JANE D. ABBOTT
TO ALL THE LITTLE GIRLS I KNOW THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED
I. KEINETH'S WORLD CHANGES
II. KEINETH DECIDES
IV. KEINETH WRITES TO HER FATHER
V. PILOT COMES TO OVERLOOK
VI. THE MUSIC THE FAIRIES PUT IN HER FINGERS
VII. ALICE RUNS AWAY
VIII. A PAGE FROM HISTORY
IX. THE CAPTIVE MAIDEN
X. PILOT IN DISGRACE
XI. PILOT WINS A HOME
XII. A LETTER FROM DADDY
XIV. THE TENNIS TOURNAMENT
XV. NOT ON THE PROGRAM
XVI. AUNT JOSEPHINE
XVII. SCHOOL DAYS
XIX. WHEN THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT WORKED OVERTIME.
XXI. PILOT GOES AWAY
XXII. KEINBTH'S GIFT
XXIV. MR. PRESIDENT
XXV. THE CASTLE OF DREAMS
KEINETH'S WORLD CHANGES
Keineth Randolph's world seemed suddenly to be turning upside down!
For the past three days there had been no lessons. Keineth had lessons instead of going to school. She had them sometimes with Madame Henri, or "Tante" as she called her, and sometimes with her father. If the sun was very inviting in the morning, lessons would wait until afternoon; or, if, sitting straight and still in the big room her father called his study, Keineth found it impossible to think of the book before her, Tante would say in her prim voice:
"Dreaming, cherie?" and add, "the books will wait!"
Or, if father was hearing the lessons, he would toss aside the book and beckon to Keineth to sit on his knee. Then he would tell a story. It would be, perhaps, something about India or they would travel together through Norway; or it would be Custer's fight with the Indians or the wanderings of the Acadians through the English Colonies in America, as portrayed in Longfellow's Evangeline.
But for three days Keineth had had neither lessons nor stories—she had not even wanted to go out into the park to walk. For her dear Tante, with a very sad face, was packing her trunks and boxes, and Daddy had gone out of town.
To-morrow the little woman was going to sail on a Norwegian boat for Europe. The trip seemed to Keineth to be particularly unusual because Tante and Daddy had talked so much about it and Tante had waited until Daddy had gotten her some papers which would take her safely into Europe. So much talk and the important papers made it seem as though she was going very far away. Perhaps she did not expect to come back to America—she stopped so often in her work to kiss Keineth!
Keineth could not remember her own mother, she had died when Keineth was three years old; and as far back as she could remember Tante had always taken care of her. These three, the golden-haired delicate child, the serious-faced Belgian gentlewoman, who had given up a position in one of New York's schools to go into John Randolph's household, and the father himself, living for his work and his daughter, led what might seem to others a very strange life. The man had kept his home in the old brick house on Washington Square in lower New York even after the other houses in the square around it gradually changed from pleasant, neat homes to shabby boarding-houses or rooming houses with broken windows and railless steps; to dusty lofts; to cellars where Jews kept and sorted over their filthy rags; to dingy attic spaces where artists made their studios, turning queer, dilapidated corners into what they called their homes. The third story of the Randolph house had been let for "light housekeeping apartments"; Keineth herself had helped tack the little black and gilt sign at the door. The tenants used the side door that let into the brick-paved alley. Keineth had always felt a great pride in their home—it was always neatly painted, their steps shone, and there were no papers collected behind their iron gratings. Even across the park she could see the bright geraniums blooming in the windows under Madame Henri's loving care.
Keineth and Tante had two big sleeping rooms facing the square and Daddy had a smaller room in the back. Dora, the colored maid who kept the house in order and cooked breakfast and lunch, went away at night. The rooms were very large, with high ceilings. The windows were long and narrow and hung with heavy, dusty curtains. The furniture was very old and very dull and dark, but Keineth loved the great chairs into which she could curl herself and read for hours at a time.
There were few children in the square for her to play with. Next door was an Italian family with eight girls and boys, and Keineth sometimes joined them in the park. Their father kept a fruit stall in the basement on one of the streets running off from the square. Francesca, one of the girls, sang very sweetly, often standing on the corner of the square and singing Italian folk-songs until she had gathered quite a crowd around her and had collected considerable money. Keineth loved to listen to her. But Daddy had asked Keineth never to go alone outside of the square nor out of sight of the windows of their own home, and Keineth, all her life, had always wanted to do exactly as her father asked her.
The evenings to Keineth were the happiest, for, after his work was finished, Daddy always took her out somewhere for dinner. Sometimes they would go into queer, small places; rooms lighted by gas-jets, where they ate on bare tables from off thick white plates. She would sit very quietly listening while her father talked to the people he met. It seemed to her that her father knew everybody. Other times they would go up town on the bus, Keineth clinging tightly to her father's hand all the way, and they would find a corner in a brightly lighted hotel dining-room, where the silver and glass sparkled before Keineth's eyes, where an orchestra, hidden behind big palms, played wonderful music as they ate, where the air was sweet with the fragrance of flowers like Joe Massey's stall on the square, and where all the women were pretty and wore soft furs over shimmering dresses of lovely colors. Sometimes Tante went with them, looking very prim in her tailor-made suit of gray woolen cloth and her small gray hat. On these picnic dinners, as Daddy called them, Daddy was always in rollicking spirits, keeping up such a torrent of nonsense that Keineth was often quite exhausted from laughing. Then, when they were back in the old house, Daddy would pull his big chair close to the lamp, Tante would take her knitting from the basket in which it was always neatly laid, and Keineth would sit down at the piano to play for her father "what the fairies put in her fingers." This had been a little game between them for a long time—ever since her music lessons with Madame Henri had begun.
Now—as the child sat balanced on the edge of an old rocker watching Tante tenderly and carefully placing her books into a heavy box—she felt that this beloved order of things was changing before her eyes. For, with Tante gone, who was to take care of her? And heavy on the child's heart lay the fear that it might be Aunt Josephine.
Aunt Josephine was her very own aunt, her father's sister, and lived in a very pretentious home at the other end of the city, overlooking the Hudson River. At a very early age Keineth had guessed that Aunt Josephine did not approve of the way her Daddy lived; of the tenants on the third floor; of the sign at the door; of Tante and the happy-go-lucky lessons; and most of all, her intimacy with the Italian children. Twice a year Keineth and her Daddy spent a Sunday with Aunt Josephine, and Keineth could always tell by the way Daddy clasped her hand and ran down the steps that he was very glad when the day was over and they could go home. However, Aunt Josephine was pretty and wore lovely clothes like the women in the big hotels uptown and was really fond of Daddy, so that Keineth loved her—but she did not want to live with her!
"Why do you go away from us?" Keineth asked Madame Henri for the hundredth time.
The little woman dropped a book to kiss the child—also for the hundredth time.
"I have an old mother, and a sister, and six nephews and nieces over there—they need me now, more than you do, cherie!"
Keineth knew that she was very unhappy and refrained from asking her more questions. Daddy had read to her of the suffering in Europe as a result of the great war, but it seemed hard to picture prim Tante in the midst of it—perhaps working in the fields and factories, as Daddy said some of the women and children were doing. Tante had read them parts of a letter telling of the wounding of her sister's husband at the battle front and of his death in an English 'hospital, but that had seemed so very far away that Keineth had not thought much about it. Now it seemed nearer as she pictured the six little nephews and nieces, the poor old grandmother—perhaps all hungry and homeless! Keineth suddenly thought how good it was of Tante to leave their comfortable home and their jolly dinners and Dora's steaming pancakes to go back to Belgium to help!
Then—as if the whole day was not queer and different enough, Keineth suddenly heard her father's quick step on the stairway. He had said he would not be home until that night! She sprang to the door in time to rush into his arms as he came down the hallway. He kissed her, on her nose and eyes, as was his way, but when he lifted his face Keineth saw that it was very serious, which was not at all like Daddy.
"Run out in the park for a little while, dear. I must talk to Madame Henri!"
The sun was shining very brightly on the pavements of the streets. The little leaves on the trees were quivering with new life and the birds were chirping loudly and busily in the branches, fussing over their housekeeping. But Keineth's heart was too heavy to respond! She walked around and around the square, staring miserably at the people who passed her and always keeping in sight of the long windows where the pink geraniums shone in the spring sunlight.
Suddenly her heart dropped to her very toes and she had a great deal of trouble keeping the tears back from her eyes, for a very bright yellow motor car had stopped at their door, and Keineth knew that it was Aunt Josephine!
Keineth waited what seemed to her hours; then retraced her steps to the house and walked very quietly into the hall. Daddy heard the door close behind her and called to her from the study. He was sitting at his desk, tapping the pad before him with the point of a pencil Aunt Josephine sat on the old horse-hair sofa, looking very excited, and Tante, a pile of books still clasped in her arm and a smudge of dust across her straight features, stood near the window.
"I think it's high time you used a little sense in the way you bring up that child, John. You'll ruin her!"
Keineth's father smiled across at Keineth as much as to say: "Never mind, dear," but he listened gravely as his sister went on:
"I think it's the best thing that could happen—Madame Henri going away and you called on this trip—"
"Wait a moment, Josephine; Keineth does not know yet—"
"Daddy!" cried the child, running to him.
