MARY JANE'S CITY HOME
BY CLARA INGRAM JUDSON
Author of "Flower Fairies," "Good-Night Stories," "Billy Robin and His Neighbors," "Bed Time Tales," "The Junior Cook Book," and Other Works
ILLUSTRATED BY THELMA GOOCH
NEW YORK BARSE & HOPKINS PUBLISHERS
Copyright, 1920, by Barse & Hopkins
PRINTED IN THE U. S. A.
TO MY MOTHER and FATHER
PAGE Finding the New Home 11 The Folks Around The Corner 22 Visiting with Betty 35 Sand Castles 49 The Beach Supper 64 Mary Jane Goes Shopping 76 The Bus Ride 88 The Birthday Luncheon 100 Lost—One Doll Cart 115 A Trip to the Zoo 128 A Day in the Parks 143 Visitors—and a Boat Ride 156 School Begins 171 Christmas in Chicago 184 A Summer Home—and a Telegram 201
And she pointed out the little seal who was a bit too slow. Frontispiece
And then, sliding in the wet sand, she sat right down in the lake and sent a wave of ripples right over her castle 60
"But it's all down my dress," said Mary Jane, trying her very best not to cry 107
This year, seeing Mary Jane was such a very old person, she was allowed to put the gold star on the top of the tree 188
MARY JANE'S CITY HOME
FINDING THE NEW HOME
The late afternoon sunshine sent its slanting, golden rays through the car windows on to the map that Mary Jane and her sister Alice had spread out on the table between the seats of the Pullman in which they were riding.
"And all that wiggly line is water?" Mary Jane was asking.
"Every bit water," replied their father, who bent over their heads to explain what they were looking at; "a lot of water, you see. You remember I told you that Chicago is right on the edge of Lake Michigan. And Lake Michigan, so far as looks are concerned, might just as well be the ocean you saw down in Florida—it's so big you can't see the other side."
"And does it have big waves?" asked Mary Jane.
"Just you wait and see," promised Mr. Merrill. "Big waves! I should say it has!"
"And all the green part of the map is parks," said Alice, quoting what her father had told them when he first showed them the map.
"Then there must be a lot of parks," suggested Mary Jane with interest. "I think I'd like to live by a park," she added thoughtfully.
"I think I should too," agreed Mr. Merrill, "and it's near a park we will make the first hunt for a home."
"Oh, look!" cried Mary Jane suddenly as she glanced up from the spread-out map; "what's that, Dadah?"
"That's the beginning of Chicago," said Mr. Merrill. "Let's fold up the map now and see what we can of the city. This is South Chicago; and those great stacks and flaming chimneys are steel mills and foundries and factories—watch now! There are more!"
The train on which the Merrill family were traveling went dashing past factory after factory—past an occasional open space where they could see in the distance the blue gleam of Lake Michigan and past great wide stretches where tracks and more tracks on which freight cars and engines sped up and down showed them something of the whirling industry that has made South Chicago famous. No wonder it was a strange sight to the two girls—they had never before seen anything that made them even guess the big business that they now saw spread out before them.
They had spent all their lives thus far—Alice was twelve and Mary Jane going on six—in a small city of the Middle West and though they had had a fine summer in the country visiting grandma and grandpa and had only the winter before taken a beautiful trip through Florida, they had never been to a great city. And now they were not going to visit or to take a trip. They were going to live there. The great big city of Chicago was to be their home.
The pretty little house they had loved so well was sold. The furniture and books and dolls and clothes were all packed and loaded on a freight car to follow them to the city and all the dear friends had been given a farewell. Mary Jane had loved the excitement and muss of packing; the great boxes and the masses of crinkly excelsior and the workmen around who always had time for a pleasant joke with an interested little girl. But when it came time to say good-by to Doris and to her much loved kindergarten and to all the boys and girls in school and "on her block," going away wasn't so funny. In fact, Mary Jane felt a queer and troublesome lump in her throat most of the morning when the good-bys were said.
But the ride on the train (and how Mary Jane did love to ride on the train); and the nice luncheon on the diner (and how Mary Jane did adore eating on a diner—hashed brown potatoes, a whole order by herself and ice cream and everything!); and then father's nice talk about all the fun they were going to have, made the lump vanish and in its place there developed an eager desire to see the new city and to begin all the promised fun. It was then that Mr. Merrill showed them the big map of the city and pointed out the part of the city where they would likely live.
As the girls watched, the great factories and foundries slipped away into the distance, and in their place the girls could see houses and occasional stores and here and there a station, past which their train dashed as though it wasn't looking for stations to-day, thank you.
"Don't we stop anywhere?" asked Mary Jane after she had counted three of these little stations.
"Those are suburban stations," explained Mr. Merrill, "and a big through train like ours hasn't time to stop at every one. Pretty soon another train will come along and stop at each one of those we are now passing so don't you worry about folks getting left. This train we are on has got to get us into Chicago in time for dinner."
And just at that minute, when the big three story apartment buildings that looked so very queer and strange to Mary Jane, began to fill every block, the porter came to brush her off and to help her on with her coat.
"I'm going to live here in Chicago," she said to him as he held the coat for her, "and it's a big place with lots of lake and parks and—houses, I guess, and most everything."
"'Deed it is big, missy," replied the porter, "and I hope you's going to like it a lot, I do."
"I'm a-going to," answered Mary Jane confidently, as she picked up Georgiannamore and Georgiannamore's suit case which at the last moment couldn't possibly be packed in the trunk, and followed her father and mother down the aisle, "'cause mother and Dadah and Alice are going to live here too and we always have fun."
Mr. and Mrs. Merrill had decided to get off at one of the larger suburban stations and spend a few days in a near-by hotel; they thought the comparative quiet of a residence hotel would be better for their girls than the flurry and hurry of a big down town hotel. But to Mary Jane, accustomed to the sights and sounds of a small city where street cars went dignifiedly past every fifteen minutes and where traffic "cops" would have very few duties, the confusion she found herself in was quite enough to be very interesting.
They stepped off the train, walked down some stairs and found themselves on the sidewalk of a very busy street. Overhead the noise of their own train rumbling cityward made a terrific din; and as though that were not enough, still higher up the great elevated car line made a rumble and roar. Mary Jane craned her neck as they walked from under the trains and there high in the air, she saw street cars running along as though street cars always had and always would, run on tracks high up in the air!
"Can we ride on it, Dadah?" she shouted to her father, "are we going to ride on that train up on stilts?"
Mr. Merrill shook his head laughingly and hurried them into a waiting taxi.
"We're not going to ride there to-day," he explained when the door of the car shut out some of the noise, "but some day soon we'll take a long ride on the elevated and then you can see all the back yards and back porches and parks and streets and everything about the city, just as plain as plain can be."
While he was talking, the Merrills drove through streets lined on both sides with three-story apartment buildings. But before Mary Jane had time to ask a question or even think what she would like to say, they whisked around a corner and out into the beautiful wide driveway on the Midway—the long, green parkway that stretched, or so it seemed to Mary Jane, for miles in both directions. The taxi pulled up in front of a comfortable looking hotel right on the side of the park and Mary Jane wasn't a bit sorry to get out and take a breath of fresh air and look at the lovely view before her.
"Now just as soon as you are washed up," said Mrs. Merrill, briskly, as they went into the hotel, "you and Alice may come out onto this nice porch and watch the children play on the Midway and get a little run before dinner."
You may be sure that with that promise before her, Mary Jane didn't take very long to primp. She had spied a group of children about her age, who seemed to be having a beautiful time playing ball out there on the grass and she couldn't help noticing that they played just as she and Doris did and she couldn't help wishing that she too, even though she was a new little girl just come to town, could play with them. So she stood very still while Mrs. Merrill tied the fresh hair bow and slipped on a clean frock and then, holding tight to big sister Alice's friendly hand she went down the one flight of stairs—she was in far too big a hurry to wait for the elevator—and out onto the long roomy porch.
Just across the narrow street in front of the hotel and on the nearest bit of parkway, three little girls about Mary Jane's age were still playing ball. One was dainty and small and had yellow curls; one was rather tall and had long straight dark hair and the third had dark, straight hair bobbed short, and snapping black eyes.
"Wouldn't it be funny," said Mary Jane as she looked at them wistfully, "if I'd get to know those girls and they'd be friends. If I did," she added, "I think she'd be my mostest friend," and Mary Jane pointed to the little girl with the dark, bobbed hair.
While they watched and were trying to get up courage to go over and play too, a pretty girl about Alice's age came along the street. Her hair was copper colored and curly and very, very pretty. And her smile when she saw the little girls who were playing, made her seem so friendly and "homey."
"I've been hunting you, Betty," she said to the little girl Mary Jane liked best. "It's time to come home for dinner."
