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The MacMillan Company New York Boston Chicago San Francisco MacMillan & Co., Limited London Bombay Calcutta Melbourne The MacMillan Co. of Canada, Ltd. Toronto
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Illustrated by Alice Beard
New York The MacMillan Company 1914 All rights reserved Copyright, 1911, by the MacMillan Company. Set up and electrotyped. Published September, 1911. Reprinted June, 1913; August, 1914. Norwood Press J.S. Cushing Co.—Berwick & Smith Co. Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.
To ANNE WOOLSTON ROLLER and MARY ADAMS MITCHELL
Anne and her uncle were standing side by side on the deck of the steamship Caronia due to sail in an hour. Both had their eyes fixed on the dock below. Anne was looking at everything with eager interest. Her uncle, with as intent a gaze, seemed watching for something that he did not see. Presently he laid his hand on Anne's shoulder.
"I'm going to walk about, Nancy pet," he said. "There's your chair and your rug. If you get tired, go to your stateroom—where your bag is, you know."
"Yes, uncle." Anne threw him a kiss as he strode away.
She felt sure she could never tire of that busy, changing scene. It was like a moving-picture show, where one group chased away another. Swift-footed stewards and stewardesses moved busily to and fro. In twos and threes and larger groups, people were saying good-bys, some laughing, some tearful. Messenger boys were delivering letters and parcels. Oncoming passengers were jostling one another. Porters with armfuls of bags and bundles were getting in and out of the way. Trunks and boxes were being lowered into the hold. Anne tried to find her own small trunk. There it was. No! it was that—or was it the one below? Dear me! How many just-alike brown canvas trunks were there in the world? And how many people! These must be the people that on other days thronged the up-town streets. Broadway, she thought, must look lonesome to-day.
Every minute increased the crowd and the confusion.
There came a tall, raw-boned man with two heavy travelling bags, following a stout woman dressed in rustling purple-red silk. She spoke in a shrill voice: "Sure all my trunks are here? The little black one? And the box? And you got the extra steamer rug? Ed-ward! And I dis-tinct-ly told you—"
"The very best possible. Positively the most satisfactory arrangements ever made for a party our size." This a brisk little man with a smile-wrinkled face was saying to several women trotting behind him, each wearing blue or black serge, each lugging a suit-case.
A porter was wheeling an invalid chair toward the gang-plank. By its side walked a gentlewoman whom fanciful little Anne likened to a partridge. In fact, with her bright eyes and quick movements, she was not unlike a plump, brown-coated bird.
She fluttered toward the chair and said in a sweet, chirpy voice: "Comfortable, Emily? Lean a little forward and let me put this pillow under your shoulders. There, dear! That's better, I'm sure. Just a little while longer. How nicely you are standing the journey!"
A man in rough clothes stopped to exchange parting words with a youth in paint-splotched overalls.
—"Take it kind ye're here to see me off. I been a saying to mesilf four year I'd get back to see the folks in the ould counthry. And here I am at last wid me trunk in me hand—" holding out a bulging canvas bag. "Maybe so I'll bring more luggage back. There's a tidy girl I used to know—"
Beyond this man, Anne's roving eyes caught a glimpse of a familiar, gray-clad figure. She waved her hand eagerly but it attracted no greeting in return. Her uncle looked worried and nervous. Indeed, he started like a hunted wild creature, when a boy spoke suddenly to him. It was Roger, an office boy whom Anne had seen on the holiday occasions when she had met her uncle down-town. Roger held out a yellow envelope. Her uncle snatched it, and—just then there came between him and Anne a group of hurrying passengers—a stout man in a light gray coat and a pink shirt, a stout woman in a dark silk travelling coat, and two stout, short-skirted girls with good-natured faces, round as full moons. The younger girl was dragging a doll carriage carelessly with one hand. The doll had fallen forward so that her frizzled yellow head bounced up and down on her fluffy blue skirts.
"Oh! Poor dollie!" exclaimed Anne to herself. "I do wish uncle—" she caught a fleeting glimpse of him beside the workman with the canvas bag—"if just he hadn't hurried so. How could I forget Rosy Posy? I wish that fat girl would let me hold her baby doll. She's just dragging it along."
Presently the Stout family, as Anne called it to herself, came sauntering along the deck near her. She started forward, wishing to beg leave to set the fallen doll to rights, and then stopped short, too shy to speak to the strange girl.
A lean, sour-faced man in black bumped against her. "What an awkward child!" he said crossly.
Anne reddened and retreated to the railing. Feeling all at once very small and lonely, she searched the dock for her uncle but he was nowhere to be seen.
Then a bell rang. People hurried up the gang-plank. Last of all was a workman in blue overalls, with a soft hat jammed over his eyes. Orders were shouted. The gang-plank was drawn in. Then the Caronia wakened up, churned the brown water into foam, crept from the dock, picked her way among the river vessels, and sped on her ocean voyage.
It was eight o'clock and a crisp, clear morning. A stewardess was offering tea and toast to Mrs. Patterson, the frail little lady whom Anne had observed in a wheel-chair the afternoon before. Seen closely, her face had a pathetic prettiness. With the delicate color in her soft cheeks, she looked like a fading tea rose. Yet one knew at a glance that she and bird-like Miss Sarah Drayton were sisters. There was the same oval face—this hollowed and that plump; the same soft brown hair—this wavy and that sleek; the same wide-open hazel eyes—these soft and sombre, those bright as beads.
"If you drink a few spoonfuls, dear, you may feel more like eating," Miss Drayton's cheery voice was saying. "And do taste the toast. If it's as good as it looks, you'll devour the last morsel."
Mrs. Patterson sipped the tea and nibbled a piece of toast. "It lacks only one thing—an appetite," she announced, smiling at her sister as she pushed aside the tray. "Did you hear that? I thought I heard—is it a child crying?"
The stewardess started. "Gracious! I forgot her! A little girl's just across from you, ma'am—an orphant, I guess. She's travelling alone with her uncle. And he charged me express when he came on board to look after her. Of course I forgot. My hands are that full my head won't hold it. It's 'Vaughan here' and it's 'Vaughan there,' regular as clockwork. Why ain't he called on me again?"
She trotted out and tapped on the door of the stateroom opposite. There was a brief silence. Vaughan was about to knock again when the door opened slowly. There stood a slim little girl struggling for self-control, but her fright and misery were too much for her, and in spite of herself tears trickled down her cheeks.
"She's an ugly little lady," thought Vaughan to herself.
Vaughan was wrong. The child had a piquant face, full of charm, and her head and chin had the poise of a princess. She had fair straight hair, almond-shaped hazel eyes under pencilled brows, and a nose "tip-tilted like a flower." Peggy Callahan, whose acquaintance you will make later, said she guessed it was because Anne's nose was so cute and darling that her eyebrows and her eyes and her mouth all pointed at it. But now the little face was dismal and splotched with tears, the tawny hair was tousled, and the white frock and white hair-ribbons were crumpled.
"Were you knocking at my door?" Anne asked in a voice made steady with difficulty.
"Yes, miss. I thought you might be sick. We heard you crying."
"Oh!" The pale face reddened. "I didn't know any one could hear. The walls of these rooms aren't very thick, are they?"
"No, miss." In spite of herself, Vaughan smiled at the quaint dignity of the child. "Don't you want me to change your frock? Dear me! I ought not to have forgot you last night! And breakfast? You haven't had breakfast, have you?"
"No. Are you the—the—" Anne drew her brows together, in an earnest search for a forgotten word.
"I'm the stewardess, miss."
"Oh, yes!—the stewardess. Uncle said you'd take care of me. Where is he? I want Uncle Carey."
"Have you seen him this morning, miss?" asked Vaughan.
"No. Not since a long time ago. Yesterday just before the boat sailed. When Roger was handing him a piece of yellow paper. I waited on deck for him hours and hours. Where is he now?"
"In his stateroom, maybe—or the smoking-room—or on deck. Maybe he's waiting this minute for you to go to breakfast. We'll have you ready in a jiffy."
Anne's face brightened. "I can bathe myself—almost. You may scrub the corners of my ears, if you please. And I can't quite part my hair straight. Will you find Uncle Carey? and see if he is ready for me?"
"Oh, yes, miss. If you'll tell me his name."
"Uncle Carey? He's Mr. Mayo. Mr. Carey Mayo of New York."
"Yes, miss. I'll find him. Just you wait a minute. I forget your name, miss."
"Anne. Anne Lewis."
The good-natured stewardess bustled about in a vain effort to find Mr. Carey Mayo. He was not in his stateroom, nor in the saloon, nor in the smoking-room, nor on deck. In her perplexity, she addressed the captain whom she met at the dining-room door.
"Beg pardon, sir; I'm looking for a Mr. Mayo, sir, and I can't find him anywheres."
"Well?" Captain Wards was gnawing the ends of his mustache.
"It's for his niece, sir, a little girl. She ain't seen him since yesterday, sir. Been crying till she's 'most sick."
"My word!" exclaimed Captain Wards. "I had forgotten there was a child. She's not the only one that wants him. I've had a wireless from New York—the chief of police," the captain explained to a gentleman at his elbow. "This Mayo is one of the bunch down in that Stuyvesant Trust Company. They've been examining the books, but his tracks were so cleverly covered that he was not even suspected at first. Yesterday they found out. But their bird had flown. He's on our register all right,—self and niece,—but we can't find him anywhere else."
