair, had suddenly grown pale, and a strange, startled expression had come into her face.

"Who's Jim?" she demanded sharply.

"Only one of Father's men. He used to be a cow-puncher in Texas. I think you must have seen him; he's about the ranch a good deal."

The hoof-beats were drawing nearer, and the rider had begun another verse of his song.

"'Er petticoat was yaller,
An' 'er little cap was green,
An' 'er name was Supy Yawler,
Jes' the same as Thebaw's queen.'"

"I know that song," cried Undine excitedly, clasping and unclasping her hands, and she began reciting in a dreamy, far-away voice:[37]

"'An' I see 'er first a smokin'
Of a whackin' big sheroot,
An' wastin' Christian kisses
On a 'eathen idol's foot.'

"Somebody used to sing it. Who was it? Oh, tell me quick; I must remember, I must, I must!"

She turned imploringly to Miss Graham and Marjorie, but the two blank, puzzled faces gave her no help, and with a low cry, the poor child covered her face with her hands, and began to sob. Marjorie's kind arms were round her friend in a moment, but it was no easy task to stem the torrent of Undine's grief.

"Oh, help me to remember, please, please do help me!" she wailed, between hysterical sobs and gasps. "I almost remembered, and now it's all gone again. Oh, what shall I do—what shall I do?"

"You'll remember it all some time, dear, I know you will," soothed Marjorie, crying herself from pure sympathy. "Do try not to mind quite so much, Undine. I know it must be terrible, but we're all so sorry for you, and we'll try to make you happy, indeed we will."

By this time horse and rider had reached the ranch house, and Jim Hathaway, a freckled, red-haired youth, had sprung to the ground, and was regarding the scene in undisguised astonishment.[38]

"Have you brought us any letters to-day, Jim?" Miss Graham asked, by way of relieving the situation.

"Yes'm; there's two for Mr. Graham, and some newspapers, and a magazine."

"Ask him where he learned that song," whispered Undine to Marjorie. She was still trembling, and seemed very much agitated.

"Where did you learn that song you were singing just now, Jim?" Marjorie inquired, eagerly; "the one about the 'Road to Mandalay,' you know?"

Jim looked rather vague.

"Blessed if I remember," he said. "I picked it up somewhere, but I couldn't rightly say where it was."

"Won't you please try to remember?" said Undine, lifting her tear-stained face from Marjorie's shoulder. "I want very much to know. I am trying to remember something about it, and if you could tell me where you learned it it might help me."

Jim stared at her rather stupidly; then his face brightened.

"I guess I do remember, now I come to think of it," he said slowly. "It was in Texas. There was an English chap there, who was forever[39] singing it. I picked it up from him. There were a lot of verses to it but I don't know 'em all."

Undine shook her head hopelessly.

"Thank you," she said; "I don't believe I was ever in Texas." And without another word, she turned and went into the house.

It was more than an hour later when Mrs. Graham knocked softly at the door of the little room which had been given to the strange guest. She waited a moment, and then, receiving no answer, turned the handle and went in. Undine was lying on the bed, her face buried in the pillow. She was so still that Mrs. Graham thought she must be asleep, and was turning away again when there was a slight movement on the bed, and with a long sigh, the girl lifted her head.

At sight of her hostess, Undine sprang to her feet, and began pushing the tumbled hair back from her eyes. She was very white, and there was a drawn, suffering look on her face, which went to Mrs. Graham's motherly heart.

"I beg your pardon," said Undine, humbly. "I'm afraid you must all think me very silly and troublesome. I didn't mean to make a fuss, but when I heard that boy singing 'Mandalay' it seemed for just a minute as if I were going to remember[40] something, and then it was all gone again. I thought that perhaps if I lay very still with my eyes shut tight, and thought as hard as I could, it might come again, but it didn't."

"Sit down, dear," said Mrs. Graham, kindly, and seating herself on the edge of the bed, she drew Undine down beside her. "Does your head ache?"

"It aches dreadfully," confessed Undine, pressing her hand to her forehead. "It always does when I try very hard to remember."

"I was afraid so. It isn't good for you to try to remember in this way; it won't help things at all, and may make them much worse. You must promise me not to try to think so hard again. When your memory comes back it will come naturally, and without any forcing. Now I want to talk to you about something quite different. Mr. Graham has had a letter from the 'Home For The Friendless' at Oakland, and another from your friend Miss Brent, or Mrs. Rogers, as I believe she is now."

"What did they say?" inquired Undine, languidly. She seemed too much exhausted to take much interest in letters.

"Mrs. Rogers spoke kindly of you, and seemed pleased to know where you are. Her sister had[41] telegraphed her of your disappearance. She said she hoped you would find a good home, for she was afraid nothing would induce Mrs. Hicks to take you back. They remembered you at the 'Home,' too, and are willing to have you there again if we will pay your expenses back to California."

"But I don't want to go back there," protested Undine, lifting her head, and speaking more like her old self. "Oh, Mrs. Graham, must I go? Can't I stay here? I'll do anything you want me to, and I can work hard, just wait and see if I can't."

Mrs. Graham smiled as she glanced at the soft little hands, which did not look as though their owner were capable of much hard work.

"That is just what we have been talking about," she said. "I should be glad of a little extra help in the house; Juanita isn't as young as she once was, and I want to give Marjorie a little more time for study. So if you think you would really care to stay with us, and are willing to work for small wages—"

"Wages!" cried Undine indignantly; "I don't want any money; I only want to stay with you, and work for my board. You're all so kind, and ... and I think you must be more like the people[42] I used to live with than Miss Brent and Mrs. Hicks were. Oh, if I could only remember!"

"There, there, we won't talk any more about remembering just now," interrupted Mrs. Graham cheerfully. "You shall stay with us, at least for the present, and who knows what may happen in the future. Now lie down again, and try to take a nap before supper. You look very tired, and a good sleep will do your head more good than anything else." And yielding to a sudden impulse, Mrs. Graham stooped and kissed the flushed face on the pillow, almost as tenderly as if this strange, friendless little waif had been her own Marjorie.




"Of all the different kinds of housework, I think pickling is the most disagreeable!"

Marjorie made this remark as she came into her aunt's room one glorious October afternoon. Miss Graham's room was the prettiest and most luxurious in the ranch house. Every comfort which limited income and inaccessible surroundings could afford had been procured for the invalid, and to Marjorie, after a hard day's work of helping her mother and Juanita in the yearly pickling, it seemed a very haven of rest and comfort. Miss Graham herself, in a pretty pink wrapper, was lying on the sofa, while Undine read aloud to her. She was a very different Undine from the pale, timid girl of two months before. The thin cheeks had filled out wonderfully, and the big brown eyes had almost entirely lost their expression of frightened bewilderment, for Undine had found her place in the household and was happy. I have my doubts as to whether Undine[44] would have proved of great use in the kitchen, her knowledge of any kind of housework being decidedly limited, but before she had been in her new home a fortnight Miss Graham was taken ill. It was not a serious illness, though a tedious and painful one, and almost from the first moment Undine had established herself as nurse. Her devotion was touching; it was with difficulty that she could be persuaded to leave the invalid's bedside even for the necessary rest and exercise, and she would gladly have worked night and day in the service of gentle Miss Graham, who almost unconsciously grew to love the girl, and to depend upon her more than she would have believed possible in so short a time.

Now Miss Graham was better, and the task of nursing was almost at an end, but she was still weak, and Mr. and Mrs. Graham were thankful for the willing service of the girl whom they had taken into their home on account of her friendless condition and her big honest brown eyes.

"You don't know what you two people have been spared to-day," continued Marjorie, throwing herself wearily into the rocking-chair. "Thank goodness, they're all done, and we shall have pickles enough to last another year."

"We haven't been spared the smell," said Miss[45] Graham, laughing. "I really felt at one time to-day that I would gladly forego pickles for the rest of my life."

"What have you been reading?" Marjorie inquired, with a glance at the book Undine had put down on her entrance.

"'Lorna Doone.' We have had a delightful afternoon. It is such a charming story, and Undine reads aloud remarkably well."

Marjorie glanced out of the window, at the brilliant autumn sunshine.

"I think I'll go for a ride, to get the smell of the pickles out of my nostrils," she said. "Mother says she won't need me any more to-day."

"That's a good idea," said Miss Graham approvingly, "and suppose you take Undine with you? She has been indoors all day; the fresh air will do her good."

"All right," assented Marjorie, well pleased. "Come along, Undine," she added, rising; "we'll have time for a good gallop before supper."

Undine hesitated.

"Are you sure you can spare me?" she asked, with an anxious glance at the pale face on the pillow.

"Quite sure, dear. I shall not need anything,[46] and even if I should Mrs. Graham and Juanita are both within call. So run along, you conscientious little nurse, and enjoy yourself for the rest of the afternoon."

Undine blushed with pleasure at the compliment, and five minutes later she and Marjorie were on their way to the stables.

It was one of those glorious autumn days, when the air is like a tonic, and every object stands out with almost startling clearness.

"The mountains look so near to-day, it seems almost as if we might ride to them, doesn't it?" remarked Undine, as the two girls trotted out of the ranch gates on their ponies; Undine sitting as straight, and riding with almost as much ease as Marjorie herself.

"They are nearly a hundred miles away," said Marjorie, with a glance in the direction of the great snow-tipped mountains, which certainly did look very near in that wonderful atmosphere. "We could go there, though, if we had an automobile. What wonderful things automobiles must be."

"I suppose they are—there were plenty of them in California—but nothing could be half as nice as a gallop in this wonderful air. A pony like this is worth all the automobiles in San[47] Francisco." And Undine bestowed an affectionate pat on the neck of the pretty brown horse she was riding.

"I believe you love riding as much as I do," said Marjorie, sympathetically. "I wonder where you learned to ride. I shall never forget how astonished Father and I were that first day, when we made you get on a pony just for fun, and you took the reins, and started off as if you had been accustomed to riding every day of your life."

There was a trace of the old shadow in Undine's face as she answered:

"It's all very strange, and I can't explain it, but it seemed quite natural, and as if I had done it often before. Even when the pony jumped, and your father thought I would be frightened, I wasn't. I seemed to know just what to do, though I couldn't tell how I knew."

"Perhaps you lived on a ranch once," Marjorie suggested. "That would explain it."

Undine shook her head.

"I don't think so," she said, "for when I first came here it was all quite strange, and though I'm not a bit afraid of horses, I'm horribly afraid of cows. A girl who had lived long on a ranch couldn't be afraid of cows, could she?"[48]

Marjorie assented, and the two girls rode on in silence for several minutes. Then Undine spoke again.

"There's another curious thing that I haven't told you. That book I'm reading to your aunt—'Lorna Doone,' you know—I'm sure I've read it before. I know what is going to happen in every chapter."

Marjorie looked much interested.

"Have you told Aunt Jessie about it?" she asked.

"No, I was afraid it might bother her. I don't think she or your mother like to have me talk about the things I remember."

"That's only because they're afraid you will worry and make yourself ill," Marjorie explained. "You remember what a dreadful headache you had the day you heard Jim singing 'Mandalay.' They're really tremendously interested."

"Are they?" said Undine, looking pleased. "I was afraid they thought me silly. At first I know they thought I was a fraud, and I'm sure I don't blame them. How could any one believe such a queer story? And yet it's all true, every word."

"They believe it now, at any rate," said Marjorie,[49] "and they're just as much interested as I am. Mother says she can't help worrying when she thinks of your friends, and how they may be grieving for you."

"Miss Brent said she didn't believe I had any friends or they would have come to look for me," said Undine sadly.

"But you must have belonged to somebody," persisted Marjorie, "and it isn't likely all your family were killed in the earthquake, even if some of them were. Then you do remember some things—there was the person who sang 'Mandalay.'"

"But I can't remember who it was; I only know there was somebody who used to sing it. I almost remembered for a minute that day, but it was gone in a flash, and it has never come back since."

"Well, don't let's talk any more about worrying things this glorious afternoon," broke in Marjorie, noticing the troubled sound in her friend's voice. "Let's have a good gallop, and forget everything else. Come along, Roland."

Away flew Roland, admonished by a gentle tap from his mistress, and he was followed closely by Undine's pony. The next half hour was one of unalloyed enjoyment to both girls. The[50] quick motion, the bright sunshine, the keen air, all conspired to banish thoughts of care or perplexity from Undine's mind, and to bring the bright color into her cheeks. Marjorie, glancing over her shoulder at her friend, suddenly realized what a very pretty girl Undine was. Even the khaki skirt and the sombrero, counterparts of Marjorie's own, could not detract from her beauty, and she sat on her pony with as much grace as any lady in the land.

"There! wasn't that great?" exclaimed Marjorie, drawing Roland in at last, and turning to her friend, with sparkling eyes. "I don't believe you ever had a finer gallop than that in your life."

"I don't believe I ever did," agreed Undine, straightening her sombrero, and pushing back the tumbled hair from her eyes. "Must we go back now?"

"I'm afraid so. Father and Mother don't like to have me stay out after sunset. Look at the mountains; they seem just as near as ever, don't they? And yet we've been riding straight away from them all the time."

"Isn't it still?" whispered Undine, with a deep breath. "I feel as if I ought to whisper, though I don't know why. I don't suppose there's another[51] living soul within miles of us, and yet I'm not the least bit afraid."

"There is, though," exclaimed Marjorie, in sudden astonishment. "Look at that man. Where can he be going?" And she pointed with her whip-handle to a solitary figure, carrying a suit-case, which was slowly advancing in their direction. "He isn't an Indian or a Mexican, either," she added eagerly; "he's a white man, and he must be on his way to the ranch. Nobody who isn't coming to the ranch ever takes this road."

"Perhaps he's a tramp," suggested Undine nervously. "We'd better hurry home."

But Marjorie scorned the suggestion.

"Nonsense," she said indignantly. "The idea of wanting to run away! Besides, we can't; he's making signs to us to wait for him. He wants to speak to us."

Undine did not feel at all sure of the wisdom of this proceeding, but there seemed nothing else to do, and in a few moments the stranger, who had quickened his pace at sight of the two girls, was within speaking distance. He was plentifully besprinkled with dust, and was looking decidedly warm and tired, but his appearance and manner were those of a gentleman.[52]

"Excuse me for detaining you," he said, apologetically, "but can you tell me how far I am from Mr. Donald Graham's ranch?"

"I thought you must be coming to the ranch," said Marjorie, with a friendly smile; "it's about five miles from here."

"Five miles," repeated the stranger in a tone of dismay, and he set down the heavy suit-case he was carrying, and wiped his forehead with his handkerchief.

"Have you been walking far?" Marjorie inquired sympathetically.

"Yes, I think I must have walked at least five miles already. My team broke down, one of the wheels came off, and the man who was driving me out to the ranch seemed to think the only thing to be done was to leave the wagon with my trunk on it by the roadside while he returned to town on horseback, to get another trap. He advised me to walk on, but I had no idea of the distance. Will you please tell me if this is the shortest way to the ranch?"

"It's the only way," said Marjorie, smiling, and thinking that this tall, broad-shouldered man must certainly be "a tenderfoot." Her own father thought nothing of a ten-mile tramp over the prairie.[53]

"Then I suppose there is no help for it, but five miles—are you sure it's as much as five miles?"

Marjorie nodded; she was trying to think of some way of helping the stranger out of his difficulty. But it was finally he himself who put into words the very suggestion she was going to make.

"I wonder if by any chance you young ladies happen to be going as far as the ranch," he said, with a rather curious glance at the two figures, sitting astride their ponies.

"We're going straight there now," said Marjorie, eagerly, "and if you don't mind waiting, I'll ask Father to send a horse for you."

"You are very kind, but do you think he could possibly send a wagon as well? I am not much of a horseman."

This certainly was a "tenderfoot," and no mistake, but Marjorie was too polite to laugh.

"All right," she said, "I'll see about it, but it will take longer to wait for a team to be hitched up."

"That can't be helped. I'm afraid I'm not equal to another five miles on foot. Do you know Mr. Graham?"

Marjorie laughed.[54]

"Of course I do," she said in her frank, friendly way; "he's my father."

"Your father!" repeated the gentleman, his face lighting up; "why, you don't mean to tell me you are little Marjorie?"

"I'm Marjorie Graham, but I'm not very little. I'm five feet, three, and I was fourteen last March."

"Well, you were about two feet, three when I last saw you," said the gentleman, smiling; "so you must forgive me for not recognizing you at once. Have you ever heard of your uncle Henry Carleton?"

With a joyous exclamation, impulsive Marjorie sprang from her pony and leaving the faithful Roland to his own devices, rushed to her uncle's side, holding out both hands.

"Of course I have!" she cried, lifting her radiant face for the expected kiss. "Oh, Uncle Henry, I'm so glad you've come to see us at last; Mother will be so happy."

Although somewhat surprised by the warmth of this greeting, Mr. Carleton was not at all displeased. Indeed, he was smiling very pleasantly by the time he had given his niece the kiss she was evidently expecting, and his face softened as he regarded her more attentively.[55]

"I ought to have known you, Marjorie," he said, "for you are very like your mother."

Marjorie flushed with pleasure.

"I'm glad," she said; "I'd rather look like Mother than any one else. Is Elsie with you?"

"Elsie? You know about my little girl, too, then?"

"Oh, yes, indeed; I know she is just about my age. Mother has a photograph of her, taken when she was a baby, and I've always wished I could see her. Having a cousin of one's own age must be almost as good as having a sister. Oh, I do hope she's coming to the ranch!"

Mr. Carleton shook his head.

"Elsie and her mother were with me, but they have gone back to New York. We have been through the Canadian Rockies and the Yosemite together, and yesterday we stopped at the Grand Canyon. Your aunt and cousin have gone on in the train, but I thought I would like a few days with your mother, so I got off at the nearest station to the ranch, and was driving out. I suppose I should have written, but I thought I would rather enjoy giving your mother a surprise. I hope I sha'n't be in the way."

"No, indeed, you won't," declared Marjorie heartily. "Mother and Father will be delighted,[56] and so will Aunt Jessie. We so seldom have visitors, and it's such a treat, but I'm dreadfully sorry Aunt Julia and Elsie aren't coming, too. What a lucky girl Elsie is to have seen all those wonderful places! Father is going to take Mother and me to the Canyon some day when he can afford it. But I was so glad to see you that I forgot to introduce my friend. Undine, this is my uncle, Mr. Carleton.

"Uncle Henry, this is my friend, Miss Undine—we don't know her other name."

Undine—who had been watching proceedings with interest—smiled shyly, and held out her hand. She had also dismounted from her pony, and was holding him by the bridle.

"Undine," repeated Mr. Carleton, looking amused, as he took the girl's hand, and regarded her curiously; "that is a rather unusual name, isn't it?"

Undine blushed, and looked embarrassed, and Marjorie hastened to explain.

"It isn't her real name, but she didn't like being called Sally, so we thought we would call her Undine until she remembers what her name is. It's a very interesting story, Uncle Henry, but I won't stop to tell it now, for it's getting late, and I must hurry home as fast as I can, and have[57] Father send a team for you. I wish you could ride my pony; I wouldn't mind walking the five miles a bit."

"That's a nice little girl of Susie's," Mr. Carleton remarked to himself, as the ponies and their riders disappeared in a cloud of dust. "She has her mother's eyes and friendly ways, but—well, perhaps it was just as well I couldn't persuade Julia to stop over at the ranch. I doubt if Marjorie and Elsie would hit it off very well together."




Mr. Carleton received a hearty welcome at the ranch. Mr. and Mrs. Graham were not the sort of people to remember old grievances; Mrs. Graham was honestly glad to see her brother, and they were both quite willing to let bygones be bygones. So the visitor found the meeting with his sister and her husband a much less embarrassing one than he had expected, and the days at the ranch passed so pleasantly that he was easily persuaded to prolong his stay from a day or two to a week, and then to a fortnight. He and his sister had more than one long confidential talk, and although no word of complaint was uttered, Mr. Carleton was clever enough to read between the lines, and it was after one of these talks that he wrote a letter to his wife in New York, for an answer to which he was anxiously waiting.

It was on an afternoon in the second week of his visit that Mr. Carleton sauntered out on to the porch, to find Marjorie alone, and busily engaged in trimming a hat.[59]

"Where are all the others?" he inquired, throwing himself rather wearily into the rocker by her side. "I've been writing letters all the afternoon, and haven't heard a sound in the house."

"They are all out," said Marjorie. "Father wanted Mother to see some colts he is thinking of buying, and Aunt Jessie has gone with them, for the sake of the drive. Undine has gone, too."

"And how does it happen that you were left behind, like Cinderella. Wasn't there room in the wagon?"

"Oh, I could have squeezed in, or else ridden Roland, but I was too busy. I'm making a new hat, and that's always a very absorbing occupation. Don't you think it's going to be pretty?" And Marjorie held up the plain straw hat, trimmed with blue ribbon, for her uncle's inspection.

"I have no doubt it will be most becoming," said Mr. Carleton, smiling, "but have you done it all yourself?"

"Of course I have. I've trimmed all my hats since I was twelve. I make my shirt-waists, too, all but the cutting out; Mother does that. Doesn't Elsie make her own things?"[60]

"No, I'm afraid she doesn't; sewing isn't exactly in Elsie's line."

"Perhaps she likes other kinds of work better," said Marjorie, cheerfully. "I suppose Aunt Julia is disappointed, though. Mother says she would be very sorry if I didn't like to sew; she thinks every girl should learn to make her own clothes."

"I'm afraid your aunt isn't any more fond of sewing than Elsie is," said Mr. Carleton, with a rather peculiar smile.

Marjorie secretly wondered who made Elsie's dresses, and who attended to the household mending, but fearing it might be impolite to ask, changed the subject by saying:

"Undine could scarcely sew at all when she came, but Aunt Jessie has been teaching her, and she has improved very much. Don't you think it's tremendously interesting about Undine, Uncle Henry?"

"It is certainly a most unusual case," admitted Mr. Carleton. "I was at first inclined to believe that Miss Undine was gifted with a vivid imagination, and was imposing on you all, but your father and mother believe her story."

"Oh, yes, indeed, we all believe it," cried Marjorie, eagerly. "We know it's true, because[61] Father wrote to the dressmaker where Undine worked for two years, and she said everything was just as Undine had told us."

"Well, it is certainly a case for a brain specialist," said Mr. Carleton, "but unfortunately there are no specialists of any kind in this part of the world. I wish there were, for your aunt Jessie's sake."

Marjorie's bright face was suddenly clouded.

"You don't think Aunt Jessie ill, do you?" she asked, anxiously. "She seems so much better than she was two weeks ago."

"I don't know that she is worse than usual, but she is a very different creature from the strong, active girl I remember. Poor child, she has had a terrible experience; I wish some good surgeon could see her."

"You mean—oh, Uncle Henry, you mean you think a surgeon might possibly be able to help her!" Marjorie's hat had fallen into her lap, and she was regarding her uncle with eager, troubled eyes.

"I don't know whether a surgeon could help her or not, but he could at least make an examination. I don't suppose there is even an ordinary physician in this neighborhood."

"There is one at Lorton, but that's twenty[62] miles away, and I've heard people say he wasn't very good. Father sent for a surgeon from Albuquerque when Aunt Jessie was hurt, and he said it was her spine that had been injured, and that she could never be cured. Do you think a doctor from the East might say something different?"

"My dear child, don't get so excited. I really have not the slightest idea; I was only speculating on my own account. It seems such a pity that one so young—well, well, it can't be helped, I suppose, and there is no use in talking about it."

Marjorie sighed as she took up her work again, and they were both silent for several minutes. Then Marjorie spoke again, and her voice was not quite steady.

"If I thought there was any surgeon in the world who could cure Aunt Jessie, I believe I would go and find him myself, and bring him here, if it took me years to earn the money, and I had to work day and night to do it. She's the dearest, bravest—oh, Uncle Henry, you haven't any idea what Aunt Jessie is!"

Marjorie broke off, with a half-suppressed sob, and dashed away some tears, which would come in spite of a brave effort to keep them back.[63] Mr. Carleton's face softened as he watched her; he had grown to have a high opinion of this niece of his. He could not help wondering rather sadly whether there were any one in the world of whom his own little daughter would have spoken in such glowing terms.

"You're a loyal little soul, Marjorie," he said kindly. "I wish Elsie had you for a friend."

Marjorie smiled through her tears.

"I wish I had her for my friend," she said. "Don't you think she would like to come out here and make us a visit some time? She might find it rather hot in summer, if she wasn't accustomed to it, but the winters are beautiful."

"Elsie has her school in winter," Mr. Carleton said, "but perhaps she may come some day. Hark, who is that singing?"

"Only Jim coming with the mail. He always sings when he rides. It's generally 'Mandalay,' but it's 'Loch Lomond' to-day."

"'Oh, you'll tak' the high road, and I'll tak' the low road,'"

sang the clear tenor voice, and Jim Hathaway, on his big brown horse, came galloping up to the door.

"There's only one letter for you to-day, Uncle[64] Henry," announced Marjorie, taking the handful of letters and papers from the boy. "It's a big fat one, though. Perhaps it's from Elsie; you haven't had one letter from Elsie since you came."

"It is from your Aunt Julia," said Mr. Carleton, and immediately proceeded to make himself acquainted with its contents, while Jim galloped away to the stables, and Marjorie went on with her hat trimming.

It was, as Marjorie had said, a "fat letter," and it took Mr. Carleton some time to read it. Indeed, he read some parts over more than once, before he finally put it in his pocket, and prepared to light a cigar. "Are Aunt Julia and Elsie well?" Marjorie inquired, politely. She could not help wondering why this aunt and cousin never sent any messages to her.

"Oh, yes, they are very well, thank you. Your aunt says it has been rather warm for the season, and there hasn't been much going on."

Mr. Carleton relapsed into silence, and Marjorie said no more. Her thoughts were filled by a new idea. What if a surgeon could really be found who would be able to cure Aunt Jessie? Such a possibility seemed almost too wonderful to be contemplated, and yet,—and yet[65]

The whistle of a distant train broke the stillness, and Marjorie came down from her air castle to remark—

"There goes the East Bound; two hours late to-day."

"You seem as much interested in the hours of trains as if you were in the habit of traveling on one at least once a week," said Mr. Carleton, smiling. "How would you like to take a journey—to go to New York, for instance?"

"I should love it better than anything in the world," said Marjorie frankly.

"Well, perhaps it can be managed. What would you say to going East with me next week, and spending the winter in New York?"

For the second time the hat Marjorie was trimming rolled unheeded into her lap, while she sat staring at her uncle with startled, wondering eyes. The proposal was so sudden—so undreamed of—that for the first moment she was speechless, and when words did come at last, they were only:

"You mean to spend the winter with you and Aunt Julia?"

"Yes, and to go to school with Elsie. I think your father and mother are rather anxious about your education."[66]

"I know they are," said Marjorie, eagerly. "They wanted to send me to school at Albuquerque this autumn, but the drought spoiled the alfalfa crop, and there was disease among the cattle, so Father didn't feel he could afford it. I should love to see New York more than anything I can think of, but to go so far away from them all for a whole winter—oh, Uncle Henry, you're very kind to suggest it, but I really don't believe I could."

"Not if you knew your father and mother wished it very much, and that it would be a great relief to their minds?" Mr. Carleton spoke rather gravely, and Marjorie felt suddenly embarrassed.

"Of course I would try to do what they wanted me to," she said meekly, "but I don't believe they would be willing to have me go as far away from them. Albuquerque was different; I could have come home for the vacations from there. It's awfully good of you, Uncle Henry, and I would love to see Aunt Julia and Elsie, but New York is so far away."

"Only three days by train," said Mr. Carleton, smiling; "that ought not to seem much to you Westerners. You would find the life very different from that to which you have been accustomed,[67] but I think you would enjoy it, and you must have an education, you know."

Marjorie blushed, and her eyes drooped.

"I want it very much," she said humbly. "If I were well educated, I might be able to teach, and to help Father and Mother in other ways. Uncle Henry, do you think it is my duty to go to New York?"

"Yes, Marjorie, I do," said her uncle, with unusual gravity. "I think it is an opportunity that you should not miss. I have written your Aunt Julia about it, and her answer has just come. She agrees with me that it will be the best thing for you. Your home will be with us, of course, and you will go to school with Elsie. It is not a large school, only a class of a dozen girls, and the teacher is a charming woman. You will soon make friends, and I think you would be happy."

"And I would be with Elsie," said Marjorie, beginning to look on the bright side, as she generally did. "It would be lovely to know my own cousin. Have you spoken to Mother about it, Uncle Henry?"

"Not yet, but I intend doing so this evening. I have been waiting for your aunt's reply to my letter. I feel quite sure your mother will consent;[68] she is too sensible a woman to do anything else. But it will be hard for her to let you go so far away, and I want you to be a brave, sensible girl, and not make it any harder than you can help."

For a moment Marjorie was silent, and her uncle could see by her face something of the struggling that was going on within. Then she spoke, and her voice was clear and brave.

"All right, Uncle Henry, I promise. If Father and Mother want me to go I will, and I'll try not to let them see how hard it is. After all, it won't be like going to stay with strangers, for I shall be with my own relations all the time, and it will be so nice to have a cousin of my own age. Here comes the wagon, so we can't talk any more now. Oh, Uncle Henry, there's just one question I want to ask. Are there many good surgeons in New York?"

"Plenty of them," said her uncle, smiling. "Don't say anything of what we have been talking about, Marjorie, until I have a chance to explain to your mother."

"No, I won't, and, Uncle Henry, please don't think me ungrateful because I couldn't be so glad just at first. It's beautiful of you and Aunt Julia to want me, and if I go I'll try not to give[69] any more trouble than I can possibly help. Now I am going to my room for a few minutes. I don't want Aunt Jessie to see me till I've got my face straightened out. She knows me so well she says she can tell the moment there is anything the matter."




It was settled. Marjorie was to go East with her uncle, and spend the winter in New York. Mr. Carleton felt that he could not leave his business much longer, and was anxious to start as soon as Marjorie could be ready. For a week Mrs. Graham and Miss Jessie had sewed as they had never sewed before, and Marjorie and even Undine had worked so hard that there had been little time to think of anything else. Now it was the last evening, and the small leather trunk containing all Marjorie's simple possessions, stood packed, and ready to be taken early next morning, to the railway station twenty miles away.

Mr. Carleton had been somewhat puzzled by all these elaborate preparations, and had ventured a gentle remonstrance to his sister.

"Why take so much trouble, Susie? Julia will get the child everything she needs, and I'll attend to the bills. You needn't worry about[71] Marjorie's being well-dressed; you know Julia has excellent taste."

But Mrs. Graham was resolute. She knew well that her own ideas of dress and those of her New York sister-in-law were very different, but she was not without her share of family pride, and was not willing that Marjorie should appear before her Eastern relatives in clothes unfit for her position. But alas! It was twelve years since Mrs. Graham had left her New York home, and styles change a good deal in twelve years.

Every one had kept up bravely during that busy week, and they had all been extremely cheerful. Marjorie never knew of the bitter tears shed by mother and aunt in the solitude of their own rooms, and Mrs. Graham's heart would have ached even more than it did had she known of the hours Marjorie lay awake, her head buried deep in the pillow, so that Aunt Jessie in the next room, should not hear her crying. Every one knew it was for the best. Even Marjorie, miserable as she was sometimes at the thought of the two thousand miles which must soon lie between herself and the people she loved best, would have been keenly disappointed if Uncle Henry had suddenly changed his mind, or Aunt Julia written that it would not be convenient to[72] have her. All through that last day she had worked hard, trying not to think about to-morrow, but now everything was done and everybody was resting after their labors. Marjorie had sat on the porch for an hour with her mother and aunt, and they had all tried to talk cheerfully as usual, but it was of no use. There was a dreadful inclination on all their parts to drop into long silences, which nobody seemed able to break. They were alone, for Mr. Carleton and his brother-in-law had gone for a walk, and Undine was helping Juanita in the kitchen.

At last, at the end of a longer silence than usual, Marjorie, feeling sure she shouldn't be able to hold out much longer, suddenly sprang up, explaining hurriedly:

"I'll be right back; I'm just going to the stables for a moment to say good-by to Roland." And she was off across the lawn, biting her lip to keep back the sobs that must not come until she was out of sight and hearing of her dear ones.

The bidding good-by to her pony was a rather lengthy proceeding. She was alone, for the men had all gone off to their suppers, so she had her cry out on Roland's neck, and whispered her last loving instructions into his faithful ears.[73]

"You are to be a good pony, Roland, and do just as you are told till I come home. Undine is to ride you whenever she likes, and Aunt Jessie thinks riding is so good for her that she's going to try to let her go out for an hour every day. You will miss me, I know, Roland dear, and I shall miss you terribly, but I've got to have an education, and after all one winter isn't so very long to be away."

Whether Roland understood or not I cannot pretend to say, but he rubbed his soft nose against Marjorie's cheek, and snuggled up close to her as if he loved her, and she left the stable feeling somehow cheered and comforted.

On the way back she passed the old playhouse, and could not resist the temptation of going in for one more last good-bye, although she knew it would mean another fit of crying. The sight of the old toys and picture books—relics of the childhood that would never come back—affected her even more than the parting with Roland had done, and sinking down on the bench where she had dozed on the afternoon of Undine's arrival, she gave herself up to a few minutes of quiet, undisturbed grief.

She had just dried her eyes, and was wondering if she could manage to reach her own room,[74] and wash her face, without being seen by any of her family, when the door, which had been partly closed, was pushed gently open, and Undine came in.

At sight of her friend, Undine drew back, blushing.

"I didn't know you were here," she said, apologetically; "I'll go away if you want to be alone."

"Come in," said Marjorie, making room for her on the bench. "Were you looking for me?"

Undine's eyes drooped, and the color deepened in her cheeks.

"I came to cry," she said simply.

"To cry?" repeated Marjorie in surprise; "what did you want to cry for?"

"Because you're going away," Undine confessed, nestling closer to her friend.

Marjorie slipped an arm round her. "I didn't know you cared so much," she said. "You'll have Aunt Jessie, and you're so fond of her."

"I shall miss you dreadfully," whispered Undine tremulously. "You've been so good to me, and—and you were the first one to believe in me. All the rest thought I was telling stories, even Miss Jessie."[75]

"I couldn't help believing you," said Marjorie, laughing. "When you looked at me with those big eyes of yours, and told me all those strange things, I felt sure they were true, though it was the queerest story I had ever heard. I think I should have to believe every word you ever told me."

Undine smiled.

"I don't think your uncle believes it all even yet," she said. "He looks at me so queerly sometimes that it makes me uncomfortable. I wish you were not going away with him."

"Oh, he is very kind," said Marjorie, loyally. "It's so good of him to be willing to take me to New York, and send me to school for the whole winter. I'm sorry you don't like him, Undine."

"Well, he may be kind, but he isn't nearly as nice as your father and mother. How do you know you are going to like New York?"

"Oh, I am sure I shall like it, as soon as I get used to things there." Marjorie spoke with forced cheerfulness and choked down a rising lump in her throat. "You see, it isn't like going to live among strangers," she went on, as much for the sake of reassuring herself as her friend. "I shall be with my own[76] uncle and aunt, and then there will be Elsie."

"Perhaps you won't like Elsie; you've never seen her."

"Why, of course I shall like her. She's my own cousin, and only three months older than I am. I have always thought that having a cousin was the next best thing to having a sister."

"I wonder if I ever had a sister," Undine remarked irrelevantly. "Somehow I don't believe I had, for when I say the word 'sister' it never makes my heart beat the way it does when I say 'Mother.' I know I had a mother, and I think I must have loved her very much."

"Perhaps that's because you've grown to love my mother," Marjorie suggested; "she may remind you of yours."

Undine pressed her hand to her forehead, and the old bewildered look came back into her eyes.

"I don't know," she said, with a sigh; "I don't know anything. Oh, Marjorie, do you think I shall ever remember?"

"I'm sure you will," said Marjorie confidently, "and so is Aunt Jessie. She says she's sure when you get well and strong it will make a great difference, and that's why she wants you to[77] be out in the air as much as possible. You are ever so much better now than when you came, and when you are better still, and have left off worrying, you'll wake up some morning remembering everything; just wait and see if you don't."

Undine smiled, but the smile was rather sad.

"I try not to worry," she said, "and I'm happier here than I ever was before, but I'm so frightened even now when I stop to think about it all." Undine's sentence ended with an involuntary shudder.