So the four girls, three little folks and one bigger one, went around the corner toward home, and two strangers, standing on the porch, watched them till they were quite out of sight.
"It would be funny," said Alice, "if we'd ever get to know them. I'm sure I'd like to."
"Wouldn't it though!" exclaimed Mary Jane. "I hope we do!"
And all the time they were eating their first dinner in Chicago, and telling mother and father about the children they had seen and making plans about what to do to-morrow, they were thinking about those two girls and wishing to know them better.
Little did they guess what would really truly happen before the week was over!
THE FOLKS AROUND THE CORNER
Three whole days of flat hunting! And of all the fun she had ever had in her more than five years of life, Mary Jane thought flat hunting in Chicago was the most fun of all! She loved the mystery of each new apartment; the guessing which room might be hers and which mother's; the hunting up the door bell and hearing its sound (for as you very well know each door bell has a sound of its own); the poking into closets and pantries and porches. It was the most delightful sort of exploring she had ever come across and she couldn't at all understand why mother and father got tired and somewhat discouraged. For her part Mary Jane was tempted to wish that they would never find a flat, well hardly that; but that finding the right one would take a long, oh, a very long time!
But by the afternoon of the third day, her legs began to get a little tired too, and her eyes looked more often to the green of the Midway they occasionally saw and she thought that flats, even empty flats, really should have chairs for folks to sit on. So, as a matter of fact, she wasn't half as sorry as she had thought she would be, when, on the afternoon of the third day of hunting the Merrill family came across a charming little apartment.
It was on the second floor of a very attractive red brick building; it had five rooms, quite too small, father thought, but then one can't have everything, they had found, and every room was light and sunny and cheerful. But the part about it that Mary Jane and Alice liked the best was the back porch. To be sure there was a front porch, a pretty, little porch with a stone railing and a view way down the street toward the park and lake. But off the dining room the girls discovered a small balcony that overlooked the back yard next door, a back yard that had a garden laid out and a chicken house and everything so homey and comfortable looking that the girls immediately wanted to sit out and watch.
"I think if we'd stay here maybe some children would come out to play," suggested Mary Jane in a whisper.
"I think they would, too," agreed Alice. "And I think if we lived here maybe we could get acquainted and play with them."
"Let's live here!" exclaimed Mary Jane and she ran back into the house just at the very minute Mr. and Mrs. Merrill decided to rent the apartment.
"So you think you'll like it, do you?" said Mrs. Merrill, smiling; "the rooms are pretty small."
"I know we'll love it," said Alice eagerly, "and you should see the back porch."
But Mr. Merrill laughed when they showed him the porch.
"Do you call this a porch," he exclaimed, "why it's not half big enough for a porch! I'd call it a balcony."
"Yes," agreed Mrs. Merrill, "and then when you watch folks in the yard down there,—for you are planning to watch and get acquainted, aren't you?—then you can pretend that this is your balcony seat and that the folks down there are in a play for you—wouldn't that be fun?"
The girls thought it would, but there was so much to plan and think about that they didn't stay on their little balcony any longer just then, which was something of a pity, for right after they went indoors, somebody came out into the yard— But then, there's no use telling about her for Mary Jane didn't see her.
So Mary Jane and Alice went with their father and mother into the room that was to be theirs and they planned just where each bed should be and where was the best place for the desk and dressing table and who should have which side of the closet. And by that time, it was nearly six o'clock—time to go back to the hotel for dinner.
Mr. Merrill stopped at the desk for mail as they went up to their room and there he found a message telling him that their furniture had arrived in Chicago and that it must be taken out of the freight house the next morning.
"Dear me!" exclaimed Mrs. Merrill with a gasp of dismay, "I think it's a good thing we found that flat! What ever would we have done if we hadn't! Well, girls, I think we'd better eat a good dinner and then go to bed early for we'll have to get down there and clean up the flat while father tends to getting our things delivered."
So bright and early the next morning everybody started to work. Mr. Merrill went down town to meet the moving men he had engaged by 'phone and Mrs. Merrill and the two girls put aprons and cleaning rags and soap, all of which they had brought in their small trunk, into a little grip and went down to the new home.
Mary Jane had lots of fun that morning. First she went down to the basement and borrowed a broom from the janitor. Then she went back for clean papers which she folded neatly and spread on the pantry shelves which Mrs. Merrill with the good help of the janitor's wife had cleaned and ready. Then she put papers on the shelf of the closet she and Alice were to share and papers in the drawers near the floor of that same closet. By that time—it takes pretty long to fold papers neatly and get every bit of the shelf covered, you know—the door bell rang—a great, long, hard ring.
"Oh, dear! Can you go, Mary Jane?" exclaimed Mrs. Merrill, "Alice and I both have wet hands!" You see, Alice had been washing mirrors that were on the closet doors while her mother and the janitor's wife did windows and wood work.
"Yes, I'm dry," said Mary Jane, "and my papers are done and I'd like to go."
To tell the honest truth, Mary Jane had just that very minute been wishing the door bell would ring. For the janitor's wife had showed her how to press the buzzer that would release the lock of the front door and let a person come up the stairs. And of course Mary Jane wanted to try it. So she hurried over to the house 'phone, took down the receiver and said, "Who is it?" just as any grown-up person would.
"Here's your things!" said a gruff voice, "we'll bring 'em up the back!"
Mary Jane didn't stop to press any buzzer. She dashed over to the window nearest the alley and there, sure enough, was a great big moving van and it was piled up full of boxes and barrels and crates—all the things that Mary Jane had watched the packing of only such a few days before. Talk about fun! Moving was surely the best sport ever!
Mary Jane stayed at the window watching till the men brought the first load up. Then they announced that they were going for lunch and Mrs. Merrill said she and the girls had better eat while the men were away. So hastily putting on wraps, they went over to a small tea room only a few doors away, where they had a tasty little luncheon so quickly served that they easily got back to their flat before the moving men arrived again.
How that afternoon went, Mary Jane never quite remembered. It was one long succession of excitement and fun. The unpacking of boxes and crates, the piling up of rubbish, the finding of cherished belongings and putting them where they belonged in the new home, and the gradual change of the living room from a mess of boxes to a place that might some day really look like home, all seemed thrillingly interesting to a little girl who had never moved before.
But by half past four or thereabouts, even Mary Jane began to get a little tired.
"I'll tell you something to do," suggested Mrs. Merrill, when a pause in her own work gave her a chance to notice that Mary Jane was getting flushed and tired. "Here is a box of doll things I have just come across. Suppose you take them out into your own little balcony and sort them over. Put in this box (and she handed her a little box) all the things you must surely have upstairs; and leave in the big box all the things you will be willing to put in the store room. Now take your time, dear, and sit down while you work."
Mary Jane was very glad for that advice. For even though moving men are wonderful to watch, and even though rubbish and boxes and barrels are all very fascinating, a person does get tired and sitting down isn't at all a bad idea.
One of the men who was unpacking gave her her own little chair that he had just uncrated and so she sat down in state, in her own chair, on her own balcony and opened the box of doll things. But that's every bit that got done to those doll things that day, every bit.
For at that very minute, who should come out of the house around the corner, the house with the back yard and garden and chickens and everything, but—yes, you must have guessed it—the same two girls that Alice and Mary Jane had seen on the Midway the day they arrived in Chicago. Think of that! Right under Mary Jane's own balcony and, moreover, it was plain to see that they lived there.
"Now I guess we'll get to know them," whispered Mary Jane to herself happily. But of course, she didn't say a thing out loud. She only sat very still and watched.
And as she watched, two boys came out on the back porch of the house around the corner and one of the boys called, "Say, Fran, did you feed the chickens?"
The girl who was about Alice's age answered back, "No I didn't, Ed, I thought it was Betty's turn to-day."
"Now I know a lot," Mary Jane whispered to herself. "She's Frances, I'm sure, and he's Ed; and Betty must be the little girl that's 'bout as big as me."
Just then, when Mary Jane was wishing and wishing and wishing that she would come, Alice came to the door of the balcony and looked out.
"Sh-h-h!" whispered Mary Jane, tensely, "they're here, both of 'em, and there's more of 'em, too!"
Alice seemed to understand exactly what Mary Jane meant, even though her sentence was decidedly mixed up, and she stepped out onto the balcony.
Frances heard the door shut and looked up. For a long minute the two girls looked at each other, then Frances, the girl with the auburn hair and the friendly smile, nodded shyly.
Little Betty didn't take long deciding what she would do. She called eagerly, "Moving in?"
"Yes, we are," laughed Alice, waving her hand toward the piles of boxes and rubbish stacked up on the back stairs of the building.
Ed, who had started back into the house, looked around and, seeing his sisters had made a small start toward conversation, called a question on his own responsibility.
"Going to use 'em all?" he asked, pointing to the boxes.