They looked again and again in the tidy, empty little stateroom, as if it must give some sign, some clew to the missing man. There were his travelling bags strapped and piled where the porter had dumped them. The steward who had shown Mr. Mayo his stateroom remembered that he had come on board early, more than an hour before sailing time. Oh, yes, the man had taken good notice of Mr. Mayo. Could tell just how he looked. Slender youngish gentleman. Good clothes, light gray, well put on. Clean shaven. Face not round, not long. Blue eyes—or gray—perhaps brown. Darkish hair—it might be some gray. Nothing remarkable about his nose. Nor his complexion—not fair—not dark. Anyway, the steward would know him easy, and was sure he wasn't aboard.
A deck steward said he had looked for Mr. Mayo not long before the vessel sailed. A boy had brought a telegram for him. But a first-cabin lady had called the steward to move her chair.
The chap said he was Mr. Mayo's office boy and could find him if he were on the Caronia.
No one had seen Mr. Mayo after the boy brought this telegram. Evidently, some one had warned him that his guilt was discovered and he had hurried away to avoid arrest. Where was he now? And what was to become of his little niece?
During the search for her uncle, Anne awaited the stewardess's return with growing impatience and hunger. In that keen salt air it was no light matter to have gone dinnerless to bed and to be waiting at nine o'clock for breakfast. At last she heard approaching steps. She flung her door open, expecting to see her uncle or at least the stewardess. Instead, she stood face to face with a strange boy, a jolly, freckle-faced youngster of about thirteen.
"Good-morning," he said cheerily. Then he beat a tattoo on the opposite door.
"Mother! Aunt Sarah! Aunt Sarah! Mother!" he called. "Must I wait and go to breakfast with you? I am starving. Aren't you ready? Please!"
Anne was still standing embarrassed in her doorway when the opposite door opened and facing her stood the bird-like lady whom she had seen the afternoon before. Miss Drayton kissed her nephew good-morning, straightened his necktie, and smoothed down a rebellious lock of curly dark hair. She smiled at the sober little girl across the passage as she announced to the impatient youngster that she was quite ready for breakfast and would go with him as soon as he had bade his mamma good-morning. As he disappeared in the stateroom, the stewardess came back, looking worried.
"I—I—can't find your uncle, miss," she said.
Anne's eyes filled with tears. She swallowed a sob and steadied her voice to say: "He—must have forgotten—'bout me. I—don't have breakfast with him 'cept Sundays."
"The captain said I'd better show you the way to the dining-room, miss. A waiter will look after you."
The shy child shrank back. "I saw the dining-room yesterday," she said. "There—there are such long tables and so many strange people. I—I don't think I want any breakfast. Couldn't you bring me a mug of milk and one piece of bread?"
Miss Drayton came forward with a cordial smile. "Come to breakfast with me, dear. My sister is not well enough to leave her stateroom this morning, so there will be a vacant seat beside me. I am Miss Drayton and this is my nephew, Patrick Patterson, who has such an appetite that it will make you hungry just to see him eat. After breakfast we'll find your uncle and scold him about forgetting you. Or perhaps he didn't forget. He may have wanted you to have a morning nap to put roses in those pale cheeks. Will you come with me?"
"If you would just take charge of her, ma'am," exclaimed the stewardess.
Anne's sober face had brightened while Miss Drayton was speaking. Indeed, smiles came naturally in the presence of that cheery little lady. With a murmured "Thank you," the child slipped her hand in Miss Drayton's and together they entered the dining-room.
While breakfast was being served, Pat Patterson gave and obtained a good deal of information. He told Anne that he was from Washington, the finest city in the world. He learned that she called Virginia home, though she lived now in New York. Pat was going to spend a year in France with his mother and Aunt Sarah. Uncle Carey, with whom Anne was travelling, had told her nothing of his plans except that he and she were going "abroad" and were to "have a grand time" on "the Continent." Pat's father was to come over later for a few weeks; he was down south now, helping build the "big ditch"—the Panama Canal. "Where is your father?" he asked Anne.
"Oh!" with awkward sympathy.
"Long time ago, when I was little."
"Do you remember him?"
"If I shut my eyes tight. It's like he was walking to meet me, out of the big picture."
"And your mother—" Pat hesitated.
"I remember her real well. I was seven then. That was over a year ago. Sometimes it seems such a little while since we were at home—and then it seems a long, long, long time."
"You've been living with your uncle since?" asked Miss Drayton, gently.
"Yes. Uncle Carey. Where is he? I do want Uncle Carey so bad." The child's voice trembled.
"Don't worry, dear. We'll find him," said Miss Drayton, as they left the dining-room.
The captain, who had kept his eyes on the little party, anticipated Miss Drayton's questioning. Drawing her aside, he explained the situation. "The scoundrel is probably safe in Canada by this time," he ended. "He'll take good care to lay low. This child's other relatives will have to be hunted up and informed. I'll send a wireless to New York. The stewardess will take care of the little girl."
"Oh, as to that," Miss Drayton answered, "it will be only a pleasure to me. She's a dear, quaint little thing."
"That's good of you," said Captain Wards, heartily. "I was about to ask you—you're so kind and have made friends with her, you see—to tell her that her uncle isn't here."
"Oh!"—Miss Drayton shrank from that bearing of bad tidings. "How can I?"
The captain looked uncomfortable. "It is a good deal to ask," he admitted. "I suppose I—or the stewardess—"
"But no. Poor little one!" Miss Drayton took herself in hand as she thought of the shy, lonely child. "She must be told. And, as you say, I've made friends with her, so it may come less hard from me. Leave it to me, then, captain." And she went slowly back to Anne whose face clouded at seeing her new friend alone.
"I thought Uncle Carey would come back with you," she said. "Please—where is he?"
"Anne, when was the last time that you saw Uncle Carey?" inquired Miss Drayton.
"A little while before the steamer left New York," answered Anne. "He said he was going to walk around. And he was down there on the—the platform below."
"The dock? On shore, you mean, and not on the steamer?"
"Yes, on the dock; that's it. And Roger—Roger that stays in Uncle Carey's office—gave him a letter—a yellow envelope. Then some people got in the way. And I haven't seen him any more."
"Let's you and I sit down in this quiet corner, Anne," said Miss Drayton, "and I'll tell you what I think. That yellow letter was a telegram. It was about business, and it made your uncle go away in a hurry. Such a great hurry that he didn't have time to see you and tell you he was going."
"Didn't he come back? Isn't he on the steamer?" Anne asked anxiously.
Miss Drayton shook her head. "I think not, dear. They've looked everywhere."
Tears were trickling down the child's pale cheeks. "And he left me—all by myself?"
"No, dear; no, little one." Miss Drayton drew the little figure into her lap. "He left you with good friends all around you. We'll take such care of you—Captain Wards, that kind stewardess, and I. Isn't it nice that you and I are next-door neighbors? Bless your dear heart! Of course it's a disappointment. You miss your uncle. Snuggle right down in my arms and have your cry out."
Anne winked back her tears. "It hurts—to cry," she said rather unsteadily. "But you see it's—it's lonesome. I wish Rosy Posy was here."
"Is Rosy Posy one of your little friends at home?" asked Miss Drayton, wishing to divert Anne's thoughts.
"Yes, Miss Drayton. She's my best little friend. And so beautiful! Such lovely long yellow curls. She sleeps with me every night. And I tell her all my secrets. I've had her since I was a little girl."
"Oh! Rosy Posy's your doll, is she?" questioned Miss Drayton.
Anne nodded assent. "Uncle Carey gave her to me. I make some of her clothes. Louise makes the frilly ones. We were getting her school dresses ready. Uncle Carey said I really truly must go to school this year. Then yesterday he came home in such a hurry. Louise thought he was sick. He never comes home that time of day; and his face was pale and his eyes shiny. He said he had to go away on business and was going to take me with him. Louise packed in such a hurry. And I left my dear Rosy Posy." The child's lip quivered. "Uncle kept saying, 'We ought to be gone. We ought to be gone. Hurry up. Hurry up.' And we drove away real fast. Then we got out and got in another carriage. It was so hot, with all the curtains down! I was glad when we came on the boat. But I do miss Rosy Posy so bad—and Uncle Carey."
Miss Drayton spoke quickly in her cheeriest tone. "Aren't you glad that Louise is there to take good care of Rosy Posy? I expect she'll have a beautiful lot of frilly frocks when you get home. Some time I must tell you about my pet doll, Lady Ann, and her yellow silk frock."
"I'd like to hear it now," said Anne.
"And I'd like to tell you," smiled back Miss Drayton. "But I must leave Pat to play ring toss with you while I go to see about my sister. She isn't well and I want to persuade her to take a cup of broth."
Miss Drayton explained her prolonged absence by relating to her sister the story of their little fellow-voyager. Mrs. Patterson's languid air gave way to attention and interest. It was pitiful to think that so near them a deserted child had sobbed away the lonely hours of the long night. A faint smile came as the lady listened to the tale of Rosy Posy, Anne's "best little friend" with the "such lovely long yellow curls." Then her eyes grew misty again.
"Poor all-alone little one!" she exclaimed. "With no friend, not even a doll." Then at a sudden thought her eyes sparkled. "Sarah," she said, "I'll make her a doll. And it shall be a darling. You remember the baby dolls I used to make for church bazaars?"
"What beauties they were!" said her sister. "Like real babies, instead of just-alike dolls that come wholesale out of shops. I remember one I bought to send out West in a missionary box. You had given it the dearest crooked little smile. I wanted to keep it and cuddle it myself. But, Emily dear, it is too great an undertaking for you to make a doll now. You'll overtax your strength. And, besides, you've no materials. We'll buy a doll in Paris for this little girl."
"Paris! With all these lonesome days between!" objected Mrs. Patterson. "Indeed, it will not hurt me, Sarah. Why, I feel better already. And you'll help me. If you'll get out your work-basket, I'll rummage in this trunk for what I need."
A muslin skirt was selected as material for the doll's body and her underwear, and a dainty dressing-sacque was chosen to make her frock. Mrs. Patterson pencilled an outline on the cloth, then rubbed out, redrew, changed, and corrected the lines, with painstaking care. At last she threw back her head and looked at her work through narrowed eyelids.
"She is going to be a very satisfactory baby," she announced; "just plump enough to cuddle comfortably."
"Surely you will stop now, dear, and finish another time," urged Miss Drayton, after the pieces were cut out and sewed together with firm, short, even stitches. "You may not feel it, but I am sure you are tired—and how tired you will be when you do feel it!"
"Indeed, no, Sarah," said Mrs. Patterson. "This rests me. I've not thought about myself for an hour. Why did you mention the tiresome subject? That skirt must have another tuck, please. And it needs lace at the bottom. Just borrow some, dear, from any of my white things. Now I must have some sawdust."
The stewardess came to their help, and persuaded a steward to open a case of bottles and give her the sawdust in which they were packed. Mrs. Patterson received it with an exclamation of delight and held out a silver coin in return. But Vaughan put her hands behind her.
"Please'm," she said, "it ain't much. But I wanted to do something for that poor little orphant."
Mrs. Patterson smiled her thanks, then she pushed and shook and crammed the sawdust in place, taking a childlike eager interest in seeing the limp form grow shapely and firm. This done, she consented to take luncheon and a nap, after which Miss Drayton brought Anne to make her acquaintance. When Mrs. Patterson sent them out "for a whiff of fresh air," she thrust into her sister's hand a workbag with frilly white things to tuck and ruffle. Then she drew out her box of colors. Under her deft touches, now fast, now slow, the baby face grew life-like and lovable.
"She's to be a comfort baby for a troubled little mother," said Mrs. Patterson to herself. "She must be one of the happy-looking babies that one always smiles at."
And she was. Her mouth curved upward in a smile that brought out a dear little dimple in the left cheek, and her big blue eyes crinkled at the corners with a smile climbing upward from the lips. There were two shell-like little ears and some soft shadowy locks of hair, peeping out from under a lace-edged cap with strings tied under the chin.
When she was fitted out in the garments that Miss Drayton had fashioned, that lady exclaimed: "Why, Emily, Emily! You never painted a picture that was more beautiful. That darling smile! And the dimple!"
There was some debate as to when the doll should be presented and it was finally decided to give her as bed-time comfort. Promptly at eight o'clock, Mrs. Patterson insisted on undressing Anne, while Miss Drayton and Vaughan hovered outside the open door. Anne submitted rather unwillingly and took a long time to brush her teeth. Then she knelt down to say her prayers. After the
"Now I lay me down to sleep"
there followed silence. Indeed, she remained so long on her knees that Miss Drayton whispered to Mrs. Patterson a warning against standing and Vaughan moved to get a chair. The whisper brought Anne to her feet.
"I oughtn't kept you waiting," she said; and then she explained shamefacedly, "I wasn't saying my prayers for good. I was just saying them over and over for lonesome. It's—it's such a big night in here all by myself."
Mrs. Patterson gave her a good-night kiss and turned the covers back for her to snuggle in bed. And there—wonder of wonders!—there lay in the bed a whiterobed figure—a dear, beautiful, smiling baby doll. Anne looked at it for one breathless minute and then clasped it close.
"You precious! you lovely!" she exclaimed. "Is—is she my own baby?"
"Yes, she's yours," Mrs. Patterson assured her. "She came to take the place of Rosy Posy who had to stay at home. She hasn't 'long yellow curls' like Rosy Posy, but you see she's young yet—only a baby in long dresses. I think maybe her hair will grow."
Hugging the baby doll tight in one arm, Anne threw the other around Mrs. Patterson's neck, and kissed her again and again.
"You are so good. You are so good," she said over and over.
"What are you going to call your new baby?" asked Miss Drayton.
"I'd like to name her for you," Anne said, looking at Mrs. Patterson.
Mrs. Patterson smiled. "My name is Emily," she said.
"Then that's her name. Mrs. Emily Patterson. Only—" there was a thoughtful pause—"that does sound sorter 'dicalous for a baby in a long dress."
"Call her Emily Patterson," suggested the doll's namesake.
But Anne shook her head. "That wouldn't sound 'spectful," she objected; "and Patterson is your 'Mrs.' name." Then her face brightened. "Oh! Her name can be Mrs. Emily Patterson, and I'll call her a pet name. I don't like nicknames, but pet names are dear. She shall be what Aunt Charity used to call me—'Honey-Sweet.' I can sing it like she did:—
"'Honey, honey! Sweet, sweet, sweet! Honey, honey! Honey-Sweet!'"
As Anne crooned the words over and over, her voice sank drowsily. When Miss Drayton went a few minutes later to turn out the light, Anne was fast asleep, smiling in her dreams at Honey-Sweet who lay smiling on the pillow beside her.
The shipboard day passed, uneventful and pleasant. Anne had made for herself an explanation of her uncle's absence, which no one had heart to correct.
"He's nawful busy, Uncle Carey is," she explained. "I reckon he stayed there talking to Roger—he always has so many things to tell Roger to do!—and the boat was gone before he knew it. So he just had to wait. I 'spect he'll come on one of those other boats. Wouldn't it be funny if one of them would come splashing along right now and Uncle Carey would wave his hand at me and say 'Hello, Nancy pet! Here I am.'"
Mrs. Patterson put a caressing hand on the child's head but did not speak. Lying back in her steamer chair, she looked across the gray-green water and thought and wondered. Presently Anne crumpled her steamer rug on the deck and nestled down in it. She chirped to Honey-Sweet and wiggled her finger at the smiling red mouth, playing she was a mother-bird bringing a fat worm to her nestling. Hour after hour, while Miss Drayton and Mrs. Patterson read or talked together, Anne would sit beside them, sometimes chattering and 'making believe' with Honey-Sweet, sometimes prattling to her grown-up friends about her old home in Virginia or her life in New York.
Mrs. Patterson petted her and made dainty frocks for Honey-Sweet. Brisk, practical Miss Drayton gave Anne spelling lessons and set her problems in number work, protesting that she was too large a girl to spend all her time playing and looking at fairy-tale books, blue, red, and green. Why, she did not even read them except by bits and snatches, but made up tales to fit the pictures, and told over and over the stories that were read to her.
She was always ready to drop a book for a romp with Pat Patterson. Bounding about the deck together, they looked like a greyhound and a St. Bernard—she slim and alert, he with his rough hair tumbling over his merry, freckled face. Often their games ended by her stalking away with Honey-Sweet, in offended dignity. Pat was such a tease!
"Isn't that a pretty doll?" he said one day, with suspicious earnestness. "I say, lend her to me awhile, Anne."
"Oh, you Anne! You wouldn't be selfish, would you?" wheedled Pat. "Didn't I lend you my bow and arrows yesterday? And I always give you half my macaroons. Just hand her over for a minute. Let me see the color of her eyes."
"You know they are blue—like the story-book princess,—'her eyes were as bright and as blue as the sky above the summer sea,'" quoted Anne, reluctantly letting him take her pet.
"Blue they are. D'ye know, Anne, I think she'd make a capital William Tell's child. Don't believe she'd be afraid for me to shoot the apple off her head. Let's see."
Before Anne could interfere, Pat had suspended Honey-Sweet to a hook out of her reach. A ball of string was fixed on her head by means of a wad of chewing-gum.
Then Pat stepped back, drew his bow, and made a great show of aiming his arrow at the pretended apple.
"How brave she is! She does not wink an eyelid," he said solemnly. "To think! to think! If me aim be not true, I'll ki-ill me child," he exclaimed, shaking with mock fear and dismay.
"Oh, Pat, Pat, don't!" implored Anne, grasping his arm.
"Away, away!" said Pat, drawing back. "Me heart failed but for a moment. William Tell is himself once more. Behold!" And he took aim again.
"Stop him! stop him! Don't let him shoot Honey-Sweet!" cried Anne.
Miss Drayton looked up quickly from her book.
"Patrick Henry Patterson!" she said severely. "Shame on you! Stop teasing that child. Give her the doll this instant—this instant, sir!"
Anne hugged her regained pet and walked away, carefully avoiding Pat's mischievous eyes. A few minutes later, a bag of macaroons slipped over her shoulder, and a merry voice announced: "William Tell gives this to his br-rave, beloved child." And before Anne could speak, Pat was gone to join some other boys in a game of ring toss.
With a forgiving smile at him, she sauntered on and stood gazing over the railing at the motley crowd in the steerage. She was looking for the Irish mother with three curly-haired children. She wanted to share her macaroons with them. They always looked hungry, and it was really as much fun to throw them bonbons as to feed the greedy little squirrels in Central Park. The children were not in sight, however, and Anne loitered, leaning on the rail. She felt rather than saw some one watching her. Looking down, she met for a fleeting second the dark, intent eyes of a steerage passenger, a man in a coarse shirt and blue overalls. His face—as much of it as she could see under the broad soft hat pulled over the eyes—was covered with a dark scrubby beard.
On a sudden impulse, Anne leaned forward and called in her clear little voice: "Here, you man in blue overalls! catch!"
The man started violently, and the macaroons rolled on the deck. He leaned forward and seemed intent on picking up the fragments, but his hand shook so that it was slow work. "Thank you, little lady," he said after awhile, in a gruff voice. "I hope you have good friends."
"Indeed, I have. Have you?"
Perhaps he did not hear her. At all events, he moved quickly away, without raising his head. Then Pat came, calling Anne. He wanted her to hear what a man was telling about the headlands that were beginning to take form on the horizon. Their voyage was almost over. In a few hours, they would reach Liverpool.
The dock was entered at last and with as little delay as possible Mrs. Patterson's party drove to the Roxton Hotel. No one noticed that the carriage was followed closely by a shabby cab. Unseen, its passenger—a man in blue overalls with a soft hat pulled over his eyes—watched the little party enter the hotel. Then he alighted, paid his fare, shouldered his canvas travelling bag, and disappeared down a dingy street.
"What news for Anne?" wondered Miss Drayton as they drove to their hotel. Captain Wards had sent a wireless message to the New York chief of police, asking that Anne's relatives be informed of her whereabouts and that tidings of them be sent to Miss Drayton at the Roxton Hotel in Liverpool. Awaiting her, there were two cablegrams. Both were from the New York chief of police. One was in these words: "No trace Mayo. Will find and notify child's other relatives." The other cablegram read thus: "No trace any relatives of child. Letter will follow."
Miss Drayton handed the cablegrams to her sister resting in an easy chair before the sea-coal fire which chased away the gloom of the foggy morning.
Mrs. Patterson read the messages thoughtfully. "It is her disappointment that grieves me," she said, looking at Anne who was sitting in a corner teaching Honey-Sweet a spelling lesson. "For myself, I should like to keep her always. A dear little daughter! I've always wanted one."
"Ye-es," said Miss Drayton, doubtfully, "but—we know so little about this child. Her uncle a felon! Who knows what bad blood is in her veins?"
"That child?" Mrs. Patterson laughed, glancing toward Anne. "Why, she carries her letters of credit in her face. Look at that earnest mouth, those honest eyes. I'd trust them anywhere."
"Oh, well!" Miss Drayton put the subject aside. "Her people will turn up and claim her. There are lots of them, it seems. She's always talking about Aunt This and Uncle That and Cousin the Other. Why, Emily! You ought to have had your tonic a quarter of an hour ago. And a nap."
That evening the subject of Anne's relatives was brought forward at the dinner table by the child herself. Seeing her eyes rove shyly around the room, Miss Drayton said, "You look as if you were watching for somebody or something. What is it, Anne?"
"I was thinking," replied the child, "maybe—there are so many people in this big room—maybe Uncle Carey is here and can't find me."
The truth—as much of it as was necessary for her to know—might as well be told now and here. "Anne," said Miss Drayton, "we telegraphed back. There is no news of your uncle. He—he missed the boat. We don't know where to send a message to him. Try to be content to stay with us until some of your home people claim you."
"I don't want to be selfish, Anne dear, but I'm not longing for any one to claim you," said Mrs. Patterson, with a caressing smile. "I didn't know how dreadfully I needed a little daughter till you came. I don't want to give you up. How nice it will be some day to have a big daughter to take care of me!"
Anne looked up with shining, affectionate eyes. "I'm most big now, you know, Mrs. Patterson," she said. "I'm eight years old and going on nine. I love to be your girl, but—" her lip quivered—"I do wish I knew where Uncle Carey was."
"Suppose, Anne, you write to some of your relatives," suggested Miss Drayton,—"any whose addresses you know. The Aunt Charity you speak of so often—where does she live? Is she your mother's sister or your father's?"
Anne's laughter shook the teardrops from her lashes. "Why, Miss Drayton," she replied, "I thought you knew. Aunt Charity is black. She was my nurse. She and Uncle Richard—he's her husband—lived with us from the time I can remember."
"Oh!" said Miss Drayton. "But cousins? Those people you talk about and call cousin—Marjorie and Patsy and Dorcas and Dick and Cornelius and the others—they are real cousins, aren't they? Do you know how near? First? or second? or third?"
Anne looked perplexed. "There are a lot of cousins. Yes, Miss Drayton, they're real. I don't know what kin any of them are. I call them 'cousin' because mother did. They lived near home—five or six or ten miles away. And they'd spend a day or week with us. And we'd go to see them."
"Oh! Virginia cousins!" Mrs. Patterson laughed. "Some time you and I'll go to see them and take Honey-Sweet, won't we?—Sarah, Sarah! Let's not make any more investigations. Wait, like our old friend, Mr. Micawber, for 'something to turn up.'"
The mails were watched with interest for the promised letter from the New York police, but day after day passed without bringing it. The American party lingered at the Liverpool hotel. Mrs. Patterson pleaded each day that she needed to rest a little longer before making the journey to Nantes. The doctor, called in to prescribe for her, looked grave and suggested that she consult a certain famous physician in Paris.
Miss Drayton was so disturbed about her sister's illness that she paid little attention to Pat and Anne. The children, left to their own devices, wandered about the streets in a way that would have been thought shocking had any one thought about the matter.
Once when Anne was walking with Pat and again when she was driving with Mrs. Patterson and Miss Drayton, she caught a glimpse of the steerage passenger who had spoken to her on the dock, and felt that he was watching her. And then he spoke to her. It was one morning when she had gone out alone to buy some picture postcards. She stopped to look in a shop window, and when she turned, there at her elbow stood the man in blue overalls.
"Wait a minute," he said, in a strained, muffled voice, as she started to walk on. "Do you want news of your uncle?"
"Of course I do," she answered in surprise.
"I can give you news. Walk this afternoon to the bridge beyond the shop where you buy lollipops. Tell no one what I say. No one. If you do, some great harm will come to your uncle. Will you come?—alone?"
"If I can."
"If you do not, you may never hear of your uncle again. Never."
"Who are you? Do you know Uncle Carey? Tell me—"
"Not now. Not here," he said hurriedly, glancing at the people coming and going on the street. "This afternoon. Will you come?"
"Tell no one. Promise."
He hurried away, and Anne stood quite still, with a strange, bewildering fear at her heart. Then she turned—picture postcards had lost all their charm—and went back to the hotel.
That afternoon Pat went sight-seeing with a new-made friend, Darrell Connor, and his father. While Anne was hesitating to ask permission to go out, fearing to be refused or questioned, the matter was settled in the simplest possible way. Miss Drayton coaxed her sister to lie down on the couch in the pleasant sitting-room.
"I will draw the curtains," she said; "perhaps if it be dark and quiet, you will fall asleep. Anne, you may sit in your bedroom or take your doll for a walk."
"Honey-Sweet and her little mother look as if they needed fresh air," said Mrs. Patterson, smiling faintly.
Excited and vaguely troubled, but walking straight with head erect, Anne went to the bridge. Against the railing leaned a familiar figure in blue overalls and slouch hat. No one else was near. The man turned.
"Nancy pet—" it was her uncle's name for her and it was her uncle's voice that spoke. "Those people are good to you? They will take care of you till—while you are alone?"
"Uncle Carey, Uncle Carey! It is you!"
"Yes, it is I. Don't come nearer, dear. Stand by the railing with your doll. Don't speak till those people pass. Now listen, little Anne. I am hiding from men who want to put me in prison. I can't tell you about it. Some day you will know. Oh, Lord! some day you must know all. Think of Uncle Carey sometimes, dear, and keep on loving him. Remember how we used to sit in the sleepy-hollow chair and tell fairy tales. My Nancy pet! Poor little orphan baby! It is hard to leave you alone—dependent—among strangers. Here! This little package is for you. Lucky I forgot and left it in my pocket after I took it out of the safety deposit box. Everything else is gone. What will you do with it? No, no! you can't carry it in your hand. Here!" He tore a strip from his handkerchief, knotted it around the little package, and tied it under her doll's skirts. "Be careful of it, dear. They're not of great value, but they were your mother's."
While he was speaking, Anne stood dazed. The world seemed upside down. Could that rough-bearded man in shabby clothes be handsome, fastidious Uncle Carey? Ah! there was the dear loving voice, there were the dear loving eyes. She threw her arms around her uncle and he pressed her close while she kissed him again and again.
"Uncle Carey," she cried, "I've wanted you so bad. But why do you look so—so different? What makes all that hair on your face? It—it isn't pretty and it scratches my cheek." She rubbed the reddened skin with her forefinger.
"You must not tell any one that you have seen me. Not any one. Do you understand?" her uncle spoke hurriedly. "If people find out that I am here, they will hunt me up and put me in prison."
"Not Mrs. Patterson, uncle, nor Pat, nor Miss Drayton. They are too good. Mayn't I tell them?"
"Uncle! they wouldn't hurt you. And it's such hard work to keep a secret."
