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We Ten - Or, The Story of the Roses
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WE TEN

Or

The Story of the Roses

by

BARBARA YECHTON

Author of "Ingleside," "A Matter of Honor," "Gentle-Heart Stories," "Two Knights-Errant," "Little Saint Hilary," "Christine's Inspiration"

With Illustrations by Minna Brown



New York Dodd, Mead and Company 1896 Copyright, 1896, by Dodd, Mead and Co. All rights reserved.

University Press: John Wilson and Son, Cambridge, U.S.A.



TO MY DEAR ONES.

"Thou hast done well thy part, if Thou hast done thy best; As sure as I am God, I answer For the rest."



CONTENTS.

CHAPTER PAGE

I. ROSES AND ROSES 1

II. IN THE STUDY 17

III. CONCERNING A PERFORMANCE 25

IV. AND A FETICH 43

V. A FRACAS AND AN ARRIVAL 53

VI. DISPOSING OF A FETICH 72

VII. NEW FRIENDS 92

VIII. A RESOLUTION 109

IX. MAX'S WARD 123

X. IN THE SCHOOLROOM 145

XI. AN AFTERNOON RECEPTION 165

XII. IN THE SHADOW 182

XIII. THROUGH THE SHADOW 200

XIV. A MISSION OF THREE 213

XV. SOME MINORS 230

XVI. AND A MAJOR 254

XVII. NORA'S SECRET 274

XVIII. EXPERIENCES AT ENDICOTT BEACH 283

XIX. HIS BROTHER'S KEEPER 322

XX. A SOLEMN PROMISE 346

XXI. THROUGH THE SLOUGH OF DESPOND 367

XXII. AUF WIEDERSEHEN 378



WE TEN, OR THE STORY OF THE ROSES.



I.

ROSES AND ROSES.

TOLD BY JACK.

When papa said positively that only Phil could go to college, we all felt so badly for Felix that we held a council in the schoolroom that very afternoon. At least, six of us did; the other four had been ruled out by Felix, who declared that "kids were not allowed in council." Paul and Maedel didn't mind so much,—they're the twins, they're only seven years old; nor did Alan,—he's the baby; but Kathie was awfully mad: you see, she's nearly ten, and she does love to hear all that's going on. When she gets crying, there's no stopping her, and I tell you she made things pretty lively round that schoolroom for a little while. How she did howl! We were so afraid she'd start Alan, and that the noise would reach papa's study; good-bye then to our council. We got provoked with Kathie; it was so silly of her to stand there crying like a big baby, and keeping us back that way.

First Phil called out, "You just stop, this minute, Kathie!" and then, when she kept right on, he threw the old sofa pillow at her, and told her to go smother herself; Nora said, "Horrid child!" in her most disgusted tone, and Nannie and Betty coaxed and coaxed, trying to quiet her.



But nothing had any effect until Felix limped over to his easel. Felix is lame,—dear old Fee!—but my! isn't he clever! Greek and Latin are just as easy as—as—anything to him, and he writes stories and poems,—though nobody knows this 'cept us children and Miss Marston, and we wouldn't tell for the world,—and he paints the most beautiful pictures you ever saw. Well, as I was telling you, he limped over to his easel, and took up his brush. "Just keep that charming expression on your face a few minutes longer, Kathie," he said, "until I get it on canvas; and I'll paint your picture as the 'Schoolroom Vixen,' and send it to the Academy. That's right, open your mouth just a little wider—what a wonderful cavern!—hullo! why'd you stop crying? I'm not half through."

That quieted my lady! You see she was afraid he was in earnest; and after Nannie had wiped her eyes for her, and given her the last piece of chocolate in her box, off she went to the other end of the room, and began playing house with the twins and Alan under the schoolroom table, as nicely as you please.

Then the council began. Nannie said it was called to discuss "ways and means." I suppose by that she meant to see if there was any way that Felix could go to college too; but, as usual, in a very little while everybody began to take "sides," and then, the first thing we knew, we were all talking at the same time, and just as loud as ever we could. That's a way we have,—all talking and nobody listening. What a din there was, until Felix scrambled up on a chair and pounded on the floor with his cane, and shouted out louder than anybody else: "Who am I talking to? I will be heard!" That made everybody laugh, and brought us back to business; but in a few minutes we were just as bad again.

We're the greatest family for taking sides that you ever heard of, and we do get so excited over things! Anybody that didn't know would surely think we were quarrelling, when really we'd just be having a discussion. I can't see where we got it from, for dear mamma was always just as sweet and gentle, and goodness knows papa doesn't say ten words in a day, and those in the very quietest voice. I can't explain it, but it's a fact all the same that we are a noisy family,—even Nora. Miss Marston—she's our governess—says it's very vulgar to be noisy, and that we ought to be ashamed to be so boisterous; but nurse declares—and I think she's right—that the reason is 'cause "the whole kit an' crew" (she means us) "come just like steps, one after the other, an' one ain't got any more right to rule than the other." You see Phil is seventeen and Alan is five, and between them we eight come in; so we are "just like steps," as she says.



Perhaps I'd better tell you a little about each of us, so you'll understand as I go on: Well, to begin, Phil is a big strong fellow, and just as full of fun and mischief as he can stick; he just loves to play practical jokes, but he isn't so fond of study, I can tell you, and that vexes papa, 'cause he's got it all laid out that Phil's to be a lawyer. Being the eldest, he seems to think he can order us children round as he pleases, and of course we won't stand it, and that makes trouble sometimes. But Phil's generous; he'd give us anything he's got, particularly to Felix, he thinks so much of him,—though of course he wouldn't say so,—so we get along pretty well with him.

Next come Felix and Nannie; they're twins too. I've told you 'most everything about Fee already. He's awfully cross sometimes, when he isn't well, and, as Nora says, he really orders us about more than Phil does; but somehow we don't mind it, 'cause, with all his queerness, he's the life of the house, and he's got some ways that just make us love him dearly: mamma used to call him her "lovable crank." Nannie is devoted to Felix; they're always together. They're trying to teach themselves the violin, and she reads the same books and studies the same lessons as he does, to keep up with him; she's clever, too, now I tell you,—- I'd never get my Greek and Latin perfect if she didn't help me,—though she doesn't make any fuss over it. Nannie is an awfully nice girl,—I don't know what we'd do without her; since mamma died, she's all the time looking after us children, and making things go smoothly. She doesn't "boss" us a bit, and yet, somehow, she gets us to do lots of things. She is real pretty, too,—her eyes are so brown and shiny. It's queer, but we don't any of us mind telling Nannie when we get into scrapes; she talks to us at the time, and makes us feel sorry and ashamed, but she never makes us feel small while she's doing it, and we never hear of it again.

But you wouldn't catch us doing that to Nora! She comes next, you know, and she's really very pretty, though we never tell her so, 'cause she's so stuck up already. Felix puts her into lots of his pictures, and I heard Max Derwent say once that she was beautiful. Max is papa's friend; he is a grown-up man, though he isn't as old as papa. He used to come here a lot, and we children like him first-rate; but now he's in Europe. Well, to come back to Nora: she likes to be called Eleanor, but we don't do it; she is so fussy and so very proper that Felix has nick-named her Miss Prim, and we do call her that. Miss Marston thinks Nora is the best behaved of us all; and sometimes, when Nannie is in papa's study, she lets her go in the drawing-room and entertain people that call. You should see the airs that Nora puts on when she comes upstairs after these occasions; it's too killing for anything! We boys make lots of fun of her, but she doesn't care a jot. And yet, isn't it queer! with all her primness and fine airs, of us all, Nora cares most for Phil, and he's so untidy and rough; she almost runs her legs off waiting on him, and half the time he doesn't even say thank you!

The next after Nora is Betty, our "long-legged tomboy," as Felix calls her, 'cause she is so tall and so full of mischief. Just to look at her you'd think she was as mild as a lamb; but in reality she's wilder than all of us boys put together. I've seen her slide down the banisters of three flights of stairs, one flight after the other, balancing papa's breakfast tray on one palm; and for warwhoops and the ability to make the most hideous faces, she goes ahead of anything I've ever heard or seen. She is as bad as Phil for playing jokes, and when she gets in one of her wild moods, the only way Miss Marston can manage her is to threaten to take her to papa's study; that brings her to terms every time. For that matter, we none of us like to go there, though I'm sure papa never scolds, as some people's fathers do,—I almost wish he would sometimes; he just looks at us; but, all the same, we don't like to go to the study.

I hope you won't think from what I've said that Betty is a disagreeable girl, for she isn't at all; I'm really very fond of her, and we're together a great deal, because I am the next in age to her. She's awfully quick-tempered, and flies into a rage for almost nothing; but she's very honest, and she'll own up to a fault like a soldier. Once in a while we have a falling out, but not often, 'cause I won't quarrel. Nannie says that I give in sometimes when I oughtn't to,—she means when it isn't right to; I guess that's my fault, but I do hate to squabble with any one,—it's such a bother. I don't know what to tell you about myself, except that I'm not very bright at my books, though I love to read stories. It does seem so strange that we shouldn't all be smart, when papa, as everybody knows, is such a wonderfully clever man. I'm Jack, or, rather,—to give my full name,—John Minot Rose. I think that's rather a nice name, but you can't think what fun the whole family make of it; they call me "a Jack rose," and "Jacqueminot," and "Rosebud," and a "sweet-scented flower," and all sorts of absurd names. Of course it's very silly of them. Betty gets furious over it; but I don't really care, so what's the use of being angry.

