A DEAR LITTLE GIRL
AMY E. BLANCHARD
WHITMAN PUBLISHING CO. RACINE, WIS.
Printed in the United States of America by Western Printing & Lithographing Co. Racine, Wisconsin
AN ACCIDENT 9
GETTING SETTLED 21
WHAT HAPPENED 35
MAGGIE'S CASE 49
A GUILTY CONSCIENCE 63
THE FAIR 74
WHERE THE DOLL WENT 88
A PECK OF TROUBLE 103
ABOUT SEVERAL THINGS 116
MORE SURPRISES 128
THE RUNAWAY 155
PLEASANT CHANGES 168
"It will be a fine opportunity for Edna," said Mrs. Conway.
Edna did not like that word opportunity; it always seemed to her that it meant something unpleasant. She had noticed that when pleasant things came along they were rarely spoken of as "opportunities," but were just happenings. So she sat with her little sturdy legs dangling down from the sofa, and a very sober look upon her round face, while her busy, dimpled hands were folded quietly.
Her mother leaned over, and took the plump little fingers in hers, giving them a squeeze. "It will be an opportunity," she repeated, as her eyes rested fondly on the child by her side; "but she is only eight, and it seems like pushing her out of the nest before her wings are ready, poor birdie!"
"O, no it doesn't," replied Mr. Conway. "It will only be changing nests. Aunt Elizabeth will be just like a mother to her; it is not like a boarding-school, my dear."
"I know," replied Mrs. Conway, resting her cheek against Edna's little dark head. "Should you like to go to Aunt Elizabeth's, dear?"
"Cousin Louis will be there, you know," put in Edna's father, "and you'll have fine times together. Suppose I read to you what Aunt Elizabeth says. 'You write, my dear nephew, that it seems prudent, on account of your wife's health, that you should go to Florida. I have received some such news from William who is about to take a trip to California in search of health. He has asked me to take charge of his son, Louis, during his absence. Should you not like to place Edna, also, with us during the time you are gone? She could then attend school and would find a pleasing companion in her cousin Louis, who, I fear, will be somewhat lonely with only myself and your Uncle Justus. The advantages of a city are great, and I need not say we will endeavor'—h'm—h'm—never mind the rest," said Mr. Conway, laying down the letter. "You know, daughter, Aunt Elizabeth lives in a big city, where there are fine shops and beautiful parks; moreover, you would meet a lot of nice little girls in the school. It would be much nicer than for you to stay here with sister and the boys while we are gone. Don't you think so?"
"Yes," said Edna, her little fat hand enfolded in her mother's, feeling very moist from the excitement of the prospect.
"Of course, I know it is best," said Mrs. Conway, "and I know Aunt Elizabeth means to be as kind as possible." Here a wistful look came into the mother's eyes, but Edna only saw visions of gay shops, while she pictured romps with her cousin Louis.
She remembered very little of this great aunt, except that she had once sent her a most beautiful doll, with a cunning trunk filled with such neat, old-fashioned frocks and aprons, together with a real little slate and books. Aunt Elizabeth had written a tiny letter which the doll had brought pinned to her muff. In the letter the doll's name was said to be Ada, and many instructions were given as to her behavior and studies. So Ada and Aunt Elizabeth were inseparably connected in Edna's mind.
"I must go get Ada ready," she said, jumping down from the sofa on which she had been sitting. "When shall I go to the city, papa?"
"Next week," he answered; and the little girl, on business intent, ran to the playroom.
There was a great deal to do before she should go away. She reflected. She must clean house, and see that all Ada's clothes were clean and whole, for it would never do to let Aunt Elizabeth find that they had not been kept carefully. "They are not all here," said the child, sitting down on the floor. "Lilypaws tore up the muff, and Gyp ate up one of the books; then the wind blew away an apron and a skirt that day I washed them and put them out on the grass to dry. I'll have to tell Aunt Elizabeth about that. She'll know it was an accident. Maybe sister will make me some more. I'll go ask her now."
Leaving Ada with her wardrobe scattered over the nursery floor, Edna sought sister, who was studying her lessons, curled up on the window seat of her room. "I'm going to the city to live, next week," announced Edna, importantly, "and I'll have to get Ada's clothes in order. Sister, won't you help me?"
"Going to the city!" cried Celia, lowering her book in surprise. "What do you mean? O! you're only playing make-believe."
"No, I'm not. I am really and truly going. Papa and mamma said so. I'm going to live with Aunt Elizabeth while they are away in Florida, and, of course, Ada will have to go."
"And, of course, I'll help you," replied Celia, "you poor little midget."
"I'm not poor at all," replied Edna, "for Cousin Louis is going to be there, and I'm going to play with him in the park, and I'm going to buy things in the beautiful shops. What shall I buy for you, sister?"
"O, I don't know. Don't buy me anything—or if you should see a belt buckle exactly like Grace Neal's, I should like to have one, but only if it is exactly."
"All right; I'll buy that and send it to you," decided Edna, very positively, while she made up her mind to notice Grace Neal's buckle very particularly the next time she saw her.
There was much hurry and excitement for the next week. Edna did not go to school at all during that time, for the dressmaker was likely at any time to want her to stand up to be fitted, something Edna did not like at all. "I believe I'd just as soon go to school," she fretted while Miss Marsh, with her mouth full of pins, pinched up here, and trimmed off there, bidding the little girl to "stand still."
"I am standing as still as a mouse," she protested.
"About as still as that canary bird," returned Miss Marsh. "Don't shrug your shoulders while I cut out this armhole. I might snip you with the scissors."
That was something really to be dreaded, so Edna did stand very still while the cold steel points circled her plump shoulder. "O, dear!" she sighed, when the operation was finished, "I hope I sha'n't need any more clothes for a year."
But even the discomfort of dress-fitting did not do away with the pleasure the little girl felt in her pretty new frocks, and it seemed no time before her trunk stood ready packed and she had said good-bye to Gyp and Lilypaws, to Bobby in his cage, and to the chickens, each and every one; her own special pet hen, Snowflake, being entreated not to hatch out any new chickens till Edna should return.
It was rather a solemn moment, after all, when mamma hugged her and kissed her, with the tears running down her cheeks; when the cook, Jane, hoped they'd see her again; and when the boys thrust parting gifts into her hands—Frank a small mouth organ, and Charlie a wad of something which was afterward discovered to be taffy, wrapped in brown paper; when Celia winked away the tear-drops from her lashes and called her "precious little sister." It was therefore with the very opposite of a smile upon her face that she climbed up the steps into the car. But the dimples soon came back again as the car moved off, and the boys, standing on a woodpile, cheered and waved their hats as the little head at the window nodded good-bye.
It was quite a long journey to the city to which Edna was going, a whole day and night to be on the cars, and after the first few hours the little girl began to get very restless. Even the picture papers her father bought her, and the little excitement of stopping once in a while at a station, where could be seen queer-looking people, did not serve to keep Edna from getting very tired; but it grew dark early, and when the porter came in to make up the berths she felt that she would be quite ready to clamber up into that funny little bed above her papa's.
"It's just like being put away on a shelf," she laughed. "Suppose I should tumble out, papa?"
"Then I think it would be better for you to take the lower berth," he replied.
"O, no. I like it best up here. I can peep out better. Are you going to bed, too, papa?"
"Not just yet. I am going to the smoking-car for a while. You go to sleep, daughter, and I'll be back pretty soon."
It was some time before the child could compose herself. The voices of the people in the car, the clatter of a passing train, the letting down of the berths, or the opening of a door, all tended to keep her awake, but after a little time she began to say over a rhyme she had learned at school, keeping time to the motion of the car as she repeated:
"To cuddle up the baby ferns, and smooth the lily's sheet, And tuck a warm, white blanket down around the roses' feet;"
and before she knew it she was fast asleep.
How long she had slept she had not the slightest idea, when she was awakened, very suddenly, by a jerk of the car which nearly threw her from the berth. She sat up rubbing her eyes, wondering where she was, and for a moment it seemed as if she must be dreaming that she was packed away on a high shelf in such a queer place; but presently she was quite wide-awake, and found that there was a great commotion going on; men with lanterns hurried through the car; women began to scream, babies to cry.
"It's all right!" some one shouted. "Don't be alarmed!"
This was enough to frighten Edna, and she began to scramble on her clothes as quickly as possible, first peering down into the berth below, but seeing no papa there. "O, where is my papa? Where is my papa?" she whispered under her breath, as the little trembling fingers tried to fasten the buttons hurriedly.
Presently some one parted the curtains and looked in; it was the negro porter.
"'Scuse me, Miss," he said, "but de folks is all leavin' de cyar. You better let me 'sist you off."
"I want my papa!" cried Edna, looking around distressedly. "O, please tell me what is the matter."
"De engine an' de baggage cyar was derailed," explained the man, "an' de smokin' cyar cotched fire."