"Look here, Undine," said Marjorie, with a sudden determination, "I'm going to let you in to a great secret. You must promise not to speak to any one about it, even Mother, for if it should never come to anything it would be such a dreadful disappointment to everybody."

"I won't tell," promised Undine, beginning to look interested.

"It's about Aunt Jessie. Uncle Henry was speaking of Aunt Jessie one day, and he thinks it such a pity a good surgeon couldn't see her. He says she might be helped a great deal. There are no good surgeons here, but Uncle Henry says there are a great many in New York, and I've been thinking—oh, Undine, I'm almost[78] afraid to say it, it seems so presumptuous—but just suppose I should meet a surgeon in New York, and be able to persuade him to come here to see Aunt Jessie, and suppose he should cure her! It's the one hope that keeps me up every time I feel like breaking down at the idea of going so far away from everybody."

"It would be perfectly beautiful," Undine agreed warmly, "but do you suppose any surgeon would be willing to come so far to see some one he didn't know?"

Marjorie's face, which had brightened for a moment, grew very serious again.

"I don't know," she said. "If he knew her I'm sure he would come—any one would—but if he had never even heard of her existence it would be different, of course. I don't know how I'm going to manage it; I only know it's the thing I want most in the whole world, and I'm going to try for it with all my might."

There was a ring in Marjorie's voice, and a light in her eyes, which impressed her friend, and with a quick, affectionate impulse, Undine caught her hand and squeezed it.

"I wish I could help," she said, "but there isn't anything I can do except pray about it. I will pray every night, just as hard as I do to remember,[79] and if it really should happen I think I should be almost as happy as you."

Just then the conversation was interrupted by the sound of approaching footsteps and voices, and with a whispered caution to Undine not to breathe a word to any one, Marjorie hurried away to join her father and uncle, who were returning from their walk.

Everybody made a great effort to be cheerful at supper that evening. Even Mr. Carleton, who was usually rather quiet, threw himself manfully into the breach, and told funny stories that made them all laugh. After all, the evening wasn't as dreadful as Marjorie had feared it was going to be, but when bedtime came, and she had to say good-night to her family for the last time for eight whole months, she felt herself in immediate danger of breaking down.

Mrs. Graham sat for a long time by her daughter's bedside that night, and they had what Marjorie called "a perfectly Heavenly talk." It was a serious talk, but not a sad one, and when it was over, and Marjorie flung her arms round her mother's neck, and did break down just a little, things did not seem nearly as hopeless as she had expected.

"I don't believe any other girl in the world[80] has such a perfect mother as I have," was Marjorie's last waking thought. "I don't deserve her, and never can, but I'm going to try not to disappoint her any more than I can possibly help. One winter can't last for ever, and when June comes, and I am at home again, how gloriously happy we shall all be!"




"October 28th, 19—
"My Own Precious Mother:

"The first letter must be to you, of course, and the next to Aunt Jessie. Uncle Henry says if I write now I can post my letter when we stop at Albuquerque this afternoon. Oh, Mother darling, was it only this morning that I said good-bye to you all? It seems as if I had been away a month already.

"I am writing this at the desk in the library car, and the train shakes so I am afraid my writing will be worse than ever. Uncle Henry says I shall soon get accustomed to the motion, but just now it makes my head ache, and the car feels very hot and stuffy. I opened the window, but a great many cinders came in, and a lady in the section next to mine asked me to close it again, so I had to.

"I hope Father didn't tell you what a goose I was at the station. I didn't mean to cry so[82] much, but when I thought of you and Aunt Jessie waving good-bye to me from the porch, with such a sorrowful look on both your dear faces, I just couldn't help it. I am going to cheer up right away, though, so please don't worry about me.

"It really was very exciting when the train stopped at Lorton, and Uncle Henry and I got in. When it began to move, and I realized that I was actually on board, I gave a kind of gasp, and would have liked to scream, if I hadn't been afraid of shocking Uncle Henry. There are not many people on the train, the colored porter says, and Uncle Henry and I both have sections to ourselves. I thought there would be regular beds to sleep in, but there are not. The porter says they turn the seats into beds at night, and there are curtains to let down. I should think it would be very uncomfortable sleeping so close to other people, but I suppose one gets used to it when one has traveled a good deal. Uncle Henry says Aunt Julia won't travel unless she has a stateroom, but he doesn't object to the sections. I looked into the stateroom in this car, but it didn't look very different from the sections, except that it was larger and there was a place to wash.[83]

"We had lunch at a little table in the dining-car. It was delicious but my head ached a little, and I wasn't very hungry. Uncle Henry talked politics with a gentleman who sat at the same table with us, but they didn't say much to me, so I looked out of the window, and it was all very interesting. We are in Mexico now, and to-morrow we shall be in Kansas. Kansas makes me think of Undine and Mrs. Hicks. Oh, how I do wonder if Undine will ever remember!

"Uncle Henry says we shall be in Albuquerque in a few minutes, so I must stop writing if I want to post my letter there. Good-night, Mother darling; I will write again to-morrow, and indeed, indeed, I will try to remember all the things you said to me last night, and to be always

"Your own loving

"October 28th.
"Darling Aunt Jessie:

"I have been a whole night on the train, and when I think of how far away from home we are, I can't help being just a little frightened, though it is all very interesting. I posted Mother's letter at Albuquerque, where the train stopped half an hour. Uncle Henry and I got[84] out and walked up and down the platform, and, oh, it was good to get a breath of fresh air! I really didn't know that any place could be quite so stuffy as this train. Everybody seems afraid to have the windows open on account of the cinders, but I think I should prefer even cinders to stuffiness. There were some Indians selling blankets and baskets, and a good many people bought things. They crowded round us, and made a good deal of fuss, and I heard one lady say she was afraid of them. Just think of being afraid of poor harmless Indians! I would have liked to tell her how foolish she was, but was afraid Uncle Henry might be displeased. I don't think he is a very friendly person, for he hardly speaks to any of the passengers on the train, and last night he told me I talked too much to the black porter, who was making up the sections. Oh, Aunt Jessie, it was so curious to see him turning all the seats into beds, but you have been on a sleeping car, and know all about it.

"We had a very good dinner, which I enjoyed more than lunch, because my head was better, and in the evening we sat on the platform of the observation car, and it was very pleasant. Uncle Henry was kind, and talked to me a good deal—at least it was a good deal for him. I asked him[85] if he wasn't very anxious to get home to see Aunt Julia and Elsie, and he said of course he should be glad to see them, but didn't seem nearly as excited as I am sure Father would be about seeing us if he had been away from us for three whole weeks. I think Elsie must be very busy, for besides going to school, she has music and German lessons in the afternoons, and goes to a dancing class. Uncle Henry said he hoped she and I would be good friends, and I told him I was quite sure we should. Imagine a girl not being good friends with her own first cousin! Did you know we are to live in a hotel all winter? Uncle Henry has a house on Madison Avenue, but Aunt Julia is tired of housekeeping, so he has rented it, and taken rooms in a hotel instead. Uncle Henry calls the rooms an apartment, and the name of the hotel is the 'Plaza.' It is on Fifth Avenue, and right opposite the park, which must be very pretty. I should think it would seem very queer to live in a house with a lot of other people, but then the people who live in hotels must have a great many friends.

"At about nine o'clock Uncle Henry said he was sleepy, so we went back to our car, and that was when I talked to the porter while he made[86] up the beds. I thought at first that I should never be able to sleep; the train shook so, and we were going so fast. It was hard work undressing behind the curtain, but I managed somehow, and even had a wash, though I had to hold on to the side of the car with one hand while I washed my face with the other. I did cry a little after I was in bed, but I don't think any one heard. It was my very first night away from home, you know, Aunt Jessie dear, but I tried to remember all the lovely, comforting things you and Mother said to me, and I think I must have been pretty tired, for before I realized I was getting sleepy I was sound asleep, and I never opened my eyes till it was broad daylight.

"To-day we are in Kansas, and it is very flat, and not at all pretty. Uncle Henry says we won't have any more fine scenery till we get to the Hudson. The train seems stuffier than ever, and I am just pining for fresh air and exercise. We sat on the observation platform for a while this morning, but Uncle Henry didn't like the cinders, and wouldn't let me stay there by myself, so we came back to our car. I don't think traveling on a train is quite as pleasant as I thought it was going to be. I am sure I should like an automobile better. We saw automobiles[87] at Topeka, where we stopped for ten minutes this morning, and they looked very queer, going all by themselves, without any horses, but I think I should like a ride in one. Uncle Henry says Aunt Julia is afraid of automobiles, so she still uses a carriage.

"I talked to some people in the observation car—a lady and a little boy, who are going to Chicago—but I think most of the passengers on this train are rather unsociable. They don't talk much to each other but just read magazines and newspapers when they are awake, and take naps about every hour. I have watched the two ladies in the section opposite mine, and they have been asleep at least four times to-day. I heard one of them say she never could sleep on a train; wasn't that funny?

"We can post letters from Kansas City, where we are due at half past eight to-night, so I can send this on from there. We get to Chicago to-morrow morning, and have three hours there; won't that be exciting? Oh, I do hope Uncle Henry will take me for a good long walk! I feel as if I could tramp ten miles.

"Good-bye, you precious Auntie! I send a thousand hugs and kisses to everybody. Tell Undine not to forget Roland's sugar—he always[88] has three lumps—and to be sure the kittens in the barn have their milk every night and morning. I am afraid I forgot to tell her about the kittens; there were so many other things to think of. I am so glad you and Mother have Undine; she is such a dear, and I know will try to take my place. I will write to Father and Mother after I have been in Chicago.

"From your own little niece,

"October 30th.
"My Own Precious Father and Mother:

"This letter is for you both, and Aunt Jessie must have a share in it, too, because it is the last I shall be able to write on the train.

"I didn't write at all yesterday, it was such an exciting day! We got to Chicago at about noon, and, oh, what a big, noisy, wonderful place it is! I know I could never describe it if I tried for a week, so I will just tell you what we did. It was raining, which was a great disappointment to me, but Uncle Henry didn't seem to mind. He said we would take a taxi and go to the 'Blackstone' for lunch. I had no idea what a taxi was, but didn't like to ask and when Uncle Henry called one what do you suppose it was?[89] One of those wonderful automobiles! I was a tiny bit scared when we first got in, but when we started, and went rushing through those crowded, noisy streets, I just loved it.

"It didn't take us long to get to the 'Blackstone,' which is an enormous hotel, looking out on the lake. The lake is wonderful; I never saw so much water before, and though the fog was thick, and we couldn't see very far, I should have liked to stand and look at it for a long time, but Uncle Henry said we must hurry. I never saw such a wonderful place as the dining-room at the 'Blackstone.' There were quantities of little tables, and men waiters to bring you what you wanted. I thought the bill of fare on the train was long enough to satisfy any one, but the one at the 'Blackstone' was simply endless. Uncle Henry told me to choose what I wanted, but there were so many things I couldn't possibly choose, so he ordered a nice lunch, and all the time we were eating music was playing in a gallery overhead.

"After lunch Uncle Henry took another taxi, and told the driver to show us the city. It was all very interesting, but so noisy and confusing that I got very tired looking at so many things at once, and I was really rather glad when Uncle[90] Henry said it was time to go back to the station.

"This train is called the 'Chicago Special,' and is even grander than the one we were on before. It goes very fast, but doesn't swing so much, because the road-bed is smoother, Uncle Henry says. I was so tired last night that I went to bed right after dinner, and never woke once till morning. We are due in New York this afternoon, and Uncle Henry says I had better post my letter in Albany, because after we leave there he wants me to see the Hudson, which I believe is very beautiful. So good-bye, you dear precious people! Oh, how anxious I am for my first letters from home! Don't forget to tell me about every single little thing that happens. I am thinking of you all every minute, and if I were going to any other people but Aunt Julia and Elsie I would be so unhappy. But of course going to one's own aunt and cousin is very different from being with strangers, and Uncle Henry is really very kind. Oh, I do wonder if Elsie is as much excited about meeting me as I am about meeting her!

"Uncle Henry says we shall be in Albany in ten minutes, so good-bye again, with oceans of love from

"Your Own Marjorie."




"Elsie, my dear child, do you know what time it is? Nearly half past five, and you haven't started to dress. Your father will be so annoyed if you are not ready when he arrives."

Mrs. Carleton, a small, fair woman, with a rather worried, fretful expression, paused in the doorway of her daughter's room, and regarded the delinquent with anxiety not unmixed with dismay. Elsie, arrayed in a pink kimono, was lying comfortably on the sofa, deep in the pages of an interesting story-book. At her mother's words she threw down her book, and rose with a yawn. She was a tall girl with dark eyes and hair, and she would have been decidedly pretty if she too had not looked rather cross.

"Is it really so late?" she said, indifferently. "Why didn't Hortense call me? I had no idea what time it was."

"But you ought to have known, dear," Mrs. Carleton protested gently. "I don't suppose Hortense knew you wanted to be called, but I[92] will ring for her at once. You will hurry, won't you, darling? What excuse can I possibly make to your father if he asks for you and finds you are not ready?"

"Oh, don't worry, Mamma. You know papa only scolds because he thinks it his duty; he doesn't really care. Besides, the train will probably be late; those Western trains always are."

Mrs. Carleton rang the bell for the maid, whose room was in a different part of the hotel, and went to the closet in quest of her daughter's evening dress.

"I will help you till Hortense comes," she said. "You really must hurry, Elsie. It is not as if your father were coming alone; he will expect you to be ready to greet Marjorie."

Elsie shrugged her shoulders indifferently.

"As if a girl who has been living on a cattle ranch in Arizona would care whether I were dressed or not," she said. "Probably where she comes from people wear kimonos all day long, and never even heard of dressing for the evening."

Mrs. Carleton sighed, and the worried expression deepened in her blue eyes.

"I really wish, darling, that you would try to be a little more gracious about this. Of course[93] it is a trial, but your father has made up his mind that Marjorie shall spend the winter with us, and it isn't going to make things any pleasanter to be constantly finding fault about them."

"I wasn't finding fault," retorted Elsie, who had by this time taken off the kimono, and begun brushing out her long hair. "I only said Marjorie Graham wouldn't care a fig what I had on, and I don't believe she will. I don't intend to be disagreeable to her, but you know what an awful nuisance it's going to be, and how I hate it. Think of having to take her about everywhere with me, and introduce her to all my friends."

"My dear, she is your own first cousin. Besides, I am sure she is a nice child—your father speaks so affectionately of her in his letters—and her mother is a lovely woman. I was very fond of her when we were girls together."

"Oh, I dare say she is all right," Elsie admitted grudgingly, "but that doesn't alter the fact of its being an awful bother to have her here for a whole winter. You know how papa fusses. He will be sure to get some idea in his head about my not paying Marjorie enough attention, and he will expect me to take her everywhere. Oh, I hate it, I just hate it!" And[94] Elsie's voice actually trembled with vexation.

Mrs. Carleton sighed again.

"I am very sorry, dear," she began, but the entrance of the maid at this moment, put an end to the conversation, and she left the room, with a final admonition to her daughter to hurry as much as possible.

But alas! it was too late for hurrying. Mrs. Carleton had only just entered the drawing-room, when she heard a key turned in the outer door of the apartment, followed by the sound of a familiar voice calling cheerfully—

"Julia, Elsie, where are you? Here we are, safe and sound!"

With a rapidly beating heart Mrs. Carleton hurried forward to greet her husband and his niece.

"My dear Henry, your train must have been just on time," she exclaimed rather nervously. "We had scarcely begun to expect you yet. And so this is Marjorie. I am very glad to see you, dear; I hope you are not quite worn out after that dreadful journey."

"I am not the very least bit tired," returned a fresh young voice, and Marjorie returned her aunt's kiss so heartily that Mrs. Carleton was rather startled.[95]

"We were twenty minutes late," Mr. Carleton said, in answer to his wife's remark, but he kissed her affectionately before putting the question she was dreading.

"And where is Elsie?"

"She will be here in a few moments," Mrs. Carleton explained hurriedly. "Now do come in and have some tea, or is it too late for tea? I am so glad to have you back, Henry dear; we have missed you terribly. I am sure you must be tired even if Marjorie isn't."

"Not so tired as hungry; we had a very poor lunch on the train. It is rather late for tea, though; we can have an early dinner instead. Where is that little witch, Elsie? Isn't she coming to see us?"

"Oh, certainly, dear; I told you she would be here in a few moments. Now I will take Marjorie to her room; she will be glad to wash off some of those horrid cinders, I am sure." She glanced as she spoke at Marjorie's linen shirt-waist, and the straw hat, which certainly did not look as if it had come from a New York milliner.

"Am I not to have the same room with Elsie, Aunt Julia?" Marjorie inquired, in a tone of some disappointment, as Mrs. Carleton led the[96] way down a long, narrow entry, with doors on both sides.

"Oh, no, dear; you are to have a nice little room all to yourself. It was so fortunate that we had this extra room in the apartment. We intended using it for guests, but when your uncle wrote that he was bringing you home with him, we decided to give it to you."

"Oh, I hope I am not going to be in the way," said Marjorie, blushing. "I had no idea I was to have a room to myself, especially when Uncle Henry told me you were living in a hotel. I wouldn't in the least mind rooming with Elsie."

"But you are not at all in the way," said Mrs. Carleton, kindly. "We seldom have guests staying with us, and shall not need the extra room. This is Elsie's room; yours is just opposite."

At that moment Elsie's door opened, and that young lady emerged, followed by the French maid, who was still fastening her dress. At sight of her cousin Marjorie sprang forward, and before Elsie at all realized what was happening to her, two eager arms were round her neck, and she was being hugged in a manner that fairly took away her breath.

"Oh, Elsie, I am so glad!" cried Marjorie[97] rapturously. "Isn't it too wonderful and beautiful that we should really meet at last? Do let me look at you; I want to see if you are like what I pictured you." And Marjorie held her astonished cousin off at arms' length, and surveyed her critically.

"What did you expect me to be like?" Elsie inquired, not without some curiosity, as she gently extricated herself from Marjorie's embrace. She had taken in every detail of her cousin's appearance in one glance.

"I don't exactly know—at least it is rather hard to describe," said Marjorie, with an embarrassed laugh. Something in Elsie's expression was making her vaguely uncomfortable. "I didn't think you would be quite so grown up as you are."

"I am nearly fifteen," said Elsie, as if that fact alone were quite sufficient to account for her "grown up" appearance. "Is Papa in the drawing-room, Mamma?"

"Yes, darling; run and speak to him; he is expecting you. This is your room, Marjorie; I hope you will find it comfortable."

"It's a beautiful room," declared Marjorie, heartily, "only—only, are you quite sure you want me to have it, Aunt Julia?"[98]

"Quite sure," said Mrs. Carleton, smiling. "I suppose your trunk will be here before long. Hortense will unpack for you, and help you to dress for dinner."

Marjorie's eyes opened wide in surprise, and she glanced at the white-capped French maid, who still lingered in the background.

"You are very kind, Aunt Julia," she said politely, "but I don't need any help; I always do everything for myself."

Mrs. Carleton looked a little embarrassed.

"You may go, Hortense," she said, turning to the maid; "Miss Marjorie will ring if she wants you. You mustn't let her think you don't need her, dear," she added in a lower tone, as the maid left the room. "She is rather inclined to be lazy, and she will take advantage of you if you are too easy with her."

Marjorie said nothing, but she was both puzzled and uncomfortable. Mrs. Carleton, however, did not appear to notice that anything was wrong.

"I will leave you for a little while now," she said. "You must make yourself at home; your uncle and I want you to be very happy here."

The quick tears started to Marjorie's eyes, and she impulsively held out her hand to her aunt.[99] But Mrs. Carleton did not notice the gesture, and in another moment she had left the room, closing the door after her. In the entry she encountered Elsie returning from the interview with her father. Elsie was not in the best of spirits.

"Papa has sent me to stay with Marjorie," she said in a discontented whisper. "He says he is afraid she is homesick. Oh, Mamma, did you ever see such clothes?"

"Never mind about the clothes, dear," said her mother, with forced cheerfulness; "we shall soon fit her out with new ones. I think she will really be quite pretty when she is properly dressed."

Elsie shrugged her shoulders, but made no further remarks, and the next moment she was tapping at her cousin's door.

"Oh, I'm so glad you've come!" was Marjorie's joyful greeting. "Now we can have a nice talk before my trunk comes. Sit down in this comfortable chair and I'll take the little one. Isn't this a lovely room, and wasn't it sweet of your mother to say she hoped I should be happy here? Oh, I wonder if you can possibly be one half as glad to see me as I am to see you."

Elsie was puzzled, but she was a little flattered as well. She was not a general favorite among[100] her companions, and to find a cousin who had evidently been longing to make her acquaintance was rather an agreeable experience. So her face brightened considerably, and her voice was quite pleasant as she remarked, sinking into the comfortable arm-chair Marjorie had indicated—

"It is very interesting to meet you. I have often heard papa speak of you and your mother and father."

"Why, of course you have," laughed Marjorie, wondering in her simple way whether all New York girls of fifteen were as "grown up" as Elsie. "I don't believe though that you have thought half as much about me as I have about you. You see, it's different in Arizona. There aren't very many people, and they all live a long way from each other. Ever since I can remember I have longed for a girl friend. But with you it must be very different, going to school and living in a big city. I suppose you have lots of friends."

"Oh, yes, I have a good many," said Elsie, with her little society air. "I am not very fond of them all, though; some girls are so stupid."

"I hope you will like me," said Marjorie, a little wistfully. "We ought to be even more than friends because we are cousins, and I have[101] always thought that a cousin must be the next best thing to a sister. Don't you often long for a sister?"

"Why no, I don't," Elsie admitted. "Indeed, I am not sure that I should care for one at all. I think being an only child is very pleasant, though of course having an older brother would have its advantages. He would introduce one to his friends and bring them to the house. Are you fond of boys?"

"Oh, yes, I like them very well, but I have never known many. In fact, I haven't known many people of any kind except Indians and Mexicans."

"Indians and Mexicans!" repeated Elsie in a tone of dismay. "How perfectly awful! You don't mean that you make friends of those dreadful people we saw on the train coming home from California, do you?"

"They are not all dreadful creatures," said Marjorie, flushing. "They are not quite like white people, of course, but some of them are very good. I know a Mexican boy who is just as bright and clever as he can be. His father is going to send him to college next year. Then there is Juanita; she has lived with us for years, and we are all very fond of her."[102]

"Oh, I didn't know you were talking about servants," said Elsie. "I thought you meant friends. Hadn't you any real friends?"

"Not the kind of friends you mean. I had Father and Mother and Aunt Jessie, but until last August when Undine came, I had never spoken to a white girl of my own age."

"Undine, what a queer name. Is she a Mexican or an Indian?"

"She isn't either," said Marjorie, laughing, "and Undine isn't her real name. We only call her that because we don't know what her name is. It's a very interesting story, and I'll tell you all about it, but here comes my trunk, and I suppose I had better unpack and change my dress before dinner."

In spite of Marjorie's reiterated assurances that she didn't need any help, Hortense reappeared, and insisted on making herself useful. She was very polite and talked volubly in broken English about Mademoiselle's being fatiguer and how glad she, Hortense, would be to assist her in every way, but Marjorie could not help feeling uncomfortable, and wishing that the well-intentioned maid would go away and leave her to unpack by herself. But what made her still more uncomfortable was the fact that Elsie also[103] lingered, and regarded every article that came out of that modest leather trunk, with a keen, critical eye.

"What are you going to wear down to dinner?" she inquired anxiously as the last things were being stowed away in the bureau drawers.

"I don't know," said Marjorie; "I hadn't thought about it. I suppose my gray flannel suit, or else a clean shirt-waist and duck skirt."

Elsie clasped her hands in horror.

"Oh, you can't, you can't possibly!" she cried in real dismay. "Those things will do very well for breakfast and luncheon, but everybody dresses here in the evening. Let me see what you can wear. You haven't got much, but I suppose that white muslin will do."

"But that is my very best dress," protested Marjorie, her cheeks crimsoning from embarrassment and distress. "I don't think Mother would like to have me wear it the first evening. I won't have anything left for really grand occasions if I do."

"Oh, yes, you will," said Elsie, confidently. "Mamma is going to buy you a lot of new clothes; that was all arranged before you came. It would never do to have you going about everywhere in these things."[104]

Marjorie glanced at her cousin's stylish, well fitting blue chiffon and her heart was filled with dismay. Was it possible that all her mother's and aunt's stitches had been taken in vain? It was very kind of Aunt Julia to wish to buy her pretty clothes, but she did not like to have her present wardrobe spoken of as "those things." Before she had time to say any more on the subject, however, Mrs. Carleton appeared, to tell them to hurry, as her husband was impatient for his dinner.

That first dinner in the big crowded hotel restaurant was a wonderful revelation to Marjorie. The bright lights, the gay music, the ladies in their pretty evening dresses, it was all like a vision of fairyland, and for the first few minutes she could do nothing but gaze about her and wonder if she were awake.

"And do you really know all these people?" she whispered to Elsie, when they were seated at one of the small tables, and a waiter had taken their order.

"Good gracious, no," laughed Elsie, who was beginning to find this unsophisticated Western cousin decidedly amusing. "We don't know one of them to speak to."

Marjorie's eyes opened wide in astonishment.[105]

"How very strange," she said. "I supposed people who lived in the same house always knew each other. We know everybody at home, even if they live ten miles away."

"Well, this isn't Arizona, you know," said Elsie, shrugging her shoulders, and Marjorie, feeling as if she had somehow been snubbed, relapsed into silence.

Just then a lady and a gentleman and a boy of eighteen or nineteen came in, and took their seats at an opposite table. Elsie, who had appeared quite indifferent to all the other guests, instantly began to show signs of interest.

"There they are," she said eagerly, addressing her mother. "The gentleman is with them again to-night, too. I forgot to tell you, Mamma; I've found out their name, it's Randolph."

"How did you find out?" Mrs. Carleton asked, beginning to look interested in her turn.

"Lulu Bell told me to-day walking home from school. That boy passed us on the Avenue, and I asked her if she didn't think he was handsome. She said she knew who he was, though she had never met him. His uncle is a Dr. Randolph, and a friend of her father's. This boy and his[106] mother are from Virginia, and are spending the winter here. He is a freshman at Columbia, and his mother doesn't want to be separated from him, because she is a widow, and he is her only child. Lulu says Dr. Randolph has asked her mother to call on his sister-in-law. He said they had taken an apartment at this hotel for the winter. I made Lulu promise to introduce me if she ever had the chance, but she may never even meet him. She is such a queer girl; she doesn't care the least bit about boys."

"A very sensible young person, I should say," remarked Mr. Carleton, dryly. "How old is your friend Lulu?"

"Nearly fourteen; quite old enough to be interested in something besides dolls, but she's dreadfully young for her age."

"I wish some other little girls were young for their age," said Mr. Carleton; "it doesn't appear to be a common failing in these days."

Elsie flushed and looked annoyed.

"That boy really has a very nice face," put in Mrs. Carleton, anxious to change the subject, "and his devotion to his mother is charming. I suppose her husband must have died recently; she is in such deep mourning."

While the others were talking, Marjorie,[107] whose eyes had been wandering rapidly from one group to another, had finally fixed themselves upon the party at the opposite table. They certainly looked attractive; the gentleman with the strong, clever face, and hair just turning gray; the pretty, gentle little mother in her black dress, and the handsome college boy, with merry blue eyes. It was quite natural that Elsie should want to know them, but why in the world didn't she speak to them herself without waiting to be introduced? It seemed so strange and inhospitable to live in the same house with people and not speak to them. So when her aunt had finished her remarks about the Randolph family, she turned to Elsie and inquired innocently:

"If you want to know that boy so much why don't you tell him so?"

There was a moment of astonished silence; then Elsie giggled.

"You are the funniest girl I ever met, Marjorie," she said. "Why don't you do it yourself?"

"Elsie," said her mother in a tone of shocked reproof, and turning to Marjorie, she added gravely:

"When you have been in New York a little longer, my dear, you will learn that it is not the[108] proper thing for young girls to speak to strangers to whom they have not been introduced."

There was no doubt about the snub this time, and poor Marjorie was horribly embarrassed. She cast an appealing glance at her uncle, but he appeared to be absorbed, and finding no help from Elsie either, she relapsed into silence, and did not speak again for at least five minutes.

After all, that first evening could scarcely be called a success. Mr. and Mrs. Carleton were very kind, and Elsie seemed disposed to be friendly, but Marjorie was conscious of a sensation of disappointment for which she could scarcely account even to herself. She struggled bravely against the homesickness which threatened every moment to overwhelm her, and tried to take an interest in all her new relatives' conversation, but when dinner was over, and they had gone upstairs again, she was not sorry to avail herself of Aunt Julia's suggestion that she must be "quite worn out," and slip quietly off to bed. It was not easy to dispense with the services of Hortense, who showed an alarming tendency to linger and offer to assist, but even she was finally disposed of, and with a sigh of intense relief, Marjorie closed her door, switched off the electric light, and crept into bed. Then[109] followed a good hearty cry, which somehow made her feel better, and then, being young and very tired as well, she fell into a sound, healthy sleep, from which she did not awaken until it was broad daylight.




When Marjorie opened her eyes the next morning, she lay for some minutes thinking over the events of the previous day, and listening to the unusual noise in the street. There was so much noise that she began to fear it must be very late, and jumping out of bed, she went to look at the clock. It was only just half-past six. She had forgotten to ask at what hour the family breakfasted, but seven o'clock was the usual breakfast time at the ranch, so she decided that it might be well to dress as speedily as possible. She felt very wide awake indeed this morning, and suddenly remembered that she had not had a walk or ride since leaving home.

"I'll get Elsie to come with me for a good long tramp after breakfast," she said to herself. "If she can't go on account of school, I'll ask Uncle Henry to let me walk with him to his office, and I can come back by myself."

Greatly to Marjorie's relief, no Hortense appeared[111] with offers of assistance, and she performed her morning toilet in peace. She put on the gray flannel suit, which Elsie had pronounced "good enough for breakfast and luncheon," and then once more glancing at the clock, discovered that it was still only five minutes past seven.

"If they breakfast at seven I shall be only five minutes late," she said, with a feeling of satisfaction; "I should have hated to be late the first morning. Perhaps they won't have it till half-past, and then I shall have time to write a few lines to Mother first."

She opened her door, and crossed the hall to the drawing-room, where her aunt had told her the family usually breakfasted, in preference to going downstairs to the restaurant, but somewhat to her surprise, she found the room just as she had left it on the previous evening, and the whole apartment seemed very quiet. She went to one of the windows and looked out.

"What a lot of people there are in the street," she remarked reflectively, "and they all seem in such a hurry. I wonder where they are going. How pretty the park is. Oh, how I should love a gallop on Roland before breakfast."

The door behind her opened, and a woman with a duster in her hand came in. She looked[112] very much surprised at finding the room occupied.

"Good morning," said Marjorie, with her friendly smile; "it's a lovely day, isn't it?"

"It's very pleasant," returned the chambermaid, still looking surprised. "You are up early, Miss," she added politely.

"Am I?" said Marjorie, surprised in her turn. "I didn't know I was. At what time do my aunt and uncle generally have breakfast?"

"Never before half-past eight, and sometimes later. Mrs. Carleton generally has her breakfast in bed, but Mr. Carleton and the young lady have theirs in here."

"Half-past eight," repeated Marjorie in dismay, "and it's only a little after seven now. I should say I was early."

The maid smiled, and began dusting the ornaments without making any further remarks. She did not appear to be a very communicative person, and Marjorie decided that she might as well go back to her room, and write the letter to her mother, which could now be a much longer one than she had at first intended. But on the way she suddenly changed her mind.

"I can write later just as well," she decided, "and it really is much too beautiful to stay indoors.[113] I'll go and have a walk in that lovely park. I shall feel much more like breakfast when I've had some fresh air and exercise."

Marjorie had not the least idea that she was doing anything unusual as she ran lightly down the broad marble stairs five minutes later, and stepped out through the open street door into the fresh morning air. The Carleton's apartment was on the fifth floor, but Marjorie scorned to use the lift, which had struck her the evening before, as a very wonderful but unnecessary invention.

Several people in the hall looked at her curiously, and a man in brass buttons asked her if he should call a cab.

"Oh, no, thank you," said Marjorie, pleasantly; "I'm going for a walk," and she passed out, without another backward glance.

It really was a glorious morning, and Marjorie drew in long deep breaths of the keen autumn air, as she crossed the broad avenue and entered the park. She was not disappointed in her first impression that the park was beautiful, and the further she walked among the trees and broad asphalt paths, the more attractive it became. It was the last of October, but the autumn had been a warm one, and the grass was almost[114] as green as in summer. To Marjorie, accustomed all her life to the arid prairie, where trees and flowers were practically unknown, it all seemed very wonderful, and she enjoyed every step. She walked rapidly on for some distance, paying no particular attention to the direction she was taking. The possibility of getting lost never once entered her mind. She met very few people, and they all seemed in a hurry, and looked like men and women on their way to their day's work. Once she passed a forlorn-looking man asleep on a bench, and remembered what Undine had once said about a tramp. This must be a tramp, she felt sure, and she paused to regard him with interest as a new specimen of humanity.

Suddenly she came to a standstill and looked about here. She was in a quiet path, with rocks on both sides, and there was not a soul in sight.

"I must turn back," she said, with an uncomfortable recollection of the passing of time. "I was enjoying my walk so much I never realized how far I was going, but I'm afraid I shall have to hurry now if I don't want to be late for breakfast."

Accordingly she turned her steps in the direction from which she had come, and walked on[115] rapidly for several minutes. But alas! she had taken more than one turn since entering the park, and going back was no such easy matter as she had imagined. The more she tried to remember the way she had come, the more bewildered she became.

"I declare, I believe I am lost!" she said at last, with a feeling of amused dismay. "I must be more careful to notice where I am going next time. Oh, there is one of those men in uniform, that Uncle Henry said were policemen. He will be able to tell me if I'm going right."

She quickened her steps, and approaching the officer, inquired politely:

"Will you please tell me if this is the way to the entrance?"

"Which entrance?" inquired the policeman, regarding her curiously.

"I don't know," said Marjorie; "the entrance I came in—are there more than one?"

"A good many more; which avenue do you want?"

Marjorie's heart was beginning to beat rather fast. For the moment she could not remember; even the name of the hotel—which she had only heard once or twice—had escaped her recollection.[116]

"I have forgotten the name of the street," she said helplessly, "but it's the entrance opposite the big hotel."

The policeman looked uncertain, but at that moment a young man riding a bicycle appeared upon the scene, at sight of whom Marjorie's face brightened, and she uttered a little gasp of relief.

"That young gentleman knows," she exclaimed joyfully, and, quite forgetful of her aunt's snub of the evening before, she darted forward, and hailed the youth on the bicycle quite as if she had been an old friend.

"Oh, please excuse me for stopping you," she cried, eagerly, "but you know where I want to go, and I have forgotten the name of the hotel."

The young man brought his bicycle to a standstill; sprang to the ground, and snatched off his cap. He was evidently very much surprised, but too polite to show it.

"I beg your pardon," he said in a very pleasant voice; "can I be of any assistance to you?"

"Yes," said Marjorie, frankly. "I saw you in the hotel dining-room last night, and I heard my cousin say you lived there. I came out for a walk before breakfast, and—it's very stupid I suppose—but I can't find my way back to the entrance where I came in."[117]

A look of comprehension came into the young man's pleasant face, and he regarded Marjorie with interest not unmixed with amusement.

"I understand," he said; "you are staying at the 'Plaza,' and want to go back there."

"Yes, that is the name," said Marjorie, looking much relieved; "will you please show me the way to the gate?"

"Certainly," said her new acquaintance, smiling, and he at once began to lead the way, pushing his bicycle along beside him.

"Oh, don't you want to get on your wheel again?" Marjorie inquired anxiously. "I can easily follow if you don't go too fast."

The young man protested that he had ridden quite long enough, and would be glad of a little walk.

"You are very kind," said Marjorie, heartily. "It was very stupid of me to lose my way; I never was lost before."

"And do you often walk here in the park?" her new friend inquired, politely.

"Oh, no, I was never here before. I only came to New York yesterday; my home is in Arizona."