"Dear me, I guess not," said Alice. "I don't see how we could!"
"Then will you give me a box?" he asked, running back in the yard till he stood right under the balcony. "We're going to get some rabbits, John and I are, and we want a box for their home."
"Come on over and see which one you want," suggested Alice, "and I'll ask father."
Ed and his brother John lost no time climbing over the fence and inspecting the boxes. By the time Alice brought Mr. Merrill, he had picked out just the one he wanted and was very grateful when it was given him for his own.
"Don't you want to come over and see 'em make the rabbit house?" suggested Frances shyly. "Oh, maybe you're busy."
"I'm sure we can come," replied Alice, "because mother just told me she wished we'd get some fresh air." So Alice and Mary Jane followed the others to the back yard and helped hold nails and boards and make the rabbit house. When it was nearly finished the children's mother, who proved to be very charming Mrs. Holden, came out with a plate of cookies and a welcome for the two little strangers.
"Thank you for the cookies," said Mary Jane politely, "but we're not strange—that is, not any more, we aren't, we know each other—all of us do!"
And so it really seemed to all the children. They were friends from the first day and making the rabbit house was just the beginning of many nice times in that friendly back yard.
VISITING WITH BETTY
Three days of hard work for everybody and then the little flat into which the Merrills had moved began to look like a real home. The unpacking was all done and the rubbish cleared away; the furniture was polished and set in place; the closets were in order and every cupboard and shelf held just the right things for comfort. It wasn't such an easy matter to stow away all the things the Merrills had used in their pretty house—the five room apartment was much smaller than the house of course—but with everybody's help the job was done.
"Now then," said Mrs. Merrill, happily, in the late afternoon of the third day, "if you'll run the rods in these curtains, Mary Jane, I'll hang them up where they belong and then we'll all three go to market and then—guess what? We'll have dinner in our own new home!"
Mary Jane thought that would be fun, for, much as she loved eating in the hotel where they had been living while getting the new home fixed, she liked better to eat her mother's cooking. So it was a very happy little girl who slipped the rods into the living room curtains and then put on her hat and hunted up the market basket from the pantry.
Now many times before this, Mary Jane had been marketing with her mother. But never had she been to such a market! Before, marketing meant going to the grocery store about three blocks from their home; it meant talking to the very interested and friendly grocer who had known Mary Jane ever since she first appeared at the grocery in her big, well-covered cab—she was then about two months old; it meant telling Mr. Shover, the grocer, just what they wanted and picking out the sorts of things they liked best. But marketing in Chicago was very different. In the first place there wasn't a person around they had ever seen before; and then everything was so big and there was so much food. Mary Jane thought there couldn't possibly be enough folks in Chicago to eat all those good things! But when she and her mother actually got into the store and began to buy, Mary Jane forgot all about the strangeness and remembered only the fun. For they didn't get somebody to wait on them as they used to at Mr. Shover's—not at all! They waited on themselves! They went through a little turnstile and then wandered around among the good things all by themselves and they took down from the well-stocked shelves anything they wanted. It certainly was queer.
"Can we just take anything?" exclaimed Mary Jane in amazement as her mother explained what they were to do.
"Well," laughed Mrs. Merrill, "you must remember we have to pay for things just the same as we used to at Mr. Shover's. But we can take anything we want—if we pay for it."
"Then I'll pick you out some good things to eat, mother!" cried Mary Jane happily, "don't you worry about thinking what we're going to have!"
Now Mary Jane really did know how to read, at least a little, but she didn't stop to read on this important occasion. She looked at the pictures on the cans of goodies and she picked out a can of all her favorites and set them in the basket Mrs. Merrill carried on her arm. But that didn't work, for Mrs. Merrill had a long list and the basket wouldn't hold only so much. So they decided to let Mrs. Merrill pick out three things from her list and then Mary Jane could buy one favorite; then three more things from the list and then another favorite. That proved to be great fun and it certainly did fill the basket in a hurry! Mary Jane was just trying to decide between a box of marshmallows and a pan of nice, gooey, sugary sweet rolls when Mrs. Merrill said, "whichever you decide, Mary Jane, you'll have to carry the bundle yourself, because this basket won't hold another parcel—not even a little one."
Mary Jane decided on the rolls and she took them over to the counter to have them wrapped up and there she almost bumped into—Betty Holden, no less! Betty and her mother were shopping too, and their basket was almost as full as Mrs. Merrill's.
"We market after school," said Mrs. Holden, "and then Ed brings his wagon to meet us and hauls the stuff home. We'll get him to give you a lift too."
"And then can Mary Jane come over to our house to play?" asked Betty.
"For a little while," agreed Mrs. Merrill, smilingly, "but she won't want to stay very long to-day because we're going to have our first dinner in our new home and she's promised to help me lots—and I need it."
Just then they spied Ed's face at the door so they hurried through the second turnstile, paid for their groceries and left the store. Ed's wagon proved to be very big and he was glad to give them plenty of room for the Merrill basket.
"Are you going to start in school to-morrow?" asked Betty as they walked off toward home.
"I'm going over to see about that to-morrow morning," said Mrs. Merrill. "We've been so busy unpacking and settling that we haven't even thought about it till now. Do you like your school, Betty?"
"Yes, I do, lots!" exclaimed Betty heartily. "I'm just through kindergarten this spring, I am, and next fall I'm first year."
"Then I think you must be just about where Mary Jane will be," said Mrs. Merrill.
The two little girls ran skipping ahead, talking about what they would do and where they would sit and all the things that girls plan for school.
But when Mrs. Merrill took Alice and Mary Jane over the next morning, it didn't work out as planned. Alice was entered and found herself in the very same room and only two seats away from Frances, which seemed perfect. But there wasn't room for Mary Jane! The kindergarten was crowded, very, very crowded, and new little folks weren't allowed to come in. Miss Gilbert, the teacher, talked with Mary Jane a while and Mary Jane told her all the work she had done and all the things she had learned about.
"I really think, Mrs. Merrill," said the teacher finally, "that your little girl is ready for the first grade. She seems very well prepared. But they don't take new first graders so late in the year. Why don't you keep her out of school the rest of this term and then next year, enter her in the first grade?"
Mrs. Merrill thought that was a fine plan. There would be so many new sights to see and things to learn in the city that Mary Jane would find plenty to do.
But Mary Jane was keenly disappointed. "I wanted to stay in Betty's room," she explained to the teacher. "She asked me to sit by her this morning, she did, and I promised yes I would."
"Then I'll tell you what you may do," suggested the teacher kindly. "Two of our folks are absent this morning so we have enough chairs to go around. Wouldn't you like to stay with Betty and visit? And then just a little before time for school to be out, Betty can take you up to your sister's room and she can bring you home."
Mrs. Merrill agreed that that was a fine plan, so Mary Jane went to the cloak room to hang up her hat and her mother hurried back home.
At first Mary Jane felt very strange in the new school room. There were so many children there and the songs were new and the games were new and everything seemed different. She almost—not really, but almost—wished she had gone home with her mother. And then, after singing three songs Mary Jane didn't know, the children made a big circle and let Mary Jane stand in the middle and they sang the song Mary Jane knew so very well,
"I went to visit a friend to-day, She only lives across the way, She said she couldn't come out to play Because it was her ——"
Quick as a flash Mary Jane dropped onto her knees and began to act out packing things into a box.
For a minute the children hesitated. That was a strange thing to be acting; Mary Jane was not washing or ironing or churning or sweeping or any of the things the children usually acted and they were all puzzled. Then suddenly Betty remembered the back stairway and all the piles of boxes and excelsior on Mary Jane's back stairway and she called out the end of the song—"because it was her moving day!" And everybody finished the verse with a flourish.
After that Mary Jane felt more at home and the morning went oh, so very quickly, till recess time, when they all went out into the big yard to play in the sunshine.
Betty and her particular friends were gathering together for a circle game in the corner of the yard when Mary Jane heard a soft, helpless little sound close at hand. Without stopping to say anything to any one, she ran over to the fence and there, caught in between the tall iron bars, was the tiniest, blackest little dog she had ever seen. He evidently had seen the children coming out to play, had wanted to play with them and had supposed he could slip right through between the bars of the fence.
Mary Jane tried to pull him out but he was stuck fast. So she called Betty.
"Here!" shouted one of the boys, "I'll pull him out!"
"No you don't," cried Betty imperatively, "you let him alone! We'll do it!" And her snapping black eyes flashed so positively that the boy obeyed. But Betty couldn't pull the dog through either, the bars were too close, she couldn't move him either way.
"I'll tell you what let's do," she said. "Mary Jane, you stay here and guard him so nobody tries to pull him out and I'll go and get Tom and he'll know what to do." Tom was the janitor.
