AMARILLY OF CLOTHES-LINE ALLEY
BY BELLE K. MANIATES
AUTHOR OF DAVID DUNNE.
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY J. HENRY
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
He was gazing into her intent eyes with a look of adoration
"You may all," she directed, "look at Amarilly's work"
To-night he found himself less able than usual to cope with her caprices
"Be nice to Mr. St. John!" whispered the little peacemaker
AMARILLY OF CLOTHES-LINE ALLEY
The tiny, trivial touch of Destiny that caused the turn in Amarilly's fate-tide came one morning when, in her capacity as assistant to the scrub ladies at the Barlow Stock Theatre, she viewed for the first time the dress rehearsal of A Terrible Trial. Heretofore the patient little plodder had found in her occupation only the sordid satisfaction of drawing her wages, but now the resplendent costumes, the tragedy in the gestures of the villain, the languid grace of Lord Algernon, and the haughty treble of the leading lady struck the spark that fired ambition in her sluggish breast.
"Oh!" she gasped in wistful-voiced soliloquy, as she leaned against her mop-stick and gazed aspiringly at the stage, "I wonder if I couldn't rise!"
"Sure thing, you kin!" derisively assured Pete Noyes, vender of gum at matinees. "I'll speak to de maniger. Mebby he'll let youse scrub de galleries."
Amarilly, case-hardened against raillery by reason of the possession of a multitude of young brothers, paid no heed to the bantering scoffer, but resumed her work in dogged dejection.
"Say, Mr. Vedder, Amarilly's stage-struck!" called Pete to the ticket- seller, who chanced to be passing.
The gray eyes of the young man thus addressed softened as he looked at the small, eager face of the youngest scrubber.
"Stop at the office on your way out, Amarilly," he said kindly, "and I'll give you a pass to the matinee this afternoon."
Amarilly's young heart fluttered wildly and sent a wave of pink into her pale cheeks as she voiced her gratitude.
She was the first to enter when the doors opened that afternoon, and she kept close to the heels of the usher.
"He ain't agoin' to give me the slip," she thought, keeping wary watch of his lithe form as he slid down the aisle.
In the blaze of light and blare of instruments she scarcely recognized her workaday environment.
"House sold out!" she muttered with professional pride and enthusiasm as the signal for the raising of the curtain was given. "Mebby I'd orter give up my seat so as they could sell it."
There was a moment's conflict between the little scrubber's conscience and her newly awakened desires.
"I ain't agoin' to, though," she decided. And having so determined, she gave her conscience a shove to the remotest background, yielding herself to the full enjoyment of the play.
The rehearsal had been inspiring and awakening, but this, "the real thing," as Amarilly appraised it, bore her into a land of enchantment. She was blind and deaf to everything except the scenes enacted on the stage. Only once was her passionate attention distracted, and that was when Pete in passing gave her an emphatic nudge and a friendly grin as he munificently bestowed upon her a package of gum. This she instantly pocketed "fer the chillern."
At the close of the performance Amarilly sailed home on waves of excitement. She was the eldest of the House of Jenkins, whose scions, numbering eight, were all wage-earners save Iry, the baby. After school hours Flamingus was a district messenger, Gus milked the grocer's cow, Milton worked in a shoe-shining establishment, Bobby and Bud had paper routes, while Cory, commonly called "Co," wiped dishes at a boarding- house. Notwithstanding all these contributions to the family revenue, it became a sore struggle for the widow of Americanus Jenkins to feed and clothe such a numerous brood, so she sought further means of maintenance.
"I've took a boarder!" she announced solemnly to Amarilly on her return from the theatre. "He's a switchman and I'm agoin' to fix up the attic fer him. I don't jest see how we air agoin' to manage about feedin' him. Thar's no room to the table now, and thar ain't dishes enough to go around, but you're so contrivin' like, I thought you might find out a way." Memories of the footlights were temporarily banished upon hearing this wonderful intelligence. A puzzled pucker came between the brows of the little would-be prima donna and remained there until at last the exigency was triumphantly met.
"I hev it, ma! When's he comin'?"
"To-morrer fer breakfast."
"Then we must rayhearse to-night afore we kin put it on right. Come, all you-uns, to the kitchen table."
The Jenkins children, accustomed to the vernacular of the profession, were eager to participate in a rehearsal, and they scampered boisterously to the kitchen precincts. Amarilly, as stage director, provided seats at the table for herself, her mother, Flamingus, Gus, the baby, and the Boarder, the long-suffering, many-roled family cat personating the latter as understudy. Behind their chairs, save those occupied by the Boarder and the baby, were stationed Milton, Bobby, Bud, and Cory. This outer row, Amarilly explained, was to be fed from the plates of their elders with food convenient as was Elijah by the Scriptural ravens. This plan lifted the strain from the limited table appointments, but met with opposition from the outpost who rebelled against their stations.
"I ain't agoin' to stand behind Flam or Gus," growled Milton. "I won't stand no show fer grub at all."
"I ain't, neither," and "Nit fer me!" chorused the near twins, Bobby and Bud.
"I want to set at the table and eat like folks!" sobbed Cory.
Mrs. Jenkins advocated immediate surrender, but the diplomatic little general, whose policy was pacification, in shrill, appealing voice reassured and wheedled the young mutineers back into the ranks.
"It's the only way we can take a boarder," she persuaded, "and if we git him, we'll hev more to eat than jest hot pertaters and bread and gravy. Thar'll be meat, fresh or hotted up, onct a day, and pie on Sundays."
The deserters to a man returned from their ignominious retreat.
"Now, Co, you stand behind me, and when you git tired, you kin set on half my chair. Milt, git behind ma, and Bud and Bobby, stand back of Flamingus and Gus. If they don't divvy up even they'll hev to change places with you. Now, to places!" This conciliatory arrangement proving satisfactory, supper was served on the new plan with numerous directions and admonitions from Amarilly.
"No self-helpin's, Milt. Bud, if you knock Flammy's elbow, he needn't give you anything to eat. Bobby, if you swipe another bite from Gus, I'll spank you. Co, quit yer self-reachin's! Flammy, you hev got to pass everything to the Boarder fust. Now, every meal that I don't hev to speak to one of youse in the back row, youse kin hev merlasses spread on yer bread."
The rehearsal supper finished and the kitchen "red up," Amarilly's thoughts again took flight and in fancy she winged her way toward a glorious future amid the glow and glamor of the footlights. To the attentive family, who hung in an ecstasy of approval on her vivid portrayal, she graphically described the play she had witnessed, and then dramatically announced her intention of going on the stage when she grew up.
"You kin do it fine, Amarilly," said the mother admiringly.
"And we-uns kin git in free!" cried Bobby jubilantly. In the morning the Boarder, a pleasant-voiced, quiet-faced man with a look of kindliness about his eyes and mouth, made his entrance into the family circle. He commended the table arrangements, praised the coffee, and formed instantaneous friendships with the children. All the difficulties of the cuisine having been smoothed over or victoriously met, Amarilly went to the theatre with a lightened heart. When Mr. Vedder came up to her and asked how she had enjoyed the performance, she felt emboldened to confide to him her professional aspirations.
The young ticket-seller did not smile. There was nothing about this diligent, ill-fed, little worker that appealed to his sense of humor.
"It will be a long time yet, Amarilly, before you can go on the stage," he counselled. "Besides, you know the first thing you must have is an education."
Amarilly sighed hopelessly.
"I can't git to go to school till the boys hev more larnin'. I hev to work here mornin's and help ma with the washin's in the arternoon. Mebby, arter a little, I kin git into some night-school." A stage-hand working near by overheard this conversation and displayed instant interest in the subject of Amarilly's schooling.
"Couldn't you git off Saturday arternoons?" he asked.
"Yes, I could do that," assured Amarilly eagerly. "Is thar a Saturday arternoon school?"
"Yes," replied the man. "There is a church guild, St. Mark's, that has a school. My little gal goes. She larns sewin' and singin' and waitin' on table and such like. You'd better go with her to-morrow."
"I kin sew now," said Amarilly, repeating this conversation to the family circle that night, "and I'd like to sing, fer of course I'll hev to when I'm on the stage, but I git enough waitin' on table to hum. I'd ruther larn to read better fust of all."
"I ain't much of a scholar," observed the Boarder modestly, "but I can learn you readin', writin', and spellin' some, and figgerin' too. I'll give you lessons evenin's."
"We'll begin now!" cried the little tyro enthusiastically.
The Boarder approved this promptness, and that night gave the first lesson from Flamingus's schoolbooks.
The next morning Amarilly proudly informed the ticket-seller that her education had begun. She was consequently rather lukewarm in regard to the Guild school proposition, but the little daughter of the stagehand pictured the school and her teacher in most enticing fashion.
"You kin be in our class," she coaxed persuasively. "We hev a new teacher. She's a real swell and wears a diamon' ring and her hair is more yaller than the wig what the play lady wears. She bed us up to her house to a supper last week, and thar was velvit carpits and ice-cream and lots of cake but no pie."
Amarilly's curiosity was aroused, and her red, roughened hand firmly grasped the confiding one of her little companion as she permitted herself to be led to the Guild school.
The teacher at the Guild was even more beautiful than Amarilly's fancy, fed by the little girl's vivid description, had pictured.
"Her hair ain't boughten," decided the keen-eyed critic as she gazed adoringly at the golden braids crowning the small head. The color of her eyes was open to speculation; when they had changed from gray to green, from green to hazel, and from hazel to purple, Amarilly gave up the enigma. The color of her complexion changed, too, in the varying tints of peaches.
"I do b'lieve she ain't got no make-up on," declared Amarilly wonderingly.
The little daughter of the stage-hand had not overappraised the diamond. It shone resplendent on a slender, shapely hand.
"Miss King, I've brung a new scholar," introduced the little girl importantly. "She's Amarilly."
As she glanced at her new pupil, the young teacher's eyes brightened with spontaneous interest, and a welcoming smile parted her lips.
"I'm glad to see you, Amarilly. Here's a nice little pile of blue carpet rags to sew and make into a ball. When you have made a lot of balls I'll have them woven into a pretty blue rug for you to take home and keep."
"For the Boarder's room!" thought Amarilly joyously, as she went at her work with the avidity that marked all her undertakings.