"You have come a long distance," he said.[118] "And how do you like New York—that is to say as much as you have seen of it?"

"I think it is very noisy and rather smoky, but the hotel is beautiful, and so is this park. I haven't seen much of New York yet, but I am going to spend the winter here."

"I quite agree with you as to the noise and smoke," said her companion, smiling, "but New York is a pretty jolly place notwithstanding. It isn't my home either; I am from Virginia."

"Yes, I know you are," said Marjorie, innocently. "You came here to go to college, and your mother is with you. My cousin told us all about it last evening at dinner."

The young man laughed outright. It was such a merry laugh that Marjorie could not help joining in it, and after that they were excellent friends.

"Now I wonder if you would mind telling me how your cousin obtained her information," Marjorie's new friend said when he had recovered his gravity. "I haven't met her, have I? What is her name?"

"Elsie Carleton. No, she hasn't met you yet, but she wants to very much. A friend of hers has promised to introduce you if she has a chance. Your name is Randolph, isn't it?"[119]

"Yes, Beverly Randolph, at your service. I shall be very glad to meet your cousin, I am sure. Perhaps you will introduce us."

"Of course I will if you like. It seems very queer not to know a person who lives in the same house with one, but Elsie says they don't know any of the people at the hotel. It was all so different at home."

Then Beverly Randolph asked some questions about Arizona, which set Marjorie off on a description of the ranch, and her life there, which lasted until they reached the Fifth Avenue entrance.

"That's the gate I came in," exclaimed Marjorie. "I wasn't so far away, after all. Would you mind telling me what time it is?"

Beverly Randolph took out his watch.

"Ten minutes past nine," he said, looking somewhat dismayed in his turn; "I had no idea it was so late. Luckily it is Saturday, so there are no recitations to miss."

"O dear! I am afraid I am terribly late for breakfast," said Marjorie, feeling very much ashamed of herself. And without another word, they hurried across the avenue, and entered the hotel, where the very first person Marjorie saw in the entrance hall was her uncle.[120]

"Oh, Uncle Henry, I am so sorry to be late!" she cried remorsefully, springing to Mr. Carleton's side. "I hope you and Aunt Julia aren't annoyed with me."

"Where in the world have you been, Marjorie?" her uncle demanded, ignoring the latter part of her remark. He was looking decidedly annoyed as well as worried.

"Why, I got up early," Marjorie explained, "and the girl who was dusting said you never had breakfast before half-past eight, so I thought I would go for a walk in the park. I got lost, and couldn't remember the name of the hotel, but fortunately, just as I was beginning to be a little frightened, I met Mr. Beverly Randolph, and he brought me home."

"And who is Beverly Randolph? I had no idea you had friends in New York."

"Oh, he isn't exactly a friend—at least he wasn't till this morning. You know who he is, Uncle Henry; that nice-looking boy Elsie was talking about at dinner last night. Wasn't it fortunate I recognized him. He is just as nice as he can be, and I'm going to introduce him to Elsie."

"Come upstairs at once," said Mr. Carleton, a trifle less sternly. "We have been very anxious[121] about you; you must never do such a thing again."

Marjorie was dumb with astonishment. Beyond being late for breakfast she had no idea that she had done anything wrong. She followed her uncle in silence, and did not utter another word until they had reached their own apartment, where they found Mrs. Carleton in a condition bordering on hysteria, and Elsie trying to look solemn, but secretly rather enjoying the situation. "I should really think, Marjorie, that you might have known," said Mrs. Carleton in a tone of deep reproach, when she had heard her niece's explanation, "your own common sense should have told you that to go wandering off by yourself in a strange city at seven o'clock in the morning, was a most extraordinary thing to do. You must never again go out alone at any hour. Elsie has never been out without a maid."

Marjorie's eyes opened wide in amazement.

"Not go out alone?" she repeated stupidly. "Why I've always gone everywhere by myself ever since I was a little girl."

"Well, you are not to do it here, whatever you may have done in Arizona," said Mrs. Carleton, crossly. "As for speaking to a strange young man, and getting him to bring you home, I really[122] never heard of anything so outrageous. We have been frightened to death about you."

"There, there, Julia," put in Uncle Henry, "don't you think you have said enough? I am sure Marjorie will never do such a thing again; she will soon be accustomed to New York ways. Now suppose you let the child have some breakfast; she looks about ready to drop."

But it was not want of food that had driven the color from Marjorie's cheeks and the light from her eyes. Indeed, she had but small appetite for the tempting breakfast that was set before her, and it was only by a mighty effort that she was able to keep back the burst of homesick tears which threatened every moment to overpower her.

At the same moment that Mrs. Carleton was administering her reproof to Marjorie, Beverly Randolph was giving his mother an account of the morning's adventure, as they sat together at breakfast in their pleasant sitting-room on the floor below.

"I know you would like the little girl, Mother," he ended; "she is such a natural, jolly sort, and there isn't one bit of nonsense about her."

Mrs. Randolph smiled as she poured her son's[123] coffee, and regarded him with proud, loving eyes.

"You never have admired the 'sort' with nonsense about them, have you, dear?" she said rather mischievously.

"I haven't any use for them," said Beverly with decision. "I like girls well enough when they behave decently, but the silly giggly ones get on my nerves. This one—Marjorie Graham she says her name is—is all right, though. I think I know the cousin by sight, and I don't feel so sure about her."

"You mustn't be too fastidious, Beverly," said his mother, laughing. "I dare say they are both nice little girls. By the way, I have received an invitation from that charming Mrs. Bell, who called the other day, asking us both to dine with her next Tuesday. Her husband is an old friend of Uncle George's, you know. Mrs. Bell told me she had a daughter of thirteen or fourteen, so that will be another acquaintance for you."

"Well, if she is like most of the New York girls I've seen I sha'n't care much about her," declared Beverly. "I prefer the ones that come from Arizona. Honestly, Mother, I want you to meet that little girl. I don't know what it was about her, but she reminded me of Babs."[124]

A look of pain crossed Mrs. Randolph's sweet face, but her voice was still quite cheerful as she answered—

"Very well, dear, be sure to introduce her to me; I want to know all your friends."

As soon as she could escape from her relatives after breakfast, Marjorie fled to her own room, there to have her cry out, and pull herself together, before starting on a shopping expedition with her aunt. Elsie was going to lunch with a schoolmate, but Aunt Julia had ordered the carriage and told Marjorie that she intended devoting the day to shopping.

"You are to begin school on Monday," she explained, "and I must get you some decent clothes as soon as possible."

Marjorie supposed she ought to be grateful, but she could not help resisting the fact that her aunt evidently did not consider her present wardrobe "decent," and this, added to her other troubles, resulted in a very unhappy half-hour. But Marjorie was a plucky girl, and she had plenty of common sense.

"I won't write a word about all this to Mother or Aunt Jessie," she decided as she dried her eyes. "It wouldn't do any good, and they would be so sorry. I am sure Aunt Julia means to be[125] kind, and I suppose I did frighten them, but it does seem so silly not to be allowed to go out for a walk by one's self."

She had just bathed her red eyes, and was sitting down to write the deferred letter to her mother, when the door opened, and Elsie came in.

"Mamma says you are to be ready to go out with her in fifteen minutes," she began, then paused, regarding her cousin curiously. "You look as if you'd been crying," she said abruptly. "Mamma did pitch into you pretty hard, but it was an awfully queer thing to go out by yourself at seven o'clock in the morning."

"I'm very sorry I did what was wrong," said Marjorie, "but I had no idea any one would object. I often go for a gallop on my pony before breakfast at home."

"Oh, I daresay you do, but that is very different. I think it was too funny that you should have met Beverly Randolph. Do tell me what he is like."

"He is very nice indeed," said Marjorie, frankly; "I liked him ever so much."

"You'll be sure to introduce us, won't you? It will be such fun to tell Lulu Bell I've met him first; not that she'll care much, she's such a baby.[126] Mamma thinks she may call on Mrs. Randolph to thank her."

"What does she want to thank her for?" inquired Marjorie, innocently.

"Why, for her son's bringing you home, and being so kind to you. You might have been lost for hours if he hadn't done it."

"But his mother had nothing to do with that," persisted Marjorie. "Besides, he was on his way home, anyway. He was very nice, but I don't see what there is to thank his mother for."

Elsie reddened, and looked a little annoyed.

"Oh, well, it doesn't matter," she said carelessly. "Mamma would like to call on Mrs. Randolph, and this makes a good excuse, that's all. She says the Randolphs of Virginia are a very old family. Now hurry and get ready; the carriage will be here in a few minutes."

Marjorie said no more on the subject, but she was puzzled. It was only natural that Aunt Julia should wish to make the acquaintance of a lady who lived in the same house with her, but why was it necessary to have an excuse for doing so? She was beginning to think that there were going to be a great many new things to learn in New York.




"November 6th.
"Dearest Aunt Jessie:

"I am at home alone this evening; Uncle Henry and Aunt Julia have gone out to dinner, and Elsie is at a party. I am going to write you a long, long letter, and try to tell you every single thing that has happened.

"I have been here just a week, and I think I am beginning to get more accustomed to things. It is all very interesting, but some of it does seem a little queer, and, oh, how I do wish I could have a good talk with Mother or you, and ask you to explain the things I don't understand. Aunt Julia is very kind, but I could never talk to her as I do to you and Mother. The things that puzzle me most are what it is proper to do and what isn't. For one thing, they say it isn't proper to speak to people unless one has been introduced. At home we always speak to every one whether[128] they are in the 'Social Register' or not. The Social Register is a book, and Elsie says the names of all the nice people are in it, and when her mother wants to find out who people are, and whether or not she wants to have Elsie know them she just looks for their names in the Social Register, and if she finds them there she knows they are all right. Then it isn't considered proper for girls to go out by themselves in New York. I have seen some nice-looking girls alone in the streets, but Elsie says they can't be the kind one wants to know. Hortense, the French maid, always goes out with Elsie and me, and even carries our books to school for us. Hortense is very nice, but it is rather a bother having her always about, and she wants to do a great many more things for me than I really need. But the greatest difficulty of all is that Elsie isn't fond of walking, and I do miss my tramps dreadfully. We walk to school and back every day, but it isn't far, and in the afternoon Elsie is always having engagements. So I go driving with Aunt Julia, and, oh, but it does seem slow! Aunt Julia hates to drive fast, and I sometimes feel as if I would give anything to jump out of the carriage and have one good run. I know I could easily keep up with those horses if it were only[129] proper to run behind the carriage, but of course it isn't.

"I ought not to object to going out with Aunt Julia, for she has been very good to me. She is having some perfectly lovely dresses made for me, and has bought me two simply wonderful hats. I am not sure whether Mother would quite approve of all my new clothes. Some of them do look very grown-up, but then the girls here are all much more grown-up than I had any idea they would be. Elsie puts up her hair, and wanted me to put mine up, too, but I knew Mother wouldn't like it, and Uncle Henry said I was right.

"I have been at school every day since Monday, and like it very much indeed. It is not a large school, only a class of twelve girls. The teacher's name is Miss Lothrop, and Elsie and several of the other girls have been going to her since they were quite little. Miss Lothrop is lovely, and all the girls have been very kind and polite to me. The two I like best are Lulu Bell and Winifred Hamilton. Elsie says they are both very young for their age, and I think perhaps that is the reason I like them better than some of the others. Winifred is only thirteen, but she is just as sweet as she can be, and Lulu[130] is awfully pretty, and a great favorite. Carol Hastings is another girl in the class, and Elsie's most intimate friend. She is only fourteen, but seems much older. I wonder why New York girls seem to care so much about boys. I like a nice boy ever so much myself, but I can't see the use of giggling and looking silly every time his name is mentioned. Carol Hastings came here to dinner last night, and when Beverly Randolph came over to our table to speak to us, she was so silly I was really ashamed of her. I spoke to Elsie about it afterwards, and she said Carol was a goose, but I think she is a little bit silly herself sometimes. I wrote Mother all about Beverly Randolph, and how much I liked him. I would give anything to have a brother just like him. He adores his mother, and I don't wonder, for she is lovely. He says she is so jolly, and is always interested in everything he is interested in; even the college games. His father died when he was little, and I suppose this is one reason why he and his mother are so much to each other. There is an uncle, who is a doctor, but he only comes to dine with them sometimes, and lives somewhere else. Mrs. Randolph has one of the sweetest faces I have ever seen—yours and Mothers excepted—and she looks[131] very young to be the mother of a big boy of eighteen. She dresses in black, and looks rather sad sometimes, but I suppose that is when she is thinking of her husband.

"Elsie is very clever, and Aunt Julia admires her tremendously. She says Elsie has always been the brightest girl in her classes and that she recites Shakespeare quite wonderfully. I haven't heard her recite yet, but she plays the piano very well, and takes music lessons twice a week. She speaks French, too, and is beginning to study German. Of course I am not nearly as far advanced as she is, but Miss Lothrop says I am not backward for my age, and that makes me very happy. I was so proud when she asked me if I had a governess at home, and I told her Father and Mother had taught me everything I knew. I don't think Elsie liked my saying that; she says I mustn't talk about our being poor, but I am sure I can't see why she should object. However, I have promised to try not to say anything she doesn't like; they have all been so good to me that I do want to please them if I can.

"Last Tuesday was Aunt Julia's birthday, and she gave a family dinner party. She has a good many relatives, and they all came. I should think Elsie would love having so many cousins, but she[132] says she doesn't care very much about many of them. Aunt Julia's two sisters were here, and I thought the oldest one—Mrs. Lamont—was lovely. Her daughter, Miss Annie, came with her, and she was awfully nice and jolly. She is quite old—about twenty-five I think—and she works downtown in a settlement. I didn't know what a settlement was, but Elsie explained that it is a place where ladies go to live among very poor ignorant people, and try to help them. She and her mother send some of their old clothes to Miss Lamont, and she gives them to the poor women at the settlement. Aunt Julia's other sister is Mrs. Ward. She is quite stout, and talks a great deal about what is good for her to eat and what isn't. She was nice, but I didn't like her as much as the Lamonts. Her husband is fat, too, and is always saying funny things that make people laugh. They have two little girls, but they were not allowed to come because Tuesday was a school night, and they are never allowed to go out anywhere except on Fridays and Saturdays. Elsie can go out any night she likes, because she is so clever that Aunt Julia says it doesn't matter whether she misses her lessons one day or not. There is a Ward boy, too, but he is at Yale. Elsie likes him best of all her cousins,[133] and she says he is very fond of her, too. Aunt Julia says all the boys admire Elsie very much, but I think she is mistaken about Beverly Randolph. He has such an honest face that he can't hide his feelings, and when Elsie and Carol giggled so much that night, and talked so very grown-up, I am sure he was trying not to laugh.

"You can't begin to imagine how glad I was to get your and Mother's precious letters. I read them over and over until I almost knew them by heart, and slept with Mother's first one under my pillow all night. Father's letter was splendid too, and I was so interested to hear all about the new colts. I am so glad Undine is proving such a comfort. I knew you couldn't help loving her, she is such a dear, and she promised to try to take my place. I told the girls at school about her, and they thought it the most interesting thing they had ever heard. Lulu Bell says she is going to tell her aunt, who is an authoress, about it, and ask her to put Undine in a book. Won't it be too interesting if she really does?

"O dear! there is the clock striking ten, and I have been writing ever since half-past eight. I must stop now, and go to bed, or I shall be sleepy to-morrow morning. Ten o'clock at night used to seem very late indeed at home, but it[134] seems quite early here. Elsie doesn't expect to get home from her party before half past eleven. Uncle Henry doesn't approve of late hours for school-girls, but Aunt Julia says everybody in New York keeps them, so it can't be helped. I forgot to say the party is at Bessie Winston's. She is one of the girls at Miss Lothrop's, and one of Elsie's intimate friends. I was invited, too, but Aunt Julia wouldn't let me accept, because my new dresses haven't come home yet. Elsie says I wouldn't have enjoyed it, anyway, because I can't dance. She goes to a dancing class every Saturday morning, and Aunt Julia says she may have me go too after Christmas. I think I should like dancing, for the sake of the exercise if nothing else. Oh, how I do long for exercise! Elsie rides in summer, but her pony is at their country place on Long Island, and they don't think it worth while to bring it in to New York. Aunt Julia says Elsie has so many other things to do in winter she has no time for riding. What wouldn't I give for one good canter on Roland! I can't help envying the girls I see riding in the park, though none of them look as if they were enjoying it as much as I should. They all ride side-saddle, and I don't believe it can be[135] nearly as pleasant as riding astride, but Aunt Julia told me not to say so, because it isn't considered the thing to ride astride here. I saw Beverly Randolph riding in the park this afternoon, and he really did look as if he enjoyed it. His home is in Virginia, and he says the people there are very fond of horses. Lulu says Mrs. Randolph owns a large plantation, and I suppose a plantation is something like a ranch.

"Now I really must stop writing, for my hand is getting tired, and I have made two big blots on this page. So good night, Auntie darling. If I could send all the love that is in my heart, I am afraid no postman would be able to carry the letter, it would be so heavy. So you must just imagine it is there. I am really very happy, though I can't help feeling homesick sometimes, especially at night. I am going to work hard, and try to learn so much this winter that you will all be proud of me when I come home. I have already begun counting the weeks; there are just twenty-eight and a half till the first of June. A winter does seem a very long time, but this week has gone by faster than I expected. I will write to Mother on Sunday, and your next letters ought to be here by Monday. Letters are[136] the best thing in the world when one is so far away from home, so please all write just as often as you can to

"Your own loving




"The most glorious thing is going to happen, Marjorie," announced Elsie, as her cousin came into the drawing-room to breakfast one November morning, about two weeks after the writing of that long letter to Aunt Jessie.

"What is it?" inquired Marjorie, regarding Elsie's radiant face and sparkling eyes, with interest. Elsie was not, as a rule, a very enthusiastic young person.

"The most delightful invitation you ever heard of," Elsie explained with a glance at the letter her mother was reading. "It's from my cousin Percy Ward. You know he's a sophomore at Yale, and he wants Mamma and me to come to New Haven for the football game next Saturday. It's the big Yale-Harvard game, you know, and I've been simply crazy to go, but it's almost impossible to get tickets. It really was angelic of Percy to get two for us, and he wants us to come up on Friday afternoon so we can go to the dance[138] that evening. He has engaged a room for us at the hotel."

"It must be wonderful to see a great match like that," declared Marjorie, with hearty appreciation of her cousin's good fortune. "I have seen pictures of the college games, and Father always reads the football news in the papers. He is a Harvard man himself, you know, and used to be on the team."

"I'm sorry you can't go with us," said Elsie, regretfully, "but of course Percy couldn't get more than two tickets. Perhaps you wouldn't enjoy it much, though. It can't be much fun unless you know a lot of the boys. Percy is such a dear; he is sure to introduce me to all his friends."

"I wish your father had not gone to Washington on that tiresome business just now," remarked Mrs. Carleton, laying down her nephew's letter, and looking a little worried. "I should have liked to consult him before answering Percy."

"Why, Mamma, you surely don't think he would object!" cried Elsie in dismay. "What possible reason could he have for not wanting us to go?"

"Oh, no reason whatever, of course, dear. I[139] was only thinking of Marjorie. I am not sure that he would like the idea of her being left here alone while we are away."

"Oh, bother! Marjorie won't mind—will you, Marjorie? Besides, she needn't be alone; Hortense can sleep in my room, and it's only for one night."

"Please don't worry about me, Aunt Julia," said Marjorie, blushing. "I shall get on all right, I am sure, and it would be terrible to have you and Elsie miss the game on my account. I can have my meals up here while you are away, and go out with Hortense."

But Mrs. Carleton did not look quite satisfied.

"You are very sweet and unselfish, dear," she said, "but I wish Percy had bought another ticket; then we could have taken you with us. I cannot bear to disappoint Elsie, so I suppose I shall have to accept the invitation, though I dislike the idea of leaving you behind, especially at a time when your uncle is away, too."

So the matter was settled, and as soon as breakfast was over Mrs. Carleton sat down to write her note of acceptance, while the two girls started for school, accompanied as usual by Hortense. Elsie was in high spirits, and entertained[140] her cousin with a vivid description of the delight and excitement of a college football match.

"Not that I have ever seen one myself," she explained. "Papa hates crowds, and has always said it was too difficult to get tickets, and last year Percy couldn't get any either, being only a freshman. Carol Hastings has been, though, and she told me she was never so excited in her life. The Bells are going this year, and have invited Winifred Hamilton and Gertie Rossiter to go with them. I can't see why they want to take Winifred; she is such a baby, and I don't believe a boy will notice her; but she and Lulu are such chums, one never seems able to go anywhere without the other."

"Beverly Randolph and his mother are going, too," said Marjorie, who was making a great effort to keep down the feeling of envious longing, and to show a real interest and sympathy in her cousin's anticipations. "He told me so yesterday. His uncle, Dr. Randolph, is going to take them in his automobile."

"Yes, I know; I heard him talking about it. I must be sure to tell him Mamma and I are going, so he will look us up. Oh, here come Bessie and Carol; I must tell them the good news."

Percy Ward's letter arrived on Wednesday[141] morning, and on Friday afternoon soon after luncheon, Mrs. Carleton and Elsie departed for New Haven. Mr. Carleton had been called to Washington on business, and was not expected home before Saturday night. Aunt Julia was very kind, and kissed Marjorie with more affection than usual.

"I really hate to leave you," she said regretfully. "If it were not for the disappointment it would have been to Elsie, I would never have accepted. I hope you will not be very lonely."

"Oh, no, I won't," promised Marjorie cheerfully. She was really touched by her aunt's solicitude, and had almost, if not quite, succeeded in banishing the feelings of envy and disappointment. "I've got some hard lessons for Monday, and I want to have them all perfect, so I can write Mother that I haven't missed in any of my classes for a week. Then Hortense says she likes walking, so we can have some fine long tramps. To-morrow night will be here before I've begun to realize that you are away."

But despite her cheerful assurances, Marjorie's heart was not very light when she accompanied her aunt and cousin to the lift, and saw them start, Elsie's face wreathed in smiles, and even Aunt Julia looking as if she had not altogether[142] outgrown her interest in a football game. She went slowly back to her own room, and taking up her Greek history, determined to forget present disappointment, and spend the next hour with the Greek heroes. But to make up one's mind to do a thing, and to carry out one's good intentions are two very different matters. Marjorie conscientiously tried to fix her thoughts on "The Siege of Troy," but the recollection of Elsie's radiant face kept obtruding itself between her eyes and the printed page, and at the end of half an hour she threw down her book in despair.

"There isn't any use," she said to herself, with a sigh; "I can't remember a single date. I'll ring for Hortense, and ask her to take me for a walk. Perhaps by the time we come back my wits will have left off wool-gathering, and I shall have a good long evening for studying and writing letters."

Hortense was quite ready for a walk, and really the afternoon was much less forlorn than Marjorie had anticipated. The French maid had taken a fancy to the little Western girl, who was always kind and friendly in her manner, and did not—as she told a friend—treat her as if she were "seulement une machine." Elsie never talked to Hortense during their walks, but this[143] afternoon Marjorie was longing for companionship, and she and the maid chatted together like old friends. They were both young and far away from home, and perhaps that fact had a good deal to do towards drawing them together. Marjorie was always glad to talk of her life on the ranch, and Hortense told in her turn of the little French village, where she had spent her childhood, and of the widowed mother and little brothers and sisters, to whom she sent more than half of her earnings. She spoke in broken English, with here and there a French expression thrown in, but Marjorie had no difficulty in understanding, and her interest and sympathy for the plucky little French girl, who had left home and friends to earn her own living, grew rapidly.

They took a long walk, for Hortense was almost as fond of tramping as Marjorie herself, and it was almost dusk when they at last came in sight of the big hotel. Then Hortense suddenly remembered an errand she had to do for Mrs. Carleton, and Marjorie—who was not in the least tired—declared her intention of accompanying her.

"It is not far," the maid explained; "only to Sixth Avenue. We shall not be more than a quarter of an hour."[144]

The errand accomplished they turned their steps in a homeward direction, and were about half way up Fifty-seventh Street, on their way to the Plaza, when Marjorie's attention was attracted by a horse and cart, which had come to a standstill only a few feet in front of them. The cart was loaded with boxes and packages, and the horse, which was a mere skeleton, and looked as if his working days had long been over, had evidently completely given out. The driver, a boy of sixteen or seventeen, had sprung down from his seat, and was endeavoring to discover the cause of the trouble.

"Oh, look, Hortense," cried Marjorie, her quick sympathies instantly aroused, "look at that poor horse. He isn't strong enough to drag that heavy wagon, with all those boxes in it. Oh, what a shame! That boy mustn't beat him so—he mustn't!" And before the horrified maid could interpose, impulsive Marjorie had sprung forward to remonstrate.

"Stop beating that horse," she commanded, with flashing eyes; "can't you see he isn't able to go any farther with that load? You ought to be ashamed to load a poor creature like that in such a way!"

The boy stared at her for a moment in stupid[145] amazement; then an ugly look came into his face. He gave one quick glance up and down the street, to make sure there was no policeman in sight; and turned on Marjorie with rough fury.

"You leave me alone, will you? It ain't none of your biz what I do with this here horse." And before the indignant Marjorie could protest he had again laid the whip lash, sharply across the poor animal's back.

Then for one moment Marjorie forgot everything—forgot that she was in the streets of a big city—forgot all Aunt Julia's lectures and Elsie's warnings—and with one quick movement she seized the whip handle, trying with all her strength to drag it away from the boy. She was strong, but her antagonist was stronger, and the end of that momentary struggle was a sharp cry of pain from Marjorie, a muttered imprecation from the driver, and in another second he had sprung into his seat, and horse and wagon were clattering away down the street.

"Oh, Mademoiselle, Mademoiselle," gasped Hortense, seizing Marjorie's arm, and fairly trembling with fright and horror; "how could you do such a terrible thing? A young lady to fight with a canaille! Oh, what will Madame say when she hears?"[146]

With One Quick Movement She Seized the Whip Handle.—Page 145. With One Quick Movement She Seized the Whip Handle.—Page 145.

"He is a wicked, cruel boy," panted Marjorie; "he ought to be arrested. He is killing that poor old horse."

"Yes, I know, he is cruel, a beast, but young ladies must not interfere with such things. You might have been hurt. Let us go home quickly; I am near to faint. Thank Heaven no one saw. Madame would never forgive such a disgrace."

"But some one ought to interfere," protested Marjorie, her wrath beginning to cool, "and there wasn't anybody else to do it. I would have taken that whip away from him if I could, but he was so strong, and he has hurt my wrist."

"Hurt your wrist! Let me see. Ah, but it is red. How could you have held on so tight? Come home quickly, and we will bathe it with arnica. How fortunate that Madame and Mademoiselle Elsie are away! Ah, here comes the young gentleman, Mademoiselle Elsie's friend from the hotel; he must not know that anything is wrong."

But Marjorie had no intention of keeping her indignation to herself, and she turned to greet Beverly Randolph with eyes that flashed and cheeks that tingled.

"Oh, Mr. Randolph," she exclaimed, as the young man smilingly took off his hat, and paused[147] beside her, "the most dreadful thing has happened. A cruel, wicked boy has been ill-treating a poor old horse. The poor creature had a terribly heavy load, and when he refused to go any further, the boy beat him, and—"

"Where is he?" inquired Beverly, his own eyes beginning to flash. "I'll report the case to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals."

"He has gone," said Marjorie, regretfully. "He gave the horse a dreadful cut with the whip, and it was so frightened it started, and then he jumped into the wagon and went off. I tried to get the whip away from him, but he was terribly strong, and he hurt my wrist so much I had to let go."

Beverly Randolph's face was a mixture of astonishment, amusement and horror.

"You don't mean that you tackled the fellow yourself?" he demanded incredulously.

Marjorie nodded. Now that the excitement was over she was beginning to feel a little startled at what she had done.

"I had to," she said humbly; "there wasn't any one else to do it. Hortense thinks it was very unladylike, but I don't see what else I could have done. I couldn't just stand by and do nothing[148] while that poor horse was being ill-treated."

"No, I don't suppose you could," said Beverly, smiling. "I don't think I would do it again, though; you might get hurt. Hello! what's the matter?—don't you feel well?"

For Marjorie had suddenly grown very pale, and leaned against the lamp-post.

"It's—it's my wrist," she faltered; "it hurts dreadfully, and—and I think I feel a little faint."

Without a moment's hesitation Beverly drew the girl's arm through his.

"Come along," he said, peremptorily, and without another word he conducted the wounded soldier back to the hotel. Marjorie, too, was silent; the pain in her wrist was very bad, and she had to bite her lips hard to keep back the rising tears. Hortense, still covered with shame and confusion, followed close behind. At the door of the lift Beverly paused.

"Is your aunt at home?" he inquired.

"No," said Marjorie, unsteadily; "she and Elsie have gone to New Haven for the football game."

"To be sure they have; I had forgotten. Your cousin told me they were going this afternoon. Well, I think I will take you to our apartment.[149] My mother is used to sprains and bruises, and will know what to do for your wrist."

Marjorie protested that she could not think of disturbing Mrs. Randolph, but Beverly, who appeared to be accustomed to having his own way, remained firm, and in the end his companion was forced to yield, much to the distress and horror of Hortense, who considered that the story was already known to more persons than Mrs. Carleton would approve.

Mrs. Randolph and her brother-in-law were having tea in the former's pretty sitting-room, when the door was unceremoniously flung open, and Beverly appeared on the threshold, leading in a trembling, white-faced girl, who immediately collapsed into the nearest chair, and looked as if she were about to faint.

"It's Miss Marjorie Graham, Mother," Beverly explained, "and she has hurt her wrist. Her aunt is away, so I brought her in here. Oh, here's Uncle George; what luck! This is my uncle Dr. Randolph, Miss Marjorie; he is a surgeon, you know, and he'll fix you up in no time."

"To be sure I will if I can," said a pleasant voice, not unlike Beverly's. "Let me see what the trouble is. Ah, this is the hand, isn't it?"[150] And Marjorie felt her wrist taken in firm, kind fingers. She winced at the touch, but the doctor's next words were reassuring.

"I see; only a slight sprain, nothing serious. Have you some arnica, Barbara, and some linen that I can use for a bandage?"

"How did it happen, dear?" Mrs. Randolph inquired sympathetically, as Marjorie leaned back in her chair, with a sigh of intense relief, and the doctor applied a cooling lotion to her aching wrist.

Marjorie's cheeks were crimson again, but not for a moment did she hesitate about telling the truth. Beverly had gone off to his own room, having left his charge in safe hands.

"I am afraid it was my own fault," she said, honestly. "I saw a boy ill-treating a poor old horse, and tried to stop him by getting the whip away from him, but he was much stronger than I, and in the struggle I suppose he must have twisted my wrist. I am afraid your son and my aunt's maid both think I was very unladylike."

Mrs. Randolph and the doctor exchanged amused glances, and the latter said kindly:

"I wish more people were moved by the same spirit, though I don't know that I should advise young girls to attack rough drivers. I imagine[151] you have not been very long in New York or you would be accustomed to such sights."

"No," said Marjorie, much relieved. "I have only been in New York three weeks. My home is on a ranch in Arizona, but I have been accustomed to horses all my life. I think my father would almost kill any boy who dared to treat one of ours like that."

"I daresay he would. Your father raises horses, I suppose?"

"Yes, and cattle, too. I have lived on the ranch ever since I was two years old, and New York seems very strange in some ways."

"It must," said Dr. Randolph gravely, but his eyes twinkled, and Marjorie felt sure he was trying not to laugh. "There, I think the wrist will do nicely now. You can wet this bandage again in an hour, and if I am not mistaken the pain will be gone by that time. I must be going now, Barbara; I have two patients to see before dinner. I'll call for you and Beverly in the car at nine to-morrow morning; that will give us plenty of time to make New Haven before lunch." And with a hurried leave-taking the doctor departed, leaving Mrs. Randolph and Marjorie alone together.

The next half-hour was a very pleasant one. Mrs. Randolph would not allow the girl to go[152] back to her own apartment until the pain in her wrist had subsided, and she made her lie on the sofa, and petted her in a way that recalled Mother and Aunt Jessie so strongly that Marjorie had some difficulty in keeping back the homesick tears. Almost before she knew it, she was chatting away to this new acquaintance as if they had been old friends.

"I hope I shall get accustomed to New York ways soon," she said humbly. "I am afraid I make a great many mistakes, and they distress my aunt and cousin very much. You see, it is all so different on the ranch. I suppose your son told you how I spoke to him that morning in the park, and asked him to take me home. It seemed quite a natural thing to do, because I knew he lived in this hotel, but Aunt Julia was dreadfully shocked."

Mrs. Randolph laughed.

"Beverly was not at all shocked," she said. "He and I have rather old-fashioned ideas about some things; we like little girls to be natural."

"I am so glad you think me a little girl still," said Marjorie in a sudden burst of confidence. "All the girls here seem so grown-up, and I don't want to grow up just yet; I am only fourteen."[153]

"My little girl would have been just about your age if she had lived," said Mrs. Randolph, with a rather sad smile. "I am sure I should not have begun to think of her as grown-up yet."

Marjorie was interested. She would have liked to ask Mrs. Randolph about her little girl, but feared the subject might be a painful one, and just that moment Beverly came back, and the conversation turned on other matters. In a little while Marjorie rose to go.

"You have been very kind to me," she said to Mrs. Randolph. "My wrist feels ever so much better already. I do hope I haven't been a bother."

"Not a bit of it," Mrs. Randolph declared, laughing. "On the contrary, I have enjoyed your call very much, and I hope you will come often, for I am very fond of little girls. By the way, what are you going to do to-morrow?"

"Oh, I don't know," said Marjorie; "walk and read and study, I suppose. Aunt Julia said I might drive in the afternoon, but the horses go so slowly I always feel as though I should like to get out of the carriage and run. Galloping over the prairie is much more fun."[154]

Mrs. Randolph and her son both laughed, and Beverly remarked rather indignantly:

"It's a shame you couldn't have gone to the game with the others."

"Oh, that wasn't Aunt Julia's fault," said Marjorie, loyally. "Her nephew only sent two tickets, and Elsie says it's almost impossible to get extra ones. They were very kind about it, and Aunt Julia hated to leave me behind."

Beverly and his mother exchanged a significant glance, and then Beverly offered to accompany the visitor as far as her own apartment for the purpose of carrying the arnica bottle, which Mrs. Randolph insisted she should keep in case of necessity. Marjorie protested, but Beverly was firm, and the two young people left the room together, after Mrs. Randolph had kissed the girl, and told her she must come again very soon.




"I think your mother is perfectly lovely," declared Marjorie, the moment the door of the Randolph's apartment had closed behind them. "Is she always so kind to strangers?"

"Mother's a brick," said Beverly, heartily. "She's kind to everybody, and always doing things for people. She's a good sport, too. I really believe, she is looking forward to the game to-morrow almost as much as I am. It's because she's so unselfish; she never stops to think of herself so long as other people are having a good time."

"My aunt is like that," said Marjorie, with shining eyes. "She is a great invalid, and suffers very much most of the time, but she never complains, and is always interested in everything we do. Is your uncle a surgeon?"

"Yes," said Beverly, rather surprised by the abruptness of the question; "he is a very fine surgeon, I believe. Why do you want to know?[156] Aren't you satisfied with the way your wrist is bandaged?"

"Oh, it isn't that," said Marjorie, blushing; "it was only something I was thinking of that made me ask the question. This is our apartment; now I can take the bottle, and not bother you any more. Oh, there's a letter in the box; perhaps it's for me!" And forgetting everything else in her eagerness for home news, Marjorie sprang forward to possess herself of the contents of the letter-box.

"It is for me!" she cried joyfully, glancing at the postmark. "It's from Undine; the first one I've had from her."

"Undine," repeated Beverly, his eyes beginning to twinkle; "I had no idea you counted water sprites among your acquaintances."

"She isn't a water sprite," laughed Marjorie. "She's just a girl like anybody else. We call her Undine because nobody knows what her real name is. It's a very strange story indeed. She was found under some ruins in the streets of San Francisco right after the earthquake, and we think a stone or something must have fallen on her head, for she was unconscious for a long time, and now she can't remember anything that happened before the earthquake, not even her[157] own name. She isn't crazy, or anything like that, but she has simply forgotten everything. Did you ever hear of a case like that before?"