Mary Jane stood close by the dog and patted his head and talked kindly to him so he would know somebody was trying to help him. And all the girls and boys who had started to play together gathered around and watched Mary Jane while Betty ran back to the school building and down into the basement to fetch the janitor.
Fortunately, Tom was in his office and came quickly in response to Betty's call. He saw at once what the trouble was and discovered a way to remedy it. It seems that the big iron bars that made the fence were heavier at the bottom than nearer the top, so the space between the bars got wider higher up. Tom took firm hold of the wiggling little creature and gently but very firmly pushed him straight up between the bars. That didn't hurt like trying to pull him out, so the dog stopped barking and whining. And in a second Tom had him out—half way up the fence there was plenty of room to lift him right through.
Poor little doggie! He was so glad to be out and so frightened by his experience that when Tom laid him down on the grass he looked quite forlorn. Mary Jane sat down beside him and gathered him up into her arms.
"Don't you be afraid, doggie," she said softly, "we'll take care of you, don't you be afraid a bit!"
"What you going to do with him?" asked one of the girls.
But Mary Jane didn't have to answer that question. Before she could speak, a small boy came running along the street, crying as hard as he could cry and shouting between sobs, "I've lost my dog! I've lost my dog! Somebody's stole my dog!"
"No they haven't," called Betty, "maybe this is yours!"
The little boy rubbed his eyes, looked through the fence—and a look of happiness spread over his small face.
"It's him! It's him! It's him!" he shouted happily, "then he isn't stole!"
It took only a minute to run around the gate, dash across the school yard and grab the tiny little dog into his arms. And the children could tell by the way the little creature snuggled down that the love wasn't all on one side—evidently the little boy was a good master.
Right at that minute, before there was a chance to start a game or any play, a great bell in the school doorway began to ring. Mary Jane was used to a small school of course—a school so small that the teacher came to the window and simply called when recess was over. So she stared in amazement when the great bell rang out so noisily.
"Come on!" shouted Betty, "recess is over!"
"Soon as I tell this doggie good-by!" replied Mary Jane.
Betty didn't hear and, supposing Mary Jane was right behind her, she went on into her place in line. And Mary Jane, remembering how leisurely folks went up after recess at her old school, didn't pay any attention to the rapidly forming lines. She turned around and patted the tiny dog and nodded and smiled and whispered her good-by.
When she did turn to go in with Betty, she was amazed to see all the children had disappeared into the building. She scampered over to the door as fast as ever she could. And up the stairs—but not a soul did she see! Only the click of a closing door could be heard—a click that made Mary Jane feel really shut out and lonely.
"Now let's see," said Mary Jane to herself, "Betty's room was right around a corner—" But there wasn't any room around that first corner—only a long hall. A lump came into Mary Jane's throat. The building was so big, so very, very big. And she felt so little, so very, very little. She swallowed twice, determined not to cry and then she said out loud in a queer frightened little voice, "I guess I'm lost. I'm lost in school!"
"I Guess I'm lost! I'm lost in school!"
Mary Jane's frightened little whisper sounded like a shout and the doors and walls and hallways seemed to echo back, "Lost! Little girl lost!" in a most desolate fashion. Mary Jane was so frightened that she stood perfectly still—just as still as though her shoes were fastened to the floor. And she looked straight ahead as though she was trying to see through the wall at which she was staring. To tell the truth, Mary Jane wasn't trying to see through the wall. She didn't even know a wall was in front of her. She couldn't see a single thing, not even a big wall, because a mist of tears was in her eyes and a great lump was growing in her throat.
Now Mary Jane wasn't a baby. And she never cried—or any way, she hardly ever cried because she was going on six and girls who are going on six don't cry. But to be lost in a strange school and in a strange city and—everything; well, it's not much wonder that Mary Jane felt pretty queer.
But before the tears had time to fall, there was a heavy footstep behind her and Mary Jane whirled around to see—the kindly face of Tom the janitor smiling at her.
"Aren't you pretty late getting to your room?" he asked.
Mary Jane couldn't answer. She was so relieved to have someone around that for a minute she just couldn't get the lump out of her throat enough to talk.
Tom must have been used to little girls—maybe he had one of his own—because he didn't pay any attention to Mary Jane's silence. He took hold of her hand and said pleasantly, "Now don't you worry a minute. You just show me which your room is and I'll go with you."
"I'm looking for it too," said Mary Jane, finding her voice again, "but I don't know where it is."
"Don't know where your room is?" asked Tom in surprise.
"No," replied Mary Jane with a decided shake of her head, "I don't." And then, for talking was now getting comfortable and easy, she added, "you see, it isn't really my room. It's Betty's. And I'm just a-visiting her. I'm just moved to Chicago and they haven't any chair for me only just to visit in when somebody's absent."
"That sounds like the kindergarten," said Tom.
"It is," agreed Mary Jane with a laugh of relief, "I'm kindergarten, I am."
"Then here we go, right down this way," said Tom, and off they started in just the opposite direction.
Before they got clear up to the kindergarten, though, they met Miss Gilbert, who was coming in search of the little visitor. "Betty missed her," she explained, "but I thought you'd find her, Tom." With a thank you to her janitor friend, Mary Jane took tight hold of the teacher's hand and they went into the kindergarten room together.
After that, the morning went very quickly and happily and Mary Jane could hardly believe her ears when the big whistles began to blow for twelve o'clock and Miss Gilbert told them to put away their scissors and cut-out papers and get ready to go home. Mary Jane had cut out two beautiful tulips and she was very happy when she was told they might be taken home as a souvenir of her visit.
On the way home they met Frances and Alice and Ed so they had plenty of company.
"What you doing Saturday?" asked Ed as they neared their own corner.
"I don't know," replied Alice, "is there anything nice to do—special?"
"Well," answered Frances, "we were afraid you might all be busy—but—well you see, we were going to have a beach party and we thought maybe you folks would like to go along. All of you."
Now Alice and Mary hadn't the slightest idea what a beach party was, only of course they knew it must be something about the lake. But there wasn't time for questions and talk just then for Frances discovered that they had walked so slowly that they must rush on home to lunch.
"We'll get mother to tell you," she promised, "and do say you'll come 'cause it's a fire and cooking and marshmallows and piles of fun."
"And we've plenty of wires," added Betty, "and they're plenty long so you won't burn your fingers."
It sounded amazingly puzzling to Alice and Mary Jane, who couldn't in the least understand what a fire and wires and all that had to do with a beach. But they were to find out before so very long. For that same afternoon, while Alice was still in school, Mrs. Holden and Betty came over to call on Mrs. Merrill and Mary Jane and then the beach party was all explained.
"We go over to the lake very often," said Mrs. Holden. "And on the sandy beach, close by the water, the children build a big fire. Then, when the coals are good, we toast sandwiches and roast 'weenies' and toast marshmallows. The children are so anxious to show your girls just how it is done," she added, "and as the weather promises to be warm and sunny I think we should have an extra fine time."
So it was settled. And a person would have thought from the excitement and fun of preparation that the party was to be that same day instead of twenty-four hours away. For as soon as Alice and the older Holden children came home from school, they all set to work planning the menu and getting out baskets and cleaning the wires on which, so the Merrill girls learned, marshmallows were held over the coals to be toasted.
But when everything that could be done the day before, was finished, there was still some time for play, so the children went down into the Holden yard and the boys, Ed and John, showed the girls how to run a track meet—how to jump and vault and race in proper track style. Alice and Mary Jane thought the boys wonderfully skilled and the boys, thrilled by such warm admiration, broke all their previous records and had a beautiful time.
At four o'clock the next afternoon the two families set out for the beach party. And it surely was quite a procession that made its way the four or five blocks to the park. First there was John with the wagon which held all the heavy things—baskets of food and such. Next came Ed, who started out walking behind the wagon to see that nothing dropped off. He and John were to take turns pulling the load. Then the others carried bundles of kindling and the wires for marshmallows and toasting racks for meat. They had such a jolly time getting off that everybody felt sure the party was to be a success.
Mary Jane had been so busy helping get settled and all that, that she hadn't had time for a real visit on the beach. To be sure she had had glimpses of the big blue they could see down their own street, but to really come over and see the lake and play in the sand—this was her first trip. So she skipped along very happily and thought she could hardly wait till they got there.
Fortunately they hadn't far to go. Three blocks down and two blocks over and there was the park—such a beautiful park with tiny lakes and bridges and great trees whose buds were swelling in the warm afternoon spring sunshine. Mary Jane thought she must be in fairyland come to life, it was all so beautiful. They crossed an arched bridge; saw a lovely view off toward the south where other bridges and lagoons and trees made such a pretty picture they were tempted to stay and look longer; walked around a big circle where, so John told them, the band gave concerts in the summer time; circled a tiny little inlet lake and came out, quite suddenly, right close to the big lake—Lake Michigan. It almost took Mary Jane's breath way, coming suddenly that way, upon the sight of so much water. It was all so blue and clear, she thought, for the minute, that surely it must be the very same ocean she had seen in Florida only a few weeks before.