Presently a small seamstress asked for instruction as to the proper method of putting the strips together. The fair face of the young teacher became clouded for a moment, and she was unmistakably confused. Her wavering, dubious glance fell upon Amarilly sitting tense and upright as she made quick, forceful, and effective stabs with her needle, biting her thread vigorously and resonantly. The stitches were microscopic and even; the strips symmetrically and neatly joined.
The teacher's face cleared as she saw and seized her avenue of escape.
"You may all," she directed, "look at Amarilly's work and sew the strips just as she does. Hers are perfect."
Amarilly's wan little face brightened, and she proceeded to show the children how to sew, bringing the same ease and effectiveness into her tutoring that she displayed when instructing her brothers and Cory.
The sewing lesson continued for an hour. Then the children sang songs to a piano accompaniment, and there followed a lesson in cooking and the proper setting of a table. All this instruction was succeeded by an informal chat.
"I want you all to tell me what you are going to do when you grow to be women," said Miss King.
In most cases the occupations of their parents were chosen, and the number of washerwomen, scrubbers, and seamstresses in embryo was appalling.
"And you, Amarilly?" she asked, addressing the new pupil last of all.
Amarilly's mien was lofty, her voice consequential, as she replied in dramatic denouement:
"I'm goin' on the stage!"
The young teacher evinced a most eager interest in this declaration.
"Oh, Amarilly! We all have a stage-longing period. When did you first think of such a career?"
"I'm in the perfesshun now," replied Amarilly pompously.
"Really! Tell me what you do, Amarilly."
"I scrub at the Barlow Theatre, and I went to the matinee day afore yisterday. I hed a pass give to me."
These statements made such a visible impression on her audience that Amarilly waxed eloquent and proceeded to describe the play, warming to her work as she gained confidence. The gestures of Lord Algernon and the leading lady were reproduced freely, fearlessly, and faithfully.
With a glimmer of mischief dancing in her eyes, the young teacher listened appreciatively but apprehensively as she noted the amazed expression on the faces of the teachers of adjacent classes when Amarilly's treble tones were wafted toward them. Fortunately, the realistic rendering of Lord Algernon's declaration of love was interrupted by the accompaniment to a song, which was followed by the dismissal of the school.
"Kin I take my strips home to sew on?" asked Amarilly.
"Oh, no!" replied Miss King. "That is not permitted."
Seeing the look of disappointment in the child's eyes, she asked in kindly tone:
"Why are you in such a hurry to finish the work, Amarilly?"
"We've took a Boarder," explained Amarilly, "and I want the rug fer his room. It'll take an orful long time to git it done if I only work on it an hour onct a week. He's so good to me, I want to do something to make his room look neat, so he'll feel to hum."
The young teacher reflected a moment.
"I'll tell you what we'll do, Amarilly. I will buy one of the rugs that are to be on sale at the church fair this week. They have some very nice large ones. I will give it to you, and when yours is finished you may give it to me in return."
"Oh, thank you!" cried Amarilly, her countenance brightening, "But won't you need it afore I kin git this one done?"
"No; I am sure I shall not," replied the young lady gravely.
When they left the building the teacher paused as she was about to step into her electric brougham. "Where do you live, Amarilly?"
Amarilly gave her street and number.
"You must live farther away than any of the other children. Get in, dear; I will take you home."
She had opened the door as she spoke, and the little scrubber's eyes were dazzled by the elegance of the appointments—a silver vase filled with violets, a silver card-case, and—but Amarilly resolutely shut her eyes upon this proffered grandeur and turned to the lean but longing little daughter of the stage-hand.
"You see, I come with her," she explained simply and loyally.
"There is room for you both. Myrtie can sit on this little seat."
Overawed by the splendor of her environment, Amarilly held her breath as they glided swiftly through the streets. There was other glory, it seemed, than that of the footlights. When the happy little Myrtle had been left at her humble home the young teacher turned with eager anticipation to Amarilly.
"Tell me more about yourself, Amarilly. First of all, who is the Boarder?"
Amarilly explained their affairs, even to the "double-decker diner," as the Boarder had called the table arrangement.
"And what has he done for you, Amarilly, that you are so anxious he should have a rug?"
"He's larnin' me readin', writin', spellin', and figgers."
"Don't you go to school?"
"No; I hev to bring in wages and help ma with the washin's."
"I'll teach you, Amarilly," she said impulsively. "I'm sure I'm more proficient in those branches than the Boarder."
"He sez," admitted Amarilly, "that it won't take him long to larn me all he knows; but you see—" She spoke with delicate hesitancy and evident embarrassment. "It's orful good in you to want to larn me—but he might feel hurt-like if I was to quit him."
"You are right, Amarilly. You are a loyal little girl. But I tell you what we will do about it. When you have learned all that the Boarder feels he can teach you, you shall go to night-school. There is one in connection with St. Mark's. I will see that you enter there."
"I didn't know thar was one fer girls," said Amarilly. "I'm glad thar's a way fer me to git eddicated, fer I must hev larnin' afore I kin go on the stage. Mr. Vedder, the ticket-seller to Barlow's, told me so."
"Amarilly,"—and an earnest note crept into the gay, young voice—"you may find things that you will like to do more than to go on the stage."
"No!" asserted the youthful aspirant, "Thar ain't nuthin' else I'd like so well."
"Amarilly, I am going to tell you something. Once, not long ago, I had the stage fever, but I think I know now there is something—something I should like better."
"What?" queried Amarilly skeptically.
"I can't tell you now, but you have a long time yet in which to decide your future. Tell me what I can do to help your mother."
"If you could git us more washin's," exclaimed Amarilly eagerly, "it would help heaps. We could take in lots more than we do now."
"Let me think. You see we keep a laundress; but—does your mother do up very fine things—like laces—carefully?"
"She does," replied Amarilly glibly. "She kin do 'em orful keerful, and we dry the colored stuffs in the shade. And our clo'es come out snow- white allers, and we never tears laces nor git in too much bluin' or starch the way some folks does."
"Then I'll give you my address and you can come for my fine waists; and let me see, I am sure I can get St. Mark's laundry work for you, too."
"You're orful good, Miss King. This is where we hev to turn down this 'ere court."
The "court" appeared to Miss King more like an alley. The advent of the brougham in the little narrow right-of-way filled every window with hawk-eyed observers. About the Jenkins's doorstep was grouped the entire household from the Boarder to the baby, and the light, musical voices of children floating through the soft spring air fell pleasantly upon the ears of the young settlement worker.
"So this is where you live, Amarilly?" she asked, her eyes sparkling as she focussed them on the family. "You needn't come for the washing the first time. I will bring it myself so I can see all your little brothers. Be sure to come to the Guild next Saturday, and then I'll have the rug for you to take home. Goodbye, dear."
Knowing that she was observed by myriad eyes, Amarilly stepped loftily from the brougham and made a sweeping stage courtesy to her departing benefactress.
"Are you on the stage now, Amarilly?" asked Co eagerly as she came to meet her sister.
"No; but she," with a wave of her hand toward the swiftly gliding electric, "is agoin to help me git eddicated, and she has give me a beautiful rug fer the Boarder, and we're agoin' to hev her waists to wash, and Mr. St. Mark's clo'es, and she told all the scholars to sew like me 'cause' I sewed the best, and I've larned how to set our table. We mustn't stack up the knife and fork and spoon on ends any more. The knife goes to the right, the fork to the left of the plate, and the spoon goes back of it and the tumbler and the napkin, when you has 'em, to the right."
"I do declare, Amarilly, if it ain't jest like a fairy story!" cried Mrs. Jenkins enthusiastically. "You allers did strike luck."
"You bet!" cried Bobby admiringly. "Things go some where Amarilly is."
Amarilly was happier even than she had been on the night of the eventful matinee day. The electric brougham had seemed a veritable fairy godmother's coach to her. But it was not the ride that stood uppermost in her memory as she lay awake far into the night; it was the little word of endearment uttered in caressing cadence.
"No one ain't ever called me that afore," she murmured wistfully. "I s'pose ma ain't hed time, and thar was no one else to keer."
Impulsively and tenderly her thin little arm encircled the baby sleeping beside her.
"Dear!" she whispered in an awed tone. "Dear!"
Iry answered with a sleepy, cooing note.
Colette King was not one whom the voice of the people of St. Mark's would proclaim as the personification of their ideal of a pastor's wife, yet John Meredith loved her with the love that passeth all understanding. Perhaps the secret of her charm for him lay in the fact that she treated him as she did other men—men who did not wear a surplice. And yet his surplice and all that pertained thereto were matters of great moment to the rector of St. Mark's. Little traces of his individuality were evident in the fashioning of this clerical garment. A pocket for his handkerchief was stitched on the left side.
The flowers, the baptismal font, the altar cloth, and the robes of the vested choir he insisted should be immaculate in whiteness. White, the color of the lily, he declared, was the emblem of purity. There were members of his flock so worldly minded as to whisper insinuatingly that white was extremely becoming to Colette King. Many washerwomen had applied for the task of laundering the ecclesiastical linen; many had been tried and found wanting. So after her interview with Amarilly, Colette asked the rector of St. Mark's to call at her house "on important business."
From the time he was ten years old until he became rector of St. Mark's, John Meredith had been a member of the household of his guardian, Henry King, and had ever cheerfully and gladly borne with the caprices of the little Colette.
He answered the present summons promptly and palpitatingly. It had been two weeks since he had remonstrated with Colette for the surprisingly sudden announcement, made in seeming seriousness, that she was going to study opera with a view to going on the stage. The fact that she had a light, sweet soprano adapted only to the rendition of drawing-room ballads did not lessen in his eyes the probability of her carrying out this resolve.
She had met his reproving expostulations in a spirit of bantering raillery and replied with a defiance of his opinion that had pierced his heart with arrow-like swiftness. Since then she had studiously avoided meeting him, and he was not sure whether he was now recalled to listen to a reiteration of her intentions or to receive an anodyne for the bitterness of her remarks at their last interview.
"I sent for you, John," she said demurely and without preamble, "to see if you have found a satisfactory laundress yet for the surplices."
"Colette!" he exclaimed in rebuking tone, his face reddening at her question which he supposed to be made in mere mockery.
"I am not speaking to you as Colette King," she replied with a look half cajoling, half flippant, "but as a teacher in the Young Woman's Auxiliary Guild to the rector of St. Mark's. You see I no longer lead a foolish, futile life. Here is the evidence in the case," holding up a slender pink forefinger. "See how it is pricked! For three Saturday afternoons I have shown little girls that smelled of fried potatoes how to sew. I shall really learn something myself about the feminine art of needlework if I continue in my present straight, domestic path."