"I think I have read of such cases, but I imagine they are rather rare. It is very interesting, but if you don't mind, Miss Marjorie, please don't mention it to my mother. Any mention of the San Francisco earthquake is very painful to her. My little sister was killed there."

"No, indeed I won't," promised Marjorie, "but how very sad about your sister. Would you mind telling me how it happened? Don't talk about it, though, if you would rather not."

"I don't mind in the least," said Beverly, "but it was such a frightful shock to my mother that we don't like to have her dwell on it any any more than can be helped. My sister Barbara was in San Francisco with my aunt at the time of the earthquake. She had been very ill with scarlet fever in the winter, and the doctor had ordered a change for her. My aunt was going to California for a few weeks, and offered to take Barbara with her. Mother couldn't leave home, for she was taking care of my grandmother, who was ill at the time, and I was away at school. So it ended in my aunt and Barbara going by themselves. My aunt intended[158] taking a maid, but the one she had engaged disappointed her at the last moment, and as all the railroad accommodations had been secured, she decided to start, and trust to finding a suitable maid in San Francisco, which was to be their first stopping place. They reached San Francisco, and my aunt wrote my mother that she had engaged a very satisfactory girl, and two days later came the earthquake."

Beverly paused abruptly, and Marjorie, her face full of sympathy, laid a kind little hand on his arm.

"Don't tell me any more," she said, gently; "it must have been very terrible."

"It was," said Beverly, sadly. "Part of the wall of the hotel where they were staying fell in, and they were both instantly killed. We feared for a time that my mother would never recover from the shock."

"And was the maid killed, too?" Marjorie asked. She was longing to hear more, but did not like to ask too many questions.

"We never knew; you see, she was a stranger to us. My uncle advertised in all the California papers, in the hope of finding her, and perhaps learn more particulars, but no answer ever came. She was probably killed, poor thing."[159]

"Your mother spoke of her little girl this afternoon," said Marjorie; "she said she would have been just about my age."

"Yes, she would have been fifteen this January. It is rather odd, but when I saw you that first morning in the park you somehow reminded me of Babs. She was such a jolly little girl. She was four years younger than I, but there were only we two, and we were always chums."

There was a look of such genuine sorrow on the boy's face that impulsive Marjorie held out her hand.

"I'm so sorry," she said and that was all, but Beverly understood, and he went back to his mother's apartment with a very kindly feeling for the little girl from Arizona.

Once in her own room Marjorie speedily forgot the Randolphs and their troubles in the delight of a letter from home. Undine's handwriting was rather immature for a girl of her age, but the letter itself was most interesting and satisfactory.

"November Fifteenth.
"Dear Marjorie:

"Your aunt thinks you would like to have a letter from me, and although I can't see how you[160] can possibly care about hearing from such a stupid person, I am very glad to write.

"You have no idea how much I have missed you. If your mother and aunt had not been so very kind I don't think I could have borne it, but, oh, Marjorie dear they are so good; I do hope I can deserve just a little of all they are doing for me. Your mother is making me a new dress—isn't it sweet of her? She sent to Albuquerque for the material; it is dark blue serge with a little stripe in it, and just as pretty as it can be. I take a sewing lesson every day from Miss Jessie, but I know as well as can be that I shall never learn to make things as you do.

"Another thing that makes me very happy is that your mother is giving me lessons, and letting me recite to her every evening. Even if I am stupid and can't remember my own name, I don't want to grow up ignorant. We are reading English history together, and it is very strange, but I almost always know what is coming next. Mrs. Graham says she feels sure I must have learned the same things before.

"A very strange thing happened to me one day last week; I think I almost remembered. It was the day your long letter to Miss Jessie came, and she was reading it aloud to us when it happened.[161] It was just like the day I heard Jim singing 'Mandalay' for the first time. It seemed to me just for one minute that I was going to remember everything, and I was so excited I screamed, and frightened Mrs. Graham and Miss Jessie. Then in a flash it was all gone again, and I was so unhappy I couldn't help crying. I am afraid I gave them a good deal of trouble, but they were so kind! Afterward Miss Jessie talked to me for a long time, and made me promise to try not to worry any more about not remembering. She said some lovely comforting things about my being helpful and trying to take your place, and they made me very happy, although I am afraid I didn't really deserve them.

"I ride almost every afternoon, and I think Roland is beginning to like me. I never forget his sugar, and I am teaching him to put his nose in my pocket for it. I think I must have taught another horse that some time, it seemed so natural, but I am not sure. I have promised your aunt not to talk about the things I think I used to do.

"I had such a beautiful dream last night. I thought some one came and told me I was very rich, and I was so happy, because I would have the money to pay a surgeon to come and see Miss[162] Jessie. I was just planning out how I was to do it when I woke up. I have thought a great deal about what you told me that last evening, but of course I have never mentioned it to any one. I don't suppose you have had time to meet a surgeon yet.

"I must stop writing now, and study my history. Everybody is well, and they all send heaps of love and kisses. Your mother says 'don't let Marjorie know how much we miss her,' but I am sure you know that without any telling. I don't want to be selfish, but I should just love a letter all to myself some time. New York must be a very interesting place, and your letters telling about it all are wonderful.

"With a heart full of love, I am
"Your true but nameless friend,

Marjorie spent a busy evening over her lessons, and went to bed at nine o'clock instead of writing the home letters she had intended.

"They would be so sorry to know I was here all by myself while the others were off having a good time," she thought, resolutely crushing down that troublesome little feeling of envy. "If I wrote to-night I should have to mention it, but[163] if I wait till Sunday when Aunt Julia and Elsie are back again, I won't have to say anything about their having been away. I promised Mother to let her know about all the things, but some of them will keep till I get home and can tell her myself."

But in spite of the throbbing pain in her wrist, and the disappointment in her heart, Marjorie soon feel asleep, and did not wake until it was broad daylight, and Hortense, with a note in her hand, was standing by her bedside.

"It is only seven," the maid said apologetically, as Marjorie sat up in bed, and rubbed her eyes. "I would not have called you so early, but the hall boy has brought this note, and waits for an answer."

"What in the world can it be?" exclaimed Marjorie in astonishment, as she tore open the envelope, but at the first glance at the contents her face brightened, and she uttered a joyful little cry. This is what she read.

"My Dear Marjorie:

"I know you won't object to my calling you Marjorie, because you say you like being a little girl. I am writing to ask if you will go with us to New Haven to-day. We are going in my[164] brother-in-law's car, and are to be ready to start at nine o'clock. The friend we expected would go with us has been prevented at the last moment, which gives us an extra seat in the car as well as a ticket for the game, and we should be delighted to have you with us. I am sure your aunt would not object, and I will explain everything to her myself. I would have written you last evening, but it was after ten when we learned that the friend we had expected would be unable to go. We have ordered breakfast for eight o'clock, and would be glad to have you take it with us. Be sure to wrap up well, for it may be a cold ride, and we shall not get back till late.

"Hoping that you will be able to join us, I remain

"Sincerely your friend,
"Barbara Randolph."

Marjorie was out of bed almost before she had finished the last line. Her eyes were dancing, and her heart pounding with excitement.

"Tell the boy to say I shall be delighted to go," she cried. "There isn't time to write a note; I shall have to hurry. Oh, Hortense, did you ever hear of anything quite so splendid?"[165]

It was a very radiant Marjorie who presented herself at the Randolphs' apartment an hour later, and Beverly and his mother felt fully repaid for the kindly impulse which had prompted the invitation. The breakfast that followed was a very pleasant one, and Marjorie chatted away to her new friends as if she had known them all her life, and enjoyed herself more than she had done at any time since coming to New York.

"I really didn't know how disappointed I was about not going till your mother's note came," she said to Beverly, when breakfast was over, and Mrs. Randolph had gone to put on her hat. "I have always longed to see a football game. My father was on the team at Harvard."

"You seemed to take your disappointment rather cheerfully," said Beverly with characteristic bluntness.

Marjorie blushed.

"It was just one of the things that couldn't be helped," she said simply. "My aunt says there are some things every one has to make the best of."

"Your aunt must be a sensible woman," remarked Mrs. Randolph, who had returned just in time to hear Marjorie's last sentence. Thereupon Marjorie launched forth into an account of[166] Aunt Jessie's bravery and cheerfulness, in which both her companions seemed interested.

Marjorie was sure she would never forget the delight of that motor ride to New Haven. It was her first ride in an open touring car, and the bright sunshine, the keen frosty air, and the swift motion, all combined to render the trip a truly enjoyable one. She sat in the tonneau, between Mrs. Randolph and the doctor, and Beverly occupied the front seat with the chauffeur.

"It's the most heavenly motion I ever imagined," murmured Marjorie, as they bowled swiftly out of the park and along the grand boulevard. "I always thought riding was the most delightful thing in the world, but I believe motoring is even better."

The doctor laughed.

"You must be an accomplished horsewoman," he said. "Beverly tells me you have spent a good part of your life on a ranch."

"I rode my first pony before I was five, and helped Father train a colt when I was nine," said Marjorie. "I suppose that is one reason why I love horses so much, and can't bear to see one ill-treated."

"I have no doubt of it, but if I were you I think I would leave the punishment of cruel[167] drivers in future to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. By the way, how is the wrist this morning?"

"Oh, it's ever so much better," said Marjorie, blushing at the memory of her escapade. "I don't believe I have thought of it once since Mrs. Randolph's note came. I have been so anxious to see a real college football match. My father was on the team at Harvard."

"Indeed!" said the doctor, looking interested. "I am a Harvard man myself, and there was a Graham on the team in my time; a splendid chap—what is your father's name?"

"Donald, and he was in the class of 1890," said Marjorie, eagerly. "Oh, I wonder if you can really have known Father."

"I certainly did. Ninety was my class, too, and I remember Donald Graham very well, though we have never met since the old college days."

"How perfectly delightful!" cried Marjorie, with sparkling eyes. "Father will be so interested when I write him about it."

Dr. Randolph was really pleased to hear of his old classmate, forgotten for nearly twenty years, and he and Marjorie were soon in the midst of an animated conversation; she telling of her[168] father's busy life on the Arizona cattle ranch, and he relating college stories, and growing young again himself in recalling those old merry days.

That was a wonderful ride, and Marjorie enjoyed every moment. Dr. Randolph told her the names of all the towns they passed through, and Beverly and his mother were so kind and so merry. It was noon when they reached New Haven, where they found the streets crowded with people and automobiles, and many of the buildings decorated with flags and Yale colors.

"Have all these people come to see the game?" Marjorie asked breathlessly.

"Yes, and a good many more as well," Dr. Randolph told her. "There is always a big crowd for these games; the railroads run special trains on purpose. We are going to have lunch now, and then go out to Yale Field."

"I wonder if we shall meet Aunt Julia and Elsie," said Marjorie. "How surprised they will be to see me if we do. Aunt Julia will be pleased, I know, for she hated to leave me at home."

"We shall meet the Bells and their party at any rate," said Beverly. "They came yesterday by train, and are saving a table for us at the[169] restaurant. You know Lulu Bell, don't you, Marjorie?"

"Yes, she is in my class, and I like her ever so much. I like Winifred Hamilton, too, and she is to be with the Bells, I believe."

At that moment they drew up before the hotel where they were to lunch, and Mrs. Randolph and Marjorie hurried away to the dressing-room to remove wraps and motor veils, while the doctor and his nephew went to order luncheon.




"I really don't know when I've been so pleased about anything!" exclaimed Lulu Bell, a pretty, bright-faced girl of fourteen, as she and her friends greeted Marjorie in the restaurant. "We were all so glad when Beverly Randolph told us you were here. Won't Elsie be surprised? She hadn't the least idea you were coming. Come here and sit between Winifred and me."

"I don't believe any one can be much more surprised than I am myself," said Marjorie, laughing, as she took the proffered seat, and received the kindly greeting of her other schoolmates. "Wasn't it just heavenly of the Randolphs to bring me with them?"

"It was nice," Winifred Hamilton agreed heartily. "This is my first football game, too, and I'm almost too excited to eat. Did you ever see such a crowd in your life?"

"No, never," said Marjorie, with a glance round the packed restaurant. "I wonder if they[171] will really have lunch enough for all these people. Do you suppose Aunt Julia and Elsie are here?"

"No, I don't think so," said Winifred. "We saw Elsie at the dance last night, and she said they were going to lunch with some friends of her cousin's. She will be at the game, of course, and perhaps you may see her there."

"I think it was real mean of Elsie to come without you," chimed in Gertie Rossiter, who was not noted for tact. "I should have hated to go off for a good time and leave my cousin at home alone."

"Oh, Elsie couldn't help it," protested Marjorie; "her cousin could only get two tickets."

"Nonsense!" retorted Gertie indignantly. "He could have gotten an extra one as well as not if he had known in time; he told me so last night. I know Percy Ward very well, and he's an awfully nice boy. He felt dreadfully sorry when he heard about your being left behind. He said it was just like Elsie."

"Isn't Mrs. Randolph pretty?" broke in Winifred, anxious to change the subject before Gertie made any more uncomfortable revelations. "She looks awfully young to be that big boy's mother."

"She is perfectly lovely," declared Marjorie,[172] and Lulu added, by way of keeping the conversation in safe channels:

"Papa knows her brother-in-law, Dr. Randolph, very well, and he says she is the bravest woman he has ever met. You've heard about her little girl, haven't you?"

"Yes," said Marjorie, "it was very sad; I don't see how poor Mrs. Randolph ever got over it."

"She didn't," said Lulu. "Dr. Randolph says it nearly killed her, and even now she can't bear to speak of it, but she doesn't think it right to sadden her son's life, and so she is always bright and cheerful. If I ever write a book I shall make my heroine just that sort of person."

At this moment Beverly, who had gone to speak to some friends at another table, joined the party, and the subject of his family was dropped. The luncheon was a very merry one. They were a large party, for besides Lulu's father and mother and the three girls, there were a couple of Yale students, friends of the Bells, and everybody seemed in excellent spirits. Marjorie felt a little shy at first, but soon thawed under the genial atmosphere, and before the meal was over she was chatting and laughing as merrily as any of the others.[173]

"Isn't Marjorie a nice girl?" whispered Winifred to Lulu, as they were leaving the restaurant. "I'm so glad she got the chance to come, but I do wonder what Elsie will say."

It seemed to Marjorie that the next three hours must be the most exciting period of her life. To most girls a college football game is looked upon as a rather important event, but to Marjorie, fresh from her Arizona home, it was an experience never to be forgotten. It was on the whole a peaceful game, and there were no serious accidents to mar the general enjoyment and as the sun continued to shine, and the day was comfortably warm, there were not even the usual discomforts of weather to be endured. Marjorie and her friends were about equally divided in their championship; Lulu, Winifred and Gertie being for Yale, while Beverly and Marjorie herself favored Harvard, and joined in the cheers and rejoicing when the "Crimson" at last carried off the honors of the day, although Yale ran so close behind that at one time fears had been entertained that the game would be a tie.

"Are you tired, Marjorie?" Beverly asked, as they were making their way through the dense throng to the waiting motor-car.

"I don't know whether I am or not," said[174] Marjorie, laughing. "It has all been so wonderful, and I don't feel as if I could quite realize it yet. Oh, there they are!"

"Who?" demanded Beverly, looking round in surprise. "Oh, I see, your aunt and cousin—do you want to speak to them?"

"Yes, of course I do; they'll be so surprised. Why, Elsie is staring at me as if she didn't know me."

To say that Mrs. Carleton and her daughter were surprised would be but a mild way of expressing their feelings. They were for the moment literally speechless with astonishment. Elsie was the first to recover her power of articulation.

"Is it really and truly you, Marjorie?" she demanded, regarding her smiling cousin with round-eyed amazement.

"Yes, it really and truly is," laughed Marjorie. "I've been trying to find you all the afternoon, but there was such a crowd. I knew you'd be surprised."

"Surprised!" echoed Elsie, looking from Marjorie to her tall companion, "I was never so surprised in my life. But how did it happen—who brought you?"

"Mr. Randolph and his mother," said Marjorie,[175] "wasn't it perfectly lovely of them?" And she proceeded to give her aunt and cousin an account of recent events.

"I am sure it was extremely kind of Mrs. Randolph," Mrs. Carleton said, when Marjorie had finished her story. "I only hope this little girl hasn't been a trouble to your mother, Mr. Randolph."

"Indeed she hasn't," declared Beverly, not without some indignation in his tone. "We've had a splendid time, haven't we, Marjorie?" To which Marjorie, who felt suddenly as if a pail of ice water had been dashed over her, answered rather meekly:—

"It was beautiful. I never had such a good time in my life."

"I am afraid that we must hurry along, Mrs. Carleton," said Beverly. "My mother and uncle have gone ahead, and will be waiting for us at the entrance. Don't worry about Marjorie; we'll take good care of her, and bring her home safely. We may be a little late, as my uncle doesn't like to run his car fast after dark."

"Oh, I shall not worry," said Mrs. Carleton, with her sweetest smile. "I know Marjorie is in excellent hands, and between ourselves, I think she is a very fortunate little girl."[176]

Marjorie was rather silent during the long ride back to New York that evening. Mrs. Randolph and the doctor thought she was tired after all the excitement of the day, and kindly left her alone, but Beverly was of a different opinion, and his feelings towards Marjorie's aunt and cousin were not of the kindest.

"I suppose your aunt was very much surprised to see you," Mrs. Randolph said kindly, merely for the sake of conversation.

"Very much indeed," said Marjorie, in a tone that was not altogether steady. "Oh, Mrs. Randolph, I do hope I haven't been a trouble to you."

"A trouble! My dear child, what nonsense. It has been perfectly delightful to have you with us, and you have added greatly to our pleasure. I hope we may have many more little trips together before the winter is over. You know I am very fond of little girls."

Marjorie was much relieved, but her heart was not as light as it had been all day.

"Be sure to remember me to your father when you write," were Dr. Randolph's parting words to Marjorie, as they drew up before the big hotel at ten o'clock that night. "Tell him he mustn't forget to look me up when he comes to New York."[177]

"Indeed I will," promised Marjorie; "he will be so interested. I don't suppose—" with sudden eagerness—"that you ever go to Arizona?"

"I have never been there as yet, but nobody knows what may happen. If I ever go to Arizona, though, I shall certainly call on my old college friend, Donald Graham."

"Isn't your uncle a dear?" remarked Marjorie to Beverly, as her friend was taking her upstairs to the Carletons' apartment.

"He's a brick," was the young man's hearty rejoinder. "I'm glad you like him, for I know he likes you. He doesn't take to everybody, but he's been awfully good to Mother and me, and he was very fond of my little sister. Here's your door, so I'll say good-night. Hasn't it been a jolly day?"

"It has been one of the loveliest days I've ever had," said Marjorie earnestly. "I'm sorry Aunt Julia thought I might have been troublesome, but your mother said I wasn't."

"Troublesome! I should say not. Don't bother about what your aunt says; she doesn't know anything about it, and it's all nonsense, you know."

Elsie had already gone to bed, and Mr. Carleton had telegraphed that he was taking the midnight[178] train from Washington, and would not reach home till the following morning. But Aunt Julia was still up and dressed, and awaiting her niece's return.

"My dear child, how late you are," was the rather reproachful greeting. "Do you know it is nearly half-past ten? Elsie went to bed more than an hour ago; she was quite worn out, poor child, as indeed I am myself, but I couldn't make up my mind to undress until I knew you were safely at home. I am horribly afraid of those automobiles."

"I'm so sorry you worried about me, Aunt Julia," said Marjorie, regretfully. "I think we were quite safe, though; Dr. Randolph's chauffeur seems very careful, and they don't like going fast. I wasn't a bit frightened."

"No, I don't suppose you were; children seldom realize danger. Sit down, Marjorie; I want to have a little talk with you before you go to your room."

Marjorie complied, drawing a chair close to the fire, and stretching her cold hands out to the welcome blaze. She was longing to tell all about the day's pleasures, and was glad of the prospect of a little chat with Aunt Julia before going to bed.[179]

"Now my dear," began Mrs. Carleton, speaking fast and rather nervously, "I don't want you to let what I am going to say make you unhappy. I am not in the least displeased with you, because I am sure you had no intention of doing anything wrong; I have told Elsie so. But, Marjorie dear, it is not quite the proper thing for a girl of your age to accept invitations from strangers without first consulting the people under whose care she has been placed."

"Oh, Aunt Julia," cried Marjorie, clasping her hands in dismay, while all the brightness died suddenly out of her face, "I am so sorry! I had no idea you would object to my going with the Randolphs; I thought you would be pleased because you were so sorry about leaving me at home. Mrs. Randolph said she was sure you wouldn't mind."

Mrs. Carleton moved uneasily in her chair, and her eyes did not meet Marjorie's honest, astonished gaze.

"I am sure it was very kind of Mrs. Randolph to think of giving you so much pleasure," she said. "I am not displeased with you either, Marjorie; I am only warning you not to make such a mistake another time. The Randolphs are merely slight acquaintances of ours, and one[180] doesn't like being under obligations to strangers, you know. Elsie feels this quite as strongly as I do."

"Elsie," repeated Marjorie, with a start, "why does she care? Didn't she want me to go to the game?"

"Nonsense, dear; of course Elsie wanted you to go. She would have been delighted if only the circumstances had been a little different. Don't look so distressed, Marjorie; there is really nothing tragic in the situation. You have done nothing wrong, and I am glad you have had such a pleasant day, but don't accept another invitation without consulting either your uncle or me. Now kiss me good-night; I am tired to death and simply cannot sit up another minute."

Marjorie cried herself to sleep that night for the first time in weeks. In spite of the memories of her happy day, she was more homesick than she had been at any time since coming to New York. She was so anxious to do right; to please her uncle and aunt in every way, and show them how grateful she was for all they were doing for her. And now, without having the slightest idea of having done anything wrong, she had annoyed Aunt Julia. She was thankful Hortense had not mentioned the episode of the cruel driver,[181] and that her wrist no longer required a bandage. What would her aunt say if she knew of this delinquency as well as the other? But Marjorie was a very honest, truthful girl, and she decided to make a clean breast of everything to Uncle Henry when he came home. There was only one thing she could not understand, and that was why Elsie should have objected to her going to New Haven with the Randolphs.




There was a marked coolness in Elsie's manner to her cousin the next morning, which Marjorie found decidedly uncomfortable as well as perplexing, but even Elsie was not proof against the weakness of curiosity, and after a few veiled hints, which Marjorie quite failed to understand, she finally softened, and demanded a full account of yesterday's doings, which her cousin was only too glad to give.

"Tell me about Lulu Bell," said Elsie, when Marjorie had reached the part of her story where they had arrived at New Haven, and gone to lunch at the hotel restaurant. "Did Beverly Randolph pay her a lot of attention?"

"Why, no, I don't think so," said Marjorie, innocently, "at least not any more than he paid to any of us. He was very polite to everybody, and I think he's the nicest boy I've ever met."

"Probably that is because you have never met[183] many people except Mexicans and Indians," remarked Elsie sarcastically.

Marjorie, who had a quick temper of her own, flushed angrily, and was just going to say something sharp when Mrs. Carleton called them to get ready for church. Sunday was always a homesick day with Marjorie; there was not so much to do as on week-days, and she generally wrote a long home letter in the afternoon. Mr. Carleton had returned in time for breakfast, but it was not until after luncheon that Marjorie succeeded in getting him to herself. Then he proposed taking a walk, and asked the girls to accompany him. Elsie protested that she was too tired after the exertions of yesterday, but Marjorie gladly accepted her uncle's invitation, and it was during that walk that she told her little story, concealing nothing not even the battle royal with the brutal driver. Mr. Carleton could not help smiling over his niece's account of that affair, although he grew grave again in a moment, and told Marjorie she must never interfere in such a case. But he saw nothing wrong in her having accepted Mrs. Randolph's invitation.

"I daresay your aunt is right in wishing you to consult her before accepting invitations as a rule," he said, "but in this case I really don't see[184] how you could have acted differently. The Randolphs are charming people, and it was very kind of them to offer to take you with them. It would have been scarcely courteous to refuse."

Marjorie returned from her walk with a much lighter heart, and in writing a long and detailed account of the game to her father, she quite forgot to worry over Elsie's sulks, or Aunt Julia's warnings.

When the two girls arrived the next morning at the building where Miss Lothrop held her daily classes, they found several of their classmates gathered in an eager group, all talking fast and earnestly.

"The most interesting thing is going to happen," announced Gertie Rossiter, pouncing upon the two new arrivals. "Lulu is getting up a club, and she wants us all to join."

"What sort of a club?" inquired Elsie, doubtfully.

"Oh, an awfully nice one. It's to meet at our different houses on Friday evenings, and we are to sew for the poor for the first hour, and dance and play games the rest of the evening."

"I don't believe I should care to join," said Elsie, indifferently, as she took off her hat, and smoothed out her crimps; "I hate sewing."[185]

"So do I, but the sewing is only for the first hour, and the rest will be such fun. The boys will be invited to come at nine and stay till half-past ten."

"Boys!" repeated Elsie her face brightening; "are there to be boys in the club, too?"

"Yes, but of course they can't sew, so Lulu is going to put them on the amusement committee. My brother Rob is going to be asked, and Bessie's two cousins, and any others we can think of. You'll be sorry if you don't join, Elsie; it's going to be splendid."

"I never said I wasn't going to join," said Elsie loftily, and sauntering over to the window where Lulu Bell and several other girls were still in earnest conversation, she inquired with an air of would-be indifference:

"What's all this about a club somebody is getting up?"

"It's Lulu," said Winifred Hamilton, proudly; "she thought of it yesterday and we all think it's such a good idea."

"The first meeting is to be held at my house next Friday evening," Lulu explained, "and every member has got to read an original poem."

"What for?" demanded Elsie, beginning to[186] look rather blank. "I don't see what poems have to do with a sewing club."

"Oh, we all have to be initiated," said Lulu, "the way college boys are, you know, and the way we are going to initiate is to make everybody write a poem. It needn't be more than eight lines, and it doesn't matter what it's about, so long as it's poetry. It will be such fun reading the poems and deciding which is the best. The one who writes the best poem is to be president of the club. It will be decided by vote."

"I think the club sounds very interesting," said Elsie, with a little air of condescension, "but if I were you I would give up the initiation; it's so silly."

"Oh, the initiation is half the fun!" cried Lulu and Bessie both together, and Lulu, who was not very fond of Elsie, added with decision:

"Any one who isn't willing to take the trouble to write a poem can't join the club."

"I am sure I have no objection to writing a poem," said Elsie, shrugging her shoulders. "It's perfectly simple; I could write one every week if I chose, but it's so foolish."

Bessie and Gertie looked at each other, and Gertie formed the word "brag" with her lips, but did not say it aloud. Marjorie saw the look[187] that passed between the two girls, and her cheeks grew suddenly hot.

Elsie was certainly very clever, but she could not help feeling that it would be better taste on her cousin's part not to talk about it.

"I wish I found it easy to write a poem," said Winifred, mournfully. "I never made a rhyme in my life, but Lulu says I've got to try. She made me write a story once when we were little girls, and it was the most awful nonsense you ever heard. Have you ever written a poem, Marjorie?"

"Only a few silly doggerels. One of my aunt's favorite games is capping verses, and we used sometimes to play it on winter evenings."

Just then more girls arrived, and in a few moments Miss Lothrop rang her bell, and school began.

"Well, Marjorie, what do you think of the idea of the club?" Elsie inquired of her cousin, as the two were walking home from school together that day.

"I think it will be splendid," declared Marjorie, heartily. "Lulu must be a clever girl to have thought of such a plan, especially of the initiation. I am sure the poems will be great fun."[188]

"They won't amount to anything," said Elsie, with her superior smile. "Nobody will write a decent poem, and I do hate poetry that isn't really good. Papa would never allow me to learn anything but the classics."

"Lulu says we mustn't read our poems to any one until the night of the initiation," said Marjorie. "I know yours will be splendid, Elsie; you are so clever."

Elsie smiled, well pleased by the compliment, and added rather irrelevantly:

"I asked Lulu why she didn't invite Beverly Randolph to join the club. He hasn't many friends in New York and might enjoy it. She says he is older than any of the other boys, but she would be glad to have him if he cares to join, so I am to ask him and let her know to-morrow. The boys are not to be initiated, because they are only the amusement committee, but they are all to come to the first meeting, and vote on the poems."

Nothing more was said on the subject just then, but Elsie was careful to deliver the message to Beverly that evening, and the invitation was readily accepted.

"The girl who writes the best poem is to be president, you know," Elsie explained, with her[189] sweetest smile. "You must be sure to come to the first meeting and vote for the one you like best."

"I am afraid I'm not very well up on poetry," said Beverly, laughing. "It's a lucky thing the boys aren't expected to write poems as well as the girls; I am sure I should disgrace myself hopelessly if I were to attempt anything original."

"Oh, no, you wouldn't," Elsie protested. "You have no idea how easy it really is. Of course some of the poems will be dreadfully silly, but you don't have to vote for them."

It was Thanksgiving week, so school closed on Wednesday, not to open again till the following Monday. Elsie had several invitations for the holidays, but Marjorie, whose New York acquaintances were still limited to the girls at Miss Lothrop's, had only the first meeting of the Club on Friday evening to which to look forward. She wrote her poem on Wednesday evening, while Elsie was at a theater party, and although far from satisfied with it, decided that it would have to do, as she had several hard lessons to prepare for Monday, and there was no more time for writing poetry.

"Of course it won't be nearly as good as[190] Elsie's," she told herself cheerfully. "She is sure to be voted president."

She had asked her cousin that evening if she had written her poem, and Elsie had replied carelessly that there was plenty of time, and she would probably do it to-morrow.

"It really isn't worth bothering about," she had added, with some scorn; "it won't take me half an hour."

The next day was Thanksgiving, and the Carletons and their niece were invited to a family dinner at Mrs. Lamont's. Elsie spent a long time in her room that afternoon, and came out looking rather cross. Marjorie, going into her cousin's room for something later in the day, noticed that the waste-paper basket was full of torn papers.

"I wonder if she can be having trouble with her poem," Marjorie thought innocently, but when she questioned Elsie on the subject, that young lady colored angrily, and replied that of course she wasn't, and she did wish people would stop talking about that silly Club; she was sick of the subject and had a great mind not to join at all.

The dinner at the Lamonts was very pleasant, and Marjorie could not help being conscious of the fact that she looked unusually well in her new[191] dress. Every one was kind to the little Western girl, and she liked Mrs. Lamont and her daughter better than ever. The Ward family were also of the party, and Marjorie was introduced to the Yale boy, Percy, whom she found most agreeable, though not, as she wrote her mother afterward, quite so nice as Beverly Randolph.

"Why didn't you tell me what a jolly girl Marjorie Graham was?" Percy demanded of Elsie, when the cousins were alone together for a moment after dinner.

Elsie flushed.

"I didn't know you'd like her," she said, evasively. "She's dreadfully young for her age, and not a bit like the New York girls."

"Well, she's all right anyway," maintained Percy. "I only wish I'd known about her in time to get another ticket for the game last Saturday. But she went with some other friends, didn't she?"

"Oh, yes, she went," said Elsie, with a rather sarcastic smile. "She got some people at the hotel to take her in their car. You needn't worry about Marjorie; she knows how to take care of herself."

Elsie spent another hour in her room on Friday morning, and was so cross and disagreeable[192] at luncheon, that Marjorie wondered more and more what the matter could possibly be. But in the afternoon Elsie cheered up, and her cousin came to the conclusion that whatever the trouble had been, it was evidently over.

The meeting was to begin at eight o'clock, so immediately after an early dinner, the two girls, accompanied as usual by Hortense, started in the carriage for Lulu's home, which was on Madison Avenue, only a few blocks away.

Lulu was a charming little hostess, and gave her friends a cordial greeting, explaining that her mother and aunt would come down later, but it had been a stipulation with some of the Club members that nobody grown up was to hear the poems or take part in the initiation. Several of Miss Lothrop's girls had already arrived, and there were also present a few more young people, particular friends of Lulu's, who had been invited to join the Club.

"I want you to meet my friend, Betty Randall," Lulu said to Marjorie, as Elsie turned away to speak to other friends. "She's English, and just as nice as can be. She and her mother and brother are visiting us. She can't be a member, because they are all going back to England next week, but she and Jack are the special guests[193] of the evening, and they are both to be allowed to vote on the poems."

Betty Randall was a quiet, sweet-faced girl of fifteen, and Marjorie liked her at once.

"Have you been in this country long?" she asked, when Lulu had left them together, and gone to greet other arriving guests. She could not help feeling a good deal interested in meeting "a real English girl."

"Only since September," Betty answered, "but we used to live in New York. My mother is English, but she and my father came to this country when they were married, and my brother and I were both born in New York. We lived here until four years ago, when my uncle took us back to England to live with him."

"I should think it would be wonderfully interesting to live in England," said Marjorie. "I suppose of course you have been in London, and seen the Tower and Westminster Abbey?"

"Oh, yes," said Betty, smiling. "One of my uncle's places is quite near London, and we often motor into town. I like America, though; it always seems more like home. Do you know the names of all these girls?"

"I know most of them; we go to the same school, but I haven't been in New York nearly[194] as long as you have. My home is in Arizona, and I have only come here to spend the winter, and go to school with my cousin."

Betty looked a little disappointed.

"Then I suppose you can't tell me something I want to know very much," she said. "Lulu told me Dr. Randolph's nephew was to be here, and I do want to see him."

"Oh, I can point him out to you," said Marjorie. "He lives at the Plaza, where my uncle has an apartment, and Elsie and I know him very well. There he is, that tall boy, who has just come in. Isn't he handsome?"

"Yes, very," agreed Betty, regarding the new arrival with considerable interest. "I never met him, but his uncle was such a good friend to us once."

"I know Dr. Randolph, too," said Marjorie; "he took us to New Haven in his car to see the game last Saturday. He is very kind."

"Kind!" repeated Betty, with shining eyes; "he is more than kind, he is wonderful. He cured my brother, and made him walk, when he had been a cripple all his life."

Marjorie gave a little gasp, and some of the color went out of her face.

"Tell me about it," she said, clasping her[195] hands, and regarding her new acquaintance with such an eager expression in her eyes, that Betty was quite startled.

"It was before we went back to England," she said. "We were living here in New York, and Winifred Hamilton and her father and mother had an apartment in the same house. My mother was taken very ill, and Winifred went for Lulu Bell's father, whom you know is a doctor. He was very good to us, and while attending mother he became very much interested in my brother, who was nine years old then, and had never walked a step since he was born. He brought Dr. Randolph to see Jack, and he felt sure something could be done for him, and persuaded Mother to let him be taken to a hospital. Mother consented, and Dr. Randolph performed a wonderful operation."

"And does your brother walk now?" Marjorie asked almost breathlessly.

"There he is," said Betty, smiling, and pointing to a tall boy of thirteen, who was standing near the door, talking to Winifred Hamilton. "You would never believe that he was a helpless cripple only four years ago, would you?" she added proudly.

"No, indeed," said Marjorie; "it seems very[196] wonderful. Do you suppose Dr. Randolph often performs such operations?"

"I think so. Dr. Bell says he is one of the finest surgeons in the country. Why are you so much interested? Do you know some one who is a cripple, too?"

"Yes," said Marjorie, with a sigh. "It's my aunt; she had a terrible accident eight years ago, and has never walked since. But she is away in Arizona; we could never ask Dr. Randolph to go all that distance to see her."

"No, I suppose not," Betty admitted regretfully, "but couldn't your aunt be brought here to him? I know people come from all parts of the country to consult him. There was a little girl at the hospital when Jack was there, who had been brought all the way from Texas."

Marjorie thought of the long three-days journey, and of her father's desperate struggle to make both ends meet, but before she could answer, Lulu, as mistress of ceremonies—rapped sharply on the table, and the Club was called to order.




"Ladies and gentlemen," began Lulu, speaking in the tone she had heard her mother use when conducting a meeting of a charitable board of which she was president, "I think every one is now here, and I must request you all please to keep quiet during the reading of the poems. After the reading, votes will be taken as to the best poem, and the girl who gets the most votes will be elected president of this Club. The boys are particularly requested not to laugh at any of the poems. The first to be read is by Miss Winifred Hamilton, and is called 'Ria and the Bear.' Miss Hamilton wishes me to explain that she has never heard the name Ria, but chose it because it was the only word she could think of that rhymed with fear."