But the boys didn't give much time for sight-seeing of lakes—they had seen the good old lake many a time and they were thinking more about supper than any view, however pretty.
So they hurried their wagon across the boulevard driveway, and of course all the folks had to follow close behind, and down the beach walk a couple of hundred yards and there they settled themselves on a stretch of clean white sand.
"Now," said big brother Linn, whom the girls hadn't seen much of as yet, but who seemed to be master of ceremonies, "you boys gather those big logs down there, you girls fix the kindling and I'll set these stones up so we get a good draft when we light our fire."
Everybody set to work. The logs proved to be so big and heavy that Ed and John were very glad to have the help of their father and Mr. Merrill to roll them into place. The four girls sorted out the kindling in their basket and added to it by picking up drift wood on the beach. Frances explained that they always brought some along to be sure they had some real dry wood for a start.
With such good help and so much of it, of course it wasn't long till a fine blaze was going and the beach party was actually begun.
"Go ahead and play now," said Linn, when he saw the fire was started and that there was a big pile of reserve wood close by. "You know we can't cook till we get some coals."
"But I'm starved," hinted Ed, with a hungry look toward the baskets his mother and Mrs. Merrill were guarding.
"Then you'll have to stay starved, young man," said his mother, laughing, "because not a basket is to be opened till the coals are ready for cooking."
"Then let's make a sand castle," suggested Betty and she ran down to a smooth place on the beach, away from possible smoke, and began molding the white sand.
That pleased Mary Jane. She hadn't forgotten the fun she had playing on the beach in Florida, and while this beach was different—it didn't have any of the pretty shells or funny little crawdads she had found on the Florida beach—still it had lovely white sand and dainty little waves and was quite the nicest place for play that Mary Jane had seen.
"I'll tell you what let's do," suggested Alice, as she saw that all the children were going to play in the sand, "let's each build a castle and make it any way we like best and then when they're all finished, have an exhibition and everybody look and see which is the best."
"All right, let's," agreed the children and they set to work.
Mary Jane chose for her castle a place down close by the water. She loved the nearness of the waves and the thrill of knowing that maybe, if she didn't watch out, a wave would come up really close and get her wet. Betty picked out a spot nearer the fire on the side away from the smoke and Alice chose a place where a few pretty pebbles would give her material with which to pave a "moat" she intended to make.
And then everybody set to work. So busy were they that Linn had to tend the fire all by himself and Ed forgot he was hungry.
Before very long that beach looked like a picture book. Towers and ditches and castles and bridges were where flat sand had been a few minutes before. The Holden children had made many a sand house and they knew just how to pack the damp sand so it would stay in place and just how to put a small board here and there to hold a second story or a tower straight and tall.
But with all their experience, Alice's castle was as pretty as theirs, or at any rate she thought it was, and Mary Jane's was quite wonderful. She smoothed off the "garden" in front of her palace, stuck in a few sticks for flowers, made a pebbly path down to the tiny lake she had scooped out at one side and then shouted, "Mine's done! Look at mine!" and stepped aside so all could see her handiwork.
But Mary Jane wasn't used to working so close to the water and she forgot entirely where she was! Instead of stepping to one side, as she should have done, she stepped backwards—straight into the big lake! And then, sliding in the wet sand, she sat right down in the lake and sent a big wave of ripples—right over her castle and garden and lake and everything and washed it all away, every bit!
THE BEACH SUPPER
A minute before Mary Jane slid into the lake, the beach was a scene of busy building and fun. Linn tended the fire, the grown folks gathered wood and visited and guarded baskets and the children all were intent on their sand castles. But with Mary Jane's tumble everything changed.
Sand flew helter skelter as the children jumped hastily and ran to Mary Jane's assistance; castles were trampled on as though they didn't exist and fire wood and baskets were all forgotten.
"Don't be afraid, you're all right!" called Mrs. Merrill as she ran toward her little girl.
"Coming! Coming! Here!" shouted Mr. Merrill reassuringly as he dashed over to his little daughter, picked her up by the shoulders and set her, safe and sound, on dry sand just in time to miss a fair sized wave.
"I guess I'm wet!" said Mary Jane.
"I guess you are," laughed Mr. Merrill, "but I guess things will dry and you're not so very awfully too wet—not enough to spoil the party, is she, mother?"
Mrs. Merrill looked thoughtful and all the children waited anxiously for her answer. Would Mary Jane have to go clear off home and miss the party and everything! But it wasn't to be as bad as all that. Mrs. Merrill remembered the warm day, the glowing sun that was still bright and warm and she also remembered the hot fire Linn had underway and the warm sand all around the fire.
"Of course she isn't wet enough to spoil the party," said Mrs. Merrill, much to every one's relief. "Only she'll have to stay close by the fire till she gets warm and dry. Suppose we appoint her head cook and make her stay right there where it's hot?"
"She'll get dry then!" exclaimed Ed, so fervently that they all knew he had had many a hot face from working by the fire at previous picnics.
"But how about your castles?" asked Mr. Holden, "weren't we to have an exhibit?"
But the castles! Dear me! In the excitement of Mary Jane's tumble, no one had given a thought to the castles. They were stepped on, and trampled down and all matted down into the sand.
"That's just too bad!" said Mrs. Merrill.
"Pooh!" exclaimed John, dismissing the whole question of castles with one wave of the hand, "who cares about castles! We're going to have supper." And every one set to work.
Mary Jane was supposed to be head cook, but as she had never before been to a beach party, she really didn't know what to do. So she simply stayed close by the hot fire while the boys brought three benches and made them in a triangle around the fire—a little way back of course. Then Mrs. Holden and Mrs. Merrill unpacked the baskets and fixed a place on the bench for each person. To be sure nobody was expected to sit on the bench—that would be quite too proper for a beach party meal. But the mothers put a paper plate and a cup for each person on the benches and then they put on the plate as many sandwiches and pickles and cookies and everything as each person was entitled to.
While they were doing this, Linn raked down the hot coals, set in place a light wire rack he had made and spread a couple of dozen weenies out to roast.
"Now then, Mary Jane," he said to the head cook, "you take this long fork. And as soon as a weenie begins to sputter and brown, turn it over so it browns on the other side too."
That was a very important job, Mary Jane could easily see, and she determined that every weenie she cooked would be done just to a turn. She bent over the fire till her back got a crook in it; then she sat down on the hot sand close to the coals and by the time the weenies were done ready to eat she was so dry and hot that she felt sure she had never slipped into the lake—never!
And all the time Mary Jane was cook, Linn and Mr. Merrill stayed close to see that the coals kept evenly hot and that no bit of flame started up to burn the head cook.
At last the weenies were ready. Each one was beautifully brown and was sizzling and sputtering and sending a most tempting odor to hungry folks.
"Form a line, folks," said Mrs. Holden, "ladies first!"
With much laughter, each person got their own roll, which had been split and buttered, and filed passed Mary Jane. And Mary Jane, instructed by Linn just how to do her job, picked up one weenie after another on the long fork and dropped each one in an open roll held out before her. It was a scary job, for the sand was close below and Mary Jane knew that weenies dropped into the sand wouldn't taste very good. But she took her time—too much time, John thought.
"Don't be 'fraid of any old sand," he assured her when she put his weenie in his roll so very carefully, "I eat 'em any way—sand or not."
Betty eyed Mary Jane a bit enviously. This being chief cook and having a chance to fill the rolls of each person must surely be fun.
"Next time we have a beach party," she announced between bites, "I'm going to fall into the lake too!"
"I'll save you the trouble," replied Mr. Holden understandingly, "I'll let you be chief cook without getting wet."
Betty needn't have worried about Mary Jane's being willing to give up her job. For there was one disadvantage in that position Miss Betty hadn't thought of and Mary Jane had just discovered—the head cook had no time to eat. And Mary Jane was getting fearfully hungry. She was more than willing to give up the big fork, let Betty fill her roll for her and stand up with the others to eat the good hot morsel.
Did anything ever taste as good as those hot weenie sandwiches, eaten there on the edge of Lake Michigan, with the fine lake air blowing in their faces and the sunshine warming them and making them forget the chill of the long winter? The Merrills thought they had never had so much fun and tasted such good things. Every weenie (and there had seemed to be far too many) was eaten up; every roll disappeared and cookies and pickles and sandwiches just vanished as though a warm breeze had melted them away.
Supper over, the sun going down reminded the children that they must get the fire ready for dark. They scampered up and down the broad beach, gathering together all the pieces of drift wood they could find. Later in the year wood along that beach would be hard to find. But in the early spring, before the driftings of the winter's storms had been burned up by picnickers like themselves, there was plenty to be had.