"Just a moment, dear," he whispered, as he drew her between his knees and laid his cheek against her hair.
Aunt Josephine looked very much in earnest. Keineth could not remember a time when she had seemed more concerned over hers and Daddy's welfare!
"Now I can take Keineth with me until July. Then when I go on that yachting cruise she can go to some camp in the mountains—there are ever so many good ones. And next fall I can put her into a school. She's too old to go on living as you are living."
Now the world had turned upside down! Keineth pressed suddenly close to her father. He tightened the clasp of her arm.
"Wait a moment, sister. We have two or three days to talk this over. I must get Madame Henri safely started and then Keineth and I will make our plans." As he said this he squeezed the child's hand. "You're awfully good to offer to take my little girl and I know you'd try your best to make her happy." He stepped toward the door. Aunt Josephine rose, too.
"Well, you'd better follow my advice," she said crisply. She almost always concluded their interviews in this manner when they had to do with Daddy's household. This time she stopped on her way to the door to place her hands on Keineth's shoulders and let her eyes sweep Keineth's little face.
"I'd make an up-to-date child of her, John. She's got her mother's eyes but the Randolph features. With a little grooming she'd make a beauty. And the first thing I'd do would be to put a decent frock on her!"
Keineth knew that Aunt Josephine meant to be kind but, hurt at her criticism, she drew away from her aunt's clasp. As her aunt and father went out she looked down wonderingly at the simple blue serge she wore. Tante had always had her dresses made at a little shop on lower Fifth Avenue and Keineth had always thought them very nice.
Madame Henri, muttering to herself, went out of the room. Keineth stood very still until her father came back. He shut the door and went to his desk. She ran to him and hid her face on his shoulder.
"Daddy—are you—going away?"
"Yes, child—I must."
"For all summer? For all winter?"
"Yes, dear. I think it may be a year."
"Daddy—" began Keineth, then stopped short to hide her face. Father must not see her cry!
"I'll make a little picture for you, dear. This country of ours is like a great big house. It's like all the homes all over the United States put into one. And it must be tended just as we'd tend our own little home—it must be kept in repair. It must be kept clean and have pretty spots, just like Madame Henri's geraniums! And it must be guarded, too, from those who would break in and steal what belongs in the home—or tear it down and make a ruin of it! And it must know its neighbors and work with them to keep everything peaceful and tidy about the whole street of nations! Don't you remember how I had to argue with Signora Ferocci to make her clean up her back alley?"
They both laughed together over the recollection of their efforts to persuade their next-door neighbor of the joys of cleanliness!
"Every person, big and small, should do his part toward the home-keeping of this big land of ours. And I have been asked to do a service. Soldiers can't do it all, my dear—only a very small part of it! There are a great many others—men like myself—who are going out over the world to work for the Stars and Stripes. And when I have been asked to go on a mission for our country that is very important, even though it takes me very far and keeps me away a very long time, I am sure my loyal little American girl will be the first to bid me go!"
Keineth's eyes were quite dry now and were very bright. She sat up very straight. She had entirely forgotten herself.
"Will you wear a uniform, Daddy?"
"Oh, dear me, no—my work is not of that sort, In fact, I must go about in the quietest manner possible. I cannot even tell my little girl where I am going."
"You mean it's a secret?" the child cried.
"Yes, until I return. I must ask you to tell no one that I have gone for the government. We may fail—the newspapers must not know yet. Everyone must think I am simply travelling."
Keineth was silent and perplexed. It did not occur to her to ask her father why she could not go with him. He had often gone away before and she had always stayed in the old house with Tante. But it had never been for a whole year!
Suddenly she cried out: "I'll be very brave, but—oh, Daddy!"
He laughed, although he held her very close.
"Do you think, my dear, I would go away until I felt very certain that you were going to be happy? I'm not sure how well you'd like it at Aunt Josephine's—it would be very different. Still—you'd have that French maid of hers for a nurse and go out with her and Fido for his walk and ride in the yellow motor and have all kinds of frilled dresses and feathered hats—" He was imitating Aunt Josephine's voice in a very funny manner that made Keineth laugh.
Keineth thought very quickly of all the things she loved to do that she knew Aunt Josephine would not allow her to do, but she did not want to speak of them, for it might make her Daddy unhappy. Her father went on, more seriously:
"But I have another plan. I will tell you about It and you may choose between that and Aunt Josephine's." (Keineth suddenly felt very grown up.) "Coming up from Washington I ran into Mr. William Lee, an old friend of mine—a man I knew in college. I used to think the world of him. I hadn't seen him for fifteen years! He lives in the western part of the state. I knew Mrs. Lee, too,—she was a friend of your mother's and they were very fond of one another. We talked for a long time over old times. He showed me kodak pictures of his children—he has four. Do you know what I thought when I looked at them?"
"That I was cheating my little girl out of a great deal that every child has a right to—the pure joy of giving. When I looked at those youngsters of his—husky, bare-armed, round-cheeked children, I knew they were getting a lot of happiness you'd never know in this little corner of ours—the kind of happiness you can only have when you are young." Keineth was puzzled. "What do you mean, Daddy?"
"Oh, running, jumping, swimming—tennis—baseball! Why, the knowing other children well—even the quarrelling," he stopped, frowning. "I had it all when I was little and here I am cheating you. Aunt Josephine is right when she says I'm not fair to you—but I don't think you'd get it even with her!"
"But I don't know anything about all those things, Daddy."
"That's just it! You can learn, though. I told Mr. Lee that I had to go away, and about you, and he asked me if I wouldn't let you go to them for the year. They have a summer home on the shore of Lake Erie and almost live out-of-doors. I said no at first—it seemed too much to ask of them, but he persisted and wouldn't take no for an answer. He is coming here to-night to talk it over. I think now—it might be the thing to do. Mrs. Lee loved your mother very, very dearly, and I know would be very good to you."
He gently lifted her down from off his knee, which meant that he had work to do and that Keineth must leave the room. She sought out Tante upstairs. The good woman had closed her last box and was dressed ready to start on her long trip, although the boat would not leave until the next day. She was knitting, so Keineth took a book and sat near the window pretending to read. Her eyes wandered off the page and her poor little mind was busy at work trying to decide which she would dislike the least—living with Aunt Josephine and walking with Fido and the French maid and going to a strange camp and a strange school, or going off to a strange place and living among strange people and playing strange games! She wanted dreadfully to cry, but Tante was so quiet and so miserable, and Daddy was so serious that she could not add in any way to what seemed to trouble them.
So—although Francesca, the little Italian singer, was skipping rope on the pavement below the window, and a robin was calling lustily to its mate in a nearby horse-chestnut tree, and a vender was peddling his wares down the street in a voice that sounded like a slow-pealing bell, poor Keineth felt as if she could never be really happy again! That night Daddy and Keineth went uptown for dinner. In one of the hotels they met Mr. Lee. Keineth's heart was pounding with dread beneath her neat serge dress and she was almost afraid to look at the man. But when he took her hand in his and spoke in a kindly voice, she ventured a timid glance and saw a big man, taller and heavier than her father, with a jolly smile and eyes that laughed from under their shaggy eyebrows. Then she felt that she liked him—and the more because he had such an affectionate way of laying his hand on her father's shoulder.
While they talked together Mr. Lee watched her very closely. Once he said to her father:
"My wife will love the little girl—she is so like her mother!" There had been a long silence then, and Keineth had seen the look in her father's eyes that meant his thoughts were back in the past. Later Mr. Lee had added: "Why, John—you won't know the child after a summer with us—those cheeks will all be roses and her little body plump. And how the kiddies will love her!"
Keineth had been shown the kodak pictures and had studied them closely. The very big girl was Barbara, who was seventeen. The boy was Billy, aged fourteen. Peggy was Keineth's age—twelve, and the little one, Alice, was eight. They all wore middy blouses in the picture and Peggy and Alice were barefooted. Keineth thought, as she looked at their laughing faces, that they were very unlike any children she had ever seen anywhere.
They took Mr. Lee to their home. Keineth played on the piano for them—not her own fairy things, but a simple little piece she had learned with much precision from Madame Henri. Then she and Tante went upstairs. Daddy had whispered to her as she kissed him good-night:
"You must decide yourself, dear!"
Keineth had thought that when she was quite alone in her bedroom she would cry, for then it would disturb no one and she really had a great deal to cry about. But Madame Henri lingered a long time by her bed, standing close to it with a very white face. Finally she knelt beside it and laid her cheek against Keineth's hands. Keineth felt hot tears which surprised her, for she did not know that Tante knew how to cry. Then Tante began to pray—a queer sort of prayer, all broken: "Oh, God, oh, God, keep this little girl safe from the things that hurt! Keep all the little ones! Why should they suffer? Where is your mercy?" Then she said a great deal in French so fast that Keineth could not understand her and finally, sobbing violently, she rushed out of the room, leaving Keineth very disturbed. She thought that poor Tante must love her very much and she supposed the prayer was for the little children in Europe who were starving, as well as for her—Keineth Randolph! Madame Henri's good heart so moved her that she jumped out of bed to kneel beside it and add what she had forgotten in her concern over herself!
"God bless dear, dear Tante and keep her safe!"