There was a general titter from the audience, followed by a burst of applause, as Winifred, very red, and looking as if she were being led to execution, rose and announced:[198]

"It's perfectly awful, but it's the first poem I ever wrote in my life, and I want to say that I sha'n't be in the least offended if everybody laughs." Then, unfolding a small sheet of paper, she began to read very fast.

"Ria And The Bear.

"The sky was of the darkest hue,
The grass beneath was wet with dew,
And through the trees the wind did howl,
Causing the hungry bears to growl.

"All were protected from the storm,
All but one wee, shivering form,
She stood beneath an old elm tree,
The boughs of which from leaves were free.

"A big bear darted through the wood,
His instinct told him where she stood.
Soon the monster came close to Ria,
But the child showed no sign of fear.

"As the big bear drew very close,
She gave a pat to his cold nose,
At this touch the bear did cease to growl,
And for response a joyful howl.

"Then these two friends lay down together,
Quite heedless of the raging weather,
Upon the hard and frozen ground,
[199]The two friends slept, both very sound.

"But one of the two never awoke;
Long, long after the wind storm broke,
She was discovered lying there,
Where she had died beside the bear."

"Bravo! Winifred, that's fine!" shouted Jack Randall, and then followed a shout of laughter, in which everybody joined, Winifred herself as heartily as any of the others.

"I told you it was awful," she said between gasps, "but Lulu said no one could be a member who didn't write a poem, so I had to do my best."

"I should die of mortification if I were laughed at like that," whispered Elsie to Carol, who sat next to her. To which her friend replied sympathetically:

"Of course you would, but then everybody isn't a genius like you."

"The next poem," announced Lulu, when order had been restored, "is by Miss Marjorie Graham of Arizona. Get up, Marjorie."

Marjorie's heart was beating rather fast as she rose, but there was a merry twinkle in her eye, and if her voice shook a little when she began to read, it was more from suppressed laughter than from fear.[200]

"The Boring Life of New York.

"Some think it delightful to live in New York,
But with them I do not agree;
'Tis nothing but hustle and bustle and talk,
All very distasteful to me.

"I love all the pleasures the country can give,
The beautiful flowers and the birds;
The city produces not one of these things,
Only traffic and crowds by the herds.

"The city is good as a workshop for men,
Who in parks idle moments may pass,
But the pleasure for children e'en there is quite spoiled,
When a sign bids them 'Keep off the Grass.'"

A burst of genuine applause followed this production, and Marjorie sat down again quite covered with confusion.

"It's splendid; I couldn't have written anything half so good," whispered Betty encouragingly. "I am rather glad I am not to be a member of the Club, for I know I could never have written two lines that rhymed."

"The next poem," continued Lulu, in her business-like tone, "is by Miss Gertrude Rossiter," and Gertie, looking very much embarrassed, rose, and began:[201]

"The Storm at Sea.

"The waves did beat on a rocky shore;
The noise resounded more and more;
A little craft was tossed on the sea,
And all knew that saved she might not be.

"The crew were gathered on the deck,
Awaiting the crash of the awful wreck;
Many hearts stopped beating as the time drew near
To bid good-bye to their children dear.

"The babies and children all did shriek,
And now their voices grew very weak.
The staunch big men grew white with fear,
At the thought of death that was so near.

"But all at once the winds did cease,
The waves stopped tossing, and there was peace,
The children stopped crying; with joy they all laughed,
And gladness prevailed on that safe little craft."

There was more applause, mingled with laughter, and Elsie whispered to Carol, quite loud enough to be heard by several others:

"Did you ever hear anything so silly? Even the meter is wrong; there are too many words in some lines, and not enough in others."

"Read yours next, Lulu," said Winifred, before[202] her friend could make another announcement. "Lulu writes beautiful poetry," she added in a lower tone to Jack Randall; "I'm crazy to know what she's written this time."

Lulu protested that as hostess her turn should come last, but several other girls joined their entreaties to Winifred's, and she was forced to yield. Blushing and smiling, she took a sheet of paper from her pocket, and began to read:

"The Fire.

"The forest trees were waving in the wind;
The sun was slowly sinking o'er the hill,
The clouds in purple, gold and blue outlined,
Were mirrored in the still pond by the mill.

"The birds were twittering their last good-night;
The dainty flow'rets closing up their eyes,
When all at once a fearful lurid light
Shone in the many-colored sunset skies.

"Quickly that awe-inspiring fire spread,
And many a tall and stately tree there fell.
The timid animals and birds all fled,
And naught but charred remains were left the tale to tell.

"At morn when in his glory rose the sun,
Over the blackened, devastated hill,
The scene that there the traveler looked upon
Seemed to his inmost heart to send a chill."


"Isn't she wonderful?" whispered Winifred excitedly to Jack. "I told you hers would be the best."

"It's very pretty," Jack admitted, "but I think I like the one about Ria and the Bear the best of all."

"The next poem," announced Lulu, when the applause had subsided, "is by Miss Elsie Carleton."

There was a little flutter of excitement as Elsie rose—as the brightest girl in the school, a good deal was expected of her. Some of the girls noticed with surprise, that Elsie had grown rather pale, but her voice was as calm and superior as ever, when she unfolded her paper, and began:


"Oh, wild and dark was the winter's night
When the emigrant ship went down,
But just outside the harbor bar,
In the sight of the startled town.
And the wind howled, and the sea roared,
And never a soul could sleep,
Save the little ones on their mothers' breasts,
Too young to watch and weep.

"No boat could live in that angry surf,
[204]No rope could reach the land—
There were bold, brave hearts upon the shore;
There was many a helping hand;
Men who strove, and women who prayed,
Till work and prayer were vain;
And the sun rose over that awful void,
And the silence of the main.

"All day the watchers paced the sand;
All day they scanned the deep;
All night the booming minute guns
Echoed from steep to steep.
'Give up thy dead, oh cruel sea!'
They cried athwart the space,
But only a baby's fragile form
Escaped from its stern embrace.

"Only one little child of all,
Who with the ship went down,
That night while the happy babies slept
All warm in the sheltered town.
There in the glow of the morning light
It lay on the shifting sand,
Pure as a sculptor's marble dream,
With a shell in its dimpled hand.

"There were none to tell of its race or kin—
'God knows,' the pastor said,
When the sobbing children crowded to ask
The name of the baby dead.
And so when they laid it away at last,
In the churchyard's hushed repose,
They raised a slab at the baby's head,
With the carven words 'God knows.'"


There was a general murmur of admiration, as Elsie sat down again, in the midst of a burst of applause louder than had greeted any of the other productions.

"Wasn't it lovely?" whispered Winifred to Jack, as she wiped her eyes. "I do love those sad pieces, don't you?"

"They're all right," said Jack, a little doubtfully, "but don't you like the funny ones that make you laugh, better? Ria and the Bear was so funny."

"That poem is really beautiful," declared Betty Randall, turning to Marjorie, and speaking in a tone of hearty admiration. "She must be an awfully clever girl to have written it; it's quite good enough to be published."

But Marjorie did not answer. She had given one violent start when Elsie began the first line of her poem, and at the same moment she had caught the expression on Beverly Randolph's face. After that she had sat quite still, with crimson cheeks, and a heart that was beating so loudly she was almost afraid people must hear it. In her mind was a mild confusion of feelings; astonishment, mortification, and incredulity, and, worst of all, the knowledge that at least one[206] other person in the room besides herself knew. When the burst of applause came she was conscious of a momentary sensation of relief. At least no one was going to speak yet. She cast an imploring glance at Beverly, but his face expressed nothing beyond amusement and a sort of indifferent contempt.

There were more poems read; some funny, some sentimental; but Marjorie scarcely heard them. In her thoughts there was room but for one thing. Even the wonderful story Betty had told about her brother and Dr. Randolph was swept away in the shock of the discovery she had made. Several times she glanced at Elsie, fully expecting to see some expression of shame or remorse but that young lady was looking the picture of smiling content.

When the poems had all been read, there was a general move, and pencils and bits of paper were handed around.

"One of the boys will pass round a hat," Lulu explained, "and you must all drop your votes into it." Then, with a sudden generous impulse, she went up to Elsie and held out her hand.

"Yours was ever so much the best, Elsie," she said, frankly; "you certainly deserve to be president."[207]

Elsie just touched the outstretched hand with the tips of her fingers, and for one moment her eyes dropped and her color deepened.

There was a moment of dead silence while the names were being written, then Gertie Rossiter's brother passed round the hat, and each girl and boy dropped a bit of paper into it.

"I shall vote for Elsie Carleton, sha'n't you?" whispered Betty to Marjorie, but Marjorie shook her head.

"I am going to vote for Lulu Bell," she said shortly.

It was an exciting moment when Beverly Randolph and Rob Rossiter—the two oldest boys present—counted the votes and announced the results: "Elsie Carleton, thirteen. Lulu Bell, nine. Marjorie Graham, five. Gertie Rossiter, three, and Winifred Hamilton, one."

The presidency of the Club was unanimously accorded to Elsie.

Then came an hour of games and dancing, followed at half-past nine, by light refreshments. But although Marjorie entered into the gayety with the rest, her heart was very heavy, and she did not join in the congratulations which were being showered upon the new president, in which even Lulu's mother and aunt, who had come[208] downstairs as soon as the initiation was over, joined heartily. Beverly Randolph was a general favorite, and devoted himself in turn to almost every girl in the room, but he, too, held aloof from the new president. He and Marjorie had no opportunity for private conversation till the refreshments were being served, when he approached her corner, with a plate of ice-cream.

"Your 'Boring Life of New York' was fine," he remarked, pleasantly, taking the vacant chair by her side. "I quite agree with your sentiment. I voted for you."

"You are very kind," said Marjorie, blushing, "but it wasn't nearly as good as several of the others. Lulu's was splendid. You—you didn't like Elsie's?"

"No, I didn't," said Beverly bluntly, "and you didn't, either."

Marjorie's cheeks were crimson, but she made one desperate effort to save her cousin.

"It was a beautiful little poem," she faltered, "only—only I thought—but perhaps I was mistaken—I'm sure Elsie wouldn't have done such a thing; it must have been a mistake."

Beverly said nothing, but he did not look convinced.[209]

"Where—where did you see it before?" Marjorie went on desperately.

"In an old volume of 'St. Nicholas' at home. My mother used to take the magazine when she was a little girl, and has all the volumes bound. I used to be very fond of some of the old stories, and so was my sister Barbara. I remember she learned that poem once to recite to Mother on her birthday."

Marjorie's heart sank like lead. Well did she remember the old worn volumes of St. Nicholas—relics of her own mother's childhood—over which she had pored on many a rainy day at home. She cast an appealing glance at Beverly.

"You won't tell?" she said unsteadily.

"Of course I won't; I'm not a cad. And look here, Marjorie; I wouldn't bother my head about it if I were you. Miss Elsie is quite able to fight her own battles."

"But she is my cousin," said Marjorie in a very low voice, "and I'm so ashamed."

Beverly's face softened, and his voice was very kind when he answered:

"You're a brick, Marjorie; lots of girls wouldn't care. But don't let it make you unhappy. If I were you I'd have it out with Elsie; perhaps she'll have some excuse to offer."[210]

Before Marjorie could answer Lulu came up to ask Beverly to come and be introduced to Betty Randall, who was particularly anxious to meet him, and he was obliged to hurry away.

"What were you and that English girl talking about so long?" Elsie inquired, as she and Marjorie were driving home together half an hour later.

Marjorie roused herself from uncomfortable reflections with a start.

"Oh, nothing in particular," she said, "at least nothing you would be interested in. She was telling me about her brother, who used to be a cripple till Beverly Randolph's uncle cured him. He is a fine, strong-looking boy now—did you notice him?"

"Yes. Did you know their uncle was a lord?"

"Is he?" said Marjorie indifferently, and once more relapsed into silence. Elsie regarded her cousin in evident surprise.

"What's the matter, Marjorie?" she inquired curiously. "You seem to be in the dumps, and I'm sure I can't see why. You really danced much better than I supposed you could. You're not jealous, are you?"

"Jealous," repeated Marjorie, stupidly, "what about?"[211]

"Why, your poem, of course, because you didn't get more votes. It really wasn't bad; I heard several of the girls say so."

"Of course I wasn't jealous," said Marjorie, indignantly. "I never dreamed of getting many votes. I think people were very kind to vote for me at all; it was just silly doggerel."

"Well, you needn't fly into a temper even if you're not jealous," laughed Elsie. "Do you know you never congratulated me on my poem. I think people thought it rather queer, when every one was saying how much they liked it."

"I couldn't," said Marjorie in a low voice.

"Why not?" demanded Elsie, sharply. She was evidently startled but beyond a slightly heightened color, she showed no sign of embarrassment.

"I'll tell you when we get home," whispered Marjorie, with a glance at Hortense, who was sitting in the opposite seat.

Not another word was spoken until the carriage drew up before the big hotel. Mr. and Mrs. Carleton were out, and the girls went at once to their rooms, without exchanging the usual good-nights. Marjorie's heart was beating painfully fast, and her cheeks were burning, but she did not waver in her determination to[212] "have it out" with Elsie before they went to bed. So instead of beginning to undress, she sat down to wait until Hortense should have finished waiting on her cousin and gone away. She had, with some difficulty, at last succeeded in convincing the maid that she did not require assistance herself.

"Elsie will be terribly angry," she told herself mournfully, "and it will be very horrid and uncomfortable, but it wouldn't be honest not to let her know I recognized that poem. Perhaps she can explain—oh, I do hope she can—and then I can tell Beverly, and everything will be all right again."

She heard the outer door close behind Hortense, and was just about to go to her cousin's room, when her door was pushed unceremoniously open and Elsie herself came in. Elsie's cheeks were flushed, and her eyes were flashing, but whether with anger or excitement Marjorie could not tell.

"Well," she began in a tone which she evidently intended to be quite cheerful and indifferent, "I've gotten rid of Hortense. She seemed to think she ought to stay till Papa and Mamma came home, but I told her we didn't need her. Now you can tell me what you said you would[213] when we got home. Do be quick about it, though, for I'm awfully sleepy, and I want to go to bed."

Before answering Marjorie went over to her cousin's side, and laid a timid hand on her shoulder.

"Elsie," she said gently, "I'm so sorry; I hate to say it, but I've got to. It's—about that poem; I've read it before. You didn't think you really made it up, did you?"

With an angry gesture Elsie pushed away her cousin's hand.

"Of course I made it up," she said angrily; "how dare you say I didn't? I don't believe you ever saw a poem like it before in your life; you only say so because you're jealous."

"Oh, Elsie, how can you say such dreadful things?" cried poor Marjorie, clasping her hands in her distress, and on the verge of tears. "How could I possibly be jealous of any one so much cleverer than myself? I've been so proud of you, Elsie—indeed, indeed I have—but I read that poem in an old 'St. Nicholas' at home. I remembered it because it was so pretty. Beverly Randolph remembers it, too; he—"

"Beverly Randolph!" cried Elsie, her eyes[214] flashing ominously; "so you told him about it, did you? That accounts for his not congratulating me when all the others did. Marjorie Graham, you are the meanest, most contemptible girl I have ever known. To think of your doing such a thing after all Papa and Mamma have done for you! But if you suppose for one moment that any one is going to take your word against mine, you'll find yourself very much mistaken. I shall write a note to Beverly Randolph to-morrow. A nice opinion he must have of you already—boys hate sneaks."

"I'm not a sneak," retorted Marjorie, her own eyes beginning to flash. "I wouldn't have told Beverly Randolph or any one else such a thing for the world; I would have been ashamed to have them know. He recognized the poem, too. I saw he did the minute you began to read—and afterwards he spoke of it. But he won't tell; he promised not to, and—oh, Elsie I thought you might be able to explain it in some way."

"There isn't anything to explain," said Elsie, obstinately. "If you and that horrid Randolph boy choose to say wicked things about me you can, but you are not everybody, and when my friends hear about it I think they'll have something[215] to say." And without another word, Elsie walked out of the room, slamming the door behind her, and her cousin was left to cry herself to sleep undisturbed.




Marjorie awoke the next morning with a very heavy heart. Although Elsie's companionship had not proved quite all she had anticipated, still they had hitherto been perfectly good friends. Marjorie had looked upon her clever cousin with genuine admiration, and if in some things Elsie had disappointed her, she had explained the fact to herself by remembering how different life in New York was from life in Arizona.

"Elsie has so many friends," she had told herself over and over again; "of course I can't expect her to be as fond of me as I am of her."

But last night's discovery had been a cruel disappointment, and her cousin's parting words had hurt more than perhaps Elsie herself fully realized. She had lain awake a long time, hoping—almost expecting—that Elsie would come back to tell her she was sorry. She was so ready to forgive, herself, and even to make allowances, but no sound had come from the adjoining room, and she had fallen asleep at last,[217] still hoping that morning might bring about the longed-for reconciliation.

It was still very early, but accustomed all her life to the early hours of the ranch, she had not yet learned to sleep as late as the other members of the family. She tossed about in bed for half an hour, vainly trying to go to sleep again, and then suddenly determined to get up.

"If I could only have a canter on Roland, or a good long tramp before breakfast," she thought, with a regretful sigh, "I know it would clear the cobwebs from my brain, and I should feel ever so much better. But since that is out of the question, I may as well answer Undine's letter. She will like a letter all to herself, and I shall have plenty of time to write before the others are up."

Accordingly, as soon as she was dressed, she sat down at her desk, and began a letter, which she was determined to make as bright and cheerful as possible.

"New York, November 28th.
"Dear Undine:

"I was delighted to get your nice letter last week, but this is the very first spare moment I have had in which to answer it. It is still very[218] early—only a little after six—and nobody else is up, but I can't get accustomed to the queer New York hours. Just think, nobody has breakfast much before half past eight, and instead of dinner at twelve or one, we don't dine till half past seven. I thought I should be dreadfully hungry when I first heard at what hour New York people dined, but really luncheon—which they have in the middle of the day—is almost the same as dinner. I have eaten so much since I came here that I am sure I must have gained pounds already.

"I wrote Father all about the football game, and what a wonderful day I had. Since then we have had Thanksgiving, and that was very pleasant too, though of course not as exciting as the football match and the motor ride. We all dined with Aunt Julia's sister, Mrs. Lamont. Mrs. Lamont's son, who is an artist, and very clever, drew funny sketches on all the dinner cards, and his sister made up the verses. I think my card was lovely; it had a picture of a girl riding a horse, and the verse underneath was:

"'Welcome, Western stranger
To our Thanksgiving board,
May you have a jolly time,
And not be very bored.'


"Miss Annie says she isn't a poet, and I don't suppose any of the verses were really very good, but they made everybody laugh. It was funny to have 'board' and 'bored' in the same verse, but Miss Lamont said she got hopelessly stuck when she had written the first two lines, and had to end up with 'bored,' because it was the only word she could think of to rhyme with 'the Thanksgiving board.' I sat next to Mr. Ward—Aunt Julia's other sister's husband—and he was very kind, and told funny stories all the time. After dinner we had charades, and played old-fashioned games, which were great fun.

"Lulu Bell, one of the girls at school, has gotten up a Club, which is to meet every Friday evening at the different girls' houses. We had the first meeting last night, and every girl had to write a poem in order to become a member. Some of the poems were very clever, and some very funny. One girl made 'close' rhyme with 'nose.' My poem was silly, but I am going to send it to Aunt Jessie, because she likes to keep all my foolish little things.

"I am so glad you are happy, and are growing so fond of Mother and Aunt Jessie. The more people I meet, the more convinced I am that they are the two of the very best in the[220] world. I am glad, too, that you are trying not to worry about the things you can't remember. I have told the girls at school about you, and they all think you are the most wonderful person they have ever heard of. The lady who took me to the football game had a little girl who was killed in the San Francisco earthquake. Her brother told me about it, and it is a very sad story. He asked me not to mention you to his mother, because it always distresses her to hear anything about the earthquake. She is perfectly lovely, and so bright and jolly that it seems hard to realize she has had such a great sorrow, but her son says that is because she is so unselfish, and is always thinking of other people. Isn't it wonderful how many brave, unselfish people there are in the world?

"I have met a surgeon. He is the gentleman in whose car we went to New Haven last Saturday, and he is just as nice and kind as he can be. He is very clever too, and has performed some wonderful operations, but oh, Undine dear, I am afraid I shall never have the courage to speak to him about Aunt Jessie. Arizona is so far away, and it would be so terribly presumptuous to even suggest the possibility of a great surgeon's taking such a journey to see a[221] person he didn't even know. Still, if it could only happen—I pray about it every day.

"I must stop writing now, and study a little before breakfast. Be sure to write again very soon, and don't forget to give me every scrap of news about every one and everything. Kiss Roland's dear soft nose for me, and tell him not to forget his old mistress. Heaps of love and kisses for everybody, with a good share for yourself thrown in, from

"Your true friend,
"Marjorie Graham."

When Elsie entered the sitting-room, she found her uncle and cousin already at the breakfast table. Mrs. Carleton had a headache, and was breakfasting in bed. Mr. Carleton's morning greeting was as pleasant and affectionate as usual, but Elsie merely vouchsafed a slight nod, and a muttered "good-morning," and then kept her eyes steadily on her plate, as though to avoid any friendly overtures on Marjorie's part.

"What are you little girls going to do to-day?" Mr. Carleton inquired pleasantly, as he rose from the table.

"I'm going to dancing-school this morning," said Elsie, "and then to lunch with Carol."[222]

Mr. Carlton glanced inquiringly at Marjorie.

"And you?" he asked kindly—"are you going to dancing-school, too?"

Marjorie hesitated, and her color rose. It had been suggested that she should accompany Elsie to the dancing class that morning, and that Aunt Julia should make arrangements about having her admitted as a regular pupil, but after what had happened last night she did not feel at all sure that Elsie would desire her society.

"I'm—I'm not quite sure," she faltered; "I think Aunt Julia may want me to go out with her."

Mr. Carleton looked a little troubled, and when he left the room he beckoned his daughter to follow him.

"Elsie dear," he said in a rather low voice, as he put on his overcoat in the entry, "I wish you would try to do something to give Marjorie a good time to-day. She is looking rather down-hearted this morning, and I'm afraid she may be a little homesick. Can't you arrange to take her out to luncheon with you?"

Elsie shrugged her shoulders.

"She hasn't been invited," she said, shortly. She did not think it necessary to add that Carol[223] Hastings had proposed that Marjorie should make one of the party, but that she herself had opposed the plan, declaring that they would have a much pleasanter time by themselves.

Mr. Carleton frowned.

"I should think you knew Carol Hastings well enough to ask her if you might bring Marjorie with you," he said impatiently. "Remember, Elsie, what I have told you several times before; I won't have Marjorie neglected."

Now it was rather unfortunate that Mr. Carleton should have chosen just this particular time for reminding his daughter of her duty. As a rule, his words would have produced the desired effect, for Elsie stood considerably in awe of her father, but just at present she was very angry with Marjorie, and this admonition only made her angrier still.

"Marjorie is all right," she said, sulkily; "she manages to have a good time wherever she goes. If you knew as much about her as I do you wouldn't worry for fear she might be neglected."

Mr. Carleton did not look satisfied, but he had an appointment to keep, and there was no time for argument, so, after giving his daughter a good-bye kiss, and telling her to be an unselfish[224] little girl, he hurried away, and had soon forgotten the incident in the interest of more important matters.

Elsie did not go back to the parlor, but went at once to her mother's room, where she remained for some time with the door closed. Marjorie, having finished her breakfast, wandered aimlessly over to the window, where she stood looking down at the crowds of people and vehicles in the street below. It was a lovely morning and, early as it was, the park seemed full of children. Some had already mounted their ponies, and others were on roller skates or bicycles. How Marjorie longed to join them, but going out alone was strictly forbidden. She was feeling very unhappy, and more homesick than at any time since coming to New York.

"I must get something to do or I shall make a goose of myself and begin to cry," she said desperately, and picking up the first book she found on the table, she plunged into it haphazard, and when Elsie returned she found her cousin to all appearances quite absorbed in "The Letters of Queen Victoria."

Elsie did not speak, but seating herself at the piano, began practicing exercises as if her life depended on it. Marjorie closed her book, and sat[225] watching her cousin in silence for several minutes; then she spoke.


"Well, what is it?" inquired Elsie, wheeling round on the piano stool.

"Aren't you going to be friends with me?"

"I certainly am not unless you intend to apologize for the outrageous things you said to me last night. I've been telling Mamma about it, and she is very angry."

Marjorie rose.

"I can't apologize, Elsie; you know I can't," she said, steadily, and without another word she turned and left the room.

When Mrs. Carleton entered her niece's room an hour later, she found Marjorie curled up in a little disconsolate heap on the bed, her face buried in the pillows. Aunt Julia was still in her morning wrapper, and was looking decidedly worried.

"Marjorie," she began in a rather fretful tone, as she closed the door, and sank wearily into the arm-chair, "I am very much distressed by what Elsie tells me. I have come to ask you what it all means."

Marjorie raised a swollen, tear-stained face from the pillows.[226]

"What has Elsie told you?" she inquired anxiously.

Mrs. Carleton pressed her hand to her forehead.

"O dear!" she sighed, "my head aches so this morning, and I do dislike all these quarrels and arguments. I did hope you and Elsie would get on together without quarreling."

"I don't want to quarrel," protested Marjorie; "what does Elsie say about me?"

"She says you have been very unkind and unjust to her. She won't tell me what it is all about. I tried to make her tell, but Elsie is so honorable; she hates tale-bearing. But I know you have hurt her pride, and made her very unhappy."

Marjorie was silent; what could she say? And after a moment her aunt went on in her fretful, complaining voice.

"I don't believe you have the least idea what a noble, splendid girl Elsie is. It was rather hard for her at first when she heard you were coming to spend the winter, for of course it couldn't help making some difference. She has never had to share anything with any one else before. But she was so sweet and unselfish about it, and I did hope things might go on as[227] they had begun. But now you have begun to quarrel, and I suppose there will be nothing but trouble and unpleasantness all winter."

"She was so sweet and unselfish about it!" How those words hurt Marjorie, and all the time she had been thinking that Elsie had looked forward to meeting her almost, if not quite as much, as she had looked forward to knowing the cousin who was "the next best thing to a sister." It was only by a mighty effort that she managed to choke back the flood of scalding tears, which threatened to overwhelm her.

"I'm very sorry, Aunt Julia," she said tremulously; "I didn't mean to quarrel with Elsie. If she had told you what it was about perhaps you would have understood."

"Well, she wouldn't tell," said Mrs. Carleton, crossly, "so there is no use in talking about that. All I want to say to you is that I am very much annoyed, and sincerely hope nothing so unpleasant will happen again. Elsie has gone to dancing-school, and Hortense has gone with her, as my head was so bad. Now I am going back to my room to lie down for a while; perhaps I may be better by luncheon time."

That was the most unhappy day Marjorie had ever spent in her life. It seemed to her as if the[228] morning would never end, and when her aunt appeared at luncheon she still wore an air of injured dignity, and entertained Marjorie during the meal, with a long account of Elsie's many accomplishments, a subject of which her niece was becoming heartily tired, although she would scarcely have admitted the fact even to herself. Soon after luncheon Mr. Carleton telephoned to say that he would come uptown in time to drive with his wife, and Aunt Julia proposed that Marjorie should go for a walk with Hortense. The girl's own head was aching by this time, and she was glad of a brisk walk in the keen, frosty air, but she was so unusually silent and preoccupied, that the maid asked her anxiously if she "had the homesickness."

"Yes," said Marjorie, with a catch in her voice, "I've got it badly to-day."

"Ah, I understand," murmured Hortense, softly, "Mademoiselle is like me—I, too, often have the homesickness."

Elsie did not reach home till after five, as Carol's mother had taken the two girls to the theater, and even then she took no notice of Marjorie, but went at once to her mother's room, where Marjorie heard her giving a long and animated account of the play she had seen.[229]

"By the way," remarked Mr. Carleton at dinner that evening, "I forgot to ask about the Club—how did the poems turn out?"

There was a moment's embarrassed silence, and Marjorie's heart began to beat very fast; then Elsie spoke.

"They were all very silly," she said, indifferently. "I told Lulu it was nonsense having all the girls write poems."

"Whose poem was the best?" Mr. Carleton asked.

"They made me president of the Club," said Elsie, her eyes bent on her plate; "my poem got the most votes."

"I was sure it would," murmured Mrs. Carleton, with an adoring glance at her clever daughter. "Why didn't you tell us about it before, darling—you knew how interested we would be?"

"Let me see the poem," said Mr. Carleton, good-naturedly; "I should like to judge its merits for myself."

"I can't; I've torn it up." Elsie tried to speak in a tone of complete indifference, but her cheeks were crimson, and her father watched her curiously.

"My darling child, how very foolish!" remonstrated[230] Mrs. Carleton. "You know your father and I always want to see everything you write. Why in the world did you tear it up?"

"Oh, it wasn't any good," said Elsie, with an uneasy glance at Marjorie; "some of the girls thought Lulu's poem was better."

"I don't believe it was, though," Mrs. Carleton maintained with conviction. "Wasn't Elsie's poem much the best, Marjorie?"

It was a dreadful moment for poor Marjorie. She had never told a lie in her life, and yet how could she offend her uncle and aunt, who were doing so much for her, and who both adored Elsie? She cast an appealing glance at her cousin, and remained silent.

"Oh, you needn't ask Marjorie," remarked Elsie, with a disagreeable laugh; "she doesn't like my poem. She only got five votes herself, so I suppose it's rather hard for her to judge of other people's poetry."

Mr. Carleton frowned, and Mrs. Carleton looked distressed, but no more was said on the subject, for which Marjorie felt sincerely thankful.

The next day was Sunday, and the most unhappy, homesick day Marjorie had spent in New[231] York. Her uncle was the only member of the family who continued to treat her as usual. Elsie scarcely spoke to her, and Aunt Julia, though evidently making an effort to be kind, showed so plainly by her manner that she was both hurt and displeased, that poor Marjorie's heart grew heavier and heavier. They all went to church in the morning, and in the afternoon Elsie went for a drive with her mother, and Mr. Carleton retired to his own room to read and write letters. Marjorie began her usual home letter, but had not written half a page when she broke down, and spent the next half hour in having a good cry, which was perhaps the most satisfactory thing she could have done under the circumstances.

She had just dried her eyes, and having made a brave resolution not to be so foolish again, was sitting down with the intention of going on with her letter, when she heard her uncle's voice calling her from the sitting-room.

"Come here, Marjorie," said Mr. Carleton, kindly, as his niece appeared in answer to his summons. "Sit down and let us have a little talk before the others come home."

Marjorie complied. She hoped devoutly that her uncle would not notice that she had been crying,[232] but perhaps Uncle Henry's eyes were sharper than his family always suspected.

"Marjorie," he said abruptly, "I want you to tell me what this trouble is between you and Elsie."

Marjorie gave a little gasp, and her cheeks grew pink.

"I—I'm afraid I can't tell you, Uncle Henry," she faltered; "you had better ask Elsie."

"I have asked her, and so has your aunt, but she refused to tell us anything except that you have quarreled about something, and that you have treated her rather unkindly."

Marjorie's eyes flashed indignantly, and she bit her lips to keep back the angry words.

"Now I happen to know a good deal about these little quarrels of Elsie's," Mr. Carleton went on quietly. "She is a good girl, and a clever one, too, but she has her faults and I have no reason to suppose that you are any more to blame than she in this case. All I want is a clear account of what happened, and then I can settle this tempest in a teapot, which I can see has been making you both unhappy for the past two days."

By this time Marjorie had succeeded in controlling[233] her temper, and her voice was quite clear and steady as she answered—

"I am very sorry, Uncle Henry, but if Elsie hasn't told you what the trouble is, I am afraid I can't tell either. Please don't be angry, or think me disrespectful, but I can't tell; it wouldn't be fair."

Mr. Carleton was evidently displeased.

"Very well," he said, turning away coldly, and taking up a book, "I have no more to say on the matter. I am sorry, for I hoped you would have sufficient confidence in your aunt and me to trust us, and confide in us. I do not wish to force you to tell us anything against your will, but you must remember that your mother has placed you under our care."

The tears rushed to Marjorie's eyes.

"Oh, Uncle Henry!" she began, then checked herself abruptly, and, with a half suppressed sob, turned and fled back to her own room.

It was more than an hour later when Elsie presented herself at her cousin's door.

"May I come in, Marjorie?" she inquired in a rather conciliatory tone.

Marjorie looked up from the letter she was writing; her face brightening with sudden hope.

"Of course you may," she said, heartily.[234]

"Oh, Elsie, do let us make up; I can't stand not being friends with people I love."

Elsie advanced slowly into the room and closed the door.

"Papa has been talking to me," she said, "and I have promised him to forgive you for what you said to me the other night. You—you didn't tell him anything, did you?"

"No," said Marjorie indignantly, "of course I didn't. He asked me, but I wouldn't tell. I'm afraid I made him angry."

Elsie looked much relieved.

"That's all right," she said, speaking more pleasantly than she had done since the meeting of the Poetry Club. "We won't say any more about it. I've torn up that silly poem, and nobody is going to remember it. If Beverly Randolph should ever say anything to you, you can tell him it was just a joke. Now come into my room, and I'll tell you all about the good time Carol and I had yesterday."

But although Marjorie accepted the olive branch, and she and Elsie were apparently as good friends as ever that evening, her confidence in her cousin had been cruelly shaken, and she told herself sadly that she could never feel quite the same towards Elsie again. Still, it was a[235] great comfort to be on good terms once more, and to see the worried expression disappear from Aunt Julia's face, even though she could not help feeling a slight shock on hearing her aunt remark in a low tone to her uncle at the dinner table:

"Isn't Elsie sweet? I really think she has the most lovable, forgiving disposition I have ever known."




It was a stormy December afternoon, about ten days later, and Marjorie was alone in her room preparing her lessons for the next day. Elsie had gone shopping with her mother, and Hortense had been sent on an errand. Marjorie was aroused from the intricacies of a difficult mathematical problem by a ring at the bell, and on going to the door, found Beverly Randolph standing on the threshold.

It was the first time the two had been alone together since the evening of the Initiation, and in spite of herself, Marjorie felt her cheeks growing hot as she asked the visitor to come in. But Beverly had no intention of referring to unpleasant bygones.

"I'm so glad to find you at home," he said, with his pleasant smile and in the voice that always put people at their ease. "My mother sent me to ask if you would come and sit with her for a while this afternoon, provided you have nothing[237] more important to do. She is laid up with a cold, and is feeling rather blue and forlorn."

"I should love to come," said Marjorie, her face brightening at the prospect. "I was afraid your mother might not be well when I didn't see her at luncheon. I hope she isn't really ill."

"Oh, no; nothing but a disagreeable cold, that has kept her in the house for the past two days. I'm glad you can come, for I'm sure it will cheer her up."

"All right," said Marjorie; "I'll come in just a minute. I must leave a note for Aunt Julia in case she should get home before I do."

Marjorie found Mrs. Randolph sitting in an arm-chair by the fire, looking rather pale and tired, but her greeting to the girl was just as kind and cheerful as usual, and Marjorie hoped that it was only in her imagination that she saw that sad, wistful expression in her kind friend's eyes.

"Now sit down and tell me about all you have been doing," said Mrs. Randolph, when the first greetings had been exchanged. "I love to hear about the things girls are interested in. My little Barbara used to tell me of all her good times as well as her troubles. I am so glad you have brought your work—what are you making?"

"A shawl for my aunt's Christmas present;[238] one of the girls at school taught me the stitch, and I think it's going to be very pretty. I shall have to work hard, though, to finish it in time. Do you like the color?"

"Very much," said Mrs. Randolph. "I suppose this will be your first Christmas away from home?"

A shadow crossed Marjorie's bright face. "I try not to think of it," she said. "It's going to be pretty hard, but every one has been so kind, and Uncle Henry and Aunt Julia are doing so much for me, that it wouldn't be right to be unhappy. I think perhaps if I keep very busy I shall manage to get on all right. Aunt Jessie says that's a good way of making the best of things that can't be helped."