Linn and Ed put away the cooking rack in the case they had made for it, the two mothers packed up debris and burned it so the beach would be left clean and tidy, and all the others gathered wood. Such a lot as they did find! Linn piled it on high and by the time the sun went to sleep in the west, the fire was so bright that nobody noticed the growing darkness. They all sat around on the warm sand and sang—college songs that the children had learned from the fathers, school songs and popular songs that they all knew. It was fun to sit there close by the big lake, to watch the sparks fly upward, to hear the waves swish against the sand and to sing and sing as loud as they liked.
But when the darkness settled down enough so that mysterious shadows lurked over every shoulder and the stars helped the fire make a light, Ed announced, "Now let's play Indian."
So they did. Playing Indian, the Merrill girls found, meant a queer follow-the-leader game. Ed led off first and everybody had to follow. He ran round and round the fire, prancing and yelling like a wild man. And the point of the game was for everybody to do exactly as he did. They ran and jumped and yelled till everybody was breathless with exercise and laughter and was glad to sit down again and do nothing.
By this time the fire had again died down to a bed of coals.
"Now it's time for the marshmallows, isn't it?" asked Betty. She was right, it was.
The boxes of marshmallows were opened, wires pulled out of the baskets and all the children sat around the fire a-toasting. 'Twas just as Betty had promised. The wires were plenty long enough so that no fingers needed to be burned or dresses scorched and the bed of coals was big enough to make room for all.
Betty and Mary Jane thought they would keep count and see who could eat the most, but after six they lost count, and they ate and ate till they simply couldn't eat any more.
"Let's play still pond," suggested Frances.
She stood up near the fire and announced, "Twenty steps, two jumps, three hops and a roll. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten—STILL POND."
As she said the numbers off, the children began scampering to a place to safety. All but Mary Jane. She wasn't used to playing on the slippery, slidy sand. And though she started off just as big as anybody, she slipped and stumbled and hadn't more than got to her feet when the words, "Still pond!" were called. And after that she couldn't move but just to use the steps, jumps, hops and roll Frances had given them.
To make matters even more exciting, Frances started off exactly in her direction.
But Mary Jane hadn't played "Still Pond" in her own yard for nothing. Perhaps she hadn't learned to run on slippery sand as yet, but she did know how to play that game. Instead of trying to quietly take her twenty steps in an effort to get out of Frances' way, she took two quick steps, dropped down on the sand, gave one little roll, and—was safely hidden under one of the picnic benches they had used for supper!
Frances passed so close Mary Jane could have touched her. Other folks were chased and found, but Mary Jane's hiding place was undiscovered. Of course when she rolled in under the bench, Mary Jane had expected to roll right out again when somebody else was caught. But when she found that they couldn't see her; that they went right around close at hand, talking about her and wondering where she was and all that, she thought it was such a good joke that she lay very still and watched.
She heard them asking each other where she was seen last; she heard her father say she couldn't be so very far away; and she saw them all start off in search of herself. Then, just the minute their backs were turned but before they had had time to be really frightened, she slipped out from under her seat, stood up close by the dying fire and shouted, "Here I am, can't you see me?"
They thought it a very good joke she had played and Mary Jane was sure she would always remember that the best hiding place is often the nearest one.
"Time to go home," said Mr. Holden, looking at his watch, "the fire's most out and the party's over."
"But there'll be another one, won't there?" begged Mary Jane.
"Let's have it next week," said Betty.
The boys loaded up the empty baskets on their wagon—not much of a load going home! Mr. Merrill raked out the fire so no harm would come to anything; Mr. Holden gathered the children together and started the line of march. It was a happy little crowd that wandered homeward and they all agreed with Mary Jane when she said, "Well, anyway, I think a beach party's the mostest fun I know. It's more fun than moving!"
MARY JANE GOES SHOPPING
The days after the beach party seemed to fly past on wings. First it was a Monday and then, before a person could do half the nice things planned, Saturday was coming 'round again and Alice was home all day from school and fun for the four Merrills could be planned. Mrs. Merrill and Mary Jane took to doing all their "Saturday marketing" on Friday afternoon so they could have more time on Saturday for trips and sight-seeing and all the lovely things folks like to do when they've just moved to a big city.
One Saturday morning, not so very long after the beach party, dawned—not bright and warm and sunny as Mary Jane had hoped it surely would—but rainy and cold and windy as some May mornings are sure to be in Chicago. A cold northeast wind raced across the city and folks had blue noses and shivery finger tips and not a single thing to be seen looked like spring.
"Now just look at it!" exclaimed Mary Jane as she stared out of the living-room window, "and we were going to take a trip through the parks and I was going to wear my new hat and everything. And look!"
"And we can't go to the parks again for another whole week!" bemoaned Alice, "'cause there's school!"
"Just look!" exclaimed Mary Jane again as a hard gust of wind tossed the rain against the winds exactly as though Mr. Rain was saying to Mary Jane, "Thought you'd go out, did you? Well, look what I'm doing!"
"You girls talk as though parks were the only things to see in Chicago," said Mrs. Merrill as pleasantly and comfortably as though there was no such thing as a disappointment in the world.
Alice and Mary Jane turned away from the window quickly. Something in their mother's tone of voice made them suspect that the day wasn't to be a disappointment after all.
"It's funny to me," continued Mrs. Merrill in a matter of fact voice, "that you folks haven't asked to go to the big stores—wouldn't you like to?"
"Like to!" exclaimed Alice.
"Would we?" cried Mary Jane. "But we didn't think about it!"
"Then we'll think about it now," replied Mrs. Merrill. "If you can hold an umbrella down tight over your head so as not to get your hat wet, I think we could manage to get to the train without getting soaked. And once down at the store, we could check our wet umbrellas and shop and sight-see through the stores all we wished to without a bit of hurry."
"Oh, may we really go?" asked Alice.
"Well," answered Mrs. Merrill, pretending to hesitate, "if you really care to—"
That settled it and there was no more time wasted talking about weather that morning. Dishes were washed and beds were made and dusting was done so quickly that the little flat must have been quite surprised and pleased with itself—it got put into rights so very quickly. Then Mary Jane got her hair fixed nicely and a pretty hair bow put on—the bow wouldn't show very much under the new hat, but even that little had to be just right—and then, while mother fixed her own and Alice's hair, she put on a pretty dress—not a party dress, of course, but a nice, pretty, dark dress. Then they all put on rubbers and raincoats and locked up the doors and took their umbrellas and started for the train.
Going down town on the train was fun. In the city where Mary Jane lived before, one could walk down town. Or if one really wanted to ride, a street car hustled one to the stores in about five minutes. But in Chicago, so she discovered, she had to have a ticket and go through a gate, and up stairs and onto a platform and aboard a train and everything just as though one intended to go away, far off. The girls both liked to ride down town. To be sure they couldn't see much of the lake, even though they did ride right along beside it, because the rain made it all look dim and gray and foggy. But they knew the lake was there; they could see the spray the waves made and once in a while they could hear the noise of splashing water above the roar of the train. All too soon, for there was so much to see, the train pulled into their station and the conductor shouted, "Randolph Street! Everybody out! Far's we go!" And all the folks aboard got their umbrellas ready and went out into the rain.
Fortunately it was only a very little way from the station to the big store where Mrs. Merrill took the girls, so they didn't have a chance to get tired or very wet. And as soon as they got indoors, Mrs. Merrill found a checking place and they left wet umbrellas and wet raincoats and wet rubbers and started out for fun.
"I think that's awfully convenient—just to leave things that way," said Alice as she settled her collars and cuffs and made sure she was tidy, "and of course we'll get them back safely?" This checking system was new to her and she wanted to be assured it was all right.
"To be sure we will," said Mrs. Merrill. "See? I have the checks for them."
"Well, then," said Mary Jane, "let's begin."
"Yes," said Alice, "let's. And let's see everything!"
"All right," laughed Mrs. Merrill; "shall we take an elevator first?"
"Oh, no," answered Alice, "'cause then we'd miss the first floor."
So they "did" the first floor, seeing all the handkerchiefs and jewelry and bags and fans and pretty decorations and ribbons—Alice could hardly leave those lovely ribbons—and neckwear—Mary Jane saw five different neckties she needed—and so many things.
"Do they have anything left for the second floor?" asked Mary Jane when they finally got around to where they had started.
"You just see," said Mrs. Merrill.
And sure enough there were plenty of things on the second floor, pretty dishes and lamps and so many things that, really, Mary Jane almost got tired looking at them all.