"Ah, poor child! And it may be a long, long time," considered Mr. Mayo. Then he asked suddenly, "Where are you going from here? Do you know these ladies' plans?"
"To spend the winter in France. The name of the place is like mine. Nan—Nan—No! not Nancy."
"Yes, uncle. Nantes. That's it."
"When you get to Nantes, then, you may tell your friends about seeing me."
Through the fog a policeman loomed in view, coming leisurely down the quiet street.
"I must go," Mr. Mayo said hurriedly. "Good-by, Nancy pet."
Anne caught his hand in both of hers. "Oh, uncle!" she cried. "Don't go. I want you. I want to go with you."
"Dear little one! What a fool I was! oh, what a fool! Good-by!"
He kissed her and was gone. Anne stood motionless, silent, looking after him as he hurried down a by-street.
"Did 'ee beg off you, my little leddy?" asked the friendly policeman, as he came up. "'As that dirty fellow frighted you?"
"Oh, no. He didn't beg. I am not frightened," Anne answered quickly. "I'm going home now."
"If so be folks worrit you on the streets, a'lays holler for a cop," said the guardian of the peace. "We'll take care of you. That's what we're here for. And I've chillen of me own and a'lays look out partic'lar for the little ones."
"Thank you, thank you! Good-by."
Anne's disturbed looks would have excited comment, had her friends not been occupied with troubles of their own. The doctor in his visit that afternoon had urged Miss Drayton to go to Paris as soon as possible and put Mrs. Patterson under charge of the physician whom he had before recommended.
"If any one can help her, he is the man," said Dr. Foster.
"'If!' Is it so serious?" faltered Miss Drayton.
The doctor hesitated. Then he said: "We must hope for the best. Your sister may get on nicely."
"Is her throat worse?" asked Miss Drayton.
"I—er-r—I prefer to have you consult Dr. La Farge," replied the doctor.
It was resolved, then, to go to Paris at once. While Miss Drayton was packing, the American mail came in, and brought a letter from New York police headquarters. The officer, whose interest in the case had led him to push his inquiries as far as possible, wrote at length. In the investigation of the Stuyvesant Trust Company, accused of violating the Anti-Trust Law, certain business papers had been secured which proved that Mr. Carey Mayo had taken trust funds, speculated in cotton futures, lost heavily during a panic, and covered his misuse of the company's funds by falsifying his accounts. Evidently it had been a mere speculation not a deliberate theft. Mr. Mayo had been refunding larger or smaller sums month by month for a year. Had it not been for this investigation of the company's affairs, he might and probably would have replaced the whole amount and his guilt would never have been known. When the investigation began, he made hasty plans to escape to Europe with his niece. Being informed that he was about to be arrested, he left the child on the steamer, as we know, and escaped—to Canada, the police thought.
A number of his acquaintances in the city had been interviewed. They had known Mr. Mayo for years, but only in the way of business and knew nothing of his family; one or two had heard him mention a sister and a niece.
The servants in his Cathedral Parkway apartment had been found and questioned. The cook had been with Mr. Mayo two years. He was "an easy-going gentleman, good pay, and no interferer." The year before, she said, he had gone to Virginia, summoned by a telegram announcing his sister's death, and had brought back his orphan niece, Anne Lewis. The cook had never seen nor heard of any other member of his family.
The police officer suggested that the child should be put in an institution for the care of destitute children. He gave information as to the steps necessary in such a case and professed his willingness to give any further help desired.
Miss Drayton and Mrs. Patterson read and reread the letter.
"Well?" asked Miss Drayton.
"We'll not send her to an asylum, you know," said Mrs. Patterson, decidedly. "Unless her own people claim her, we will keep her. Anne shall be my little daughter."
So it was settled, and the family party went on to Paris. The great physician made a careful examination of Mrs. Patterson. He, too, was unwilling to express an opinion about her condition. He would prefer, he said, to have madame under treatment awhile at his private hospital, a quiet place in the suburbs.
It was promptly decided to accept Dr. La Farge's suggestion. Mrs. Patterson's health being the object of their journey, there was no reason why they should winter in Nantes if in Paris she could secure more helpful treatment. It was resolved, therefore, to send Pat and Anne to boarding-schools while Mrs. Patterson and Miss Drayton put themselves under the doctor's orders.
"Oh! Aren't we going to Nantes?" asked Anne, when Miss Drayton informed her of the changed plans.
"No, Anne. I've just told you, we are all going to stay in or near Paris."
"Not going there at all? ever?" the child persisted.
"I don't know; probably not." Miss Drayton was worried and this made her tone crisp and impatient.
"O—oh!" wailed Anne, her self-control giving way before the sudden disappointment. "I want to go. I want to go to Nantes."
Miss Drayton was amazed. What ailed the child? Why this passionate desire to go to Nantes, a city of which, as she owned, she had never even heard until she was told that it was their destination?
"Anne, Anne! For pity's sake!" said Miss Drayton. "Why are you so anxious to go to Nantes?"
But Anne only rocked back and forth, sobbing, "I want to go to Nantes! I want to go to Nantes!"
She had been counting the days till, according to her uncle's permission, she might tell her friends about seeing him. She felt sure they would explain the puzzling change in his appearance, and tell when she would see him again. Now, after all, they were not going to Nantes, and she must keep her secret alone, forever and forever. It was too dreadful!
Pat was sent to a boarding-school near Paris, and it was decided that Anne should attend St. Cecilia's School, a select institution where American girls continued their studies in English and had lessons in French and music. Mrs. Patterson herself went to enter Anne as a pupil.
St. Cecilia's School faced a little park on a quiet street. It was a red-brick building, with balconies set in recesses between white stuccoed pillars. Everything about the place was formal and dignified. The lower floor was occupied by parlors, offices, class-rooms, and dining-rooms. Through wide-open doors at the end of the hall, Mrs. Patterson and Anne had a pleasant view of the long piazza at the back of the house. It opened on a grass-plot edged with flowerbeds. The neat gravel paths ended in short flights of steps, under rose-covered archways, that led down a terrace to the playground.
While they waited in a handsome, formal parlor for Mademoiselle Duroc, Mrs. Patterson chatted pleasantly to Anne about the swings and arbors and pear-trees on the playground. But Anne sat silent, with a lump in her throat, and clutched her friend's hand tighter and tighter, while she watched for the principal's entrance as she would have watched for an ogre in whose den she had been trapped. At last—it was really in a very few minutes—Mademoiselle Duroc entered the room. While she talked with Mrs. Patterson, Anne regarded her with awe.
Like her surroundings, Mademoiselle was formal and handsome. She was of middle height, but she carried herself with such stately grace that she impressed Anne as being very tall. Her glossy hair, of which no one ever saw a strand out of place, was arranged in elaborate waves and coils supported by a tall shell comb. She wore a very long, very stiff black silk gown trimmed with beads and lace, and she had a purple silk shawl around her shoulders. When she moved, her skirts rustled in a stately fashion and sent forth a stately odor of sandalwood.
"I shall have to do whatever she tells me," Anne knew at once. "If she tells me to walk in the fire, I shall have to go."
That was the impression Mademoiselle Duroc always made on people. She was a born general, and if she had been a man and had lived a century earlier, she would have been one of the great Napoleon's marshals and led a freezing, starving little band to impossible victories;—so Miss Morris said. Miss Morris, a stout, middle-aged, New England lady, was Mademoiselle's assistant. She had a kind heart, but the girls thought her cross because she was always making a worried effort to secure the order and attention which came of themselves as soon as Mademoiselle entered the study-hall. When Miss Morris scolded—which was often, as Anne was to learn—her face grew very red and her voice very rough, and she flapped her arms in a peculiar way. Anne did not like to be scolded but she liked to watch Miss Morris when she was angry; it was strange and interesting to see a person look so much like a turkey-cock.
Anne usually watched people very closely with her bright, soft, hazel eyes. Now, however, she was too frightened and miserable to raise her eyes above Mademoiselle's satin slippers, even to look at Miss Morris who came in to take charge of the new pupil.
"This is my borrowed daughter, for the winter at least," Mrs. Patterson explained, with her arm around the shy, excited child. "You will find her studious and you will find her obedient. I shall expect you to give her back to me next summer a very learned young lady."
Anne clung to Mrs. Patterson's hand like a drowning man to a raft. "Don't leave me," she whispered imploringly. "Please take me back with you. Oh, please!"
"Dearie, I wish I could," her friend answered with a caress. "But I can't. My little girl must stay here now—and study—and be good."
Anne watched the carriage start off, feeling that it must, must, must turn and come back to get her. But it rolled out of sight under the archway of trees. Then Miss Morris took her by the hand and led her into a small office. She read a long list of things that Anne must do and a still longer list of things that she must not do. She called on Anne to read in two or three little books, and questioned her about arithmetic and history and geography.
Finally she escorted the new pupil to the dormitory. It was a large, spotless apartment which Anne was to share with five other American girls, some older, some younger, than herself. Each girl had her own little white bed, her own little white dressing-table and washstand, her own little white box with chintz-cushioned top, in which to keep her private belongings. Miss Morris called Louise, one of the maids, to unpack Anne's trunk. As the articles were put in her box and drawers and on her shelves and hooks in the dormitory closet, Miss Morris said: "Now remember where your shoes are, and keep them there."
"Do not forget to put your aprons always in that corner of the third shelf."