"Colette, you cannot know how glad I am to hear this. Why did you try to make me think the laundry work was—"
"But the laundry work is the main issue. Yesterday I had quite decided to give up this uninteresting work."
Watching him warily, she let the shadow in his eyes linger a moment before she continued:
"And then there came into my class a new pupil, poorly clad and ignorant, but so redolent of soapsuds and with such a freshly laundered look that I renewed my inclinations to charity. I took her home in my electric, and she lived at a distance that gave me ample time to listen to the complete chronicles of her young life. Her father is dead. Her mother was left with eight children whom she supports by taking in washing. They have a boarder and they go around the dining-room table twice. My new pupil's name is Amarilly Jenkins, and she has educational longings which cannot be satisfied because she has to work, so I am going to enter her in St. Mark's night-school when she has finished a special course with the private tutor she now has."
"Colette," said the young minister earnestly, "why do you continually try to show yourself to me in a false light? It was sweet in you to take this little girl home in your brougham and to feel an interest in her improvement."
"Not at all!" protested Colette. "My trend at present may appear to be charitable, but Amarilly and I have a common interest—a fellow feeling—that makes me wondrous kind. We both have longings to appear in public on the stage."
At this sudden challenge, this second lowering of the red flag, John's face grew stern.
"Amarilly," continued the liquid voice,—"has had more experience in stage life than I have had. She has commenced at the lowest round of the dramatic ladder of fame. She scrubs at the Barlow Theatre, and she is quite familiar with stage lore. Her hero is the man who plays the role of Lord Algernon in A Terrible Trial."
He made no reply, and Colette presently broke the silence.
"Seriously, John," she said practically and in a tone far different from her former one, "the Jenkins family are poor and most deserving. I am going to give them some work, and if you would give them a trial on the church linen, it would help them so much. There was a regular army of little children on the doorstep, and it must be a struggle to feed them all. I should like to help them—to give them something—but they seem to be the kind of people that you can help only by giving them work to perform. I have learned that true independence is found only among the poor."
John took a little notebook from his pocket.
"What is their address, Colette?"
She took the book from him and wrote down the street and number.
"Colette, you endeavor to conceal a tender heart—"
"And will you give them—Mrs. Jenkins—a trial?"
"Yes; this week."
"That will make Amarilly so happy," she said, brightening. "I am going there to-morrow to take them some work, and I will tell Mrs. Jenkins to send Flamingus—his is the only name of the brood that my memory retains—for the church laundry."
"He may call at the rectory," replied John, "and get the house laundry as well."
"That will be good news for them. I shall enjoy watching Amarilly's face when she hears it."
"And now, Colette, will you do something for me?"
"Maybe. What is it?" she asked guardedly.
"Will you abandon the idea of going on the stage, or studying for that purpose?"
"Perforce. Father won't consent."
A look of relief drove the trouble from the dark eyes fixed on hers.
"I'll be twenty-one in a year, however," she added carelessly.
John was wise enough to perceive the wilfulness that prompted this reply, and he deftly changed the subject of conversation.
"About this little girl, Amarilly. We must find her something in the way of employment. The atmosphere of a theatre isn't the proper one for a child of that age. Do you think so?"
"Theoretically, no; but Amarilly is not impressionable to atmosphere altogether. She seems a hard-working, staunch little soul, and all that relieves the sordidness of her life and lightens the dreariness of her work is the 'theayter,' as she calls it. So don't destroy her illusions, John. You'll do her more harm than good."
"Not if I give her something real in the place of what you rightly term her illusions."
"You can't. Sunday-school would not satisfy a broad-minded little proletarian like Amarilly, so don't preach to her."
He winced perceptibly.
"Do I preach to you, Colette? Is that how you regard me—as a prosy preacher who—"
"No, John. Just as a disturber of dreams—that is all."
"A disturber of dreams?" he repeated wistfully. "It is you, Colette, who are a disturber of dreams. If you would only let my dreams become realities!"
"Then, to be paradoxical, your realities might change back to dreams, or even nightmares. Returning to soapsuds and Amarilly Jenkins, will you go there with me to-morrow and make arrangements with Mrs. Jenkins for the laundry work?"
"Indeed I will, Colette, and—"
"Don't look so serious, John. Until that dreadful evening, the last time you called, you always left your pulpit punctilio behind you when you came here."
"Colette!" he began in protest.
But she perversely refused to fall in with his serious vein. Chattering gayly yet half-defiantly, on her face the while a baffling smile, partly tender, partly amused, and wholly coquettish—the smile that maddened and yet entranced him—she brought the mask of reserve to his face and man. At such times he never succeeded in remembering that she was but little more than a child, heart-free, capricious, and wilful. Despairing of changing her mood to the serious one that he loved yet so seldom evoked, he arose and bade her good-night.
When he was in the hall she softly called him back, meeting him with a half-penitent look in her eyes, which had suddenly become gazelle-like.
"You may preach to me again some time, John. There are moments when I believe I like it, because no other man dares to do it" "Dares?" he queried with a smile.
"Yes; dares. They all fear to offend. And you, John, you fear nothing!"
"Yes, I do," he answered gravely, as he looked down upon her. "There is one thing I fear that makes me tremble, Colette."
But her mood had again changed, and with a mischievous, elusive smile she bade him go. Inert and musing, he wandered at random through the lights and shadows of the city streets, with a wistful look in his eyes and just the shadow of a pang in his heart.
"She is very young," he said condoningly, answering an accusing thought. "She has been a little spoiled, naturally. She has seen life only from the side that amuses and entertains. Some day, when she realizes, as it comes to us all to do, that care and sorrow bring their own sustaining power, she will not dally among the petty things of life; the wilful waywardness will turn to winning womanliness."
The next afternoon when Amarilly came home from the theatre, her mother met her with another burst of information.
"Miss King and the preacher was here. He's agoin' to give us all the church surpluses to wash and his house-wash, too. Flamingus is to go fer them to the rectry to-night, and you're to go to Miss King's and get the waists she has to be did up. She left two car tickets fer you."
"We air jest astubbin' our toes on luck," gasped Amarilly.
"The fust pay from the new washin's shall go fer a new hat and dress fer you, Amarilly. It's acomin' to you all right. 'Twas you as got this work fer us."
"No!" was the emphatic reply. "We'll git some more cheers, knives, spoons, plates, cups, and two more leaves fer the table, so's the chillern kin all set to table to onct."
"That'll be a hull lot more convenient," admitted Mrs. Jenkins hopefully. "Co spills things so, and the boys quarrel when you and the Boarder ain't here to keep peace. It was jest orful this noon. You wasn't here and the Boarder kerried his dinner. 'Cause Flam put too much vinegar on Milt's beans, Milt poured it down Flam's neck, and when I sent him away from the table he sassed me."
"Jiminy!" protested Amarilly indignantly. "I'd make Milt go without his supper to-night."
"'Tain't his stummick I'm agoin' to punish," said Mrs. Jenkins sarcastically. "I've laid by a willer switch that'll feel sharper than the vinegar he wasted. You'd better go to Miss King's right away—and, Amarilly, mind you ride both ways. It's too far to walk. Don't you sell the tickets!"
This last prohibitory remark was made in remembrance of Amarilly's commercial instincts.
When Amarilly was admitted to the basement of her young benefactress's home a trimly-capped little maid took her to Colette's boudoir.
"Sit down and talk to me, Amarilly. I want to hear more about Lord Algernon and Mr. Vedder and Pete. Here's a box of chocolate creams that must be eaten while they are fresh."
Amarilly was slightly awed at first by the luxurious appointments of the room, but she soon recovered her ease and devoured the novel sweets with appreciative avidity. Then she proved herself a fascinating raconteur of the annals of a world unknown to Colette. It was a matter of course to Amarilly that the leading lady should be supporting an invalid sister; that the languid Lord Algernon should be sending his savings to his old mother who lived in the country; that the understudy should sew industriously through rehearsals and behind the scenes between parts for her two little fatherless girls; that Pete Noyes should "bank" to buy a wheeled chair for his rheumatic father; that the villain was "layin' by" for his parents to come from the Fatherland, and that the company should all chip in to send the property woman's sick child to the seashore. But to Colette the homely little stories were vignettes of another side of life.
"Have you been to the rectory yet, Amarilly?" she asked presently, when Amarilly's memories of stage life lagged.
"No; Flammy has went fer Mr. St. Mark's things."
"Mr. St. Mark's!"
Colette laughed delightedly.
"I thought you told me that the preacher's name was Mr. St. Marks. You said mebby you could git his wash fer us."
"No, Amarilly. I did not mean that. St. Mark's is the name of the church where he officiates. He could never under any conditions be a St. Mark."
"Wat's his name?"
"St. John, of course. And most people call him a rector, but really your name suits him best. He does preach—sometimes—to me."
At the end of the week Colette again sent for John—to call "on laundry business"—her little note read.
"I couldn't wait," she said when he came, "to learn how Mrs. Jenkins pleased you. My waists were most beautifully laundered. She is certainly a Madonna of the Tubs."
"You have indeed secured a treasure for me, Colette. The linen is immaculate, and she shall have the laundering of it regularly."
"I am so glad!" exclaimed Colette fervently. "They need it so much, and they are so anxious to please. Amarilly was so apprehensive—"
John's face had become radiant.
"It is sweet in you to be interested, Colette, and—"
"I wish you would see her," said Colette, ignoring his commendatory words and voice. "She's an odd little character. I invited her to luncheon the other day, and the courses and silver never disturbed her apparently. She watched me closely, however, and followed my moves as precisely as a second oarsman. By the way, she called you St. Mark. I know some people consider you and St. Mark's as synonymous, but I explained the difference. She tells me absorbingly interesting stories of theatre life—the life behind the scenes. You see the 'scent of the roses,' John!"
The shadow fell again, but he made no response.
The following Monday the young minister chanced to be in the culinary precincts of the rectory when Amarilly called for the laundry, none of the boys having been available for the service.
An instant gleam of recognition came into his kindly eyes.
"You must be Amarilly Jenkins. I have heard very good accounts of you— that you are industrious and a great help to your mother."
Amarilly looked at him shrewdly.
