GYPSY'S COUSIN JOY
By Elizabeth Stuart Phelps
New York Dodd, Mead and Company
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1866, by
GRAVES & YOUNG,
in the Clerk's Office for the District Court of Massachusetts
Copyright, 1895, by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward.
Having been asked to write a preface to the new edition of the Gypsy books, I am not a little perplexed. I was hardly more than a girl myself, when I recorded the history of this young person; and I find it hard, at this distance, to photograph her as she looks, or ought to look to-day. She does not sit still long enough to be "taken." I see a lively girl in pretty short dresses and very long stockings,—quite a Tom-boy, if I remember rightly. She paddles a raft, she climbs a tree, she skates and tramps and coasts, she is usually very muddy, and a little torn. There is apt to be a pin in her gathers; but there is sure to be a laugh in her eyes. Wherever there is mischief, there is Gypsy. Yet, wherever there is fun, and health, and hope, and happiness,—and I think, wherever there is truthfulness and generosity,—there is Gypsy, too.
And now, the publishers tell me that Gypsy is thirty years old, and that girls who were not so much as born when I knew the little lady, are her readers and her friends to-day.
Thirty years old? Indeed, it is more than that! For is it not thirty years since the publication of her memoirs? And was she, at that time, possibly sixteen? Forty-six years? Incredible! How in the world did Gypsy "grow up?" For that was before toboggans and telephones, before bicycles and electric cars, before bangs and puffed sleeves, before girls studied Greek, and golf-capes came in. Did she go to college? For the Annex, and Smith, and Wellesley were not. Did she have a career? Or take a husband? Did she edit a Quarterly Review, or sing a baby to sleep? Did she write poetry, or make pies? Did she practice medicine, or matrimony? Who knows? Not even the author of her being.
Only one thing I do know: Gypsy never grew up to be "timid," or silly, or mean, or lazy; but a sensible woman, true and strong; asking little help of other people, but giving much; an honor to her brave and loving sex, and a safe comrade to the girls who kept step with her into middle life; and I trust that I may bespeak from their daughters and their scholars a kindly welcome to an old story, told again.
Elizabeth Stuart Phelps.
Newton Centre, Mass., April, 1895.
CHAPTER I NEWS 7 CHAPTER II SHE SHALL COME? 24 CHAPTER III ONE EVENING 40 CHAPTER IV CHESTNUTS 54 CHAPTER V GYPSY MAKES A DISCOVERY 82 CHAPTER VI WHO PUT IT IN? 99 CHAPTER VII PEACE MAYTHORNE'S ROOM 122 CHAPTER VIII THE STORY OF A NIGHT 148 CHAPTER IX UP RATTLESNAKE 187 CHAPTER X WE ARE LOST 211 CHAPTER XI GRAND TIMES 229 CHAPTER XII A TELEGRAM 243 CHAPTER XIII A SUNDAY NIGHT 263 CHAPTER XIV GOOD BYE 274
GYPSY'S COUSIN JOY
The second arithmetic class had just come out to recite, when somebody knocked at the door. Miss Cardrew sent Delia Guest to open it.
"It's a—ha, ha! letter—he, he! for you," said Delia, coming up to the desk. Exactly wherein lay the joke, in the fact that Miss Cardrew should have a letter, nobody but Delia was capable of seeing; but Delia was given to seeing jokes on all occasions, under all circumstances. Go wherever you might, from a prayer-meeting to the playground, you were sure to hear her little giggle.
"A letter for you," repeated Delia Guest. "He, he!"
Miss Cardrew laid down her arithmetic, opened the letter, and read it. "Gypsy Breynton."
The arithmetic class stopped whispering, and there was a great lull in the schoolroom.
"Why I never!" giggled Delia. Gypsy, all in a flutter at having her name read right out in school, and divided between her horror lest the kitten she had tied to a spool of thread at recess, had been discovered, and an awful suspicion that Mr. Jonathan Jones saw her run across his plowed field after chestnuts, went slowly up to the desk.
"Your mother has sent for you to come directly home," said Miss Cardrew, in a low tone. Gypsy looked a little frightened.
"Go home! Is anybody sick, Miss Cardrew?"
"She doesn't say—she gives no reasons. You'd better not stop to talk, Gypsy."
Gypsy went to her desk, and began to gather up her books as fast as she could.
"I shouldn't wonder a bit if the house'd caught afire," whispered Agnes Gaylord. "I had an uncle once, and his house caught afire—in the chimney too, and everybody'd gone to a prayer-meeting; they had now, true's you live."
"Maybe your father's dead," condoled Sarah Rowe.
"Just think of it!"
"What do you s'pose it is?"
"If I were you, I guess I'd be frightened!"
"Order!" said Miss Cardrew, in a loud voice.
The girls stopped whispering, and Gypsy, in nowise reassured by their sympathy, hurried out to put on her things. With her hat thrown on one side of her head, the strings hanging down into her eyes, her sack rolled up in a bundle under her arm, and her rubbers in her pocket, she started for home on the full run. Yorkbury was pretty well used to Gypsy, but everybody stopped and stared at her that morning; what with her burning cheeks, and those rubbers sticking out of her pocket, and the hat-strings flying, and the brambles catching her dress, and the mud splashing up under her swift feet, it was no wonder.
"Miss Gypsy!" called old Mr. Simms, the clerk, as she flew by the door of her father's book-store. "Miss Gypsy, my dear!"
But on ran Gypsy without so much as giving him a look, across the road in front of a carriage, around a load of hay, and away like a bird down the street. Out ran Gypsy's pet aversion, Mrs. Surly, from a shop-door somewhere—
"Gypsy Breynton, what a sight you be! I believe you've gone clear crazy—Gypsy!"
"Can't stop!" shouted Gypsy, "it's a fire or something somewhere."
Eight small boys at the word "fire" appeared on the instant from nobody knew where, and ran after her with hoarse yells of "fire! fire! Where's the engine? Vi——ir-r-!" By this time, too, three dogs and a nanny-goat were chasing her; the dogs were barking, and the nanny-goat was baaing or braying, or whatever it is that nanny-goats do, so she swept up to the house in a unique, triumphal procession.
Winnie came out to meet her as she came in at the gate panting and scarlet-faced.
Fifty years instead of five might Winnie have been at that moment, and all the cares of Church and State on the shoulders of his pinafore, to judge from the pucker in his chin. There was always a pucker in Winnie's chin, when he felt—as the boys call it—"big."
"What do s'pose, Gypsy?—don't you wish you knew?"
"Oh, no matter. I know."
"Well," said Winnie, with the air of a Grand Mogul feeding a chicken, "I don't care if I tell you. We've had a temmygral."
"I just guess we have; you'd oughter seen the man. He'd lost his nose, and——"
"A telegram! Is there any bad news? Where did it come from?"
"It came from Bosting," said Winnie, with a superior smile. "I s'posed you knew that! It's sumfin about Aunt Miranda, I shouldn't wonder."
"Aunt Miranda! Is anybody sick? Is anybody dead, or anything?"
"I don't know," said Winnie, cheerfully. "But I guess you wish you'd seen the envelope. It had the funniest little letters punched through on top—it did now, really."
Gypsy ran into the house at that, and left Winnie to his meditations.
Her mother called her from over the banisters, and she ran upstairs. A small trunk stood open by the bed, and the room was filled with the confusion of packing.
"Your Aunt Miranda is sick," said Mrs. Breynton.
"What are you packing up for? You're not going off!" exclaimed Gypsy, incapable of taking in a greater calamity than that, and quite forgetting Aunt Miranda.
"Yes. Your uncle has written for us to come right on. She is very sick, Gypsy."
"Oh!" said Gypsy, penitently; "dangerous?"
Gypsy looked sober because her mother did, and she thought she ought to.
"Your father and I are going in this noon train," proceeded Mrs. Breynton, rolling up a pair of slippers, and folding a wrapper away in the trunk. "I think I am needed. The fever is very severe; possibly—contagious," said Mrs. Breynton, quietly. Mrs. Breynton made it a rule to have very few concealments from her children. All family plans which could be, were openly and frankly discussed. She believed that it did the children good to feel that they had a share in them; that it did them good to be trusted. She never kept bad tidings from them simply because they were bad. The mysteries and prevarications necessary to keep an unimportant secret, were, she reasoned, worse for them than a little anxiety. Gypsy must know some time about her aunt's sickness. She preferred she should hear it from her mother's lips, see for herself the reasons for this sudden departure and risk, if risk there were, and be woman enough to understand them.
Gypsy looked sober now in earnest.
"Why, mother! How can you? What if you catch it?"
"There is very little chance of that, one possibility in a hundred, perhaps. Help me fold up this dress, Gypsy—no, on the bed—so."
"But if you should get sick! I don't see why you need go. She isn't your own sister anyway, and she never did anything for us, nor cared anything for us."
"Your uncle wants me, and that is enough. I want to be to her a sister if I can—poor thing, she has no sister of her own, and no mother, nobody but the hired nurses with her; and she may die, Gypsy. If I can be of any help, I am glad to be."
Her mother spoke in a quiet, decided tone, with which Gypsy knew there was no arguing. She helped her fold her dresses and lock her trunk, very silently, for Gypsy, and then ran away to busy herself with Patty in getting the travelers' luncheon. When Gypsy felt badly, she always hunted up something to do; in this she showed the very best of her good sense. And let me tell you, girls, as a little secret—in the worst fits of the "blues" you ever have, if you are guilty of having any, do you go straight into the nursery and build a block house for the baby, or upstairs and help your mother baste for the machine, or into the dining-room to help Bridget set the table, or into the corner where some diminutive brother is crying over his sums which a very few words from you would straighten, or into the parlor where your father sits shading his eyes from the lamplight, with no one to read him the paper; and before you know it, you will be as happy as a queen. You don't believe it? Try and see.
Gypsy drowned her sorrow at her mother's departure, in broiling her mutton-chops and cutting her pie, and by the time the coach drove to the door, and the travelers stood in the entry with bag and baggage, all ready to start, the smiles had come back to her lips, and the twinkle to her eyes.