Kathie comes next to me; she is a nice little girl, only she does love to tattle things, and that makes trouble sometimes. She's very gentle, and just as pretty as a picture, with her long light curls and pretty, big blue eyes; but my! isn't she obstinate! She doesn't fly into rages, like Betty, but she keeps persisting and persisting till she carries her point, and when she once starts in crying, you may make up your mind she isn't going to stop in a hurry. But she doesn't mean to be naughty, I'm sure; and she's the most polite child, and so willing to do things for people!

Then come the other twins, Paul and Maedel. Paul is a standing joke with us, he's so solemn; and yet he says such bright, funny things, in his slow way, that we have to laugh: we call him the "Judge." Maedel is a little darling, just as jolly and round and sweet as she can be; nurse says she's going to be a second Nannie. We all make a great deal of her,—much more than we do of Alan; for though he's the baby, he's so independent that he doesn't like to be petted.

So now you know all about the Roses; it does seem as if I'd been a long time telling about them, but you see there are such a lot of us.

Well, to go back to the council. Fee was awfully cut up over his disappointment, and cranky too; but nobody minded what he said, until, all at once, Nora got in a tantrum, and declared he was "acting very mean to Phil," that he needn't always expect to have things his own way, and that papa was perfectly right to give Phil the first chance. That set Fee off, and in about two minutes we were all mixed up in the fuss,—taking "sides," you know; that is, all but Phil,—he just sat hunched up on the arm of the old sofa, swinging one of his long legs, and scowling, and chewing away on a piece of straw he'd pulled out of the whisk-broom, and he didn't say a word until Nora turned on him, and asked him, very indignantly, how he could sit there and let Felix bully her in that way. Then all at once he seemed to get very mad and just pitched into Fee.

I don't remember what he said, and I'm glad that I don't, 'cause I know Phil didn't mean a word of it; but Felix felt awfully hurt. He got two bright red spots on his cheeks, and he set his lips tight together, and when Phil stopped to catch his breath, after an unusually long speech, he got up and pushed his chair back. "It is so pleasant to hear one's family's honest opinion of one's self," he remarked, in that sarcastic way he has. "I shall try to remember all that you've said," bowing to Phil and Nora, "and I shall endeavour to profit by it. And as long as I'm such a contemptible and useless member of the community, I'll relieve you of my company." His voice shook so he could hardly say the last words, and he started for the door, stumbling over the furniture as he went. Between you and me, I think his eyes were full of tears, and that they blurred his glasses so he couldn't see,—did I tell you that Felix is near-sighted? Well, he is.

"Oh, Phil, how could you say such mean things to your own brother!" cried out Nannie; and with that she flew after Felix.

That cooled Phil down, and if he didn't turn on Nora! "It's all your fault," he said angrily; "you just nagged me on to it. You're never happy unless you're quarrelling."

This was pretty true, but I don't think it was at all nice of Phil to say so, and I felt very sorry for Nonie when she burst out crying. Betty and I were trying to quiet her, when in walked Miss Marston, to know what all that loud noise and banging of doors meant. We didn't tell her about the fracas, 'cause, though she's pretty good in a way, she isn't at all the person one would want to tell things to. She carried the little ones off for their early dinner, and Nora and Betty too,—"to help," she said. But I stayed in the schoolroom. I knew if I went down stairs they'd just keep me trotting about waiting on them all, and that's such a nuisance! so I curled up on the sofa and read for a while.

The fire was so bright, and everything was so cozy, that I did wish some of the others would come in and enjoy it. I was really pleased when Major and Whiskers came walking in and settled down near me. They're our dog and cat, and they're good playfellows with us; but they will fight with each other now and then. At first I enjoyed my story immensely; it was about a boy who was having the wildest kind of adventures among the Indians. I wouldn't go through such exciting times for anything; but I enjoy reading about 'em, when I'm all safe and comfortable at home.

Well, when it grew too dark to read, I laid my book down and began to think, and presently it seemed as if a whole pack of Indians were dancing like wild round me, in full war-paint and feathers, and nipping little pieces out of my arms and legs. I stood it as long as I could, and then I began to hit out at 'em. All at once one of the creatures commenced flourishing his tomahawk at me, getting nearer and nearer all the time. "I have tried, but I can't get in," he said, grinning horribly, and the voice sounded just like Phil's; "he's locked his door, and he won't even answer me,—he's madder than hornets."



"I'm sure you can't blame him: what you said was very unkind, Phil; I didn't think it of you!" The voice was certainly Nannie's; and yet there was that horrid old Indian still nipping me.

"I know it, Nan; you needn't rub it in," groaned Phil,—the Indian. "But really, I didn't mean one word of it, and he ought to have known that. Why, Fee's got more brains than the whole crowd of us put together, and if only one of us can go to college, he ought to be that one. I've screwed up my courage, and I'm going to speak to father about it."

"Oh, Phil, don't, please don't; it'll be no use. You know there is no changing papa when his mind is made up. Better let things stand as they are until Max gets home; it won't be very long, you know. And besides, I'm sure Felix wouldn't let you give up college for him. But you're a dear, generous boy, to propose it."

"No, I'm not; I'm a great clumsy, cantankerous animal. Now if I could only talk as Felix can, I wouldn't mind interviewing the pater to-morrow; but just as sure as I undertake to say anything to him, I get so nervous and confused that I act like a fool, and that provokes him. He seems to paralyse me. But, all the same, I'm going to talk to him about this matter to-morrow, Nannie,"—the Indian's voice sank so low that I could hardly hear it; "I have a feeling that mother would want Fee to go to college."

I sat up and rubbed my arms that had gone to sleep, and looked around; I was still on the old sofa, and just a few feet away from me sat Phil, on the edge of the schoolroom table, and Nannie in a chair beside him.

Confused and only half awake as I was, my one idea was to slip away quietly and not let 'em know I'd heard what they had been saying, for I was sure they wouldn't like that. Nannie says I ought to have spoken right out; but I do hate to make people feel uncomfortable. So I swung myself softly to my feet, and—landed hard on Whiskers's tail!

Of course, after that, there was no hiding that I was there. Poor Whiskers gave a howl of pain, and, flying at Major, boxed the solemn old doggie's ears, much to his surprise and wrath, and they had a free fight on the spot.

"Why, Jack!" said Nannie; and I got hot all over, for I just felt by her tone that she thought I'd been listening.

"Our Jacqueminot, I declare!" cried Phil. "You are a nice young rosebud, I must say, to be snooping around this way! Come here, sir!"

He made a dive for me, but I drew back. "I didn't listen!" I called out. And then I remembered that I really had, only I thought it was the Indians talking; and, dipping under his arm, I rushed out of the room as hard as I could go, before he could catch me.



II.

IN THE STUDY.

TOLD BY JACK.

I thought very often of what Phil had said, I couldn't help it; but I don't suppose I would ever have really understood what he meant if I hadn't heard something more the next day. Poor me! it just seemed for those two days as if I did nothing but get into people's way and keep hearing things that they didn't want me to. This time it was partly Betty's fault,—at least, she was what Phil calls the "primary cause." I suppose it was because it was such a lovely day out-of-doors, that I couldn't seem to put my mind on my books at all, and when Betty pulled two feather-tops out of her pocket, and offered me one, I took it very willingly, and we began to play on the sly. Of course we got caught: my feather-top must needs fly away from the leg of the table, which was our mark, and stick itself into Kathie's leg. I don't think it hurt her so very much, but she was startled, and didn't she howl! Miss Marston was all out of patience with me already, and when, soon after that, I made a mess of my Latin, she got very angry, and walked me right down to the study.

Papa listened in dead silence to all she told him; then he just lifted his eyes from his writing, and pointed to a chair a good way from him: "Sit there," he said, "and study your lesson, and don't disturb me." So I took my seat, and Miss Marston shut the door and went away.

My! how quiet it was in that room! Not a sound except a faint scrabbling noise now and then from the L behind the portiere,—where some very old reference books are kept,—and papa's pen scratching across the paper, and even that stopped presently, and he began to read a book that lay open beside him. As he sat there reading, with sheets upon sheets of the Fetich scattered all round him, I looked and looked at him; I don't know why it is, but somehow, when I'm anywhere alone with papa, I just have to keep looking at him instead of anything else. He's a tall man, and thin, and he stoops round his shoulders; he wears glasses, too, like Felix, and he always looks as if he were thinking of something 'way off in his mind. Nurse says she's sure he'd forget to eat, if the things weren't put right under his nose; you see that's because he's all the time thinking of books. Oh, papa's awfully clever!



After a while I found a lollipop in my pocket, and I began to suck it,—just for company, you know; and truly the room was so quiet I was afraid papa'd hear me swallow. Every now and then there was that little scrabble behind the portiere; I made up my mind papa must have some one there making references for him, and I wondered who. But just then came a quite loud knock at the study door, and before papa had finished saying "Come!"—he never does say it right away,—the door flew open, and in bounced Phil, as if he were in an awful hurry. He marched straight to papa's desk, and began, very quickly, "Father, I'd like—" But papa just waved his hand at him, without looking up: "In a few minutes," he said, and went right on reading.

You should have seen Phil fidget: he stood on one foot, then on the other; he put his hands in his pockets and jingled the things he had there, till he remembered that papa doesn't like us to do that, then he took his hands out. He straightened up, and shook his coat collar into place, and he cleared his throat; but nothing had any effect until he accidentally knocked a book off the desk. Then papa started, and peered up at him in the near-sighted way that Felix does sometimes: "H'm, too bad!" he said, taking the book from Phil; then he sighed, put his finger on the page of his book to mark the place, and said, in a resigned sort of way, "Well, what is it you want?"