Mrs. Randolph said nothing, but the look she gave Marjorie was such an understanding one that the girl's heart warmed towards her more and more. The next half-hour slipped away very pleasantly. Mrs. Randolph was one of those rare people who have the power of drawing others out, and Marjorie chatted away to her of school and school-friends, and all the little unimportant happenings of her New York life, with almost as much freedom as she would have talked to her mother or aunt. Then Mrs. Randolph[239] asked her if she liked reading aloud, and when Marjorie assured her that she had read a great deal to Aunt Jessie, she explained that, owing to a cold in her eyes, she had not been able to read herself for several days. Marjorie was delighted to be of real use, and they were soon deep in an interesting story. Marjorie read aloud very well, and it was an accomplishment of which she was rather proud.

At five o'clock Beverly, who had gone to his room to "cram," as he expressed it, returned, and his mother rang the bell for tea.

"Marjorie and I have had a delightful afternoon," she said; "she seems to be almost as fond of reading aloud as I am of listening. I am going to be very selfish and ask her to come again to-morrow, provided she can spare the time. The doctor doesn't want me to use my eyes much for several days."

"I shall just love to come," declared Marjorie eagerly, "and I can easily manage it. My lessons aren't very hard, and I always have a good deal of time to myself every day."

"Don't you and your cousin ever go off together in the afternoons?" Beverly inquired bluntly.

Marjorie blushed.[240]

"Not very often," she admitted reluctantly. "You see, Elsie has so many more friends than I have, and they are always doing things together. I like the girls at school ever so much, and they are all very nice and kind to me, but of course they don't know me very well yet."

"How did the last meeting of the Club come off?" Beverly asked. "I was sorry I couldn't go, but I had another engagement."

Marjorie was conscious of a sensation of embarrassment at this mention of the Club, for she had not forgotten the secret that she and Beverly shared together, but she tried to answer quite naturally.

"Oh, it was very pleasant. The girls have decided to sew for the little blind children at the 'Home For Blind Babies.' We sewed for three quarters of an hour, and then Carol said we might as well stop, and begin to get ready for the boys. They weren't invited till nine, but some of the girls seemed to think it would take some time to get ready for them, though there really wasn't anything in particular to do. I hope they'll sew a little longer next time, for if they don't I'm afraid the Club won't accomplish very much."

Mrs. Randolph and Beverly both laughed, and[241] then Beverly sauntered over to the piano, and began to drum.

"Sing something, dear," said his mother. "Are you fond of music, Marjorie?"

"I think I should be if I had a chance of hearing much," said Marjorie, smiling, "but until I came to New York I had scarcely ever heard any music except the boys singing on the ranch. Mother used to play a little when she was a girl, but we haven't any piano. I love to hear Elsie play."

"Well, I think you will like to hear Beverly sing; you know he is on the college Glee Club. Sing that pretty Irish ballad, 'She Is Far From the Land,' Beverly; I am sure Marjorie will like that."

Beverly laughingly protested that he had no voice whatever, and was sure Marjorie would want to run away the moment he began to sing, but good-naturedly yielded to his mother's request, and after striking a few preliminary chords, began in a clear tenor voice—

"'She is far from the land where the young hero lies.'"

Marjorie—who had a real love for music—was much impressed, and at the close of the ballad,[242] begged so earnestly for more, that Beverly could not help being flattered, and his mother beamed with pleasure.

Beverly sang several more ballads, and one or two college songs, and then, after strumming idly on the piano for a moment, as if uncertain what to sing next, he suddenly broke into an air Marjorie knew.

"'In the old Mulniam pagoda,
Lookin' eastward to the sea;
There's a Burma gal a-waitin',
And I know she thinks of me;
For the wind is in the palm-trees,
And the Temple bells they say,
Come you back, you British soldier,
Come you back to Mandalay.

"'Come you back to Mandalay,
Where the old flotilla lay,
Can't you 'ear their paddles chunkin'
From Rangoon to Mandalay?
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin' fishes play,
And the sun comes up like thunder,
Outer China 'cross the bay.'"

Marjorie turned with a start, arrested by the sound of a low, half-suppressed sob. Mrs. Randolph had covered her face with her hands, and was crying softly. At the same moment Beverly also turned, and, with an exclamation of dismay,[243] hastily sprang to his feet, and hurried to his mother's side.

"Oh, Mother dear, I'm so sorry!" cried the boy, dropping on his knees, and trying to draw Mrs. Randolph's hands down from her face. "I never thought; it was very careless. Oh, Mother darling, please don't cry—please forgive me!"

At the sound of her son's voice, Mrs. Randolph looked up, and tried to smile through her tears.

"Never mind, dear," she said, gently, "it was very foolish of me, but that song—you know how fond she was of it."

"Yes, Mother, I know; I was a brute to have forgotten." And Beverly put his strong young arms tenderly round his mother. Mrs. Randolph laid her head on his shoulder for a moment, as if she found comfort in the touch, and then she roused herself with an effort, dried her eyes, and turned to Marjorie.

"You must excuse me for being so foolish, dear," she said, "but that was my little Barbara's favorite song; she was always asking Beverly to sing it. I don't think I have heard it since—since she went away."

There were tears of sympathy in Marjorie's eyes, and although she said nothing, the look she[244] gave her friend touched Mrs. Randolph, and perhaps comforted her more than any words would have done.

"Oh, Mother Dear, I'm so Sorry!"—Page 243. "Oh, Mother Dear, I'm so Sorry!"—Page 243.

Beverly did not sing again, but quietly closed the piano, and for the rest of the afternoon his merry boyish face was unusually grave.

"You have given me a great deal of pleasure," Mrs. Randolph said, when Marjorie at last rose to go. "I hope you will come again to-morrow. It is very tiresome to have to stay in the house all day, especially when one hasn't the solace of reading."

Marjorie said she would surely come again, and then she hurried back to their own apartment, where she found her aunt and cousin, who had come in some time before.

Mrs. Carleton had read Marjorie's note, and had no objection to the girl's spending as much time with the invalid as she liked.

"Was Beverly at home?" Elsie inquired, anxiously, following her cousin to her room.

"He was there some of the time," said Marjorie; "he had lessons to do at first, but he came in for tea. Mrs. Randolph asked him to sing—he has a beautiful voice."

"You certainly have a way of getting what[245] you want," remarked Elsie in a rather dissatisfied tone; "I wonder how you manage."

"Manage what?" demanded Marjorie in amazement; "what in the world do you mean, Elsie?"

Elsie shrugged her shoulders.

"Oh, I guess you know," she said, sarcastically, and walked out of the room, leaving Marjorie very much puzzled, and more than a little uncomfortable.

Mrs. Randolph did not recover from her cold as quickly as she had hoped, and she was confined to the house for nearly a week. Her eyes, too, continued troublesome, and reading and sewing were strictly forbidden. So it came to be quite a natural thing that Marjorie should spend an hour every afternoon in the Randolphs' apartment, and the girl grew to look forward to those hours as the pleasantest of the whole day.

"You remind me more of my little Barbara every day," Mrs. Randolph said to her once, and Marjorie felt that she had received a great compliment. She was growing to feel a deep interest in this Barbara, whose tragic death had cast such a shadow of sorrow over her mother's life, but she had too much tact, and was too kind-hearted,[246] to show undue curiosity on a painful subject, and so, though there were many questions she would have liked to ask about this unknown Barbara, she refrained from asking one, and was fain to content herself with the stray bits of information that Mrs. Randolph or Beverly occasionally let fall.

When Mrs. Randolph was well again Marjorie greatly missed the daily chat, and pleasant hour of reading aloud. The drives with Aunt Julia, shut up in the brougham, with only one window open, proved a most unsatisfactory substitute, but her aunt was very kind, and showed so much real interest in the Christmas box she was preparing for her dear ones at home that Marjorie reproached herself bitterly for not finding Aunt Julia's society as agreeable as Mrs. Randolph's. But Christmas was drawing near, and there were times when Marjorie fought desperately against the homesickness, which seemed almost greater than she could bear.

To add to everything else, she caught a feverish cold, and Mrs. Carleton, who was always nervous about illness, insisted on her remaining in the house; a state of affairs hitherto unknown to healthy Marjorie, who had never in her life spent a day in bed.[247]

It was on the second afternoon of headache and sore throat that Mrs. Randolph came to the rescue. Marjorie had come to the end of her resources. She had read till her eyes ached, and sewed on Christmas presents until she felt that she couldn't take another stitch. The longing for fresh air and exercise was almost beyond her endurance, and yet she dared not even open a window, for fear of incurring her aunt's displeasure. Mrs. Carleton and Elsie were out, but Hortense had been left in charge, with strict injunctions to see that Mademoiselle Marjorie kept out of draughts, and took her medicine regularly. Marjorie was just wondering in her desperation whether a walk up and down the steam-heated hotel corridor would be regarded in the light of an imprudence, when there was a ring at the bell, and Hortense announced Mrs. Randolph.

"I have only just heard you were ill," the visitor said kindly, taking Marjorie's hand in hers, and looking with sympathetic interest into the pale, woe-begone face. "Your aunt told Beverly at luncheon that you had a bad cold. You should have let me know sooner; I can't have my kind little friend laid up without trying to return some of her goodness to me."

"It wasn't goodness at all," said Marjorie,[248] flushing with pleasure; "it was just having a lovely time. I was thinking only yesterday, what a very selfish girl I must be, for I couldn't help being sorry you didn't need me any more, it's so pleasant to be needed."

Marjorie's voice trembled a little, for she was feeling rather weak and forlorn, and Mrs. Randolph drew her down beside her on the sofa.

"I think I always need you, dear," she said. "I have missed your visits very much, and reading to myself doesn't seem half as pleasant as having a nice little girl read aloud to me. Still, I am glad to have the use of my eyes again, especially as we are going away next week."

"Going away!" repeated Marjorie, and her face expressed so much dismay that Mrs. Randolph could not help smiling.

"We are not going for good," she explained, "but Beverly's vacation begins next Wednesday, and he is anxious to spend Christmas at our Virginia home. We shall only be away about ten days."

Marjorie looked much relieved.

"I was afraid you meant you were going to Europe, or somewhere far away," she said, "and that I shouldn't see you any more. I don't know what I should do without you."[249]

"And I should miss you very much, too," said Mrs. Randolph, "but nothing so unpleasant is going to happen, I hope. What are your plans for the holidays?"

"Oh, nothing in particular. Elsie and I are invited to several parties, and Aunt Julia's sister, Mrs. Ward, is having a tree on Christmas night. I can't help wishing the holidays were over. It will be my first Christmas away from home, you know."

"I suppose your family will miss you as much as you miss them," Mrs. Randolph said, sympathetically.

"Yes, I know they will, and that is one of the hardest things to bear. I had a letter from Undine to-day, and she says they are all very sad, though they are trying hard to be brave and cheerful."

"Who is Undine?"

"Oh, haven't I told you about her? She's a girl who lives at the ranch, and we call her Undine, but it isn't her real name."

Mrs. Randolph looked interested.

"What is her real name?" she asked, anxious to cheer Marjorie by talking of home and friends.

Marjorie opened her lips to explain, but suddenly remembered something Beverly had told[250] her. It would be scarcely possible to tell Undine's story without mentioning the fatal subject of the earthquake, so she only said:

"We don't know her real name, but the people she lived with before she came to the ranch called her Sally. She didn't like Sally, and asked us to call her something else, and I suggested Undine."

Mrs. Randolph laughed. "A rather romantic name for a flesh and blood girl," she said; "how old is your Undine?"

"About fifteen, we think, but we are not sure, and she doesn't know herself. Lulu Bell says you have a beautiful home in Virginia. I suppose you will be glad to go there for the holidays."

"Yes, we all love it very much. It is a dear old place; my husband's family have lived there for generations, and my old home, where I lived before I married, is only a couple of miles away."

"I have always thought Virginia must be a very interesting place," said Marjorie. "I have read ever so many books about the early settlers in Jamestown. Have you read 'To Have and to Hold,' and 'White Aprons'?"

"Yes, I have read both. Our home is on the[251] James River, not far from Jamestown—would you like to see it?"

"I should love it," said Marjorie, heartily. "I don't suppose I ever shall though," she added, with a sigh.

"I don't see why not," said Mrs. Randolph, smiling. "How would you like to go home with us for the holidays?"

Marjorie was speechless. For the first moment she could scarcely believe that her friend was in earnest.

"I came this afternoon on purpose to propose it," Mrs. Randolph went on, convinced by the girl's flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes that there was no doubt about her wanting to accept the invitation. "Beverly and I were speaking of it last evening. We shall be alone except for Dr. Randolph, who is going with us, but we have some pleasant young people in the neighborhood, and there is generally a good deal going on at Christmas. I think you would have a pleasant time."

"It would be the next best thing to going home," declared Marjorie, "but, oh, dear Mrs. Randolph, are you sure you really want me?"

"Quite sure," said Mrs. Randolph, kissing her.[252] "It will make us all very happy to have our nice little friend with us."

"If only Aunt Julia will let me go," said Marjorie, with a vivid recollection of her aunt's rebuke on the evening after the football game.

But, contrary to Marjorie's expectations, Mrs. Carleton made no objection to the plan, beyond hoping that the Randolphs would not find her niece too much care. Neither did Elsie make any of the unpleasant remarks her cousin expected. Since the first meeting of the Poetry Club, Beverly and she had not had much to say to each other. Beverly was always polite, but Elsie could never feel quite comfortable in his society, and the knowledge that he was not to share in any of the holiday gayeties was something of a relief. She and Marjorie were apparently very good friends, but there was a look in Marjorie's eyes sometimes when they rested on her cousin, which Elsie did not like. So when Mrs. Carleton consulted her daughter on the subject of Marjorie's going to Virginia with the Randolph's, Elsie said good-naturedly:

"Oh, let her go, Mamma; she'll have a much better time than she would here. It would be such a bother to have to take her everywhere, and see she had partners at the dances, and all[253] that. Papa would be sure to ask questions and make a fuss if she didn't have a good time."

So the invitation was accepted, and Marjorie wrote a long, joyful letter to her mother, and went to bed that night, feeling happier than she had done since coming to New York.




"It's the most beautiful place I've ever even imagined!" Marjorie spoke with conviction, and drew in a long, deep breath of the fresh morning air.

She and Beverly were standing on the wide veranda at Randolph Place gazing off over the wide landscape, of low Virginia hills, with the wide river less than half a mile away. It was a glorious morning, and the peace and quiet seemed indescribably delightful after the noisy, stuffy night on the train. Beverly was very proud of his Southern home, but boy like, he tried not to show it.

"It's pretty enough," he admitted, "but this isn't the season to see it at its best; you ought to come here in the spring."

"It's perfect just as it is," declared Marjorie. "I've read about such places, but never expected to see one myself. Is that river really the James,[255] and did your great-grandfather truly live in this very house?"

"He most certainly did," said Beverly, laughing; "my people have lived here for over a hundred years. You should have heard some of my father's war stories. He was only a boy at the time of the war, but he had some exciting experiences. When I was a little chap I used to wish I had been alive then, too."

"Oh, I love war stories!" cried Marjorie, rapturously; "are there any people here now who can tell them?"

"Yes, indeed, plenty. I'll introduce you to old Uncle Josh. He was my grandfather's body servant, and went all through the war with him. He's over seventy now, and doesn't work any more, but he and his wife live in a cabin down at the quarters."

"It all sounds just like a story-book," said Marjorie, with a little sigh of utter content. "I should think you would be tremendously proud of your home."

"I like it all right," said Beverly, "but now hadn't you better come in and have some breakfast? I hear Mother and Uncle George in the dining-room, and I should think you'd be hungry, for it's after nine, and you were up before six."[256]

"Of course I was," laughed Marjorie; "I was much too excited to sleep. I wasn't going to miss the first sight of Virginia."

The dining-room at Randolph Place was very large, and the walls were lined with portraits. Marjorie was so much interested in the portraits of great-grandfather and great-grandmother Randolph, that she came near forgetting to eat her breakfast, although the fried eggs and bacon, and waffles with maple syrup, were certainly the most delicious she had ever tasted. Mrs. Randolph and the doctor watched her with kindly amusement. Her eyes were sparkling with excitement, and there was a bright color in her cheeks; she seemed quite a different creature from the pale, subdued girl of a week before.

"I declare, Barbara, I had no idea that little girl was so pretty," Dr. Randolph remarked in a low tone to his sister-in-law, when Marjorie and Beverly were in the midst of an animated discussion about Captain John Smith and Pocahontas.

"She is charming," Mrs. Randolph answered, smiling. "It is strange how much environment has to do with appearance."

"And now I am going to take you to your room, Marjorie," said Mrs. Randolph as they rose from the breakfast table. "You will want[257] to unpack and wash up a little after that dusty journey. I have asked some cousins of ours, the Pattersons, to luncheon, and perhaps this afternoon you and Beverly will like to go for a ride. I needn't ask if you are accustomed to riding; every girl brought up on a ranch must be."

"I have ridden ever since I can remember," said Marjorie, her eyes sparkling at the prospect of the coming pleasure. "I would rather ride a horse than do anything else in the world."

Mrs. Randolph laughed, and led the way up a broad oak staircase, and along a wide hall, to the prettiest little room imaginable, all furnished in pink and white; a typical girl's room, as Marjorie saw at the first glance.

"I have put you here because this room is next to mine," Mrs. Randolph explained. "I thought you would like it better than being away down at the other end of the hall. This was my little Barbara's room," she added softly; "no one has slept here since she left it, and nothing has been changed."

"Oh, Mrs. Randolph," cried Marjorie, gratefully, "how very good you are to me, but are you sure you really want me to have this room?"

"Yes, dear, I am quite sure I do. If my Barbara were alive I know she would love you,[258] and I like to think I shall have a little girl next to me again to-night."

With a sudden impulse, Marjorie flung her arms round Mrs. Randolph's neck and hugged her. She did not speak—words did not come easily just then—but Barbara's mother understood, and the kiss she gave in return was a very tender one.

When Marjorie was left alone, her first occupation was to look about the room, and examine all its details. It was very simple, but everything was in perfect taste, and the girl admired it all, from the pretty china ornaments on the bureau, to the row of books on a shelf over the writing-desk. She took down one of the books reverently; it seemed almost like sacrilege to touch these things that had belonged to another girl, whose death had been so very sad. It was "Lorna Doone," and on the fly-leaf Marjorie read, "To Barbara Randolph, from her affectionate cousin, Grace Patterson." Then she examined the framed photographs on the mantelpiece; Mrs. Randolph and Beverly, and a gentleman whom she supposed must have been Barbara's father. There were other photographs as well, one in particular of a girl with curly hair, and a very friendly expression, and Marjorie[259] wondered if she could be the cousin, who had given Barbara "Lorna Doone." It was strange how intimate she was beginning to feel with this Barbara, who had died nearly three years ago.

Marjorie had just finished her unpacking when there was a tap at her door, and in answer to her "Come in," a girl of about her own age presented herself. One glance was sufficient to assure Marjorie that she was the same curly-haired, friendly-faced girl, whose photograph, in a silver frame, stood in a prominent place on the writing-desk.

"I'm Grace Patterson," announced the visitor, in a voice as friendly as her face. "Cousin Barbara told me to come right up; my brother and I have come over especially to see you."

"I'm very glad to meet you," said Marjorie, shaking hands, and drawing forward a chair for her guest. "I've just been looking at your picture," she added, smiling.

Grace Patterson glanced about the room, and a shade of sadness crossed her bright face.

"It seems so strange to be in this room again," she said; "I haven't been here since poor Babs—you've heard about Babs, of course?"

Marjorie nodded.

"She was my chum," said Grace, with a little[260] catch in her voice, "and one of the dearest girls that ever lived. We were almost the same age, and as neither of us had any sisters, we were together a great deal. Babs had a governess, and my younger brother and I used to come over here every day for lessons. Our place is only two miles away, and my mother and Cousin Barbara are great friends. It nearly killed poor Cousin Barbara."

"I know," said Marjorie. "It was lovely of Mrs. Randolph to let me have this room. I have been so interested in Barbara ever since I first heard about her, but I don't like to talk to her mother or brother about her."

"You know how it happened, I suppose?"

"Oh, yes; Beverly told me that. It must have been a frightful shock to you all."

"Frightful! I should say it was. Even Beverly has never been quite the same since. He was devoted to Babs, and they were such chums. I don't think it would have been quite so terrible if they could have recognized her afterward, but she was so frightfully injured—oh, I can't bear to talk about it! They recognized Miss Randolph, Bab's aunt, but poor Babs was completely crushed, and—oh, let's come downstairs. I can't stand it up here; it gives me the horrors."[261]

There were more questions Marjorie would have liked to ask, but the subject was evidently a very painful one to her new acquaintance, for Grace had grown rather pale, and there was a look of horror in her eyes. So she said no more, and the two girls went downstairs, where they found the family assembled, and where Marjorie was introduced to Harry Patterson—Grace's brother—a pleasant-faced boy of seventeen.

The Pattersons stayed to luncheon, and Marjorie liked them immensely. Grace soon recovered from the momentary depression, caused by recalling painful memories, and Marjorie was quite ready to endorse Beverly's opinion that "she was one of the jolliest girls going." They had a very merry morning, and after luncheon it was proposed that Marjorie and Beverly should ride home with the Pattersons, who had come over on their ponies.

"Marjorie is pining for a gallop, I know," said Beverly, laughing; "she is as wild about horses as you are, Grace, and trained a colt when she was nine."

"How jolly!" cried Grace; "you and I can have some fine rides together, Marjorie. I haven't had a girl to ride with since—" Grace did not finish her sentence, but Marjorie knew by[262] her suddenly heightened color, and the glance she gave Beverly, that she was thinking of her cousin Barbara.

"I declare they've brought Nelly Gray for you to ride!" whispered Grace to Marjorie, as the two girls stood on the veranda, waiting to mount. "I didn't know any one rode her now."

"She's a beauty," said Marjorie, with an admiring glance at the handsome little chestnut mare, which was being led up to the door by a groom.

"Oh, she's a love! She was Babs's pony, and Babs loved her dearly. I remember she taught her to take sugar out of her pocket."

Nelly Gray certainly was "a love" and Marjorie enjoyed that ride as she had enjoyed few things since leaving her Western home. It was a beautiful afternoon, and Nelly herself appeared to enjoy it almost as much as her rider. They took the longest way round to the Patterson home, and when they had left their friends, Beverly proposed that they should ride a few miles farther, and come home by a different road.

"I think I could ride all night without getting tired," laughed Marjorie. "This is an adorable pony."

"She was my sister's pony," said Beverly.[263]

"Yes, I know, your cousin told me. It was awfully good of you and your mother to let me ride her."

Beverly said nothing, and they rode on for a few moments in silence, both young faces unusually grave. Marjorie was the first to speak.

"I wish I could make your mother understand how much I appreciate all she has done for me," she said, impulsively. "Do you know she has given me your sister's room?"

"Yes, she told me she was going to. Mother is very fond of you, and she says she thinks Babs would have loved you, too."

"I know I should have loved her," said Marjorie, earnestly. "Grace has been telling me about her, and I have been looking at all her things."

"She was almost as fond of riding as you are," said Beverly. "She was such a plucky little girl; never afraid of anything. She rode better than any girl in the neighborhood."

Beverly's voice sounded a little husky, and Marjorie thought it might be best to change the subject, so she launched into an account of a "round up" she had once seen, and the rest of the ride was a very merry one.

"Will you mind if I stop for a moment to[264] speak to my old mammy?" Beverly asked, as they were on their way home. "She lives in one of these cabins, and I know she'll be on the lookout for me."

"Of course I won't mind," said Marjorie, promptly; "I shall love it. I've never seen a real colored mammy, but I've often read about them in stories."

"Well, you shall see one now. Ours was the genuine article, though people pretend to say the old-fashioned darky is a thing of the past. She was devoted to Babs and me, although she was a firm believer in the efficacy of the rod. We loved her dearly, and minded her better than we minded Mother. She was put on the pension list several years ago, and now has a cabin to herself. Here it is, and there's Mammy on the watch for us, as I was sure she would be. Hello, Mammy, here's your bad boy back again!"

Beverly sprang to the ground, and the next moment was being rapturously hugged by a very stout old negress, with a turban on her head. She was so exactly Marjorie's idea of what a mammy ought to be, that the girl was delighted, and sat looking on with deep interest, while Beverly and his old nurse exchanged greetings. Then Marjorie herself was introduced, and[265] Mammy begged them both to tie their horses, and come in for a cup of tea. But Beverly declared it was too late, and they finally made their escape, having promised to come another day, for a feast of the waffles, for which it appeared Mammy was famous.

"It has been one of the loveliest days I've ever had," Marjorie declared, as they rode up the avenue at Randolph Place, in the light of the setting sun. "I shall never forget it as long as I live, and I shall have so much to write home in my next letter, that I believe it will fill a volume."




"Randolph Place,
"December 26th.
"Darling Aunt Jessie:

"Christmas is over, and it really wasn't half as bad as I thought it was going to be. But before I begin writing about anything else, I must tell you how happy I was to get all your dear home letters. Uncle Henry was so kind about forwarding them as soon as they reached New York, and I had them all on Christmas Eve. Aunt Julia wrote me the box has come, too, but she will have to keep that until I get back the end of next week. How I shall adore every single thing in it!

"I sent mother a few lines the morning I got here, but that was before I had found out how beautiful it all is. It is just like the Southern plantations one reads about in stories, and everything is very interesting. There is even a dear old black mammy, who lives in a cabin, and has[267] asked Beverly and me to come and have waffles some afternoon. All the servants are black, and the butler has lived in the family nearly forty years. Then the neighbors are just the kind one reads of, so kind and hospitable, and always having good times. I think I like Southerners better than New Yorkers; they make me feel much more at home. I have met a good many of them, for we went to a Christmas dance at the Pattersons', on Christmas Eve, and I had a perfectly gorgeous time. The Pattersons are cousins of the Randolphs', and Grace, the girl, is just my age, and awfully nice; but then everybody here is nice, and I am having the very best time that it is possible for a girl to have.

"The riding is the greatest pleasure of all. Beverly and I have been out for a ride every day, and he enjoys it almost as much as I do. They have given me the dearest little chestnut to ride, and it is a great honor, because she belonged to Beverly's sister, who was killed in the San Francisco earthquake, and scarcely any one has ridden her since. She is very gentle, and so friendly that she will take sugar out of my pocket. Beverly says his sister taught her to do that.

"But if I go on chattering like this, I shall[268] never get to Christmas, which was the most interesting of all. The Virginians seem to think a great deal of Christmas, and nearly all the day before we were busy dressing a tree for the little negroes on the plantation. Mrs. Randolph had brought presents from New York for all of them, and for the fathers and mothers as well. Beverly says she has done the same thing every Christmas since her little girl died; it is a sort of memorial, I suppose. We all hung up our stockings, even Mrs. Randolph and the doctor, who is just as nice and jolly as he can be, though Grace Patterson says some people are afraid of him. It was late when we got back from the Pattersons' party on Christmas Eve, but after I was in bed I heard Mrs. Randolph going about softly, filling the stockings, which were all hung outside our doors.

"I was so tired after the party, that I didn't wake till after seven, and then the very first thing I did was to run and look at my stocking. It was stuffed full of good things; oranges, candy, figs and dates, and just as I thought I had reached the bottom, I felt something hard away down in the toe. What do you think it was? You will never guess, so I may as well tell you right away; it was a little velvet box, and inside[269] was a ring, a beautiful gold ring, with two adorable little pearls in it! That was Mrs. Randolph's Christmas present, and the loveliest thing I have ever had in my life. I was so happy when I saw it that I cried; I know it was dreadfully silly, but I couldn't help it. Oh, how I wish I could show it to you this minute, but you will see it when I come home next June, and all my other presents, too, for the ring wasn't the only one. When I came down to breakfast there were more parcels beside my plate; two nice books from Beverly, and a gold bracelet from the doctor. Just think of it, two pieces of jewelry in one day! I am sure I didn't deserve such beautiful things, but when I told them so, and tried to thank them, they only laughed.

"In the morning we went to church, and the Christmas music was lovely. We met the Pattersons at church, and they all came home with us to dinner. Oh, such a dinner! I don't see how any one could possibly ever eat so many things. There were more dishes than I have ever imagined possible for one meal, and every single one was delicious.

"After dinner came the tree for the children, and that was the best fun of all. I quite lost my heart to some of the piccaninnies, and one little[270] chap, as black as coal, was so adorable that I wanted to hug him. The children all had a beautiful time, and screamed with delight over their presents. How I wished you and Mother could have seen Mrs. Randolph going about among them, speaking so pleasantly to every one, and making them all feel at home. After the tree had been stripped they all had ice cream, and I got hold of my little black boy, and made him sit on my lap while I fed him until I don't believe he could have swallowed another mouthful. Then the old butler, who is just like a negro servant in a book, proposed three cheers for Mrs. Randolph, and you should have heard those darkies yell!

"The Pattersons left as soon as the fun was over, and we all went upstairs to our rooms to rest. But I wasn't a bit tired, and was afraid that if I sat down to think I might be homesick, so I thought I would go for a walk. I was just starting when I saw Mrs. Randolph come out from the greenhouse, with her hat on, and her hands full of beautiful roses, and I stopped to ask if she were going for a walk, too, and if I might go with her. She hesitated for a minute, and then said I might come if I liked, but she was afraid I would find it sad; she was going to the[271] cemetery to put flowers on her little girl's grave. She said it quite calmly, but there was such a sad look in her eyes, and I was horribly embarrassed, for I was afraid I ought not to have suggested going with her. But she assured me she would really like to have me, if I didn't mind, so of course I went, and, oh, Aunt Jessie, I am so glad I did. It was all beautiful and sacred—almost too sacred to write about, even to you and Mother. The cemetery was such a lovely, peaceful place, and as it was quite warm and pleasant, we sat down by Barbara Randolph's grave, and her mother talked to me about her. It was the first time she has ever told me much about Barbara, and I was so interested in all she said. I don't think I shall ever be afraid of dying again; Mrs. Randolph spoke so beautifully about it. She says she can never feel that her little girl is far away, and she is quite sure they will be together again some day. I think Barbara must have been an awfully nice girl; every one seems so fond of her. Grace Patterson was her chum, and she can hardly speak of her without crying. As for Beverly, he just can't bear to talk about her at all, and I don't dare ask him a single question. Grace says he was devoted to her, and she adored him. I wish I could see a picture of[272] Barbara, but there are no photographs of her about. Mrs. Randolph wears a little gold locket, and I am sure there is a miniature of Barbara inside, but I have never had the courage to ask her to show it to me. I was just making up my mind to do it yesterday, when we heard footsteps, and there was Beverly himself, bringing more flowers. He didn't know we were there, and looked horribly embarrassed when he saw us. Boys always hate to show their feelings, and I think he would have gone away again without speaking to us, if his mother hadn't called him. She was so pleased to see him, and after the first minute I don't think he really minded. I thought they might like to be alone, so I slipped away as quietly as I could, and on the way home I met the doctor, and he asked me to go for a walk with him. I know you would like Dr. Randolph; he is so clever, and has traveled almost all over the world. He told me such an interesting story about a Christmas he once spent in Jerusalem. It is so pleasant that he met Father at Harvard, and remembers all about him. He says Father was a very handsome boy, and a great favorite with the girls. Doesn't it seem queer to think of Father's going to dances and flirting with girls! He looks so[273] much older than Dr. Randolph, and yet I suppose they must be about the same age.

"Mrs. Randolph and Beverly were quite cheerful when they came home, and I noticed that Beverly was very gentle with his mother all the evening. He is always nice to her, and that is one of the reasons why I like him so much. One of the things that has surprised me most of all in New York, is the way some of the girls and boys speak to their fathers and mothers. I really don't know what Mother would do to me if I were ever to answer her back the way Elsie sometimes answers Aunt Julia, but her mother doesn't seem to mind.

"We had a quiet evening at home, but it was pleasant, for we were all a little tired. Mrs. Randolph and the doctor played cribbage, and Beverly sang; he has a lovely voice, but he won't often sing. Altogether my Christmas was a very happy one, and if I did 'weep a little weep' after I was in bed, it was only natural, considering it was my first Christmas away from you all. Oh, Aunt Jessie, darling, I am having a beautiful visit, but I never forget you, or Father or Mother, a single minute! I love your letters better than anything else, and I am just longing to get my hands on that precious Christmas box.[274] I hope you will all like the presents I sent. Uncle Henry was so kind; he gave me twenty-five dollars to spend for Christmas presents. I never had so much money in my life, but Aunt Julia helped me select the presents, which was a great relief, for I should never have known what to buy without her. Things seem to cost so much more than one expects them to.

"I felt sure you and Mother would want something I had made myself, and I hope you will like the color of the shawl; Mrs. Randolph thought it very pretty. I chose the little daisy pin for Undine, because I liked it so much myself. I am so glad you have all grown so fond of her, and that she is happy, and doesn't worry so much about not remembering.

"Beverly is calling me to go for a ride, so I must stop writing. Heaps of hugs and kisses for everybody from

"Your own




"Don't you think there is always something very sad about last days in places?"

Beverly laughed, and cast an amused glance at his companion's sober face. He and Marjorie were trotting leisurely along a road where the trees met overhead in summer, although now the boughs were leafless, and there was a light covering of snow on the ground. It was their last afternoon in Virginia, and they were making the most of it, despite a lowering sky, and a frostiness in the air, which threatened more snow before night.

"Just think," Marjorie went on mournfully, "I sha'n't have another ride for five whole months. School doesn't close till the first of June."

"Why don't you ride in the park? Lots of girls do, you know. Ask your uncle to hire a horse for you from the riding academy."

Marjorie blushed.[276]

"I don't like to," she said, frankly. "Uncle Henry and Aunt Julia are doing so much for me already, I don't think I ought to ask for anything more. Elsie doesn't ride in New York."

"Well, I have no doubt she could if she wanted to. I imagine Miss Elsie generally gets what she wants."

"You don't like Elsie, do you?" The words were out before Marjorie realized she had uttered them. The next moment she wished she had not asked the question.

"No, I don't," said Beverly, honestly.

"I'm sorry; I wish you did; she's so clever, and—and there are lots of nice things about her. You see, she is an only child, and her father and mother worship her. I suppose she can't help being a little spoiled."

"Well, you are an only child, too, and I have no doubt your family are as fond of you as Elsie's are of her, but you are not spoiled."

Marjorie was silent. She felt that loyalty to her cousin required her to say something in Elsie's defence, and yet what could she say? After a moment's silence Beverly went on.

"I should like your cousin a lot better if she resigned from being president of that Club."

"She—she tore up the poem," faltered Marjorie.[277] "She said it was trash. I don't think she meant to do anything mean, but she is so clever, she couldn't bear to have any other poem better than hers."

"You're a loyal little soul, Marjorie," said Beverly, approvingly, "but all you can say won't alter the fact that your cousin did a mean, contemptible thing. She knows I found her out, and she hasn't looked me straight in the face since. I don't like sneaks in girls any better than in boys."

Marjorie felt the conversation had gone far enough. She did not wish to discuss Elsie even with Beverly Randolph, although the two had become great friends during the past ten days, so after a little pause, she changed the subject by asking her companion if he did not think they had better be turning towards home.

Beverly glanced at his watch.

"I suppose we'd better," he said, reluctantly. "I hate to cut our last ride short, but Mammy will be heart-broken if we keep her waffles waiting."

"I'm so glad we are going to Mammy's cabin," Marjorie said, as they turned the horses' heads in a homeward direction. "It makes me think of so many things I have read. Don't you remember[278] in 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' how George Selby used to slip away from the big house, and go down to Uncle Tom's for waffles and fried chicken? Mammy is such an old dear; I do want to hear her talk again."

"She certainly is a character," said Beverly, laughing. "We'll get her to tell some anecdotes about Barbara and me. According to Mammy I must have been a pickle."

Marjorie was conscious of a feeling of relief at having successfully turned the conversation away from Elsie and her affairs, and she and Beverly chatted on pleasantly until they reached Mammy's cabin, where they dismounted and Beverly tied the horses to the hitching post. Mammy was on the watch for them, and gave them a hearty welcome.

"Now you jes lay off yo' tings, and set down by de fiah," she commanded, placing chairs for the visitors, "an' I'll have dem waffles done in a jiffy. Lor', Mas'r Bev'ly, it jes' does my heart good to see you settin' heah in my kitchen, like you used to do when you an' Miss Babs—now Mas'r Bev'ly, don't you tease my Josephus; he mighty 'telligent cat, he is. He won't stan' no foolin'."

