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A Flock of Girls and Boys by Nora Perry

Part 2 out of 4

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for being so accommodating?"

"Oh, I'd forgotten. Well, here, I'll give him this,--it's the very
thing;" and Elsie snatched up a bright purple one.

"Oh, Elsie, don't!"

But Elsie fairly danced with glee as she cried, "I will, I will; it's
the very thing,--royal purple to Royal Purple!"

The young visitors, when all this was explained to them, joined in the
merriment; but Marge--kind, tender little Marge--hid away one of the
blue and white lily eggs, to get the advantage of Elsie's mischief by
bestowing _that_ upon Royal.

But Royal was quite out of Elsie's thoughts by Monday morning. It was a
beautiful morning; and by nine o'clock, when Tom and Jimmy Barrows
arrived, the lawn and sloping knoll at the east of it were bright and
dry with sunshine. On the piazza the various baskets of eggs were
standing; only "Jimmy Barrows's gift" had been set aside as "too good to
use."

"My! haven't you got a lot, though?" cried Tom, as he surveyed them.
"But what are these in the box here?"

"Yes, what are they?" sparkled Elsie. "Ask Jimmy Barrows."

Jimmy, with a wondering expression on his face at this remark, came over
and looked down at the treasured eggs. "Who did these?" he asked
quickly.

"'Who did these?'" mimicked Elsie. "Oh, you needn't try that. We found
you out at once, or _I_ did."

"You think I painted 'em--I sent 'em?" queried Jimmy.

"Of course I do. Now, Master Jimmy--"

"Miss Elsie, just as true as I'm standing here, I never saw them
before."

Elsie shook her head at him, but Jimmy did not see her. He was lifting
the eggs and examining them.

"No, honest, I didn't paint 'em, Miss Elsie. I wish I had; but I can't
do things like that--yet. I can draw as well, am a better draughtsman,
maybe, but I haven't got the ideas. The fellow who did these has got a
lot of original ideas."

Mr. Lloyd came forward here with great interest. "Did any of you,"
turning to Elsie and Marge, "ask who brought the box?"

"Yes," answered Elsie. "I asked Ann, and she said 'a bit of a boy
brought 'em;' she didn't know who he was."

"Ask Rhoda to come here. She knows the neighborhood."

Rhoda came, and Mr. Lloyd put the matter before her. Had she any idea
who the "bit of a boy" was?

"I didn't see him, but it might be Bert Purcel," answered Rhoda. "Folks
get him to do errands sometimes. He's just drove up with his brother to
bring the chickens. I'll send him 'round, and you can ask him."

"Did you leave a box here Saturday night?" Mr. Lloyd inquired
pleasantly, when the boy stood before him.

The red lips began to frame a "No," then closed tightly together, while
the slim little figure whirled about and made an attempt to leap over
the piazza railing,--an attempt that would have been successful if one
foot had not caught in a stout vine.

Royal, waiting in the wagon at the back porch, heard a sudden cry, and
hurried to see what had happened. He found Bert scrambling to his feet,
brisk and angry. The child made a dash towards his brother, and seized
his hand.

"What's the matter?" asked Royal. No answer, but a renewed tug at his
hand to draw him away.

"The little fellow tried to jump the piazza railing and fell," explained
Mr. Lloyd, laughingly.

"Papa just asked him a question,--if he brought us a box Saturday night;
and as he didn't want to answer, he ran," spoke up Elsie.

"I didn't, I jumped!" cried the child.

Everybody laughed.

"Can't _you_ tell us?" asked Marge, looking at Royal. "_Did_ your
brother bring it?"

"Yes," answered Royal, flushing up.

"And who sent it?" asked Elsie, impatiently. She waited a moment for an
answer. As none came, she asked still more impatiently, "Do you _know_
the person who sent it?"

"Yes," in a hesitating voice.

"Did the person tell you not to tell?"

"No," in the same hesitating voice.

"Then why in the world _don't_ you tell? You've no right to keep it back
like this. It is our affair, not yours, and so it is our right to know
who it is. Don't you understand that we don't want people to send us
things--presents--and not know anything about who it is?"

Royal looked startled, and the flush on his face deepened. Elsie thought
she had conquered him, and chirped out an encouraging, "Come, now, who
was it?" But to her surprise the boy flung up his head with an angry
movement, and with a defiant glance at her said stubbornly,--

"I've a perfect right _not_ to answer your question, and I sha'n't!"

"Well, of all the brazen--"

"Elsie!" warned her father, "don't say anything more."

"You'll let me say one thing more, papa. Rhoda told us that this boy was
very accommodating, and he brought me such nice big eggs, I thought he
was, and meant to give him something to show my appreciation, and I'd
like to give it to him now. Here," taking something from her pocket,
"give this to your brother," she said to little Bert, who stood eying
her curiously. The child's hand opened involuntarily. Into it dropped a
_royal purple_ egg.

Royal saw and understood. "Give it back to her!" he cried.

Bert, feeling the passion in his brother's voice, drew off, and _flung_
the egg with all his might at Elsie. Luckily for her, it missed its aim
and whizzed past, striking some article with a breaking crash beyond
her.