And I tell you, Phil didn't take long to come to the point; he pitched right in, in that quick, headlong way he has when he's awfully in earnest. "I want to ask you, father, please to let Felix go to college in my place. As long as we can't both go, I think he ought to be the one. You know, sir, he's a thousand times cleverer than I am, and he'll be sure to do you twice the credit that I shall. I do wish you'd consider the change."

"And what do you propose to do in that case?" papa asked, peering up at him again.

"Go into business,—lots of fellows do at my age,—if I can get anything at all," answered Phil, squaring his shoulders.

Papa sat and thought and thought for several minutes, without a word; then he said, in that quiet tone of voice that we children know always settles a question, "No, I prefer that the present arrangement should be carried out." Then he began reading again.

I thought Phil would have gone, after that; but no, he got quite excited: "It isn't fair to Felix," he cried, thumping his hand down on the desk with such force that the pages of the Fetich just danced,—you'll hear more about the Fetich by and by,—"indeed it isn't! He's got the most brains of the whole lot of us put together, and he ought to have some advantages. And besides, sir, you know he was mother's boy." Phil's voice shook so that a big lump came in my throat. "I'm sure she would want him to go to college; for her sake, let us change places."

Papa put up his hand quickly, and shielded his eyes from the light, and he didn't answer right away. "It was—her wish—that you should go," he said presently, stopping between the words.

"Because she expected there'd be money enough for us both," Phil began eagerly; but all of a sudden the portiere that hung over the L was pushed aside, and who should come limping up to them but Felix!

His eyes were shining, even through his glasses, and he didn't seem to mind papa one bit. "So that's what you're up to, is it?" he said to Phil, "trying to give me your birthright!" By this time he'd reached Phil's side, and he threw his arm right across Phil's shoulders. "Dear old Lion-heart!" he said,—how his voice did ring out! "And I thought you didn't care!"

And papa just sat there and looked at them, without a word, from under his hand.

Now I suppose you think I was a very mean sort of a boy to sit there and take in all this that wasn't intended for me to hear; but really it wasn't my fault. You see, I was so surprised when Phil walked in and began to talk like that, that I never thought of saying anything; but pretty soon I remembered, and I felt very uncomfortable. I got up then, and walked a few steps forward, but nobody noticed me. And when Phil got so excited, I couldn't get a word out. Then Felix came out, and I really got desperate,—I felt I must let 'em know I was there; so I just called out twice, quite loud, "Please, I'm here!"

They all jumped, they were so surprised, and Phil wheeled round on me in a minute. "That ubiquitous 'Jack rose' again!" he exclaimed; and taking me by the collar,—that was really very mean of Phil,—he walked me very fast over to the door. Then he opened the door, and said, "Skip!" and gave me quite a hard shove into the hall, and shut the door again. I tell you what now, my feelings were awfully hurt; I just wished Betty were there; I know she'd have given it to Phil!

"Jack!" somebody called just then, and there was Nannie seated in the niche at the head of the stairs. I ran up and squeezed in alongside of her, and she snuggled me up to her, and made me feel ever so much better. I told her the whole story, and somehow, by the time I got through, instead of being angry any more, I really felt sorry for the boys. "Oh, Nannie," I said, "I do wish Fee could go to college!"

Nannie caught my hand tight between her two palms. "Jack," she said softly, "say our verse for the day, will you?"

So I repeated it: "'I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.'"

"That has comforted me all day," whispered Nannie. "That's what we can do for Felix: we can pray—you and I—that God will make a way for him to go to college. Will you, Jackie-boy?"

"Yes," I said presently; "but—but—perhaps, Nannie, you'd better not say anything to Betty about it, 'cause—well, you know she might make fun of me."

"Oh, no, she won't," said Nannie, "because you and I are the 'two,' Jack, and she's the 'three'; she's praying for Felix, too."

Well, I was dumfounded,—Betty, of all people!

Just then the study door opened, and Phil and Felix came out; Phil had his arm over Fee's shoulder, and he began helping him up the steps. I felt they'd want Nannie to themselves,—and, besides, Phil might just have said something to tease me again; so I ran up stairs alone, and left them to talk together.

All this happened some weeks ago, and though Phil has commenced college, no way has come yet for Felix to go; but we "three" still keep on praying for it.



III.

CONCERNING A PERFORMANCE.

TOLD BY NANNIE.

So many and such unexpected things have happened lately that I scarcely know where to begin, or how to tell everything.

The very first surprise was two letters that came for Felix and me from our godmother, aunt Lindsay. She is not really our aunt, though we call her so, and I'm named Nancy after her; but she knew dear mamma when she was a girl, and she is the only person except mamma that we ever heard call papa "Jack." Aunt Lindsay is quite an old lady, and she's very eccentric. She lives in a big old house in Boston, and very seldom comes to New York; but twice a year, on our birthday and at Christmas, she sends us a letter and a present,—generally a book,—and Fee and I have to write and thank her. How we dread those letters! It was hard enough when we had mamma to talk them over with before we began them; but now it's a great deal worse, for Miss Marston does not help us in the least.

She says we are quite old enough now to do them alone, and I suppose we are. But we can't express ourselves in the same way time after time, and it is so difficult to think of new things to say that are interesting and not frivolous,—for aunt Lindsay wouldn't permit that. Sometimes we really get low-spirited over our efforts, and I'd be ashamed to tell how many sheets of paper and envelopes are spoilt in the undertaking. Once, in a fit of desperation, Felix bought a "Complete Letter-Writer," and we hunted through it; but there seemed to be nothing in it suitable for an occasion such as ours, and besides, the language used in the "Letter-Writer" was so very fine and unlike our former efforts that we were afraid aunt Lindsay would, as Phil vulgarly puts it, "smell a mice." So that had to be given up, and finally, after many and great struggles, with the help of the whole family, we would manage to write something that Miss Marston allowed us to send. On the principle that brevity is wit, some of these productions of ours are really remarkable.

And now, though it was neither Christmas nor our birthday, here came two letters from our godmother which would have to be answered. We groaned as we received them, and the family, even to Kathie, gave us their sympathy,—Phil suggesting that perhaps "the old lady" had sent us a whole library this time, which would of course call for a special expression of gratitude.

Think, then, how we felt when we opened the letters and found that our godmother wrote to tell us she had made arrangements for Felix to take painting lessons for one term, and for me, violin lessons for the same length of time! To say we were astonished doesn't at all express our state of mind. The questions that occurred to us when we got over the first shock were, how could aunt Lindsay have known just what would best please each of us, and why had she remembered us at this time of the year, which was no particular occasion? And then we thought of her kindness, and were so ashamed! Fee and I looked at each other, and though we didn't say it, the same thought came to us both,—that we would write her the nicest letter of thanks that we could compose, if it took every sheet of note-paper we owned.

Of course we read aunt Lindsay's letter aloud,—that and talking them over is the best part of receiving letters,—and of course we all got very much excited over our unexpected good fortune. Felix said right away that he would give Nora lessons in drawing two afternoons in the week,—she really draws very nicely, and is so anxious to get on,—provided she'd promise not to "put on any airs or frills;" and I told Fee I'd help him—in the same way—with his violin playing. Then Phil proposed, and the whole family approved, that we should on the following evening—which was papa's night at the Archaeological Society—celebrate the happy event by what we call "a musical performance."

Though we are very fond of these "performances," we have not had one for quite a while, because some of us older ones haven't felt up to it; for, as Fee truly says, "it really requires very good spirits indeed to make a festive occasion go off successfully." Since that day in papa's study that Jack has told about, nothing more has been said of Fee's going to college,—though we all want it just as much as ever, and Jack and I feel that it will come,—and Felix himself seems to have quite given up the idea.

He laughs and jokes again in his old merry way, particularly when Phil is at home; Nora and he have made friends, and Betty and Jack have got over staring at Fee with big round eyes of sympathy, and dear old Phil no longer skulks in and out of the house as if he were ashamed of himself; now he tells us bits of his college experience, and—as of old—gets Felix to help him with his studies. Things look as if everybody was satisfied; but, though he never alludes to it, I know Fee's heart is sore over his disappointment,—you see, he is my own twin, and, while I love all my brothers and sisters, Felix is more dear to me than any one else in the whole wide world, and I understand him better than anybody else does.

Fee is not like the rest of us; in the first place, he is more delicate, and his lameness makes him very sensitive. Then, too, though we all, from Phil to Alan, confide in him our troubles and pleasures, he rarely, if ever, opens his heart to any of us. And when we talk things over among ourselves, and so in a way help one another along, Fee keeps his deepest feelings to himself. Very often we children talk of dear mamma, particularly when we're together in the firelight Sunday afternoons and evenings,—it's a comfort to us; but Felix simply listens,—he never speaks of her, though he was mother's boy. But I know, all the same, that he misses her every day of his life, and that as long as he lives he'll never forget one tone of her voice, or one word she has said to him.

Fee used to have a dreadful temper; he'd say such cutting, sarcastic things! and when mamma would speak to him about it, he'd declare that he couldn't help it, and that the sharp ugly words would come. But now, since she's gone, he is so much better, and I'm sure that he's trying to control himself, because he remembers how grieved she used to be when he got into a rage. I don't mean to say that he has entirely gotten over it,—I don't suppose that will ever be; but he doesn't flash out as he used to, and sometimes when he is very angry, he sets his lips tight together, and limps out of the room just as fast as ever he can go, to keep the ugly words from being spoken.

Once in a great while, if I am alone in the schoolroom, he'll come and throw himself down on the old sofa beside me, and, putting his head in my lap, lay my hand over his eyes. I know then, as well as if he had told me, that he is thinking of dear mamma and longing for her; and such a rush of love comes into my heart for him that I think he must feel it in my very finger-tips as they touch him.

He was more with mamma at the last than any of us, because he is so gentle and helpful in a sick-room; but when the end had come, and we children were standing about the bed, crying bitterly, with our arms around one another, I missed Felix. From room to room I hunted, and at last I found him, huddled up in a heap on the floor of the old store-room at the top of the house. And never shall I forget the white, utterly wretched face that he turned on me, as I knelt down by him and put my arms round his neck. He held my shoulders with his two thin hands so tight that I could feel his finger-nails through my sleeves. "Oh, Nannie!" he said, in such a hoarse whisper I'd never have known it for Fee's sweet voice, "if I could only die this very night!" Then he sank down, and lay there trembling from head to foot, and sobbing, sobbing!

I pulled a quilt down from one of the shelves and threw it over him; then I sat on the floor and drew his head into my lap and just smoothed his forehead and hair for the longest while, without a word, until he quieted down. I felt, somehow, that he would rather not have me say anything.

Don't imagine, from what I've said, that Fee is a dismal sort of person, for indeed he isn't; he's the merriest of us all, and the prime leader in all the mischief and fun that goes on; and just as soon as it was settled that we should have a performance, he began to plan what each person should do, and to arrange the programme. We always have a programme: it saves confusion and people's feelings getting hurt; for, of course, then one can only go on in one's turn and for the special part set down; otherwise, everybody would be on the stage at once, and there'd be no audience.

The large closet in the schoolroom is our dressing-room on these occasions, and as we have no way of making a stage, the younger children, Paul and Maedel and Alan,—Kathie is too big for that now,—stand on a table near the closet and deliver their parts. Felix makes up the funniest names for us on the programme, and we answer to them as readily as if we were in the habit of doing so every day.

We were all very busy that afternoon and evening and the next afternoon preparing our parts for the performance; but, with all that, Fee and I got our letters off to our godmother. I felt so truly grateful both for him and for myself, that I didn't have nearly as much trouble composing it as I had expected. But all day I was in a perfect fever to get up to the Conservatory, where aunt Lindsay had entered my name, and to make arrangements for taking my violin lessons. Miss Marston and I talked the matter over, and found that when all the little home duties and my regular studies were finished, there was but one hour that I could set aside regularly for my new work. For though I should only take two lessons a week, I should have to have time to practise, or I'd be able to make no progress at all.

She said I might go up that afternoon; so right after school Nora and I started out to the Conservatory. I was very nervous, and my violin is not a very good one; Phil says it's nothing but a fiddle, and that the old second-hand dealer from whom we bought them—Fee has one, too,—cheated us. They certainly do squeak dreadfully, at times, when you least expect it; but then we didn't pay much for them,—you may know that, when we saved for them out of our allowance!—and, as nurse says, "If you want a good article, you've got to pay for it;" still, they're a great deal better than nothing. But to go back to my story: Nora says that, considering how very nervous I was, and the poor instrument I had, she thinks I did fairly well. I love violin music! I can't express what a delight it is to me to play; and the prospect of being able to improve myself in it made me very happy. The professor that aunt Lindsay wanted to be my teacher told us his classes were very full, and that the hour I named for Wednesday and Saturday afternoons was the only time he could give me; then he said something kind about my playing, that gave me a little confidence, and sent me home quite radiant.

As I came out of the room which Betty and I share, after putting away my things, nurse opened the nursery door and beckoned me in: "Miss Nannie," she said impressively, "I'm kinder worried 'bout your pa. He's never had no appetite to brag of; but for a week past he's been eatin' like a bird. Mornin' after mornin' he ain't touched nothin' but his tea, an' I'm afraid something's wrong. I don't want to frighten you, my dear, but I thought by tellin' you, maybe you could find out if anything ails him, and get him to send for the doctor. I think he looks kinder bad, and—lors! child, if anything happened to him, what would become o' you all!"

I got very nervous, until I remembered how easily nurse gets alarmed; if the children feel the least under the weather, she is apt to imagine that they are going to be seriously ill. "No," I said, "I haven't noticed that he looks badly; but thank you, nursie, for telling me. I'll look closely at him this evening at dinner, and I'll try my best to find out if he isn't well."

Papa always has his breakfast and lunch in the study, and dines with us. We older ones think that he does this as a duty, for we are pretty sure that he doesn't enjoy it; you see, papa does not really care for children, and there is no grown person now for him to talk to,—except Miss Marston, and she is not very interesting. Poor papa!

He sits at the head of the table, but Phil does the carving; and though very often he does not say a dozen words throughout the entire meal, yet even our daring Betty is subdued into good behaviour by his presence. There is no reason for it that we know of,—papa has never forbidden our talking at table,—but somehow, since dear mamma has gone, we have very little conversation at dinner; though we make up for it at other meals, I assure you. I sit in mamma's place now, and this evening, as I looked carefully at papa across the long table, I could see that he did look thinner: there was a tired expression on his face, too, that troubled me. As I passed through the hall, about half an hour later, he stood there in overcoat and hat, putting on his gloves before starting out for a meeting of the Archaeological Society; and when I asked, "Papa, are you feeling well? really quite well?" he put on that bored expression that always makes me feel miles away from him.

"Well? Oh, yes!" then he added, with more animation, "Nannie, I wish you would get me that pamphlet that is lying on my desk. I nearly forgot it."



He took the pamphlet when I brought it, and began fingering it aimlessly, giving me a disagreeable feeling of being in the way; and as I turned and ran up the stairs, he went into the drawing-room. He wasn't there but a minute or two,—before I reached the second floor I heard the front door close behind him,—and the next morning, when Nora and I were dusting the drawing-room, we found the pamphlet on the floor before mamma's picture. After all, he had forgotten it.

I ran on up to the schoolroom, and there everybody was in a great state of excitement, preparing for the performance, which was to begin and end early on account of the younger children. There was no attempt at costume, but we girls wore a ribbon—they belong to our "stage property"—tied from shoulder to waist, the boys carried a paper rose in their button-holes, and Kathie and the twins and Alan were decorated with huge paper-muslin sashes and fancy caps, so that we all presented quite a festive and unusual appearance. The chairs were ranged in rows; the invited guests—Murray Unsworth, and his cousin, Helen Vassah (they always come to our "festive occasions")—arrived; nurse, and Hannah, our maid, came in and took their places at the back, cook stealing in a little later; a bell tinkled; Alan walked out of the closet, was assisted to the table by Felix,—who was master of ceremonies,—and made his bow to the audience with one hand on his heart and a trumpet in the other, and the performance began.



The programme was elaborately printed in two or three colours, on heavy light-brown paper, and it was tacked up on the schoolroom wall in full view of all, so that each person would know when his or her turn had come, and could disappear in the dark closet,—no lights were allowed there for fear of fire,—to reappear immediately before the audience, amid a storm of applause. This is the way the programme read:—

"Yankibus Doodlum," trumpet solo by the Infant Prodigy, Master Alano Enrico Rosie.

"Eight White Sheep," vocal duet, rendered with appropriate finger-play by the Celebrated Twin Singers, Fraeulein Maedel and Herr Paulus.

"Little White Lily," charming vocal solo by the Famous Prima Donna, Mlle. Kathe.

"Charge of the Six Hundred," favourite recitation by the Distinguished Elocutionist, Prof. Jacqueminot.

Extraordinary exhibition with Indian clubs by the Remarkable Strong Girl, Signorina Bettina, with piano accompaniment by Signorina Eleanora Nonie.

"Serenade," Gounod, violin duo, rendered by the World-Renowned Violinists, Mlle. Nanina and Mons. Felix.

"Le Soupir," piano solo by the Brilliant Pianist, Signorina Eleanora Nonie.

{ "Swanee River." { "Feniculi." { "Good-night, Ladies," college songs, with banjo accompaniment, by the Wonderful Tenor Singer and Banjoist, Prof. Philipo.

Curtain down! Lights out!

Everything went off beautifully, from Alan's opening bow to Phil's parting obeisance, with two exceptions,—the small boy fell off the table and scraped his shin, and so had to be comforted, and Kathie got so excited when she knew her turn was coming that she jumped up from her chair and raced round and round the schoolroom table, scuffing her feet on the floor and making her hand squeak on the wooden surface of the table, thereby interfering with the effect of Fraeulein Maedel and Herr Paulus's vocal efforts. She was captured, however, and brought to reason and good behaviour by the threat of having her name crossed off the programme. With these two trifling exceptions, the performance was most creditable, the artistes were warmly received and enthusiastically applauded,—in one or two instances they even applauded themselves.

Hastily manufactured bouquets of newspaper and paper-muslin were showered upon the stage, and when all was over nurse and cook surprised us by refreshments of cookies and lemonade, served on the schoolroom table. How we enjoyed it! Not a cake was left, nor a drop of lemonade. Nora was shocked, and I was so glad Miss Marston had not accepted our invitation to be present!

When it was all over, and we were putting away the things, I told Felix what nurse had said, and asked him if he had noticed that papa wasn't well.

Fee looked at me with reflective eyes for a moment or two. "Yes," he said slowly, "come to think of it, the pater has looked rather seedy lately. And another thing," he added, "he hasn't let me make a single reference for him this whole week; and yesterday, when I went in somewhat abruptly, he was sitting at his desk with pages of the Fetich before him, but not writing or reading, just resting his head on his hand. I don't think I've ever seen him do that before."

Again that horrid apprehension came over me.

"Oh, Fee," I said nervously, "do you suppose he is ill,—that anything is going to happen to him? Do tell me frankly what you think!"

Felix bent over the stage property he was doing up, as he answered: "I've thought for some time past that he misses—mother—more than ever." Then he walked off with his bundle.

How utterly ashamed I felt! Nurse had noticed how badly he looked; Felix had, too,—and perhaps he had guessed the trouble truly; Phil, even, might have seen it, and I, papa's eldest daughter, who had promised mamma to take care of him, had been too selfishly absorbed in my own affairs to even think of him! It was no comfort to tell myself that papa was hard to get at; I felt I had neglected him.

"Don't worry, twinnie," Felix said, kindly, coming back to me. "You know care once killed a feline, in spite of his nine lives; so don't you go in for that sort of thing, or you'll get the worst of it. Go to bed now, and have a good sleep; by daylight things will look very much brighter; and at any rate you have your violin lessons ahead of you, and the performance behind you,—two good things. Good-night."



IV.

AND A FETICH.

TOLD BY NANNIE.

BUT my first thought in the morning was of papa, and I wondered what I ought to do for him; how I longed for dear mamma! If even Max were home!—for he was a great favourite with papa, and might be able to persuade him to see Dr. Archard. Though papa is so quiet and gentle, he is really a very difficult person to get to do things that he doesn't want to; and he never wants to have a physician for himself. I was feeling very blue, when something Betty said reminded me of my violin lessons, and then the very thought made me more cheerful.

Betty and I room together, and Nora and Kathie have the next apartment; and what did Nora and Betty do but put their heads together while we were dressing to think of a place in the house where I might go to practise every afternoon without disturbing papa. One or the other of the girls practises every afternoon, and the combination of violin squeaks and piano exercises would, we knew, disturb papa very much. Miss Marston, we were sure, would not permit them to neglect their music,—Nora is a fine musician, and Betty would be if she'd only put the same interest into that that she does into some other things, such as Indian clubs, and sliding down banisters, and playing practical jokes,—and we couldn't plan where my violin hour could best come in, when Nora thought of the old store-room at the top of the house. That was a good idea, because, by closing the door and hanging a thick quilt over it, not much of my scraping would escape to mingle with the piano scale-running, and so annoy papa. The girls' arranging for me in this way quite cheered me up,—the question of practising having troubled me a good deal, for I knew a noise of that kind would seriously interfere with papa's writing, and delay still longer the completion of the Fetich.

Years and years ago, before Phil was born,—indeed, before mamma and papa were ever married,—papa began to write a book, and it is not yet finished, though there are pages and pages of it. Of course it is very deep and very clever, for papa is a great scholar. Max Derwent says that if papa would only finish the book he thinks he knows of a publisher who would accept it at once; and that would be a great help to us, for papa has lost a lot of money this year, and we have to be very economical. That is the reason Fee can't go to college as well as Phil; papa explained this to the boys that day in the study, after Jack had been put out. Dear Jack! he is such a gentle, old-fashioned little fellow, it really seems as if he ought to have been the girl, and Betty the boy.

But, for all that Max said, papa can't seem to get to the end of his work; he writes and re-writes, and keeps making changes all the time. Sometimes I have wondered if he has worked over it so long that he hates to part with it. The title of this great piece of work is "The History of Some Ancient Peoples," or something very like that,—it's about the Egyptians and Phoenicians and Chaldeans; but among ourselves we children call it the Fetich. Long ago Fee gave it that name, because he says it rules the house, and everything and everybody has to give way to it; and he isn't very far wrong, I'm sorry to say. Ever since we older ones can remember, the Fetich has engrossed papa's entire attention, and kept him so occupied that he has had no time for anything else,—not even for his children. In our own home we have to go quietly and soberly about as if in a stranger's house,—to creep softly through the halls and steal up the back stairs, and to subdue our voices when the natural childish impulse is to run gaily and speak out merrily. It has kept our father apart from us and made him almost a stranger to his children; and, as we look back, some of us grudge the hours of dear mamma's time that were spent each day in the study,—away from us,—reading and copying off the Fetich, and helping and encouraging papa.

Dear, blessed mother! what a brave, loving spirit hers was! Even to the last, when she was almost too weak to speak, she would have papa carry her to the study, and, lying there in the invalid-chair, she'd smile at him as he kept looking up at her from his writing. The very last talk we had together,—after she had been taken back to her room,—when we had spoken about the children and she had told me different little points about their dispositions, and some ways in which I might be able to help them after she had gone, she said very earnestly, "And always be very good to your father, Nannie; he will be in sore need of comfort, for he will miss me more than any one else."

"Oh, mamma, mamma!" I cried, choking, "no one could miss you more than we shall!"

Mamma stroked my hand softly as it lay on the bed beside her. "Dear," she said presently, "I know my boys and girls will never forget me, not even the very youngest, for they will hear of me from you older ones. Oh, if it had been my Father's will, how gladly would I have remained with you all! But you are all young; life and hope are strong within you, and you love one another. He—your father—is so different; he will grieve—alone—and grow farther and farther from human love and sympathy. Nannie, dear little daughter, remember how very, very happy he has made me all these years, and oh, be good to him, and very patient and loving when I am gone!"

Her very last look was given to papa; her last word was "Jack!"



For a good while I did try to do things for him, and to let him see that I loved him; but I had a feeling all the time—as in the hall that night—that he didn't want me near him, and would rather not have me in the study: so gradually I gave up going there, except for a few minutes each morning to ask if he needed anything. But this morning dear mamma's words came back to me, and I felt very guilty as I ran up to the study after breakfast; I had tried faithfully to look after the brothers and sisters, but I had neglected papa; and I am afraid, in the lowness of my spirits, that I gave a very faint knock on the door. After waiting a minute or two, I opened the door, as no answer came, and stepped into the study.

Papa's breakfast, which had been sent up more than half an hour before, lay cold and untasted on his desk, and papa himself knelt on the hearth; there was no fire, and in the empty grate, laid criss-cross, were pages and pages of closely written manuscript. On the chair beside him, and on the floor, were more pages of manuscript in bundles. In my father's hand was a match, which he had just drawn and was about to apply to the papers.

My heart gave a tremendous throb that seemed to send it right into my throat, and I sprang forward, crying out, "Oh, papa! papa! surely you are not going to burn the Fetich!"

The match fell from papa's fingers, and he looked up at me with an expression that was half bewilderment, half relief. "Eh! burn what?" he said.

"I—I—mean—were you going to burn—your book?" I remembered in time that he did not know we called it the Fetich. "Oh, papa," I pleaded, "why are you doing this? Your wonderful book, that mamma was so proud of!"

Papa got up and sat in his chair, and the sadness of his face made me think of Fee's that awful night; the tears came rushing to my eyes, and I knelt down and took his hand in my two and held it fast. He let me keep it, and peered earnestly at me for a few minutes in his near-sighted way. "It might as well be destroyed; I shall never finish it—now" he said presently, in a low voice, as if he were speaking to himself, and looking beyond me at the Fetich in the grate. "She is no longer here to praise and encourage—my lifelong work,—a failure!"

Then, all at once, a daring idea came to me; and, without giving my courage time to cool, I said quickly: "Papa! dear, dear papa,"—how my voice shook!—"please let me help you with your work of an afternoon, something as mamma used to do!" I thought I saw a refusal in his face, and went on hastily: "I know quite a good deal of Latin and Greek, and I write a plain hand; I could copy for you, anyway, and I would be very careful. Will you? Ah, please! I know she would like me to do it. And perhaps"—the words faltered—"perhaps she can see and hear us now; and if she can, I know she will be glad to have me do this for you."

Papa gave an eager, startled glance around the room; then he drooped his head, and covered his face with the hand I wasn't holding, and for several minutes we didn't speak. Presently he said slowly,—and the unsteadiness of his voice told me more than his words did,—"I suppose I could let you try; for I do need—some one. You might be useful to me, my dear, if you could come regularly to help me—every day; on that condition I will accept your offer, and thank you for it—"

"I can—I will; indeed I will!" I broke in.

A look of relief came over papa's face, a faint little smile stirred his lips, and he gently patted my shoulder. "You are like your mother," he said; and turning up my chin he kissed me,—a light little kiss that just brushed my face, but I knew what it meant from him.

Then, as he stooped over and began to gather up the Fetich, he added, in his usual voice: "These are some chapters that I've written lately, and become somewhat discouraged over. Help me put them back in their place on my desk, Nannie; and be careful to keep every page in its regular order." I did so, and listened attentively while he explained, with great care and insistence, what I should have to do, and how much time he would require me to spend in the study.

It was not until I had left him, and was on my way to the schoolroom, that I remembered that the hours I had promised papa were those I had set aside for my violin lessons and practice. And then—I am sorry and ashamed, but I couldn't help it—I ran swiftly away and hid in a corner by myself, and cried bitterly. It wasn't that I wished I hadn't made papa that offer, for I would have done it over again, even while I felt so badly; but, oh, how hard it was to give up my dear music! And I really didn't know what to do about my teacher and aunt Lindsay.



But it all came right after a while; dear old Felix came to the rescue, as he generally does, and offered to go to the conservatory and take the lessons for me, and then give them to me in the evenings in the old store-room,—that is, if aunt Lindsay didn't object. Of course I was thankful; for while Fee does not love violin music as I do, he is very thorough, and would, I know, do his best for me. So I wrote and explained to aunt Lindsay, and she did not object in the least; in fact, her letter was the nicest she has written us yet. And this is the way that things stand at present: Papa is still writing the Fetich, and I am helping him; evenings, Fee and I have great times in the store-room, with the door closed and heavily muffled, giving and receiving music lessons, and practising with our squeaky violins,—we really do have lots of fun!

And now to-day comes the good news from Max that he will soon be home; he writes that he has a "surprise" for us, and of course we are all very curious. Dear old fellow! It will be such a comfort to have him among us again!



V.

A FRACAS AND AN ARRIVAL.

TOLD BY BETTY.

Of all people in the world, Jack has been in a fight! Phil brought him in, and such a sight as he was! his nose bleeding, his coat torn, and a lump on his forehead as big as a hen's egg! "Why," said Phil, "I couldn't believe my eyes at first; but true it was, all the same,—there was our gentle 'rosebud' pommelling away at a fellow nearly twice his size! And what's more, when I pulled him off, and separated them, if my young man didn't fly at the other fellow again like a little cock sparrow! I could hardly get him home."

"Yes, and I'd do it again!" cried Jack, ferociously, mopping his wounded nose with his handkerchief, while Nannie rushed to get water and court-plaster.

"What'd he do?" asked Phil and Fee and I, all together. We knew it must have been something very dreadful to rouse Jack to such a pitch; for, as nurse says, he is one of the "most peaceablest children that ever lived." But he wouldn't tell. "Never you mind," was all he'd say.

By this time Nannie had brought a basin of water and the other things, and when Fee waved his arm and called out tragically, "Gather round, gather round, fellow-citizens, and witness the dressing of this bleeding hero's wounds," we crowded so near that Nannie declared we made her nervous. Jack did look so funny, with a big bath-towel pinned round his shoulders, and the basin right up under his chin, so the water shouldn't get over his clothes! And of course, as we looked on, everybody had something to say. "Tell you what, Jack," said Phil, "you could paint the town red now, and no mistake, just from your nose; what an opportunity lost!"

"And I shouldn't wonder if the bridge of that classic member were broken. Oh the pity of it!" put in Fee, in mock sympathy.

"You'll be a sight to-morrow,—all black and blue," remarked Nora, eyeing him critically. "I thought you were too much of a gentleman to fight on the street, Jack,—just like a common rowdy!"

"I'm glad you didn't get beaten," I said; "but my! won't Miss Marston give it to you to-morrow!" She was out this afternoon.

"Your nose is all swelling up!" announced Judge, solemnly, and Kathie murmured sympathetically, "Poor Jack!"



Even Nannie—and she isn't one bit a nagger—said, "Oh, Jackie, I'm so ashamed of you! Mamma wouldn't want her gentle boy to become a fighter."

"Yes, she would so, if she knew what this fellow did," asserted Jack, as positively as he could with the water pouring down over his mouth.

"What did he do?" we all shouted. "Tell us, what did he do, Jack?"

But Jack got furious. "None of your business!" he roared; and twisting himself away from us, he dashed out of the room, Nannie following after him, basin in hand, imploring him to let her finish dressing his nose.

We really didn't mean to make him angry,—it's just a way we have of speaking out our minds to one another; but Nannie felt very sorry,—she said we had teased Jack. I felt sorry, too, when he told me all about it,—Jack generally does tell me things,—after making me promise "truly and faithfully" that I would not say "one word about it to any single person we know." Many a time since I've wished that I hadn't promised,—it isn't fair to Jack himself; but he won't let me off. Jack is really a very odd boy.

Well, it seems that as Felix passed along the street where Jack and some of his friends were playing, one of the boys caught up a piece of straw, and twisting it across his nose like a pair of spectacles, limped after Fee, mimicking his walk, and singing, "H'm-ha! hipperty hop!" Jack clinched his hands tight while he was telling me. "Betty," he said, "I got such a queer feeling inside; I just swelled up, and if he'd been three times as big, I'd have tackled him. I waited for Fee to turn the corner,—you see I didn't want him to know what Henderson was doing behind his back,—and then didn't I just go for him! I tell you, I whacked him!"

My blood fairly boiled to think that anybody could have been so contemptibly mean as to mock our dear old Fee,—as if he didn't feel badly enough about being near-sighted and lame! I would like to have gone right out and thrashed Henderson all over again; but, as Jack very truly said, "that would only make a grand row, and then the whole thing'd be sure to get to Fee's ears, and that's what we don't want." So I had to cool down. This was the reason Jack wouldn't tell the others what the trouble was—and there Felix himself had been teasing him! Nor has he said one word to anybody but me about it, though he has been blamed and punished for fighting on the street, when, if he had only told, or let me tell for him, the true reason for his acting so, I'm sure everybody would have changed their mind at once; but he will not. This was very nice of Jack,—he has some ways that really make me very fond of him; but he is also a very queer and provoking boy sometimes, as you will hear.

The worst was to get through dinner that evening without papa's noticing. Of course Miss Marston would be sure to tell him as soon as she knew, and of course Jack would be punished; but he did want to put off the evil hour as long as possible. His seat at table is quite near to papa, but I come between, and I promised I'd lean as far forward as I could, all through the meal, so as to shield him. We got downstairs and settled in our places safely; but Jack was as nervous as a cat. I really think he wouldn't have minded taking his dinner under the table for that one occasion; and no wonder, for everybody, even to Hannah, kept looking at him, and Phil and Felix kept passing him all sorts of things, with such unusual politeness as was enough to fluster anybody. Still, everything went well until we came to dessert; it was cottage pudding,—Jack's favourite,—and I suppose he got reckless, or forgot, in his enjoyment of it, and leaned a little too far forward, for presently papa said, very quietly, "Betty, sit properly in your chair." Of course I had to obey, and that brought poor Jack into full view.

A broad strip of white court-plaster across one's nose, and a big bruised lump on one's forehead are rather conspicuous things, and, I tell you, papa did stare! but he didn't say a word. Neither did Jack speak, though he knew papa was looking at him; he just kept right on eating very fast. He said afterward he'd have eaten the whole pudding, had it been before him, for he was so nervous he didn't really know what he was doing; but he got redder and redder in the face, and presently he choked,—a regular snort! I immediately flew up and pounded him on the back; but papa made me sit down again, and as soon as Jack had stopped coughing violently, he said, "Leave the table, sir, and come to my study to-morrow morning at nine o'clock."

I think, had we dared, we could all have roared with laughter as Jack got up and walked out of the room; not because we didn't feel sorry for him, for we did,—I especially, knowing how it was he got into this scrape,—but he did look so funny! I don't know why it is, but Jack is a person that makes one laugh without his intending in the least to be funny; it's the way he does things.

I can't begin to tell you how I urged Jack to tell papa why it was he had gotten into that fight. I scolded, and coaxed, and talked, and talked, but I couldn't get him to say he would, nor to let me tell; in his way, I do believe he is as obstinate as Kathie. Even the next morning, when he stood at the study door, ready to knock, though his hands were as cold as ice, and he looked awfully scared, all he'd say to my repeated, "Do speak out like a man, and tell it, Jack," was, "Perhaps." I would like to have gone right in and told papa the whole matter myself, but you see I had promised; and besides, we are none of us very fond of going into the study,—though Nannie is in there pretty often lately,—I'm sure I can't say why it is, for papa never scolds us violently: whatever he says is very quietly spoken, but I tell you every word goes home!

The schoolroom bell rang while I was talking to Jack; so of course I had to go, and it was fully half an hour before he walked in and took his place. His face was very red, even his ears, and he didn't look happy; but it wasn't until after school that I had a chance to ask him anything, and he wasn't very amiable then. He had a book,—some story of wild adventure and hair-breadth escape, and he hated to be interrupted. For all that Jack is such a quiet, gentle sort of a boy, he likes to read the most exciting books, about fighting and shipwrecks and savages,—though I'm sure if an Indian should walk into the room, he'd fly into the remotest corner of the closet and hide,—and the hymns he loves the best are the ones that bring in about war and soldiers. You should hear him sing, "The Son of God goes forth to war," in church! he positively shouts. So when I said, "Well, Jack, how'd you get along this morning?" he went right on turning over the leaves to find his place, and answered shortly:—

"Oh, no play out-of-doors for a week, and a double dose of that vile Latin, and a sound rating for getting into a row on the street,—that's all."

"But didn't you tell him—" I began indignantly, but Jack interrupted.

"He didn't ask why I did it, and I didn't tell him," he said.

"What a silly you are!" I cried, I was so mad! "That Henderson ought to be told about and punished—now!"

"Henderson is a beast!" Jack said severely; then, having come to his place in the story, he added: "Now please go away, and don't bother me, Betty; I want to read." He settled himself on the schoolroom sofa in his favourite position, with his back against the arm of the sofa, and his legs straight out along the seat, and began to read. I knew he'd get cranky if I said any more, so I went away.

But for all that he called Henderson names, what did Jack do but go and make friends with him just a day or two after he was allowed to go out!

I was so provoked when I heard of it, that I fairly stormed at Jack; he took it all in the meekest way, and when I finished up,—with a fine attempt at sarcasm,—"If I'd been you, I would have snubbed such a mean boy for at least a week longer," he grinned and said, "If you'd been I, you'd have done just as I did." Then he added, in that old-fashioned, confidential way he has, "I couldn't help it, Betty; you see the boys wouldn't have a thing to do with him, or let him join in any of the games, until I had forgiven him, and I just couldn't stand seeing him hanging around and being snubbed."

"Oh, yes, you're very considerate for him; but he will make fun of your brother again to-morrow, if he feels like it," I said, still angry.

"No, he won't" asserted Jack, positively; "'cause I told him—not disagreeably, you know, but so he'd feel I was in earnest—that if he ever did, I'd just have to thrash him again. And he said, 'A-a-h, what d'you take me for? D'you s'pose I knew 'twas your brother?' And that's a good deal from Henderson, for he's an awfully rough boy. You know, Betty, you've got to make allowances for people, or you'd never get along with 'em. And, besides, he looks worse than I do," went on Jack, feeling of his nose and forehead. "I really felt ashamed to think I'd hit him so hard, and,"—shuffling his feet, and looking very sheepish,—"well, you know, the Golden Rule is my motto for this year, and, as I thought to myself, what's the use of a motto, if you don't act up to it? So I just made friends with Henderson. I knew you'd say I was silly to do it, but I don't care,—I feel better; I do hate to be mad with people!" And with that he walked off, before I could think of anything to say.

A lot of things happened that week. To begin with, some new people moved into the house opposite us, that has been empty for so long. It's a small house,—nurse says it used to be a stable, and was turned into a dwelling-house since she has lived here,—set quite a good way back from the street, and with a low stoop to one side and a piazza off that. A tall iron railing, with an ornamental gate, encloses a front yard in which are some forlorn-looking shrubs, a rosebush or two, and a couple of scraggy altheas. Workmen had been about the place for some time, putting everything in order, and of course we took the liveliest interest in all that went on, from the pruning of the shrubs to the carrying in of the furniture; and the day the new people moved in, Miss Marston could hardly keep us younger ones from the windows: indeed, for that matter, Nora was just as curious as we were, for all she talks about "vulgar curiosity." They came in a carriage, and there were three of them,—a tall, black-bearded man, a little, fragile-looking lady, and a tall, lanky boy, perhaps as old as Felix, with a rather nice face, who shouldered a satchel and the travelling-rugs, and brought up the rear of the procession to the house, with the end of a shawl trailing on the ground behind him.

Jack heard from Henderson—who has become his shadow—that the gentleman has something to do with a newspaper, and that the boy goes to college, and Phil saw him there the other day; but it wasn't until the following Sunday, nearly a week after, that we heard their name and who they were,—and that came by way of a grand surprise.

We were sitting round the schoolroom fire, talking and singing hymns, when the door opened, and who should come walking in but—Max Derwent! We were surprised; for though he'd written to say he was coming, we didn't expect it would be so soon. Dear old Max! we were delighted to see him, and I do believe he was just as glad to see us. But just at first we couldn't any of us say very much; dear mamma was with us when Max was here last!

After a while, though, that feeling wore away, and I tell you our tongues did fly! Max measured us all by the closet door, where he took our measurements before he went away, and he says we have grown wonderfully,—particularly Nannie. He was so surprised when he first saw her, that he just held her hands and looked at her, until Nannie said, "Why, Max, you haven't kissed me; aren't you glad to see me?" I think she felt a little hurt, for he'd kissed the rest of us,—even to Phil and Felix,—and Nannie and he used to be such good friends.

"Why, Nancy Lee," Max said, "you have grown such a tall young lady since I've been away, that I didn't know whether you'd still allow me the dear old privilege; indeed I will kiss you;" and with that he stooped,—Max is tall,—and kissed her on her forehead, just where the parting of her hair begins.

But Max couldn't get over her being so grown, for he kept on gazing and gazing at Nannie, and she did look sweet, sitting there in the firelight. Nora is very pretty,—her features are so regular; but Nannie has a dear face: her brown eyes are big and shining, and her hair is so thick and pretty; it's light brown, and little locks of it get loose and curl up round her forehead and ears, and when she talks and laughs I think she's every bit as pretty as Nora. Somehow there's a look about Nannie's face that makes you know you can trust her through and through; I tell you I'm awfully glad she's in the family; in fact, I don't know what we'd any of us do without her, from papa to Alan.

Well, we told Max every single thing that had happened—good, bad, and indifferent—since he went away, including, of course, about Phil's going to college, and Fee's not going, and about aunt Lindsay's present to Fee and Nannie,—all talking together, and as loud as we pleased (we always do with Max) until we came to the new people that had moved in across the way—and what do you suppose? Max knows them!

"They are the Ervengs," he said, "and the boy's name is Hilliard,—Hilliard Erveng. The father is a partner in a large Boston publishing house that has just opened an agency here, and I shouldn't wonder if Erveng were in charge of the agency by his taking a house in New York. That's the firm I thought would buy your father's book, if he'd only finish it; but from what he told me this afternoon, it's still a long way from completion." He glanced at Nannie as he spoke, and she nodded her head sadly. "I used to know Erveng; he was a classmate of mine," went on Max, thoughtfully, wrinkling up his eyebrows at the fire. "I wonder how it would do to rake up the acquaintance again, and bring him over unexpectedly to call on the professor,"—papa's friends all call him Professor Rose,—"and surprise him into showing Erveng the manuscript!"



"Oh, Max, that would never, never do," cried Nannie, quickly. "You know how averse papa is to showing his work to any one; he couldn't do it, I'm sure, and it might make him very angry."

"And yet, if he did show it, think what a benefit to you all it might be; for I am convinced the work is one that would be an acquisition to the reading public; and Erveng would recognise that at once. Think of what it means for all of you, Nancy Lee," urged Max,—"college for Felix, drawing lessons for Nora, a fine violin for you, gymnasium for Betty, a splendid military school for Jack,"—here Jack broke in rudely with, "Don't want any military school, this one's bad enough," and was silenced by Phil's hand being laid suddenly and firmly over his mouth,—"and all sorts of good things for everybody, if only Erveng sees the manuscript of the Fetich" (Max knows what we call it).

Nannie still looked dubious, but Nora exclaimed: "I say, do it, Max! It does seem a shame to have us suffering for things, and that manuscript just lying down there; and perhaps then papa would stir himself a little and finish it. I declare I would like to take some of the pages over and show them to Mr. Erveng myself!"

We all knew that she wouldn't; but as she said the words, an idea popped into my head, such a splendid idea—at least I thought it was then—that I nearly giggled outright with delight, and I had positively to hold myself in to keep from telling it. Happening to look up suddenly at Phil, I caught him with a broad grin on his face, and winking violently at Felix, who winked back. That did not surprise me,—those two are always signalling to each other in that way; but when they both straightened their faces the instant I saw them, and assumed a very innocent expression, then I began to suspect that they were up to some mischief: little did I dream what it was, though! Phil is a fearful practical joker; you never know where he's going to break out. I'm pretty bad, but he is ever so much worse; and Felix helps him every time.

"What sort of a man is Mr. Erveng?" asked Felix, with an appearance of great interest.

Max laughed. "Well, he used to be considered rather eccentric," he said. "I remember the fellows at college nick-named him 'Old-Woman Erveng,' because—so they said—he had a large picture in his room of a fat old woman in a poke bonnet; and at the social gatherings to which he could be induced to go, he always devoted himself to the oldest and fattest ladies in the room, without noticing the young and pretty girls. I thought he was rather a nice sort of fellow; what's the matter, Betty, want any assistance?"

What Max said fitted in so well with the plan I had in my mind that—though I tried to keep it back—I had chuckled, and now they were all looking at me.

"When Elizabeth 'chortles' in that fashion you may be sure there's mischief in her mind," Felix remarked, eyeing me severely. "Out with it, miss."

"Or I'll have to garote you," put in Phil, leaning over toward me with extended thumb and finger; but I skipped away and got beside Max.

"Indeed, it's you and Felix that are up to something," I retorted. "I can see it in your faces."

"Oh, tell us what your 'surprise' is, Max," put in Nannie, quickly. I think she wanted to turn the conversation, and so keep us from wrangling, this very first evening that Max was with us.

"Why, I've brought back a ward," answered Max. "His name is Chadwick Whitcombe. He went to-day from the steamer to stay a week or two with an old friend of his father's; then I shall bring him to see you, and I'm going to ask you all"—here Max looked at each one of us—"to be nice and friendly to him, for poor Chad is singularly alone: he has not a relative in the world. Though he will come into a good deal of money by and by, the poor fellow has knocked about from place to place with his former guardian, who has just died, and he has had no home training at all. May I count on your being kind to him?"

Of course we all said yes,—couldn't help ourselves,—but I heard Fee sing, under his breath, so it shouldn't reach Max's ears:—

"Here comes Shad, Looking very sad; We'll hit him with a pad, And make him glad!"

and when I laughed, Phil scowled at me, and muttered something about "giving him to Betty to lick into shape." I couldn't say anything, for I was right close to Max; but I made one of my worst faces at Phil. Soon after this, Max went down to the study to spend the rest of the evening with papa.



VI.

DISPOSING OF A FETICH.

TOLD BY BETTY.

I might as well tell you that my plan was to dress up, some afternoon that week, in one of nurse's gowns, and her bonnet and veil,—if I could possibly induce her to lend them all to me without having to tell why I wanted them,—and to go and call on Mr. Erveng in regard to the Fetich. What I should say when I met him didn't trouble me; you see there was really only to tell him about the book, so he might make papa an offer for it; but what did weigh upon me was how to get dressed up and out of the house without being caught: there are such a lot of us that somebody or other's sure to be hanging around all the time. For several days I couldn't get a chance: Monday it rained; Tuesday afternoon Phil took Paul to the dentist, and nurse went along,—Judge is one of her pets; Wednesday afternoon Jack and a whole lot of boys played close to the house, and of course I couldn't walk right out before them,—it would have been just like Jack to run up and say something, perhaps offer to assist my tottering steps down the stoop. But at last, on Thursday, the coast seemed clear: Nannie was in the study with papa, Nora was practising, Jack was on the schoolroom sofa reading, the children in the nursery, and Phil and Felix up in Fee's room; I could hear a murmur of voices from there, and every now and then a burst of laughter. This was my opportunity.

The door of nurse's room, which was next to the nursery, was open, and as I stole in, hoping she was there, that I might ask her, I saw her wardrobe door open, and hanging within easy reach a dress and shawl that would just serve my purpose. But her bonnet and veil were not in their usual place, which rather surprised me, for nurse is very particular with us about those things, and I had to hunt before I found even her oldest ones, in deadly fear all the time that I'd be caught in the act. You see, I made up my mind I'd borrow the things, and then tell her about it when I brought them back.

Flying into my room, I locked the door, and just "jumped" into those clothes, as the boys would say; and I did look so funny when I was dressed, that I had to laugh. In the first place, Max had said Mr. Erveng liked fat old women; so I stuffed myself out to fill nurse's capacious gown to the best of my ability, with pillows and anything else I could lay my hands on; I think I must have measured yards and yards round when I was all finished. Then I pinned my braid on the top of my head, put on nurse's bonnet, and dividing the veil so that one part hung down my back and the other part over my face, I was ready to start. I had slipped on a pair of old black woollen gloves that I found in the pocket of my new skirt, and, stealing cautiously down the stairs, I got out of the house without meeting any one.

But I can't tell you how queer I felt in the street,—it seemed as if everybody looked at me, and as if they must suspect what I was up to. I forgot all about walking slowly, like an old woman, and fairly flew up the flagged path to the Ervengs' stoop; and the ring I gave to the bell brought a small boy in buttons very quickly to the door. "I wish to see Mr. Erveng on business," I said, disguising my voice as well as I could. Then, as he murmured something about "card,"—I had entirely forgotten that,—I pushed my way past him, saying, "It is something very important, that I know your master will be glad to hear."

This seemed to satisfy him, and he ushered me into a room which looked to be half drawing-room, half study: there were in it a sofa, some fancy chairs, a set of well-filled Eastlake book-shelves, and a desk almost as big as papa's. Portieres hung at the end of the room. I took a seat near one of the long windows opening on the balcony, and began to arrange in my mind what I would say to Mr. Erveng, when suddenly, glancing toward the gate, I saw some one open it and come slowly up the walk,—a stout, elderly female, dressed in a black gown, a black shawl, and a bonnet and veil, precisely like the ones I had on! Her veil was drawn closely over her face, she wore black woollen gloves, and held in one hand a black reticule—which I would have declared was nurse's—and in the other a clumsily folded umbrella. As I sat and stared at the advancing figure, I wondered if I were dreaming, and actually gave myself a pinch to assure myself I was awake. But who could she be,—this double of mine? I wouldn't like to tell Jack or any of the others, you know, but I would really not have been sorry to have been at home just then.

At this moment the old lady entered the room. Buttons closed the door, and we were left alone facing each other,—for I had got up when she came in,—and I must say the unknown seemed as much surprised as I was. Then all at once she began to walk round and round me; and as I didn't want her to get behind me, I kept turning too,—just as if I'd been on a pivot; I believe I was fascinated by those big eyes glaring at me through the thick black veil.

"Betty! 'by all that's abominable!'" suddenly exclaimed my double; and then I knew who it was.

"Phil! you mean thing!" I cried, intensely relieved; and darting forward I caught hold of his bonnet and veil.

"Hands off!" he called out, wriggling away; "an ye love me, spare me 'bunnit.'" Then, as he got to a safe distance, and threw back his veil: "Look here, old lady, if you lay violent hands on me again, I'll yell for help, and bring the house about your ears. Then you'll rue it."

This provoked me. "You're the one will rue it," I said. "You've just spoilt the whole thing by spying on me and following me here—"

"Well, I like that!" Phil interrupted. "It seems to me the shoe's on the other foot. What are you doing here, in that outrageous costume, and in a stranger's house? Whew! wouldn't there be a small circus if the pater should see you! I'd feel sorry for you, I tell you. And what excuse do you propose to offer Mr. Erveng when he makes his appearance here, as he will in a few minutes?" Sidling up to me, he nudged my elbow, and added persuasively: "'There is a time for dis-appearing.' Say, Betty, my infant, one of us has got to go, so I'd advise you to fly at once. Buttons is out of the way, and in an excess of brotherly affection I'll escort you to the door myself. Come—fly!" And he nudged me again.

"No," I said obstinately, "I won't go; I was here first. I'm here, and here I'll remain."

"Oh, very well," said Phil, in a resigned sort of tone, seating himself in a most unladylike attitude on a three-cornered chair. "Then come sit on the edge of my chair, you little fairy, and we'll pose for the Siamese twins."



But I was so disappointed I was afraid I'd cry. I had hoped so much from this interview with Mr. Erveng, and here was Phil spoiling everything by his silliness. "I think you are simply horrid," I broke out, very crossly. "I just wish Mr. Erveng would come in and beat you, or turn you out, or something."

"If the old man shows fight, I'll have his blood," cried Phil, tragically, springing from his chair. "Gore, gore! I will have gore!" He did look very funny, striding up and down the room and scraping his toes along the floor in our most approved "high tragedy" style, with nurse's shawl hanging over one shoulder, his bonnet crooked and almost off his head, and shaking the umbrella, held tight in a black-woollen-gloved fist, at an imaginary foe.

Angry as I was, I had to laugh, and I don't know what next he mightn't have done—for Phil never knows when to stop—had we not just then caught the sound of a distant footstep. Phil didn't seem to mind, but I got so nervous that I didn't know what to do. "Oh, won't you go?" I cried in despair. "He'll think we are crazy! Oh, where am I to go?"

"Goodness only knows!" answered Phil, trying to straighten his bonnet; then, glancing around the room, "There isn't a piece of furniture here large enough to hide your corpulent form," he said. "There he comes! Now, I hope you're satisfied; you wouldn't go when you could."

Sure enough, the footsteps were almost at the door. I looked frantically about. I would gladly have escaped through the window, and climbed over the balcony to the ground; but to put aside the delicate lace curtains and unlatch the sash would have taken more time than we had to spare. Suddenly Phil cried, "The portieres, you dunce!" giving me a push in that direction, and like a flash I got behind them. I heard Phil say "Bother!" under his breath, as he stumbled over a footstool in his haste to get seated, then the door opened, and some one entered the room.

Provoked as I was with Phil, I couldn't help hoping that his bonnet was straight, and that he had on his shawl, for his figure wasn't as good as mine. I heard a strange voice—Mr. Erveng's—say: "I'm sorry to have kept you waiting so long, but I am extremely busy. Will you be kind enough to state your business as briefly as possible?"

Then Phil began, imitating an old lady's voice to a nicety: "Having heard that you publish a great many books, I thought you would like to know of a very clever—really remarkable—work which is being written by a well-known scholar who lives in this street, and that perhaps you would call on him and make him an offer for it." I knew the moment I heard this speech that Felix had made it up, and just coached Phil; it was certainly better than what I had thought of.

The portieres behind which I had hid only covered a door, and, though I squeezed up as tight as I could, I was awfully afraid they would part and show me underneath. But, all the same, I couldn't resist peeping to see what was going on. Phil had his back to me, but Mr. Erveng sat facing me in the swing-chair that was by his desk, and I noticed at once that he was the black-bearded man we'd seen the day the family moved in.

I listened eagerly for Mr. Erveng's answer. He said very coolly: "It is not our custom to make an offer for a work of which we know nothing. Manuscripts are generally submitted to us. What is the title of this 'remarkable work'?"

I didn't like the way he said this, and I thought he looked very suspiciously at Phil; but Phil didn't seem to notice it, for he answered eagerly: "It's called the Fe—'History of Some Ancient Peoples,' and I've brought you a chapter or two to look at." Here I heard a rustling, and peeping between the portieres, what should I see but Phil handing Mr. Erveng some pages of the Fetich!

I was so perfectly amazed that I had to stuff the portiere into my mouth to keep from calling out; how had Phil ever got hold of those chapters without papa's knowledge? I knew Nannie would never have helped him after what she had said on Sunday to Max, and how had Phil dared to bring them here! What would papa say if he should know what he had done,—indeed, what we had both done! Oh, how sorry I was that I hadn't gone when Phil urged me to.

When I got over my surprise a little, and again looked through the portieres, Mr. Erveng stood holding the Fetich in his hands, and looking over the pages with a frown on his face. "This is curious," I heard him say. And then, suddenly, before I could guess what he was going to do, he crossed the room and drew my portieres aside! At first I held on to them, with a desperate desire to lose myself in the scanty folds; but they were firmly withdrawn, and there I stood,—a fac-simile of the fat, black-robed, black-veiled person who sat on the three-cornered chair by Mr. Erveng's desk!

"Whew!" whistled Phil, then tried to look as if he hadn't uttered a sound, while Mr. Erveng took hold of my arm and walked me over to where Phil stood. "Now," he said sternly, "I should like an explanation of this extraordinary behaviour."

But not a word said either of us,—I couldn't, I was so frightened; I assure you I wished myself home! And while we stood there—Mr. Erveng waiting for an answer—the door opened, and the boy that Max had said was Hilliard Erveng came into the room.

"Oh, I beg your pardon," he exclaimed, turning back, "I didn't know any one was with you."

But his father called out to him, "Stay here, Hilliard!" Then turning to us he said very sternly, "I have reason to think that this manuscript"—he still held the Fetich in his hand—"has been stolen from its rightful owner, of whom I have heard, and to whom I shall take pleasure in restoring his property. Unless you both at once take off what I am convinced is a disguise, and offer a full and satisfactory explanation, I shall be under the painful necessity of calling in a policeman and giving you in charge."

"Oh, no! no! no!" I cried out. "We didn't steal it—at least, it belongs to our father, and—"



But Phil strode over to my side. "Hush, Betty," he whispered; "I'll explain." Sweeping off his bonnet and veil, he threw them—nurse's best Sunday hat!—on a chair, and faced Mr. Erveng. You can't think how comical he looked, with his handsome boy's face and rumpled hair above that fat old woman's figure. And in a moment or two, I think, I must have looked almost as comical too; for before Phil could begin, Mr. Erveng said, "I insist upon that person removing her bonnet and veil as well."

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