"The left-hand drawer of the dressing-table is for your handkerchiefs, and the right-hand drawer is for your hair-ribbons."
Anne sat by, with Honey-Sweet clasped in her arms, and meekly answered, "Yes, Miss Morris," or "No, Miss Morris," as the occasion demanded.
It was luncheon-time when the unpacking was finished and in the dining-room Anne met her five room-mates. Fat, freckle-faced, stupid Amelia Harvey and clever, idle Madge Allison were cousins in charge of Madge's older sister who was studying art. Annette and Bebe Girard were pretty, dark-eyed chatterboxes whose father was consul at Havre. Fair, chubby, even-tempered Elsie Hart was the daughter of a clergyman who was travelling in the Holy Land.
Anne, who had never in her life had to do a certain thing at a certain time, did not find it easy to adjust her habits to the routine of school life. Her morning toilette was especially troublesome. She tumbled out of bed a little behind time at Louise's summons and during each operation of the dressing period she fell a little farther behind. In vain Louise reproved and hurried her.
One Wednesday morning, Anne was especially provoking. Not that she meant to be. It just happened so. She dawdled over her bath, and when Louise tried to hurry her, she stopped quite still to argue the matter.
"You want me to be clean, don't you?" she asked.
"But yes! Not to the scrub-off of the skin," protested Louise.
Anne continued to rub her ears. "It's a—a 'sponsibility to wash my own corners. And Mrs. Patterson says it's a disgrace to be dingy," she explained.
Then she sat down on the floor and proceeded to put on her stockings,—that is, she meant to put them on, but she became so absorbed in trying to spell her name backwards that she forgot about the stockings. Louise caught her by the shoulder.
"You will dress instant, Mees Anne," she threatened, "or I report you to Mademoiselle."
Anne had heard that threat too often to be disturbed by it. She went to get a fresh apron, then, seeing that Honey-Sweet's frock was soiled, she selected a fresh frock for her doll whom she reproved severely for being so untidy and so slow about dressing. Louise, who was wrestling with Annette's curls, turned and saw Anne devoting herself to her doll's toilette when she ought to have been finishing her own. The much-tried maid snatched away Honey-Sweet and shook her heartily.
"Don't, don't, Louise!" cried Anne. "Don't you hurt Honey-Sweet. I'll dress. I'll hurry. I'll be quick."
Louise looked keenly at Anne's flushed, earnest face. Then she gave poor Honey-Sweet a smart little smack. "The wicked bebe!" she exclaimed. "She does not permit that you make the toilette. If you are not dressed in six minutes exact, I give the spank once more to the bad bebe!"
Anne's fingers hurried as she had not known they could hurry and in exactly four minutes she presented herself for Louise to tie her hair-ribbons, while she cuddled and pitied her rescued baby.
"Oh, ho! Mees Anne," said Louise, her eyes sparkling with satisfaction at having found a way to enforce promptness. "Each morning that is tardy, I give the spank to the wicked bebe that makes you to delay."
To save Honey-Sweet from punishment, Anne sprang up the next morning at Louise's first call and dressed at once. To her surprise, she found that it was really pleasanter than dawdling over her toilette, and Louise good-naturedly gave her permission to take Honey-Sweet for a before-breakfast stroll to the arbor in the playground.
From the first, Anne got on well in her classes. She did not like to study lessons in books—she was always getting tangled up in long sentences or stumbling over big words—but where she once, in spite of the printed page, understood a subject, she made it her own. The scenes and events described in her history, geography, and reading lessons were vivid to her mind's eye and she pictured them vividly to others. Her classmates soon found that they could learn a lesson in half the time and with half the effort by studying it with Anne.
"I speak to study the hist'ry with Anne to-day," Amelia would say.
"Anne, if you'll go over the g'og'aphy lesson with me, I'll work your 'zamples for you," Madge would promise.
The girls found, too, that Anne could tell the most delightful stories. And she was always inventing charming new ways to play. Instead of keeping her paper dolls limp and loose, like the other girls, she pasted them on stiff cardboard, pulled them about with threads, and had a moving-picture show to illustrate a story that she made up. The admission price was five pins, those not too badly bent being accepted.
Through all these days and weeks, Anne and Honey-Sweet were bearing about the secret which her uncle had intrusted to her. Sometimes it perplexed her and weighed heavy on her mind. Sometimes she forgot all about it for days together. Then with a start there would come, like a black figure stalking between her and the sunlight, the thought of her uncle's strange appearance, of the danger which he said was hanging over him if she told that she had seen him—told anywhere except at Nantes.
One night she dreamed that she told the secret. And the words were hardly off her lips before she saw her uncle pursued by a crowd, ragged, loud-voiced, wild-eyed people, like those she and Annette had seen that day when, falling behind their schoolmates out walking, they had taken a hurried short-cut and had run frightened along a dingy street. Anne dreamed that she saw her uncle running—running—running—almost spent—mouth open—panting breath. A moment more and the outstretched hands would catch him. They were not hands, they were sharp, cruel claws about to seize him. She wakened herself with a scream.
"No, no, no!" she sobbed, "I will never, never, never tell!"
The little package was still hidden where Mr. Mayo had put it. Once or twice when she was alone Anne had opened it, but she always felt as if some one was looking at her and about to question her, and she put it hastily away. There were three rings,—one a plain heavy band of yellow gold, one set with a blazing red stone, one with a cluster of sparkling white gems. There was a bead purse with a gold piece and a few silver coins in it. And there was a gold locket containing the portrait of a high-bred old gentleman with soft, dark hair falling in curls about his shoulders.
One gray morning early in November, Anne was wakened by an uncomfortable lump against her side. Sleepily she put her hand down to find out what it was. Her fingers closed on something hard, and opening them she saw rings, locket, and purse. The string around the packet had worn in two, the packet had come open and spilled its contents. Anne started up in bed, wide awake now, and glanced fearfully around. Honey-Sweet, snuggled down under the pillow, lay peacefully unaware that she had lost the treasure intrusted to her. All the girls were asleep. But at any moment one of them might wake. And it was almost time for Louise to come, bringing water and towels. Anne sprang out of bed, and with hurrying, trembling fingers tied the trinkets in the corner of a handkerchief and thrust them in the bottom of her box.
Her thoughts wandered many times during the long routine of the long day—recitations, practice, exercise, study periods. Suppose Louise should open the box to put away clothes or to set its contents in order, find the packet, and report her to Mademoiselle. The rules required that all jewelry be given in charge to one of the teachers. How would she—how could she—explain having these things? In the afternoon play-time, Anne ran to the dormitory, took out her workbox, and began with hurried, awkward stitches to sew a handkerchief into a bag to contain the jewels. How the thread snarled and knotted! How slowly the work progressed!
And then all at once, "Anne!" said a surprised voice.
Anne gave a great start and tried to hide her work.
"Anne, it is forbidden to come to the dormitory at this hour." It was Mademoiselle Duroc that spoke. "Report for a demerit this evening. But what is it that you do there?"
Anne was silent.
"Anne Lewis! Answer!"
"I was just making a little bag," she murmured.
"For what purpose?" asked the awful voice.
Anne faltered. "To—to put some things in."
Anne clasped her hands imploringly. "I cannot tell you, Mamzelle. I cannot. I cannot."
"You cannot tell?" repeated Mademoiselle Duroc. "I like not the mysteries. But I like the less to see you excite yourself into hysterics. Go downstairs and do not permit yourself to be found here again at this hour."
Anne dropped the unfinished bag into her box and went slowly downstairs. Mademoiselle Duroc followed her into the hall, stood there an undecided moment, then returned to the dormitory and paused beside Anne's box. She raised the lid, then dropped it, shaking her head.
"It is the most likely some child's nonsense about a string of buttons or such a matter. It suits not with the sense of dignity for me to search her box like a dishonest servant maid's," she said and returned to her room.
That night Anne tossed restlessly about until the other girls were asleep, then rose with sudden resolve to finish the bag by the moonlight which poured through the muslin curtains. She laid the trinkets on the pillow beside Honey-Sweet and stitched away on the bag. A little more, a very little more, and her work would be done. She would tie the bag around Honey-Sweet's waist and then surely the troublesome jewels would be safe. Suddenly there came a piercing scream from the bed beside hers. Mademoiselle Duroc's door across the hall flew open, admitting a broad stream of light.
"What is the matter?" demanded Mademoiselle. "Who screamed?"
For a moment no one spoke. Mademoiselle turned on the electric lights and her sharp black eyes searched the room. Bebe and Annette, wakened by the turmoil, sat up in bed, blinking at the light. Madge rolled over and grunted. Elsie continued to snore serenely. But Amelia and Anne were wide awake. Amelia was sitting bolt upright, staring about her. Anne had not moved; she held the needle in her right hand, the unfinished bag in her left; beside her on the pillow gleamed the jewels. Mademoiselle's eyes took in every detail.
"I demand to know who screamed," she repeated.
Amelia spoke sheepishly. "I was so sound asleep," she said. "And then I waked up. I can't help being 'fraid of ghosts and burglars and things. I saw—it's Anne—but I didn't know. I just saw something between me and the window, and the hand went up and down—up and down. It frightened me. I screamed."
"It is the misfortune to be a so fearful coward," commented Mademoiselle, dryly. "And you, Anne Lewis, you also are due to explain."
Anne sat pale and wordless.
"You will have the goodness to give me those things from your pillow which belong not there," said Mademoiselle, taking possession of them. "Now you will please to put on your slippers and your dressing-gown, and we will have the interview in my room. This dormitory needs no more disturbance. I commend you to sleep, young ladies. I suggest, Amelia, that you cultivate repose and courage."
Anne entered Mademoiselle Duroc's room with one thought in her bewildered brain. "I must not tell. I must not tell," she said over and over to herself. She stood with downcast eyes before Mademoiselle Duroc who examined the trinkets one after another.
"These rings are, I judge, of considerable value," she said. "This is an exquisite little ruby. The locket is quaintly enamelled. The miniature is of masterful workmanship; whose portrait is it?" she asked, raising her eyes to Anne's frightened face.
Anne shook her head. Her voice failed her. And she did not know that the stately old gentleman was her mother's grandfather.
"And you so disregard the rules as to have jewels in your open box—and money of this value," continued Mademoiselle, emptying the coins out of the bead purse and putting her finger on the gold piece.
"Is that money?" asked Anne, in amazement.
Mademoiselle looked up. "Do you mean to tell me that you were unaware that this is a twenty-dollar coin?" she asked.
"I never thought," answered Anne. "Of course I ought to have known. It was stupid. But I had never seen gold money before."
"Where did you get it?" demanded Mademoiselle. "And the other things?"
It was the question that Anne dreaded.
"I cannot tell you, Mamzelle," she answered, in a low voice.
"Anne! I demand to know whose things these are," said Mademoiselle, in her most awful voice.
"Mine, mine," cried Anne. "But I cannot tell you about them, Mamzelle. Indeed I cannot—not if you kill me. I promised. I promised."
In vain did Mademoiselle Duroc question. At last she dismissed Anne who crept back to bed, and, holding Honey-Sweet tight, sobbed herself to sleep.
The next morning Anne was summoned to the office; there she was coaxed and threatened by Miss Morris and questioned keenly by Mademoiselle Duroc. All to no purpose. She said in breathless whispers that she didn't mean to be disobedient, she didn't want to refuse to answer, but she could not, could not tell anything about the jewels. She confessed that Miss Drayton and Mrs. Patterson did not know that she had them.
"She must answer." Miss Morris's voice was rougher than it had ever been in Mademoiselle Duroc's presence. "Permit me to whip her, Mademoiselle, and make her tell."
Mademoiselle shook her head slowly. Her voice was like spun silk as she replied: "If she does not answer when I speak, it is not my thought that she would answer to the rod. Anne!" She fixed her clear, commanding eyes again on the little culprit.
"Oh, Mamzelle, don't ask me," sobbed Anne. "I would tell you if I could. I will do anything else you want me. But I cannot—cannot—cannot tell."
Mademoiselle Duroc rose, looked over Anne's head as if she were not there, and spoke to Miss Morris. "For the present, certainly, it is useless to persist," she said. "Unless Anne Lewis makes the explanation of this matter, for a month she may not go on the playground, she may not take any recreation except a walk alone in the yard, she may have double tasks in the three studies in which her grade marks are lowest. I should send the full account of the matter to Madame Patterson and request that this child be removed from St. Cecilia's School, were it not that Miss Drayton writes her sister is very ill. Therefore I will wait until the visit which Miss Drayton proposes to make to the city before the holidays and then I will place this matter before her. Anne is now excused from the room. I do not desire to see longer that which I have not before seen—a pupil who does not obey me."
Neither Mademoiselle Duroc nor Miss Morris mentioned the subject and we may be sure that Anne did not, but somehow the girls got hold of enough to gossip over and misrepresent the matter. It was whispered that Anne had a great heap of jewels and money and was being punished because she would not tell from whom she had stolen them. Perhaps she was to be sent to prison. Her classmates stared at her with curious, unfriendly eyes and even when she was allowed again to go on the playground, they kept away from her. Poor little Anne was very lonely.
Several days after the jewels were discovered, Miss Morris was exceedingly cross. It was impossible to please her, even with perfect recitations, and those Anne had, for she was studying more diligently than she had ever done—even the hated arithmetic—partly to occupy the long, lonely hours and partly to make up for her unwilling disobedience. By degrees Miss Morris became less stern. Anne ought to be punished and that severely, she thought; no pupil had ever before dared disobey Mademoiselle. But Miss Morris hated to see a child so lonely and miserable. She grew gentler and gentler with Anne, crosser and crosser with the other girls. It was certainly no affair of theirs to punish a classmate for—they knew not what.
She saw and approved that sweet-tempered little Elsie Hart smiled and nodded to Anne at every quiet chance. Elsie would have liked to go on being friends, but that, she knew, would make the other girls angry and she prudently preferred to be on bad terms with one rather than with four. But she always offered her Saturday bonbons to Anne as to the other girls; she couldn't enjoy them herself if she were so mean and stingy as not to do that, she declared stoutly.
One afternoon—Anne was looking especially dejected as she took her lonely walk in the west yard—Miss Morris thrust into Elsie's hands a bag of candies and whispered hurriedly: "When you go to divide—yonder is Anne under the grape arbor and I do believe she's crying."
Elsie trotted straight to Anne with her smiles and bonbons. Anne was so cheered that she came in, sat down at the study-table, and took up her history with whole-hearted interest.
Amelia, on the other side of the table, looked up and frowned. "That's an awful hard hist'ry lesson," she said.
Anne was disinclined to speak to Amelia—Amelia had been so hateful!—but finally she said rather curtly: "I don't think it's hard."
Amelia twirled a box that she held in her hand. "I do. I can't remember those old Mexican names, or who went where and which whipped when."
That made Anne laugh. "Of course you can," she said. "Just play you're there, marching 'long with the 'Merican soldiers. There's General Taylor, sitting stiff and straight on a white horse. Up rides a little Mexican on a pony. 'Look at our gre't big army and see how few men you've got,' he says. 'S'render, General Taylor, s'render, before we beat you into a cocked hat.' General Taylor looks at him—no, he doesn't, he looks 'way 'cross the hills,—mountains, I mean—and says, 'General Taylor never s'renders.' And the Mexican whips his pony and gallops away. Then General Taylor he draws up his little army of five thousand br-rave Americans right here—" Anne put her finger on an ink-spot.
"Let me get my book, Anne, and you go over all the lesson, won't you?" pleaded Amelia. "I used to know my lessons when you did that. And Miss Morris says if I don't do better she is going to drop me out of class and give me review work in recreation hour. Please, Anne."
"I don't care if I do," responded Anne. She was lonely enough to feel that she would even enjoy studying a history lesson with stupid Amelia.
"I'll leave my box here." Amelia started off, but came back a moment later. "I forgot I left my purse in my box," she said. She opened the purse and counted the money. "I had another two-franc piece," she said, with a sharp look at Anne. Anne glanced from the dominoes that she was drawing up in line of battle on the table.
"Did you?" she asked unconcernedly.
Her indifference provoked Amelia. "Yes, I did," she asserted. "I had two two-franc pieces in my purse. One of them's gone. Did you take it, Anne Lewis?"
"Take it?" Anne repeated. Was Amelia really suspecting—accusing her of taking the money? That was impossible!
"Yes, take it," cried Amelia, flushed and angry. "You stole those jewels and money from no one knows who. Now you've stolen my money. You've got to give it back."
Every drop of blood seemed to ebb from Anne's face, leaving it as pale as ashes, while her narrowed eyes blazed like live coals.
"If you say that I—that word—again, Amelia Harvey," she said slowly, "I will strike you."
"Why, Anne Lewis!" exclaimed the shocked voice of Miss Morris who was sitting at her desk, correcting exercises. "What a wicked speech!"
Anne was unrepentant. "She shall not say—that," she said. "She is wicked to tell such a falsehood."
"I want my money," persisted Amelia.
"How much money did you have in your purse, Amelia?" asked Miss Morris. "Think now. Be sure."
"I had two two-franc pieces," insisted Amelia, "and one is gone."
"You had two yeth'day," lisped Elsie Hart, who had just come in. "And you bought a boxth of chocolath."
Amelia reddened. "I—I'd forgot," she muttered.
"Forgot! Amelia! You spent your money and then accused your schoolmate of taking it!" Miss Morris exclaimed indignantly. "You are a careless, careless, bad, bad girl. You ought to be ashamed of yourself. You must beg Anne to forgive you."
"I'll not forgive her, not if she asks me a thousand years," stormed Anne.
"Anne, Anne," reproved Miss Morris. "What a bitter, revengeful spirit! It makes me unhappy to hear you speak so."
"I don't care. I'm unhappy. I want everybody else to be unhappy," said Anne, as she left the room, sobbing as if her heart would break.
The long days dragged by and brought at last the Christmas holidays. Mrs. Patterson was stronger. She was able to join the shopping excursion, waiting in the carriage while Miss Drayton came in to get Anne.
Miss Drayton exclaimed at sight of the pale little face.
"What is the matter with her, Mademoiselle Duroc?" she inquired anxiously. "She has not been ill? Has she been studying too hard?"
"She studies," answered Mademoiselle; "but she thrived till the month ago. There is a matter which I must beg leave to discuss with you and madame your sister."