"She told you," she affirmed positively.
There was but one "she" in the world of these two, and John Meredith naturally comprehended.
"She's orful good to us," continued Amarilly, "and it was through her, Mr. St. John, that we got the surpluses."
"It was, indeed, Amarilly; but my name is not St. John. It is John Meredith."
"She was jest kiddin' me, then!" deduced Amarilly appreciatively. "I thought at fust as how yer name was St. Mark, and she said you could never be a St. Mark, that you was St. John. She likes a joke. Mr. Reeves-Eggleston (he's playin' the part of the jilted man in the new play this week) says it's either folks as never hez hed their troubles or them as hez hed more'n their share what laughs at everything, only, he says, it's diffrent kinds of laughs."
The reference to the play reminded John of a duty to perform.
"Miss King told me, Amarilly, that you want to go on the stage when you grow up."
"I did plan to go on, but she said when I got eddicated, I might hear of other things to do—things I'd like better. So mebby I'll change my mind."
A beautiful smile lightened John's dark eyes.
"She, was right, Amarilly. There are things that would be better for you to do, and I—we—will try to help you find them."
"Every one gits the stage fever some time," remarked Amarilly philosophically, "She said so. She said she had it once herself, but she knew now that there was something she would like better."
His smile grew softer.
"She wouldn't tell me what it was," continued Amarilly musingly. Then a troubled look came into her eyes.
"Mebby I shouldn't tell you what she says. Flamingus says I talk too much."
"It was all right to tell me, Amarilly," he replied with radiant eyes, "as long as she said nothing personal."
Amarilly looked mystified.
"I mean," he explained gently, "that she said nothing of me, nothing that you should not repeat. I am glad, though, to see that you are conscientious. Miss King tells me you are to go to the night-school. Do you attend Sunday-school?"
Amarilly looked apologetic.
"Not reg'lar. Thar's a meetin'-house down near us that we go to sometimes. Flamingus and me and Gus give a nickel apiece towards gittin' a malodeyon fer it, but it squeaks orful. 'Tain't much like the orchestry to the theayter. And then the preacher he whistles every time he says a word that has an 's' in it. You'd orter hear him say: 'Let us sing the seventy-seventh psalm.'"
At the succession of the sibilant sounds, John's brown eyes twinkled brightly, and about his mouth came crinkly, telltale creases of humor.
"And they sing such lonesome tunes," continued Amarilly, "slower than the one the old cow died on. I was tellin' the stage maniger about it, and he said they'd orter git a man to run the meetin'-houses that understood the proper settin's. Everything, he says, is more'n half in the settin's."
"Amarilly," was the earnest response, "will you come to St. Mark's next Sunday to the morning service? The music will please you, I am sure, and there are other things I should like to have you hear."
Amarilly solemnly accepted this invitation, and then went home, trundling a big cart which contained the surplices and the rectory laundry.
Colette's remarks, so innocently repeated to him, made John take himself to task.
"I knew," he thought rapturously, "that she was pure gold at heart. And it is only her sweet willfulness that is hiding it from me."
That evening he found Colette sitting before an open fire in the library, her slender little feet crossed before the glowing blaze. She was in a gentle, musing mood, but at his entrance she instantly rallied to her old mirth-loving spirit.
"I have made Amarilly's acquaintance," he said. "She is coming to church next Sunday."
"A convert already! And you will try to snatch poor Amarilly, too, from her footlight dreams?"
"Colette," he replied firmly, "you can't play a part with me any longer. You, the real Colette, made it unnecessary for me to remonstrate with Amarilly on her choice of professions. She is wavering because of your assurance that there are better things in life for her to engage in."
He was not very tall, but stood straight and stalwart, with the air of one born to command. At times he seemed to tower above all others.
She regarded him with an admiring look which changed to wonder at what she read in his eyes. In a flash she felt the strength and depth of his feeling, but her searching scrutiny caused him to become tongue-tied, and he assumed the self-conscious mien peculiar to the man not yet assured that his love is returned. Once more a golden moment slipped away with elfish elusiveness, and Colette, secure in her supremacy, resumed her tantalizing badinage.
The Jenkins family was immediately summoned in council to discuss Amarilly's invitation to attend divine service at St. Mark's.
"You air jest more'n hevin' advantages," said Mrs. Jenkins exultingly. "Fust the matinee, then the Guild, and now St. Mark's is open to you. But you'd orter hev a few fixin's to go to sech a grand place, Amarilly."
Amarilly shook her determined little head resolutely.
"We can't afford it," she said decisively. "I'd stay to hum afore I'd spend anything on extrys now when we're aketchin' up and layin' by."
"'Twould be good bookkeepin' fer you ter go," spoke up Flamingus. "You see the preacher's givin' us his business, and we'd orter return the favor and patrynize his church. You've gotter hustle to hold trade arter you git it these days. It's up to you ter go, Amarilly." Mrs. Jenkins looked proudly at her eldest male offspring.
"I declare, Flamingus, you've got a real business head on you jest like your pa hed. He's right, Amarilly. 'Twouldn't be treating Mr. Meredith fair not ter go, and it's due him that you go right, so he won't be ashamed of you. I'll rig you up some way."
The costuming of Amarilly in a manner befitting the great occasion was an all-absorbing affair for the next few days. Finally, by the combination of Mrs. Jenkins's industry and Amarilly's ingenuity, aided by the Boarder and the boys, an elaborate toilet was devised and executed. Milton donated a "shine" to a pair of tan shoes, the gift of the girl "what took a minor part." Mrs. Jenkins looked a little askance at the "best skirt" of blue which had shrunk from repeated washings to a near-knee length, but Amarilly assured her that it was not as short as the skirts worn by the ballet girls. She cut up two old blouses and fashioned a new, bi-colored waist bedizened with gilt buttons. The Boarder presented a resplendent buckle, and Flamingus provided a gawdy hair-ribbon.
The hat was the chief difficulty. On week days she wore none, but of course St. Mark's demanded a headgear of some kind, and at last Mrs. Jenkins triumphantly produced one of Tam o' Shanter shape manufactured from a lamp mat and adorned with some roses bestowed by the leading lady. The belligerent locks of the little scrub-girl refused to respond to advances from curling iron or papers, but one of the neighbors whose hair was a second cousin in hue to Amarilly's amber tresses, loaned some frizzes, which were sewed to the brim of the new hat. The problem of hand covering was solved by Mr. Vedder, as a pair of orange-tinted gloves had been turned in at the box-office by an usher, and had remained unclaimed. They proved a perfect fit, and were the supreme triumph of the bizarre costume.
Not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed in splendor greater than that displayed by Amarilly when she set forth on Sunday morning for St. Mark's. Promptness was ever Amarilly's chief characteristic, and she arrived long in advance of the ushers. This gave her an opportunity to sample several pews before finally selecting one whose usual occupants, fortunately, were out of the city.
The vastness and stillness of the edifice, disturbed now and then by silken rustle and soft-shod foot were bewildering to Amarilly. She experienced a slight depression until the vibrating tones of the organ fell softly upon the air. The harmony grew more subdued, ceased, and was succeeded by another moment of solemn silence. Then a procession of white-robed choristers came down the aisle, their well-trained voices ringing out in carolling cadence.
"Them's the chorus," thought Amarilly.
Entranced, she listened to the service, sitting upright and very still. The spiritual significance of the music, the massing of foliage and flowers in the chancel, the white altars with their many lighted candles, were very impressive to the little wide-eyed worshipper.
"Their settin's is all right," she said to herself critically, "and it ain't like the theayter. It's—"
A sudden revealing light penetrated the shadows of her little being.
"This is the real thing!" she acknowledged.
There was only one disappointment to mar the perfection. She felt quite aggrieved that Mr. Meredith—or Mr. St. John as she still called him in her thoughts—did not "come on" in the first act.
"Mebby he don't hev the leadin' part to-day," she thought disappointedly, as a callow youth, whose hair was pompadoured and whose chin receded, began to read the lessons for the day. Amarilly was kept in action by her effort to follow the lead of the man in front of her.
"It's hard to know jest when to set or stand or pray, but it keeps things from draggin'," she thought, "and thar's no chanct to git sleepy. It keeps me jest on the hump without no rayhearsal fer all this scene shiftin'."
Her little heart quickened in glad relief when the erect form of John Meredith ascended the pulpit to deliver the sermon.
"That other one was jest the understudy," she concluded.
The sermon, strong, simple, and sweet like John himself, was delivered in a rich, modulated voice whose little underlying note of appeal found entrance to many a hard-shell heart. The theology was not too deep for the attentive little scrubber to comprehend, and she was filled with a longing to be good—very good. She made ardent resolutions not to "jaw" the boys so much, and to be more gentle with Iry and Go. Her conscience kept on prodding until she censured herself for not mopping the corners at the theatre more thoroughly.
At the conclusion of the sermon the rector with a slight tremor in his mellifluous voice pronounced the benediction. Amarilly's eyes shone with a light that Lord Algernon's most eloquent passages could never have inspired.
The organ again gave forth its rich tones, and a young, fair-haired boy with the face of a devotee arose and turned toward the congregation, his face uplifted to the oaken rafters. A flood of sunshine streamed through the painted window and fell in long slanting rays upon the spiritual face. The exquisite voice rose and fell in silvery cadence, the soft notes fluting out through the vast space and reaching straight to Amarilly's heart which was beating in unison to the music. "Oh," she thought wistfully, "if Pete Noyes was only like him!"
She responded to the offertory with a penny, which lay solitary and outlawed on the edge of a contribution plate filled with envelopes and bank bills. The isolated coin caught the eye of the young rector as he received the offerings, and his gaze wandered wonderingly over his fashionable congregation. It finally rested upon the small, eager-eyed face of his washerwoman's daughter, and a look of angelic sweetness came into his brown eyes with the thought: "Even the least of these!"
Colette, statuesque and sublime, caught the flash of radiance that illumined the face of her pastor, and her heart-strings responded with a little thrill.
There was another fervent prayer in low, pleading tones, after which followed the recessional, the choir-boys chanting their solemn measures.
Amarilly in passing out saw John, clad in a long, tight-fitting black garment, standing at the church door.
"He's got another costume fer the afterpiece," she thought admiringly. "He must be a lightning change artist like the one down to the vawdyveel that Pete was tellin' of!"
Then two wonderful, heart-throbbing things happened. John took Amarilly's saffron-clad hand in his and told her in earnest, convincing tones how glad he was that she had come, and that he should look for her every Sunday.
"He held up the hull p'rade fer me!" she thought exultingly.
As he was speaking to her his gaze wandered away for a second; in that infinitesimal space of time there came into his eyes a dazzling flash of light that was like a revelation to the sharp-eyed little girl, who, following the direction of his glance, beheld Colette. Then came the second triumph. Colette, smiling, shook hands with her and praised her attire.
"Did you like the service, Amarilly?" she whispered. "Was it like the theatre?"
"It was diffrent," said Amarilly impressively. "I think it's what heaven is!"
"And did you like the sermon St. John preached?"
Amarilly's lips quivered.
"I liked it so much, I liked him so much, I'd ruther not talk about it."
Colette stooped and kissed the freckled little face, to the utter astonishment of those standing near and to the complete felicity of John Meredith, who was a witness of the little scene though he did not hear the conversation.
Amarilly walked homeward, her uplifted face radiant with happiness.
"The flowers, the lights, oh, it was great!" she thought. "Bud could sing like that if he was learnt. He couldn't look like that surplused boy, though. He sorter made me think of Little Eva in the play they give down to Milt's school. I wish Bud's hair was yaller and curly instead of black and straight!"
Amarilly's reminiscences next carried her to the look she had seen in the rector's eyes when he beheld Colette coming out of the church.
"It was the look Lord Algernon tried to give Lady Cecul," she thought, "only he couldn't do it, 'cause it wasn't in Him to give. And it couldn't never be in him the same as 't is in Mr. St. John and Miss King. It ain't in her yet to see what was in his eyes. Some day when she gits more feelin's, mebby 't will be, though."
When Amarilly had faithfully pictured the service to the household, Bud's anaemic face grew eager.
"Take me with yer, Amarilly, next time, won't yer?" he pleaded.
"It's too fer. You couldn't walk, Buddy," she answered, "and we can't afford car-fare fer two both ways."
"I'll take him to-night," promised the Boarder. "We'll ride both ways, so fur as we kin. I'd like to hear a sermon now and then, especially by a young preacher."
The little family stayed up that night until the return of Bud and the Boarder who were vociferous in approval of the service.
"It ain't much like our meetin'-house," said Bud. "It was het and lit. And the way that orgin let out! Say, Amarilly, thar wasn't no man in sight to play it! I s'pose they've got one of them things like a pianner-player. Them surplused boys sung fine!"
"He give us a fine talk," reported the Boarder. "I've allers thought if a man paid a hundred cents on the dollar, 't was all that was expected of him. But I believe it's a good idee to go to church and keep your conscience jogged up so it won't rust. I'll go every Sunday, mebby, and take Bud so he kin larn them tunes."
"I never go to no shows nor nuthin'!" wailed Cory.
"I'll take you next time," soothed Amarilly. "I kin work you'se off on the kinductor as under age, I guess, if you'll crouch down."
Monday's mops and pails broke in upon the spell of Amarilly's spiritual enchantment to some extent, but remembrance of the scenic effects lingered and was refreshed by the clothes-line of vestal garb which manifested the family prosperity, and heralded to the neighborhood that the Jenkins's star was in the ascendant.
"Them Jenkinses," said Mrs. Hudgers, who lived next door, "is orful stuck up sence they got the sudsin' of them surpluses."
This animadversion was soon conveyed to Amarilly, who instantly and freely forgave the critic.
"She's old and rheumatic," argued the little girl. "She can't git to go nowhars, and folks that is shut in too long spiles, jest like canned goods. Besides, her clock has stopped. Nobody can't go on without no clock."
Out of pity for the old woman's sequestered life, Amarilly was wont to relate to her all the current events, and it was through the child's keen, young optics that Mrs. Hudgers saw life. An eloquent and vivid description of St. Mark's service was eagerly related.
"I allers thought I'd like to see them Episcopals," she remarked regretfully. "Ef church air wa'n't so bad fer my rheumatiz, I'd pay car-fare jest to see it onct. I was brung up Methodist though."
This desire suggested to Amarilly's fertile little brain a way to make a contribution to John Meredith's pet missionary scheme, whose merits he had so ardently expounded from the pulpit.
"I'll hev a sacrud concert like the one he said they was goin' to hev to the church," she decided.
She was fully aware of the sensation created by the Thursday clothes-line of surplices, and she resolved to profit thereby while the garments were still a novelty. Consequently the neighborhood was notified that a sacred concert by a "surplused choir" composed of members of the Jenkins household, assisted by a few of their schoolmates, would be given a week from Wednesday night. This particular night was chosen for the reason that the church washing was put to soak late on a Wednesday.
There was a short, sharp conflict in Amarilly's conscience before she convinced herself it would not be wrong to allow the impromptu choir to don the surplices of St. Mark's.
"They wouldn't spile 'em jest awearin' 'em onct," she argued sharply, for Amarilly always "sassed back" with spirit to her moral accuser. "'Tain't as if they wa'n't agoin' into the wash as soon as they take 'em off. Besides," as a triumphant clincher, "think of the cause!"
Amarilly had heard the Boarder and a young socialist exchanging views, and she had caught this slogan, which was a tempting phrase and adequate to whitewash many a doubtful act. It proved effectual in silencing the conscience which Amarilly slipped back into its case and fastened securely.
She held nightly rehearsals for the proposed entertainment. After the first the novelty was exhausted, and on the next night there was a falling off in attendance, so the young, director diplomatically resorted to the use of decoy ducks in the shape of a pan of popcorn, a candy pull, and an apple roast. By such inducements she whipped her chorus into line, ably assisted by Bud, who had profited by his attendance at St. Mark's.
The Jenkins dwelling was singularly well adapted for a public performance, as, to use Mrs. Wint's phraseology, "it had no insides." The rooms were partitioned off by means of curtains on strings. These were taken down on the night of the concert. So the "settin'-room," the "bedroom off" and the kitchen became one. Seats were improvised by means of boards stretched across inverted washtubs.
At seven o'clock on the night set for the concert the audience was solemnly ushered in by the Boarder. No signs of the performers were visible, but sounds of suppressed excitement issued from the woodshed, which had been converted into a vestry.
Presently the choir, chanting a hymn, made an impressive and effective entrance. To Amarilly's consternation this evoked an applause, which jarred on her sense of propriety.
"This ain't no show, and it ain't no time to clap," she explained to the Boarder, who cautioned the congregation against further demonstration.
Flamingus read a psalm in a sing-song, resonant voice, and then Amarilly announced a hymn, cordially inviting the neighbors to "jine in." The response was lusty-lunged, and there was a unanimous request for another tune. After Amarilly had explained the use to which the collection was to be put, Gus passed a pie tin, while an offertory solo was rendered by Bud in sweet, trebled tones.
The sacred concert was pronounced a great success by the audience, who promptly dispersed at its close. While the Boarder was shifting the curtains to their former positions, and Mrs. Jenkins and Amarilly were busily engaged in divesting the choir of their costumes, the front door opened and disclosed a vision of loveliness in the form of Colette.
"I knocked," she explained apologetically to the Boarder, "but no one heard me. Are the family all away?"
"They are in the woodshed. Walk right out," he urged hospitably.
Colette stepped to the door and, on opening it, gazed in bewilderment at the disrobing choir.
"These are not St. Mark's choir-boys, are they?" she asked wonderingly.
Mrs. Jenkins felt herself growing weak-kneed. She looked apprehensively at Amarilly, who stepped bravely to the front with the air of one who feels that the end justifies the means.
"It was fer him—fer Mr. St. John I done it," she began in explanation, and then she proceeded to relate the particulars of her scheme and its accomplishment.
She had but just finished this narrative when suddenly in the line of her vision came the form of the young rector himself. He had been ushered out by the Boarder, who was still actively engaged in "redding up."
"I came to call upon you, for I consider you one of my parishioners now," he said to Amarilly, his face flushing at the unexpected encounter with Colette.
Amarilly breathed a devout prayer of thankfulness that the last surplice had been removed and was now being put to soak by her mother.
Colette's eyes were dancing with the delight of mischief-making as she directed, in soft but mirthful tones:
"Tell Mr. St. John about your choir and concert."
Amarilly's eyes lowered in consternation. She was in great awe of this young man whose square chin was in such extreme contradiction to his softly luminous eyes, and she began to feel less fortified by the reminder of the "cause."
"I'd ruther not," she faltered.
"Then don't, Amarilly," he said gently.
"Mebby that's why I'd orter," she acknowledged, lifting serious eyes to his. "You said that Sunday that we wa'n't to turn out of the way fer hard things."
"I don't want it to be hard for you to tell me anything, Amarilly," he said reassuringly. "Suppose you show me that you trust me by telling me about your concert."
So once more Amarilly gave a recital of her plan for raising money for the mission, and of its successful fulfilment. John listened with varying emotions, struggling heroically to maintain his gravity as he heard of the realization of the long-cherished, long-deferred dream of Mrs. Hudgers.
"And we took in thirty-seven cents," she said in breathless excitement, as she handed him the contents of the pie tin.
"Amarilly," he replied fervently, with the look that Colette was learning to love, "you did just right to use the surplices, and this contribution means more to me than any I have received. It was a sweet and generous thought that prompted your concert."
Amarilly's little heart glowed with pride at this acknowledgment.
At that moment came Bud, singing a snatch of his solo.
"Is this the little brother that sang the offertory?"
"Yes; that's him—Bud."
"Bud, will you sing it again for me, now?"
"Sure thing!" said the atom of a boy, promptly mounting a soap box.
He threw back a mop of thick black hair, rolled his eyes ceilingward, and let his sweet, clear voice have full sway.
"Oh, Bud, you darling! Why didn't you tell me he could sing like that, Amarilly?" cried Colette at the close of the song.
"We must have him in St. Mark's choir," declared Mr. Meredith. "You may bring him to the rectory to-morrow, Amarilly, and I will have the choirmaster try his voice. Besides receiving instruction and practice every week, he will be paid for his singing."
Money for Bud's voice! So much prosperity was scarcely believable.
"Fust the Guild school, Miss King's washing, the surpluses, and now Bud!" thought Amarilly exuberantly. "Next thing I know, I'll be on the stage."
"I must go," said Colette presently. "My car is just around the corner on the next street. John, will you ride uptown with me?"