"He's a beauty," said Marjorie, stooping to[279] stroke the big maltese, who responded to the caress by springing on the arm of her chair.

Mammy beamed with satisfaction.

"Josephus likes you fust rate, Missy," she said, approvingly. "He don't make friends with mos' folks; he's too 'ristocratic. He knows what's what, Josephus does."

"Mammy is the most delicious snob," laughed Beverly; "she only allows Josephus to associate with aristocratic cats. All the unfortunate plebeian cats in the neighborhood are driven away with a stick."

"Cose dey is," declared Mammy, indignantly. "What yo s'pose I want common, no-'count cats botherin' round heah for? Ain't I always lived in de most 'ristocratic Virginia fam'lies, and wasn't my paw own body-servant to ole General Putnam, an' my maw bought by Mas'r Randolph's father when she weren't more'n ten years old, an' brought up in de house, to be maid to de young ladies? I'se lived in de fust fam'lies, I has, and I'm proud of it, too."

"What a perfectly heavenly place!" whispered Marjorie to Beverly, with a glance round the neat little kitchen, as the old negress bustled away intent on household duties.

"You must get Mammy to show you the family[280] photographs before we go," said Beverly; "she has quite a gallery, and can give you the separate history of each picture. Ah, here come the waffles. Nobody can beat you on waffles, Mammy."

The old woman grinned.

"Cose dey cyan't," she said, placidly. "Dere cyan't nobody in dese parts beat me on waffles and corn-bread. Folks comes askin' for my recipes, but it ain't de recipe dat does it, it's de light hand. Now Mas'r Bev'ly, don't you take de whole dishful; dere's plenty more comin'. Lor' sakes, Missy, you jes' oughter seen de way dat boy would go in for waffles an' maple syrup when he was little. Do you 'member de day, Mas'r Bev'ly, when yo maw was havin' lot of comp'ny for tea, an' yo' an' Miss Babs sneaked into de pantry, and eat up all de lobster salad 'fo' de comp'ny got a chance to have it? What a swattin' I did give de two of you' for dat!"

"Yes, indeed I remember it," said Beverly, laughing. "I deserved the 'swatting' more than Babs did, for she was only four and I was eight."

"Dat's true; but yo' bofe deserved it bad enough. Lordie! How dat chile Babs could stuff! Notin' ever hurted her, and de wust of it[281] was, she didn't mind castor oil no more'n if it was molasses. Have some more syrup, Missy; waffles ain't no good without plenty of syrup. You was forever gettin' Miss Babs into mischief, Mas'r Bev'ly. I'll never forget de day I dressed de two of you in yo' best white suits, cause yo' grandmother Randolph was comin' on a visit, an' de minute my back was turned you was bofe off to de swamp. My, what sights you was when I found you! Miss Babs had tumbled in, an' yo' two faces was as black as mine, and you was all over black mud. You bofe got a good whippin', an' was put to bed in de middle of de day, but Lordie! What good did it do? Miss Babs was sound asleep in ten minutes, and never woke up till nex' mornin'. Nottin' ever upset her fo' long; God bless her."

The old woman's voice grew very gentle and Beverly, who had been smiling over the childish reminiscences, grew suddenly grave. But Mammy was a cheerful soul, and she did not intend to sadden the young people's visit.

"Well, de Lord has his reasons, I s'pose," she said, with a sigh, "but dey does seem hard to make out sometimes. Jes' 'scuse me one minute; I got some hot ones on de fiah."

When Marjorie and Beverly had eaten so many[282] waffles that they felt as though they should not require anything more in the way of food for days, Mammy reluctantly desisted from her hospitable efforts to force another plateful upon her visitors, and the hospitably entertained young people rose to go.

"I've had a lovely time," declared Marjorie, heartily. "It was dear of you to let me come, Mammy; I shall never forget it."

"Any frien' of de Randolph fam'ly is always welcome to my cabin," said Mammy, with the air of a queen dispensing hospitality to her subjects. "Would you like to see de fam'ly pictures 'fo' you go?"

Marjorie said she would like nothing better, and while Beverly went out to untie the horses, she followed Mammy into her tiny bedroom, the walls of which were literally covered with photographs.

"Dis," announced Mammy, pausing in the doorway, and pointing to a gentleman in uniform, "is Mas'r Will Randolph, Mas'r Bev'ly's gran'father, took in de clothes he wore when he went to de wah. Dis lady is his wife, de mis' Randolph dat brought up my maw; a gran' lady she was too. Dis is Mas'r Bev'ly's father when he went away to school, jes after de wah was[283] over. Dis one is Mas'r Bev'ly's maw in her first ball dress. Dat's Mas'r Bev'ly when he was a baby, and here's Miss Babs in her fust short clothes. Over on dis side is Mas'r Bev'ly when he was seven, and dis is—oh, good Lordie, Missy, whatever is de matter?"

Marjorie—who had been following Mammy from one photograph to another, with amused interest—had suddenly uttered a sharp cry of astonishment, and was staring blankly at the photograph of a girl of twelve, which was occupying the place of honor over Mammy's bed.

"Who—who is that?" she gasped, seizing the old woman's arm, and beginning to tremble with excitement.

"Dat Miss Babs, took jes' 'fo' she went away to Californy," said Mammy, sadly. "Land sakes, Missy! What is it? You jes' sit right down heah, an' I'll go call Mas'r Bev'ly."

When Beverly appeared in answer to Mammy's hasty summons, he found Marjorie ghastly white, and shaking from head to foot.

"Good gracious, Marjorie!" exclaimed the boy, springing to her side, "what's the matter? Don't you feel well—is it the waffles?"

"It's—it's Undine!" faltered Marjorie, with shaking lips, and she pointed to the photograph[284] on which her eyes still rested, in a wild, incredulous stare.

"Land Sakes, Missy! What is it?"—Page 283. "Land Sakes, Missy! What is it?"—Page 283.

"'Undine,'" repeated Beverly, stupidly, "who is Undine? That is the picture of my sister Barbara."

"It's Undine," repeated Marjorie, with obstinate persistence; "it's exactly like her; I would know her anywhere."

"But who is Undine? I never even heard of her?"

"Yes, you did; I told you about her once, and you said I mustn't mention her to your mother, because she was hurt in the earthquake. We called her Undine, because she couldn't remember her real name, or anything that happened to her before the earthquake. That's her photograph, Beverly, I tell you it is—it is!"

Beverly had grown very pale, but he made a great effort at self-control.

"Don't talk nonsense, Marjorie," he said, almost angrily; "I tell you that is my sister's photograph. I can show you another just like it at home."

"Beverly," cried Marjorie, clasping her hands, and speaking in a tone of sudden conviction, "I am not talking nonsense. That is the picture of the girl who has been at the ranch since last[285] August. She was found in the street just after the earthquake, half buried under some ruins. She was unconscious, and they took her to a hospital. She has never been able to remember anything about herself since. Your sister was in the earthquake, too; you think she was killed, but perhaps—oh, Beverly dear, let us go home quick, and tell your uncle all about it."

Mrs. Randolph was in the library reading. Twice she had put down her book, and gone to the window to look out. It was growing dark, and had begun to snow.

"How late they are," she said to herself, with an anxious glance at the clock. "They ought to be back by this time, but I suppose they have stayed listening to Mammy's stories, and forgotten the time."

She sat down again by the fire, and took up her book. But she was feeling restless and nervous that afternoon, though she could not have told why, and after reading a page, she closed the book again.

"I wish they would come," she said, impatiently. "No one knows what may have happened; they may never have reached Mammy's cabin. I think I will go and speak to George. He will laugh at me for worrying, but that will[286] be better than sitting here by myself. There's the clock striking six; they should have been in an hour ago."

She rose, and was moving towards the door when she heard an approaching footstep, and in another moment her brother-in-law himself came into the room.

"I was just coming to look for you, George," she said; "I am getting a little anxious about the children."

"The children are all right," said the doctor, quietly, sinking into the arm-chair by the fire; "they came in half an hour ago, and have gone to their rooms. Marjorie was feeling a little upset, and I advised her to go and lie down till dinner-time."

Mrs. Randolph turned towards the door again.

"I think I will go and see if there is anything I can do for her," she said. "It isn't like Marjorie to give up; I'm afraid she isn't well."

But Dr. Randolph held out a detaining hand.

"Sit down, Barbara," he said, "I want to talk to you. There is nothing the matter with Marjorie or Beverly either. They have had a long ride, and stopped at Mammy's for waffles. I want to ask you a favor. I have just received some important news, which will necessitate my[287] going West at once, and I want you to let Beverly go with me."

Mrs. Randolph was very much surprised.

"But, George dear," she remonstrated gently, "college begins again on Monday—do you think it wise to take the boy away just now?"

"I shall not be gone more than a week, and I want Beverly for company. He has never seen much of his own country, and this trip to Arizona will do him an immense amount of good. As for college, a few days more or less won't make any material difference, and he can make up for lost time when he gets back."

Mrs. Randolph still looked doubtful, but the doctor was Beverly's guardian, and since her husband's death she had been accustomed to depend upon his judgment and advice. So instead of arguing the point, she only said:

"Of course he may go if you think best, George, only it does seem foolish to take him away so soon again after his holidays."

"I do think it best, Barbara," said the doctor, decidedly. "I want the boy with me very much. I must start as soon as possible. Do you think you could persuade Emma Patterson to go home with you and Marjorie to-morrow, and stay till Beverly and I come back?"[288]

"I can try," said Mrs. Randolph, who was still unconvinced of the wisdom of this sudden whim of her brother-in-law's, and a little uneasy as well. "Emma has promised to visit us later; perhaps she would be willing to come now instead. You know, George dear, I never ask you about your cases, but this seems so very sudden—are you going to see a patient?"

"Yes," said the doctor, quietly. "I may be able to tell you more about the case when I come back, but I cannot now."

Mrs. Randolph regarded him anxiously.

"I am afraid you are not well, George," she said, "you are dreadfully pale. Is that why you don't want to take this long journey alone?"

"Not exactly. I am perfectly well, but—well, the fact is, this may prove a very trying business, and I want the boy with me."

"Then you shall certainly have him," said Mrs. Randolph, with decision. "Have you spoken to Beverly on the subject?"

"Yes, and he is most anxious to go. Now I must make arrangements about accommodations on the train, for I want to be off early in the morning, if possible. Wouldn't it be a good idea to telephone Emma Patterson at once, and see[289] if she can be ready to go with you and Marjorie?"

Mrs. Randolph stood for a moment, looking after her brother-in-law as he left the room.

"There is something wrong," she said: "I never saw George so agitated before. I wish I knew what it was, but doctors don't like to be questioned. I hate to have Beverly lose a whole week of college, but if his uncle needs him, I have nothing more to say." And, with a resigned sigh, she went away to telephone to her cousin, Mrs. Patterson.




"'A Highland laddie lives over the lea;
A laddie both noble and gallant and free,
Who loved a lassie as noble as he—
A bonnie sweet lassie; the maid of Dundee.'"

Mrs. Graham glanced up from her sewing, with a smile.

"What a sweet voice that child has," she said; "with training I believe she would sing remarkably well."

"I love to hear her singing about the house," said Miss Jessie, also pausing to listen to the clear young voice; "I wonder where she learned all those old songs. I remember that ballad, but I haven't heard it since I was a child."

"She probably picks them up from Jim," Mrs. Graham suggested; "he is always singing about the place."

"I don't think I ever heard Jim sing this one," said Miss Jessie, reflectively. "Susie, I do wish we could find out something about the[291] child's family. I feel sure she has been brought up among people of refinement."

"She is a very attractive girl," Mrs. Graham agreed, "but if she has relatives it seems incredible that they should never have made the slightest effort to find her. Donald and I were talking about her last night. He thinks that any relatives she had must have been killed in the earthquake. It seems the only explanation. There is nothing for us to do but wait patiently in the hope that Undine may some time be able to tell us everything herself. I confess I should be very sorry to part with her; she has been a great help and comfort since Marjorie went away."

"She has indeed," said Miss Jessie, heartily. "I have grown very fond of her, and I think she cares for us, too. We should have another letter from Marjorie by this time."

"Yes, Jim has gone for the mail; he may bring one this afternoon. It does my heart good to know the dear child is having such a happy holiday. I would like to write and thank Mrs. Randolph for all her kindness to Marjorie; she must be a lovely woman."

"I am sure she is, and the son must be a nice boy, too, judging from what Marjorie says. Our[292] little girl has made some good friends, as I felt sure she would."

Mrs. Graham rose, and began folding up her work.

"I must go to the kitchen to look after Juanita," she said. "It is a lovely afternoon. Why don't you get Undine to wheel you out in the sun for an hour?"

"I think I will," said Miss Jessie, with a glance out of the windows at the cloudless sky and brilliant winter sunshine. "Ah, here comes Undine. Undine dear, I think I will go out for a little while."

The bright-faced, rosy-cheeked girl who entered the room at this moment was a very different being from the pale, timid, little waif of four months earlier. She had grown at least two inches, and the clothes which had hung loosely about her in her first days at the ranch had now become a tight fit. At Miss Jessie's request she smiled, and came hurrying to the side of her kind friend.

"It's a glorious day," she said; "it makes one happy just to be alive. I've had such a wonderful ride. I went as far as the railroad, and saw the West Bound pass; it was two hours late. I'll get your warm coat and some wraps[293] and we'll sit behind the playhouse. You won't feel the wind there, and it will be heavenly."

"Undine," said Miss Graham suddenly, when the two were comfortably established in one of their favorite nooks; the invalid in her chair, and her companion on a rug spread on the ground; "where did you learn the song I heard you singing when you came in from your ride just now?"

"I forget which it was," said Undine, looking puzzled. "Oh, yes, I remember—'A Highland Laddie Lived over the Lea.' I don't know where I learned it—isn't it one of Jim's songs?"

"I don't think so, dear, but we can ask him. I never heard you sing it before."

Something of the old, troubled, far-away look crept into Undine's face.

"I don't know how I remember things," she said, slowly; "they just come into my head sometimes. Now that I think of it, I don't believe I have ever heard Jim sing that song. I must have heard it somewhere, though."

Miss Graham said nothing, and there was a short pause, which Undine broke.

"You and Mrs. Graham don't like to have me talk about the things I can't remember," she said, a little wistfully.

"Only because we don't want you to distress[294] yourself and try to force your brain. I have always told you I was sure the memory would come back some day."

"I think it is coming soon," said Undine, softly. "I keep having dreams. I dreamt of my mother last night."

There was a quiver in the girl's voice, and Miss Jessie leaned forward and laid a kind hand on her shoulder.

"Tell me about it, dear," she said, gently.

Undine drew a deep breath that was almost a sob.

"It was a beautiful dream," she said. "My mother and I were in a dear little room, all furnished in pink and white. I don't know where it was, but it seemed quite familiar in the dream. I was unhappy about something, and my mother kissed me, and put her arms round me. She had such a dear, beautiful face. Oh, Miss Jessie, do you suppose my poor mother was killed in that dreadful earthquake?"

"My dear little girl, we cannot possibly know that; we must have patience. Have you had other dreams?"

"Yes. The other night I dreamt I was playing with a boy in a swamp. There was a black woman in the dream, too; she scolded us, but I[295] wasn't a bit afraid of her. Do you think perhaps they were people I used to know?"

"I don't know, dear; it may be possible, but you mustn't let these things worry you. You are happy here with us, are you not?"

"Happy!" cried the girl, with sparkling eyes, "I never expected to be so happy anywhere. As long as I live I shall never forget all you and Mr. and Mrs. Graham have done for me, but I can't help wanting to remember."

"Of course you can't; that is quite natural. We all want you to remember, too, but we must have patience. The more you strain your brain, the longer it may take for the memory to come back. You have been a great comfort to us since Marjorie went away; I told her so in my last letter."

"I am so glad," said Undine, smiling. "I promised Marjorie I would try, but of course I knew I could never take her place. Oh, Miss Jessie, you said I might read Marjorie's last letter. It came when I was out, you know, and I didn't hear you read it to Mrs. Graham."

"So I did, I am glad you reminded me, for I had forgotten all about it. It was written from the place in Virginia where she has been spending the holidays, and tells all about their Christmas[296] festivities. It is in the right-hand drawer of my desk—you may read it whenever you like."

Undine glanced at the book in Miss Graham's lap.

"If you don't want me for anything, and are going to stay here for a while, I think I will go and read it now," she said; "I love Marjorie's letters."

"Very well, dear; I want to finish this book before we begin the one we are going to read together. It won't take me more than fifteen minutes."

Undine scrambled to her feet.

"All right," she said; "I'll be back before that. Oh, Miss Jessie, isn't the air glorious to-day? It makes me feel so happy and excited; just as if something were going to happen."

Undine tripped away to the house, and Miss Graham, as she opened her book, heard the clear young voice singing:

"'A Highland laddie lives over the lea;
A laddie both noble and gallant and free.'"

The song died away in the distance, and Miss Jessie became absorbed in her story. It was very still, and not a sound came to disturb her[297] until she had turned the last page. Then she closed the book, and looked up in surprise.

"How long Undine takes to read that letter!" she said to herself, in some surprise.

Another ten minutes slipped away, but Miss Jessie was accustomed to waiting patiently—she had done little else for the past eight years.

"Susie must have kept the child for something," she decided, and settled comfortably back in her chair to await Undine's return.

But it was not like her sister-in-law to detain Undine without sending some explanation; neither was it like the girl to remain away so long. At the end of another ten minutes Miss Jessie began to be a little curious.

"What can be the matter?" she said uneasily, her thoughts reverting to a possible accident to her brother, who had gone to try some new horses that afternoon. "I think I'll wheel myself back to the house and find out."

But at that moment she caught sight of her sister-in-law coming towards her across the lawn. Mrs. Graham was looking cheerful and serene as usual, and carried some sewing in her hand.

"I thought I would come and join you," she said, as soon as she was within speaking distance.[298] "It's much too lovely to stay in doors. Where's Undine?"

"I don't know," said Miss Jessie, "I thought she was with you. She went in half an hour ago, to read Marjorie's last letter, which I had forgotten to show her, and hasn't come back since."

"I haven't seen her," said Mrs. Graham, looking a little annoyed, "but then I have been in the kitchen with Juanita. Undine ought not to go off like this, and leave you alone so long."

"She never did such a thing before," said Miss Jessie, anxiously. "I wish you would go and see where she is, Susie."

"Oh, she is all right, I am sure," Mrs. Graham maintained, but she turned back towards the house, nevertheless, for it had also occurred to her that it was unlike Undine to neglect her duty.

There was not a sound to be heard when Mrs. Graham reached the house and although she called Undine several times, she received no answer.

"Where can the child be?" she said, beginning to feel a little frightened, and she hurried to Undine's room. The door was open, and her first impression was that the room was empty. She[299] was turning away again, more and more puzzled by the girl's mysterious disappearance, when her eye was caught by a heap of something white lying on the floor by the window, and in another moment she had hurried forward, with an exclamation of dismay, and was bending over Undine, who lay, white and unconscious on the floor, with Marjorie's letter clasped convulsively in her hand.

When Undine opened her eyes she was lying on her bed, and Mrs. Graham was bathing her forehead, while the faithful Juanita plied a palm-leaf fan and held a bottle of smelling-salts to her nose. For a moment the girl gazed about her in a kind of dull bewilderment; then a look of recollection came into her eyes, and she started up, with a sharp cry.

"I'm not dead, I'm not dead! Oh, tell them it isn't true! I'm not; I'm not!"

"Lie down, dear," said Mrs. Graham in a tone of gentle authority. "Of course you are not dead; you fainted, that is all. You are better now, and if you lie still for a few minutes you will be all right."

"But the letter said I was dead," persisted Undine, wildly, and she fixed her big, terrified eyes on Mrs. Graham's astonished face. "It[300] said Barbara Randolph was dead, and her mother put flowers on her grave."

Mrs. Graham was beginning to be seriously alarmed for the girl's reason, but she made an effort to appear calm.

"My dear child," she said, soothingly, "you don't know what you are saying. Barbara Randolph is the daughter of the lady with whom Marjorie has been staying; she died long ago; she had nothing to do with you."

"But she didn't die, I know she didn't!" cried Undine, sitting up, despite all Mrs. Graham's efforts to keep her quiet. "I knew it when I read the letter. For one minute I remembered something horrible. I don't remember it any more now, but I was so frightened, and—oh, Mrs. Graham, I was so terribly frightened!" And the poor child burst into a fit of wild, hysterical sobbing, and clung passionately to her kind friend's neck.

Miss Jessie pushed her wheeled-chair out onto the porch, and strained her eyes in the gathering dusk, in the vain hope of seeing some approaching figure. Fortunately the January evening was warm, but even if it had been cold she would scarcely have been aware of the fact. She was[301] very anxious, and this long suspense of waiting was hard to bear. It was more than two hours since Undine had regained consciousness, and in all that time the girl had scarcely uttered an intelligible word. She had passed from one hysterical fit into another, and Mrs. Graham and Juanita were at their wits' end. For almost the first time in twelve years Miss Jessie realized the awful loneliness of their lives. "Donald must surely be back soon," she told herself, trying to be patient, "and Jim will be here with the mail before long. Oh, that poor child—what can it all mean?"

There was a slight sound behind her, and Mrs. Graham, too, stepped out on the porch. She was looking pale and distressed.

"How is she now?" Miss Jessie whispered, anxiously.

"I think she has fallen into a doze; she must be quite exhausted, poor child. She has had a terrible shock of some kind."

"Do you think it can have been caused by anything in Marjorie's letter? She must have been reading it when she fainted."

"I don't know what to think," said Mrs. Graham, clasping her hands nervously. "She spoke of that Randolph girl—the little girl who[302] was killed in the earthquake, you know. Oh, Jessie, you don't suppose—" Mrs. Graham did not finish her sentence, but the two women looked at each other in the dusk, and both their faces were pale and startled.

"I must go back," said Mrs. Graham in a hurried whisper; "I dare not leave her long. When she wakes she may remember; I think her memory is coming back. I am afraid you will take cold out here."

"I am not cold, but I will come in soon. I am waiting for Donald and Jim. I must warn them not to speak loud; it might startle her again."

Mrs. Graham made no further objection, but went back into the house and Miss Jessie folded her hands and waited.

Five, ten minutes passed, and then came the sound of distant hoofs. With a sigh of intense relief, Miss Jessie sent the wheeled-chair gliding smoothly off the porch, and across the lawn. The hoof-beats drew nearer, and now she heard voices. Was it her brother or Jim, and who were the others, for she distinctly heard more than one voice?

"Is it you, Donald?" she called, and in the[303] still, clear air, her voice was audible an eighth of a mile away.

"No, Miss, it ain't Mr. Graham, it's me," came the answer in Jim's well-known voice. "I've got some folks with me."

Miss Jessie waited in silence while the hoofs and voices drew nearer. It was no uncommon thing for strangers to stop at the ranch, where they were always sure of a hospitable reception and a night's lodging. She was glad Jim was not alone. Perhaps the visitors, whoever they were, might be able to help, but how she could not imagine. It was nearly dark, and the first few stars were beginning to glimmer in the evening sky.

The horses were very near now, and she could distinguish three figures, one was Jim Hathaway, the other two were strangers.

"I beg your pardon, Madame." It was the elder of the two strangers who spoke; he had sprung from his horse, and taken off his hat. Even in the dim light Miss Jessie could see that he was a gentleman. His companion she noticed was much younger, scarcely more than a boy indeed, and he, too, was regarding her with eager, questioning eyes.[304]

"I must introduce myself," the gentleman went on, courteously. "I think you may have heard Marjorie speak of me. I am Dr. Randolph, and this is my nephew Beverly."

Miss Jessie gave a little joyful cry, and held out both hands.

"Is it about Undine?" she whispered breathlessly. "Have you come for her, and is it really true that the child is your niece?"

It was some time before Undine awoke from the heavy sleep of exhaustion into which she had fallen. She opened her eyes, gazed about her vaguely, and murmured, "Mother! I want Mother."

"Yes, dear, I know," said Mrs. Graham, softly kissing the girl's hot forehead. "Your mother isn't here, but she is safe and well, and you shall go to her very soon."

Undine smiled faintly, and then a troubled look came into her face.

"I forgot her," she said, dreamily, "I forgot my mother for a long time, but I remember now, and I want her—oh, I want her." And she stretched out her arms in helpless longing.

Then Mrs. Graham moved aside, and some one else bent over her.[305]

"Babs," said a low, tremulous voice, "Babs darling, don't you know me? It's Beverly."

With a great cry of joy Undine started up, and in another second she was clinging convulsively round her brother's neck.

"Beverly," she sobbed, "oh, Beverly, I remember; I remember everything. It's all come back; poor Aunt Helen, that dreadful, dreadful time! You thought I was dead, and you and Mother put flowers on my grave; but I wasn't dead, I had only forgotten. Hold me, Beverly, hold me tight; I'm so afraid I'm going to forget again."




But Undine did not forget again, although it was some time before she was able to give any coherent account of what she could remember. Indeed, she was in such a feverish, hysterical condition, that Dr. Randolph would not allow any attempt at questioning her that night.

"She has had a terrible shock, poor child," he said to Mrs. Graham. "The reading of that letter must have brought everything back with a rush and the knowledge that she had been mourned as dead for nearly three years was almost more than she could bear. But she is young and strong, and a good night's sleep will do wonders for her. When I think of what we owe to you and your—" The doctor's voice broke suddenly, and he impulsively held out his hand.

"I think our obligations are mutual," said Mrs. Graham, smiling, though there were tears in her eyes. "According to Marjorie's last letter,[307] you and Mrs. Randolph have been making our little girl very happy, while your niece has been a great comfort to us. It is all so strange and wonderful that I can scarcely realize yet that it isn't a dream."

It was pitiful to see Undine cling to her brother; she could not bear to have him out of her sight for a moment, and Beverly himself, almost stunned by the great shock of the discovery that Undine and Barbara were really one and the same, coming at the end of four days of almost unendurable suspense, could do little beyond hovering over his sister, in joy and thankfulness too deep for words.

"Does Mother know, Beverly?" Undine whispered, late that evening, when the two were alone together.

"No, Babs, she doesn't know yet, but we are going to take you home just as soon as we can. We couldn't let Mother even suspect until we were sure ourselves. Marjorie was certain she recognized your photograph, but Uncle George and I couldn't believe it was true; it seemed so impossible."

"Poor, poor Mother," sighed Undine; "oh, Beverly, how unhappy she must have been!"

"Don't talk about it, Babs; you know Uncle[308] George doesn't want you to talk. You must try to go to sleep, so as to be able to start for home as soon as possible."

"I'm afraid to go to sleep," protested Undine, feverishly. "Perhaps when I wake I shall have forgotten everything again. Oh, Beverly, don't let me forget again."

"Of course we won't let you," said Beverly, putting a strong arm around her, protectingly. "You are quite safe now, you know, Babs darling, Uncle George and I are here, and we're going to take you home to Mother."

Undine breathed a deep sigh of relief, as she nestled in her brother's arms, and when she fell asleep at last it was with Beverly's hand clasped fast in hers.

But after a long night's sleep, and a joyful waking, to find that she had not forgotten again, Undine was quite a different creature, and during the morning that followed she was able to give her uncle and brother a fairly clear account of her adventures.

"I remember it all quite well now," she said. "Aunt Helen was ill that night, and she said she would have the maid sleep in her room, in case she might need something. I slept in the maid's room, which was just across the hall. I was[309] very tired, and I think I must have gone to sleep as soon as I was in bed, for I don't remember anything until I woke hearing a terrible noise. The whole hotel seemed to be rocking, and I saw some of the things on the bureau fall over, and a picture came down off the wall. I think I was too frightened to move, for I lay quite still, thinking every minute that Aunt Helen would come and tell me what had happened. In a few moments the shaking stopped and then I heard people screaming and running about in the halls.

"Aunt Helen didn't come, or the maid either, and at last I got up, and went to look for them. I was in my nightgown and bare feet, but I was too frightened to stop to put any clothes on. I ran out into the hall, intending to go to Aunt Helen's room, but something frightful had happened; there wasn't any room, only a great pile of bricks and mortar, and I heard people say one of the chimneys had fallen in. Oh, it was terrible—I can't talk about it!" And the poor child began to shiver convulsively.

"Never mind about that part of the story, dear," Dr. Randolph said, soothingly, while Beverly put his arm round her.

"I called and called to Aunt Helen," Undine went on in a voice scarcely above a whisper,[310] "but nobody answered, and then the house began to shake again and people screamed that the walls were falling.

"The next thing I remember is being out in the street. I don't know how I got there, but I was running along in my bare feet, in the midst of a great crowd. I don't know how far I ran or where I went. I think I must have been crazed with fright. I tried to speak to people, but nobody took any notice of me. I heard them saying there had been a terrible earthquake, and that the whole city had been destroyed. At last I got very tired, and I think I must have been faint too, for everything grew black, and I was so cold. I remember going inside a doorway, and thinking I would rest there for a few minutes, and then the stone must have fallen on my head, for I don't remember anything more till I woke up in the hospital, and didn't even know my name."

"Of course it must have been the poor maid who was killed," said Beverly. "We never dreamed of that, because we felt so sure you and Aunt Helen had roomed together. But Babs dear, did you never remember anything at all—not even the least little thing?"

Undine shook her head.[311]

"I used to have little gleams of memory sometimes," she said, "but they were gone again in a minute. I had one the first time I heard Jim sing 'Mandalay,' and for one second I think I almost remembered you, Beverly. Another time I almost remembered was when Mrs. Graham was reading a letter from Marjorie, in which she mentioned your name for the first time. I kept saying 'Randolph, Randolph' over and over to myself for a long time, but after the first minute the words didn't seem to mean anything to me. It wasn't till yesterday when I read that letter, and saw all your names together—Mother's and yours, and Uncle George's and then that part about going to Barbara's grave—that it all came back with a rush, and I was so frightened that I fainted."

Later in the day Undine—or Barbara, as I suppose we must call her now—had a long talk with her uncle. Dr. Randolph had insisted on Beverly's going out for a walk. The boy was utterly worn out from excitement and suspense, and his uncle feared he would be really ill if precautions were not taken. So he was sent off for a long tramp over the ranch with Mr. Graham, and the doctor sat down by his little niece's bedside, and tried to draw her thoughts away[312] from painful memories, by talking of Marjorie, and of her own life on the ranch.

"They have all been so good to me here, Uncle George," Barbara said, the grateful tears starting to her eyes. "If you could have seen me when I first came! I am sure I looked like a tramp, and I was so miserable I didn't care much what became of me. I don't think many people would have believed my crazy story, but they took me right in without a word, and have treated me just as if I belonged to them ever since. Aren't Mrs. Graham and Miss Jessie lovely?"

"They are indeed," said the doctor, heartily. "We owe them a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid. Miss Graham has one of the sweetest faces I have ever seen. Has she been a cripple all her life?"

Barbara caught her breath as a sudden recollection flashed into her mind.

"Uncle George," she cried excitedly, "aren't you a great surgeon?"

"I am a surgeon certainly," said her uncle, smiling, "but I don't know just what you would call a great one; why do you want to know?"

"Because," said Barbara, clasping her hands, and regarding the doctor with shining eyes,[313] "now Marjorie can have her wish—the thing she wants more than anything else in the world, and that she and I have been praying for all winter."

And in a few rapid words she told the story of Miss Graham's accident, and of Marjorie's hopes.

Dr. Randolph said nothing, but he looked much interested, and when Beverly returned from his walk, he left the brother and sister together, and went in quest of Mrs. Graham, with whom he had a long talk. Then Miss Jessie was taken into their confidence, and all through the long afternoon Barbara and Beverly waited in eager anxiety for their uncle's return.

Mr. Graham was obliged to ride some distance to another ranch that afternoon, in order to see a man on business, and it was late in the evening when he returned, and found his old classmate waiting for him on the porch.

"Well, and how are things going?" he inquired cheerfully, when Jim had taken away his horse. "I trust our little friend is better."

"She is much better, thank you," Dr. Randolph answered. "She is fast recovering from the shock, and I hope we may be able to start for home by the day after to-morrow. Her mother must be told as soon as possible, and Barbara herself[314] can scarcely wait to get home. I am going to make arrangements to leave on the first available train for the East and—Graham, I want to ask you a favor."

"I am sure I shall be glad to do anything in my power," Mr. Graham said, smiling; "what is it?"

"I want you to let me take your wife and sister back to New York with us."

"My wife and sister!" repeated Mr. Graham in amazement. "Why, my dear boy, my poor sister hasn't left her wheeled-chair for eight years. I am sure that she could not stand such a journey."

"I think she could," said the doctor, quietly. "I should take a compartment for her, of course, and she could lie down during the whole trip. As for the drive to the station, I think that could also be managed without much discomfort. She tells me she often takes fairly long drives with you and your wife. Barbara is still very much shaken, and will need a woman's care on the journey. Your wife can be of great assistance to us, and as to your sister—well, the fact is, Graham, I made an examination this afternoon, with her and Mrs. Graham's consent, and I see no reason why an operation cannot be performed.[315] I can't promise an absolute cure, but I have strong hopes."

Mr. Graham did not speak, but he grasped his old friend's hand in gratitude too deep for words, and the doctor went away well satisfied, to carry the good news to his niece and nephew.

"Oh, how happy Marjorie will be!" cried Barbara, with sparkling eyes. "When she wrote me that she had met a great surgeon, but would never have the courage to speak to him about her aunt, how little either of us dreamed—oh, what a wonderful, beautiful thing it all is! To think that in five days I shall be with Mother. You don't think the shock will make her ill, do you, Uncle George?"

"I hope not, dear, but we must be very careful how the news is broken to her. Now I want Beverly to go to bed, and you must try to sleep, too, Barbara, for you will need all your strength for the journey, and the meeting with your mother."

But it was a long time before Barbara fell asleep that night. Old memories were trooping back thick and fast, and there was so much that was happy as well as sad to remember. She breathed more than one little prayer of thankfulness to the dear Heavenly Father, who had[316] watched over her through all her trials and dangers, and brought her back at last to home and friends. And when sleep came at last, it was a peaceful, refreshing sleep, untroubled by feverish dreams.




"Do sit down, Marjorie; you haven't been still for five minutes since luncheon." Elsie spoke in a tone of weary exasperation, as she laid down the book she had been trying to read, and regarded her cousin's flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes, with a half amused, half annoyed expression.

Marjorie laughed nervously.

"I'm sorry I've been so restless," she said, "but how can I help it. Just think, they'll be here this very day, and Mrs. Randolph doesn't know a single thing yet."

"Of course I know it's the most exciting thing that ever happened," Elsie admitted, with resignation, "but one can't help getting tired even of exciting things when one has heard of nothing else for a whole week. It will be a week to-morrow since you got that telegram, and I don't believe you've thought of another thing since."[318]

"I don't believe I have," agreed Marjorie, "but then how could I? Oh, Elsie, I'm so happy when I think it has all come about through my recognizing that photograph! Just suppose Beverly and I hadn't gone to Mammy's cabin that afternoon. I might never have seen a picture of Barbara, and the Randolphs might never have known."

"I wonder how they are going to break the news to Mrs. Randolph," remarked Elsie, without heeding her cousin's last observation. "I should think it would be dreadfully dangerous; the shock might kill her."

Marjorie's bright face clouded.

"I can't help worrying about it," she said, "but I am sure Dr. Randolph will find a way of doing it. It's wonderful to see her so calm, just doing every-day things, and talking as if nothing unusual were happening, when we are all so excited and nervous."

"I really don't see how you managed to keep her from suspecting when you were on the way home," said Elsie; "I'm afraid I should have let out something without intending to."

"I couldn't do that," said Marjorie, gravely. "Think how terrible it would have been if Mrs. Randolph had hoped and then been disappointed.[319] I was sure myself, but neither Dr. Randolph nor Beverly believed it could be true. I shall never forget that last evening in Virginia. Beverly and I were both almost ill from excitement, and yet we had to act just as if nothing unusual had happened. Fortunately the doctor and Beverly were to start the first thing in the morning, so we all went to bed early. I don't believe any of us slept a wink; I know I didn't. The day on the train wasn't quite so bad, because Mrs. Patterson was with us, and she hadn't been told anything, and could be natural without trying. I pretended to be very much interested in a book, so as not to have to talk much, but I couldn't tell you what it was about. And all the time Mrs. Randolph was just as sweet and calm as possible, and worried about me because my hands were cold, and I couldn't eat."

"I think you were very plucky," said Elsie.

The bright color rushed into Marjorie's cheeks; this was the first compliment Elsie had ever paid her.

"I wasn't at all plucky," she said, modestly; "any one else would have done the same thing. I'm glad you think I was, though, for I do want you to like me."

"Of course I like you," said Elsie, reddening[320] in her turn. "There's the door-bell; I wonder if it's Mamma."

"Perhaps it's a letter," cried Marjorie, springing to her feet; "I ought to have a letter from home to-day. I haven't heard a word since that little note from Aunt Jessie the morning after Barbara was found."

But it was not a letter. Neither was it Mrs. Carleton, who had gone driving with a friend. In a moment the faithful Hortense appeared with a message.

"Madame Randolph has sent to inquire if Mademoiselle Marjorie will come to her apartment for a short time. Her friend has been obliged to go out, and she is alone."

Marjorie clasped her hands in dismay, and turned a little pale.

"Send word you're very busy, and can't possibly come," suggested Elsie. But Marjorie shook her head.

"I shall have to go," she said, with a little gasp. "Mrs. Randolph has been so good to me; she would think it so strange if I didn't come when she sent for me. Say I will be there in a few minutes, Hortense."

"You really are a wonder, Marjorie," remarked Elsie, with involuntary admiration, as[321] Hortense left the room with the message. "I'm sure I should never be able to do it."

"Yes, you would," said Marjorie, smiling and without another word she followed Hortense out of the room.

Marjorie's heart was beating very fast when she rang Mrs. Randolph's bell five minutes later, but when that lady herself opened the door, and greeted her guest with her usual serene cheerfulness, the girl pulled herself together with a mighty effort, and her friend noticed nothing unusual in her manner, except that her cheeks were flushed and her eyes shining.

"I am so glad you could come this afternoon," Mrs. Randolph said, leading the way to the sitting-room. "I haven't seen you for days, and was beginning to feel quite neglected." She spoke playfully, but Marjorie felt the gentle reproach in her tone, and her heart beat faster than ever.

"Indeed I didn't mean to neglect you," she said, eagerly, "but—but you see I have had a good deal to do since I came home; school began on Monday."

"I understand, dear," said Mrs. Randolph, smiling, "and I am not blaming you in the least, but I have missed you very much."[322]

"You have had Mrs. Patterson," said Marjorie, as she took the seat her friend indicated beside her on the sofa.

"Oh, yes, and she has been a great comfort, for I have missed Beverly terribly. He and the doctor will be at home this afternoon, you know."

"Yes," said Marjorie; "Mrs. Patterson told us at luncheon. She said you had a headache; I hope it's better."

"Much better, thank you, dear. I didn't come down to luncheon because I wanted to be quite bright and well this evening when Beverly is here. This is always a rather sad day for me; it is my little Barbara's birthday."

Marjorie's heart gave one big jump, and began throbbing so fast she could scarcely breathe. She could not have spoken had her life depended on it, but fortunately Mrs. Randolph did not appear to expect an answer.

"My little girl would have been fifteen to-day," she said, sadly. "It seems hard to realize; she was such a child when she went away. I have missed Beverly so much to-day; he and I always talk of Barbara on her birthday."

"Would you like to talk to me about her, Mrs. Randolph?" said Marjorie, in a voice that was scarcely above a whisper.[323]

"I should like it very much. Indeed, that is why I sent for you. Mrs. Patterson has gone out. I offered to go with her, but she said she had some important business to attend to, and would rather go alone. I am afraid something is troubling her, and she doesn't want to worry me about it."

Marjorie, who knew that Mrs. Patterson had gone to the station to meet the travelers, in answer to an urgent telegram from Dr. Randolph, said nothing. Mrs. Patterson, being a nervous, excitable little woman, had been purposely kept in ignorance of the real reason of her cousins' Western trip, and it was in order to break the news to her that the doctor had wired her to meet him at the station, and to say nothing on the subject of her errand to Mrs. Randolph. Consequently, the poor little lady had been filled by apprehensions of something dreadful having happened to one or both of the travelers, and had departed in a state of perturbation well calculated to arouse Mrs. Randolph's suspicions that something was troubling her.

There was a moment's pause, and then Mrs. Randolph went on.

"I never talk of my little girl to strangers—it is all too sacred for that—but you are not a[324] stranger any more. I have loved you dearly ever since we stood together at my Barbara's grave, and you showed me by your silent sympathy how well you understood."

Marjorie could not speak, but she took her friend's hand, and stroked it softly, while Mrs. Randolph went on, calmly, though with a quiver in her voice:

"I used to try to make the children's birthdays as happy as possible; I thought they would be pleasant memories for them when they were older. Even the year after my husband died, when my heart was very sad, I wanted them to have a merry time. Little children's lives should never be saddened. I think you would have loved my little girl, Marjorie; she was very sweet."

"I know I should," said Marjorie, with a sob, that was half hysterical.

"I am afraid she was a sad rogue sometimes," said Mrs. Randolph, smiling; "Beverly and I often laugh even now over the memory of some of her pranks. I want him to remember all the bright, pleasant things, and not dwell too much on the sadness."

"Mammy told me about some of Barbara's[325] pranks," said Marjorie, "she showed me her photograph, too."

Mrs. Randolph unfastened a small gold locket from a chain she always wore about her neck, and opened it. Inside was the miniature of a merry-faced girl of twelve—the same face that had looked at Marjorie from the photograph in Mammy's cabin.

"That was taken only a few weeks before my little girl went away," she said. "She was just twelve then. I suppose she would look older now, but I can never think of Babs as growing up."

Then Marjorie had an inspiration. How it came she never knew, but she had yielded to it before giving herself time to think.

"That picture reminds me of some one I know," she said, and the moment the words were out she would have given everything she possessed to have left them unsaid.

"Who is it?" Mrs. Randolph asked, her eyes still resting lovingly on the face of the miniature.

"A girl who has been at my home since last summer," said Marjorie, who was beginning to feel cold and sick with excitement and apprehension, but was determined to go on now that[326] she had begun. "She came to the ranch one day all by herself. She had walked all the way from the railroad. It was a very strange case; she had had an accident, and forgotten everything about herself, even her own name."

"Forgotten her name!" said Mrs. Randolph, incredulously. "What a curious thing—are you sure her story was true?"

"Oh, yes, quite sure. She was such a dear girl, we couldn't doubt her. Besides Father wrote to the people she had lived with since her accident, and they said everything Undine had told us was true. We called her Undine because it was pretty, and we didn't know her real name."

"Poor child," said Mrs. Randolph, closing the miniature as she spoke. "Has she never remembered anything about herself since?"

"She hadn't a week ago," said Marjorie, wondering how her shaking lips formed the words, "but perhaps she may some time. Oh, Mrs. Randolph, suppose she should remember, and it should turn out that she had relatives—brothers and sisters, and—and perhaps a mother, who had been mourning her as dead! Can you think how her mother would feel? Can you even imagine it, Mrs. Randolph?"

"I think such joy would be more than any[327] mother could bear," said Mrs. Randolph, softly. "But such strange, romantic things don't often happen in this world, Marjorie dear. The poor child's mother is probably dead, or she would have found her long ago. How did the accident happen?"

Marjorie gave a great gasp.

"We—we are not quite sure," she said. "Undine says the people at the hospital told her a stone must have fallen on her head. She was found in San Francisco under some ruins, after—after the earthquake."

"After the earthquake," repeated Mrs. Randolph in a strange, startled tone, and she grew suddenly pale. "Oh, poor, poor child! At least my little Barbara was spared those horrors. Why have you never told me about this girl before, Marjorie?"

"Because Beverly said it made you sad to have any one speak of the earthquake, and I couldn't have told Undine's story without mentioning it. It was dreadful, of course, but she was saved. Think of it, Mrs. Randolph, she was saved, and perhaps some time—" poor Marjorie's over-strained nerves gave way, and she burst into tears.

Mrs. Randolph had grown very white; she was[328] trembling, too, but she laid a firm hand on the girl's shoulder.

"Marjorie," she cried sharply, "what does this mean? Why are you telling me all this? Something has happened, I know it has—oh, Marjorie, for God's sake tell me what it is! My little girl is dead; they brought her home to me, though they would not let me see her dear face. Marjorie, why do you cry so? You must tell me at once, do you hear? I say at once."

"Oh, Mrs. Randolph, darling Mrs. Randolph, it isn't anything sad, indeed it isn't," sobbed Marjorie, with her arms about her friend's neck. "It's something beautiful; more beautiful and wonderful than you can ever imagine. I can't say any more, but Beverly will be here very soon, and he will tell you. Try to think of the very greatest joy that could possibly come to any one, and perhaps you will begin to have an idea what it is."

Marjorie paused, conscious of the fact that some one had entered the room. In their excitement neither she nor Mrs. Randolph had noticed the opening of the door, or the sound of an approaching footstep. But now as she lifted her face from her friend's shoulder, Marjorie saw two figures standing on the threshold; they were[329] Dr. Randolph and Beverly. At the same moment Mrs. Randolph also recognized them, and held out her arms to her son.

"Beverly," she cried, "tell me what it is! You know, I see it in your face. Oh, Beverly, my darling, it isn't—it can't be news of Barbara?"

"Yes, Mother, it is!" cried the boy, gathering her in his strong arms. "Can you bear a great shock, Mother—a great joyful shock?—because if you can, Uncle George and I have something to tell you."

Marjorie waited for no more; such scenes were not for other eyes to see or other ears to hear. With a bound, she was out of the room, and flying across the corridor. In her flight she darted by two other figures without even seeing them; a trembling, white-faced girl clinging nervously to an older woman, whose face was scarcely less white than her own. She had but one thought: to reach her room before the burst of hysterical excitement completely overpowered her. A frantic ring at the Carletons' bell, and then the door was thrown open, and she was clinging to some one—presumably Hortense—crying and laughing both together.

"Oh, Hortense, Hortense," she wailed, "I've[330] told her, and they've come! You don't think the shock will kill her, do you?"

But it was not Hortense who answered, or who held the hysterical child in loving, motherly arms.

"Marjorie, my dear little Marjorie, don't tremble so! Everything will be all right, my darling, I know it will, and here are Aunt Jessie and I come all the way from Arizona to give you a big surprise."




Marjorie declared afterwards that she was sure that was the happiest moment of her life, but at the time the joyful surprise, coming so soon after the nervous strain of the past hour, proved almost too much for her, and she could do nothing for some time but hold her mother tight, and cry as if her heart would break.

"It's the one thing I've been wishing for every day, and praying for every night since I came to New York," Marjorie said to her aunt, late that evening, when Miss Graham was in bed, and her niece was sitting beside her, holding her hand. "But I never dared hope it would really happen, even when I knew Dr. Randolph had gone to Arizona. We were all so excited about Barbara; it didn't seem as if he or Beverly would be able to think of anything else."

"It was all Undine's doing," said Miss Jessie, smiling. She was looking pale and tired, but[332] very happy and Marjorie gazed at her aunt, with shining eyes.

"You know it was Undine who told her uncle about my accident," the invalid went on. "Dr. Randolph made an examination, and he hopes that I may be much helped by an operation. He is going to bring another surgeon to see me to-morrow, and if they agree in their opinion, I am to go to a hospital."

Miss Graham spoke cheerfully, but there was a slight tremor in her voice, and Marjorie grew suddenly grave. They were both silent for a moment, and then Marjorie said:

"Isn't Beverly a dear, and don't you like Dr. Randolph ever so much, too?"

"I do indeed," said Miss Jessie, heartily. "I shall never forget their kindness during that long journey. As for Undine, she could not have been more devoted to me if she had been my own little niece. It has been a wonderful experience, Marjorie; I never expected to see the East again."

Marjorie bent and kissed her.

"Beautiful things do happen in the world as well as sad ones, don't they?" she said, softly. "When I think of you and Mother being here, and of Mrs. Randolph having found her Barbara,[333] my heart is so full it seems as if it must surely burst. Here comes Mother; perhaps she will be able to tell us how Mrs. Randolph has borne the shock."

Mrs. Graham's news was most reassuring.

"I have seen Beverly," she said, "and he says his mother is quite calm now. At first they were anxious about her, but only for a little while. Beverly says his uncle thinks it was a fortunate thing you were able to prepare her a little before they came, Marjorie; otherwise it would have been more difficult to break the news to her."

Marjorie gave a long sigh of relief.

"I'm so glad it wasn't wrong," she said. "I was horribly frightened after I had begun, but when Mrs. Randolph showed me that picture, it came to me all at once to tell her about Undine. I thought that if she heard of one girl who was saved from the earthquake, she might be able to believe that another girl was saved, too."

Mrs. Graham and Miss Jessie both smiled, and then Mrs. Graham said she must obey the doctor's instructions, and see that her sister-in-law was kept quiet, and went to sleep early.

Marjorie and her mother had a long talk that night, after Aunt Jessie was asleep, and the girl opened her heart as she had not done since leaving[334] home, and Mrs. Graham learned of many things that she had not been told in letters.

"I think Elsie really does like me now," finished Marjorie, when she had told of the many heartaches caused by the fear that her cousin did not like her. "She has been very sweet since I came back from Virginia, and just as kind and sympathetic as she could be."

Mrs. Graham looked pleased.

"Elsie has been spoiled," she said, "but I believe she has the right stuff in her, after all. I am glad you have told me all these things, dear, although I understand your reasons for not writing them. You have had a harder time than I suspected, but I don't think it has done you any harm. Do you know, Marjorie, I am inclined to be rather proud of my little girl?"

Those last words of her mother's filled Marjorie's cup to the brim, and I doubt if in all the great city that night, there were two happier beings than she and Barbara Randolph.

But it was not all happiness for Marjorie during the next few days. There followed hours of keen anxiety about Aunt Jessie, and for a time she forgot everything else while she waited in suspense for the verdict of the two great surgeons.

It was on an afternoon three days later, that[335] she and Barbara sat together in the Randolphs' parlor, waiting for the news, which was to tell them whether Jessie Graham was to go through life a helpless cripple, or be restored to health and strength once more. The day before she had been taken to a private hospital, and the girls knew that an operation was to be performed that afternoon. They were alone, for Mrs. Graham was with her sister-in-law, and Mrs. Randolph—almost as anxious as the others—had gone to the hospital for news, promising to return as soon as possible. So Marjorie and Barbara sat together side by side on the sofa, holding each other's hands, and waiting in almost breathless suspense.

"Mother will be sure to let us know just as soon as there's anything to tell," whispered Barbara, anxious to cheer her friend. "She says Uncle George told her he was very hopeful."

"I know," said Marjorie, "he told us all so, but I can't help being frightened when I think of all it means to Aunt Jessie. She doesn't say much, but I know how she must feel. Just think how we would feel if we hadn't walked a step for more than eight years."

"Where is your cousin this afternoon?" inquired Barbara, by way of changing the subject.[336] She was almost as anxious as Marjorie, but she had been living at high pressure for so long, it was a relief to get down to commonplaces.

"I don't know," said Marjorie; "she was going out, but it rained so hard Aunt Julia wouldn't let her go, on account of her cold. Aunt Julia is very fussy about colds."

"Don't you think she would like to come in here with us?" suggested Barbara. "She may be lonely all by herself."

"I don't believe she is lonely," said Marjorie, doubtfully, "but if you think she might like to come—"

A ring at the door-bell brought Marjorie's sentence to an abrupt end, and both girls sprang to their feet.

"I'll see who it is," said Barbara; "it may be a message from Mother." And she flew to open the door, while Marjorie sank back in her seat, feeling suddenly cold and sick with fear.

But it was not a message from Mrs. Randolph; it was Elsie.

"I just came to ask if you had heard anything yet," she said, looking rather embarrassed, as she noticed the expression of disappointment on Barbara's face.

"No, we haven't," Barbara answered; "we[337] thought it might be a message when we heard the bell. Won't you come in?"

Elsie hesitated.

"Do you really want me?" she asked, doubtfully; "I thought perhaps you would rather be by yourselves."

"Of course we want you," declared Barbara, heartily, while Marjorie—in the background—gave a little gasp of astonishment. Such humility from the proud Elsie was something that had never entered her imagination.

Elsie made no remark, but she came in, and followed Barbara to the sitting-room, where Marjorie smiled a welcome which appeared to set her cousin more at her ease.

"I am sure you must be almost as anxious as we are," said Barbara, "though of course you don't know Miss Jessie as well. No one could help loving her."

"No, they couldn't," agreed Elsie, in a rather low voice, and then she walked over to the window, and stood with her back to the others, looking out at the falling rain.

Nobody talked much during the next half-hour. Marjorie and Barbara both had lumps in their throats, and words did not come easily. Elsie, too, was unusually silent. There was another[338] little excitement when the bell rang again, and Beverly came in. Beverly had been through a great deal during the past two weeks, but boys of eighteen cannot live on high pressure for very long without a reaction setting in. Beverly was a very natural, healthy-minded boy, and the reaction in his case took the form of unusually high spirits.

"Don't all have such long faces," he remarked, cheerfully, surveying the solemn little group. "Just make up your minds everything is coming out all right, and you'll see it will. I've got more faith in Uncle George than in any other surgeon in the country. Think of what he did for that English boy we met at the Bells'."

"I know Uncle George is wonderful," said Barbara, a trifle more hopeful, "but even he may not be able to cure everybody. You would be just as anxious as Marjorie and I, Beverly, if you knew dear Miss Jessie as well as we do."

"I didn't say I wasn't anxious. I only said I didn't see any use in such long faces before you know whether there was anything to be mournful about. How do you do, Miss Elsie? I haven't seen you in a week of Sundays."

In his present exuberant spirits, Beverly was quite ready to forget past unpleasantness, but[339] Elsie had not forgotten, as her heightened color and embarrassed manner plainly showed.

Beverly went to the piano, and began playing rag-time, with the cheerful desire of raising the drooping spirits of the party. He proposed they should sing college songs, but nobody felt inclined for singing and the attempt proved a dismal failure.

"What a very uncomfortable thing suspense is," remarked Barbara, as the clock struck five.

"You would say so if you had been through the suspense Marjorie and I have," her brother said. "We know something of what suspense means, don't we, Marjorie?"

"Indeed we do," said Marjorie, rousing herself from present anxieties with an effort. "Oh, Beverly, those awful days when you and your uncle were on your way to Arizona, and I couldn't be absolutely sure I hadn't made a mistake about that photo after all. Suppose I had been mistaken, and you had had that terrible disappointment!"

"Well, you were not mistaken, you see," broke in Beverly, who felt that the recollection of those days was still too vivid to bear discussion. "Come and sit by me, Babs," and he made room for his sister on the piano stool.[340]

But all suspense, however long, must come to an end at last, and just as the clock was striking half past five, there was another ring at the bell, followed by a simultaneous rush to the door. Only Marjorie remained behind. Until that moment she had scarcely realized how great her anxiety was, and her knees shook so that she could not rise from her chair. She heard all the others talking at once, apparently asking some question, and then Mrs. Randolph's voice, but she could not hear her words.

"Marjorie, Marjorie, where are you?" cried Barbara joyfully; "here's Mother!"

"I'm here," said Marjorie, faintly, and the next moment Mrs. Randolph was beside her, holding both her cold hands. Marjorie's eyes asked the question her lips refused to form, and Mrs. Randolph bent and kissed her.

"Marjorie dear," she said in a voice that was not quite steady, though she was smiling, "your mother wanted me to tell you that the operation is over, and that Dr. Randolph feels almost certain it has been successful."




"Do you know, Aunt Jessie, that to-morrow will be the first of May? It's nearly four months since you and Mother came to New York."

Miss Graham was leaning back in a comfortable arm-chair by an open window, through which the bright spring sunshine was pouring, flooding every corner of the pleasant hotel bedroom. She was still looking rather frail and delicate, but there was an expression of hope and joy in her face, that had never been there in the old days at the ranch. A crutch stood at her side, but there was no wheeled-chair to be seen. At Marjorie's words she looked round with a smile.

"Time has certainly flown," she said. "Have you had a pleasant ride?"

"It was glorious. Beverly and I had a splendid gallop. I hope you enjoyed your drive."

"Yes, it was lovely," said Miss Jessie, secretly thinking that Marjorie had grown very pretty lately. She looked so well in her perfectly fitting[342] riding habit, with her rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes. "I wasn't at all tired when I came home either, which Dr. Randolph considers a distinct gain. He says I am one of his star patients. Have you finished your lessons for to-morrow?"

"Haven't any; it's Saturday, you know. I shall have plenty of time to study between now and Monday. I came to have a little chat with you before I dress. I'm going out this evening, you remember. It's the last meeting of the Club, and quite an important occasion. The Bells are sailing for Europe to-morrow, and Lulu is our president."

"I thought you wrote me that Elsie was elected president," said Miss Graham, who seldom forgot anything Marjorie told her.

"She was at first," said Marjorie, hoping her aunt would not notice her suddenly heightened color. She drew a low chair to Miss Jessie's side, and settled herself for a comfortable chat.

"Why did she give it up?" Miss Graham inquired, with interest.

"I—I don't exactly know. It was after I came back from Virginia and Barbara came home. She said she would rather not be president any more, and asked Lulu to take her place."[343]

"I like Elsie," said Miss Jessie. "She is very clever, and has been rather spoiled in consequence, but there is much that is fine about her. She will make a noble woman, I am sure."

Marjorie looked pleased.

"Elsie likes you," she said, "and I don't think she is really fond of many people. She hasn't nearly as many friends as most of the girls at school have, but I love her dearly, and so does Babs."

"I had a letter from your father this afternoon," Miss Jessie said, after a little pause; "I am keeping it for you to read. He says things are looking up at the ranch, and he is hoping for a better season than last. He thinks he may possibly be able to come East for us himself next month. I do hope he can, for it would be such a treat for him."

"I suppose he is thankful to get Mother back," said Marjorie, "but, oh, how we do miss her, don't we, Aunt Jessie?"

"Yes, indeed, but it wouldn't have been fair to have kept her any longer when she was so anxious to get home to your father. After all, she had a good long rest, and your father declares she is looking ten years younger in consequence."[344]

"What a wonderful winter it has been," said Marjorie, reflectively, resting her knee against her aunt's knee. "When I left home last October, how little any of us dreamed of all the strange, beautiful things that were going to happen. Those first weeks were pretty hard; I was a good deal more homesick than I let any of you know, but I knew everybody meant to be kind and I did try hard to make the best of things. Then came the Randolphs' invitation to spend the holidays in Virginia, and the wonderful discovery about Undine. And then—as if that wasn't happiness enough—Dr. Randolph saw you, and brought you and Mother back to New York with him. The operation was pretty dreadful, but ever since Dr. Randolph told us he was sure it had been a success, everything has been simply heavenly."

Miss Jessie said nothing, but softly stroked Marjorie's hair, and there was such a look of joy in her eyes, that the girl could not help being struck by it.

"Aunt Jessie," she said, laughing, "do you know, I never realized before how young you are. I used to think of you as quite a middle-aged lady, but I don't know how it is, you look different now somehow—almost like a girl."[345]

"I was twenty-nine last week," said Miss Jessie, smiling; "I suppose twenty-nine may seem middle-aged to fifteen."

"But it doesn't," protested Marjorie; "not a bit; I think I must have been a goose ever to have thought such a thing. Beverly calls you a perfect trump, and he wouldn't say that about any one he considered middle-aged; it wouldn't be respectful."

"I am very much obliged to Beverly for his good opinion," said Miss Jessie, laughing and blushing in such a very girlish manner that her niece regarded her in growing astonishment.

"I believe it's the thought of being well and strong again that has made all the difference," she said. "Oh, Aunt Jessie darling, think of it, you'll never have to sit in that dreadful wheeled-chair again! What walks and rides we'll have together. Are you sure Dr. Randolph will let you go back to the ranch in June?"

"He says I shall be quite strong enough for the journey by that time," Miss Graham answered, but she did not meet Marjorie's direct gaze as she spoke. "I feel that I ought not to trespass on the Randolphs' hospitality any longer than is necessary. Think of what they have done for me, Marjorie. First all those weeks at the[346] hospital, and then insisting on my coming here, and all of it just because we were kind to Undine."

"I don't think that is the only reason," said Marjorie, eagerly. "That was the beginning of it, of course, but now they all love you for yourself. Babs says her mother loves you dearly, and she and Beverly were both so pleased because you said they might call you 'Aunt Jessie.' As for the doctor, I'm sure he likes you ever so much."

"There's some one at the door; go and see who it is, Marjorie."

Marjorie rose obediently, wondering what could have possibly caused her aunt's sudden embarrassment, and when she returned she was followed by Barbara, who had also dropped in for a little chat, Miss Jessie's room being a favorite rendezvous with all the young people.

"Well, and what have you been doing this afternoon?" Miss Graham asked pleasantly, as Barbara settled herself for a comfortable half-hour.

"I went for a walk with Elsie and Hortense. We had a nice time, but I don't think Elsie felt very well, she was so quiet. I asked her if her[347] head ached, and she said no, but I'm afraid it did."

"I don't think Elsie has seemed quite like herself for several days," said Miss Jessie, a little anxiously. "Perhaps she is studying too hard; her mother tells me she is so very ambitious."

Neither of the girls had any explanation to suggest, and they all chatted on pleasantly on various subjects until it was time to go away and dress for dinner. Barbara was also going to the Club that evening, having been admitted as a guest of honor some months before. Indeed, she was quite the heroine of the hour, for the romantic story had quickly spread from friends and acquaintances to strangers, and she had even been written about in several newspapers, a circumstance which had filled the breasts of some other girls with envy. For several weeks there was not a girl in the city so much talked about as Barbara Randolph, the child who had been mourned as dead by her family for nearly three years, and then reappeared under conditions sufficiently interesting and romantic to fill the pages of a thrilling story-book. The Randolphs disliked the publicity, but Barbara was pursued by reporters and photographers until Beverly lost[348] his temper, and positively refused to allow any member of the family to grant another interview.

"How does it feel to know that everybody in New York is talking about you, and all the papers asking for your picture?" Elsie had asked one day, to which Barbara had answered, with a laugh:

"I don't know that I have any particular feelings about it. I am too happy at being at home again with Mother and Beverly to care for anything else in the world."

Elsie was nowhere to be seen when Marjorie returned to her uncle's apartment, and the cousins did not meet till they were both dressed for the evening, and had joined Mr. and Mrs. Carleton in the drawing-room. Then Mrs. Carleton's first words were an anxious question.

"Are you sure you are feeling quite well this evening, Elsie darling? You are very pale."

"Of course I'm all right," said Elsie, crossly. "I do wish you wouldn't fuss so much about me, Mamma."

Mrs. Carleton sighed.

"I am sure I don't intend to fuss," she said, plaintively, "but how can I help worrying when I see you looking so badly, especially when you will insist on studying so hard?"[349]

"Nonsense," said Mr. Carleton, looking up from his evening paper, with a frown. "I have looked over Elsie's lessons, and there is nothing wrong there. She isn't studying any harder than a healthy girl of her age should. What's the matter, Elsie—don't you feel quite up to the mark?"

He spoke kindly, but his tone was a trifle impatient, and before Elsie could reply, her mother began again.

"She won't tell you; she insists there is nothing the matter, but she has not looked like herself for days. If she isn't better to-morrow I shall have the doctor see her, and give her a tonic."

Mr. Carleton threw down his newspaper.

"My dear Julia," he said, "I believe you consider a tonic a cure for every evil in the world. The girls are ready, so let us go down to dinner, and see if Elsie doesn't make up for her loss of appetite at luncheon."

But Elsie did not make up for her lack of appetite at luncheon. She toyed with her food, and her color changed so often, from white to red, and back to white again, that by the time dinner was over even her father began to look at her curiously. But when Mrs. Carleton suggested that she should not go to Gertie Rossiter's, where[350] the Club was to be held that evening, she protested that she was perfectly well, and was so decided in her determination to go, that, as usual, she had her way.

The meeting was at eight, and Marjorie and Elsie were obliged to hurry away from the dinner table to join the two Randolphs, as the four were to go together in the Carletons' carriage.

"Uncle George says we might have had his car as well as not," remarked Barbara, as they took their seats in the carriage. "He has come to spend the evening with Mother and Aunt Jessie, and won't need it."

"Your uncle is very generous with his car," said Marjorie, innocently. "He lent it to your mother and Aunt Jessie this afternoon, you know, and Aunt Jessie said they had a beautiful ride."

"Oh, Uncle George would do anything in the world for Aunt Jessie," remarked Barbara, at which her brother smiled a rather mischievous smile, but said nothing.

There was an unusually large gathering of the Club that evening, in honor of the president, who, with her family, was to sail for Europe the following day. As it was a gala occasion, no sewing was to be done, and the boys were invited to[351] come with the girls, and devote the evening to dancing and games.

"I'm afraid our sewing really hasn't amounted to very much," Winifred Hamilton remarked ruefully. "Mother says she's afraid the Blind Babies would be badly off if they had to depend upon us for clothes, but we've had an awfully jolly winter, and I'm sorry it's over, aren't you, Mr. Randolph?"

"Well, summer is pretty jolly, too, you know," answered Beverly, smiling. "I sha'n't be sorry to have vacation begin. We are going abroad as soon as college closes."

"How nice," said Winifred, looking interested; "perhaps you'll meet the Bells. They expect to stay over till October. I really don't know how I shall manage to get on so long without Lulu."

"Why don't you go, too?" Beverly asked, good-naturedly.

"I should love to, but I couldn't leave Mother. Dr. Bell offered to take me, and Father and Mother said I might go if I liked, but I couldn't make up my mind to leave them. Perhaps some day we shall go ourselves," finished Winifred, trying to look hopeful.[352]

"I'll let you into a little secret if you'll promise not to tell," said Beverly, who had a genuine liking for Winifred, despite the fact that she was "young for her age." "My mother is very anxious to have Marjorie go with us, provided her parents will consent. Miss Graham thinks they will, and Mother has written to ask them before speaking to Marjorie herself. Mind you don't tell, for it's a great secret. Even Babs doesn't know, for she and Marjorie are such chums she would be sure to let something out. Hello! what's up? Lulu is going to make a speech."

There was a sudden hush as Lulu, with Elsie at her side, stepped forward, and rapped sharply on the table, to call the club to order.

"Ladies and gentlemen," she began in what the girls called "her presidential tone," "I didn't expect to have any regular meeting this evening, but Miss Elsie Carleton has an announcement to make, and has asked me to tell you she would like to speak. As you all know Miss Carleton was your president until she resigned in favor of another, I am sure you will all be pleased to hear what she has to say. Go ahead, Elsie; everybody's listening."

All eyes were turned in surprise upon Elsie, as she stood before them, very pale, but with a look[353] of settled determination on her face. Twice she tried to speak, and stopped, and they could all see that she was very nervous. Then the words came, very low, but sufficiently audible to reach every ear in the room.

"Girls," she began, looking straight before her, and clasping and unclasping her hands as she spoke, "girls and boys, too, for I want you all to hear. I have a confession to make. It's about something that happened at the first meeting of this Club—the night we were all initiated. That poem I wrote—some of you thought it was the best, and you made me president—it—it wasn't original; I learned it when I was a little girl, but I thought nobody would recognize it. I didn't mean to cheat at first, but I couldn't make up anything that I thought was good enough, and I hated to have the other poems better than mine. I haven't anything more to say except that I've been ashamed of myself ever since, and I can't have you go on thinking me cleverer than I am, any longer." And then, without waiting to note the effect of her startling announcement, Elsie turned and fled.

Marjorie and Barbara found her upstairs in the dressing-room, crying as if her heart would break. Neither of them said a word, but Marjorie[354] put her arms round her cousin's neck and hugged her.

"It Takes a Lot of Pluck to Get up and Say a Thing like that."—Page 355. "It Takes a Lot of Pluck to Get up and Say a Thing like that."—Page 355.

"What are they saying about me?" whispered Elsie, burying her face on Marjorie's shoulder. "Do they all despise me?"

"Not a bit of it," declared Marjorie, reassuringly. "They're all saying how plucky it was of you to confess. Lulu says she never liked you so much before in her life. As for me, I'm so proud of you I don't know what to do. Oh, Elsie darling, I'm so glad you did it!"

"It was you who made me do it," sobbed Elsie, clinging to her cousin. "You were so splendid about it all. You knew, and yet you never told any one, not even Papa when he was provoked with you, because you wouldn't explain what the trouble between us was. Your brother knew too, Babs, and he has never said a word, but I know how he has despised me. I've despised myself too—oh, how I have despised myself! I've been selfish and conceited all my life, and I didn't care much, but one can't help feeling mean and ashamed beside girls like you, and brave, wonderful women like Aunt Jessie. I don't believe I've got one real friend in the world."

"You've got lots," protested Marjorie and[355] Barbara both together. "Just come downstairs and see if you haven't."

It was a very quiet, subdued Elsie who reëntered the drawing-room, escorted by her two staunch friends, but the welcome she received was such that, before the evening was over, she found herself able to smile, and take a passing interest in life once more. Elsie had many faults, but she was not a bad girl, and she had learned a lesson that would last her all her life. One of the first to approach her and hold out his hand, was Beverly Randolph.

"You're a trump, Elsie," he said, in his blunt, boyish way. "It takes a lot of pluck to get up and say a thing like that. Let's shake hands and be friends." And at that moment Elsie was happier than she had been in months.

"I think I'll just stop a minute to say good-night to Aunt Jessie," remarked Marjorie, as they were going up to their apartment in the lift. "I don't believe she has gone to bed yet if Dr. Randolph is spending the evening. Tell Aunt Julia I'll be right up, Elsie."

So Marjorie stepped out of the lift with the Randolphs, while Elsie went up another floor to her own apartment. Mrs. Randolph had insisted that Miss Graham should be her guest on leaving[356] the hospital, and one of the most comfortable rooms in the apartment had been assigned to her.

It was Mrs. Randolph herself who opened the door for the young people; she was smiling, and looked as if she were pleased about something.

"Has Aunt Jessie gone to bed?" Marjorie asked.

"No, dear, she is in the parlor with Uncle George, and I think she wants to see you."

Barbara hurried her mother off to her room, to tell of the events of the evening, and Beverly followed, at a mysterious signal from Mrs. Randolph, so Marjorie was the only one to enter the cozy little parlor, where she found her aunt and the doctor sitting on the sofa side by side.

"I just came in for a minute to say good-night," she began. "I've had a lovely evening, and—and—" here Marjorie paused abruptly, struck by something unusual in the faces of her two listeners.

"Is—is anything the matter?" she inquired anxiously.

"Do we look as if there were?" inquired the doctor, and he smiled such a radiant smile that Marjorie's sudden anxiety melted into thin air.

"No, not exactly, but Aunt Jessie looks so—so[357] different. Oh, Aunt Jessie darling, I know something has happened—is it good news?"

"The very best news in the world for me," said the doctor, laughing, while Aunt Jessie drew her niece into her arms, and hid her smiling, blushing face on Marjorie's shoulder. "Your aunt has promised to give me something that I want more than anything else. Marjorie, do you think you would like to have me for an uncle?"

"And that was just the crowning happiness of all," said Marjorie, when she and Elsie were talking things over half an hour later. "I thought I was just as happy as any girl could be before, but when I saw that look on Aunt Jessie's face, and thought of all she had suffered, and how brave she had been, it seemed as if my heart would burst with gladness. It's just the most beautiful ending to a beautiful winter."

"I wish I had done more to make the first part of the winter happy," said Elsie, with a remorseful sigh. "I don't see why you didn't hate me, Marjorie; I'm sure I deserved it."

"Why, I couldn't," said Marjorie, simply, "you were my own cousin, you know."

Elsie went up to her cousin, and put her arms round her. That was such an unusual proceeding[358] from cold, undemonstrative Elsie that Marjorie was speechless with astonishment.

"I believe you are the best girl in the world, Marjorie," she said, unsteadily. "I'm not worthy of your friendship, but if you will really love me, and forgive me for all the mean, hateful things I've done, I will try to deserve it—I will indeed."





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