Then, feeling very excited, Keineth went to sleep without crying and dreamed of running barefooted with Peggy through fields all white with daisies, while in the distance at a fence like the rail fences in pictures, stood Aunt Josephine's awful French maid with Fido under her arm, screaming at her in French.
So vivid seemed the dream that it awakened Keineth. She listened for a moment. She could hear the click of her father's typewriter. She pressed the button that lighted her bed lamp, found her slippers and stole noiselessly downstairs. Never in her whole life had she disturbed her Daddy when he was writing, but now she did not even rap—she pushed the door open and ran to him.
"Daddy, Daddy—" she cried as though still pursued by the screaming French maid. "Please—I'd rather go to the Lee's!"
"The next station is Fairview, Keineth—watch out for the kiddies," said Mr. Lee, rising from the car seat.
Keineth had been sitting for a half hour with her nose flattened against the car window, not seeing at all the fields and farmhouses that flew past her, but trying to picture what Peggy would be like! Keineth was very excited and a little tired from the night in the sleeper; she was fighting back the thought that she would not see Daddy for a long, long time. Daddy had gone with them to the station the night before, and had helped her undress in the queer little shelf he called a berth and had himself pulled the blankets close around her chin and kissed her again and again.
"Little soldier—right face," he whispered—and Keineth knew that he meant she should be very brave over it all. Then he had hurried off the train, for the conductor was shouting: "All aboard——" and Keineth, peeping from under her curtain for a last look, had seen his tall figure go down the dimly-lighted platform.
The engine whistled and slowed down. Keineth took up the new bag which had been Aunt Josephine's present to her, and followed Mr. Lee to the door. Around the corner of his arm she saw a freckled-faced boy running close to the car step, and beyond him two little girls.
The taller of the two must, of course, be Peggy! Keineth saw a bob-headed, slim child of about her own height, brown as a berry.
"Dad—Dad," they cried, running forward as Mr. Lee stepped down from the train almost strangled in Billy's hug. In their joy at seeing their father the girls did not notice Keineth, who stood shyly back, wishing the ground would open and swallow her up.
But the ground under the station platform was unusually solid! In a moment Keineth felt three pairs of eyes upon her as Mr. Lee turned and said:
"Here is the little stranger I have brought with me."
"Hello," said Peggy, smiling. Alice smiled, too, but hung back a little, and Billy swept a critical glance over Keineth's city-clad little figure. Mr. Lee, holding Alice's hand in his, was walking toward an automobile in which sat the eldest daughter.
"I'm awfully glad you came," began Peggy as the children followed. "It'll be such fun!"
"Is this Keineth?" cried the girl in the automobile, jumping out to greet her father. Keineth had pictured Barbara as quite a young lady—she had always thought seventeen very old—but Barbara was dressed in a blue skirt and a middy blouse like Peggy's and wore her hair in a long, thick braid. She had her father's kind eyes and the friendliness of their glance warmed poor little Keineth's homesick soul. She gave the child a little pat on the shoulder.
"We're just awfully glad you're here," she said, taking Keineth's bag. Then, to her father: "We didn't think Genevieve would run! She's been acting awful—but we just made her crawl up here to meet you."
"Genevieve's the name of the automobile," giggled Peggy as the smaller girls cuddled into the back seat. Billy rode on the running board and Barbara took the steering wheel.
"Mother's fine," Barbara was saying while, at the same time, Billy was pouring into his father's ear a great deal of information concerning his wireless. Peggy in breathless, excited words was pointing out to the bewildered Keineth the sights of Fairview.
Genevieve, with many puffs and snorts and queer noises from under her bonnet, crawled gallantly along the smooth road, up a hill, turned in between two stone posts and stopped. Down the steps ran a woman who seemed to Keineth only a little older than Barbara, She kissed Mr. Lee, then, pushing the eager children aside, turned to Keineth.
"Here she is, mother," called out Peggy, drawing Keineth forward.
Mrs. Lee took Keineth in her arms and held her very close for a moment. When she released her she put her hand under Keineth's chin to lift her face.
"It's like seeing your mother again," she laughed, although there was a queer little catch in her voice.
"You'll be Peggy's twin," she added, starting up the steps. "Bring in their bags, Billy. Barb—let's give Dad a nice hot cup of coffee! Peggy, you make Keineth perfectly at home."
Keineth took off her hat and coat. Very willingly Peggy took her in charge.
"I'll show you the garden," she said.
"Let's go down to the beach!" cried Alice, following.
"Do you want to see my wireless set?" invited Billy.
"Billy thinks that's the only interesting thing about Overlook!"
"Wait a moment, children," suggested Mrs. Lee to them, "one thing at a time! Keineth is tired, perhaps. Take her upstairs, Peggy, and let her slip on a blouse and your old serge bloomers—then go outside and play!"
Overlook really wasn't like a house at all—Keineth had never seen anything quite like it. There was one big living-room with a veranda running around it and with big doors opening from three sides upon the veranda so that the room itself was just like out-of-doors. One end of the veranda was enclosed in glass and used as a dining-room. Flowers in boxes were on the sills of the windows and over them the sun streamed through chintz-curtained windows. Upstairs were two rooms over the living-rooms, and opening from these were screened sleeping porches, with rows of little cots. Peggy explained that the rooms were used as dressing-rooms and that each one of the family had a little chest of drawers for their own clothes and that mother had brought the oak one in the corner out from town for Keineth's use.
"But where do you sleep when it rains?" cried Keineth.
"Oh, out there," laughed Peggy; "you see, the roof slants down so far that it keeps out the rain. That's your cot—between Barb's and mine."
Keineth caught a glimpse of a great blue stretch of water glistening in the bright sunlight a quarter of a mile away.
"Oh—is that the lake?" she exclaimed, eagerly.
"Yes—we'll go down to the beach in a little while. Can you swim? Mother will teach you—she taught each one of us. I'm going to try for the life-saving medal this year! We have sport contests at the club in August. Can you play tennis?" Keineth said no. Peggy's manner became just a little patronizing. "Oh, it's easy to learn, though it'll take you quite awhile to serve a good ball, but you can practice with Alice. Can you play golf?"
"My Daddy can."
"Well, you can walk around the links with Billy and me. Barbara plays a dandy game—she can beat Dad all to pieces. Let's go down now and see the garden."
Beyond the neatly-kept lawn with its bricked walks bordered with nasturtium beds was the stretch of garden in which the children had their individual beds. Peggy explained to Keineth that Billy this year had planted his bed to radishes and onions; that she had put in her seed in a pattern of her own designing which, when she separated the weeds from the flowers would look like a splendid combination of a new moon and the Big Dipper. Barbara and Alice had planted asters and snapdragon because mother liked them for the house. Back of the flower beds was a patch of young corn, and behind that the vegetable garden which supplied the table. At one side of the garden was the barn where poor Genevieve was now resting her rickety bones, and next to that was a shed.
Billy was busy at work repairing the door of the shed. As the girls came in sight he waved to them. They started on a run.
"Let's give Ken a ride on Gypsy," he called out. He dropped his hammer, disappeared in the barn and came out leading a shaggy pony.
At the sound of the nickname carelessly bestowed upon her Keineth drew in her breath quickly. Right at that moment she wanted more than anything else in the world that these children should not think she was a bit different from them! Already her plain serge dress had been hung away and she was in a blouse and bloomers like Peggy's!
"I don't know," began Peggy doubtfully.
"Oh, please, let me have a ride," broke in Keineth in a voice she tried to make as careless as Billy's own.
"We always ride Gypsy bareback—climb up here on these boxes!"
Keineth stepped upon the boxes, Billy wheeled the pony around and Keineth bravely swung one leg over the pony's back, taking the halter in her hand as she did so. Billy gave the pony a sound slap on the shoulder and off they flew!
Never in her life had Keineth been on a horse's back, but she had caught the challenge in Billy's laughing eyes and her soul flamed with daring. She clenched her teeth tightly and, because she was in mortal terror of slipping off from the pony, she gripped her knees with all her might against his shaggy sides. In a funny little gallop—very like a rocking horse—he circled the house, while from the shed Billy and Peggy shouted to her encouragingly.
Keineth's first ride would have ended triumphantly if she had not laid her hand ever so lightly on a certain spot in Gypsy's neck! For Gypsy, having reached an age when he was of no further use in their business, had been bought a year before from a circus company by Mr. Lee and taken to Overlook, and at the time of the purchase no one had explained to Mr. Lee that Gypsy's training had included quietly throwing the clown from her back in a way which had always won screams of laughter from the spectators and that the little act came at the moment when the clown touched a certain spot on her neck! All the young Lees had ridden Gypsy but had not happened to discover this little trick. But Keineth, just as she had safely passed the kitchen door and was galloping toward the shed, suddenly felt herself flying over Gypsy's head! Her fall was broken by a pile of sand which had been hauled up from the beach for the garden. Keineth was more startled than hurt, though she felt a little stunned and lay for a moment very still.
"Oh, are you hurt?" cried Peggy, running quickly to her with Billy at her heels.
"Oh, I s'pose she'll cry and bring mother out!" Keineth heard Billy say behind Peggy's back.
Keineth's cheeks were very red. She stood up quickly and, though for a moment everything danced before her eyes, she managed to laugh and speak in a queer voice she scarcely recognized as her own.