The little hand which lay in Miss Drayton's twitched and clung tight. Miss Drayton smiled protectingly at the child, who looked like a quivering rabbit cowering before hunting dogs. "If it be a matter of broken rules—or anything unpleasant—let us pass it by, Mademoiselle Duroc. If you please! This is Christmas, you know."
"The matter is too serious to ignore," protested Mademoiselle.
"If it must be," Miss Drayton yielded reluctantly. "But we must not spoil our Christmas. And, really, my sister is still too unwell to be annoyed. After Christmas, if it must be."
"After Christmas, then," Mademoiselle submitted.
Anne threw herself into Mrs. Patterson's arms in an ecstasy of delight. "I'm so glad that it hurts," she exclaimed. "I'd forgot what good times there are in the world."
"Let me hold Honey-Sweet. She's too heavy for you," urged Pat.
"No, I thank you," laughed Anne. "She doesn't want to be a William Tell's child or a Daniel in the lions' den. I was so glad you sent me word to bring Honey-Sweet, Mrs. Patterson," she continued joyously. "I wanted to bring her, and it's so much nicer when she's invited."
"I want you to lend her to me a little while," Mrs. Patterson answered. "I'll not make her a William Tell's child or a Daniel in the lions' den. I—let me whisper it so she'll not hear—I want to get her a Christmas present and it is one I can't select in her absence."
They made the round of the shops, gay with Christmas decorations and thronged with merry shoppers. Anne was full of eager excitement. Mrs. Patterson gave her a little purse full of shining silver pieces, which she was to spend as she pleased.
Anne clapped her hands with delight. "I'll buy a present for Elsie," she said, "and perhaps I'll get something for Miss Morris and Louise."
"I would buy a gift for each of my classmates, if I were you," Mrs. Patterson suggested. "It is pleasant to remember every one."
"O—oh!" Anne's face clouded. "But if they haven't been nice—"
"Those are the very ones to remember at Christmas time," interrupted Mrs. Patterson. "Peace and good will! If there is any one who has been especially un-nice to you, this is such a good time to be specially nice to that person."
"But I'm not going to forgive Amelia," Anne asserted quietly but positively.
"Well, well, dearie! we'll not talk about anything disagreeable to-day," said Mrs. Patterson. "But do you know, I think it would be fun to give Amelia the nicest present of all?"
"Mademoiselle Duroc was pretty bad, too," said Anne.
"Then what about a nice present for Mademoiselle?" inquired Mrs. Patterson. "But just as you like, dear. This is do-as-you-please day for you and Pat. Now Honey-Sweet and I are going to do a little shopping alone and then we'll rest and wait for you in the ladies' room."
"I like to do what you say," said Anne, thoughtfully. "Maybe I won't hate so bad to give them presents if I make a play of it. I'll try."
She counted out her silver pieces and decided on the price of the gifts that she would choose for each of her teachers and classmates. Then she shut her eyes and when she opened them she 'made pretend' she was Mademoiselle Duroc, moving slow and stately like a parade or a procession, and she chose a stiff little jet-and-gold hair ornament. Next Anne was Miss Morris. For a minute she puffed out her cheeks and flapped her arms, imitating the turkey-cock mood. Then she thrust out her chin, drew down her brows, and hurried along, with her fingers clenched as if she held a handful of exercises. That was the busy, hard-working, kind-hearted Miss Morris for whom she selected a silver-mounted ink-stand. There was an enamelled belt pin for finery-loving Annette, a gay set of paper dolls for little Bebe, a new story book for book-loving Madge, a silver stamp-box for Elsie, and for Amelia a pretty blue silk workbag fitted with needles, thimble, and scissors. There was a box of bonbons for Louise and for the cross cook a gay fan which displayed the red, white, and blue of the American flag,—"for I shouldn't be so cross if I were not so uncomfortable in my hot, hot kitchen," Anne said, waddling along with arms akimbo, "and I'm sure I can keep cooler with such a be-yu-tiful fan."
"Now I've bought my duty presents, I'll buy my love ones," announced Anne, gayly. "I'm going to buy Elsie another present—a big box of 'chocolate creamth'—she does adore them. These three wise monkeys are for Pat. There isn't anything good enough for dear Mrs. Patterson, but I'll get her a lovely big bottle of cologne. Don't you peep, Miss Drayton, while I choose your present," Anne charged, as she tripped about the shop, selecting at last a pretty silver hat pin.
Miss Drayton laughingly asserted that Anne, chattering away in her assumed characters, was as good as a play and exclaimed that she had no idea it was so late and they must go at once to Mrs. Patterson who would be worn out waiting for them. So Pat was dragged from the display of sporting goods, and they hurried to the ladies' room where Mrs. Patterson was resting in an easy chair. She was pale but smiling.
"I'm like you, Anne," she said; "I had forgotten what good times there are in the world. Before we go to luncheon, I want to know if Honey-Sweet's mother approves of her. I told you that her hair would grow, you know. See!" She untied the strings and took off Honey-Sweet's cap. Instead of a bald head with a few painted ringlets, there were wavy golden locks of real hair. It is no use to try to express Anne's delight. She couldn't do it herself. She laughed and cried and hugged first Honey-Sweet, then Mrs. Patterson, then both together.
A soft wet snow was falling, and amid its whiteness and the glittering lights and the merry bustle of the holiday crowds, the carriage turned homeward. After such a happy day, nothing could ever be so bad again, it seemed to Anne, as she kissed her friends good-by and ran light-heartedly up the steps.
The gift-giving and gift-receiving and merry-making of the Christmas holidays brought Anne back into the circle of her schoolmates. But her troubles were not over. One afternoon early in the new year, Mrs. Patterson and Miss Drayton came for the promised interview with Mademoiselle Duroc. She showed them the purse and jewels discovered in Anne's possession, and told them the whole story. Mrs. Patterson and Miss Drayton were amazed. They had never before seen any of the articles. Miss Drayton had packed Anne's trunk on the steamer and had unpacked and repacked it at the Liverpool hotel and she was sure that the things were not in the child's baggage. Two of the rings were of considerable value. The locket was handsome and looked like an heirloom.
"The child does not know whose portrait it contains,—that she confesses," said Mademoiselle Duroc. "And there is the money—the gold piece."
Perplexed as she was, Mrs. Patterson's faith was unshaken in the child who had always seemed so straightforward and honorable. Miss Drayton wanted to believe in Anne, but she remembered the uncle whose story they had not told Mademoiselle; after all, they knew little of the child; nothing of her family, except that her uncle had used his employer's money and had fled from justice. Was the taint of dishonesty in her blood? For all her candid appearance, Anne had been keeping a secret. But perhaps there was some explanation which she would make to her friends, though she had withheld it from Mademoiselle Duroc.
Anne was summoned and came tripping into the room. Her face clouded when she saw the jewels in Mademoiselle Duroc's hand and the grave, questioning faces of her friends.
"Don't ask me about those, please, dear Mrs. Patterson," she entreated. "I can't tell you anything now. I'll tell you all about it then."
"Then? when?" asked Miss Drayton.
"Wh-when we get to Nantes—if ever we do go there," sobbed Anne.
"What nonsense is this, Anne?" inquired Miss Drayton. "Of course you must explain the matter. Did you have these things on shipboard?"
"No, Miss Drayton."
"Where did you get them?"
The child did not answer.
"Whose are these things, Anne?" asked Miss Drayton, more sternly.
"Mine, mine, mine!" cried Anne. "Indeed, I'll tell you all about them when we get to Nantes."
"Anne! What do you mean? Nantes! What has Nantes to do with it? You are making my sister ill. See how pale she is!—Emily, dear Emily, don't look so troubled. If only I had taken the matter up with you alone, Mademoiselle Duroc!"
"I wish I could tell. I do wish I could," moaned Anne.
Entreaty and command were in vain.
"We shall have to let the matter rest for the present," said Miss Drayton, at last. "It has overtaxed my sister's strength."
"Never mind me," protested Mrs. Patterson. "I am troubled only for the child's sake. Oh, there must be some reasonable, right explanation of it all!"
"I hope so," said Miss Drayton, hopelessly.
Mademoiselle Duroc had taken no part in the conversation with Anne. Now she spoke: "Permit me to suggest that I prefer not to retain charge of a pupil that has the secrets and mysteries. Will madame be so good—"
"No, no, Mademoiselle Duroc!" interrupted Miss Drayton. "You will—you must—do us the favor to keep the child for the present, until my sister is stronger—until we are able to make other arrangements."
There was a pause. Then Mademoiselle said inquiringly, "These jewels, you will take charge of them?"
"No, oh, no!" said Miss Drayton, hastily. "Something may turn up—there may be some claimant—but she insists they are hers.—Oh, dear! oh, dear!—We will come back, Mademoiselle, when my sister is better and we will discuss the matter again."
But week after week passed without bringing the promised visit. Instead, Anne received kind but brief and worried notes from Miss Drayton, enclosing the weekly pocket money. Now and then, there was a picture post-card from Mrs. Patterson, with a loving message to Anne or two or three lines to Honey-Sweet. The invalid was not improving. In fact, she was growing worse. So the days wore on till February.
One crisp frosty morning found Mrs. Patterson lying on a couch beside her window. In the foreground was a park-like expanse with trees showing their graceful branching in exquisite tracery against the clear blue sky. Beyond lay Paris, its red and gray roofs showing among the bare trees, with domes, spires, and gilded crosses cresting the irregular line.