By the time they got ready for the third floor, Mary Jane was wondering if there were any seats in that store. Not seats where you sit down to buy things, but really seats where you just sit down whether you buy anything or not. And sure enough there were just those seats. Nice, big comfy ones, that appeared to be made for Mary Janes who went a-shopping and wanted to sit down. The Merrills sat down on a big couch and Mary Jane leaned back ready to rest when—who should she see right in front of her but Frances Westland! The girl she met at grandmother's house nearly a year ago.
In a jiffy Mary Jane forgot all about wanting to sit down. She slid down from the comfortable couch, dashed after Frances, who, not guessing that a friend was so near, was hurrying by, and brought her back to meet mother and Alice.
Then they all sat down for a visit.
"No, I'm not living here," said Frances in answer to Mrs. Merrill's question, "I've been spending the spring with my auntie and going to school here. But just as soon as school is out I'm going back home. Mother needs me."
"I don't doubt it," replied Mrs. Merrill, who was much pleased with the little girl, "I'm sure your mother misses you greatly. But where are you living and can't we see you before you go and can't you take lunch with us to-day?"
It seemed that Frances's auntie lived in the same part of the city the Merrills lived in and there was every reason to believe that the girls might see each other at least once or twice in the little time left of the school year.
"But I don't believe I can eat lunch with you," added Frances, "'cause auntie and I have to hurry home." So with a promise to come to see them soon at the address Mrs. Merrill wrote out on her card for Frances, the friends said good-by.
"I'll declare!" exclaimed Mrs. Merrill, looking at her watch after Frances left them. "It's almost twelve o'clock already! And we were to meet father at one. If you girls want to see anything of the toys and dolls and playrooms, we'd better not be sitting around here any longer."
Of course the girls did want to see the toys and dolls and everything. When they got to the fourth floor where all the children's things were kept, they were sorry they had spent even a minute any place else. For all the lovely dolls and marvelous toys and enticing games and beautiful pictures and fascinating puzzles made a person think that Santa Claus's shop and fairyland and magic were all mixed up together and set down in one place. The girls looked and looked and looked. They "oh-ed" and "ah-ed" and exclaimed till they couldn't think of anything more to say—and then they kept right on looking just the same.
Mary Jane picked out the doll coat she wanted Georgiannamore to have and Alice selected a lovely desk. They agreed upon a set of dishes and upon charming furniture for their balcony—just the right size too.
"And we'll pretend we'll buy it all, mother," said Mary Jane, who knew perfectly well she couldn't buy all the things she talked about getting, "and we'll pretend we'll have it all sent up, that'll be such fun."
So they pretended and looked and looked and pretended till they had been over most all that part of the store.
"Now then," said Mrs. Merrill, "if we're to meet Dadah for lunch—"
"Oh, goody!" cried Alice, "are we to meet him here?"
"Not here," said Mrs. Merrill, "but in this store in the lunch room and in ten minutes. So we'd better wash our hands and go to the lunch room floor."
Mr. Merrill was waiting for them and had a table engaged close by a charming fountain ("Just think of a fountain in a house!" exclaimed Mary Jane when she spied it) and all the time Mary Jane sat there eating, she could look right over and watch the fishes and she could hear the splash of the water.
But Mary Jane wasn't thinking of fishes or water just then. She was hungry. And the things her father read to her sounded so good—oh, dear, but they did sound good! She and Alice had a dreadfully hard time deciding just what did sound the best. But Alice finally decided on stuffed chicken legs (she hadn't an idea what they were but they sounded good) and potato salad and strawberry parfait. And Mary Jane chose chicken pie—a whole one all her own—and hashed brown potatoes and orange sherbet.
While the lunch was being fixed, Mr. Merrill took Mary Jane over to the window so she could look down, down, way down, to the street below, where the folks appeared so little and upside down and where the automobiles looked like the ones they had just seen in the toy department.
When the lunch came, it proved to be just as good as the menu promised it would be and the girls enjoyed every bite. Mary Jane was afraid for a minute that she had made a mistake. For Alice's parfait came in a tall glass, with a long spoon that made the girls think of the story of the fox and the goose and the banquet, and Mary Jane was sure nothing she had ordered could be as nice as parfait. But when the maid set the orange sherbet at her place, Mary Jane was quite satisfied, for the ice was set in a real orange, all cut out in dainty scallops and trimmed with green.
"Yummy-um!" she whispered, happily. "I'm so glad you had this party, Dadah!"
Dadah seemed to want everything to be all right, for he had added to their order some little cakes, done up in frilly papers and unlike anything the girls had ever seen. They almost hated to eat them, they were so pretty, but cakes one cannot eat are not good for much, Mr. Merrill reminded them, and so the cakes were eaten up.
"Now then," said Mary Jane, as she dabbled her fingers in the finger bowl and ate up the candy she found at the side of the tiny tray, "what do we do next?"
THE BUS RIDE
"What do we do next?" asked Mr. Merrill, repeating Mary Jane's question. "I'm sure of this much—we must do something very nice because it's such a nice day."
"Nice day!" exclaimed Alice. "What in the world are you talking about, Dadah? This is the worst weather we've had since we came to Chicago—but we don't care 'cause we're having such a good time anyway."
Mr. Merrill laughed and replied, "Suppose you look out of the window."
So they left their cozy table, where nothing but empty dishes told the story of their delightful lunch party, and wandered over to the window where Mary Jane had looked down at the street not much over an hour before. But what a difference! With a sudden, unexpected shift of wind that only the Chicago weather man knows how to bring about, the stiff, cold northeaster that had brought the cold rain of the morning had been sent off and in its place a warm breeze from the south blew softly across the city, bringing with it sunshine and warmth and pleasantness for all.
"Why—" exclaimed Mary Jane, much puzzled, "where's the rain?"
"Did you want it back?" laughed Mrs. Merrill, and then she explained to the girls something about the effect the big lake might have on weather and told them that one of the queer things about Chicago was its sudden changes to good, or sometimes bad, weather.
"So I was wondering," said Mr. Merrill, "if you folks wouldn't like an hour of fresh air and then, if you're not through shopping we can come back to the stores."
The girls hadn't an idea what he might want to do, but they were pretty sure it would be fun. So they agreed that an hour out of doors was just what they most wanted and they went down to get wraps from the check room. They left the umbrellas till later, put on their wraps and left the store.
"Now then," said Mr. Merrill, "see that big bus down there—we're going for a ride on the top."
"What's a bus?" asked Mary Jane, who had never heard the word before. But before her father could answer they were pushed into the crowd at the crossing, hurried across and the next second Mr. Merrill had hailed a great, lumbering, top-heavy automobile and was helping the girls to step aboard.
The "bus" proved to be a large-sized passenger automobile, with a deck on top for passengers who wished to ride in the open air. Mary Jane and Alice were thrilled with the fun of getting on it. It seemed exactly like going aboard a house-boat on wheels. They stepped into a little hallway and then—and this wasn't so easy because the bus immediately began to move—they climbed up a curving flight of stairs and walked down an aisle—an awfully wiggly aisle it was too!—to seats on the very front row.
Then, before they had had a chance to look around or feel at home, the conductor, who stood at the back, shouted, "Low bridge!" and everybody ducked their heads while the great bus went under the elevated railroad. Mary Jane felt, truly, as though she must be a person in a story book—Arabian Nights or something marvelous—because surely the things that were happening to her weren't really happening.
But after the elevated was passed, the bus rolled out onto Michigan Boulevard and Mary Jane settled herself comfortably in her front seat with her mother, smiled across the aisle to Alice and her father and began to feel really at home in her high perch. By the time the bus had turned northward and crossed the river, she began to feel that riding on the top of a bus was the thing she'd been wanting to do all her life. It was such fun to sit up high and watch the lake, so blue and beautiful in the sunshine, the trees just getting a tinge of green at the tips, the pretty houses that lined the parkway, the people—it seemed as everybody in Chicago must be out in their 'tother best clothes—and most of all, it was fun to watch the automobiles dart in and out of the crowd, around the bus and beside it, till Mary Jane was sure their driver must be some wonderful being to be able to manage so that everybody stayed alive!
"Here, Mary Jane," said Mr. Merrill, interrupting Mary Jane's sight-seeing, "don't you want to pay your fare—Alice is paying ours." He slipped two dimes into her hand just as the conductor stepped to the front of the bus. Mary Jane wasn't quite sure what she was to do with the dimes till she noticed that the conductor had in his hand a queer-looking thing like a clock, only it had a hole in the top just the right size for a dime. Into that hole Mary Jane dropped a dime. And—"dingding!" went a musical little bell somewhere in the "clock." Then she dropped the other dime. And again the bell sounded, "dingding!" just as though it tried to say "Thank you!" that way. Alice then dropped her two dimes and Mary Jane had the fun of hearing the bell again. She thought she wouldn't do a thing but watch the conductor and listen to his bell all the time he collected fares, but just as he stepped back to get the next folks' money the bus passed in front of the queer old stone building with great tower that Mr. Merrill said was the city water works building, and of course that meant the girls wanted to hear about when it was built and hear again the story Mr. Merrill had started to tell them several evenings before about how the great Chicago fire started and how it burned up to this very spot they were now passing. Somehow, being at that place and seeing the one building that stood through the fire made the history stories seem very plain and there were a lot of questions to be asked and answered.