"Good-bye, father! O-oh, mother Breynton, give me another kiss. There!—one more. Now, if you don't write just as soon as you get there!"
"Be a good girl, and take nice care of Winnie," called her mother from the coach-window. And then they were driven rapidly away, and the house seemed to grow still and dark all at once, and a great many clouds to be in the warm, autumn sky. The three children stood a moment in the entry looking forlornly at each other. I beg Tom's pardon—I suppose I should have said the two children and the "young man." Probably never again in his life will Tom feel quite as old as he felt in that sixteenth year. Gypsy was the first to break the dismal silence.
"How horrid it's going to be! You go upstairs and she won't be there, and there'll be nobody coming home from the store at night, and, then—you go round, and it's so still, and nobody but me to keep house, and Patty has just what she likes for breakfast, for all me, and I think Aunt Miranda needn't have gone and been sick, anyway."
"A most sensible and sympathizing niece," observed Tom, in his patronizing way.
"Well, you see, I suppose I don't care very much about Aunt Miranda," said Gypsy, confidentially. "I'm sorry she's sick, but I didn't have a bit nice time in Boston last vacation, and she scolded me dreadfully when I blew out the gas. What is it, Patty? Oh, yes—come to dinner, boys."
"I say," remarked Winnie, at the rather doleful dinner-table, "look here, Gypsy."
"S'posin' when they'd got Aunt Miranda all nailed into her coffin—tight in—she should be un-deaded, and open her eyes, and begin—begin to squeal, you know. S'pose they'd let her out?"
Just four days from the morning Mrs. Breynton left, Tom came up from the office with a very sober face and a letter.
Gypsy ran out to meet him, and put out her hand, in a great hurry to read it.
"I'll read it to you," said Tom; "it's to me. Come into the parlor."
They went in, and Tom read:
"My Dear Son:
"I write in great haste, just to let you know that your Aunt Miranda is gone. She died last night at nine o'clock, in great distress. I was with her at the last. I am glad I came—very; it seems to have been a comfort to her; she was so lonely and deserted. The funeral is day after to-morrow, and we shall stay of course. We hope to be home on Monday. There has been no time yet to make any plans; I can't tell what the family will do. Poor Joy cannot bear to be left alone a minute. She follows me round like a frightened child. The tears come into my eyes every time I look at her, for the thoughts of three dear, distant faces that might be left just so, but for God's mercy to them and to me. She is just about Gypsy's age and height, you know. The disease proved not to be contagious, so you need feel no anxiety. A kiss to both the children. Your father sends much love. We shall be glad to get home and see you again.
Inside the note was a slip for Gypsy, with this written on it:
"I must stop to tell you, Gypsy, of a little thing your aunt said the day before she died. She had been speaking of Joy in her weak, troubled way—of some points wherein she hoped she would be a different woman from her mother, and had then lain still a while, her eyes closed, something—as you used to say when you were a little girl—very sorry about her mouth, when suddenly she turned and said, 'I wish I'd made Gypsy's visit here a little pleasanter. Tell her she must think as well as she can of her auntie, for Joy's sake, now.'"
Gypsy folded up the paper, and sat silent a moment, thinking her own thoughts, as Tom saw, and not wishing to be spoken to.
Those of you who have read "Gypsy Breynton" will understand what these thoughts might be. Those who have not, need only know that Gypsy's aunt had been rather a gay, careless lady, well dressed and jeweled, and fond enough of dresses and jewels; and that in a certain visit Gypsy made her not long ago, she had been far from thoughtful of her country niece's comfort.
And this was how it had ended. Poor Aunt Miranda!
"Well," said Gypsy, at last, with something dim in her eyes, "I dare say I was green and awkward, and it was half my fault. I never could understand how people could just turn round when anybody dies, and say they were good and perfect, when it wasn't any such a thing, and I can't say I think she was, for it would be a lie. But I won't say anything more against her. Poor Joy, poor Joy! Not to have any mother, Tom, just think! Oh, just think!"
SHE SHALL COME?
Supper was ready. It had been ready now for ten minutes. The cool, white cloth, bright glass, glittering silver, and delicate china painted with a primrose and an ivy-leaf—the best china, and very extravagant in Gypsy, of course, but she thought the occasion deserved it—were all laid in their places upon the table. The tea was steeped to precisely the right point; the rich, mellow flavor had just escaped the clover taste on one side, and the bitterness of too much boiling on the other; the delicately sugared apples were floating in their amber juices in the round glass preserve-dish, the smoked halibut was done to the most delightful brown crispness, the puffy, golden drop-cakes were smoking from the oven, and Patty was growling as nobody but Patty could growl, for fear they would "slump down intirely an' be gittin' as heavy as lead," before they could be eaten.
There was a bright fire in the dining-room grate; the golden light was dancing a jig all over the walls, hiding behind the curtains, coquetting with the silver, and touching the primroses on the plates to a perfect sunbeam; for father and mother were coming. Tom and Gypsy and Winnie were all three running to the windows and the door every two minutes and dressed in their very "Sunday-go-to-meeting best;" for father and mother were coming. Tom had laughed well at this plan of dressing up—Gypsy's notion, of course, and ridiculous enough, said Tom; fit for babies like Winnie, and girls. (I wish I could give you in print the peculiar emphasis with which Tom was wont to dwell on this word.) But for all that, when Gypsy came down in her new Scotch plaid dress, with her cheeks so red, and her hair so smooth and black; and Winnie strutted across the room counting the buttons on his best jacket, Tom slipped away to his room, and came down with his purple necktie on.
It made a pretty, homelike picture—the bright table and the firelight, and the eager faces at the window, and the gay dresses. Any father and mother might have been glad to call it all their own, and come into it out of the cold and the dark, after a weary day's journey.
These cozy, comfortable touches about it—the little conceit of the painted china, and the best clothes—were just like Gypsy. Since she was glad to see her father and mother, it was imperatively necessary that she should show it; there was no danger but what her joy would have been sufficiently evident—where everything else was—in her eyes; but according to Gypsy's view of matters, it must express itself in some sort of celebration. Whether her mother wouldn't have been quite as well pleased if her delicate, expensive porcelain had been kept safely in the closet; whether, indeed, it was exactly right for her to take it out without leave, Gypsy never stopped to consider. When she wanted to do a thing, she could never see any reasons why it shouldn't be done, like a few other girls I have heard of in New England. However, just such a mother as Gypsy had was quite likely to pardon such a little carelessness as this, for the love in it, and the welcoming thoughts.
"They're comin', comin', comin'," shouted Winnie, from the door-steps, where, in the exuberance of his spirits, he was trying very hard to stand on his head, and making a most remarkable failure—"they're comin' lickitycut, and I'm five years old, 'n' I've got on my best jacket, 'n' they're comin' slam bang!"
"Coming, coming, coming!" echoed Gypsy, about as wild as Winnie himself, and flying past him down to the gate, leaving Tom to follow in Tom's own dignified way.
Such a kissing, and laughing, and talking, and delightful confusion as there was then! Such a shouldering of bags and valises and shawls, such hurrying of mother in out of the cold; such a pulling of father's whiskers, such peeping into mysterious bundles, and pulling off of wrappers, and hurrying Patty with the tea-things; and questions and answers, and everybody talking at once—one might have supposed the travelers had been gone a month instead of a week.
"My kitty had a fit," observed Winnie, the first pause he could find.
"And there are some letters for father," from Tom.
"Patty has a new beau," interrupted Gypsy.
"It was an awfully fit," put in Winnie, undiscouraged; "she rolled under the stove, 'n' tell you she squealed, and——"
"How is uncle?" asked Tom, and it was the first time any one had thought to ask.
"Then she jumped—splash! into the hogshead," continued Winnie, determined to finish.
"He is not very well," said Mr. Breynton, gravely, and then they sat down to supper, talking the while about him. Winnie subsided in great disgust, and devoted himself, body, mind, and heart, to the drop-cakes.
"Ah, the best china, I see," said Mrs. Breynton, presently, with one of her pleasantest smiles, and as Mrs. Breynton's smiles were always pleasant, this was saying a great deal. "And the Sunday things on, too—in honor of our coming? How pleasant it all seems! and how glad I am to be at home again."
Gypsy looked radiant—very much, in fact, like a little sun dropped down from the sky, or a jewel all ablaze.
Some mothers would have reproved her for the use of the china; some who had not quite the heart to reprove would have said they were sorry she had taken it out. Mrs. Breynton would rather have had her handsome plates broken to atoms than to chill, by so much as a look, the glow of the child's face just then.
There was decidedly more talking than eating done at supper, and they lingered long at the table, in the pleasant firelight and lamplight.
"It seems exactly like the resurrection day for all the world," said Gypsy.
"The resurrection day?"
"Why, yes. When you went off I kept thinking everybody was dead and buried, all that morning, and it was real horrid—Oh, you don't know!"
"Gypsy," said Mrs. Breynton, a while after supper, when Winnie had gone to bed, and Tom and his father were casting accounts by the fire, "I want to see you a few minutes." Gypsy, wondering, followed her into the parlor. Mrs. Breynton shut the door, and they sat down together on the sofa.
"I want to have a talk with you, Gypsy, about something that we'd better talk over alone."
"Yes'm," said Gypsy, quite bewildered by her mother's grave manner, and thinking up all the wrong things she had done for a week. Whether it was the time she got so provoked at Patty for having dinner late, or scolded Winnie for trying to paint with the starch (and if ever any child deserved it, he did), or got kept after school for whispering, or brought down the nice company quince marmalade to eat with the blanc mange, or whether——
"You haven't asked about your cousin, Joy," said her mother, interrupting her thinking.
"Oh!—how is she?" said Gypsy, looking somewhat ashamed.
"I am sorry for the child," said Mrs. Breynton, musingly.
"What's going to become of her? Who's going to take care of her?"
"That is just what I came in here to talk about."