"O! O! my papa is burned up!" cried Edna, helplessly.
"No, miss, I reckon he ain't, but yuh see dey is sorter 'stracted out dere; de women a-faintin' an' de men a-hollerin', but nobody ain't hurt so tur'ble. Yuh better come get off." And picking her up in his arms the porter bore her from the car.
"Now I'll set you down on dis ole stump, an' yuh'll be safe," said he. And Edna found herself, at midnight, by the side of the railroad in what seemed to be a bit of woodland. She could hear the rushing of water and see the blazing car ahead. The rest of the train had been backed along the track, and some of the women and men, seeing the rear cars were not hurt, were climbing back into them. There was a crowd of people moving about farther up the railroad, and Edna made up her mind that she would try to find out what had become of her father. So she took her way toward the throng of people who were gathered about the baggage car, which lay over on its side by an embankment.
"You'd better go back to the rear cars, little girl," said some one, as she came up. "Where is your mother?"
"She is at home," replied Edna. "I want my papa. Is he burned up?"
"No, indeed; no one is burned up," was the reply. "You go back and we'll find your father. What is his name?"
"His name," returned Edna, "is Henry Parker Conway."
"Anybody about here by the name of Conway?" shouted the man.
But there was no one answering to that name in the crowd, and Edna picked her way back to the stump where the porter had placed her, feeling very lonely and miserable. "O dear!" she said to herself. "What shall I do? Suppose papa doesn't come for me? That man said they had sent ahead for another engine, and that we should go on pretty soon; but I can't go without my papa," and the tears began to run down Edna's cheeks. She was beginning to feel cold, and it was very forlorn to sit there alone on a stump all night. "I believe I'll go back to the car," she said, "but I don't know where I belong." By great effort she managed to climb up on the high step of the first car, then made her way inside and stood there looking wistfully around.
"Why, you poor little child," said a lady, coming forward. "Where did you come from?"
"I came from the stump," replied Edna, "and I want my papa," she continued, her lip quivering and her eyes filling.
"Where is he?"
"I don't know," returned Edna, and putting her head against the arm which was placed sympathetically around her, she sobbed outright.
"There! There! Tell me all about it," said her friend. "We'll make it all right as soon as my husband comes in. Come, sit down here by me. Your father can't be very far away, and you know no one has been very badly hurt."
Edna gave the best account of herself that she could, and the lady comforted her and promised that she should be safely cared for.
After what seemed a long time, just as the morning was breaking, the train was again on its way. But no papa had appeared, although the husband of Edna's new friend had gone through the cars to look for him.
Poor little Edna! she was so unhappy, so anxious, as the train moved along faster and faster. Even kind Mrs. Porter by her side felt that she did not know just how to comfort the child, although she did try very hard, and at least made the little girl feel that she should be safely guarded on her way to her aunt's house; for Mrs. Porter lived in the same city, and had promised to take Edna in charge and deliver her safely at her aunt's very door.
The rising sun was lighting up the mountain tops and finding its way into the deep gorges, when suddenly Edna started to her feet with a cry, as the door opened and a man came in, very pale, with his head bandaged and his hand in a sling.
"Papa! Papa!" a little voice rang out, in tones of such gladness as caused everyone in the car to turn. It was Edna's father, truly, who made his way over to the seat where his little girl was sitting.
With his uninjured hand fondly clasped in that of his daughter he told how he had happened to be absent from her so long. "I was in the smoking car when the accident occurred," he said, "and I was thrown forward so violently that I was stunned, and was carried out of the car to a place of safety. Later I was placed in a berth in the car ahead of this, and lay in a stupor till a short time ago, when some one discovered me and asked if my name were Conway, saying that inquiries had been made for me. In the confusion and trouble I had been forgotten, but a doctor has been looking me over and tells me I am only a little shaken up, so all I needed was a bit of patching, as you see by this cut head and sprained wrist. I shall be as good as new in a few days. Poor, little daughter! I suspect that you fancied all sorts of things about me."
"Indeed she did," said Mrs. Porter, smiling, "we were really alarmed ourselves for your safety."
"I don't know what I should have done without Mrs. Porter. You don't know how good she has been to me," said Edna, looking up gratefully.
So the rest of the journey they were all on very good terms, and when Edna parted from her kind friends at the depot it was with a promise to go and see them as soon as she could.
"We have two boys, but no little girl," Mrs. Porter told her; "but we'll have a good time, even if we have no dolls in our house."
The accident had kept them from reaching Aunt Elizabeth's at the time they expected, and it was quite dark by the time they arrived at the house. Edna, therefore, could not see much of the street, but she could see the open square near by. The door was opened by Uncle Justus himself. "Heigho, little girl!" he exclaimed. "What's all this?"
"We were beginning to think you were not coming," was Aunt Elizabeth's greeting, as she, too, came forward. "What detained you, Henry? Why, what has happened to you?"
"We had an accident," explained Mr. Conway; and he proceeded to give an account of it, while Edna sat looking about her and wondering where her Cousin Louis was.
She was not long wondering, for in a few moments the door of the sitting-room opened and a little boy about ten years of age came quietly in; he was fair-haired and pale, and did not burst into the room as Frank or Charlie would have done.
"Louis, here is Cousin Edna," said Aunt Elizabeth. "Come and shake hands with her, then go with her to find Ellen, who will show her to her room. She will want to prepare for supper."
Edna cast an appealing glance at her father as she went out; but he was absorbed in talking to Uncle Justus, and, after shaking hands absently with Louis, returned to his conversation, and Edna followed Louis, feeling a little aggrieved at being sent off in this way. "My mamma would have gone with a little girl herself," she thought, as she waited for Louis to return with a candle, for which he went to the kitchen. "Say," he said, on his return, "Ellen is setting the table. I'll take you to your room; it's 'way up stairs;" and he swung around the post of the baluster to run up ahead of her. On the first landing he paused. "This is the parlor," he said, and Edna peeped in. The appearance of the room gave her a subdued feeling, as if she must not speak above a whisper. The windows were heavily curtained, and the children's voices had a muffled sound as they slipped cautiously inside. The furniture was big and ponderous; on a little stand was placed a heavy family Bible, a hymn book, bound in purple velvet, with gilt clasp, lying on top. Edna thought this last very beautiful, and looked back at it as they stole quietly out of the room.
On the next floor were the schoolrooms; these too, were shown Edna by Louis.
"These two rooms are the girls' schoolrooms, and back there is the boys' room," he explained.
"It must be a big school. Does Uncle Justus teach all the scholars?" asked Edna, with a little hope that the shaggy eyebrows would not be within her line of vision during all the school hours.
"No," replied Louis. "Aunt Elizabeth teaches the boys and Miss Ashurst the little girls."
Edna was relieved, and followed Louis up the last flight to the top floor. "My!" she said, "it is 'way up at the top of the house, isn't it? This is a queer house. I never saw one like it, with the parlor on the second floor. Where is your room, Louis?"
"I sleep in a little room next to aunt and uncle. Here's yours. Ellen has that one next to you," and he flung open a door; but by the dim light of the candle Edna could not see all the details.
"There isn't any gas up here," explained Louis, "but you won't mind that. It is pretty high up, too, but you can see ever so far from this window—the harbor where the ships sail and where the bridge crosses this side, and you can see the cars and lots of things. I'd a heap rather be up here, but Aunt Elizabeth said 'No,' and that settled it. There now, can I do anything for you?" he asked, setting down Edna's little hand satchel.
"No-o, thank you," replied the little girl, helplessly. She was so used to having sister or mamma at hand that it seemed very queer to be left alone, and after Louis had shut the door she stood looking around, not knowing just what to do; but she concluded she must take off her coat and hat, anyhow. This she did, and then washed off some of the dust as best she could, smoothing down her hair with her little wet hands.
"I wonder if I am to blow out the candle or take it back," she said to herself, but a recollection of the dark passageway decided her to take the candle down stairs, and she proceeded to descend, feeling rather scared as she passed the dusky corners of a strange house.
Supper was ready shortly after she entered the sitting-room; it consisted of warmed-over rolls, dried apples stewed, grated cheese, weak tea, and a dry kind of cake which tasted of the wooden box in which it had been kept. Edna never forgot the taste of that cake with which she became very familiar as time went on.
Uncle Justus was a very quiet, dignified man, with a Roman nose and gray side whiskers. He wore spectacles, which added to the effect of the shaggy eyebrows. Edna was very much afraid of him at first. Aunt Elizabeth was portly and bland, but her sharp eyes had a way of looking you through and through. Edna soon discovered that she was a person much more to be feared than Uncle Justus. She allowed no nonsense, no indecision. When she looked at you during mealtime and said, in a severe tone, "Butter or molasses?" if you wavered an instant you were told you could have neither, since you did not know what you wanted. To be allowed both was out of the question, and so it was a serious matter, with a slice of bread on your plate, to make a wise choice instantly.
After supper Edna and Louis played quietly with a queer old-fashioned game, called "The War of the Revolution;" it was played by using a teetotum and counters. Tiring of this the children next looked at a huge picture book containing Bible stories, with very highly colored illustrations. Edna was charmed with it, but was told that hereafter it was to be viewed only on Sundays, although as a special privilege it could be examined this first evening. The little girl was far too tired to care to sit up late, after the exciting scenes she had gone through, and of which she told Louis in reply to his eager questionings.
"My!" he had said, "I'd like to have been there. Won't they all stare at you in school to-morrow when I tell them?" To her little high-up room Edna was taken by the maid, Ellen, who was an uncouth, kindly creature, and from the first befriended the little girl.
"I'll sit up here, dear," she said, "an' kape open me dhure so yez will know I'm there;" and Edna fell asleep quite comforted by the near presence of the girl.
She was aroused the next morning by a voice, saying, "Come, come, child, it's high time to be up. I've let you sleep overtime after your journey, but you must be ready for school;" and opening her eyes the child saw Aunt Elizabeth standing over her.
"Am I to go to school to-day?" she asked, sitting up straight.
Edna had no reply ready; she didn't know why not, except that her father was going home that afternoon, and she had hoped to have the morning with him.
Aunt Elizabeth, however, would not listen to protests, but bade her niece hurry down.
"Who will fasten my buttons?" asked Edna.
Aunt Elizabeth looked at her severely. "A big girl, eight years old, that has to be dressed like a baby!" she exclaimed. "Hereafter you must fasten your own buttons;" and she left Edna sitting on the floor feeling rather disconsolate at this prospect.
However, by fastening the buttons in front and then twisting the garments around, slipping her arms into the shoulder straps last, she managed all the buttons but those of her frock, and for this she concluded she must ask Ellen's help. So she stole softly down stairs and out into the kitchen, where the willing maid helped her through the difficulty.
And so the new life began. School was rather pleasant, after all. Miss Ashurst made the lessons interesting, and while Uncle Justus had an eye to the schoolroom where the little girls were he seldom came in, although to him were offenders sent. Edna thought she could not possibly endure the disgrace of being ordered into the next room, so terrible did it seem to her. Consequently she took care to give no cause. She soon became acquainted with the little girls, and chose her special companions from them. They were, however, never allowed to visit her, as she soon found out to her confusion, for in the innocence of her heart she asked her deskmate to come and bring her dolls one Friday afternoon, but the little visitor was not allowed to enter the house, and was given the message that Edna was not permitted to receive company unless invited by her aunt. Poor little Edna was overcome with shame, and for the first time realized what real homesickness meant.
"My mamma let me have little girls to come and play with me," she sobbed; "and I used to go to play with them."
Aunt Elizabeth was a trifle less stern than usual; perhaps she did have some tender feeling for the child. "Stop crying, my dear," she said. "You and Louis may go and take a walk in the square. To-morrow I will take you to see some children who will, I hope, make you understand how highly favored you are. Run along, now, and get your hat. You may stay out an hour."
In the hall Uncle Justus met her, and seeing her wet eyes asked, "What is the matter, little girl?"
A grieving sigh was his only answer, so he patted her head and gave her a nickel. "There is a nice little shop around the corner," he said. "Louis can take you there to buy some candy." This showed such real sympathy that Edna looked up gratefully and ran to find her cousin.
"Good!" cried Louis whom she found in the schoolroom studying his lessons for Monday. "I'm tired of staying here, and they won't let me play with the boys in the street. There is one boy, though, that I do know. I see him in the square sometimes; he is a jolly fellow. They don't know I see him."
"O, is that right?" asked Edna.
"Ho! why not?"
"Why, I don't know, it's—it's kind of deceiving."
"I'd tell 'em if they'd ask me," replied Louis, conclusively. "Come, I'll race you around the square;" and they started out.
The square was a pretty place even in winter weather. In the center was a circular coping from which a flight of steps led down to a spring, the water of which ran constantly from two lions' mouths. Edna had never seen anything like this before, and was filled with admiration. It ever after remained a delight to her, and to the square she would rather go than anywhere else. The candy shop around the corner was another place to be favored. It was a queer little old-fashioned affair, quite unlike the big shops on the other streets, but there was something the children liked about the way the wares were shown, and the good-natured German woman who kept the shop was always ready to attend to the little ones, helping them out when it came to be a serious question whether peanut taffy or sour balls should be chosen.
On this Friday afternoon the gift from Uncle Justus was spent in little scalloped cakes of maple sugar, at which the children nibbled as they ran back to the square.
"There's Phil Blaney now," said Louis. "Come along, Edna;" and the little girl followed her cousin to a bench where a boy, somewhat older than Louis, was sitting. He looked Edna over rather contemptuously, and she, on her part, took a dislike to him which she never overcame, although the boy tried to be friendly, especially after Louis told him of Edna's exciting journey. But the hour was soon up, and Ellen at the door beckoned them in. Edna wanted to tell about Phil Blaney, but didn't know just what to do about it, especially when Louis called her a telltale for thinking of such a thing. Before she decided the question something happened which put it quite out of her mind.
The happening came about in this way: Aunt Elizabeth had promised to take Edna to see some poor little children who, she said, might make Edna feel how highly favored she was. Aunt Elizabeth Horner was a good woman, although she was rather hard on little people, having been brought up in a very strict way herself; but she was interested in many charities and missions, was always making warm clothing for the poor, and many a time sat up late at night, after a busy day, in order to fashion pretty cornucopias, boxes, and other fancy articles for some fair in which she was interested. She was one of the managers of an institution called "The Home of the Friendless," and favored it more than any of her other charities. The name appealed strongly to Edna, and she was very anxious to see the little children.
"We want to build a nice big new home for these poor wanderers who have no other home and no friends, so we are going to hold a fair," said Aunt Elizabeth, as they stopped at the door of a quiet-looking house on a little side street. "This is too small a place for the many little children who should be provided for."
Edna was very much interested in seeing the little waifs, in hearing them sing, and in seeing where they ate and slept. She was very thoughtful as she sat perched up on the seat of the car by her aunt's side during their homeward journey.
"I wish I could do something for them," she said, after a while.
"So you can, my dear," replied Aunt Elizabeth. "You can help me to make something for the fair."
"Do you think I really could?" cried Edna, delightedly.
"I am quite sure of it; if you are willing to give up some of your playtime, you can help me a great deal by cutting out the paper for my cornucopias, and perhaps you could do some of the pasting yourself."
This was surely a pleasant prospect, and the little girl was much pleased at it. She was a warm-hearted child, and a generous one, too. So she not only helped to make the pretty things, but brought all her pennies to her aunt to spend in materials.
"I will tell you what we can do with the pennies," said Aunt Elizabeth. "We will buy a lot of little dolls, and you can help dress them. I will have a great big shoe at my table, in which we can have the old woman who had 'so many children she didn't know what to do.'"
"Where will you get the old woman?" asked Edna, her face beaming.
Louis was standing by. "O, Aunt Elizabeth!" he said, becoming interested in the plan, "let me give the money for the old woman." So it was settled, and Edna gave up every spare moment to helping. All her thoughts were upon the fair, and she thought nothing more beautiful than the pretty things which Aunt Elizabeth's deft fingers turned out. There were little mugs and boats and pitchers, all made of pasteboard and fancy papers; these were to be filled with candy, and made a fine show as they stood on a table ready to be sent away.
One afternoon Aunt Elizabeth wanted some ribbon in a hurry. "I am going to send you downtown, Edna," she said. "You are big enough to find your way alone. Hurry back, for I want the ribbon as soon as I can get it."
"Can't Louis go with me?"
"No; he has to study one of his lessons, which he missed this morning. It is high time you were learning to be more self-reliant. I will tell you just how and where to go."
Edna's heart fluttered at this undertaking. She had never been downtown alone, and she was much afraid that she could not find the way, but she decided to do the best she could, especially as she knew her aunt would consider any objection in the light of disobedience.
It was all very easy to get in the car, pay her fare, and ask the conductor to let her out at such a street; so she managed very easily to reach the shop and get the ribbon; but to take the car home she was obliged to cross the street, and here came trouble, for there were horses dashing up and down, trolley cars coming this way and that, and, altogether, it was a very confusing point. Therefore Edna stood a long time on the curb before she dared to venture across, but finally she summoned up courage when the way seemed tolerably clear, and she managed to reach the opposite side; but looking back at a trolley car which seemed close at hand she hurried faster than her stout little legs could be relied upon to take her, and down she went in the mud of the gutter. She picked herself up in an agony of shame, lest she should be laughed at, and ran on as fast as she could up the street, but, unfortunately, in the wrong direction; for when she stood still and looked about her there were no blue cars to be seen, and it all looked strange.