"'Course I'm not hurt! A little fall like that!" she brushed the sand from her blouse.
"Peggy," cried Billy, joyfully, "she's a real scout!" and Keineth knew then that she was one of them.
Even Peggy's tone was different. "Let's ask mother if we can't go down to the beach before lunch!" she called out over her shoulder, starting houseward on a run.
That night a very tired little girl crept into her cot between Barbara's and Peggy's. Alice was already asleep on the other side of Peggy. Barbara was still on the veranda talking with her mother and father. A soft land breeze, all sweet with garden smells, fanned their faces as the girls lay there. What a day it had been to Keineth—she had played in the sand, waded in the warm shallows of the lake, raced with Peggy and Alice through the fields all white with daisies and had gathered great bunches of the pretty flowers! She thought, as she lay there watching the little stars peeping under the edge of the roof, that she had never been so happy in her life! She loved Overlook and all the Lees—and Peggy, best of all.
In whispers, reaching out from their cots to clasp hands, she and Peggy opened their hearts to one another. She told Peggy all about poor, nice Tante and about the old house and Francesca Ferocci and Aunt Josephine and Fido and the French maid, and the tenants on the third floor and her Daddy—who'd gone away on a secret. Peggy, very sleepily pictured what they'd do on the morrow and the day after and the day after that. Later, when Mrs. Lee went her rounds, as she always did, tucking a cover under each loved chin, she found Keineth's fair curls very close to Peggy's round bobbed head and their hands still clasping.
KEINETH WRITES TO HER FATHER
My dear, dear, dearest Daddy,
I have decided to write down all my thoughts and send them to you just like the diry Tante used to keep in her brown book that had the lock on it, then she would lose the key and ring her hands and think Dinah had taken it, then she would find it under her burow cover where she had hidden it all the time. I am trying to be a good soldier. It was very hard at first, I could not keep myself from thinking all the time of you and Tante and our happy home where it must be all dark and dusty now like it was after we had been in the mountains with Aunt Josephine, only worse. I do love it here, but it is not a bit like anything I have ever seen at home or riding with Aunt Josephine. It is like a house and like we were living right out doors, for there are so many windows and we sleep in a big room just with a roof. I sleep right next to Peggy; we always talk before we go to sleep, which is lots of fun, only Peggy never listens until I finish. I say good-night to a big bright star becose I pretend that star is shining down where you are writing somewhere and maybe will tell you that your little girl is saying goodnight. Way off toward the end of the sky there is a funny little star that is very hard to see, and I say goodnight to that for Tante becose she is so far away, too, Barbara helped me find on the map where she had gone and Mr. Lee said poor thing. I do wish I knew if she was unhappy.
We live downstairs in a great big room and eat there and everything, it seems just as if flowers grew right in it, for there are boxes of them at the windows and on the veranda, and Aunt Nellie puts big bunches of them all around the room and Peggy has a bird that lives in a white cage in the window and sings all the time, I guess becose the sun shines on him. The furniture is not gold at all like Aunt Josephine's and it is not big like we have at home and there are only one or two rugs and the floor shines; Aunt Nellie does not fuss when we children move things around and we have lots of fun. There is a big fireplace made of rocks Billy says they pulled up from the beach. One time Mr. Lee lighted some big logs in it and we all sat round and told terrible storys of pirates and things we made up most, but Billy could think of the worst and Mr. Lee and Aunt Nellie sat with us and told some just like they were children, too. Sometimes Aunt Nellie seems just like a girl, she is so jolly, she is not a bit like Aunt Josephine, though I am sure Aunt Josephine is a very nice lady and I don't mean that I don't love her, only Aunt Nellie kisses me as if she liked too and does not just peck my cheek. Last week she brought me home some lovly middy bloses like Peggy wears, and I play in bloomers all day and put on a white skirt for supper; Mr. Lee says Peggy and I look like twins. Auntie brought me a bathing suit, too, and a tennis raket Peggy says is better than hers. She folded away all my hair ribbons, she said we would not bother with them in the country. Barbara wears middy bloses, too, but she cannot wear bloomers becose she is too old though she does not look old or grownup. She is going away to school in the fall and Auntie and she are getting her close ready. Alice is just a little girl and is some fun, although she crys real often Peggy says she is spoiled. Auntie says she will outgrow that and that Peggy cryed just as much when she was like Alice is. I wish I could see you becose I would like to ask you many questions about when I was a little girl. I am sure if I had a little sister like Alice I would try and be more polite than Peggy is, but Peggy says that families are all like that. Billy is awful. I do not think I like him very much. He says the queerest words and acts rude and rough. Tante would not like his manners at all. I am ashamed becose I do not like him becose Auntie loves him dearly and she only laughs when I think she will punish him; he does not read books and his English is bad like Dinah's and he teses Peggy and Alice and eats very fast and talks with food in his mouth. I shall try to like him.
There are no sidewalks at Mr. Lee's house; they have pebble paths with flowers here instead of sidewalks and a dirt road; it is just like the real country and there are daisies in the fields, Peggy says they do not call them lots. The grass is greener than in the Square at home. All the children have gardens. Peggy says I may have half of her's and I have a hoe and rake all my own. Billy Is going to sell his vegertables becose he wants to buy a new sending set for his wireless. I like the pony, though I do not like to ride it after the first time when I fell off, though it did not hurt me at all and I was not even frightened.
To-morrow we are going into the lake for a swim, although I will have to learn, but Peggy says that it is easy only I must stay away from Billy or he will duck me. I shall try and not be afraid becose I am sure you would be ashamed of me if I acted frightened. It will be fun to put on my new bathing suit. Auntie taught Barbara and Peggy to swim. Peggy is going to try and win the medal this year, and Barbara says she will becose she swims so well.
I will try and remember to write to Aunt Josephine like I promised I would becose she is my aunt, but I will not know what to tell her becose there is not anything in Overlook that is like what she has and she might not like what I tell her and scold us. I am sure she would be angry if I told her that once a week Auntie lets us girls cook the supper and we cook just what we please and surprise them, and Barbara puts down on a paper everything we use and how much it costs, and after supper she gives it to Mr. Lee and we talk about it. Tomorrow is our night. Oh I wish you were here, Daddy, it is such fun only it is very lonely without a father. I try to do all the things that Peggy does, though I can't do them as well, but I will tell you in this diry how I improve as I intend to do. I have not any book to keep my thoughts in, but I will send them to you whenever I write them. Please excuse my spelling for I am sure no one should have to look in a dickshunary when they are writing thoughts. Tante never did. I love you and I am sending a million kisses with this letter.
Your little soldier daugghter, Keineth Randolph.
* * * * *
Dear Mr. President of the United States:
Please send the letter I put in the envelope to my father. He is working for the Stars and Stripes somewhere, he said he could not tell me where becose it was a secret. He is a soldier, but he is one of those that do not wear any uniform. I am sure you will know where he is becose you are the President of our Country. I would like to know, too, very much where he is becose it is lonesome without him, for my father is the only family I have. But my father said I must be a little soldier. You know he just means me to do my duty and to like Overlook and everybody and to do what they do, but it makes me feel better to pretend that I am a soldier like he is and like all your soldiers. Thank you if you send my letter to my father and much love.
Yours truly, Keineth Randolph.
P. S.—Aunt Josephine says postscripts are not good form, but I forgot to say that my father's name is John Randolph, of Washington Square, New York. This was the letter over which Keineth, curled in a chair at the writing-desk, had labored for a long time, finishing it at last to her satisfaction. Slipping it into an envelope with the letter she had written to her father she sealed it hastily, anxious to have it addressed and mailed before Peggy and Billy returned from the golf club.
Over on the window seat Barbara sat sewing, watching Keineth with amused eyes; for Keineth had been writing with the dictionary open at her elbow and had stopped very often to consult it as to the spelling of a word.
"Very different from Peggy," thought Barbara.
Aware after a little that Keineth's face wore a perplexed frown, she said to her:
"Can I help you, Ken?"
"If you'll just tell me how to address a letter to the President, please."
"The President! What President?"
"The President of the United States."
"Good gracious—" Barbara, dropping her sewing, stared at Keineth in amazement. "I thought—no wonder you're using a dictionary! I am sure I would, too! But—" Keineth broke in hastily. "You see I have been writing a sort of diary, about everything I think and do, to send to my father, but I don't know where he is because he has gone away on a mission for our country and it has to be kept a secret, but I thought—" Her voice broke a little and she held the letter tightly in her hands.
Barbara, feeling how close the tears were to Keineth's bright eyes, crossed quickly to her side.
"Oh, I see!" she said briskly. "What a splendid idea! Of course the President will know where he is and will send it to him. Let me think—we learned all that in school and had to address make-believe letters to him—" Taking a sheet of paper she wrote in large letters:
Honorable Woodrow Wilson, White House, Washington, D. C.
"It looks too simple for the President—it ought to have more flourishes to it and titles and things, shouldn't it, Ken? You copy it and we'll walk straight down to the post office and mail it so that it will go on to-night's train." Tears were far from Keineth's eyes as she walked by Barbara's side down the white road between the fields of daisies and buttercups. The little cloud of loneliness that had for a brief time threatened her sky had disappeared and she was again a light-hearted little girl, eagerly awaiting the happy things that each new day at Overlook seemed to bring to her.
PILOT COMES TO OVERLOOK
"This is the third time in a week that Billy's been late for dinner," said Mrs. Lee, looking from Billy's empty place at the table to his father's face.
Mr. Lee was serving the steaming chicken and biscuits that Nora had placed on the table.
"He asked me if he could go to the fair at Middletown! He wanted his next week's allowance."
"William," and Mrs. Lee's gentle voice was stern, "you do spoil that boy dreadfully!"
"He's with Jim Archer!" Peggy put in. She knew that her mother did not like Jim Archer.
"Billy's with him a lot," added Barbara.
"He teases us girls all the time, too, Mother! He put June bugs in my bed last night!" cried Alice.
"Billy is certainly in all wrong just now," answered Mr. Lee with a twinkle in his eyes.
"But do you think these fairs are quite the places for boys like Billy and Jim Archer—alone?" asked Mrs. Lee with a troubled look. "He should have been home long ago! They must have ridden their wheels!"
"Don't worry, little mother! Billy will come home tired and hungry and none the worse for the fair! Why, when I was a boy I never missed a fair anywhere around and always walked, too! They used to be real fairs—nothing like them these days!"
The children knew that when their father began his "when I was a boy," it could mean a story if there was a little coaxing!
"Oh, tell us a story!" Alice cried.
"Please do!" added Keineth. It would make them all forget to feel cross toward Billy!
So, chuckling a little under his breath, Mr. Lee began:
"Down in our village old Cy Addington had a calf he'd entered in the County Fair. He'd set his heart on that calf's winning a prize—all the other farmers had told him it would. It was black as jet with just a little white mark on its fore quarter. He tended that calf like a baby and spent hours at a time getting it all in shape for the Fair. Well, the night before the Fair opened two boys—bad boys they were—stole that calf out of its shed, took it off in some woods where they had a lantern and a can of paint hidden under a log. What do you think they did? Painted the animal white—snow white—every bit of him! Then they took him to the graveyard and tied him to a tombstone!"
"Oh, Daddy, how dreadful!" cried Alice.
"Then what happened?" demanded Keineth and Peggy in one voice.
"Well, a lot of things happened, and they happened fast! Miss Cymantha Jones, a nervous spinster, was walking home from Widow Markham's house—rather late, but she'd been caring for the widow through a sick spell. And Miss Cymantha saw that calf jumping around among the tombstones and thought it was a ghost! She let out such screams that it brought Charley, the old sexton, running to the door in his night shirt, and he saw the calf, and Miss Cymantha scuttling down the road screaming and holding her skirts high so's she could run faster, and I guess he thought it was the resurrection itself, for what did he do but ring the bell and the folks all thought it was a fire and came rushing out in all kinds of clothes! Then Cy Addington found his precious calf and the neighbors had an indignation meeting right then and there and the ones who had the most clothes on started out to find the offenders and some of the others went in to quiet Miss Cymantha, and a few others put the sexton to bed and locked him in so that he couldn't give any more alarms!"
"But what happened to the boys?"
"Oh, when the crowd was the most excited they just climbed over a woodshed into the house and by the time the volunteers were lined up to go to find them they were sound asleep!"
"Who were they, Father? Were they boys you knew?" asked Peggy.
Mr. Lee laughed down the length of the table and Peggy caught the answering smile in her mother's eyes.
"Oh, I know—I know! It was you, Daddy," she cried, running from her chair to kiss the back of his head.
"Come, dear, sit down! William, if you were that sort of a boy what can we expect of Billy? Hark—isn't that his whistle?" She stepped eagerly to the door, the girls close behind her.
"He's all right—he always whistles when he's happy!"
"It is he!" cried Mrs. Lee, going down the steps. "And what in the world is he bringing with him!"
For Billy, covered with dust, guiding his bicycle with one hand, was walking leisurely up the road leading with an air of pride edged slightly by a disturbing doubt, a dirty, weary-eyed dog!
"A dog—of all things!" cried Barbara,
"Where'd you get it?" demanded Peggy eagerly.
The family stood on the bottom step and eyed Billy's treasure. The dog seemed to have no doubt as to his welcome, for in his desire to greet his adopted family he strained at the slender leash with which Billy held him.
"Whose dog is it, Billy," asked Mrs. Lee.
"I bought him for a dollar!" Billy glanced questioningly at his mother. He had heard her declare ever so often that she would not allow a long-haired dog in the house! And this new pet had a very long, shaggy, dirty hide! Peggy was on her knees with both arms around the dog's neck.
"Just see him shake hands!" Alice was crying.
But the quiet of Mrs. Lee's manner disturbed Billy. "I think you'd better come into the house and see if Nora has saved you any supper. After you have finished we will hear about the dog."
"Let me hold him, please, Billy!" begged Peggy. Keineth stood a little apart. She was not yet sure that she wanted a closer acquaintance with the newcomer. She had known few dogs; her father had always warned her to leave the stray dogs that she met on the street quite alone—and she had detested Aunt Josephine's silky poodle! But this poor scrap was wagging his stubby tail and looking at her in a coaxing manner that said plainly, "Let's be friends!"
Within the house Billy was cramming down biscuits and chicken gravy with an enjoyment that covered the concern he felt at his mother's attitude. When he could speak for the food in his mouth he told her of the crowds at the fair. But with the last mouthful of custard pie bolted he went straight to the point: "Can I keep him, Mother?"
She rose and, with Billy following, went out upon the veranda. At sight of his new master the dog broke away from Peggy and leaped upon him, his big paws on Billy's shoulders.
"Can't I keep him, Mummy?" he asked, pleadingly, looking from his mother to his father.
"Mummy, this is such a lovely dog—" implored Alice, the June bugs forgotten.
"And we'll take care of him," added Peggy.
Billy put one arm around the dog's neck.
"I guess when you hear the story 'bout him you'll let him stay," he said solemnly.
"Tell us, son," Mr. Lee joined in for the first time.
So Billy stood before them to plead for his dog.
"Jim and I got to the Fair, 'nd he told me to wait outside and he'd scout around and see if he couldn't find his uncle who had a show inside, 'cause Jim thought maybe his uncle could get us in for nothing and we'd have more money to spend. It was awful hot and I went over and sat under the trees across the road and watched the people come. All of a sudden I heard a dog cry, and over near one of the other trees was a man that looked like a tramp trying to make a dog go ahead and kicking him awful 'cause the dog wouldn't go! The dog would cry and then the man'd kick him again and swear awful. Well, I was mad—I gave that whistle that Rex used to know and the dog sort of listened, then I whistled harder and the dog made a jump and broke his string and ran like a flash right to me just's if he knew I was a friend! The man came after him, swearing harder than ever. But I just took the dog and stood right up and I said to him: 'You don't know how to treat a dog!' I thought maybe he'd hit me, he looked so mad, but I went on talking real fast. I said, 'He's a lot like a dog I know—what'll you sell him for?' Because I'd sort o' decided he'd stolen him and might be glad to get rid of him, you see! And the man said, 'How much'll you give?' and I told him I'd give a dollar, and he reached out for the string and said, 'That ain't enough,' and I said, 'That's all I've got,' and just that minute a policeman came along towards us and he said quick, 'He's yours,' and I gave him my dollar and you ought to have seen him beat it!"
Upon the rest of the story Billy touched lightly—how, his dollar gone, he had had no money with-which to buy his way into the fair; how Jim, returning from an unsuccessful search for the uncle and finding Billy and the dog under the tree, had, disgusted by Billy's extravagance, left him there, bidding him wait! But later Jim had relented and had treated Billy to an ice-cream cone from the tent near the gate. Then Jim had started for home and Billy had walked the five miles between Middletown and Overlook, pushing the bicycle and leading the tired dog.
"And I never saw the Fair at all," he finished, breathless from his story.
"Well, Mother—don't you think Billy deserves the dog?" said Mr. Lee when Billy had finished. And Keineth whispered, "Goody, goody!"
Mrs. Lee laughed. "I will say that he may stay here on trial—while we're in the country. But, oh, dear—I had hoped we'd never have another dog—and of all things, a long-haired dog!"
"Jim Archer said he was an Airedale," broke in Billy, proudly stroking the dirty head. "Pretty cheap for a dollar, I think!"
"Let's name him," cried Alice eagerly. "I think you'd better bathe him first," chuckled Mr. Lee. Then, turning to his wife, "You know I think it is a valuable dog! The fellow must have stolen him!"
In triumph Billy and Peggy led the newcomer towards the pump for his bath, while Keineth went in search of soap and a sponge. Over the bath they discussed names and, as it looked as though they could not agree, they decided that, because Keineth was a visitor, she should select the name.
And after a little thought she called him Pilot.
"Pilot Lee," said Peggy, squeezing a spongeful of water over the dog's head.
An hour later a very tired boy was sleeping soundly, while on the floor beside his cot lay the dog—his warm muzzle faithfully snuggled against Billy's dusty shoe.
THE MUSIC THE FAIRIES PUT IN HER FINGERS
On the shaded corner of the wide veranda Mrs. Lee sat making buttonholes in a blouse for Billy, humming as she worked. Occasionally she patted the crisp cloth in her hand as though she loved this task of stitching for her youngsters. About her quiet reigned; broken now and then by Peggy's bird in its cage and the far-off sound of the gasoline mower on the golf course.
Suddenly Barbara came around the corner of the house, like a rose, in her fresh pink gingham. In her hand she swung a putter.
"Off for the golf links, dear?" Mrs. Lee asked, glancing with pride over the straight, slim figure of the girl.
"Yes, Mother, Carol Day and I play off our match this afternoon. If I beat her I'll win those candlesticks—"
"They will look very pretty on your dresser," smiled Mrs. Lee. "I know what you mean, Mother—that I'm just playing for the candlesticks alone and I'm not at all, for when I do win one I sort of hate taking a prize. But I would like to beat Carol because she does play such a good game!"
"That's the spirit, Bab. Where are the little girls?"
"That's what I wanted to talk to you about, Mother," Barbara, balancing herself on the arm of a chair, tapped her toe with the putter. "Peggy and Alice have gone off to Molly Sawyer's and they've left Keineth home. I don't think they're treating her a bit nicely!"
"Why didn't she go with them?"
"I don't think Peggy asked her to go. She and Molly were going to play tennis on the Sawyer courts with Joan Crate, a girl that's out here from town, and Keineth felt left out. Peggy told her she couldn't play well enough to play with them and that it spoiled a game playing with beginners, anyway!"
Mrs. Lee stitched in silence. Barbara went on:
"And I heard Billy the other day teasing her about her father. He laughed at her when she said her father was a soldier, only the kind that didn't wear a uniform, and he told her there weren't any soldiers like that! I think you ought to speak to the children, Mother."
"Never mind, Bab, those things will straighten themselves. Peggy must be more considerate and patient and I will tell Billy something about Keineth's father—Billy will be interested. We may some day have reason to be very proud of knowing him, for he may become a very great man, besides doing an immense good for this country of ours. Run along, dear, to your game and good luck to you!"
Barbara kissed the top of her head and hurried away. Mrs. Lee sat on alone, her hands idly clasped over the blouse in her lap. It was her way to puzzle out these little problems quietly.
Suddenly across the June stillness came the sound of exquisite music; clear, thrilling notes, unreal—fairylike! Almost hesitatingly Mrs. Lee turned as though she expected to see a fairy sprite in gauzy robes approaching her from the shadows of the house! She rose and crept toward the window. No sprite was there—only Keineth sitting before the piano, her small hands softly touching the keys as though by magic she drew the melody from them. Across her fair head fell a slanting bar of sunlight. To this her eyes were raised in rapt contentment.
From the window Mrs. Lee watched and listened. There seemed to be no beginning or end to the melody—it ran on and on, now plaintive, like a small voice crying—now full of laughter with a happy note like that of a bird.
"Child—" Mrs. Lee stepped through the long window into the room. Keineth turned quickly.
"I didn't know—anyone was here," she said, shyly.
But Mrs. Lee scarcely heard her. She had clasped her arms about the small form and was holding it very close.
"I was just playing—what the fairies put in my fingers," Keineth explained from the depths of Mrs. Lee's embrace.
"They are fairy fingers indeed," laughed Mrs. Lee. "Let us sit down here together and you must tell me all about it. Who taught you to play like that, child?"
"No one—like that. Madame Henri always gave me lessons. They were very stupid and I hated having to practice. But every evening, when we'd sit together, I'd play to Daddy the music that came into my fingers. Sometimes he'd stand by the piano until I was finished and then he'd kiss my fingers and say 'fairy fingers', only Tante used to snore so loudly, poor thing."
"And you love music?"
"Oh—most of anything in the world. Sometimes Daddy would take me to the big opera house to hear music and it seemed, when I heard it, as though I was floating right away. Then we'd go home and I'd make up more music and tell them a story on the piano and sometimes Daddy could guess the story almost. Tante used to shake her head and Daddy would say, 'Leave her alone—she knows more than we do.' I don't know what he meant, but some day I shall study hard and try to be a great musician. Daddy said-I should-only he said I must wait until my body grew as strong as my spirit."
"Keineth, my dear, do you know what a precious trust has been given you? God gives to some of His children great gifts—they are in trust for Him! You must care for it and guard it and keep it and see that it is bestowed generously upon many! Music is one of the most precious things in this world—and to create it is a great power!"
Keineth, with puzzled eyes, tried to understand. Mrs. Lee patted her hand.
"How your mother would have loved to hear what these fingers can do! She had a nature that was like a song in its sweetness. But your father is right; before all else you must build up this little body of yours!"
"What did he mean, Aunt Nellie?"
"He wants you to run and play games and grow strong. And you must not be discouraged and unhappy if you can't keep up just yet with Peggy and Billy and the others. Remember, while they've been racing their legs off you've been doing other things. If Peggy can beat you at tennis, you just ask her to play one of her pieces for you! Poor Peg, her fingers are all thumbs! Everything evens up in this funny world, child."
"You're so wonderful, Aunt Nellie! I did fed as if Peggy didn't like me because I couldn't do things as well as she can, but if she'll help me learn to swim real well and beat Billy just once at tennis, I'll help her with her music!"
"A fine idea, Keineth! And then sometimes, when Peggy perhaps wants to do something that you don't care about, I will help you write down the music you play. Some day we will surprise them all—you and I will have a secret!"
Keineth clapped her hands eagerly. "Oh, I have wished I could! It'll be such fun! I'll send it to my father! You are wonderful, Aunt Nellie." The child threw her arms about Mrs. Lee's neck in a burst of joy.
"Remember, now! No discouraged heart because you can't get a ball over the net or stand on your head in the water!"
That evening an east wind blowing up with a fine, driving rain, gave an excuse for a fire in the big fireplace. And as they sat around it; Alice on the arm of her mother's chair, Barbara close to her father, a little silent, because Carol Day had beaten her; Peggy and Keineth on the floor side by side, and Billy and his dog sprawled near the door, Mrs. Lee told the children the story of the little boy who went each day to his attic room to play on the old piano there; how one day, the sound of the music reaching the ears of people below, they crept one by one to the dark stairway to listen. Then in wonder they brought others and even more. These foolish folk thought it was a spirit who came to the attic room and made the music, but finally one of them crept closer and opened the door and found the little boy!
"I know, Mother," cried Barbara, "it was Mozart!"
"Yes, it was Mozart, who, when he grew older, made music that will last as long as this world. Keineth, will you play for us, dear?"
Keineth, with a very red face, walked bravely to the piano. But her heart was happy and her fingers tingled with the music she felt. With the firelight dancing across the darkened room it seemed like the old library at home and as if Daddy must be sitting close to her with Madame Henri nodding in her chair near the window!
They were silent when she had finished. Barbara sighed-as though the music had made her sad; Billy said something under his breath that sounded like "Gee!" and Mrs. Lee patted Peggy's hand. She had found time for a little talk with Peggy about Keineth.
"Oh, I think you're wonderful!" Peggy cried now to Keineth, running to her and linking her hand in Keineth's arm. "I wish I could play one bit as well as that——"
After the children had gone to bed Mr. and Mrs. Lee sat for a long time in the room lighted only by the flames of the fire. Somehow the music seemed to linger about them.
"Isn't this world funny, William—" Mrs. Lee stared into the blaze. "If that child had not lived that funny, lonely life in that big house with no one but the queer governess, that gift of hers might never have developed! I wonder what the future may have in store for her?"
"Above all—let us hope—health and happiness!"
ALICE RUNS AWAY
"I've got something to show you all," Billy announced at the luncheon table. He wore the satisfied air of one who has accomplished something long desired.
"What've you got?" Peggy answered promptly.
"Guess!" Billy fixed his attention upon his plate in a tantalizing way.
"Oh, I know—it's a new sending set! I guessed first!"
"You didn't guess, either! I'll bet you saw Joe Gary bring it!"
"What is a sending set?" asked Keineth.
"I'll show you afterwards," Billy answered, with a kindness meant to crush Peggy.
Mr. Lee broke in: "But I thought you had to save three dollars more before you could buy one—"
Billy flushed. "Well, this ain't exactly mine—yet, Dad! Joe Gary made it and he's going to make another and he says I can use this one until I want to buy it or at least for a while. I have that dollar I was saving and my onions and radishes."
"Good gracious!" Barbara laughed, "I suppose we'll live on onions and radishes three times a day."
Mr. Lee turned to Billy. "Don't you think, son, it might be better to wait until you have the money to pay Joe? And a little more practice?"
"Billy's always spending money on all those foolish things," Barbara put in. "He doesn't seem to want to save and help you!"
"Well, say, don't you think those things are foolish! You read all sorts of things how wireless messages save people—"
"On sinking ships, yes!"
"Well, lots of other ways, too!" Billy's face blazed with wrath. "I'll just show you some time!"
"Molly Sawyer's brother knows a boy who is a wireless operator in the Canadian Army and sends messages from trees!"
"And if I have a little more practice I can try the troop exams next winter and get a certificate!"
"Billy," broke in his mother, "run over to Mrs. Clark's and tell Alice to come home at once. Nora rang the bell for her but she did not hear."
"Why, Mother," said Peggy, suddenly alarmed, "Janet Clark was with us this morning!"
Janet Clark was Alice's closest playmate. The two families lived in adjoining houses. Mrs. Lee had returned to the house at noon and Nora had told her that she had last seen Alice running through the gate between the two gardens.
It was only a worried moment before Billy came home to say that Alice had not been there that morning! It was not like Alice to be long away from home. Mrs. Lee, hiding her concern, directed the children to scour the neighborhood.
Not until they had come back from the club and beach and neighboring houses and reported no sign of her did the mother and father openly express alarm. The children saw a look come into their mother's face that it had never worn before! Like a shock its agony pierced into each child's heart! Very white, Billy rushed off to enlist the services of his boy friends for a thorough search of the beach. Barbara, with her father, started in the motor for Middletown. "I will stay here near the telephone," Mrs. Lee had said in answer to her husband's quick, concerned look.
Peggy came running down the stairs.
"Her bathing suit is gone, Mammy, and her pink apron—"
"And her penny bank is broken!" Keineth held out in her hands the pieces of the china pig which had held Alice's collection of pennies. "It's all broken!" and, miserably, Keineth looked down at the fragments.
"We will find her," said Mrs. Lee, bravely, putting an arm about each child. "You girlies must stay with me and help me."
From Middletown Mr. Lee telephoned that they had found a clue. A child answering Alice's description had stopped at a small candy store and had purchased a selection of lolly-pops. She had paid for them in pennies. Someone in the store had seen her climb upon a trolley car bound for the city. Mr. Lee and Barbara were going on to the city.
But at dusk they returned with no further news. In the crowd at the city station no one had seen the child! And Billy and his boy friends had found no trace upon the beach!
"The police are working," the children heard their father say. Then Mrs. Lee suddenly sank limp against his arm and he led her away.
"Courage—courage!" they heard him whispering.
Nora laid a tempting meal upon the table and carried it away, for no one could eat a mouthful. Peggy had run to her room, where Keineth found her-her face buried deep in her pillow.
"Oh," she sobbed, "I've been so mean to Allie lots of times and maybe she's dead somewhere and I can't ever tell her—"
Keineth could offer small comfort, but the two locked their arms tight about one another and listened as though in the gathering darkness they might hear Alice's dear voice.
Mr. Lee had rushed off again to the city after a whispered word to Barbara to stay close to her mother. Billy, his heart breaking, his eyes burning with the tears which his boyish pride would not allow him to show, and feeling the bitterness of his youth and his uselessness, slowly mounted the stairs to the corner of the attic which was his own particular den. The nickel of his beloved wireless apparatus gleamed at him through the darkness. Like a flash a hope sprang into his heart! Snatching up the phone he placed it upon his head, then ticked off his message, with call after call, in every direction!
Now and then someone picked up his words—an unsatisfactory answer would come back. However, finding relief in doing something, Billy repeated his calls; listening intently for any answer.
Just as to his mind vividly came the picture of Alice's hurt face, when, that very morning, he had roughly taken from her his old stamp book, his own call came through the air. Every nerve in his body tingled a response! It was Freddie Murdock—they had often talked back and forth across the lake from where, on the Canadian shore, Freddie Murdock's father had a cottage. And the words that Freddie was sending to him by the waves of the air were: "Sister found—all right!"
Shouting the good news Billy rushed three steps at a time down the stairs straight into his mother's arms! She clung to him, burying the boy's face, down which the tears were streaming, close to her heart.
And while they clung together, crying and half laughing, Barbara reached her father on the telephone to tell him how Alice had been found!
Two hours later Genevieve brought the little truant home. Mrs. Lee carried her off for a warm bath and bed, while Nora, her eyes very red with weeping, fixed her a bowl of hot milk toast.
"I coaxed the story from her," Mr. Lee told his wife and Barbara later; "that child wanted to see Midway Beach! Do you remember how hard she begged to go with the Clarks when they went over and how unreasonable she thought we were in refusing? Well, she just made up her mind to go alone. She took her bathing suit and her pennies. She walked from here to Middletown, took the trolley there for the city. On the trolley she saw a party of picnickers headed for Midway Beach and she just walked along with them. It was very simple. She watched the merry-go-rounds and spent all her pennies! When it began to grow dark she laid down on the beach and fell asleep. They found her there, later, after young Murdock had given the alarm of a child lost! She didn't seem to be frightened until they handed her over to a policeman to take her back to the city; then the seriousness of her runaway must have come to her. I do not think you will have to worry that she will do it again."
Up in her cot Alice lay wide awake. Beside her Peggy and Keineth, exhausted by their anxiety, were breathing heavily. Below Alice could hear voices that she knew were her father's and mother's. She wished awfully that her mother would come to her! With a child's instinct she had read on her mother's face the suffering she had caused. Suddenly she felt terribly alone—perhaps none of them would love her now or want her back. She had been so very, very naughty. She clutched the blanket with frightened fingers.
The voices ceased below and in a moment Alice saw her mother's face bending over her. With a little cry she threw her arms about the dear neck.
"Oh, Mammy, Mammy," she cried, in a passion of sobs, "say you love me—say you want me back! I don't ever, ever, ever want to go away alone! I thought it would be fun—I didn't think I was so naughty. Hold me close, Mammy——" exhausted, she hid her face.
"Oh, my dear—my baby," the mother breathed in comfort and forgiveness, and the loving arms did not relax their hold until the child was fast asleep.
"I think, Billy," said Mr. Lee, the next morning, "the family will present to you with their compliments the finest sending set we can find!"
"And aren't they useful?" Billy cried in just triumph.
A PAGE FROM HISTORY
For several days a peaceful quiet reigned at Overlook. Little Alice dogged her mother's footsteps, as though she could not bear one moment's separation; Barbara spent the greater part of her time at the golf club, coming home each day glowing with enthusiasm over the game and fired with a hope of winning the women's championship title. Billy had no thought for anything but the new sending set which his father had ordered for him and which Joe Gary was helping him to install. Keineth, under Peggy's tutorage, was faithfully practicing at tennis, spending much time volleying balls back and forth across the net and trying to understand the technic of the game. Then each afternoon came a delicious dip into the lake, when Mrs. Lee would patiently instruct Keineth in swimming. They were gloriously happy days—seeming very care-free after the hours of agonizing concern over Alice; days that brought new color into the young faces and an added glow into the bright eyes.
"Does Keineth know how we spend the Fourth of July?" Billy asked one evening.
"I hate firecrackers!" Keineth shuddered. "We always went away over the Fourth to a little place out on Long Island."
"We just have balloons and Roman candles in the evening because they are not dangerous," Peggy explained.
"And then on the Fourth we always make our visit to Grandma Sparks."
"Who is she?" asked Keineth. She had never heard them speak of Grandma Sparks.
"Father calls her a page out of history."
"Every man that had ever lived in her family has served his country—"
"She isn't really our grandmother. Just a dear friend."
Barbara explained further: "She has the most interesting little old home about two miles from here. Part of it is over one hundred years old! She lives there all alone. And her house is filled with the most wonderful furniture—queer chairs and great big beds with posts that go to the ceiling and one has to step on little stepladders to get into them, only no one ever does because she lives there all alone. She has some plates that Lafayette ate from and a cup that George Washington drank out of—"
"And the funniest toys—a doll that belonged to her grandmother and is made of wood and painted, with a queer silk dress, all ruffles! She always lets me play with it."
"And her great-great-grandmother, when she was a little girl, held an arch with some other children, at Trenton, for Washington to pass through when he went by horse to New York for his first inauguration. They all wore white and the arch was covered with roses. Grandma Sparks loves to tell of it and how Washington patted her great-great-grandmother on the head! If you ask her to tell you the story she will be very happy, Keineth."
"I like her guns best—" cried Billy. "She's got all kinds of guns and things they used way back in the Revolution!"
"And she has a roomful of books and letters from great people that her ancestors collected. Why, Father says that she would be very rich if she'd sell the papers she has, but she will not part with a thing! Mother says she just lives in the past and she'd rather starve than to take money for one of her relics!"
"I'd rather have the money, you bet," muttered Billy.
"I wouldn't—I think it must be wonderful to have a letter that was really written and signed by President Lincoln himself," Barbara declared.
"I'm awfully glad we're going there," said Keineth eagerly.
"Let's ask her to tell us about how her brother dug his way out of Andersonville Prison! She'll show us the broken knife, Ken!"
"Why, Billy, she's told us that story dozens of times—let's ask for a new one!" To Keineth: "After she gives us gingerbread and milk and little tarts she tells us a story while we all sit under the apple tree!"
"And say, she can make the best tarts!" interrupted Billy. "Oh, I wish the Fourth would hurry and come!" echoed Keineth. It did come—a glorious sunny morning! Billy's bugle wakened them at a very early hour. Before breakfast the children, with Mr. and Mrs. Lee, circled about the flag pole on the lawn, and, while Billy slowly pulled the Stars and Stripes to the top, in chorus they repeated the oath of allegiance to their flag. Keineth—her eyes turned upward, suddenly felt a rush of loneliness for her father. A little prayer formed on her lips to the flag she was honoring. "Please take care of him wherever he is!"
At noon, in Genevieve, they started merrily off for Grandma Sparks! In her mind Keineth had drawn a picture of a stately Colonial house, with great pillars, such as she had sometimes seen while driving with Aunt Josephine. Great was her surprise when Billy turned into a grass-grown driveway which led past a broken-down gate and stopped at the door of a weather-gray house; its walls almost concealed by the vines growing from ground to gable and even rambling over the patched roof. At the door of the house stood a noble apple tree, spreading its branches in loving protection over the old stone steps which led to the threshold.
Through the small-paned window Grandma Sparks had been watching for them. She came out quickly; a tiny figure in a dress as gray and weather-beaten as the house itself, a cap covering her white head. Her hands were stretched out in eager welcome and her smile seemed to embrace them all at once.
"Well—well—well," was all she could say.
Keineth felt suddenly as though this quaint little lady had indeed stepped out of one of her own dusty old books—she could not be a part, possibly, of their busy world! And while the others talked she examined, with unconcealed interest, the queer heavy furniture, the colored prints on the walls and the old spinnet in the corner. Billy was already taking down the guns and Alice sat rocking the doll.
Keineth was shown the picture of the great-great-grandmother who had held the arch and was told the story; she saw the plates and the cup and the broken knife. They unfolded the flags that had been in the family for generations and reread the letters that Mrs. Sparks kept in a heavy mahogany box. One of them—most treasured of all—had been written to her mother in praise of her brother's bravery on the battlefield under action, and was signed "A. Lincoln."
"My greatest grief in life," the little old lady said, holding the letter close to her heart, "is that I have no son who may for his generation serve his country, if they need him!"
Afterwards Barbara told Keineth that Mrs. Sparks had once had a little boy who had been born a cripple and died when he was twelve years old.
While Barbara and Peggy were busy spreading a picnic—table under the apple tree, Keineth told Grandma Sparks of her own father and how he had gone away to serve his country, too; but that it was a secret and no one knew he was a soldier because he wore no uniform.
"The truest hearts aren't always under a uniform, my dear," and the old lady patted Keineth's hand. "The service that is done quietly and with no beating of drums is the hardest service to do!" After the picnic—and the picnic had included the gingerbread and tarts and patties that Barbara had described and which the dear old lady had spent hours in preparing—they grouped themselves under the apple tree; Grandma in the old rocker Billy had brought from the house.
"Not about Andersonville, please," begged Peggy. "Why, I know that by heart! A new one!"
"Something about the war," Billy urged.
Barbara interrupted, shuddering. "No—no! I can't bear to think there is a war right now—"
"Child—I had thought that never again in my lifetime would this world know a war! We have much to learn, yet—we are not ready for a lasting peace. But it will come!"
"That's what my father says—we must all learn to live like families in a nice street," added Keineth gravely.
"Oh, well—if the girls can't stand a story about the war, tell us something about the early settlers! I like adventure—if I'd lived in those days you bet I'd have discovered something!" "I remember," mused the old lady, "a story my father used to tell! We have the papers about it somewhere. Let me think—it was about a trading post on the Ohio and a captive maiden brought there by the Indians!"
Billy threw his cap in the air.
THE CAPTIVE MAIDEN
Grandma Sparks folded her hands contentedly in her lap and fastened her eyes upon the distant tree-tops.
"Years and years ago, when this land was a vast forest, a band of Canadian and French soldiers and traders made their way through the wilderness to the banks of the Ohio where they built a small fort and started a trading post. The land was rich about them and they were soon carrying on a prosperous trade with the Indians who came to the fort. Though these Indians were friendly the soldiers had made the fort as strong as possible, for they knew that no one could tell at what moment they might be attacked! Sometimes weeks and months would pass when no Indian would come their way; then some of the traders would journey back along the trail with their wealth, leaving the others at the fort to guard it.
"In their number was a soldier who had once escaped from England; had gone into France and from there to Canada, all because he had made the King angry! Everyone in England thought he was dead. After years of lonely wandering he had joined the little band of adventurers when they started for the West—as they called it in those days! He was a queer man, for he seldom talked to his fellows, but they knew he was brave and would give up his life for any one of them! They called him Robert—no one knew his other name, nor ever asked.
"It was the custom at the trading post to treat the Indians with great politeness. Sometimes great chiefs came to the fort and then the soldiers and traders acted as though they were entertaining the King of England.
"One early morning a sentry called out to his fellows that Indians were approaching. The soldiers quickly made all preparations for their reception. The commanding officer went forward with some of his men to meet them. The Indian band was led by a chief—a, great, tall fellow with a kingly bearing, and behind him another Indian carried in his arms the limp form of a white girl.
"Briefly the chief explained that the girl was hurt; that they, the white men, must care for her! Where they had found her—what horrible things might have happened before they made her captive no one could know, for an Indian never tells and the white men knew better than to ask! The girl was carried into shelter and laid upon a rough wooden bed. It was Robert, the outlaw, who helped unwind the covers that bound her.
"In astonishment the soldiers beheld the face of a beautiful girl—waxen white in her unconsciousness. Silently the Indians let the white medicine-man care for their captive. She had been so terribly hurt that for days she lay as though dead! While the soldiers entertained the Indians, the medicine-man and Robert worked night and day to save the young life.
"Having finished trading with the white men the Indians prepared to return to their village, which, they told the white men, was far away toward the setting sun. The girl was too ill to be moved; so, with a few words, the Indian Chief told the officer of the fort that soon they would return for the girl—whom he claimed as his squaw—and that if ill befell her, or, on their return, she was gone—a dozen scalps he would take in turn! The officer could do no more than promise that the Indian's captive would be well guarded.
"And every white man of them knew that as surely as the sun sets the Indian would return for the girl whom he claimed as his squaw, and that if she was not there for him to take, twelve of them would pay with their lives!
"The weeks went on and the girl grew well and strong, but, because of her horrible accident, could remember nothing of her past. She was like an angel to the rough traders and soldiers; going about among them in the simple robe they had fashioned for her of skins and sacking, with her fair hair lying over her shoulders and her eyes as blue as the very sky. And because she could not tell them her name they called her Angele.
"One day a message was brought to their fort telling of war in the Colonies—that the English were fighting the French and that all Canada would be swept with flame and blood! Almost to a man they said they would go back to fight. One among them did not speak—it was Robert! Though he had fled from England never to return, he could not lift his hand against her. And someone must stay with Angele!
"By the camp fire they talked it over. It was decided that four of them would remain at the fort until the chieftain came to claim his captive. One of these would be Robert; the other three would be chosen by lot.
"So while the others went home along the trail over which they had come, the four guarded the little fort for Angele's sake. Three of them gave little thought to that time when the Indian chief would come for the girl—to them, it simply meant that their guard would be ended and that they, too, might return—but Robert went about with a heavy heart, for, as the days passed, it seemed to him more and more impossible to give the girl into a life of bondage! Under the stars he vowed that before he would do that he would run his knife deep into her heart, and pay with his own life.
"Angele's contentment was terribly shattered one evening when, at sundown, three Indians came to the fort. At the sight of them she uttered a terrible scream and fled into hiding. They said they had been wandering over the country and had come to the fort quite by chance and only sought a friendly shelter for the night, but the sight of their brown bodies and dark faces had shocked the girl's mind in such a way as to bring back the memory of everything that had happened to her and hers at the hands of these red men. Robert found her crouched in a corner weeping in terror. To him she told her story; how the little band of people, once happy families in the land of Acadia, roaming in search of a home, had been surprised by an attack of Indians; how before her very eyes every soul of them had been killed and she alone had been spared because the chief wanted her for his squaw! They had carried her away with them; for days they had travelled through strange forests, for hours at a time she was scarcely conscious. Then, attempting escape, she had received the blow from a tomahawk that had hurt her so cruelly. It was a terrible story. Robert listened to the end and then, taking her two hands and holding them close to his heart, told her solemnly that never would she be given again to the Indians!
"But he did not tell her of his vow, for suddenly he knew that life would be very, very happy if he could escape from the fort with her and go back to the Colonies!
"The three Indians, before departing, had told of an entire tribe they had overtaken only a little way off, decked out as if for a great ceremony and led by a chieftain! Robert well knew who they were. If they were to escape it must be before the dawn of another day!
"That night—quietly, that Angele might not be frightened—the men talked together over the fire. Robert unfolded a plan. The others must start eastward immediately along the river trail. Then as soon as the moon had gone down, he and Angele would go in the bark canoe the men had built—paddle as far eastward as they could, then make for the shelter of the forests.
"The others were eager to escape—for they knew now that the man Robert would never give up the girl, and they loved their own scalps! They hastily gathered together what they wanted to take with them and stole from the fort. During their idle days they had dug an underground passage from the fort to the river; through this they escaped quickly to the trail.
"Robert wakened Angele and told her of his plan. She said not a word, but by the fire in her eyes Robert knew what escape meant to her. Then, gently, he asked her if—when they had found safety in the Colonies— she would go with him to a priest to be married, and for answer she turned and kissed him upon his hand.
"While Robert loaded the canoe which he found at the river bank near the opening of the rough tunnel, Angele joyfully made her few preparations for the long journey.
"Before leaving the fort Robert gave to Angele a small knife, telling her that if they were captured she must use it quickly to end her own life! He then carefully barred every possible entrance, knowing that though the Indians could beat these down or fire the entire place, it would mean some delay in their pursuit and give them a little start toward safety.