He accepted the invitation with alacrity. Colette's sidelong glance noted a certain masterful look about his chin, and there was a warning, metallic ring in his voice that denoted a determination to overcome all obstacles and triumph by sheer force of will. She was not ready to listen to him yet, and, a ready evader of issues, chatted incessantly on the way to the car. He waited in grim patience, biding his time. As they neared the turn in the alley, she played her reserve card.
"Henry didn't think it prudent to bring the big car into the Jenkins's cul-de-sac, so he waited in the next street. I expect father will be there by this time. We dropped him at a factory near by, where he was to speak to some United Workmen."
Colette smiled at the drooping of John's features as he beheld her father ensconced in the tonneau.
"Oh, John! I am glad you were here to protect my little girl through these byways. I was just on the point of looking her up myself."
When the car stopped at the rectory and Colette bade John good-night, the resolute, forward thrust was still prominent in his chin.
He went straight to his study and wrote an ardent avowal of his love. Then he sealed the letter and dispatched it by special messenger. There would be no more suspense, he thought, for she would have to respond by a direct affirmation or negation.
In the tide of the Jenkins's prosperity there came the inevitable ebb. On the fateful Friday morning succeeding the concert, Mrs. Hudgers, looking from her window, saw a little group of children with books under their arms returning from school. Having no timepiece, she was accustomed to depend on the passing to and fro of the children for guidance as to the performance of her household affairs.
"My sakes, but twelve o'clock come quick to-day," she thought, as she kindled the fire and set the kettle over it in preparation of her midday meal.
A neighbor dropping in viewed these proceedings with surprise.
"Why, Mrs. Hudgers, ain't you et yer breakfast yet?"
"Of course I hev. I'm puttin' the kittle over fer my dinner."
"Dinner! why, it's only a half arter nine."
Mrs. Hudgers looked incredulous.
"I seen the chillern agoin' hum from school," she maintained.
"Them was the Jenkinses, Iry hez come down with the scarlit fever, and they're all in quarrytine."
"How you talk! Wait till I put the kittle offen the bile."
The two neighbors sat down to discuss this affliction with the ready sympathy of the poor for the poor. Their passing envy of the Jenkins's good fortune was instantly skimmed from the surface of their friendliness, which had only lain dormant and wanted but the touch of trouble to make them once more akin.
When the city physician had pronounced Iry's "spell" to be scarlet fever, the other members of the household were immediately summoned by emergency calls. The children came from school, Amarilly from the theatre, and the Boarder from his switch to hold an excited family conference.
"It's a good thing we got the washin's all hum afore Iry was took," declared the optimistic Amarilly.
"Thar's two things here yet," reported Mrs. Jenkins. "Gus come hum too late last night to take the preacher's surplus and Miss King's lace waist. You was so tired I didn't tell you, 'cause I know'd you'd be sot on goin' with them yourself. They're all did up."
"Well, they'll hev to stay right here with us and the fever," said Amarilly philosophically.
At heart she secretly rejoiced in the retaining of these two garments, for they seemed to keep her in touch with their owners whom she would be unable to see until Iry had recovered.
"I don't see what we are going to do, Amarilly," said her mother despairingly. "Thar'll be nuthin' comin' in and so many extrys."
"No extrys," cheerfully assured the little comforter. "The city doctor'll take keer of Iry and bring the medicines. We hev laid by some sence we got the church wash. It'll tide us over till Iry gits well. We all need a vacation from work, anyhow."
At the beginning of the next week a ten-dollar bill came from Colette, "to buy jellies and things for Iry," she wrote. A similar contribution came from John Meredith.
"We air on Easy Street onct more!" cried Amarilly joyfully.
"I hate to take the money from them," sighed Mrs. Jenkins.
"We'll make it up to them when we kin work agin," consoled Amarilly. "Better to take from friends than from the city. It won't be fer long. Iry seems to hev took it light, the doctor said."
This diagnosis proved correct, but it had not occurred to Amarilly in her prognostications that the question of the duration of the quarantine was not entirely dependent upon Iry's convalescence. Like a row of blocks the children, with the exception of Flamingus and Amarilly, in rapid succession came down with a mild form of the fever. Mrs. Jenkins and Amarilly divided the labors of cook and nurse, but the mainstay of the family was the Boarder. He aided in the housework, and as an entertainer of the sick he proved invaluable. He told stories, drew pictures, propounded riddles, whittled boats and animals, played "Beggar my Neighbor," and sang songs for the convalescent ward.
When the last cent of the Jenkins's reserve fund and the contributions from the rector and Colette had been exhausted, the Boarder put a willing hand in his pocket and drew forth his all to share with the afflicted family. There was one appalling night when the treasury was entirely depleted, and the larder was a veritable Mother Hubbard's cupboard.
"Something will come," prophesied Amarilly trustfully.
Something did come the next day in the shape of a donation of five dollars from Mr. Vedder, who had heard of the prolonged quarantine. Amarilly wept from gratitude and gladness.
"The perfesshun allers stand by each other," she murmured proudly.
This last act of charity kept the Jenkins's pot boiling until the premises were officially and thoroughly fumigated. Again famine threatened. The switch remained open to the Boarder, and he was once more on duty, but he had as yet drawn no wages, one morning there was nothing for breakfast.
"I'll pawn my ticker at noon," promised the Boarder, "and bring home something for dinner."
"There is lots of folks as goes without breakfast allers, from choice," informed Amarilly. "Miss Vail, the teacher at the Guild, says it's hygeniack."
"It won't hurt us and the boys," said Mrs. Jenkins, "but Iry and Co is too young to go hungry even if it be hygeniack."
"They ain't agoin' hungry," declared Amarilly. "I'll pervide fer them."
With a small pitcher under her cape she started bravely forth on a foraging expedition. After walking a few blocks she came to a white house whose woodhouse joined the alley. Hiding behind a barrel she watched and waited until a woman opened the back door and set a soup plate of milk on the lowest step.
"Come a kits! Come a kits!" she called shrilly, and then went back into the house.
The "kits" came on the run; so did Amarilly. She arrived first, and hastily emptied the contents of the soup plate into her pitcher. Then she fled, leaving two dismayed maltese kittens disconsolately lapping an empty dish.
"Here's milk for Iry," she announced, handing the pitcher to her mother. "Now I'll go and get some breakfast for Co."
She returned presently with a sugared doughnut.
"Where did you borry the milk and nut-cake?" asked her mother wonderingly.
"I didn't borry them," replied Amarilly stoically. "I stole them."
"Stole them! Am-a-ril-ly Jenk-ins!"
"Twan't exackly stealin'," argued Amarilly cheerfully. "I took the milk from two little cats what git stuffed with milk every morning and night. The doughnut had jest been stuck in a parrot's cage. He hedn't tetched it. My! he swore fierce! I'd ruther steal, anyway, than let Iry and Co go hungry."
"What would the preacher say!" demanded her mother solemnly. "He would say it was wrong."
"He don't know nothin' about bein' hungry!" replied Amarilly defiantly. "If he was ever as hungry as Iry, I bet he'd steal from a cat."
The season was now summer. Some time ago John Meredith had gone to the seashore and the King family to their summer home in the mountains, unaware that the fever had spread over so wide an area in the Jenkins domain. The theatre and St. Mark's were closed for the rest of the summer. The little boys found that their positions had been filled during the period of quarantine. None of these catastrophes, however, could be compared to the calamity of the realization that Bud alone of all the patients had not convalesced completely. He was a delicate little fellow, and he grew paler and thinner each day. In desperation Amarilly went to the doctor.
"Bud don't pick up," she said bluntly.
"I feared he wouldn't," replied the doctor.
"Can't you try some other kinds of medicines?"
"I can, but I am afraid that there is no medicine that will help him very much."
Amarilly turned pale.
"Is there anything else that will help him?" she demanded fiercely.
"If he could go to the seashore he might brace up. Sea air would work wonders for him."
"He shall go," said Amarilly with determination.
"I can get a week for him through the Fresh Air Fund," suggested the doctor.
He succeeded in getting two weeks, and, that time was extended another fortnight through the benevolence of Mr. Vedder.
Bud returned a study in reds and browns.
"The sea beats the theayter and the church all to smitherines, Amarilly!" he declared jubilantly. "I kin go to work now."
"No!" said Amarilly resolutely. "You air goin' to loaf through this hot weather until church and school open."
The family fund once more had a modest start. Mrs. Jenkins obtained a few of her old customers, Bobby got a paper route, Flamingus and Milton were again at work, but Amarilly, Gus, and Cory were without vocations.
Soon after the quarantine was lifted Amarilly went forth to deliver the surplice and the waist which had hung familiarly side by side during the weeks of trouble. The housekeeper at the rectory greeted her kindly and was most sympathetic on learning of the protracted confinement. She made Amarilly a present of the surplice.
"Mr. Meredith said you were to keep it. He thought your mother might find it useful. It is good linen, you know, and you can cut it up into clothes for the children. He has so many surplices, he won't miss this one."
"I'll never cut it up!" thought Amarilly as she reverently received the robe. "I'll keep it in 'membrance of him."
"It's orful good in him to give it to us," she said gratefully to the housekeeper.
That worthy woman smiled, remembering how the fastidious young rector had shrunk from the thought of wearing a fumigated garment.
At the King residence Amarilly saw the caretaker, who gave her a similar message regarding the lace waist.
"I'll keep it," thought Amarilly with a shy little blush, "until I'm merried. It'll start my trousseau."
She took the garments home, not mentioning to anyone the gift of the waist, however, for that was to be her secret—her first secret. She hid this nest-egg of her trousseau in an old trunk which she fastened securely.
On the next day she was summoned to help clean the theatre, which had been rented for one night by the St. Andrew's vested choir, whose members were to give a sacred concert. A rehearsal for this entertainment was being held when Amarilly arrived.
"These surplices are all too long or too short for me," complained the young tenor, who had recently been engaged for the solo parts.
Amarilly surveyed him critically.
"He's jest about Mr. St. John's size," she mused, "only he ain't so fine a shape."
With the thought came an inspiration that brought a quickly waged battle. It seemed sacrilegious, although she didn't express it by that word, to permit another to wear a garment so sacred to the memory of Mr. Meredith, but poverty, that kill-sentiment, had fully developed the practical side of Amarilly.