But buses don't wait for questions—the girls soon discovered that! Long before the fire story was told they had raced up Lake Shore Drive, passed its beautiful old homes, and were turning into Lincoln Park. Here it seemed to the girls that the city ended and fairyland began. The grass seemed greener, the lake bluer and the trees greener than any place they had seen; and hundreds of tulips peeping up through the ground here, there and everywhere, made spots of bright vivid color and beauty.
"Oh!" exclaimed Mary Jane happily, "I hope the bus goes on and on forever! I'd like to keep on riding all the time!"
But when, a minute or two later, they passed near the buildings of the Zoo, Mary Jane forgot all about wanting to ride forever and wanted to get out, right away quick and see all the animals she had heard lived there.
"Not to-day," said Mr. Merrill, looking at his watch. "You remember we are to go back to the stores—we're just out for a bit of fresh air this time. Some other day when it's still warmer so we can get our dinner here, then we'll come and visit the Zoo. But to-day I want to get back to the stores before they close."
"Of course," added Alice, "for our umbrellas."
"Of course for something else too," laughed her father, and though both girls were very curious, not another word would he say.
So they stayed on the bus and rode clear through the park, and up Sheridan Road a long way till the bus turned around at a corner and the conductor shouted, "Far's we go!"
But the Merrills didn't get off. They wanted to keep those good front seats so they sat still and in about two minutes the bus started south and whirled them through the park and past all the same interesting sights on the way cityward. This time, Mary Jane felt very much at home in her high-up perch. She dropped in the dimes her father gave her, eyed the passing autos without a bit of fear and looked down on all the children she saw walking and playing quite as though she had lived in a city and ridden in busses all her young life.
It was a very reluctant pair of young ladies that Mr. Merrill assisted to the sidewalk when the big stores and "time to get off" were reached.
"But what was it besides umbrellas you wanted to get?" asked Mary Jane, suddenly remembering.
"Well," said Mr. Merrill, "I haven't been through the toy department with anybody. And I have a calendar."
The girls looked puzzled. What had the toy department to do with a calendar? They couldn't guess. Even Mrs. Merrill looked puzzled.
"Of course if you don't intend to have birthdays since we've moved—" said Mr. Merrill teasingly. And then everybody knew! To be sure! It was almost time for Mary Jane's birthday—almost a year, it was, since the lovely birthday party when the little girl was five years old—and in the excitement of moving and getting settled and seeing new sights, even the little lady herself had forgotten how near the day was at hand.
"It's mine!" exclaimed Mary Jane happily, "and I'll be six! Come on, quick, Dadah! and I'll show you perzactly what I want." When Mary Jane got excited she sometimes got words a little mixed, but her father knew well enough just what she meant. She grabbed hold of his hand, called to her mother and Alice to come on with them and away they went toward the elevator that quickly took them to the toy section.
Going through that department the second time was even more fun than the first trip, because now father was along to see things and to explain mechanical toys. And also because there was the fun of picking out the thing she wanted to wish for, for her birthday. That last was a very serious matter, as every little girl knows.
They looked at dolls—but not a doll was as lovely as Georgiannamore, at least that was Mary Jane's opinion—and then they looked at furniture and at dishes and toys and games and clothes for dolls and, well, at every single thing in that whole big department. After everything had been considered and looked at and thought about, and it was about time for the big warning bell to ring and tell folks that in ten minutes the store would close and everybody'd have to get out, then and not until then, Mary Jane decided that the thing she wanted most of all was a doll cart. A beautiful little ivory enameled doll cart made just exactly like the one that Junior's little brother had back at their old home. A cart with a top that moved back and forth just like a real baby cart and that had cushions and tires and everything that a really truly mother is particular to want for her baby.
"Yes," said Mary Jane, as she looked around the store with a rather tired sigh, "I think that's the thing I want the most and I'm going to wish for it, Dadah."
"Sounds easily settled," laughed her father, "but do you know what time it is?"
Before she could answer, the warning bell rang and clerks began to cover up counters and to straighten up the store for its Sunday rest. So the Merrills four hurried down to get umbrellas and to go home.
On the train going home Mary Jane was so tired looking at things that she didn't care a bit about looking any more. She watched the lake some, but mostly she simply settled back in her little corner behind the door and just sat. Thoughts of all the wonderful things she had seen that day raced through her mind—the lunch, the ride, the lake, the park—but most of all, that wonderful doll cart, and she couldn't help wondering (and of course hoping) if she really truly would, possibly, get that lovely gift for her birthday.
THE BIRTHDAY LUNCHEON
As soon as they got home that evening, and had dinner and rested up a bit, Mary Jane hunted up a calendar so she could find out about her birthday. And she discovered that two weeks from that same day was "her" day.
"It's Saturday, so you can do something too!" she said to Alice. "Now, Mother, let's plan."
So they talked over all the nice things a person might do for a birthday, but long before they could decide which was the very nicest of all the plans, bedtime came. Then the next morning there were interesting things to do, and nobody thought about plans for a day that was two weeks away. That is, nobody but Mary Jane thought about it, and, if the truth must be told, she thought more about the doll cart she had wished for than she did about what she might do to celebrate.
Monday noon, when Alice came home for her luncheon, she was much excited.
"Who do you s'pose I saw at recess this morning?" she demanded. "Guess!"
But Mrs. Merrill and Mary Jane couldn't guess—they didn't know anybody in Chicago to guess! Or at least they thought they didn't.
"I saw—" began Alice slowly, for she wanted the fun of keeping them waiting to last as long as possible, "I saw—Frances Westland! And she goes to my school!"
"Why in the world didn't we know that?" said Mrs. Merrill. "We should have guessed! Of course she goes to your school. I remember of thinking she wasn't very far from us."
"Can't we have her come to see us?" asked Mary Jane eagerly.
"I already asked her if she couldn't come," explained Alice, "because I knew you'd want me to, and she says she's sure she can. But she can't come next Saturday because she and her auntie are going to Milwaukee to spend the week-end. But she thought she could come the next Saturday."
"And that's my birthday," Mary Jane reminded her.
"I know it," agreed Alice, "but I didn't tell her. I just said I'd find out what we were doing that day and let her know this afternoon—was that all right, Mother?"
"You did exactly right, dear," said Mrs. Merrill reassuringly. "Come right out to the dining-room now, because your soup is ready and you mustn't hurry yourself too much with your lunch. While we eat, we'll plan for the birthday."
Of course there were many plans to be talked of, because in a big city there are so many kinds of things one may do. And it was awfully hard to decide which plan was the very most fun—you know how that is yourself. But after every plan that any of the three could think of had been discussed carefully, Mary Jane decided that there were two things she wanted the most to do. First, she wanted to stay home to celebrate and have a party and all that; and, second, she wanted to go down town and go to a big grown-up theater where there was music and lights and pretty things just like grown folks see up town. And for her part she admitted that she didn't see how a person possibly, even on a birthday, could do those two conflicting things.
"Pooh!" laughed Mrs. Merrill, "that's easy! I was telling Dad the other night that inasmuch as this was the first birthday in the city and on Saturday and everything—so convenient for us all—we'd better do those very two things."
"But how'll we do it, Mother?" asked Alice. "We can't stay home for a party while we're down town at the theater!"
"To be sure, we can't," agreed Mrs. Merrill. "But we can stay home for a party before we go down town for a show. And that's just what we're going to do. You hurry off to school now, dear, because it's ten of one. And next time you see Frances Westland, you invite her to come here for twelve o'clock luncheon a week from next Saturday. Be sure to tell her it's an all-afternoon party, so she can stay long enough to go down town with us."
"And who else'll we have?" asked Mary Jane, when Alice had gone. "It wouldn't be a party with one person."
"Of course not," said her mother. "There are going to be three folks. After school this very day you are going to invite Frances and Betty Holden—that'll make it almost a 'Frances' party, won't it? We'll ask them right away, even though a week from Saturday is a long time off, because Dadah will want to get the tickets and we will all want to make our plans."
A week and five days seem a very long time, when you have to wait for them. But Mary Jane found that, after all, they went quicker than she had thought they could, because there was so much to do. First she had to decide what she wanted to have to eat at the luncheon. After much thought and consultation the menu was made out and tacked up on the kitchen cabinet for future reference. Mary Jane printed it out all by herself and the letters were big and plain and could be easily read by any cook—especially Mother. It said: