FIRESIDE STORIES FOR GIRLS IN THEIR TEENS
MARGARET W. EGGLESTON
Instructor in Story Telling, School of Religious Education and Social Service, Boston University
Author of "The Use of the Story in Religious Education," Etc.
New York George H. Doran Company
Copyright, 1921, by George H. Doran Company
Printed in the United States of America
TO THE GIRLS OF KEEWAYDIN CAMP FIRE OF CLEVELAND AND ICACAYA CAMP FIRE OF BOSTON
"Given a Camp-fire, a group of friendly girls and a good story-teller who knows and loves the girls, and the ideals of a whole community may be lifted in a night."
The teen age girl is a great problem and at the same time a great opportunity. Her ideals seem low, yet there is no time in her life when she will more gladly follow a great ideal. She seems fickle, yet she is putting her friends to a test that is most worth while. She is misunderstood and she can not understand herself. She is searching for something, yet she does not know what it is.
Her problems are many, and most of them she must solve alone. If she follows the crowd and goes in the way of least resistance, there is a big chance that she will fall by the way. If she does not follow the crowd, it is because somewhere, some time, she has found a compelling ideal and is following it. Sometimes that ideal comes to her in the form of a friend. Sometimes she is fortunate enough to have found that ideal in her mother. But often and often it comes to her through a little story that lives with her, and works for her, and helps her to hold to the best, in spite of the manifold temptations to do otherwise.
Recently I met a young woman whom I had seen only once and that was twelve years ago. She came to me after a service and said, "Will you tell Van Dyke's 'Lump of Clay' to-night? Twelve years ago I heard you tell it. I was so discouraged at the time, for everything seemed going wrong and life seemed so useless. But I dropped into a church and heard you tell the story. You have no idea what it has done for me. I am teaching in the college near by and I should like to have my girls hear the story. Perhaps they need it as I did."
Many of the workers with girls have seen this need and have wanted to meet it and yet have been unable to find the story that was needed by the girl. It is because of this very need in my own work that I am sending out these stories, most of which I have told over and over to my girls. Many of them have been written because of special problems that needed to be met—problems peculiar to adolescence—problems found in every class and club of girls the country over.
The stories are not to amuse, for we have no time to amuse girls in the story hour. We have little enough time, at the best, for implanting ideals and every story hour should leave a vital message. That is the thing the girls want and why should we give them less.
The stories are not to be read. They need the personal touch, the sympathetic voice, the freedom of eye that tells the story-teller which girls are finding the message of the story. Some of them will hurt—but experience has shown me that these are the very ones that one has to tell over and over. Can you imagine the Master reading to the groups gathered about him the stories that you and I love to read in his word? When you go into the heart life of a girl, let all your personality help you to carry the message. It was the Master's way of story-telling.
"'Twas only a little story, Yet it came like a ray of light; And it gave to the girl who heard it Real courage to do the right."
PAGE I Would Be True 15 The Appeal to the Great Spirit 22 A Parable of Girlhood 29 The House of Truth 32 Marked for a Mast 39 Her Need 44 The Message of the Mountain 47 The Winning of an Honor 51 Daddy Gray's Test 56 Wanted—A Real Mother 61 The Fir Tree and the Willow Wand 69 The Two Searchers 73 Why Elizabeth Was Chosen 77 Janie's School Days 81 Self-Made Men 89 On The Road to Womanhood 92 Her Prayer 97 The Best Day 105 In the Way 108 An Old, Old Story 114 His Debt 119 How Kagigegabo Became a Brave 123 The White Flower of Happiness 129 The Speaking Picture 134 The Quest 138 The Treasure 141
FIRESIDE STORIES FOR GIRLS IN THEIR TEENS
I WOULD BE TRUE
'Twas a beautiful day in the late fall and the roadside was lined with the late asters and goldenrod. The sun was shining so brightly and the sky was as blue as a New Hampshire sky could be, yet the girl, walking along the winding, climbing road, saw none of them. The little brook by the roadside whispered and chattered as it ran along, yet she did not hear; a few late birds still twittered to her from the trees, but she did not notice; a chipmunk called to her from a dead tree by the roadside, but she paid not the least attention. She was alone with her thoughts and they were far from pleasant.
How different it all seemed from what it had seemed six months before! Then she had stood in the office of a great doctor in Philadelphia and heard him say to her father, "Unless you leave the city at once and go where there is pure air and simple food and real quiet, there is no help for you."
The father had looked at the doctor for a moment in silence and then answered, "Well, if that is the case, I am sorry, for I cannot leave the city. My business needs me; Katherine is in college and she must be here. I shall stay."
But with flashing eyes the girl had stepped to the doctor and said, "Father is mistaken, doctor. His business can do without him and there is no need at all why he should stay here for me. There is a dear little old place in the hills of New Hampshire that belongs to us, where grandfather used to live. We can go there and have all the things that you have said he must have. You may leave the matter with me. We shall be out of the city within two weeks."
Then turning to her father she had put her arms about his neck and said, "Of course we can go, daddy, for what is college and money and friends compared with your health? Gladly will I give them up for you. We shall have a wonderful time there in the hills—just you and mother and I."
So they had come. Then it was early in the spring and the country was beginning to show green. Into the little old farmhouse under the hill they moved. Of course there were no electric lights, and no telephones, and no faucets out of which the water could be drawn. But there were the quaint old candle holders on the big mantels; there was the fireplace so large that a log could be drawn into it; there was a well in the yard with water as cold as ice. And outside the home—oh, there were the most wonderful things to see. The trailing arbutus trailed everywhere; the lady slippers grew even in the front dooryard. The old trees in the yard were soon filled with nesting birds; the apple and pear trees in bloom were a sight never to be forgotten.
So the days fled by and the little family under the hill were so happy to see the color coming back to the face of the sick one and the smile once more on his face. Katherine loved it all—the home—the flowers—the mountains and even the quiet of the little hamlet.
Then the summer had come and with it the stream of visitors who come every year to the New Hampshire mountains. Within a short distance of the home were large hotels, and the guests soon learned of the cool water in the well in front of the house; of the father who was such a pleasant companion; of the pretty girl who could sing, and climb, and play so well. So there had been picnics, and parties, and auto rides, and the summer had fled.
And when the people had gone, there were the wonderful colors in the trees, the gorgeous sunsets in the sky, the fun of the harvest time and still the life in the country was full of wonder and satisfaction.
But now—oh, now the days had begun to grow cold, the trees were bare, the birds had flown to the south, and her friends had all gone away. Here and there a family was left in the farmhouses that dotted the little, winding road but none of them were people for whom she cared. And so as the days had come and gone, there had crept into the heart of the girl a loneliness that would not be forced down, a longing that she could not stifle, a dissatisfaction that grew with the days.
How could she pass the long winter nights that were ahead? How could she stay away from the friends who were gathering at the college? How could she live without her piano? How could she keep a smile so that the dear ones at home would not see how unhappy she was becoming? The house seemed so big and bare; the trees in the yard seemed to sigh instead of sing; the way ahead seemed full of blackness. She longed for all that had gone; she longed for her friends, especially the one who had been her ideal during her college days; she longed to run back to him for always.
But on this October morning, she had risen early to keep the quiet hour before the rest were up. Usually she read in the gospels, but this morning her Bible opened to the Psalms and she read, "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord who made heaven and earth." She stopped and looked from the window at Mt. Kearsarge in the distance.
Then she read again, "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help." "Ah!" said the girl, "I need help. God knows I need help. I wonder if there is any help for me. 'I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help.' Perhaps if I should go out into the hills for the day, God would help me. I think I will try it."
To the mother she had said, "I think I should like to go for a long walk to-day if you do not mind. I feel like having a tramp," and then with lunch box in hand and book under her arm, she had started.
As long as father and mother could see, she had smiled and waved to them, but when the turn in the road had come, the light faded from her eyes and her problem was still before her. The night before had been endless, yet there were longer ones to come. No wonder she saw no sunshine, heard no bird and saw no brook as she walked along the country road.
On and on she went; mile after mile was put behind her, till the sun was high in the heaven and she was weary and hungry. Then a sudden turn in the road brought her to the foot of a little lake—one of those mountain lakes that make New Hampshire so beautiful. All around it were hills; the water was very, very blue and its surface was as calm as could be. A moss-covered stone was very near and the girl sank beside it and, leaning her head on her hand, she looked at the quiet waters.
"Ah!" she said to herself, "how I wish my life were as calm as the lake. One would never dream that it ever were rough and troubled. I wish God could send peace to me as He sends it to the little lake."
Her eyes wandered to the shores and then to the hills about the lake. How beautiful the tall pines and spruces were! How fragrant the resinous balsams! How bleak and cold the trees with no leaves!
Then her eyes turned to the top of the hills when suddenly—it seemed as if by magic—there stood out before her, as if outlined in the sky, the giant face of a man. What could it be? Had it been carved there? How strong and noble the face seemed to be! How had it come to be there at the very top of the hill? Then she remembered a story she had heard when first she had come to the valley. This must be the "Old Man of the Mountain." For centuries and centuries he had stood here guarding the little lake.
When the wonder of finding the Great Stone Face had passed by, she studied it. The forehead was high and the face of noble mien. The mouth showed much of strength. It was a face one would like to see often. God had put it there—the God who made the heaven and earth. Then there came to her mind again the verse of the morning, "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help." Perhaps the Old Man of the Mountain could help her. He had stood here for years and years. He must know what it meant to be weary with the long days and the longer nights. He must have seen the multitude pass by and still leave him in the mountains. Perhaps he would understand how lonely and full of unrest she was.
So leaning her head on the moss-covered stone, she said dreamily, "Old Man of the Mountains, if you were I and were longing to go back to your work and your friends, if you were afraid of the long winter that is coming, if you had a duty to do right here when you longed to be there, if you had a father who needed you and a mother who is brave as can be, and still there burned within you the longing to get back to the others, what would you do? Are you never weary with it all? Do you never long to run away from your task that God has given you to do? Are you never discontented? Oh, Old Man of the Mountain, if you were I and had my burden to carry, what would you do?"
A silence was everywhere as she listened for his answer. Not a bird sang, not a ripple crossed the lake. For a moment she watched the face—then another, and then she was sure that she saw the face begin to relax. A sign of a twinkle came across the great stone eyes and the lips smiled as there came to her heart this answer:
"Oh, little girl from the city with a burden to carry! What would I do if I had a father who was surely growing strong and a mother who had smiled through the days of the sickness? What would I do if I longed to go back to the life of pleasure and happiness when my duty lay here? What would I do if I had forgotten the books that might be read during the long winter nights for which there had been no time in the city; the lessons of patience and loyalty that might be learned in doing the hard thing; the happiness of really being needed? What would I do if I were you and were lonely and discouraged and heartsick?
I would be true, for there are those that trust me; I would be pure, for there are those who care; I would be strong, for there is much to suffer; I would be brave, for there is much to dare.
I would be friend of all—the foe, the friendless; I would be giving, and forget the gift; I would be humble, for I know my weakness; I would look up, and laugh, and love, and lift.[A]
"Aye, little girl from the city, I would go back into the little home under the hill with all its comfort, and home-likeness, and wealth of love, and I would look up to God for help; I would laugh at the hard things and help them to vanish from sight; I would love the dear ones who are dearer to you than life itself; and I would lift, not only their burden, but that of others who need you in this beautiful valley."
Slowly the face was again set into the lines that others saw and the head of the girl dropped deeper into the moss. For a long time there was no sign that she had heard. Then she lifted a face, full of light, to that of the Old Man of the Mountain.
"Thank you, my friend," she said. "I have lifted my eyes unto the hills and help has come. I will go back to the little white house and, with God's help, I will look up, and I will laugh, and I will love, and I will lift."
So she ate her lunch by the calm, little mountain lake and the tiny breezes whispered in her ears. Then she walked again the winding road that led down to the home. But the sky was blue and full of beauty; the birds heard an answering call; the little brook gave her to drink, and the chipmunk found on his stump a little piece of the cake from the box. Her face was smiling and her heart full of courage, for she had looked unto the hills—and God had answered.
[A] Poem by Harold Arnold Walter.
THE APPEAL TO THE GREAT SPIRIT
Owaissa, the Indian Squaw, sat before the tepee watching little Litahni play with the colored stones. The child was the idol of the tribe, for was not her father the great chief Black Hawk who had done so much for his people? So, lest anything should happen to the little one, Owaissa made it her chief task to be where the child was and to teach her the things she wanted her to know.
Three years before, the good missionary who was leaving the encampment had said to Owaissa, "Soon there will come to your tepee a little child. Should it be a little girl, teach her to see herself in the things about her, so that the birds, and the trees, and the flowers, and the winds may all help her to grow true and fine, even as they help the young braves to grow brave and strong. The girls of your Indian tribes are not given half a chance to see the helpers all about them. Teach her to see, as I have taught you to see, what a woman can do."
And the words of the missionary had burned into the very soul of Owaissa. Her child should have a chance. So when the little girl had come to her wigwam, she had named her Litahni—a little light—and she had sought for ways to help her to see what nature meant that man should see.
"Catch a little raindrop," she said to the little girl as she played near the wigwam. "Every raindrop helps some plant, even though it is so little. You are tiny, too, but you can help every day just as the raindrop does."
"See the beautiful sunset," she said to the older girl, as they tramped home from gathering the wood for the fire. "The colors are creeping all over the sky. We see the sunset here and we are happy because it is so beautiful, but away over the mountains in the far away the sunset is just as beautiful and they are happy there as they see it. You can bring happiness, too, both here and far away, if your life is beautiful.
"Listen to the wind in the trees," she said to the girl of fourteen who was eager to do that which father wanted her to leave undone. "You cannot see the wind, yet it sways the great trees and sometimes fells them. You can bend the will of the strong men of the tribe but you cannot do it by talk and by ugly words. Learn to bend by gentleness and quietly. Learn to steal into their lives as the wind steals through the trees."
When the girl was sixteen, the young men of the tribe were beginning to love her and to want to take her to their wigwams. Then the mother knew she must show her how to choose. So she sought for ways to help her as they hunted the mountains for the wild berries. Often they sat by the lakeside for their midday meal. Sometimes it was rough and sometimes calm.
"See, daughter," said Owaissa. "The little lake is very rough to-day. Sometimes our lives are like the little lake. Not always are they calm. Storms sweep over the life. But take the lesson from the lake. Be beautiful through it all. Down beneath the surface, the water is calm and untroubled even though the white caps are above."
Once they were caught in the mountains in a terrific storm. Litahni crept close to the mother when the thunder rolled loud and long, but she loved to see the long streaks of lightning flash across the sky.
Then Owaissa said, "The thunder cannot hurt you, dear. Seldom does that which comes with a big noise do the harm, for one can run from it and be safe. Fear that which comes silently and swiftly and which strikes at the heart. The lightning yonder is far from us but it may strike at the heart of a giant pine and fell it to the ground. That which should have stood long and sturdy is then rendered useless and laid low."
With the coming of the winter the good squaw died and there were evil days ahead for the Black Hawk tribe. They were having quarrels with the white men, and the chief was very busy. So Litahni was left much alone and the days were long and lonely. Now she was glad for all that her mother had taught her, for the birds, and the flowers, and the trees, and the animals all helped her to pass the days and they spoke to her of the things that her mother had taught her. She tried hard to help her father, and often she knew that she had helped him, but she longed to do more.
"No squaw has ever done it, but I believe I can. I shall teach my people to love the white man's God, for then we should not have wars and quarrels," said the girl.
So she taught the little children; she told stories to the squaws and she won the confidence of the young men of the tribe who would soon be in the council fires. And all the tribe loved Litahni, the beautiful daughter of Black Hawk and Owaissa.
One day, across the plain, there came a white man. He was tall and dark and sturdy-looking. He had education and he could talk well. Litahni saw much of him for a few days and she came to honor the white man as she listened to him drive the bargains for the furs and the blankets and the baskets.
Now, as the white man watched the little Indian teacher, he saw how far above the tribe she was. He loved her pretty face, her sweet way and her gentle spirit. Then the white man wanted to win the Indian girl. In the far East, he had left a girl who loved him but he wanted the Indian girl,—so he began silently to make love to her. Of course he knew that her father would never consent. He knew that he would be driven from the encampment if ever they found what he was doing, so hastily and quietly he worked to win her.
He told her of the wonderful land from which he had come; of the beautiful houses in which his friends lived; of the lives of ease which they lived; then he told her of his love for her and begged her to flee with him to his land and his people. To Litahni, it was all so wonderful that she listened happily. How she would love to see it all! If she went there, she could see again the missionary of whom the mother had told her so often.
And when he had finished, she told him of her dreams—how she wanted to help the tribe to learn to love the great God, and to make the tribe of Black Hawk the finest tribe in all the land around.
But when she, too, had finished, he loved her all the more for her beautiful wish, so he held her closely to him and said:
"But, Litahni, to love and to be loved is a far greater happiness than to lift, or to bend, or to lead the tribe. Leave that to your father. All these things you can do to me and to my people. Would you waste your life here on the plains? Think what I can give you. Your mother longed to go beyond the mountains into the sunrise. Come with me and I will take you there. To love and to be loved is the best that ever comes into a life. And I love you, Litahni! Why should you think of your father? He has many things to think of and has little time for you. I will make you my queen. To-morrow I must go. So to-night, I shall come for my answer after the sun has set. Meet me, dear, by the giant tree near the spring and we will go together. The train leaves not long after the sunset and I will have a horse at the spring on which we can get to the train. Come with me, dear. Forget your people and be my Litahni."
There was a noise near by—and the white man was gone. But Litahni sat deep in thought. While he had been with her, she longed to go with him. But as she sat now and looked down into the valley at the encampment, she was not so sure. Her mind was all awhirl. Was this the way to happiness? What would mother have said? She wanted her to have the best, but what was the best? It was only a few hours till the sunset and what should she do? Was there no one to help her?
Suddenly from the roadway below she heard a neigh. It was Fleetfoot, and he was tired of being tied to a sapling. Now Litahni loved Fleetfoot, her horse, for they had grown up together, so she hurried to the tree where she had left him, untied his bridle, jumped on his back and whispered,
"Fly, Fleetfoot! Fly into the sunset. Go fast and go far and let me think as we fly."
Then the horse sped away toward the north. As they passed the little lake in the valley it whispered, "Life is not always calm. There must be tempests. But you can be calm in your inner life and you can be beautiful through it all."
Up the hill she went, and as the wind blew over her face it seemed to say, "Why be bent? Why not bend?" At the top, looking far across a distant plain, her mother's voice seemed to whisper, "Look far ahead, little girl. Look far ahead. What seems wonderful may prove to be only a shadow."
On they flew. The girl's face was flushed and thoughtful. Soon she must turn if she would be at the meeting place. Where was Fleetfoot taking her? Perhaps he knew best what she should do.
Suddenly at a bend in the road Fleetfoot gave a great leap, startling the girl and almost making her lose her balance. Across the path, a giant tree had been felled by the lightning and there it lay, prone and helpless.
Then she shuddered. "Fear that which comes quickly and silently and which strikes at the heart." Only a week before she had not known the white man—even now her father did not know that she knew him. Ought she to be afraid? If she met him, it must be silently, in the cover of the dark.
At last Fleetfoot stood, panting and breathless, on the great rock that topped the cliff. Often had he come here with his mistress, so he waited for her to dismount. The sky was aflame with color—all red and gold and yellow. Far to the North there were blues and pinks. What a wonderful sunset it was! Surely it must be the home of a great, great God.
Litahni sat motionless for a time, drinking in all the glory of the scene. Then she threw her arms high over her head and, lifting her face into the sunset, she cried,
"Oh, thou Great Spirit to whom my people have always prayed, though they knew thee not as the great God; oh thou to whom my mother taught me to pray, show me the way to happiness. I would my life should be as my mother wished it to be—a little light. I would do my best in the right place. Is love for the white man the way to happiness? Is it the way in which I should go? Answer as by fire. I beg of thee. Answer me as by fire, oh, thou great God of the Indian."
Motionless the horse and his rider stood as the moments passed by, one, two, three. The red of the sunset enfolded them and God was very near.
Suddenly far to the south there rose a tiny black cloud. Very tiny it was, yet it grew and it grew. It blotted out the red and then the yellow and then the gold, and then the whole sky was dark and the wind blew chill.
Slowly Litahni's arms relaxed and her head fell to the mane of the horse. When she lifted it, her face looked tired and worn, but over it there was a look of peace. Patting the mane of the horse, she said:
"Thank you for bringing me here, Fleetfoot. The Great Spirit has answered and I shall stay here with Father and with you. To love selfishly is to blot out all the beautiful. He who would be my chief must not want me to run away from helping and giving. He must help me to serve my people. The Great Spirit has answered by fire and I am content. I will stay here and serve my people in the way my mother taught me to do, and I will wait for the one whom the Great Spirit will send to me some day to be my Chief."
Then slowly Fleetfoot picked his way over the narrow trail in the darkness, and, because it was late, the white man had come and gone away alone. But Litahni, bending low over the couch where her father should sleep, smiled as she stretched the skins in place for the night. Even as the animals had given their skins that her father might be warm, so she was ready to give her little light to make him happy and comfortable, even as Owaissa, her noble mother, had done.
And Litahni was content.
A PARABLE OF GIRLHOOD
Behold a girl went forth to walk on the highway leading to life. And as she walked there grew up beneath her feet flowers of every kind and color.
"Ah!" she said, "I will gather a sheaf of flowers to carry with me, for then, surely, I shall be welcome when I come to the gate at the end of this way. I will gather what seemeth to me to be the most beautiful of all the flowers that grow about me. They shall be my gift to the one who guards the way."
And as she plucked, the one that seemed to be most wonderful was the one most bright, gleaming yellow as the sun. "It is yellow like gold," she said. "If I come with the sign of gold, I shall be welcome. I will pluck it everywhere I can and carry only yellow flowers." And soon her arms were full, but somehow her fingers seemed hot and unpleasant and her arms were heavy, so she dropped some by the way and carried only those that seemed most desirable.
But some were blue—blue as the sky. "Blue for blue blood," she said. "Those of royal birth are always to be desired. I shall make my sheaf largely of blue." So she added one here and another there till she was satisfied that the sheaf would be of all the sheaves the most beautiful. But the odor was sickening, and again one after another was dropped till only a few remained.
And some flowers there were in the path that were red. "One needs fewer of these," she said, "but surely some must be red. I shall put red flowers for courage where they shall be seen, for courage is of all the virtues to be desired." But there were thorns on the red flowers and, try as she would, she could not hide the thorns so that they might not pierce her flesh. So there could be few of the red in the sheaf.
Some plants there were that bore no blossoms but the leaves were beautiful, so she added leaves of this and of that, even though she knew that in some there was deadly poison. "I can hide it among the rest. It is so beautiful that it must be a part of my sheaf," thought the girl.
But along the way, there had been many flowers that had been passed unnoticed. White they were. Often they were small but always they were pure and sweet. Only once had she plucked one and then she had added it because of its fragrance. "Oh, yes," she said, "I know white is for purity but white flowers are old-fashioned. Of course I must have a few but many would spoil my sheaf. It must be bright with color."
So the days flew by and her sheaf was nearly complete. She had thought it the most beautiful thing she could possibly make. But one day as she walked, suddenly she saw, standing erect by the road, a beautiful, stately lily. Its beauty startled her. She stooped to smell of its fragrance. Then she glanced from it to the flowers in her sheaf.
If she plucked the lily and tried to place it in the sheaf, its beauty would be spoiled. What should she do? With all her heart she longed to take the lily with her to the end of the way. Should she throw the rest away? Would she be welcome with only the one flower? Long she hesitated.
Then she laid the yellow, and the blue, and the red, and the rest aside and carefully gathered it. So in her hand she carried the lily with the petals of pure white and the heart of gold.
And lo, she had come to the stile which endeth the way of girlhood. There, standing guard over the way ahead, was a woman in white, holding by the hand a tiny, little child. Looking straight into the eyes of the girl, she said sweetly,
"Welcome, my child, from the beautiful way of girlhood. What hast thou brought as thy gift to coming generations?"
Then the girl feared to answer. But she held the lily toward the little child as she said, "I have brought purity and a heart of gold."
"Thou hast done well," said the mother spirit. "Take thou the child as thy reward. With this as thy gift, thou art worthy to enter the way of motherhood. Lo, here are some of the flowers that were left by the way. Well may they go with thee, for they are very beautiful. But the gift that thou didst choose was far more valuable and beautiful than they. It was the gift that the Great desire."
Then the girl and the child went together into the new way. But the child was carrying the gift and she smiled as she went.
THE HOUSE OF TRUTH
It was plain to be seen that Bess Keats was very much disturbed about something. She sat in the couch hammock on the porch, talking to herself and occasionally giving a sharp punch to the sofa pillow by her side.
"Mother is so old-fashioned," she said to herself, "and she gets worse every year. Last year she wouldn't let me wear the kind of dresses I wanted to and I looked different from the rest of the girls all the year. Then she wouldn't let me go camping with the party because only one mother was going to take care of us. Surely one woman can take care of twenty boys and girls. Of course I was glad I hadn't gone when they had the accident and partly burned the cottage, but she wouldn't let me go just because she had old-fashioned notions. Girls these days don't do as they did when she was young.
"I just can't see a reason in the world why I shouldn't invite Henry Mann to take me to the leap-year party at the beach. Every girl in the crowd is asking a fellow to take her. Of course if George were here, mother might let me go with him; but he isn't and all the girls want Henry to go because he spends his money in such a dandy way; so I said I would invite him to take me, never thinking for a minute that mother would object. And now she says, not only that I can't ask him, but that I can't go. Well, I will, anyway. So there! I just will go."
Then Bess pushed her head far down in the pillow to think out a way. If grandmother were only alive she would help her. She had always found a way to get what Bess wanted. But grandmother was dead and Bess must work it out alone, so she began to think.
Suddenly she heard a voice saying,
"Why, Bessie dear, whatever is the matter? You look very unhappy. Tell me all about it."
And there was grandmother with the neat, black silk dress and the dainty white collar, and even the pretty white apron that she used to wear. Oh! Oh! how glad Bess was to see her!
Hand in hand, they went away from the house to where the trees in the orchard were bending with fruit, and, sitting there on a stone, Bess told her all about her trouble. Whatever would the girls think of her when she had promised to invite the boy they all wanted? And after she had told it every bit, she squeezed grandma's hand very hard and said,
"And now, Granny dear, you will help me, won't you? It is perfectly all right to ask him for all the girls do it. I want him to take me."
"Well, well, dear," said the grandmother, "if we find that it is all right, I shall be glad to find a way to help you. But we must see. We must see."
"See what, grandmother?" asked the girl. "There is nothing to see."
"Indeed there is, child," said Granny. "In times of trouble one must always see the Truth. Then the way is easy. After I see the Truth, I shall be able to tell what to do. Come and we shall soon find out. You see you belong to my family and my family is proud of the fact that its girls have all been ladies. So we must go to the keeper of the book and see what a lady can do in this case."
On and on they went till they came to a queer little old man standing before a big, big book. Granny went daintily up to him and said,
"Will you tell me if it is ever right for a young lady to ask a strange young man to take her to a dance, and pay out his money for her, when he has not even been to her home or met her mother? My grandchild says all the girls do it, so I suppose it must be a new thing that has been written in the book since I was a girl. I want her to be sure to be a lady, so before I help her to ask the boy to take her, I want you to look for the rule."
The little old man began slowly to shake his head but he never said a word. He just looked and looked and looked. His finger went up one page and down another. Finally he looked straight at Bess and said to Granny,
"Your granddaughter is mistaken. That is not done by ladies. It is not here. It is not here."
"Oh, you are old-fashioned just like my mother," began Bess. "It may not be there but it is true just the same that all ladies do it nowadays."
"Hush, child," said Granny. "What is written there is true—but it is only half the truth even then. Let us go and see the rest. If it is right for you to ask him, then let us see the truth about the boy. Is he one that our family would like to have specially chosen for your friend? We must know about him."
"Oh, Granny, he is all right. He doesn't study much and he doesn't do what mother believes is right on Sunday. But he has a car, and a motor boat, and he is all right. Let me ask him," begged Bess.
"Tut, tut, child," said Granny. "Perhaps you do not know. This is the House of Truth and we can tell."
Then they entered a very large house and Granny walked to a man who stood near the door.
"May I go to the M room?" she asked, with a smile.
"I will show you the way, lady," said the man, and Bess noted how the man had spoken the word "lady." Somehow every one knew as soon as they looked at Granny that she was a lady. 'Twas very strange!
Down a long hall they went and then they stood before a large wall of mirrors. What a strange place this was! Before them in the mirror were many, many men and boys, all struggling to get up a very steep hill. Some had a few strings ahead of them to help them up and many, many strings behind that were pulling them back to the foot of the hill. Others had only a few in back and many in front. Some were hopelessly entangled and seemed not able to move. Who were they and what were they doing?
Curiosity led Bess to study the scene in front of her. On the very top of the hill there was a bright sign, "Christian Manhood." This, then, was the thing for which they were struggling. But what were the strings? She pushed and reached but she just couldn't read the words.
"Did you want to know the truth about a friend?" said a voice. "I will gladly help you for you are young and need to know. I am old and to know the truth may only make me more unhappy. Take my place." And she was given a nearer stand.
Now she could read the words on the strings that held the men back. One said "Drink" and another "Bad Companions," and another "Bad Temper." Bess was very much interested, so she began to study the faces of the men who were pushing to the top.
Why! Away up there with the first was George Meyer, her good friend from childhood. He had many, many strings to help and only a few to hinder. And there was Edward Mead. He was such a goody-goody at school that she didn't care much for him. Why, he wouldn't whisper at all!
Near the middle of the hill was Philip Marks. She knew him well and he had many things to help and many to hinder but he was surely trying. But Granny had brought her here to see the truth about Henry Mann. Was he here? She hadn't seen him.
First she searched among those near the top. He was such a bright boy when out with the crowd and he had so many good things in his life that surely he must be near the top. But he wasn't there. Neither was he near the middle. Surely he must be there somewhere for his name began with M. Finally she asked the man who had given her his place if he could see a boy named Henry Mann on the hill.
"I should say I could," was the answer. "There he is near the foot of the hill, hopelessly entangled in his drawbacks. It isn't hard to find that young man here."
Sure enough, there he was and Bess's face grew very red as she saw all the strings behind him. She was glad Granny had gone to sit down so that she wouldn't see him. Perhaps she could read what some of his drawbacks were, for he was quite near. There was, "Too much money," "Lazy," "Unkind to his mother," "Little schooling," "Drinks and smokes and swears," "A friend of careless girls"....
Oh, dear! Bess didn't want to read any more. What a list he had! There were one or two good strings but they could not do much against so many others to pull him back.
Up there very near to the top, George, her old friend, was moving on and his face was so earnest. How different it looked as she compared him with Henry at the foot! She had never known before that he was so handsome. What were the strings that were pulling him forward? She leaned far forward to see. Just then she heard Granny's voice close at her elbow.
"Were you trying to look at George, Bess? He is a long way toward manhood, isn't he? Suppose you use my little glass to help you."
"Oh, now I can see," she answered. There is "A good mother," "A keen mind," "A strong body," "Love of right and truth," "A good girl friend"....
"But, Granny dear," said Bess, "one of his helps is 'A good girl friend.' Has George a girl? I thought he didn't care for girls."
"This is the House of Truth, dear," said the old lady. "I think perhaps that good girl friend means you, for you have been a good friend to him. You know our family have always been proud of their education and their habits of life. I am sure it must have been a good thing for George to grow up all these years with a good chum like you. He must be a gentleman if he would be fit to play with the daughter of a lady like your mother. When I was here before, George had several other pull-backs, but I see he has conquered them. But come, dear, it is time we were going if I am to help you out of your difficulty.
"Let me see, you wanted to ask Henry Mann to take you to a party at the beach. Did you find him there? Do you think your mother will change her mind when we tell her the truth about the new friend whom you wish to make? If so, I am ready to try, even though I am not at all sure that a lady does those things. But things change—things change very much and perhaps you are right. What said the House of Truth? Shall we invite him?"
"Oh, Granny, never, never!" cried the girl. "I could never ask any one who was known as the friend of careless girls. He has so many drawbacks—oh, no, never."
Just then a voice said, "Good evening, Miss Keats. I hope I haven't disturbed your nap. One of the girls told me you were very anxious to see me, so I came up."
And there stood Henry Mann.
For a moment the girl could not answer. The face that had looked so handsome when it was pointed out to her on the street yesterday now looked careless and insolent. She wanted to run away and not even answer.
But just at that moment the door opened and her mother came out. She was dressed so prettily and her voice was soft and sweet as she said, "I think I haven't met you, but you must be one of my daughter's friends. Will you be seated?"
"A man must be a gentleman if he would be fit to play with the daughter of a lady like your mother," thought Bess.
Then she straightened her shoulders and, smiling, said, "Mother, this is Henry Mann, of whom I spoke to you."
Turning to the boy, who still stood at the top of the steps, she said, "Thank you so much for calling, Mr. Mann. There has been a mistake. Mother prefers that I should not go to the party at the beach and of course I want to do as she thinks best. I am sorry to have made you this trouble. Perhaps one of the other girls will be asked to fill my place so that you can still be one of the party."
Then Henry Mann tipped his hat and went down the street thinking how beautiful the mother and daughter were. But Bess and her mother stood there with their arms about each other, waiting for father to come home to tea. And Bess was no longer unhappy.
MARKED FOR A MAST
Mary had just come from the little post-office in the town where she was spending the summer, and in her hand she held a bunch of letters. Mail time was the event of the day, and all the summer people flocked about the office as soon as the little boat carrying the mail was heard blowing her whistle below the bend.
To-day Mary had been very impatient as the old postmaster had slowly sorted the mail. She had watched him look carefully at one address after another, and, knowing him as she did, she was sure that many in the town would know by night how many interesting letters had come to people in the town. She had been almost the first at the little window for her mail and then had had to brave the laugh of the rest when Mr. Blake had said,
"Here's your letter and it's a fat one that took four cents. My, but he must like you."
Mary had been waiting for this very letter because in the last one George had said, "I have a big surprise in store for you but I can't tell you yet—maybe in the next letter."
So this long one must be the surprise. Eagerly she tore it open and read the first two pages that told of things happening in the home town and good times the young people were having. Then she read,
"And now for my secret. You know we are going to our camp for a whole month of fun in August. Mother likes you and you are such good company for us all that she tells me to write in her name and ask you to spend the first two weeks with us there. Don't say no for we—no, I—must surely have you to share our good times."
The first two weeks! Those were the weeks she had planned to go to the conference and train for some special work for the church during the coming winter. The church had said they would pay her expenses if she cared to go, and already she had made application. Oh, dear! Now what should she do? She had said to her pastor, "I want to go to the conference more than anything I have ever wanted but I can't afford to go." Now she wanted to go with her friends and she would have to say to him, "I want a good time more than I want the conference." The conference would come again the next year, but this invitation might never come again.
To be sure, she had many, many good times. Maybe she would have a good time at the conference. Which did she want the more? If she went with her friends, she could not do the winter work at the church as it ought to be done. But there was the last sentence. "We—no, I—must have you to share our good times." That meant a lot to her as she read it. Should she go to the conference or should she go to the camp?
Mechanically she turned the other letters over. There was one from mother, and one from a school friend, and a business letter—oh, here was a correspondence card from Mrs. Lane, her teacher in the Church School.
"Dear Mrs. Lane," thought Mary. "How I should love to see her! She was going to Maine. I wonder if this little snapshot is a picture of some pines where she is staying."
After looking long at the beautiful, tall pines in the picture, she turned to the card and read,
"As we came up the beautiful Sebago Lake last week, I saw something that reminded me of you so strongly that I must tell you of it. Away off in the distance, we saw some wonderful pines that towered high above the rest. They seemed so tall that we spoke to the pilot of the boat about them and he told us this story about them.
"'Years and years ago, before this land was settled by any but the Indians, King George of England sent men to this country to look for tall trees that would make good masts for his ships. They went up the rivers and lakes looking everywhere for the special trees. Here on these hills they found these great trees. So the men marked "K.G." on the trees, charted them on a map which they carried, and went on their way. But for some reason they were never cut and carried away to be used on his ships. There they stand to-day, strong and straight, marked for masts.'
"After the old man had finished his story and had left us, I said to my friend, 'Marked for a mast because it is straight and strong. I have a girl who also is marked for a mast and some day she will carry with her, under her colors, many boys and girls. We are sending her to the leaders' conference this summer so that she may begin to make ready for her work.' Mary, dear, it is wonderful to have been chosen by the King of England and to have been marked for use with his initials, but it is more wonderful to have been chosen by a greater king and marked with his name. Perhaps you can guess what the mark I see on you might be—It is C. L. Write and tell me all about the conference, won't you?
"Lovingly your friend,
'Twas a very thoughtful girl who went down the street. In one hand a long letter and in the other a closely written card. The one said, "Come and have a real jolly, good time." The other said, "Get ready for service." Which should it be?
As she sat in the hammock thinking of her good friend in Maine, there came again to her mind the last night Mrs. Lane had been with them. They had been talking over plans for the summer and Mrs. Lane had quietly said, "I like to think that a good time is one which you carry with you and which means more to you as the weeks go by than it did when you were enjoying it." Which good time would she carry with her longer? Which would make of her the finer girl? Which did she want most to carry with her? And as she thought, the way became clearer.
Finally she went to her room and returned in a few minutes with a writing case and pen.
"Dear George," she began. "Weren't you good to ask me to go with the family to the camp! I can't think of any camp where I would enjoy myself more and I surely appreciate the invitation. But I can't accept it this time for that is the time set for the conference to which I am really going this year. Our church has made it possible for me to go, and I know it will do much in getting me ready to be of help to those who have helped me so much. I shall have so much more to give when I have studied for the two weeks with those who know, and have given their lives to the service of others. 'Tis an opportunity that I couldn't miss—not even for two weeks with you all. Thank you just the same."
Mary read the letter, then as she sealed it, she said with a smile, "Marked for a mast! Marked for a mast! Surely I mustn't bend or break if I can be a mast some day and carry a king's colors. C. L.?... C. L.?... Ah, I have it. 'Tis the word that Mrs. Lane uses so often—a Christian Leader! 'Tis wonderful to have her think I have been chosen to bear such a splendid name. I can hardly wait to meet the rest of the girls, who also wear the mark of the King, who will be there at the conference. I may be—oh, I hope I am—marked for a mast."
She was just a girl with a foreign name, a foreign face and a bit still of a foreign dress. But she was a girl, just the same, and her face was full of longing. Her home was near to a settlement where many girls came for lessons and for play. But somehow they had never asked her to come, though often she had sat on the steps at night where they must pass her. She had seen them come with their arms about each other, talking and laughing and singing—and when they had passed, she had gone to her lonely hall bedroom and hidden her face in the pillow.
Oh, no, she didn't cry. She was too brave to cry. She just suffered alone and longed for help.
It had been a year since she had left the home across the sea and had come to join her father in the land where "work was plenty and friends were easily made." But she had found her father living where she could not and would not live. The friends he had made in America she could not and would not have for hers. So when she had grown proficient enough in the factory, she had gone to live in that loneliest of all lonely places—a boarding house.
The days had passed one by one. Some of the boarders called her fussy; some said she was cold; some said she was "stuck-up" and none of them had found that beneath the surface there was a sweet, gentle, lonely heart.
Then came the strike—and she was out of work. In the bank she had a few dollars but they had soon fled and now—oh, what could she do? The way was so black ahead. She couldn't go to her father and his friends. What could she do?
The girls passed her as they went to the settlement house but no one noticed her sad little face. So she slowly rose and wended her way down the street. Out of the poorer section she went, then down a long avenue till she came to a great church. The altar lights were lighted. All was quiet and restful, so she sat, and looked, and listened for the still, small voice that she longed to hear.
A long, long time she sat there, counting her beads. Then she slowly rose and entered the confessional, but when she came out there was still the look of longing in her face. Toward the altar she went. Perhaps in the communion she might find help for her troubled soul, and again she counted her beads.
But, somehow, there was no prayer on the beads that seemed just what she wanted to say. Again, she went to the altar. But this time she lifted a face, white with suffering and thin from lack of food, to the face of the Christ above the altar and from the depths of her heart she prayed,
"O God! My God! I do not ask for money, though I am hungry. I do not ask for a home, though I am oh! so very lonely. I do not ask for work, though I have none. For only one thing I ask. Give me a friend. Oh, give me a friend! For Jesus' sake. Amen."
Again she walked back through the avenue and down the narrow street to her only home. The doors of the settlement were opened and the girls came out, happy as birds in the springtime. Quietly she watched them as they came nearer. Then suddenly one of them stopped.
"Excuse me for speaking to you," she said, "but our guardian heard that you lived in this house, so she asked us to come and invite you to come to Camp Fire with us next Tuesday. We are to have a supper together so that you will soon know us all and then we are to go for a hike together. Shall we stop for you as we go?"
For a moment she could not answer. In her throat was a lump so big that she could not swallow. Then she said in a low, sweet voice,
"Indeed I should like to go. Thank you for asking me."
And the girls passed down the street, singing their Camp Fire song.
But up in the little hall bedroom there was a girl with a foreign name, and a foreign face, and a bit of a foreign dress. She was on her knees, looking up at the heavens full of stars and over and over she was saying, "Oh, I thank thee. I thank thee. I have a chance to be a friend."
And her heart was content.
THE MESSAGE OF THE MOUNTAIN
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."... "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." These were the two sentences that were neatly written on two pieces of paper on Marcia Loran's desk and the girl sat looking at them while the minutes went steadily by. How could they be? How could a power that made the earth be also in her life? How could it be?
Marcia had always been a reader of her Bible; she had always loved her mother's God and she loved Him now, but she was longing for help and no one seemed near to give it. And the reason for the need of this help was easy to give. The new girl who had moved into the next room had been laughing at her belief in God and Marcia knew no way to answer. She had hoped that her course in Bible at college would help her but somehow she seemed less able than ever to answer it now.
Who was God? Where was God? How could she know that these two verses could both be true? It was an honest doubt and she knew she must answer it before her mind could be at rest. She felt she could never ask the question in a letter to her mother, for mother must never know that she was questioning. Oh, if only some one knew how much she needed help!
But it was time for the picnic which the members of her class were to have, so she slipped the papers again into her Bible and went to the campus. They were to climb one of the mountains near by and dear old Professor Hastings was to be their guide. Old in years but young in heart and lithe still in limb, he stood out among the students as one of the best of the companions. As they climbed, Marcia kept near to him.
"I am looking," he said, "for a rare little flower which grows on this mountainside. Perhaps you can help me find it. It is very tiny and it grows in the crevice of the rock. But I am needing a specimen of it for my collection."
So together they looked in every crevice but not a bit of the little white blossom did they see.
Up, and up, and up they went. Some were tired and waited for the rest to climb and return. Some even went back down the mountainside. But when the top was reached, what a wonderful view spread out before them! Mountains and lakes and streams; villages and cities and lonely farms; beauty and calmness and majesty, all seemed to flood in at once on the minds and hearts of those who looked.
After they had rested a while, the old man lightly touched the hand of the girl and said,
"I have heard it said that one of my blossoms has been found on that cliff not far away. Will you come with me to see?"
So they began to search the cliff; then they found a hidden cave and explored that; Marcia heard a tiny stream of water trickling in the cave, and when she had found the water, she found also, close to the water's edge, a beautiful clump of waxy white blossoms, sweet and fragrant, and hanging tightly to the rock.
"Oh! oh! Come, sir," called the girl. "I am sure these are what you seek. Oh, how beautiful they are!" And they stooped to gather them.
But just at that moment a flash of lightning lighted the cave and the thunder rolled. In a moment the rain was coming in torrents, and the noise of the thunder as it rolled from cliff to cliff was terrifying. A giant pine tree which stood just before the entrance of the cave was rent from top to bottom and went crashing down the mountainside. The noise of the wind and storm was deafening. Pale and trembling, the girl pushed farther and farther into the cave till, crouching down, she touched something cool. It was the little white flowers.
They were not afraid. The rain might fall as hard as it would but it would not blast their beauty. They were protected by a bit of overhanging rock. The lightning might flash about the cave but it was calm inside. Who had made the tiny blossoms to grow here in the rock, protected from storm and blast? God! She, too, was being cared for while her companions might be in the fury of the storm. Who was caring for her? Her friend? No, he was interested in something at the entrance of the cave. God was caring for her even as he cared for the little blossom.
"Come, Marcia, come and watch the storm," called the professor. "I have never seen such a beautiful one. Isn't it strange that that electricity was all there in the clouds as we came up the mountain though we knew it not? I love to watch a storm for it shows so clearly the power and majesty of our God. Watch the trees bend with the wind! Listen to the rocks send back the sound of the thunder! See the little bird on yonder nest snuggling close to keep the little ones safe! And see, far away, the sun shining on the little village of the plain. We are in the storm, child, yet we are safe and sheltered."
With her hand held fast in that of her old friend, the fear gradually died away, and when the storm was over she, too, was glad she had seen from the mountaintop the wonder of a mountain storm.
Soon they gathered the little white blossoms, but not all of them found their way into the collection at the college. A little spray was tenderly pressed between the leaves of Marcia Loran's Bible and a third little slip of paper was fastened to the other two. It read: "God is great but God is love. I will trust him and not be afraid."
THE WINNING OF AN HONOR
Barbara Lewis was very much puzzled. All the girls in her camp fire were winning the right to embroider their symbol on the dress of their guardian and she wanted to do the same. But how could she? She had chosen for her name, "Chante—I serve," and she wanted to really win the right to have the name, but how could she? She was not allowed to go into the kitchen to help there at home, for the cook would leave if she were disturbed, so she couldn't do as some of her friends were doing and learn to cook. She couldn't serve mother, for mother was always away at the club or doing work about the country for the suffrage cause. There were maids to do the mending and the sewing, so how could she serve there?
Some of the girls could serve at their church, but her teacher had never asked her to do one thing, though she was always ready. Her teacher had not formed a club of her girls, so of course she knew them only on Sundays. There was no chance to serve the church. If she only knew the minister, perhaps he would suggest a way, but he was very tall and very dignified, so she just couldn't ask him. Whatever could she do?
It had been weeks since their guardian had told them that when they had earned the right to their names, they could embroider the symbol on her dress, and every day since then she had wished she knew what to do. Mary had chosen the name "Aka—I can," and when she had proved that she could break herself of using slang by using none for a whole month, she put a tiny little white flower on the dress, for she was using pure speech.
"Frilohe" was the name Grace had chosen and it meant, "A friend who loves to help." Grace's mother had been in the hospital and Grace had taken care of the brothers and sisters all the time, so, of course, they all agreed that she had earned the right.
And now Barbara felt that she just must think of a way. She would go to the library and ask her friend there if she knew what she could do to serve.
Now it chanced that from that library there were going out almost every day girls to tell stories to groups of children about the city. Sometimes they went to the orphan homes, sometimes to the hospitals, sometimes to the crowded streets. Into many needy places they were sent, and already the children were beginning to look for the gypsy-girls who were story-tellers. As Barbara entered the library, one of the girls was just leaving, so she stopped for a moment and told about her new work and how much she loved it.
"Aha," said Barbara, "I believe I could do that. I have read such lots and lots of stories, I am sure I could do that. I should love to try. But they haven't asked me. I couldn't volunteer, for mother would think me very bold. Oh dear, I am sure I could serve in that way."
All the way home she thought the matter over and then a plan came to her. Just back of the house there was an alley and the little children there were always looking through the fence at the flowers in her beautiful garden. She would tell stories to these little children and see what she could do. So she went into the house to find the stories she would use. All the afternoon she looked in her old books. Then she was sure she was ready.
For a long time she hesitated the next morning as she dressed. She must look her very best if she was to win the children. Finally she chose a little blue gingham dress that she liked much—perhaps they would like it too. It was only ten o'clock when she went into the garden to wait. Dear me! Weren't they coming this morning? One hour passed and then another half.
Just then Tommy, the boy who threw stones, and chased the cats, and did all sorts of things that were naughty, pushed his dirty face against the fence. Oh my, she could never tell stories to him! But Tommy saw her there in the garden and said:
"Wisht you would give me a posy. Mom's sick and she hain't got none."
Then the gate of the garden was opened and Barbara said:
"Of course I will give you some flowers for your mother. Choose what you would like and I will cut it with these shears."
"Um! Um!" said Tommy. "Um! I'd like some of them blue flowers. Say, I like blue flowers, and blue sky, and I like that blue dress. I wish Mary had a blue dress."
"And who is Mary?" said Barbara.
"Oh, she is one of my sisters," said Tommy. "You see, there is six of us and Mary is the pretty one. She has blue eyes and curls. Um! Um! I wish you could see her."
"I'd like to see her," said Barbara. "If you will go and bring her here I will tell you both a story. Would you like that?"
"Sure," said Tommy. "Sure I would. Kin I bring them all?" and off he ran with his precious flowers.
In five minutes he was back, followed by Mary and Katie and Jimmie and Mike and Susan—all dirty, all barefoot, and all in a hurry to see the flowers and hear the story. About this time Barbara began to feel queer inside. How could she ever keep them still? Suppose they should begin to run over her father's flowers! She almost wished she had not asked them to come. But she remembered for what she was working, and she said to herself, "Chante, I serve; Chante—I serve," over and over till her courage came back.
Then she seated them all on the steps and began. Susie wanted "Red Riding Hood," and Katie wanted "Goldilocks," so these were first. Then Mary wanted "Cinderella," but Tommy was not to be forgotten.
"I want a boy's story. Tell me the one you promised me or I'll push the rest all home," he said.
What could she do? She never remembered having read a boy's story. Oh dear, maybe she couldn't win Tommy.
Over and over in her mind went the stories she had gotten ready. Then she remembered one that she had loved years ago. It was about Cedric, the Knight. This was just the one for Tommy. So she told it to him while his eyes grew bigger and bigger. When the story was done, Barbara and Tommy were friends and Tommy had a new hero.
When the dinner bell rang, she was still telling stories to the dirty little group but she had forgotten why she was doing it, for she was living the stories with the children.
The days went by and every morning found Barbara out in the garden, if only for one story, but now the Lowinskys were not the only ones. They had brought their neighbors and friends till the group sometimes numbered forty. The steps had grown too small, so they had moved to the wall. Then that had not been satisfactory, so they had moved out under the trees away down by the little brook. Here the birds sang, the little brook whispered, and everything was just right for the little story-teller. Over and over she had told the stories with a new one now and then, but Cedric, the Knight, was the favorite one. Tommy always stood near Barbara and saw to it that all the boys were listening, so he had a fine chance to whisper, "Now my story. Please tell mine."
And she was telling it again one morning when she realized that some one stood near who was not a child. It was Miss Rose, her guardian, who listened for a moment and then drew back where the children could not see her. When the story hour was over, she was nowhere to be seen. But later in the evening a package was left at the door for Barbara. It contained that precious dress for which she had longed.
Pinned to the dress was a card which said, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of these, my little ones, ye have done it unto me." And below was written, "I shall be glad to have you put your symbol on my dress before Friday night so that we may tell the girls at the Ceremonial about your story-group."
Later when Barbara had finished the embroidery, it showed a tiny figure of a primitive woman surrounded by little children. And the little lady was telling them a story. She had found her way to serve.
DADDY GRAY'S TEST
May Langley had spent four happy years at the University, and now Commencement time had come. It had been easy for her to get her lessons, so she had had time to herself. She was pretty and was always well dressed; she could dance well and sing well, so of course she had been a favorite, especially with the boys.
But the coming of the end of the school life had brought to her a real problem. She knew some of the boys would want to write to her. Deep in her heart she knew that some of them already liked her more than a little. She could not write to all of them. Whom should she choose? Perhaps the one she chose would eventually be the one she should marry, so it was wise to choose with care. Over and over she turned the question in her mind.
There was Tom,—gay, careless Tom with a big heart and plenty of money. His father was an oil man and there was no other child. He had done little with his studies but he had given her many a good time. His life would probably be one of ease. Tom was really quite attractive.
Then there was Bob, the football player. Already his name was known throughout the country. It was great fun to go to games where he was to play, for she shared the honors with him afterward. He was rough and ready, and, at times, a bit too boisterous, but withal a good fellow.
Then there was Earl, the student. He had ranked first in his class but his books were all in all to him. A good position was waiting for him in a neighboring college and he had told her that he should marry so that he could have a home of his own to which the students might come.
There were others, too, but these three seemed to stand out first in her thoughts. How could she decide? She and her mother were alone in the world and mother was a helpless cripple and so could not come to the Commencement. For the first time in her life, she began to face the future seriously.
'Twas the Sunday of Commencement week and she was strolling across the campus when she saw in the distance dear, old Professor Gray—Daddy Gray, the girls called him.
"He is the very person to help me," she said to herself, and hurried to catch him before he left the campus.
"Daddy Gray," she began, "I have a queer question to ask you. I am choosing some boy friends whom I wish to have as friends after I leave. Tell me some principles on which to base my choice."
A rare smile crossed the face of the old man as he patted her golden hair.
"Good for you! I am glad you are thinking. Long, long ago when my own girlies were choosing their friends I asked them to remember two things as they chose—not only that the one they chose might be their husband, but that he also might be my son, and the father of their children. One thinks much more about the principles of the man who is to be father of their children than about the man whom they love and want to marry. You know what a high ideal your mother holds. Test your friends by that also. Never mind yourself—think of others."
Then he left her to think.
And she did think! If Tom ignored her mother as he did his own, she could never bring him into their home. Tom drank sometimes—oh, that would never do. Bob was strong and healthy—but Bob had no use for God and the church. Her children must have a Christian home. Earl was a wonderful student, but he had undermined his health. He stooped in his shoulders and there were signs of a breakdown. Oh dear, what a hard test Daddy Gray had given her!
So the days wore away and she found herself watching as she had never watched before for marks of strength—mental, moral and physical. Over and over the words rang in her ears: "Never mind yourself—think of others."
'Twas the afternoon of Commencement Day and her room had many beautiful flowers. Tom's bunch was of great American Beauty roses and the card had made her suddenly blush as she read it. But there had come in the mail a great bunch of beautiful forget-me-nots, all fresh with the dew in the grass. Who had sent them? She loved them the best of all the flowers in the room. There was no card to be found, so she tucked a few in her dress beneath the cap and gown and ran away to the chapel.
There on the steps stood a young man and his mother, and they were waiting for her.
"May, I want you to meet my mother, for I have told her so much about you. To get her to come, I had to drive all the way home to-day. But it is worth it, even if I did have to get up before the sun did. She is the very best mother in all the world," said the boy, and he squeezed the arm of the timid little lady.
"Maybe! Maybe! I am so glad to meet you," said the mother, "for I owe you much. You have helped Gene such a lot. I am sure he would never have been able to keep from smoking had it not been for you. He had promised me to try. Then when you told him you did not like it, why, we worked together, you see. And it has been so kind of you to go for the hikes when he has asked you, for you see he couldn't have afforded to go to places that cost money, dear."
May Langley opened her eyes wide. She had had no idea that she had been helping. To be sure, she had gone on many hikes with him after the geology class had thrown them together. And she had enjoyed it, too, for he was such good company. Always courteous, always hunting for ways to make the trip more worth while and always good natured, no matter what the weather, he had been a companion worth while.
So she stood and talked with the mother and son for a moment. How sweet the mother was and how proud he was of her! It was a joy to watch them.
Suddenly he spied the bit of forget-me-not.
"Ah," he said, "I had nearly forgotten to speak of them. I passed a brook lined with them just before time for the mail train to pass the station, so I just hopped out of the car, emptied my lunch from the box and sent them to you. But I never dreamed you would get them in time to wear them. Maybe the little flowers will tell you that I am hoping you are going to remember our happy days here after we leave the campus. I want much to feel that you have a little interest in me. I have told mother much about you, for mother and I have no secrets. May I write to you sometimes?"
Just then the bell rang for the line to form and she hurried away, while he took his mother into the chapel. All afternoon they were busy and there was little time to think. But when May came to dress for the ball in the evening, she stood long before the flowers on the table. Then a sprig of the forget-me-not went into her hair and a bunch was fastened to her belt. And when he asked her for her answer as they stood on the veranda of the fraternity house, she said simply, "I have enjoyed the time spent with you; I am quite sure that I should like to know you better. You may write to me if you care to do so."
But under her breath she was saying:
"Daddy Gray is right. The greatest test of a man is not what he might be to you, but what he is and will be to others. I'm quite sure Gene Powell can stand his test and mine also."
WANTED—A REAL MOTHER
Mary King sat before the dressing-table in her bedroom holding in her hand a string of beads—pearls they were, but they showed signs of much wear, and as Mary looked at them her eyes blazed with anger.
To-morrow was her graduation day from the High School. All day she had been at the class picnic and she had had such a glorious time. They had danced and played; they had rowed on the lake and sung their school songs in the moonlight. She had been as happy as a girl could be, and to have it spoiled in this way was cruel.
Why should her mother give her a string of old beads for a graduation present? Other girls had wrist watches and pretty dresses and checks and all sorts of beautiful things. When they asked her what her mother's gift had been, how could she say, "A string of old beads"? Mother would expect her to wear them at her graduation and how could she?
She had found them on her table when she had come into her room and with them was a note saying:
"I waited for you to come home so that I could give you my gift, but it is so late and I am too tired to wait longer, so I will leave them for you. I could not buy you a real gift, so I have given you the dearest thing I have. Every bead has a story which some day I will tell you—perhaps on the day that you graduate from college, but not now. I hope you will love them as I do. I shall see them to-morrow on your pretty new dress. Good night, girlie. I hope you had a good time.
Why was mother so queer? All her life long it had been hard for Mary to have her mother so different. Her mother worked for Mr. Morse and so she could never bring her friends to their rooms lest she should annoy the Morses. Other girls' mothers had pretty faces and her mother's face was all red and cross-looking. Other girls' mothers had pretty hair, but her mother had straight hair and little of it. She had tried to get her to wear false hair, but instead of doing it her mother had gone to her room and cried because Mary had suggested it. Other girls' mothers let them wear pretty clothes, but hers were always plain, though they were always very neat. Most of the girls had fancy graduation dresses, but hers was only a little dimity that her mother had made—and now these dreadful beads were more than she could stand and she threw them on the bed in anger. She wished she had a real mother of whom she could be proud.
As she started to take down her long, wavy hair, she saw a letter in Mr. Morse's handwriting on her desk. Perhaps this was a check for her graduation present, so she hastily tore it open. But no check dropped out. Instead, there was a long letter, and she sat down to read.
"My dear Mary," it began. "A few days ago, I chanced to be on the beach when you were there with your friend, and I heard you say to her, 'I wish my mother were as beautiful as yours. Mother can't even go down the street with me for she drags her foot so that everybody turns and looks at us and it makes me feel so conspicuous. You must be very proud of your mother.' So I have decided that for your graduation gift, I shall give you a story instead of the check that I intended to give you. The check can wait."
"A story," said Mary to herself. "That is worse than the old beads. What a house of queer people this is! Anyway, I am curious to see what sort of a story he could write." So she read on.
"Seventeen years ago there came to a town in the eastern part of Pennsylvania a young man and his bride. Just a slip of a girl she was, but her face was full of sunshine and every one soon loved her. She had beautiful wavy hair and bright, blue eyes and a cheery smile. After they had been there for a while, their story came to be known, for his father was the great mill owner in a near-by town. When the young man had married the High School girl instead of the wealthy one whom the father had chosen for him, there had been a lot of trouble and the young man had been told to leave home with his bride and expect no more help from the father.
"Now the young man had never worked, so it was very hard for him, but she also worked and, little by little, they bought the things needed in the tiny home on the hill, and they were very happy. Then, one day, a scaffold fell and they brought the young husband to the little wife all bruised and bleeding, and that very night a tiny girl came to the home to live. The neighbors helped all they could, but in a few days the father of the baby was gone, and the little girl-wife was left alone to care for the baby.
"When the mill owner heard of the death of the son and the birth of the little girl, he sent to the mother and said: 'We will take the little girl and bring it up as our own if you will give it to us and have no more to do with it.' But the brave little woman sent back answer, 'As long as I have a mind with which to think and two hands with which to work, I can and will support my little girl. I thank you for your offer, but I love my baby too much to accept it.'
"But it was a hard pull. She worked in an office; she worked on a farm. Then a position was offered her as a teacher in a Home for Little Children. Here she could have her own room and keep the baby with her when she was not teaching. And while she was teaching, it would be cared for with the rest. Gladly the mother took the position and for more than a year she was very, very happy.
"One night when the baby was nearly three years old, she sat reading in the parlor of the home when some one called, 'Fire! Fire! Fire in the left wing!' Oh! that was where her baby was, on the very top floor. Like a bird she flew across the hall where the smoke already was pouring out. Up the first flight, choking, she went. Up the second. Then she had to fall to the floor to creep along. She could see the fire. It was on the fourth floor where her Mary was. Could she ever reach it? Would the fire block her way?
"Ten minutes after the call of fire had been given, the workers saw some one staggering through the lower hall. In her arms she carried a bundle wrapped tightly in a bed-quilt. And dangling from her hands was a long string of beads. Her face was burned. There was no hair on her head. She was writhing in agony, but she reached the door, handed the burden to a worker, saying quietly, 'I am badly burned, but I have saved my two treasures. Keep them safely for me.' Then she fell in a heap on the floor.
"For months and months and months she tossed on a bed of pain. No one thought she could possibly live. But she did, for she was living for her baby. When at last she came from the hospital, her beautiful face was scarred and red; only in spots had the hair grown; her hands were stiff and painful, and one leg dragged as she walked. But she was alive, and that was all she asked.
"While she had been ill, I had gone to see the mill owner to ask for help for the brave little woman who had shown us all what a heroine she was. But his answer had been, 'She took my son from me and I will have nothing to do with her. If she will give the child to me, I will bring it up in luxury, but I will not have her here.'
"So when she was ready to go back to work, I told her that another offer had come from the grandfather of the child to adopt it and I said to her, 'Don't you feel that you had better give them the baby?'
"For answer, she patted the curly head and said, 'If I can fight death for my baby, I can conquer in the fight to live. I shall keep her. You may tell him that the child will not live in luxury but that she shall know no want, and she shall have both the education and culture which befits her father's child.'
"But the mother's heart was sore when she looked in the glass and saw what a pitiful change had come to the pretty face. 'I am so glad it came while Mary was little,' she said. 'Had it come later, she would have minded my ugly face. Now she knows no better and she will grow used to it.'
"So she was glad when I offered to have her come to live with us in the distant city where none had known of her or of the awful fight she was planning to make. We had taken a large house and there were many things the mother could do with her stiff hands which gradually, because of the long hours she spent on them, were beginning to limber a bit. I gave her rooms for herself and the child and there she lived, keeping away from all so that none might see her shrunken, changed body. She lived only for the child, hoarding carefully the little money that she could save lest there be not enough to send her to college when the High School should be over.
"Often have I heard her praying for strength to fight through the battle; often have I heard her pray that the little girl should grow to be an honor to the family who would not help her; often have I begged her to let me tell the child the story of the days that had gone, but her answer was always the same, 'No. Let her live the happy, care-free life. Some day I will tell her, but not now. It would kill me to have her pity me. She must love me for myself and not for what I did. My only happiness is to live and work for her.'
"So the heroine has spent the fifteen years and to my way of thinking she is a mother of whom you may be proud.
"She must never know I have told you. But not for the world would I have you add to her burden by thinking she was not all that you wanted your mother to be.
"A. E. Morse."
When Mary had finished the letter, she sat as one stunned. Her mind seemed on fire. Mechanically she picked up the pearls that she had thrown on the bed. Her mother had carried them with her through that awful fire. They were one of her two treasures and now she had almost said she would not wear them. Oh, what a selfish girl she had been! She had thought only of herself.
Once she had asked her mother why the scar was upon her face and she had answered, "Just an accident, child, when I was a young woman." Then she had talked of something else. The lame foot, the misshapen hands, the red face, the queer little knot of hair—all were the price paid for her own life. Every minute since she was born, she had been a burden to her mother.