She made answer to her stabs of conscience by action instead of words, going straight to her friend, the ticket-seller.
"That feller," she said, indicating the tenor, "ain't satisfied with the fit of his surplus. I've got one jest his size. It's done up spick and span clean, and I'll rent it to him fer the show. He kin hev it fer the ev'nin' fer a dollar. Would you ask him fer me?"
"Certainly, Amarilly," he agreed.
He came back to her, smiling.
"He'll take it, but he seems to think your charge rather high—more than that of most costumers, he said."
"This ain't no common surplus," defended Amarilly loftily. "It was wore by the rector of St. Mark's, and he give it to me. It's of finer stuff than the choir surpluses, and it hez got a cross worked onto it, and a pocket in it, too."
"Of course such inducements should increase the value," confirmed Mr. Vedder gravely, and he proceeded to hold another colloquy with the twinkling-eyed tenor. Amarilly went home for the surplice and received therefor the sum of one dollar, which swelled the Jenkins's purse perceptibly.
And here began the mundane career of the minister's surplice.
Ever apt in following a lead, Amarilly at once resolved to establish a regular costuming business. It even occurred to her to hire out the lace waist, but thoughts of wedding bells prevailed against her impulse to open this branch of the business.
When the young tenor returned the surplice he informed Amarilly that two young ladies of his acquaintance were going to give a home entertainment for charity. Among the impromptu acts would be some tableaux, and the surplice was needed for a church scene. So the new venture brought in another dollar that week.
One day Bud came home capless, having crossed a bridge in a high wind.
"I seen an ad," said the thrifty Flamingus, "that the Beehive would give away baseball caps to-day."
Amarilly immediately set out for the Beehive, an emporium of fashion in the vicinity of the theatre. It was the noon hour, and there were no other customers in evidence.
The proprietor and a clerk were engaged in discussing the design for a window display, and were loath to notice their would-be beneficiary. Finally the clerk drawled out:
"Did you want anything, little girl?"
"I called," explained Amarilly with grandiose manner, "to git one of them caps you advertised to give away."
"Oh, those were all given out long ago. You should have come earlier," he replied with an air of relief, as he turned to resume the all-absorbing topic with the proprietor.
Amarilly's interest in the window display dispelled any disappointment she might have had in regard to Bud's head covering.
"Now," said the clerk didactically, "my idea is this. Have a wedding—a church wedding. I can rig up an altar, and we'll have the bride in a white, trailing gown; the groom, best man, and ushers in dress suits to advertise our gents' department, the bridesmaids and relatives in different colored evening dresses, and in this way we can announce our big clearing sale of summer goods in the ready-to-wear department. It'll make a swell window and draw crowds. Women can never get by a wedding."
"That's a dandy idea, Ben," approved the proprietor.
"Oh, I am a winner on ideas," vaunted the clerk chestily.
So was Amarilly. She stepped eagerly up to the window designer.
"Do you keep surpluses?"
"No; don't know what they are," replied the clerk shortly, turning from her. "We'll get a wreath of orange flowers for the bride, and then we can have a child carrying the ring, so as to call attention to our children's department."
"A surplus," explained Amarilly, scornful of such avowed ignorance, "is the white gown that Episcopal ministers wear."
"No; we don't keep them," was the impatient rejoinder.
"Well, I hev one," she said, addressing the proprietor this time, "a real minister's, and I'll rent it to you to put on your figger of the minister in your wedding window. He'll hev to wear one."
"I am not an Episcopalian," said the proprietor hesitatingly. "What do you think, Ben?"
"Well, it hadn't occurred to me to have an Episcopal wedding, but I don't know but what it would work out well, after all. It would make it attract notice more, and women are always daffy over Episcopal weddings. They like classy things. We could put a card in the window, saying all the clergy bought the linen for their surplices here. How," turning to Amarilly, "did you happen to have such an article?"
"We do the washin' fer St. Mark's church, and the minister give us one of his surpluses."
"The display will be in for six days. What will you rent it for that long?"
"I allers git a dollar a night fer it," replied Amarilly.
"Too much!" declared the clerk. "I'll give you fifty cents a day."
"I'll let it go six days fer four dollars," bargained Amarilly.
"Well, seeing you have come down on your offer, I'll come up a little on mine. I'll take it for three-fifty."
"I will, if you'll throw in one of them caps fer my brother."
"All right," laughed the proprietor. "I think we'll call it a bargain. See if you can't dig up one of those caps for her, Ben."
Without much difficulty Ben produced a cap, and Amarilly hurried home for the surplice. She went down to the Beehive every day during the wedding-window week and feasted her eyes on the beloved gown. She took all the glory of the success of the display to her own credit, and her feelings were very much like those of the writer of a play on a first night.
From a wedding to a funeral was the natural evolution of a surplice, but this time it did not appear in its customary role. Instead of adorning a minister, it clad the corpse. Mrs. Hudgers's only son, a scalawag, who had been a constant drain on his mother's small stipend, was taken ill and died, to the discreetly disguised relief of the neighborhood.
"I'm agoin' to give Hallie a good funeral," Mrs. Hudgers confided to Amarilly. "I'm agoin' to hev hacks and flowers and singin' If yer St. Mark's man was to hum now, I should like to have him fishyate."
"Who will you git?" asked Amarilly interestedly.
"I'll hev the preacher from the meetin'-house on the hill, Brother Longgrass."
"I wonder," speculated Amarilly, "if he'd like to wear the surplus?"
Foremost as the plumes of Henry of Navarre in battle were the surplice and the renting thereof in Amarilly's vision.
"I don't expect he could do that," replied Mrs. Hudgers doubtfully. "His church most likely wouldn't stand fer it. Brother Longgrass is real kind if he ain't my sort. He's agoin' to let the boys run the maylodeun down here the night afore the funyral."
"Who's agoin' to sing?"
"I dunno yit. I left it to the preacher. He said he'd git me a picked choir, whatever that may be."
"My! But you'll hev a fine funeral!" exclaimed Amarilly admiringly.
"I allers did say that when Hallie got merried, or died, things should be done right. Thar's jest one thing I can't hev."
"What's that, Mrs. Hudgers?"
"Why, you see, Amarilly, Hallie's clo'es air sort of shabby-like, and when we git him in that shiny new caskit, they air agoin' to show up orful seedy. But I can't afford ter buy him a new suit jest for this onct."
"Couldn't you rent a suit?" asked Amarilly, her ruling passion for business still dominating.
"No; I jest can't, Amarilly. It's costin' me too much now."
"I know it is," sympathized Amarilly, concentrating her mind on the puzzling solution of Hallie's habiliment.
"Mrs. Hudgers," she exclaimed suddenly, "why can't you put the surplus on Hallie? You kin slip it on over his suit, and when the funeral's over, and they hev all looked at the corpse, you kin take it offen him."
"Oh, that would be sweet!" cried Mrs. Hudgers, brightening perceptibly. "Hallie would look beautiful in it, and 'twould be diffrent from any one else's funeral. How you allers think of things, Amarilly! But I ain't got no dollar to pay you fer it."
"If you did hev one," replied Amarilly Indignantly, "I shouldn't let you pay fer it. We're neighbors, and what I kin do fer Hallie I want ter do."
"Well, Amarilly, it's certainly fine fer you to feel that way. You don't think," she added with sudden apprehension, "that they'd think the surplus was Hallie's nightshirt, do you?"
"Oh, no!" protested Amarilly, shocked at such a supposition. "Besides, you kin tell them all that Hallie's laid out in a surplus. They all seen them to the concert."
The funeral passed off with great eclat. The picked choir had resonant voices, and Brother Longgrass preached one of his longest sermons, considerately omitting reference to any of the characteristics of the deceased. Mrs. Hudgers was suitably attired in donated and dusty black. The extremely unconventional garb of Hallie caused some little comment, but it was commonly supposed to be a part of the Episcopalian spirit which the Jenkinses seemed to be inculcating in the neighborhood. Brother Longgrass was a little startled upon beholding the white-robed corpse, but perceiving what comfort it brought to the afflicted mother, he magnanimously forbore to allude to the matter.
After the remains had been viewed for the last time, the surplice was removed. In the evening Amarilly called for it.
"He did look handsome in it," commented Mrs. Hudgers with a satisfied, reminiscent smile. "I wish I might of hed his likeness took. I'm agoin' to make you take hum this pan of fried cakes Mrs. Holdock fetched in. They'll help fill up the chillern."
"I don't want to rob you, Mrs. Hudgers," said Amarilly, gazing longingly at the doughnuts, which were classed as luxuries in the Jenkins's menu.
"I dassent eat 'em, Amarilly. If I et jest one, I'd hev dyspepsy orful, and folks hez brung in enough stuff to kill me now. It does beat all the way they bring vittles to a house of mournin'! I only wish Hallie could hev some of 'em."
The surplice, carefully laundered after the funeral, was ready for new fields of labor. The tenor, first patron of Amarilly's costuming establishment, was wont to loiter in the studio of an artist he knew and relate his about-town adventures. This artist was interested in the annals of the little scrub-girl and her means of livelihood.
"I have in mind," he said musingly, "a picture of a musician, the light to be streaming through a stained window on his uplifted head as he sits at an organ."
"The Lost Chord?" inquired the tenor.
"Nothing quite so bromidic as that," laughed the artist. "I have my model engaged, and I had intended to have you borrow a surplice for me, but you may ask your little customer to rent me her gown for a couple of days."
On receipt of this request delivered through the medium of the ticket- seller, Amarilly promptly appeared at the studio. She was gravely and courteously received by the artist, Derry Phillips, an easy-mannered youth, slim and supple, with dark, laughing eyes. When they had transacted the business pertaining to the rental of the surplice, Amarilly arose from her chair with apparent reluctance. This was a new atmosphere, and she was fascinated by the pictures and the general air of artistic disarrangement which she felt but could not account for.
"'Tain't exactly the kind of place to tidy," she reflected, "but it needs cleaning turrible."
"Do you like pictures?" asked the young artist, following her gaze. "Stay a while and look at them, if you wish."
Amarilly readily availed herself of this permission, and rummaged about the rooms while Derry pursued his work. Upon the completion of her tour of inspection, he noticed a decided look of disapproval upon her face.
"What is the matter, Miss Jenkins? Aren't the pictures true to life?" he inquired with feigned anxiety.
"The picters is all right," replied Amarilly, "but—"
"But what?" he urged expectantly.
"Your rooms need reddin' up. Thar's an orful lot of dust. Yer things will spile."
"Oh, dust, you know, to the artistic temperament, is merely a little misplaced matter."
"'Tain't only misplaced. It's stuck tight," contended Amarilly.
"Dear me! And to think that I was contemplating a studio tea to some people day after to-morrow, I suppose it really should be 'red up' again. Honestly though, I engage a woman who come every week and clean the rooms."
"She's imposed on you," said Amarilly indignantly. "She's swept the dirt up agin the mopboards and left it thar, and she hez only jest skimmed over things with a dust-cloth. It ain't done thorough."
"And are you quite proficient as a blanchisseuse?"
Amarilly looked at him unperturbed.
"I kin scrub," she remarked calmly.
"I stand rebuked. Scrubbing is what they need. If you will come to-morrow morning and put these rooms in order, I will give you a dollar and your midday meal."
Amarilly, well satisfied with her new opening, closed the bargain instantly.
The next morning at seven o'clock she rang the studio bell. The artist, attired in a bathrobe and rubbing his eyes sleepily, opened the door.
"This was the day I was to clean," reminded Amarilly reprovingly.
"To be sure. But why so early? I thought you were a telegram."
"Early! It's seven o'clock."
"I still claim it's early. I have only been in bed four hours."
"Well, you kin go back to bed. I'll work orful quiet."
"And I can trust you not to touch any of the pictures or move anything?"
"I'll be keerful," Amarilly assured him. "Jest show me whar to het up the water. I brung the soap and a brush."
The artist lighted a gas stove, and, after carefully donning a long- sleeved apron, Amarilly put the water on and began operations. Her eyes shone with anticipation as she looked about her.
"I'm glad it's so dirty," she remarked. "It's more interestin' to clean a dirty place. Then what you do shows up, and you feel you earnt your money."
With a laugh the artist returned to his bedroom, whence he emerged three hours later.
"This room is all cleaned," announced Amarilly. "It took me so long 'cause it's so orful big and then 'twas so turrible dirty."
"You must have worked like a little Trojan. Now stop a bit while I prepare my breakfast."
"Kin you cook?" asked Amarilly in astonishment.
"I can make coffee and poach eggs. Come into my butler's pantry and watch me."
Amarilly followed him into a small apartment and was initiated into the mysteries of electric toasters and percolators.
He tried in vain to induce her to share his meal with him, but she protested.
"I hed my breakfast at five-thirty. I don't eat agin till noon."
"Oh, Miss Jenkins! You have no artistic temperament or you would not cling to ironclad rules."
"My name's Amarilly," she answered shortly. "I ain't old enough to be 'missed' yet."
"I beg your pardon, Amarilly. You seem any age," he replied, sitting down to his breakfast, "You are not too old, then, for me to ask what your age is—in years?"
"I jest got into my teens."
"Thirteen. And I am ten years older. When is your birthday?"
"It's ben. It was the fust of June."
"Why, Amarilly," jumping up and holding out his hand, "we are twins! That is my birthday."
"And you are twenty-three."
"Right you are. That is my age at the present moment. Last night I was far older, and to-morrow, mayhap, I'll be years younger."
"Be you a Christian Science?" she asked doubtfully.
"Lord, no, child! I am an artist. What made you ask that?"
"'Cause they don't believe in age. Miss Jupperskin told me about 'em. She's workin' up to it. But I must go back to my work."
"So must I, Amarilly. My model will be here in a few moments to don your surplice. If you want to clean up my breakfast dishes you may do so, and then tackle the bedroom and the rest of the apartment."
Three hours later, Amarilly went into the studio. The model had gone, and the artist stood before his easel surveying his sketch with approval.
"This is going to be a good picture, Amarilly. The model caught my idea. There is some fore—"
"My name is Derry. I am too young to be 'mistered.'"
There was no response, and with a smile he turned inquiringly toward her. There was a wan little droop about the corners of her eyes and lips that brought contrition to his boyish heart.
"Amarilly you are tired! You have worked too steadily. Sit down and rest awhile."
"'Tain't that! I'm hungry. Kin I het up the coffee and—"
"Good gracious, Amarilly! I forgot you ate at regular, stated intervals. We will go right out now to a nice little restaurant near by and eat our luncheon together."
"Thank you, Mr. Derry. That's orful nice in you, but I'd ruther eat here. Thar's the toast and coffee to het, and an aig—"
"No! You are going to have a good, square meal and eat it with me. You see I had to eat my birthday dinner all alone, so we'll celebrate the first of June now, together. Slip off your apron. By the way, some day I shall paint a picture of you in that apron scrubbing my 'mopboard.'"
Amarilly shook her head.
"I don't look fit to go nowhars with you, Mr. Derry."
"Vanitas, and the rest of it! Oh, Amarilly, only thirteen, and the ruling passion of your sex already in full sway!"
"It's on your account that I'm ashamed," she said in defence of his accusation. "I'd want ter look nice fer you."
"That's sweet of you, Amarilly; but if you really want to look nice, don't think of your clothes. It's other things. Think of your hair, for instance. It's your best point, and yet you hide it under a bushel and, worse than that, you braid it so tight I verily believe it's wired."
"I'm used to bein' teased about my red head," she replied. "I don't keer."
"It's a glorious red, Amarilly. The color the vulgar jeer at, and artists like your friend and twin, Derry, rave over. You're what is called 'Titian-haired,'"
"Are you makin' fun, Mr. Derry?" she asked suspiciously.
"No, Amarilly; seriously, I think it the loveliest shade of hair there is, and now I am going to show you how you should wear it. Unbind it, all four of those skin-tight braids."
She obeyed him, and a loosened, thick mass of hair fell below her waist.
"Glorious!" he cried fervidly. "Take that comb from the top of your head and comb it out. There! Now part it, and catch up these strands loosely—so. I must find a ribbon for a bow. What color would you suggest, Amarilly?"
"Bravo, Amarilly. If you had said blue, I should have lost all faith in your future upcoming. Here are two most beautiful brown bows on this thingamajig some one gave me last Christmas, and whose claim on creation I never discovered. Let me braid your hair loosely for two and one-quarter inches. One bow here—another there. Look in the glass, Amarilly. If I give you these bows will you promise me never to wear your hair in any other fashion until you are sixteen at least? Off with your apron! It's picturesque, but soapy and exceedingly wet. You won't need a hat. It's only around the corner, and I want your hair to be observed and admired."
Amarilly gained assurance from the reflection of her hair in the mirror, and they started gayly forth like two school children out for a lark. He ushered her into a quiet little cafe that had an air of pronounced elegance about it. In a secluded corner behind some palms came the subdued notes of stringed instruments. Derry seemed to be well known here, and his waiter viewed his approach with an air of proprietorship.
"It's dead quiet here," thought Amarilly wonderingly. "Like a church."
It was beginning to dawn upon her alert little brain that real things were all quiet, not noisy like the theatre.
"What shall we have first, Amarilly?" inquired her new friend with mock deference. "Bouillon?"
Amarilly, recalling the one time in her life when she had had "luncheon," replied casually that she preferred fruit, and suggested a melon.
"Good, Amarilly! You are a natural epicure. Fruit, certainly, on a warm day like this. I shall let you select all the courses. What next?"
"Lobster," she replied nonchalantly.
"Fine! And then?"
He looked at her in amazement, and reflected that she had doubtless been employed in some capacity that had made her acquainted with luncheon menus.
"And," concluded Amarilly, without waiting for prompting, "I think an ice would be about right. And coffee in a little cup, and some cheese."
"By all means, Amarilly," he responded humbly. "And what kind of cheese, please?"
"Now I'm stumped," thought Amarilly ruefully, "fer I can't 'member how to speak the kind she hed."
"Most any kind," she said loftily, "except that kind you put in mousetraps."
"Oh, Amarilly, you are a true aristocrat! How comes it that you scrub floors? Is it on a bet?"
The waiter came up and said something to the artist in a low tone, and Derry replied hastily:
"Nothing to-day." Then, turning to Amarilly, he asked her if she would like a glass of milk. Upon her assent, he ordered two glasses of milk, to the veiled surprise of the waiter.
When the luncheon was served, Amarilly, by reason of her good memory, was still at ease. The children at the Guild school had been given a few general rules in table deportment, but Amarilly had followed every movement of Colette's so faithfully at the eventful luncheon that she ate very slowly, used the proper forks and spoons, and won Derry's undisguised admiration.
"Mr. Vedder's, good," she thought. "Mr. St. John's grand, but this 'ere Mr. Derry's folksy. I'd be skeert settin' here eatin' with Mr. St. John, but this feller's only a kid, and I feel quite to hum with him."
"Amarilly," he said confidentially, as they were sipping their coffee from "little cups," "you are truthful, I know. Will you be perfectly frank with me and answer a question?"
"Mebby," she replied warily.
"Did you ever eat a luncheon like this before?"
"I never seen the inside of a restyrant afore," she replied.
"Now you are fencing. I mean, did you ever have the same things to eat that we had just now?"
Amarilly hesitated, longing to mystify him further, but it came over her in a rush how very kind he had been to her.
"Yes, I hev. I'll tell you all about it."
"Good! An after-dinner story! Beat her up, Amarilly!"
So she told him of her patroness and the luncheon she had eaten at her house.
"And I watched how she et and done, and she tole me the names of the things we hed. I writ them out, and that was my lesson that night with the Boarder."
Then, of course, Derry must know all about the Boarder and the brothers. After she had finished her faithful descriptions, it was time to return to the studio. Her quick, keen eyes had noted the size of the bill Derry had put on the salver, and the small amount of change he had received. She walked home beside him in troubled silence.
"What's the matter, Amarilly?" he asked as she was buttoning on her apron preparatory to resuming work. "Didn't the luncheon agree with you, or are you mad at me? And for why, pray?"
Amarilly's thin little face flushed and a tear came into each thoughtful eye.
"I hedn't orter to hev tole you ter git all them things. I was atryin' ter be smart and show off, but, honest, I didn't know they was agoin' ter cost so much. I ain't agoin' ter take no money fer the cleanin', and that'll help some."
Derry laughed rapturously.
"My dear child!" he exclaimed, when he could speak. "You are a veritable little field daisy. You really saved me money by going with me. If I had gone alone, I should have spent twice as much."