She felt in her pocket for her parcel; it was safe, but her car fare was gone, and she stood a pitiful, mud-besmeared little object. Then the big tears began to come as she walked along very fast. "O dear, I'm lost!" she said to herself, "and I'll have to walk home, and Aunt Elizabeth is in a hurry, and she'll scold me! O dear! O dear! I want my own home, I do, I do." She began then to run along very fast again, to hide her tears from passers-by, and presently she came bump up against another little girl who had also been running.
The two children coming to such an abrupt standstill stared at each other. Edna saw a poor, ragged, dirty, pale-faced child with wild locks; and the little girl saw Edna with the tears still coursing down her cheeks, her pretty coat and frock stained with mud, and her hat knocked very much to one side.
It was the ragged girl who smiled first.
"I 'most knocked ye down, didn't I?" she said. "Where was ye going so fast?"
"I am going home," replied Edna, "only I don't know how to get there."
Edna stared. "I think I'm very unlucky. What makes you say that?"
"Yer lucky ter have any home ter go ter. I ain't. Yer live somewhere, if ye don't know where it is, an' I don't live nowhere, if I know where that is."
Edna smiled at this. "Why," she said, "where are your father and mother?"
"I ain't got none. Mis' Ryan she bound me out to Mis' Hawkins, an' I ain't goin' to stay there, I ain't. She starves me an' beats me;" and the child's voice shrilled out again, "I ain't goin' ter stay, I ain't."
"And haven't you any grandparents, or aunts or uncles?"
The child shook her head.
"Nor great-aunts? I think maybe you have a great-aunt like my Aunt Elizabeth," continued Edna.
But another shake of the head was the reply.
"And you haven't any friends. O, do say you haven't any friends," urged Edna, a pleased look coming into her face. "If you just say you haven't any friends I'll know just what to do."
"There's Moggins," said the child.
"Who is Moggins?" Edna asked, her face falling.
"My cat. Mis' Hawkins won't let me let him indoors; but he knows me an' comes when I call him."
"O, well," replied Edna, "of course a cat is a friend, but I don't believe he'll count. Anyhow, we'll take him, too."
"Where?" asked the girl, in astonishment.
"Why, to the Home of the Friendless, of course; aren't you friendless, and you haven't any home. It's just the place made for you;" and Edna smiled, well pleased. "Can you get Moggins? Is he far away?"
"Down there," and the child jerked her head in the direction of a narrow court near by.
"I'll wait here for you," said Edna, decidedly. "Tell me your name and I'll tell you mine. I'm Edna Conway."
"I'm Maggie Horn. You wait for me;" and Maggie darted away, leaving Edna on the corner.
All thoughts of the ribbon, car fare, and all else faded away before this great new interest. The saving from homelessness and friendlessness this little street child whom Edna had met in such an unexpected way seemed to her more important than anything else in the world, and she eagerly waited Maggie's return.
She did not have to wait long, for very soon Maggie came running back with a forlorn, miserable, half-starved kitten cuddled up in her arms.
"Here he is!" she cried, exultantly. "I ketched him; he was a-settin' in the sun. Let's hurry, so Mis' Hawkins won't git me." Edna patted Mogg's head, the little cat looking at her with scared eyes until he was reassured by Maggie's coaxing voice.
"Ye see," said Maggie, "he's kinder skeert o' most folks, 'cause they've tret him so bad. The way I come to git him was when Annie Flynn an' Han Murphy had him a-swingin' him round by one paw and then flingin' him off ter see if he'd light on his feet; one of his legs has been queer ever since. I give 'em my supper fur lettin' me have him, but I have a time ter keep the boys from gittin' him. Come, let's go to the place. Where is it?"
Edna came to a halt, looking doubtfully up and down the street. "I don't just know," she said, "but I'll know it when I see it, for there's a sign over the door with 'Home for Friendless Children' on it."
"Ho!" exclaimed Maggie, "we might walk all day in this big place, and then not get there."
"If I hadn't lost the ten cents I had for car fare we might ride and tell the conductor to let us off when we got there," said Edna, naively.
Maggie laughed. She was sharper than Edna. "How'd ye know which car to take?"
"That's so," was the reply; "we'll have to ask a policeman."
"No! no!" cried Maggie. "I'm skeered o' the perlice."
"Then we'll go to that drug store and ask," concluded Edna, wisely; and with childlike confidence she turned to the shop in question.
"The 'Home of the Friendless,'" said the clerk, with a smile, as he looked at the queer little pair. "Let me see, I can soon tell you;" and he turned over the pages of a big book on the counter. "It is on Pearl Street, No. 342."
"Is it a long way?" asked Edna.
"It's pretty long to walk. You'd better ride."
"O no, we can't; we'll walk. I can, can't you, Maggie?"
"Sure," replied Maggie, forcibly, if not elegantly.
Thanking the clerk who gave them some further instructions the little girls started out on their journey.
"We must go up this street to Market, and out Market to Pearl," said Edna; and they trotted along chatting as if the proceeding were not an unusual one.
It was a long, tiresome walk, but the place was reached at last; and Edna, standing on tiptoe, rang the bell, which was answered by one of the little inmates of the house.
Edna smiled as she recognized one of the children she had seen when she visited the place with her aunt. "O, how do you do?" she said; "I have brought Maggie to live here with you." And she stepped into the hall, followed by Maggie, who still held the scraggy little kitten hugged close.
The child who opened the door stared. "I'll go call Miss Barnes," she said. The sweet-faced teacher looked a little curiously at the visitors, but Edna was confident of a welcome. "I've brought Maggie," she informed the lady, with a bright smile. "She hasn't any home, nor any friend but Moggins, and Moggins hasn't any friends but her. So, you know, that's why they both had to come."
"But, my dear," interrupted Miss Barnes, "we cannot take in little people without knowing something more about them. The case will have to go before the Board of Managers, and then if it is all right we'll be very glad to have this little girl. The Board meets the first Friday in each month."
Edna looked distressedly at Maggie. "O dear," she sighed, "and we've come such a long way, and we're so hungry, at least I am. I expected to be back by dinner time."
Miss Barnes was looking at her more closely.
"Why," she exclaimed, "aren't you the little girl who came with one of our managers not long ago? Aren't you Mrs. Horner's niece?"
"Why, yes," replied Edna. "Didn't you know me? I knew you right away. I'm awfully muddy, 'cause I tumbled down. I lost my car fare, and we've walked and walked."
"You poor little child," said Miss Barnes, "let me go and call the matron, and we'll talk this over."
"Maggie can't go back," decided Edna. "She would be beat to death, and so would Moggins."
After a long consultation with the matron, and innumerable questions, it was arranged that Maggie should remain till Miss Barnes had seen Mrs. Horner. "And Moggins, too," stipulated Edna.
But the matron shook her head. "Then I'll have to take him home with me," said Edna, though in her heart she had many misgivings as to what Aunt Elizabeth would say.
Poor little Maggie stood with quivering lips as she saw her only friends depart; but the good matron set before her a generous bowl of mush and milk and the half-starved child, after receiving the assurance that all possible should be done for her, accepted matters quietly.
It was a very weary little girl whom Miss Barnes held by the hand as the two stopped at the door of the four-story house opposite the square.
"Shure! it's yersel'," cried Ellen, as she answered the bell. "Mrs. Horner's called out a-suddint, me dear, an' phwat'll she say to yer shtayin' so long? Phwat's that ye have?"
"O, it's Moggins; won't you take him and give him some milk? And, O Ellen, I'm so hungry!"
"The pore dear," returned Ellen, taking the kitten tenderly.
"I'll find Uncle Justus," said Edna, as she ushered Miss Barnes into the sitting-room, and, having brought her uncle, she ran to get something to eat from Ellen, for the kind-hearted maid had saved the child's dinner for her.
Having satisfied her appetite, and having heard the front door open and shut, Edna began to be seized with fear; and she stood tremblingly by the door as she heard Uncle Justus approach. But he only asked, "Have you had some dinner, little girl?" Then he laid his hand gently on her head and walked on. Next the front door again opened, and Edna heard Aunt Elizabeth's voice. Should she stay or go? Fear overcame her, and she took to her heels, never resting till she was up in her little room, where with beating heart she sat at the window overlooking the harbor.
For a long time Edna sat at the window expecting every moment to hear her aunt's heavy tread upon the stair. Finally, from sheer exhaustion, the little dusky head drooped on the sill, and when the last fading sunbeam stole into the room it found the little girl fast asleep.
She was aroused from her slumbers by Ellen. "Shure, dear, are ye moindin' it's near supper time?" she said.
Edna started up. "O, Ellen," she exclaimed, "I've been asleep."
"Yes, dear, an' so ye have; it's no wonder, with the tramp ye took. Come, let me put on another frock. I'll take this wan an' clane it for ye, so the misthress will niver know a bit of harrum come to it."
"O Ellen! you're so good," said Edna gratefully, her arms going around Ellen's neck.
"Sorry a bit," protested Ellen, laughing as she fastened Edna's frock. "Now ye are as nate as a new pin."
"Was Aunt Elizabeth very cross when she saw Moggins?" asked the little girl wistfully. "Will she turn him out?"
"Whist, dear, an' I'll tell ye; but ye mustn't let on a worrud, but take it as a matter of coorse. I was brushing up the harruth when yer aunt come into the settin'-room. 'Where's Edna?' says she. 'Up stairs,' says yer uncle. 'Did she get the ribbon all right?' says she. 'She did,' says he, 'an' she done more nor that,' an' he up an' told her all about yer doin's; an' yer aunt set thoughtfullike, a-rollin' up her bonnet strings the whoile. Yer Uncle Justus, he stud up on the two fate of him, an' says he, 'Yer not to punish her, Elizabeth. She has moinded the worrud, "Inasmuch as ye did it to me,'" an' with that I picked up me dustpan an' wint out into the kitchen. Afther a bit yer aunt come out, an' she spies the skileton of a cat onto the harruth, an' says she, 'I'll not abide the cat in the house.' 'The cat is to stay,' says the uncle from the dhure where he stud. Yer aunt looked up kinder dazed-like at the firrum way of him, an', says she, 'Thin, Ellen, ye must kape the crathur in the kitchen. I don't begrutch it the bit of scrapin's it'll take to feed it.' An' so, dear, ye just go down cheerfullike, an' say nothin'." And Edna, clasping Ellen's big, kind, coarse hand, went down stairs.
Uncle Justus was sitting by the fire, which cast a ruddy glow through the isinglass of the stove. The old gentleman was slowly polishing his glasses with his silk handkerchief, blinking his eyes and looking the very picture of sternness. Edna stole softly up, her little heart beating with a mixture of timidity and gratitude. She gently, plucked her uncle's sleeve, then she said, "Thank you so much, Uncle Justus," and leaning forward she gave a little light kiss, which fell only upon the outer edge of one carefully curled gray side whisker; then, overcome by the boldness of her act, Edna fled to the window and hid herself in the heavy curtains. But Uncle Justus understood, for when his wife came into the room, he said, "Edna has come down, Elizabeth," and calling her to him, he actually put his arm around the shrinking child, as she faltered out her account of her day's doings, while she felt sure he meant to stand her friend, and bravely told about even the muddy frock. "I am sorry, auntie," she said. "I did mean to come right home."
"I forgive you, my child, because you have told the exact truth. I can trust you because you are truthful. Perhaps I expected too much of you, sending you so far alone," was the reply.
Edna could hardly believe her ears, to hear that from Aunt Elizabeth!
And so Moggins's place in the family was secure. He grew sleek and fat under Ellen's care, and was a great source of amusement to Edna; many a wild play they had together in the big yard.
Maggie's case, however, was not so easily settled. After leaving Uncle Justus, Miss Barnes hurried back to the Home.
"I don't know what we are going to do about this little child," she said to the matron. "We cannot keep her here against the rules of the institution. I did not find Mrs. Horner at home, and so there is nothing to do but to take the child back to the people with whom she has been living, until we can make plans for her."
But Maggie, upon being told this, burst into a perfect frenzy of weeping. "O, don't take me back! Don't! Don't!" she cried. "She will beat me for running away. O, you don't know her."
"But she must not," said Miss Barnes. "She can be arrested for ill-treating you."
"You don't know her," repeated Maggie. "She will beat me like she did oncet before, when I went to the mission school, an' some ladies give me clothes. She took 'em away an' said I was settin' myself up to be a lady an' she'd learn me, she would, an' she beat me tur'ble," and Maggie hid her face at the recollection. "An' when the ladies came to see about me," she continued, "she told me ef I dast tell 'em, she'd do worse by me, an' she told the ladies I was a lyin' thievin' critter, an' purtended I was ill tret, when she was a mother to me an' never laid the flat of her hand agen me, 'ceptin' fur my good."
Maggie had been standing before Miss Barnes and the matron, her head buried in her arm, but when telling this tale she looked with tearful eyes straight at her hearers. She was a pitiful looking little object, indeed, even now, with her neglected locks smoothed, her face and hands washed, and an apron covering her ragged frock, for she was thin and hollow-eyed, with pallid cheeks and bony little hands, which worked convulsively as she told her story.
"What shall we do?" said Miss Barnes, her heart swelling with sympathy.
The matron looked thoughtful. "I can't take any responsibility in the matter, Miss Barnes," she replied, "much as I hate to turn the child out."
"She shall not go back," returned Miss Barnes, with emphasis. "Please get some sort of a hat for her, Mrs. Shaw, and I will go and see Mrs. Ramsey. It is a case that needs instant attention."
Mrs. Ramsey was the wealthiest and most influential of the ladies directly interested in the Home, and was one of the warmest-hearted women in the world. She was, moreover, very firm and decided; once undertaking a matter she did not let it drop till she had accomplished what she set out to do, and therefore Miss Barnes was wise in selecting her as an adviser.
In all her short life Maggie had never seen such magnificence as that which met her astonished eyes as the footman in livery ushered Miss Barnes and her charge into the library where Mrs. Ramsey was sitting. The child gazed at pictures and ornaments, soft draperies and luxurious couches, feeling as if this were the court of a queen. She had knocked about too much in the streets to be very shy, but she was bewildered by all that she saw, so she sat on the edge of a chair not speaking, nor even listening to what was said of her.
"I suppose the child's morals are far from good," Miss Barnes said; "but little Edna Conway, who is a dear child, seems to have taken a fancy to this poor little waif." And Miss Barnes told of Edna's trust in bringing Maggie to the Home, of Maggie's love for the little kitten, and all that she knew of the child from her own story.
"She must have some good in her," said Mrs. Ramsey, thoughtfully. "Anyhow, Miss Barnes, she is a poor, neglected, friendless child, and such are the ones for whom the Home is intended." She sat musingly regarding Maggie. "Come here, little girl," she said, presently.
Maggie started, but obediently left her chair and stood before Mrs. Ramsey, who looked at her searchingly. "How old are you?" she asked.
"I don't know, ma'am."
"How long have you lived with this woman whom you have just left?"
"I don't know ezackly. I lived with Mis' Ryan first. She told me she missed my mother. She was right good to me, she was, but she had to go to a place, an' she bound me out to Mis' Hawkins, to look after the young uns and do chores. Mis' Hawkins is a hummer."
"She's a reg'lar out an' outer; jus' tur'ble; drinks an' fights. She's been tuck up lots of times, so you can't skeer her that a-way."
"Do you know anything about your mother? Where does Mrs. Ryan live?"
"She lives to a place in the country. She tol' me my mother was better'n mos'; that she was a lady in the millingnery line, an' made grand bonnets and hats."
"And your mother is not living?"
"No, ma'am. She got consumpted and died, Mis' Ryan said."
Mrs. Ramsey again sat thinking. "Miss Barnes," she said, after a pause, "you were perfectly right; it would not do for you to take the responsibility of this. We must establish our legal claim to this child. I do not imagine it will be difficult. You may leave Maggie with me. It is too late to do anything this evening, but to-morrow I will settle the question." And Maggie found herself the guest of—it seemed to her—the most elegant lady in the land.
"We shall see you again at the Home, Maggie," said Miss Barnes, kindly, as she took her leave. "Be a good girl, and do not give Mrs. Ramsey any trouble. She is more than kind, and you see she trusts you."
"O, Miss Barnes. I wouldn't do nothin' to trouble that beautiful lady for nothin'; no, not for nothin'," promised Maggie.
After Miss Barnes had gone Mrs. Ramsey summoned a maid. "Take this little girl, and give her a good bath," she said. "You can put a cot in your room for her. She is to sleep here to-night, and to-morrow she is to go out with me. We will have to manage some sort of an outfit for her. I think you will have to go out early, Rosa, and do some shopping for her. Are you hungry, Maggie?" she asked, turning to the child.
"No, ma'am. I was, but I had a big bowl of mush and milk, what Mis' Shaw give me."
"You had better give her something more, Rosa. Mush and milk is not a very lasting diet," returned Mrs. Ramsey, smiling. "Now go with Rosa, Maggie," and Mrs. Ramsey turned back to the magazine which she had been reading when Miss Barnes, with Maggie, came in.
Half fearful, half ecstatic, Maggie took her place by the side of Mrs. Ramsey in her fine carriage the next morning. Rosa had clothed her in an entirely new suit of clothes, and had really taken pride in seeing how nice she could make her little charge look. So it was quite a well-appearing little girl who was Mrs. Ramsey's companion. The idea of riding in that beautiful carriage nearly took Maggie's breath away; it seemed as if she must be dreaming; but as she neared the place where Mrs. Hawkins lived, her heart fluttered, and she looked up so appealingly at Mrs. Ramsey, that the eyes of the sweet woman filled. "No one shall hurt you, Maggie dear," she said. And she held the child's hand firmly, as they left the carriage.
"There she is!" cried Maggie, clinging closely to her friend, as a hard-featured woman turned toward them from the sidewalk.
Mrs. Hawkins was no respecter of persons, and Mrs. Ramsey's appearance with Maggie was the signal for a fierce outbreak.
"There ye are, are ye. Callin' yerself a lady, maybe, abductin' children. I'll have the law on ye, sure as me name's Hawkins," she cried.
"The child left you of her own accord," said Mrs. Ramsey, with dignity.
"Then ye've brought her back, have ye?" and Mrs. Hawkins cast a threatening look at Maggie.
"No, I have not," replied Mrs. Ramsey, quietly. "I simply brought her along to identify you."
"Ye think yer honest, don't ye?" shrieked Mrs. Hawkins. "I'll have the child back. I've the law on me side."
"We shall find out if the law permits anyone to retain a child and ill-treat her," returned Mrs. Ramsey.
"Ill-treat, is it? Who says it? If it's that little lyin', whinin'—"
"Hush!" said Mrs. Ramsey, in a tone of command.
The woman was silenced for a moment, then she made a grab at Maggie, who clung to her protector.
At this moment up strode a policeman. "What's all this?" he cried. "What's the trouble? Pardon me, madam," he said, addressing Mrs. Ramsey.
That lady explained.
The policeman looked perplexed. "I am not sure but the woman has some right, madam. I happen to know that the child belongs here, but you can probably settle it if she has been ill-treated. You had better leave the girl here, and consult the proper authorities."
Mrs. Hawkins stood with her arms akimbo, looking on triumphantly.
"If she must stay, so must I," said Mrs. Ramsey, firmly.
"Very well, madam. I will see that you are protected from the woman," said the policeman.
Mrs. Ramsey thanked him, and calling her coachman, she bade him drive directly to her husband's office. Then she took up her place in a little shop, still holding Maggie by the hand.
A GUILTY CONSCIENCE.
It was an all-day matter. Mrs. Ramsey bravely held her place in the shop, gazed at by curious eyes, but she calmly waited the return of her carriage with her husband.
That gentleman's appearance with two officers rather took down Mrs. Hawkins, and although she still persisted in claiming Maggie, after a long parley and a visit to the office of a lawyer, the matter was finally settled, and Maggie was borne triumphantly away, and handed over to Miss Barnes.
"If there ever was a good woman whom riches cannot spoil it is Mrs. Ramsey," said the teacher, when she heard Maggie's account of her day. "You ought to thank God for such a friend, Maggie."
Thus Maggie was established in her new home. She felt the restraint, it must be admitted, and was not by any means a model child, for the life she had been living had not been one that helped her to much goodness; but she had very strong affections and a grateful heart; therefore, to remind her that Mrs. Ramsey or Edna would be disappointed in her, if she were naughty, was the surest means of bringing penitence for a fault, a means which does not always work as well with children brought up in a purer atmosphere.
Edna had occasion to learn more of Maggie, as she was allowed a weekly visit to the Home to see her little friend. One day Maggie confessed to her that she was far from perfect, and told, with tears in her eyes, of obstinate faults. "But I will be good. I'll try harder'n ever," promised the child, "for Miss Barnes told me I didn't love you nor Mrs. Ramsey when I behave bad, for if I did I'd want to show you. Do you care when I'm bad?" she asked, wistfully.
"Of course I do," replied Edna. "What had you been doing to make Miss Barnes say that?"
Maggie was silent for a moment. "There's a little girl here with long curls—she's awful pretty, an' every one says she'll get 'dopted some day 'cause she's so pretty—an' one day she kicked me under the bench when some ladies was here, an'—an' I pinched her, an' the ladies saw me, an' made a fuss about it, so Miss Barnes sent me out of the room."
"Did you tell on her?" asked Edna.
"No, I didn't."
"I like you for that," she replied, sympathizing with the not telling, for her loyal little heart forbade her to tell on Louis many a time when he had done some little mean trick.
Therefore on this evening of her visit to Maggie, her mind was full of such things. "I wouldn't let a poor little Friendlesser be better than I am," she said to herself, "and I'll be twice as nice to Louis now." In consequence she was quite disturbed when she missed her cousin from the supper table that evening.
"Why, where is Louis?" she asked.
"He is in his room," replied Aunt Elizabeth, in a tone which forbade further questioning. Edna glanced at her uncle; he, too, looked stern and unyielding, and no chance was given the little girl that evening to find out the cause of Louis' banishment. She had become very fond of her cousin, although she did not always quite approve of him. He was a gentle, affectionate boy, easily influenced, and being an only child, had been allowed his own way, so that he was very much spoiled. He was, nevertheless, a very agreeable companion for a little girl, for he did not disdain to play with dolls at times, and would dress up and play "lady" when nothing more exciting was suggested. He was very fond of keeping shop, a drug store he usually preferred to have it; this probably on account of the very small pair of scales among his toys. He served Edna and the dolls a certain delectable drink made by filling with sugar and water, bottles in which remained a few drops of vanilla extract; these bottles Ellen bestowed upon the children, and they considered the mixture they prepared something very delicious. The rest of the stock consisted chiefly of sand, slate-pencil dust, dried beans, and bits of broken twigs. Many a happy hour did the two children spend playing together; therefore, when Edna felt that some stern decree had been passed upon Louis, her little tender heart felt it deeply.
At breakfast time no Louis appeared, nor did he take his place in school that day. To his school-fellows' question, "What is the matter with Louis?" Edna was obliged to answer, "I don't know."
After dinner, which seemed a more solemn affair than usual, the little girl could stand it no longer. To her questions Ellen could give no satisfactory answers, so, watching an opportunity, when Uncle Justus was taking his afternoon nap and when Aunt Elizabeth had gone to some meeting, Edna stole up to the storeroom, whose window was diagonally opposite to that of Louis' room. After a moment's hesitation she tapped on the window; there was no response from Louis' room. Then Edna decided to write a note and slip it under his door. This she managed to do. "I am going to the storeroom, open your window," was what she wrote, and the note served its purpose, for when the storeroom window was raised there stood Louis before his window.
"O, Louis," cried Edna. "Can't you get out?"
"No," was the reply.
"O, dear, I wish you could. I have such a lot to tell you. What are you shut up for? What did you do?"
Louis looked sullen. "I didn't do anything."
"O!" said Edna. "Are you sure? Then why did they shut you up?"
"Just for hatefulness," replied Louis. "I wasn't doing a thing."
This seemed a dreadful state of affairs, and Edna hardly knew what to think. "I wish I could let you out," she said, sympathetically, "but I can't."
Louis stood with downcast eyes, hammering with his knife upon the sill.
"Are you sure you haven't done anything?" persisted Edna.
"Of course I haven't. They just want to show their power over me, and I am half starved, I haven't had anything but bread and water."
Edna's eyes filled. "I wish I had something nice to give you to eat," she said, in distress.
"I wish you had," replied Louis.
"O, I hear some one," cried Edna, suddenly, and she shut down the window, hastily.
But the footsteps proved to be only those of Ellen going through the hall. Edna, nevertheless, did not dare to venture into the storeroom again at once, for Uncle Justus was apt any minute to awaken, and thinking to divert Louis by playing with Moggins in the yard, the little girl went out and tried to display the cat to the boy at the window above, but he stood watching her with such an unsmiling face that Edna was overcome with pity.
"I suppose he is almost starved," she said, to herself. "It isn't likely Ellen would dare to give me anything for him. I wish I had some pennies, but I have given them all to auntie for the fair." She stood pondering over the subject when her eye caught sight of a covered dish standing on a bench by the kitchen door. Edna lifted the cover and saw that the dish was full of baked apples which had been placed there to cool for supper. Without stopping to think, she picked up two of the apples by their stems and thrust them into her little clean handkerchief which, still unfolded, had been lying in her pocket.
Holding the four corners of the handkerchief together, she ran upstairs to the storeroom. She had heard Uncle Justus go out for a walk, and she knew that Aunt Elizabeth would not return till dark.
In response to the raising of the window Louis' window also opened. "I have something for you," said Edna, hastily; "but I don't know how to get it to you. It's in my handkerchief. Wait a minute." She had an idea, for presently out of the window came a rod, on the end of which was tied the handkerchief of baked apples. Exercising much care, Edna managed to direct the pole—which was the handle of the window brush—to Louis' window and the apples were taken in. Then Edna drew back the stick, set it up in its place, and ran up to her room to think about it.
She did not feel comfortable over the matter. Only a short time ago her aunt and uncle had been kinder to her than she had reason to expect they could be, and now to find them so harsh to Louis seemed a contradiction. Perhaps he had been naughty and deserved the punishment. She remembered with regret that Louis did not always speak the truth; once or twice he had screened himself by blaming her for something of which she was innocent. At all events she had no right to take the apples. Why, they didn't belong to her! Of course, they didn't. She wouldn't eat any for supper, and in that way she could replace them. Edna was very fond of baked apples, and the sacrifice decided upon, she felt more comfortable.
So, at supper she did refuse the apples, an unusual proceeding which caused her aunt to look at her so sharply that Edna felt those penetrating eyes were seeing straight into her very heart, and she colored up, taking a very long, slow drink of water to hide her embarrassment.
She was very quiet all during the evening, meekly holding some worsted for her aunt, then taking a very dull book, and trying to read it. But she was very glad when bedtime came.
Usually it was a very few minutes after her head touched the pillow that she was asleep; but this night slumber did not easily come, and the pillow was very damp under the rosy cheek which lay upon it. "O, dear!" sighed the conscience-stricken child. "It didn't do a bit of good to go without the apples; I can't go to sleep, and it's been nearly all night since I came up stairs. O, dear, what shall I do?"
The moments became harder and harder to bear, and, finally, with but one thought in her mind, she slipped out of bed and down stairs. It was not very late, although it seemed so to the child. Uncle Justus and Aunt Elizabeth were still in the sitting-room. They were surprised by the appearance of a little form standing in the doorway.
"Why, Edna, what are you doing here in your night clothes?" exclaimed Aunt Elizabeth. "Are you ill?"
"No," replied Edna, below her breath, while the lump in her throat seemed to grow bigger and bigger.
After the first glance Uncle Justus's eyes did not turn from the newspaper he was reading.
"What is the matter, then?" asked Aunt Elizabeth, with a piercing look. "You are not ill."
"No, I'm not ill, Aunt Elizabeth," replied the child. "I'm wicked. I've stoled."
"What do you mean? What was it you took?" asked Aunt Elizabeth.
"Two baked apples."
"And that is why you refused them at supper. When did you eat them?"
"I didn't eat them," replied Edna, hesitatingly. "O, please, auntie, I won't eat any the next time either. Please shut me up, and feed me on bread and water, like Louis."
"Did you take the apples for Louis?" suddenly asked Uncle Justus.
Edna gave an assenting nod, while she looked up with appealing eyes.
"How did you get them to him?"
"Through the window, on the end of a stick."
A little queer look came into Uncle Justus's face.
"You will take cold standing there," said Aunt Elizabeth, returning to her work. "Go back to bed."
"Won't you please shut me up and let Louis out?" said Edna. "I'll stay two days, one for him and one for me."
"Go to bed," commanded Aunt Elizabeth, "We'll settle it to-morrow."
The next morning saw Louis free, and he appeared at the breakfast table wearing a very dogged expression of discontent. Edna trembled in her shoes at what might be awaiting her, and when her aunt called her solemnly to her room the child felt as if she were going before a dreadful court of justice.
She never forgot that talk with Aunt Elizabeth, who, to do her credit, tried to mete out what she considered as light a punishment as would meet the case. It was not the punishment which Edna minded; it was the long talk behind locked doors, which she bore standing in front of her aunt, whose sharp eyes were fixed on the little culprit. "The value of the apples is a very small matter," said Aunt Elizabeth, "and you shall replace them by going without, as your own conscience told you it would be right to do; but the principle of the thing is what I mind, even though you took the fruit for some one else. You were not only breaking the commandment, 'Thou shalt not steal,' but you were not honoring those who stand in the place of your father and mother. And it was not helping Louis; it was harming him, for your uncle and I knew better than you what was best to be done. Now," concluded Aunt Elizabeth, "because you were brave enough to come and confess your fault, and because you are really contrite, I shall not punish you beyond forbidding you all sweets for a week."
Edna accepted her punishment very meekly. She was very fond of sweets, and it was hard to go without anything of that kind for seven whole days. Ellen with all good intentions offered her a slice of bread and butter spread with sugar in the kitchen one day; but the child was too honest to accept it, and it is quite likely that this stanch upholding of her aunt's decree had its effect not only upon Ellen but also upon Louis.
"Say, Edna," said the boy, when he heard the result of the affair, "I'm awfully sorry you got into a fuss on my account."
"O, I don't mind it much," replied his cousin; "I mind having Uncle Justus think me bad."
Louis opened his eyes. "You don't care what that old tyrant thinks, do you?"
"Why, yes," was the reply; "don't you? I don't like anybody to think I am wicked."
"I don't care what some people think," replied Louis, angrily. "I wish my father and mother were here, he'd soon see whether I'd be shut up again just because I chose to play with a boy they didn't know. I'll run away next time, see if I don't."
"Was that it?" returned Edna; "but you know they said we mustn't make friends with strange children."
"Didn't you make friends with Maggie Horn? Answer me that, miss," exclaimed Louis, triumphantly.
Edna was silent. She didn't exactly see the way clear to defend herself, although she knew there was a difference somewhere.
"Maggie Horn is nothing but a dirty little street child," continued Louis; "and I haven't the least doubt but that she tells stories and steals and all that, while Phil Blaney lives in a nice house, and—and—"
"As if that made him good," answered Edna, scornfully. "I just know that he is a great deal worse than Maggie, for she never had anyone to teach her, and Phil has had, so he is much worse."
"He is not," replied Louis, fiercely.
"He is, he is," contradicted Edna, "and you are a horrid, disagreeable boy to talk so about Maggie; I am not going to play with you, so there," and picking up her doll, she stalked away.
"Yah! yah! 'I don't want to play in your yard,'" sang Louis after her.
Edna was very angry, the more so that she did not know how to defend Maggie. It was quite likely, she thought, that Maggie might do all sorts of wrong things, and it was also quite true that she had, herself, made friends with a strange girl. She could not puzzle it out, and she went down stairs to the sitting-room where Uncle Justus was. She sat down on a hassock by the fire, looking very thoughtful. Once or twice she glanced up at her uncle.
After a while he noticed the questioning look on her face. "What is it, little girl?" he asked.
"Uncle Justus," she said, "was I very bad when I talked to Maggie Horn, and got 'quainted with her? Louis says it was just as bad as for him to talk to Phil Blaney."
"Why did you talk to Maggie and make her acquaintance?"
"'Cause I was so sorry for her," replied Edna, simply.
"And why did Louis become intimate with Phil; was it to do him good?"
"No," replied Edna, "I don't believe he thought of that. I think it was because he thought Phil was fun."
"And did you think about disobeying when you met Maggie?"
"O, no, of course not; Uncle Justus, you don't think I meant to, do you? We bumped into each other, and when I saw how poor and thin she was I felt so sorry. You don't think I talked to her because I wanted not to mind Aunt Elizabeth, do you?"
"No, I do not think so; I believe all your thought was to help Maggie. It was not willful disobedience, so you see there is a difference between the two cases."
Edna was thoughtful. "Yes, I see," she answered. But somehow that "feeling sorry for people" made her get over her anger against Louis, and she went up stairs singing a little song to herself. And a half hour later the two might have been heard laughing merrily over their play, and planning what they were going to do at the fair which was to be held the next week.
Before then Edna found out more of Louis' misbehavior. It seems that he had, more than once, gone out the back gate when he was supposed to be studying his lessons in the afternoon, climbing the fence and creeping in the house again just at dusk, being encouraged in this by Phil Blaney. Uncle Justus coming home later than usual one evening caught sight of Louis with a crowd of bad boys and grimly marched his nephew home.
Phil Blaney was a wild, uncontrolled boy, who spent most of his time in the street, played truant three days out of five, was a great boaster, and sneered at anything like goodness. He was vastly amusing, however, and generally was surrounded by a crowd of admiring lads who thought him quite a hero. He had completely fascinated Louis, who was blind to his faults and attached great weight to every word he uttered. Phil encouraged the younger boy to be as defiant as possible, telling him he was a coward to stand being badgered by old "goggle-eyes," as he called Professor Horner. So Louis was under a very bad influence, the real danger of which neither he nor Edna could realize.
The next week, however, the fair was the great matter of interest. Aunt Elizabeth had a table and allowed the children to go as helpers, if not every day, at least quite often. Louis being the elder was sometimes allowed to return in the evening, and Edna's great desire was to be allowed also to go at that time.
"It is much more fun at night," Louis had told her. "There are so many people there, and it is all lighted up, and there is always music, singing, or something." But Aunt Elizabeth had not hinted at there being a possibility of Edna's being allowed to sit up after eight o'clock, and Edna was so very eager to go "just one evening."
Finally she summoned up courage to take her longing to Uncle Justus. There appeared to be a very good understanding between the grave, dignified man and the honest little girl, and the confidences between the two grew more and more frequent.
Uncle Justus was in the large schoolroom looking over some papers when Edna peeped in. Seeing him so busy she crept away and went to her desk in the adjoining room to wait till he should be free.
After a while she heard him get up and clear his throat in a little way that he had. So she left her desk and reached him as he stood looking thoughtfully out of the window. "Uncle Justus," she said, "if you were a little girl my size, and there were a fair going on, don't you think you'd want very much to go in the evening?"
The queer little look which came into Uncle Justus's face when such questions were put to him appeared as he said, "I do not believe I could imagine the feelings of a little girl, for it is a long time since I was even a little boy."
For a moment Edna's imagination tried to picture Uncle Justus as a little boy, but it was such a very difficult thing that she gave it up almost immediately.
"You see," Edna went on, "I don't believe I should mind about most fairs, but this is such a particular fair. You know it is to get a new house for Maggie and the rest of the little Friendlesses, and then I helped to make some of the pretty things, and I do want to hear the singing, and see how it looks lighted up."
Uncle Justus smiled; it was not a very fascinating place to him, but it was fairyland to the little girl. "What does your aunt say?" he asked.
"She doesn't say anything about it," replied Edna; "only she never lets me sit up after eight-o'clock, you know."
"We'll have to see about it," was all Uncle Justus said, but it was quite enough for Edna to know he meant to put in a word for her. And indeed that very evening Aunt Elizabeth remarked, "Edna, if you study your lessons faithfully for the rest of the week you may go to the fair with me on Friday evening, as there will be no school the next day."
Edna clasped her hands and shot a pleased look at Uncle Justus, who looked at her over the top of his spectacles. "O!" she exclaimed, "I am so rejoiceful."
Even Aunt Elizabeth smiled at that, and it is needless to say that the lessons were given unusual attention for the next few days.
But, alas! when Friday afternoon came Aunt Elizabeth was laid up with an attack of neuralgia, and there was no hope of her getting to the fair that evening.
Such a disappointed little girl never was—the great tear-drops splashed down her cheeks as she heard the decision and fled to her room. "O, dear! O, dear!" she said, "I don't see why it had to be Friday. Why didn't Aunt Elizabeth wait just one more day?" Something poor Aunt Elizabeth would have been ready enough to do if possible. It did seem to Edna as if she could not stand it, and she went down to supper with very red eyes. Louis tried to comfort her and promised to play buttons with her that evening, a specially favorite amusement of the little girl when Aunt Elizabeth allowed her button bag to be used, and all sorts of plays were invented by using the buttons. But even this prospect had lost its charm. "I wish I were a man," exclaimed Louis, suddenly, "I'd take you."
Uncle Justus looked up quizzically. "No, you wouldn't, my young sir," he replied; "for I expect to give myself the pleasure of taking Edna to the fair this evening."
Down went Edna's knife and fork, and, in defiance of all the set rules of the house, she jumped up from her seat and actually hugged Uncle Justus. She probably would not have done so if Aunt Elizabeth had been present, but that restraining presence removed, the children both felt a little less timid.
It did not take Edna long to get ready, and such a rosy, beaming face as appeared at the door of the sitting-room must have given Uncle Justus a feeling of satisfaction that he had sacrificed his comfort for that one evening, for the old gentleman did not at all enjoy going to fairs, and would have preferred to spend the evening over his papers and magazines at his own fireside.
The fair rooms truly did present a dazzling scene to the little girl, and she was enjoying it all hugely when her uncle declared himself tired and told her to run about a little while and come back to him when she had seen everything.
She had not gone farther than the second booth when her attention was caught by a beautiful large doll which bore a card saying that to the little girl who should receive the largest number of votes would the doll be given.
"What do you think of it?" asked some one, as the child stood absorbed in gazing at the lovely creature before her. Edna looked up; at her side stood the minister of the church to which she went every Sunday with her aunt and uncle.
"I think it is perfectly lovely; but what does that mean?" exclaimed she.
"What, the card? It means that a wealthy gentleman bought the doll, and, having no little girl of his own to give it to, thought this would be a nice way to dispose of it. The friends of some little girls will vote for them, and the one who has the greatest number of votes will get the doll. Now, I suspect you wish very much that you could be the fortunate little girl."
"Yes, I do," replied Edna, candidly; "only I haven't very many friends, 'cause I don't live here. I am spending the winter with Uncle and Aunt Horner."
"O, yes, you are Professor Horner's little niece; now, let me see, perhaps you have more friends here than you imagine. Suppose I were to try to get some votes for you; shall I?"
Edna was about to speak, when a sudden thought came into her mind. For a moment a hard struggle went on. She did love dolls, but she had several, and she stood looking soberly at the one before her while the minister watched her.
"What is it, little one?" he asked, gently. Edna looked up wistfully, the color coming and going in her face.
"I was thinking"—she said, "O! won't you please get the votes for Maggie Horn instead of me? I don't believe Maggie ever had a doll in her life, and I have so many."
"And don't you want this one?"
Edna was silent, but her candor always prevailed. "O yes, but Maggie would be so perfectly wild over it, and you see she's one of the little Friendlesses, and this is her fair, so she ought to have it," she said in a moment.
"Then," returned the minister, "I will try to get a great many votes for her. And your name is—"
"Edna Conway. I must go back to Uncle Justus now."
The minister took her by the hand and piloted her through the crowd. "Can you spare me your little girl a while longer, Professor?" he asked.
Uncle Justus gave a willing consent, and when Edna had eaten a plate of ice cream, had heard the music, had seen the lemonade well, lighted up with electric lights, and had looked at pretty things till she was tired, her friend took her back to Uncle Justus.
But that gentleman sent her to pick out a cornucopia from Aunt Elizabeth's table, and she was made happy by the possession of the one which she had always especially admired; it was shiny white with little bunches of flowers over it, and the picture of a dear little girl on it.
Her uncle and the minister were in earnest conversation when she returned to them, and the minister's parting words were:
"Good-night, my child; we must have you here to-morrow evening to hear who gets the doll."
Edna was so tired that she nearly fell asleep on the way home, but she felt quite wide-awake when they reached there, and was very much surprised when Uncle Justus bent down and kissed her good-night. He had never done this before, and although pleased at the act, Edna wondered why he did it, and she went up stairs also wondering who would get that lovely doll.
WHERE THE DOLL WENT.
Edna awoke, still wondering. Of course she realized that there was no hope of her going to the fair again that evening, for she had been up until ten o'clock the night before, and besides Aunt Elizabeth would not be well enough to go out into the night air, and Uncle Justus could not be expected to give up his warm corner and his easy chair a second time. So Edna contented herself with dwelling upon the delights of the evening before, and wrote a long account of it to sister. Writing to her sister or her parents was one of her regular Saturday employments. The letters were always strictly scrutinized by Aunt Elizabeth, and sometimes had to be written all over again.
Edna had just finished her letter when Ellen called her.
"Come, dear; there's a lady to see you in the parlor."
"Who can it be? O, maybe it is Miss Atkins, my Sunday-school teacher!"
"Shure, thin, it's not," replied Ellen; "but you're to hurry."
"This is Miss Martin," said Aunt Elizabeth, as Edna entered the room. "Come and speak to her."
"You know who I am, don't you?" said Miss Martin, drawing the little girl to her side.
Edna did know.
"You are our minister's daughter," she replied.
"Yes; and my father wants you to come and take tea with us and go to the fair afterward to find out about that wonderful doll. You know this is the last evening, and the votes are to be counted."
Edna looked quickly at Aunt Elizabeth. Would she let her go? But it was evident that Miss Martin's invitation was not to be set aside like that of an ordinary person, and Edna was made happy by hearing her aunt say:
"Mr. Martin is very kind. My niece should feel very much favored. You may go and get ready, Edna. Miss Martin is good enough to say that she will wait for you."
Edna scampered up stairs as fast as she could go, then she flew down to the kitchen to ask Ellen's help.
The good-humored maid was as pleased as possible over the pleasure promised her favorite, and she made ready the little girl with all the speed necessary.
"My father and I will bring Edna home ourselves," said Miss Martin. "I am so sorry, Mrs. Horner, that your neuralgia must keep you at home; but we hope this evening to bring you full reports of our success."
Mr. Martin came out of his study to greet Edna, and made her feel at home at once by telling her a funny story about the big dog which stalked through the hall and sniffed at the little visitor in a way which, at first, rather scared her, but she soon found he meant to make friends with her, so she was quite content to sit with his big head in her lap and his soft brown eyes looking up at her while Mr. Martin asked about her own pets which she had left at home.
It seemed very queer to sit there and see where those wise sermons were made which the minister preached from the pulpit every Sunday, to find out that Mr. Martin was as full of fun as anyone, and that his daughter did not stand in awe of him, but that she teased him at supper for his fondness for hot buttered cakes.
I shall like to go to church very much next Sunday, thought Edna, because I know Mr. Martin, and have seen just how it looks here when he is writing his sermons.
When supper was over no time was lost in starting for the fair.
"We must make hay while the sun shines," said Mr. Martin, "and try if we can add to the votes we already have."
"O!" exclaimed Edna, "have you a great many Mr. Martin? Is there any chance of Maggie's getting the doll?"