"Why, I don't see what I have to do with it!" said Gypsy, astonished.
"Her father thinks of going abroad, and so there would be no one to leave her with. He finds himself quite worn out by your aunt's sickness, the care and anxiety and trouble. His business also requires some member of the firm to go to France this fall, and he has almost decided to go. The only thing that makes him hesitate is Joy."
"I see what you mean now, mother—I see it in your eyes. You want Joy to come here." Gypsy spoke in a slow, uncomfortable way, as if she were trying very hard not to believe her own words.
"Yes," said Mrs. Breynton, "that is it."
Gypsy's bright face fell. "Well?" she said, at last.
"I told your uncle," said her mother, "that I could not decide on the spot, but would let him know next week. The question of Joy's coming here will affect you more than any member of the family, and I thought it only fair to you that we should talk it over frankly before it is settled."
Gypsy had a vague notion that all mothers would not have been so thoughtful, but she said nothing.
"I do not wish," proceeded Mrs. Breynton, "to make any arrangement in which you cannot be happy; but I have great faith in your kind heart, Gypsy."
"I don't like Joy," said Gypsy, bluntly.
"I know that, and I am sorry it is so," said her mother. "I understand just what Joy is. But it is not all her fault. She has not been trained just as you have, Gypsy. She was never taught and helped to be a generous gentle child, as you have been taught and helped. Your uncle and aunt felt differently about these things; but it is no matter about that now—you will understand it better when you are older. It is enough for you to know that Joy has great excuse for her faults. Even if they were twice as great as they are, one wouldn't think much about them now; the poor child is in great trouble, lonely and frightened and motherless. Think, if God took away your mother, Gypsy."
"But Joy didn't care much about her mother," said honest Gypsy. "She used to scold her, Joy told me so herself. Besides, I heard her, ever so many times."
"Peace be with the dead, Gypsy; let all that go. She was all the mother Joy had, and if you had seen what I saw a night or two before I came away, you wouldn't say she didn't love her."
"What was it?" asked Gypsy.
"Your auntie was lying all alone, upstairs. I went in softly, to do one or two little things about the room, thinking no one was there.
"One faint gaslight was burning, and in the dimness I saw that the sheet was turned down from the face, and a poor little quivering figure was crouched beside it on the bed. It was Joy. She was sobbing as if her heart would break, and such sobs—it would have made you cry to hear them, Gypsy. She didn't hear me come in, and she began to talk to the dead face as if it could hear her. Do you want to know what she said?"
Gypsy was looking very hard the other way. She nodded, but did not speak, gulping down something in her throat.
"This was what she said—softly, in Joy's frightened way, you know: 'You're all I had anyway,' said she. 'All the other girls have got mothers, and now I won't ever have any, any more. I did used to bother you and be cross about my practising, and not do as you told me, and I wish I hadn't, and—
"Oh—hum, look here—mother," interrupted Gypsy, jumping up and winking very fast, "isn't there a train up from Boston early Monday morning? She might come in that, you know."
Mrs. Breynton smiled.
"Then she may come, may she?"
"I rather think she may," said Gypsy, with an emphasis. "I'll write her a letter and tell her so."
"That will be a good plan, Gypsy. But you are quite sure? I don't want you to decide this matter in too much of a hurry."
"She'll sleep in the front room, of course?" suggested Gypsy.
"No; if she comes, she must sleep with you. With our family and only one servant, I could hardly keep up the extra work that would cause for six months or a year."
"Six months or a year! In my room!"
Gypsy walked back and forth across the room two or three times, her merry forehead all wrinkled into a knot.
"Well," at last, "I've said it, and I'll stick to it, and I'll try to make her have a good time, anyway."
"Come here, Gypsy."
Gypsy came, and one of those rare, soft kisses—very different from the ordinary, everyday kisses—that her mother gave her when she hadn't just the words to say how pleased she was, fell on her forehead, and smoothed out the knot before you could say "Jack Robinson."
That very afternoon Gypsy wrote her note to Joy:
"I'm real sorry your mother died. You'd better come right up here next week, and we'll go chestnutting over by Mr. Jonathan Jones's. I tell you it's splendid climbing up. If you're very careful, you needn't tear your dress very badly. Then there's the raft, and you might play baseball, too. I'll teach you.
"You see if you don't have a nice time. I can't think of anything more to say.
"Your affectionate cousin,
So it was settled, and Joy came. There was no especial day appointed for the journey. Her father was to come up with her as soon as he had arranged his affairs so that he could do so, and then to go directly back to Boston and sail at once.
Gypsy found plenty to do, in getting ready for her cousin. This having a roommate for the first time in her life was by no means an unimportant event to her. Her room had always been her own especial private property. Here in a quiet nook on the broad window-sill she had curled herself up for hours with her new story-books; here she had locked herself in to learn her lessons, and keep her doll's dressmaking out of Winnie's way; here she had gone away alone to have all her "good cries;" here she sometimes spent a part of her Sabbath evenings with her most earnest and sober thoughts.
Here was the mantel-shelf, covered with her little knick-knacks that no one was ever allowed to touch but herself—pictures framed in pine cones, boxes of shell-work, baskets of wafer-work, cologne-bottles, watchcases, ivy-shoots and minerals, on which the dust accumulated at its own sweet will, and the characteristic variety and arrangement whereof none ever disputed with her. What if Joy should bring a trunkful of ornaments?
There in the wardrobe were her treasures covering six shelves—her kites and balls of twine, fishlines and doll's bonnets, scraps of gay silk and jackknives, old compositions and portfolios, colored paper and dried moss, pieces of chalk and horse-chestnuts, broken jewelry and marbles. It was a curious collection. One would suppose it to be a sort of co-partnership between the property of a boy and girl, in which the boy decidedly predominated.
Into this wardrobe Gypsy looked regretfully. Three of those shelves—those precious shelves—must be Joy's now. And what should be done with the things?
Then there were the bureau drawers. What sorcerer's charms, to say nothing of the somewhat unwilling fingers of a not very enthusiastic little girl, could cram the contents of four (and those so full that they were overflowing through the cracks) into two?
Moreover, as any one acquainted with certain chapters in Gypsy's past history will remember, her premises were not always celebrated for the utmost tidiness. And here was Joy, used to her elegant carpets and marble-covered bureaus, and gas-fixtures and Cochituate, with servants to pick up her things for her ever since she was a baby! How shocked she would be at the dust, and the ubiquitous slippers, and the slips and shreds on the carpet; and how should she have the least idea what it was to have to do things yourself?
However, Gypsy put a brave face on it, and emptied the bureau drawers, and squeezed away the treasures into three shelves, and did her best to make the room look pleasant and inviting to the little stranger. In fact, before she was through with the work she became really very much interested in it. She had put a clean white quilt upon the bed, and looped up the curtain with a handsome crimson ribbon, taken from the stock in the wardrobe. She had swept and dusted every corner and crevice; she had displayed all her ornaments to the best advantage, and put fresh cologne in the bottles. She had even brought from some sanctum, where it was folded away in the dark, a very choice silk flag about four inches long, that she had made when the war began, and was keeping very tenderly to wear when Richmond was taken, and pinned it up over her looking-glass.
On the table, too, stood her Parian vase filled with golden and blood-red maple-leaves, and the flaming berries of the burning-bush. Very prettily the room looked, when everything was finished, and Gypsy was quite proud of it.
Joy came Thursday night. They were all in the parlor when the coach stopped, and Gypsy ran out to meet her.
A pale, sickly, tired-looking child, draped from head to foot in black, came up the steps clinging to her father's hand, and fretting over something or other about the baggage.
Gypsy was springing forward to meet her, but stopped short. The last time she had seen Joy, she was in gay Stuart-plaid silk and corals. She had forgotten all about the mourning. How thin and tall it made Joy look!
Gypsy remembered herself in a minute and threw her arms warmly around Joy's neck. But Joy did not return the embrace, and gave her only one cold kiss. She had inferred from Gypsy's momentary hesitation that she was not glad to see her.
Gypsy, on her part, thought Joy was proud and disagreeable. Thus the two girls misunderstood each other at the very beginning.
"I'm real glad to see you," said Gypsy.
"I thought we never should get here!" said Joy, petulantly. "The cars were so dusty, and your coach jolts terribly. I shouldn't think the town would use such an old thing."
Gypsy's face fell, and her welcome grew faint.
Joy had but little to say at supper. She sat by her father and ate her muffins like a very hungry, tired child—like a very cross child, Gypsy thought. Joy's face was always pale and fretful; in the bright lamplight now, after the exhaustion of the long journey, it had a pinched, unpleasant look.
"Hem," coughed Tom, over his teacup. Gypsy looked up and their eyes met. That look said unutterable things.
If it had not been for Mrs. Breynton, that supper would have been a dismal affair. But she had such a cozy, comfortable way about her, that nobody could help being cozy and comfortable if they tried hard for it. After a while, when Mr. Breynton and his brother had gone away into the library for a talk by themselves, and Joy began to feel somewhat rested, she brightened up wonderfully, and became really quite entertaining in her account of her journey. She thought Vermont looked cold and stupid, however, and didn't remember having noticed much about the mountains, for which Gypsy thought she should never forgive her.
But there was at least one thing Gypsy found out that evening to like about Joy. She loved her father dearly. One could not help noticing how restless she was while he was out of the room, and how she watched the door for him to come back; how, when he did come, she stole away from her aunt and sat down by him, slipping her hand softly into his. As he had been all her life the most indulgent and patient of fathers, and was going, early to-morrow morning, thousands of miles away from her into thousands of unknown dangers, it was no wonder.
While it was still quite early, Joy proposed going to bed. She was tired, and besides, she wanted to unpack a few of her things. So Gypsy lighted the lamp and went up with her.
"So I am to sleep with you," said Joy, as they opened the door, in by no means the happiest of tones, though they were polite enough.
"Yes. Mother thought it was better. See, isn't my room pretty?" said Gypsy, eagerly, thinking how pleased Joy would be with the little welcome of its fresh adornments.
"Oh, is this it?"
Gypsy stopped short, the hot color rushing all over her face.
"Of course, it isn't like yours. We can't afford marble bureaus and Brussels carpets, but I thought you'd like the maple-leaves, and I brought out the flag on purpose because you were coming."
"Flag! Where? Oh, yes. I have one ten times as big as that at home," said Joy, and then she too stopped short, for she saw the expression of Gypsy's face. Astonished and puzzled, wondering what she had done, Joy turned away to unpack, when her eye fell on the vase with its gorgeous leaves and berries, and she cried out in real delight: "O—oh, how pretty! Why, we don't have anything like this in Boston."
But Gypsy was only half comforted.
Joy unlocked her trunk then, and for a few minutes they chatted merrily over the unpacking. Where is the girl that doesn't like to look at pretty clothes? and where is the girl that doesn't like to show them if they happen to be her own? Joy's linen was all of the prettiest pattern, with wonderful trimmings and embroideries such as Gypsy had seldom seen: her collars and undersleeves were of the latest fashion, and fluted with choice laces; her tiny slippers were tufted with velvet bows, and of her nets and hair-ribbons there was no end. Gypsy looked on without a single pang of envy, contrasting them with her own plain, neat things, of course, but glad, in Gypsy's own generous fashion, that Joy had them.
"I had pretty enough things when you were in Boston," said Joy, unfolding her heavy black dresses with their plain folds of bombazine and crape. "Now I can't wear anything but this ugly black. Then there are all my corals and malachites just good for nothing. Madame St. Denis—she's the dressmaker—said I couldn't wear a single thing but jet, and jet makes me look dreadfully brown."
Gypsy hung up the dress that was in her hand and walked over to the window. She felt very much as if somebody had been drawing a file across her front teeth.
She could not have explained what was the matter. Somehow she seemed to see a quick picture of her own mother dying and dead, and herself in the sad, dark dresses. And how Joy could speak so—how she could!
"Oh—only two bureau drawers! Why didn't you give me the two upper ones?" said Joy, presently, when she was ready to put away her collars and boxes.
"Because my things were in there," said Gypsy.
"But your things were in the lower ones just as much."
"I like the upper drawers best," said Gypsy, shortly.
"So do I," retorted Joy.
The hot color rushed over Gypsy's face for the second time, but now it was a somewhat angry color.
"It wasn't very pleasant to have to give up any, and there are all those wardrobe shelves I had to take my things off from too, and I don't think you've any right to make a fuss."
"That's polite!" said Joy, with a laugh. Gypsy knew it wasn't, but for that very reason she wouldn't say so.
One more subject of dispute came up almost before this was forgotten. When they were all ready to go to bed, Joy wanted the front side.
"But that's where I always sleep," said Gypsy.
"There isn't any air over the back side and I can't breathe," said Joy.
"Neither can I," said Gypsy.
"I never can get to sleep if I don't have the place I'm used to," said Joy.
"You can just as well as I can," said Gypsy. "Besides, it's my bed."
This last argument appeared to be unanswerable, and Gypsy had it her way.
She thought it over before she went to sleep, which was not very soon; for Joy was restless, and tossed on her pillow, and talked in her dreams. Of course the front side and the upper drawers belonged to her—yes, of course. She had only taken her rights. She would be obliged to anybody to show her where she was to blame.
Joy went to sleep without any thoughts, and therein lay just the difference.
Something woke Gypsy very early the next morning. She started up, and saw Joy standing by the bed, in the faint, gray light, all dressed and shivering with the cold.
"Well, I never!" said Gypsy.
"What's the matter?"
"What on earth have you got your dress on in the middle of the night for?"
"It isn't night; it's morning."
"Morning! it isn't any such a thing."
"'Tis, too. I heard the clock strike five ever so long ago."
Gypsy had fallen back on the pillow, almost asleep again. She roused herself with a little jump.
"Ow! how you frightened me," said Joy, with another jump.
"Did I? Oh, well"—silence. "I don't see"—another silence—"what you wear my rubber—rubber boots for."
"Your rubber boots! Gypsy Breynton, you're sound asleep."
"Asleep!" said Gypsy, sitting up with a jerk, and rubbing both fists into her eyes. "I'm just as wide awake as you are. Oh, why, you're dressed!"
"Just found that out?" Joy broke into a laugh, and Gypsy, now quite awake, joined in it merrily. For the first time a vague notion came to her that she was rather glad Joy came. It might be some fun, after all, to have somebody round all the time to—in that untranslatable girls' phrase—"carry on with."
"But I don't see what's up," said Gypsy, winking and blinking like an owl to keep her eyes open.
"Why, I was afraid father'd get off before I was awake, so I was determined he shouldn't. I guess I kept waking up pretty much all night to see if it wasn't time."
"I wish he didn't have to go," said Gypsy. She felt sorry for Joy just then, seeing this best side of her that she liked. For about a minute she wished she had let her have the upper drawer.
Joy's father started by a very early train, and it was still hardly light when he sat down to his hurried breakfast, with Joy close by him, that pale, pinched look on her face, and so utterly silent that Gypsy was astonished. She would have thought she cared nothing about her father's going, if she had not seen her standing in the gray light upstairs.
"Joyce, my child, you haven't eaten a mouthful," said her father.
"Come, dear, do, just a little, to please father."
Joy put a spoonful of tea to her lips, and put it down. Presently there was a great rumbling of wheels outside, and the coachman rang the door-bell.
Joy stood up, but did not speak. Her father, holding her close in his arms, drew her out with him into the entry. Mrs. Breynton turned away; so did Gypsy and the rest. In a minute they heard Joy go into the parlor and shut the door, and then her father called out to them with his cheerful good-byes, and then he was in the coach, and the door was shut.
Gypsy stole into the parlor. Joy was standing there alone by the window.
"Why don't you cry?" said Gypsy; "I would."
"I don't want to," said Joy, moving away. Her sorrow at parting with her father made her fretful that morning. This was Joy's way. She had inherited her mother's fashion of taking trouble. Gypsy did not understand it, and her sympathy cooled a little. Still she really wanted to do something to make her happy, and so she set about it in the only ways she knew.
"See here, Joy," she called, merrily, after breakfast, "let's come out and have a good time. I have lots and lots to show you out in the barn and round. Then there is all Yorkbury besides, and the mountains. Which'll you do first, see the chickens or walk out on the ridge-pole?"
"On the what?"
"On the ridge-pole; that's the top of the roof, you know, over the kitchen. Tom and I go out there ever so much."
"Oh, I'd rather see the chickens. I should think you'd kill yourself walking on roofs. Wait till I get my gloves."
"Oh, you don't want gloves in Yorkbury," said Gypsy, with a very superior air. "That's nothing but a Boston fashion. Slip on your hat and sack in a jiff, and come along."
"I shall tan my hands," said Joy, reluctantly, as they went out. "Besides, I don't know what a jiff is."
"A jiff is—why, it's short for jiffy, I suppose."
"But what's a jiffy?" persisted Joy.
"Couldn't tell you," said Gypsy, with a bubbling laugh; "I guess it's something that's in a terrible hurry. Tom says it ever so much."
"I shouldn't think your mother would let you use boys' talk," said Joy. Gypsy sometimes stood in need of some such hint as this, but she did not relish it from Joy. By way of reply she climbed up the post of the clothesline.
Joy thought the chickens were pretty, but they had such long legs, and such a silly way of squealing when you took them up, as if you were going to murder them. Besides she was afraid she should step on them. So they went into the barn, and Gypsy exhibited Billy and Bess and Clover with the talent of a Barnum and the pride of a queen. Billy was the old horse who had pulled the family to church through the sand every Sunday since the children were babies, and Bess and Clover were white-starred, gentle-eyed cows, who let Gypsy pull their horns and tickle them with hay, and make pencil-marks on their white foreheads to her heart's content, and looked at Joy's strange face with great musing beautiful brown eyes. But Joy was afraid they would hook her, and she didn't like to be in a barn.
"What! not tumble on the hay!" cried Gypsy, half way up the ladder into the loft. "Just see what a quantity there is of it. Did you ever know such a quantity? Father lets me jump on it 'cause I don't hurt the hay—very much."
No. Joy couldn't possibly climb up the ladder. Well, Gypsy would help her then. By a little maneuvering she persuaded Joy to step up three rounds, and she herself stood behind her and began to walk up. Joy screamed and stood still.
"Go ahead—you can't stop now. I'll keep hold of you," said Gypsy, choking with laughter, and walking on. There was nothing for Joy to do but climb, unless she chose to be walked over, so up they went, she screaming and Gypsy pushing all the way.
"Now all you have to do is just to get up on the beams and jump off," said Gypsy, up there, and peering down from among the cobwebs, and flying through the air, almost before the words were off from her lips. But Joy wouldn't hear of getting into such a dusty place. She took two or three dainty little rolls on the hay, but the dried clover got into her hair and mouth and eyes, and she was perfectly sure there was a spider down her neck; so Gypsy was glad at last to get her safely down the ladder and out doors.
After that they tried the raft. Gypsy's raft was on a swamp below the orchard, and it was one of her favorite amusements to push herself about over the shallow water. But Joy was afraid of wetting her feet, or getting drowned, or something—she didn't exactly know what, so they gave that up.
Then Gypsy proposed a game of marbles on the garden path. She played a great deal with Tom, and played well. But Joy was shocked at the idea. That was a boy's play!
"What will you do, then?" said Gypsy, a little crossly. Joy replied in the tone of a martyr, that she was sure she did not know. Gypsy coughed, and walked up and down on the garden fence in significant silence.
Joy was not to go to school till Monday. Meantime she amused herself at home with her aunt, and Gypsy went as usual without her.
Saturday afternoon was the perfect pattern of an autumn afternoon. A creamy haze softened the sharp outline of the mountains, and lay cloudlike on the fields. The sunlight fell through it like sifted gold, the sky hung motionless and blue—that glowless, deepening blue that always made Gypsy feel, she said, "as if she must drink it right up"—and away over miles of field and mountain slope the maples crimsoned and flamed.
Gypsy came home at noon with her hat hanging down her neck, her cheeks on fire, and panting like the old lady who died for want of breath; rushing up the steps, tearing open the door, and slamming into the parlor.
"Look here!—everybody—where are you? What do you think? Joy! Mother! There's going to be a great chestnutting."
"A what?" asked Joy, dropping her embroidery.
"A chestnutting, up at Mr. Jonathan Jones's trees, this afternoon at two o'clock. Did you ever hear anything so perfectly mag?"—mag being "Gypsy" for magnificent.
"Who are to make the party?" asked her mother.
"Oh, I and Sarah Rowe and Delia Guest and—and Sarah Rowe and I," said Gypsy, talking very fast.
"And Joy," said Mrs. Breynton, gently.
"Joy, of course. That's what I came in to say."
"Oh, I don't care to go if you don't want me," said Joy, with a slighted look.
"But I do want you. Who said I didn't?"
"Well," said Joy, somewhat mollified, "I'll go if there aren't any spiders."
The two girls equipped themselves with tin pails, thick boots and a lunch-basket, and started off in high spirits at precisely half-past one. Joy had a remarkably vague idea of what she was going to do, but she felt unusually good-natured, as who could help feeling, with such a sunlight as that and such distant glories of the maple-trees, and such shadows melting on the mountains!
"I want to go chestnotting, too-o-o!" called Winnie, disconsolate, in the doorway.
"No, Winnie, you couldn't, possibly," said Gypsy, pleasantly, sorry to disappoint him; but she was quite too well acquainted with Winnie to undertake a nutting party in his company.
"Oh, yes, do let's take him; he's so cunning," said Joy. Joy was totally unused to children, having never had brothers and sisters of her own, and since she had been there, Winnie had not happened to develop in any of his characteristic methods. Moreover, he had speedily discovered that Joy laughed at everything he said; even his most ordinary efforts in the line of wit; and that she gave him lumps of sugar when she thought of it; and therefore he had been on his best behavior whenever she was about.
"He's so terribly cunning," repeated Joy; "I guess he won't do any hurt."
"I won't do any hurt," put in Winnie; "I'm real cunnin', Gypsy."
"You may do as you like, of course," said Gypsy. "I know he will make trouble and spoil all the party, and the girls would scold me 'cause I brought him. I've tried it times enough. If you're a mind to take care of him, I suppose you can; but you see if you don't repent your bargain."
Gypsy was perfectly right; she was not apt to be selfish in her treatment of Winnie. Such a tramp as this was not at all suited to his capacities of feet or temper, and if his mother had been there she would have managed to make him happy in staying home. But Winnie had received quite too much encouragement; he had no thought of giving up his bargain now.
"Gypsy Breynton, you just needn't talk. I'm goin' chestnotting. I'm five years old. I'm goin' with cousin Joy, and I'll eat just as many chestnots as you or anybody else, now!"
Gypsy had not the slightest doubt of that, and the three started off together.
They met Sarah Rowe and Delia on the way, and Gypsy introduced them.
"This is my cousin Joy, and this is Sarah. That one in the shaker bonnet is Delia Guest. Oh, I forgot. Joy's last name is Breynton, and Sarah is Sarah Rowe."
Joy bowed in her prim, cityish way, and Sarah and Delia were so much astonished thereat that they forgot to bow at all, and Delia stared rudely at her black dress. There was an awkward silence.
"Why don't you talk, somebody?" broke out Gypsy, getting desperate. "Anybody'd think we were three mummies in a museum."
"I don't think you're very perlite," put in Winnie, with a virtuous frown; "if you don't let me be a dummy, too, I'll tell mother, and that would make four."
This broke the ice, and Sarah and Delia began to talk very fast about Monday's grammar lesson, and Miss Cardrew, and how Agnes Gaylord put a green snake in Phoebe Hunt's lunch-basket, and had to stay after school for it, and how it was confidently reported in mysterious whispers, at recess, that George Castles told Mr. Guernsey he was a regular old fogy, and Mr. Guernsey had sent home a letter to his father—not Mr. Guernsey's father, but George's; he had now, true's you live.
Now, to Joy, of course, none of this was very interesting, for she had not been into the schoolroom yet, and didn't know George Castles and Agnes Gaylord from Adam; and somehow or other it never occurred to Gypsy to introduce some subject in which they could all take part; and so somehow it came about that Joy fell behind with Winnie, and the three girls went on together all the way to Mr. Jones's grove.
"Isn't it splendid?" called Gypsy, turning around. "I'm having a real nice time."
"Ye—es," said Joy, dolefully; "I guess I shall like it better when we get to the chestnuts."
Nothing particular happened on the way, except that when they were crossing Mr. Jonathan's plowed field, Winnie stuck in the mud tight, and when he was pulled out he left his shoes behind him; that he repeated this pleasing little incident six consecutive times within five minutes, varying it by lifting up his voice to weep, in Winnie's own accomplished style; and that Joy ended by carrying him in her arms the whole way.
Be it here recorded that Joy's ideal of "cherubic childhood," Winnie standing as representative cherub, underwent then and there several modifications.
"Here we are!" cried Gypsy at last, clearing a low fence with a bound. "Just see the leaves and the sky. Isn't it just—oh!"
It was, indeed "just," and there it stopped; there didn't seem to be any more words to say about it. The chestnut-trees were clustered on a small, rocky knoll, their golden-brown leaves fluttering in the sunlight, their great, rich, bursting green burs bending down the boughs and dropping to the ground. Around them and among them a belt of maples stood up like blazing torches sharp against the sky—yellow, scarlet, russet, maroon, and crimson veined with blood, all netted and laced together, and floating down upon the wind like shattered jewels. Beyond, the purple mountains, and the creamy haze, and the silent sky.
It was a sight to make younger and older than these four girls stand still with deepening eyes. For about a half minute nobody spoke, and I venture to say the four different kinds of thoughts they had just then would make a pretty bit of a poem.
Whatever they were, a fearfully unromantic and utterly indescribable howl from Winnie put an unceremonious end to them.
"O-oh! ugh! ah! Gypsy! Joy! I've got catched onto my buttons. My head's tippin' over the wrong way. Boo-hoo-hoo! Gypsy!"
The girls turned, and stood transfixed, and screamed till they lost their breath, and laughed till they cried.
Winnie, not being of a sentimental turn of mind, had regarded unmoved the flaming glories of the maple-leaves, and being influenced by the more earthly attractions of the chestnuts, had conceived the idea of seizing advantage of the girls' unpractical rapture to be the first on the field, and take entire and lawful possession thereof. Therefore had he made all manner of haste to crawl through the fence, and there had he stuck fast between two bars, balanced like a see-saw, his head going up and his feet going down, his feet going up and his head going down.
Gypsy pulled him out as well as she could between her spasms of laughter.
"I don't see anythin' to laugh at," said Winnie, severely. "If you don't stop laughin' I'll go way off into the woods and be a Injun and never come home any more, and build me a house with a chimney to it, 'n' have baked beans for supper 'n' lots of chestnots, and a gun and a pistol, and I won't give you any! Goin' to stop laughin'?"
It did not take long to pick up the nuts that the wind and the frost had already strewn upon the ground, and everybody enjoyed it but Joy. She pricked her unaccustomed fingers on the sharp burs, and didn't like the nuts when she had tasted of them.
"They're not the kind of chestnuts we have in Boston," she said; "ours are soft like potatoes."
"Oh dear, oh dear, she thought they grew boiled!" and there was a great laugh. Joy colored, and did not relish it very much. Gypsy was too busy pulling off her burs to notice this. Presently the ground was quite cleared.
"Now we must climb," said Gypsy. Gypsy was always the leader in their plays; always made all their plans. Sarah Rowe was her particular friend, and thought everything Gypsy did about right, and seldom opposed her. Delia never opposed anybody.
"Oh, I don't know how to climb," said Joy, shrinking and shocked.
"But I'll show you. This isn't anything; these branches are just as low as they can be. Here, I'll go first and help you, and Sarah can come next."
So up went Gypsy, nimble as a squirrel, over the low-hanging boughs that swayed with her weight.
"Come, Joy! I can't wait."
Joy trembled and screamed, and came. She crawled a little ways up the lowest of the branches, and stopped, frightened by the motion.
"Catch hold of the upper bough and stand up; then you can walk it," called Gypsy, half out of sight now among the thick leaves.
Joy did as she was told—her feet slipped, the lower branch swung away from under her, and there she hung by both hands in mid-air. She was not more than four feet from the ground, and could have jumped down without the slightest difficulty, but that she was altogether too frightened to do. So she swung back and forth like a lantern, screaming as loud as she could scream.
Gypsy was peculiarly sensitive to anything funny, and she quite forgot that Joy was really frightened; indeed, used as she was to the science of tree-climbing all her life, that a girl could hang within four feet of the ground, and not know enough to jump, seemed to her perfectly incomprehensible.
"Jump, Joy, jump!" she called, between her shouts of laughter.
"No, no, don't, you might break your arm," cried Delia Guest, who hadn't the slightest scruple about telling a falsehood if she were going to have something to laugh at by the means. Poor Joy was between Scylla and Charybdis. (If you don't know what that means, go and ask your big brothers; make them leave their chess and their newspapers on the spot, and read you what Mr. Virgil has to say about it.) If she hung on she would wrench her arms; if she jumped, she should break them. She hung, screaming, as long as she could, and dropped when she could hang no longer, looking about in an astonishment that was irresistibly funny, at finding herself alive and unhurt on the soft moss.
The girls were still laughing too hard to talk. Joy stood up with a very red face and began to walk slowly away without a word.
"Where are you goin?" called Gypsy from the branches.
"Home," said Joy.
"Oh, don't; come, we won't laugh any mote. Come back, and you needn't climb. You can stay underneath and pick up while we throw down."
"No; I've had enough of it. I don't like chestnutting, and I don't like to be laughed at, either. I shan't stay any longer."
"I'm real sorry," said Gypsy. "I couldn't help laughing at you, you did look so terribly funny. Oh, dear, you ought to have seen yourself! I wish you wouldn't go. If you do, you can find the way alone, I suppose."
"I suppose so," said Joy, doubtfully.
"Well, you'd better take Winnie; you know you brought him, and I can't keep him here. It would spoil everything. Why, where is the child?"
He was nowhere to be seen.
There was a great splash somewhere, and a curious bubbling sound, but where it came from nobody could tell. All at once Delia broke into something between a laugh and a scream.
"O—oh, I see! Look there—down in that ditch beyond the elder-bushes—quick!"
Rising up into the air out of the muddy ground, without any visible support whatever, were a pair of feet—Winnie's feet, unmistakably, because of their copper toes and tagless shoestrings—and kicking frantically back and forth. "Only that and nothing more."
"Why, where's the—rest of him?" said Joy, blankly. At this instant Gypsy darted past her with a sudden movement, flew down the knoll, and began to pull at the mysterious feet as if for dear life.
"Why, what is she doing?" cried all the girls in a breath. As they spoke, up came Winnie entire into the air, head down, dripping, drenched, black with mud, gasping, nearly drowned.
Gypsy shook him and pounded him on the back till his breath came, and when she found there was no harm done, she set him down on a stone, wiped the mud off from his face, and threw herself down on the grass as if she couldn't stand up another minute.
"Crying? Why, no; she's laughing. Did you ever?"
And down ran the girls to see what was the matter. At the foot of the knoll was a ditch of black mud. In the middle of this ditch was a round hole two feet deep, which had been dug at some time to collect water for the cattle pasturing in the field to drink. Into this hole, Winnie, in the course of some scientific investigations as to the depth of the water, had fallen, unfortunately, the wrong end foremost, and there he certainly would have drowned if Gypsy had not seen him just when she did.
But he was not drowned; on the contrary, except for the mud, "as good as new;" and what might have been a tragedy, and a very sad one, had become, as Gypsy said, "too funny for anything." Winnie, however, "didn't see it," and began to cry lustily to go home.
"It's fortunate you were just going," said Gypsy. "I'll just fill my pail, and then I'll come along and very likely overtake you."
Probably Joy didn't fancy this arrangement any too well, but she remembered that it was her own plan to take the child; therefore she said nothing, and she and Winnie started off forlornly enough.
About five o'clock Gypsy walked slowly up the yard with her pail full of nuts, her hat in her hand, and a gay wreath of maple-leaves on her head. With her bright cheeks and twinkling eyes, and the broad leaves casting their gorgeous shadows of crimson and gold upon her forehead, she made a pretty picture—almost too pretty to scold.
Tom met her at the door. Tom was very proud of Gypsy, and you could see in his eyes just then what he thought of her.
"What a little——" he began, all ready for a frolic, and stopped, and grew suddenly grave.
"Where are Joy and Winnie?"
"Haven't they come?"
GYPSY MAKES A DISCOVERY
Gypsy turned very pale.
"Where are they?" persisted Tom. And just then her mother came out from the parlor.
"Why, Gypsy, where are the children?"
"I'm afraid Joy didn't know the way," said Gypsy, slowly.
"Did you let her come home alone?"
"Yes'm. She was tired of the chestnuts, and Winnie fell into the ditch. Oh, mother!"
Mrs. Breynton did not say one word. She began to put on her things very fast, and Tom hurried up to the store for his father. They hunted everywhere, through the fields and in the village; they inquired of every shop-keeper and every passer, but no one had seen a girl in black, with a little boy. There were plenty of girls, and an abundance of little boys to be found at a great variety of places, but most of the girls wore green-checked dresses, and the boys were in ragged jackets. Gypsy retraced every step of the way carefully from the roadside to the chestnut-trees. Mr. Jonathan Jones, delighted that he had actually caught somebody on his plowed land, came running down with a terrible scolding on his lips. But when he saw Gypsy's utterly wretched face and heard her story, he helped her instead to search the chestnut grove and the surrounding fields all over. But there was not a flutter of Joy's black dress, not an echo of Winnie's cry. The sunset was fading fast in the west, long shadows were slanting down the valley, and the blaze of the maples was growing faint. On the mountains it was quite blotted out by the gathering darkness.
"What shall I do?" cried Gypsy, thinking, with a great sinking at her heart, how cold the nights were now, and how early it grew quite dark.
"Hev you been 'long that ere cross-road 't opens aout through the woods onto the three-mile square?" asked Mr. Jonathan. "I've been a thinkin' on't as heow the young uns might ha took that ere ef they was flustered beout knowin' the way neow mos' likely."
"Oh, what a splendid, good man you are!" said Gypsy, jumping up and down, and clapping her hands with delight. "Nobody thought of that, and I'll never run over your plowed-up land again as long as ever I live, and I'm going right to tell father, and you see if I do!"
Her father wondered that they had not thought of it, and old Billy was harnessed in a hurry, and they started for the three-mile cross-roads. Gypsy went with them. Nobody spoke to her except to ask questions now and then as to the precise direction the children took, and the time they started for home. Gypsy leaned back in the carriage, peering out into the gloom on either side, calling Joy's name now and then, or Winnie's, and busy with her own wretched thoughts. Whatever they were, she did not very soon forget them.
It was very dark now, and very cold; the crisp frost glistened on the grass, and an ugly-looking red moon peered over the mountain. It seemed to Gypsy like a great, glaring eye, that was singling her out and following her, and asking, "Where are Joy and Winnie?" over and over. "Gypsy Breynton, Gypsy Breynton, where are Joy and Winnie?" She turned around with her back to it, so as not to see it.
Once they passed an old woman on the road hobbling along with a stick. Mr. Breynton reined up and asked if she had seen anything of two children.
"Haow?" said the old woman.
"Have you seen anything of two children along here?"
"Chilblains? No, I don't have none this time o' year, an' I don't know what business it is o' yourn, nuther."
"Children!" shouted Mr. Breynton; "two children, a boy and a girl."
"Speak a little louder, can't you? I'm deaf," said the old woman.
"Have you—seen anything—of—two—children—a little boy, and a girl in black?"
"Chickens? black chickens?" said the old woman, with an angry shake of the head; "no, I hain't got no chickens for yer. My pullet's white, and I set a heap on't an' wouldn't sell it to nobody as come askin' oncivil questions of a lone, lorn widdy. Besides, the cat eat it up las' week, feathers 'n' all."
Mr. Breynton concluded there was not much information to be had in that quarter, and drove on.
A little way farther they came across a small boy turning somersets in the ditch. Mr. Breynton stopped again and repeated his questions.
"How many of 'em?" asked the boy, with a thoughtful look.
"Two, a boy and a girl."
"A boy and a girl?"
"You said one was a boy and t'other was a girl?" repeated the small boy, looking very bright.
"Yes. The boy was quite small, and the girl wore a black dress. They're lost, and we're trying to find them."
"Be you, now, really!" said the small boy, apparently struck with sudden and overwhelming admiration. "That is terribly good in you. Seems to me now I reckon I see two young uns 'long here somewhars, didn't I? Le' me see."
"Oh, where, where?" cried Gypsy. "Oh, I'm so glad! Did the little boy have on a plaid jacket and brown coat?"
"Waal, now, seems as ef 'twas somethin' like that."
"And the girl wore a hat and a long veil?" pursued Gypsy, eagerly.
"Was she about the height of this girl here, and whereabouts did you see her?" asked Tom.
"Waal, couldn't tell exactly; somewhars between here an' the village, I reckon. Seems to me she did have a veil or suthin'."
"And she was real pale?" cried Gypsy, "and the boy was dreadfully muddy?"
"Couldn't say as to that"—the small boy began to hesitate and look very wise—"don't seem to remember the mud, and on the whole, I ain't partiklar sure 'bout the veil. Oh, come to think on't, it wasn't a gal; it was a deaf old woman, an' there warn't no boy noways."
Well was it for the small boy that, as the carriage rattled on, he took good care to be out of the reach of Tom's whip-lash.
It grew darker and colder, and the red moon rode on silently in the sky. They had come now to the opening of the cross-road, but there were no signs of the children—only the still road and the shadows under the trees.
"Hark! what's that?" said Mr. Breynton, suddenly. He stopped the carriage, and they all listened. A faint, sobbing sound broke the silence. Gypsy leaned over the side of the carriage, peering in among the trees where the shadow was blackest.
"Father, may I get out a minute?"
She sprang over the wheel, ran into the cross-road, into a clump of bushes, pushed them aside, screamed for joy.
"Here they are, here they are—quick, quick! Oh, Winnie Breynton, do just wake up and let me look at you! Oh, Joy, I am so glad!"
And there on the ground, true enough, sat Joy, exhausted and frightened and sobbing, with Winnie sound asleep in her lap.
"I didn't know the way, and Winnie kept telling me wrong, and, oh, I was so tired, and I sat down to rest, and it is so dark, and—and oh, I thought nobody'd ever come!"
And poor Joy sprang into her uncle's arms, and cried as hard as she could cry.
Joy was thoroughly tired and chilled; it seemed that she had had to carry Winnie in her arms a large part of the way, and the child was by no means a light weight. Evidently, Master Winnie had taken matters pretty comfortably throughout, having had, Joy said, the utmost confidence in his own piloting, declaring "it was just the next house, right around the corner, Joy; how stupid in her not to know! he knew all the whole of it just as well as anything," and was none the worse for the adventure. Gypsy tried to wake him up, but he doubled up both fists in his dream, and greeted her with the characteristic reply, "Naughty!" and that was all that was to be had from him. So he was rolled up warmly on the carriage floor; they drove home as fast as Billy would go, and the two children, after a hot supper and a great many kisses, were put snugly to bed.
After Joy was asleep, Mrs. Breynton said she would like to see Gypsy a few moments downstairs.
"Yes'm," said Gypsy, and came slowly down. They sat down in the dining-room alone. Mrs. Breynton drew up her rocking-chair by the fire, and Gypsy took the cricket.
There was a silence. Gypsy had an uncomfortable feeling that her mother was waiting for her to speak first. She kicked off her slipper, and put it on; she rattled the tongs, and pounded the hearth with the poker; she smoothed her hair out of her eyes, and folded up her handkerchief six times; she looked up sideways at her mother; then she began to cough. At last she broke out—
"I suppose you want me to say I'm sorry. Well, I am. But I don't see why I'm to blame, I'm sure."
"I haven't said you were to blame," said her mother, quietly. "You know I have had no time yet to hear what happened this afternoon, and I thought you would like to tell me."
"Well," said Gypsy, "I'd just as lief;" and Gypsy looked a little, a very little, as if she hadn't just as lief at all. "You see, 'in the first place and commencing,' as Winnie says, Joy wanted to take him. Now, she doesn't know anything about that child, not a thing, and if she'd taken him to places as much as I have, and had to lug him home screaming all the way, I guess she would have stopped wanting to, pretty quick, and I always take Winnie when I can, you know now, mother; and then Joy wouldn't talk going over, either."
"Whom did she walk with?" interrupted Mrs. Breynton.
"Why, with Winnie, I believe. Of course she might have come on with Sarah and Delia and me if she'd wanted to, but—I don't know——"
"Very well," said Mrs. Breynton, "go on."
"Then, you see, Joy didn't like chestnuts, and couldn't climb, and—oh, Winnie kept losing his shoes, and got stuck in the fence, and you never saw anything so funny! And then Joy couldn't climb, and she just hung there swinging; and now, mother, I couldn't help laughing to save me, it was so exactly like a great pendulum with hoops on. Well, Joy was mad 'cause we laughed and all, and so she said she'd go home. Then—let me see—oh, it was after that, Winnie tumbled into the ditch, splash in! with his feet up in the air, and I thought I should go off to see him."
"But what about Joy?"
"Oh, well, Joy took Winnie—he was so funny and muddy, you don't know—'cause she brought him, you know, and so they came home, and I thought she knew the way as much as could be, and I guess that's all."
"Well," said her mother, after a pause, "what do you think about it?"
"Do you think you have done just right, Gypsy?"
"I don't see why not," said Gypsy, uneasily. "It was perfectly fair Joy should take Winnie, and of course I wasn't bound to give up my nutting party and come home, just for her."
"I'm not speaking of what is fair, Gypsy. Strictly speaking, Joy had her rights, and you had yours, and the arrangement might have been called fair enough. But what do you think honestly, Gypsy—were you a little selfish?"
Gypsy opened her eyes wide. Honestly she might have said she didn't know. She was by nature a generous child, and the charge of selfishness was seldom brought against her. Plenty of faults she had, but they were faults of quick temper and carelessness. Of deliberate selfishness it had scarcely ever occurred to her that anybody could think her capable. So she echoed—
"Selfish!" in simple surprise.
"Just look at it," said her mother, gently; "Joy was your visitor, a stranger, feeling awkward and unhappy, most probably, with the girls whom you knew so well, and not knowing anything about the matters which you talked over. You might, might you not, have by a little effort made her soon feel at home and happy? Instead of that, you went off with the girls, and let her fall behind, with nobody but Winnie to talk to."
Gypsy's face turned to a sudden crimson.
"Then, a nutting party was a new thing to Joy, and with the care of Winnie and all, it is no wonder she did not find it very pleasant, and she had never climbed a tree in her life. This was her first Saturday afternoon in Yorkbury, and she was, no doubt, feeling lonely and homesick, and it made her none the happier to be laughed at for not doing something she had not the slightest idea how to do. Was it quite generous to let her start off alone, over a strange road, with the care of a crying——"
"And muddy," put in Gypsy, with twinkling eyes, "from head to foot, black as a shoe."
"And muddy child?" finished Mrs. Breynton, smiling in spite of herself.
"But Joy wanted to take him, and I told her so. It was her own bargain."
"I know that. But we are not speaking of bargains, Gypsy; we are speaking of what is kind and generous. Now, how does it strike you?"
"It strikes me," said Gypsy, in her honest way, after a moment's pause—"it strikes me that I'm a horrid selfish old thing, and I've lived twelve years and just found it out; there now!"
Just as Gypsy was going to bed she turned around with the lamp in her hand, her great eyes dreaming away in the brownest of brown studies.
"Mother, is it selfish to have upper drawers, and front sides, and things?"
"What are you talking about, Gypsy?"
"Why, don't my upper drawers, and the front side of the bed, and all that, belong to me, and must I give them up to Joy?"
"It is not necessary," said her mother, laughing. But Gypsy fancied there was a slight emphasis on the last word.
Joy was sound asleep, and dreaming that Winnie was a rattlesnake and Gypsy a prairie-dog, when somebody gave her a little pinch and woke her up.
"Oh—why—what's the matter?" said Joy.
"Look here, you might just as well have the upper bureau drawers, you know, and I don't care anything about the front side of the bed. Besides, I wish I hadn't let you come home alone this afternoon."
"Well, you are the funniest!" said Joy.
WHO PUT IT IN?
On Monday Joy went to school. Gypsy had been somewhat astonished, a little hurt, and a little angry, at hearing her say, one day, that she "didn't think it was a fit place for her to go—a high school where all the poor people went."
But, fit or not, it was the only school to be had, and Joy must go. Perhaps, on some accounts, Mrs. Breynton would have preferred sending the children to a private school; but the only one in town, and the one which Gypsy had attended until this term, was broken up by the marriage of the teacher, so she had no choice in the matter. The boys at the high school were, some of them, rude, but the girls for the most part were quiet, well-behaved, and lady-like, and the instruction was undoubtedly vastly superior to that of a smaller school. As Gypsy said, "you had to put into it and study like everything, or else she gave you a horrid old black mark, and then you felt nice when it was read aloud at examination, didn't you?"
"I wouldn't care," said Joy.
"Why, Joyce Miranda Breynton!" said Gypsy. But Joy declared she wouldn't, and it was very soon evident that she didn't. She had not the slightest fancy for her studies; neither had Gypsy, for that matter; but Gypsy had been brought up to believe it was a disgrace to get bad marks. Joy had not. She hurried through her lessons in the quickest possible fashion, anyhow, so as to get through, and out to play; and limped through her recitations as well as she could. Once Gypsy saw—and she was thoroughly shocked to see—Joy peep into the leaves of her grammar when Miss Cardrew's eyes were turned the other way.
Altogether, matters did not go on very comfortably. Joy's faults were for the most part those from which Gypsy was entirely free, and to which she had a special and inborn aversion. On the other hand, many of Gypsy's failings were not natural to Joy. Gypsy was always forgetting things she ought to remember. Joy seldom did. Gypsy was thoughtless, impulsive, always into mischief, out of it, sorry for it, and in again. Joy did wrong deliberately, as she did everything else, and did not become penitent in a hurry. Gypsy's temper was like a flash of lightning, hot and fierce and melting right away in the softest of summer rains. When Joy was angry she sulked. Joy was precise and neat about everything. Gypsy was not. Then Joy kept still, and Gypsy talked; Joy told parts of stories, Gypsy told the whole; Joy had some foolish notions about money and dresses and jewelry, on which Gypsy looked with the most supreme contempt—not on the dresses, but the notions. Therefore there was plenty of material for rubs and jars, and of all sad things to creep into a happy house, these rubs and jars are the saddest.
One day both the girls woke full of mischief. It was a bracing November day, cool as an ice-cream and clear as a whistle. The air sparkled like a fountain of golden sands, and was as full of oxygen as it could hold; and oxygen, you must know, is at the bottom of a great deal of the happiness and misery, goodness and badness, of this world.
"I tell you if I don't feel like cutting up!" said Gypsy, on the way to school. Gypsy didn't look unlike "cutting up" either, walking along there with her satchel swung over her left shoulder, her turban set all askew on her bright, black hair, her cheeks flushed from the jumping of fences and running of races that had been going on since she left the house, and that saucy twinkle in her eyes. Joy was always somewhat more demure, but she looked, too, that morning, as if she were quite as ready to have a good time as any other girl.
"Do you know," said Gypsy, confidentially, as they went up the schoolhouse steps, "I feel precisely as if I should make Miss Cardrew a great deal of trouble to-day; don't you?"
"What does she do to you if you do?"
"Oh, sometimes she keeps you after school, and then again she tells Mr. Guernsey, and then there are the bad marks. Miss Melville—she's my old teacher that married Mr. Hallam, she was just silly enough!—well, she used to just look at you, and never open her lips, and I guess you wished you hadn't pretty quick."
It was very early yet, but quite a crowd was gathered in the schoolhouse, as was the fashion on cool mornings. The boys were stamping noisily over the desks, and grouped about the stove in No. 1. No. 1. was the large room where the whole school gathered for prayer. A few of the girls were there—girls who laughed rudely and talked loudly, none of them Gypsy's friends. Tom never liked to have Gypsy linger about in No. 1, before or after school hours; he said it was not the place for her, and Tom was there that morning, knotting his handsome brows up into a very decided frown, when he saw her in the doorway, with Joy peeping over her shoulder. So Gypsy—somewhat reluctantly, it must be confessed, for the boys seemed to be having a good time, and with boys' good times she had a most unconquerable sympathy—went up with Joy into Miss Cardrew's recitation room. Nobody was there. A great, empty schoolroom, with its rows of silent seats and closed desks, with power to roam whithersoever you will, and do whatsoever you choose, is a great temptation. The girls ran over the desks, and looked into the desks, jumped over the settees, and knocked down the settees, put out the fire and built it up again, from the pure luxury of doing what they wanted to, in a place where they usually had to do what they didn't want to. They sat in Miss Cardrew's chair, and peeped into her desk; they ate apples and snapped peanut shells on the very platform where sat the spectacled and ogre-eyed committee on examination days; they drew all manner of pictures of funny old women without any head, and old men without any feet, on the awful blackboard, and played "tag" round the globes. Then they stopped for want of breath.
"I wish there were something to do," sighed Gypsy; "something real splendid and funny."
"I knew a girl once, and she drew a picture of the teacher on the board in green chalk," suggested Joy; "only she lost her recess for a whole week after it."
"That wouldn't do. Besides, pictures are too common; everybody does those. Boys put pins in the seats, and cut off the legs of the teacher's chair, and all that. I don't know as I care to tumble Miss Cardrew over—wouldn't she look funny, though!—'cause mother wouldn't like it. Couldn't we make the stove smoke, or put pepper in the desks, or—let me see."
"Dress up something somehow," said Joy; "there's the poker."
Gypsy shook her head.
"Delia Guest did that last term, 'n' the old thing—I mean the poker, not Delia—went flat down in the corner behind the stove—flat, just as Miss Melville was coming in, and lay there in the wood-pile, and nobody knew there was a single sign of a thing going on. I guess you better believe Delia felt cheap!—hark! what's that?"
It was a faint miaow down in the yard. The girls ran to the window and looked out.
"The very thing!"
"I'm going right down to get her."
Down they ran, both of them, in a great hurry, and brought the creature up. The poor thing was chilled, and hungry, and frightened. They took her up to the stove, and Gypsy warmed her in her apron, and Joy fed her with cookies from her lunch-basket, till she curled her head under her paws with a merry purr, all ready for a nap, and evidently without the slightest suspicion that Gypsy's lap was not foreordained, and created for her especial habitation as long as she might choose to remain there.
"Joy," said Gypsy, suddenly, "I've thought of something."
"So have I."
"To dress her——"
"Up in a handkerchief."
"I know it."
"And put her——"
"Yes! into Miss Cardrew's desk!"
"Won't it be just——"
"Splendid! Hurry up!"
They "hurried up" in good earnest, choking down their laughter so that nobody downstairs might hear it. Joy took her pretty, purple-bordered handkerchief and tied it over the poor kitten's head like a nightcap, so tight that, pull and scratch as she might, pussy could not get it off. Gypsy's black silk apron was tied about her, like a long baby-dress, a pair of mittens were fastened on her arms, and a pink silk scarf around her throat. When all was done, Gypsy held her up, and trotted her on her knee. Anybody who has ever dressed up a cat like a baby, knows how indescribably funny a sight it is. It seemed as if the girls could never stop laughing—it does not take much to make girls laugh. At last there was a commotion in the entry below.
"It's the girls!—quick, quick!"
Gypsy, trying to get up, tripped on her dress and fell, and away flew the kitten, all tangled in the apron, making for the door as fast as an energetic kitten could go.
"She'll be downstairs, and maybe Miss Cardrew's there! Oh!"
Joy sprang after the creature, caught her by the very tip end of her tail just as she was preparing to pounce down the stairs, and ran with her to Miss Cardrew's desk.
"Put her in—quick, quick!"
"O-oh, she won't lie still!"
"Where's the lunch-basket? Give me some biscuit—there! I hear them on the stairs!"
The kitten began to mew piteously, struggling to get out with all her might. Down went the desk-cover on her paws.
"There now, lie still! Oh, hear her mew! What shall we do?"
Quick footsteps were on the stairs—halfway up; merry laughter, and a dozen voices.
"Here's the biscuit. Here, kitty, kitty, poor kit-ty, do please to lie still and eat it! Oh, Joy Breynton, did you ever?"
"There, she's eating!"
"Shut the desk—hurry!"
When the girls came in, Joy and Gypsy were in their seats, looking over the arithmetic lesson. Joy's book was upside down, and Gypsy was intensely interested in the preface.
Miss Cardrew came in shortly after, and stood warming her fingers at the stove, nodding and smiling at the girls. All was still so far in the desk. Miss Cardrew went up and laid down her gloves and pushed back her chair. Joy coughed under her breath, and Gypsy looked up out of the corners of her eyes.
"Mr. Guernsey is not well to-day," began Miss Cardrew, standing by the desk, "and we shall not be able to meet as usual in No. 1 for prayers. It has been thought best that each department should attend devotions in its own room. You can get out your Bibles."
Gypsy looked at Joy, and Joy looked at Gypsy.
Miss Cardrew sat down. It was very still. A muffled scratching sound broke into the pause. Miss Cardrew looked up carelessly, as if to see where it came from; it stopped.
"She'll open her desk now," whispered Joy, stooping to pick up a book.
"See here, Joy, I almost wish we hadn't——"
"We will read the fourteenth chapter of John," spoke up Miss Cardrew, with her Bible in her hand. No, she hadn't opened her desk. The Bible lay upon the outside of it.
"Oh, if that biscuit'll only last till she gets through praying!"
"Hush-sh! She's looking this way."
Miss Cardrew began to read. She had read just four verses, when—
Gypsy and Joy were trying very hard to find the place. Miss Cardrew looked up and around the room. It was quite still. She read two verses more.
Miss Cardrew looked up again, round the room, over the platform, under the desk, everywhere but in it.
"Girls, did any of you make that sound?"
Nobody had. Miss Cardrew began to read again. All at once Joy pulled Gypsy's sleeve.
"Just look there!"
"Trickling down the outside of the desk!"
"You don't suppose she's upset the——"
Miss Cardrew was in the tenth verse, and the room was very still. Right into the stillness there broke again a distinct, prolonged, dolorous—
And this time Miss Cardrew laid down her Bible and lifted the desk-cover.
It is reported in school to this day that Miss Cardrew jumped.
Out flew the kitten, like popped corn from a shovel, glared over the desk in the nightcap and black apron, leaped down, and flew, all dripping with ink, down the aisle, out of the door, and bouncing downstairs like an India-rubber ball.
Delia Guest and one or two of the other girls screamed. Miss Cardrew flung out some books and papers from the desk. It was too late; they were dripping, and drenched, and black. The teacher quietly wiped some spots of ink from her pretty blue merino, and there was an awful silence.
"Girls," said Miss Cardrew then, in her grave, stern way, "who did this?"
"Who put that cat in my desk?" repeated Miss Cardrew.
It was perfectly still. Gypsy's cheeks were scarlet. Joy was looking carelessly about the room, scanning the faces of the girls, as if she were trying to find out who was the guilty one.
"It is highly probable that the cat tied herself into an apron, opened the desk and shut the cover down on herself," said Miss Cardrew; "we will look into this matter. Delia Guest, did you put her in?"
"No'm—he, he! I guess I—ha, ha!—didn't," said Delia.
"Next!"—and down the first row went Miss Cardrew, asking the same question of every girl, and the second row, and the third. Gypsy sat on the end of the fourth settee.
"Gypsy Breynton, did you put the kitten in my desk?"
"No'm, I didn't," said Gypsy; which was true enough. It was Joy who did that part of it.
"Did you have anything to do with the matter, Gypsy?" Perhaps Miss Cardrew remembered that Gypsy had had something to do with a few other similar matters since she had been in school.
"Yes'm," said honest Gypsy, with crimson face and hanging head, "I did."
"What did you do?"
"I put on the apron and the tippet, and—I gave her the biscuit. I—thought she'd keep still till prayers were over," said Gypsy, faintly.
"But you did not put her in the desk?"
"And you know who did?"
Miss Cardrew never asked her scholars to tell of each other's wrong-doings. If she had, it would have made no difference to Gypsy. She had shut up her lips tight and not another word would she have said for anybody. She had told the truth about herself, but she was under no obligations to bring Joy into trouble. Joy might do as she liked.
"Gypsy Breynton will lose her recesses for a week and stay an hour after school tonight," said Miss Cardrew. "Joy, did you put the kitten in my desk?"
"No, ma'am," said Joy, boldly.
"Nor have anything to do with it?"
"No, ma'am," said Joy, without the slightest change of color.
Of course Sarah had not, nor anybody else. Miss Cardrew let the matter drop there and went on with her reading.
Gypsy sat silent and sorry, her eyes on her Testament. Joy tried to whisper something to her once, but Gypsy turned away with a gesture of impatience and disgust. This thing Joy had done had shocked her so that she felt as if she could not bear the sight of her face or touch of her hand. Never since she was a very little child had Gypsy been known to say what was not true. All her words were like her eyes—clear as sunbeams.
At dinner Joy did all the talking. Mrs. Breynton asked Gypsy what was the matter, but Gypsy said "Nothing." If Joy did not choose to tell of the matter, she would not.
"What makes you so cross?" said Joy in the afternoon; "nobody can get a word out of you, and you don't look at me any more than if I weren't here."
"I don't see how you can ask such a question!" exploded Gypsy, with flashing eyes. "You know what you've done as well as I do."
"No, I don't," grumbled Joy; "just 'cause I didn't tell Miss Cardrew about that horrid old cat—I wish we'd let the ugly thing alone!—I don't see why you need treat me as if I'd been murdering somebody and were going to be hung for it. Besides, I said 'Over the left' to myself just after I'd told her, and I didn't want to lose my recess if you did."
Gypsy shut up her pink lips tight, and made no answer.
Joy went out to play at recess, and Gypsy stayed in alone and studied. Joy went home with the girls in a great frolic after school, and Gypsy stayed shut up in the lonely schoolroom for an hour, disgraced and miserable. But I have the very best of reasons for thinking that she wasn't nearly as miserable as Joy.
Just before supper the two girls were sitting drearily together in the dining-room, when the door-bell rang.
"It's Miss Cardrew!" said Joy, looking out of the window; "what do you suppose she wants?"
Gypsy looked up carelessly; she didn't very much care. She had told Miss Cardrew all she had to tell and received her punishment.
As for her mother, she would have gone to her with the whole story that noon, if it hadn't been for Joy's part in it.
"What is that she has in her hand, I wonder?" said Joy uneasily, peeping through a crack in the door as Miss Cardrew passed through the entry; "why, I declare! if it isn't a handkerchief, as true as you live—all—inky!"