"Oh! oh! oh! it's fallen on the painted eggs!" cried Marge, "and,"
running forward, "it has spoiled the lovely cherub head; see, the shell
is all cracked to pieces!"

"You horrid, wicked boys!" cried Elsie, in the next breath.

But Royal heard nothing of these comments. The moment he saw that Bert's
recklessness had injured no one, he had turned away with him, and was
now driving out of the yard, scolding the youngster roundly for his
action, and not a little subdued himself at what might have been the
result of it.

"Papa, I think they ought to be punished, and the big boy made to
tell," exclaimed Elsie, when she found the two were out of her reach.

"What did you say was the name of the boys?" asked Jimmy Barrows, who
had taken up the cross and vine egg, and was peering at it very closely.

"Purcel."

"Well, just look at this;" and with the tip-end of a tiny knife-blade
Jimmy pointed out something in the delicate vined tendrils that had
hitherto escaped notice. It was the name "R. Purcel," cunningly inwound
in the tendrils. Every one crowded up to inspect this discovery.

"It must be some relation of the boy's, and that is why he felt he had a
right to keep it secret," said Mr. Lloyd.

"But it was Royal's present, whatever relation he got to paint the eggs
for him, for it was only Royal who knew about _our_ eggs; and this is
the way we've paid him!" cried Marge, with a glance of indignant
reproach at Elsie.

"I don't think he got anybody to do it for him; I--I think he did it
himself," spoke up Jimmy.

"Royal Purcel! that--that farm-boy?" shrieked Elsie.

"Yes," answered Jimmy. "I thought so all the time, when you--when he
was standing under--under your questioning fire." And Jimmy laughed.

"But how did he learn?" cried Elsie, in astonishment.

"I don't think the boy has had much instruction," said Jimmy. "I think
he has great natural talent, and has had very little opportunity to
study." Jimmy was now peering at the palm and tent egg, and, "See,
here's the name again, in this thready grass," he said, "and he has
probably marked all the eggs in this cunning way."

Jimmy was right. On the bird's wing, amid the lily leaves, and on the
apple bough, they also found "R. Purcel" hidden deftly from casual
observation.

Elsie was silent as, one after another, these discoveries were made.
Finally she could contain herself no longer, and burst out,--

"To think of his painting all these beautiful things and giving them to
us,--to me, when I've been such a horrid little cat to him! Oh, papa, I
must do something,--I just must!"

"Well, I should think it would become you to say you are sorry and to
thank him," said Mr. Lloyd, smiling.

"But, papa, I want to take the pony-carriage and go after him, and ask
him to come back to the egg-rolling; and if Jimmy Barrows will go with
me--"

"I'd be delighted, Miss Elsie."

"He'd make it easier,--he'd know what to say, and Royal would know what
to say to him. The others will excuse us; we won't be long. Oh, may
I--may we, papa?"

"Well, as you seem to have settled everything, I don't see but I must--"

But Elsie did not wait to hear more. She knew she had not only her
father's consent, but his approval, and was off like a flash to order
the carriage.

If the Lloyds had been better acquainted in Lime Ridge, Royal's work
would not have been such a great surprise to them. A good many of the
Lime Ridge people could have told them of the boy's talent, and how it
had been discouraged by his family. There was no money now to support
and educate him in that direction, and it had been arranged with an old
friend who was in the wool business that the boy should go into his
employ as soon as he had graduated from the Lime Ridge High School. This
was considered a very lucky prospect for him, but Royal hated it. From
a little fellow he had shown a great love for pictures, and had covered
every scrap of paper he could find with crude drawings.

When he was eight years old, a visitor had given him a box of paints and
brushes. Two years later he had become acquainted with an artist who was
staying a few weeks at Lime Ridge, and went with him on his
sketching-tramps. With him he learned something about an artist's
methods, and received from him as a parting gift, various artist's
materials that he had made industrious use of.

The whim of painting the eggs and sending them to the sisters had come
to him as a sort of apology to them for his exhibition of temper, and he
had no idea that his name, so palpable to his artist eye, would escape
their observation as it did. He expected his gift and its motives to be
recognized at once. Instead, he was questioned as if he were nothing but
an ignorant errand-boy; and, bitterest of all, even when he had
confessed to a knowledge of the giver, the possibility of his being the
painter himself was not for a moment suspected. But while he stood
leaning over the farm-gate thinking these bitter thoughts, a stout
little pony was bringing him what he little dreamed of. "Catch me ever
going amongst 'em again,--an overbearing lot of city folks," he was
saying to himself, when, patter, patter, patter, round the turn of the
road came the stout little pony, and before the boy could make a
movement to get away, Elsie Lloyd had jumped from the wagon, and stood
in front of him.

"I've come to ask you to go back with us, and forgive me for being such
a horrid little cat to you. I didn't understand. I thought--" and then
in a perfect jumble of words Elsie went on, and poured forth her
contrition and explanation, at the same time introducing Jimmy Barrows,
who knew just what to say, and said it with such effect that Royal's
spirits went up with a bound, and almost before he knew to what he had
consented, he was sitting on the little back seat of the phaeton,
talking with these "city folks" as if they were his best friends, as
they turned out to be.

All this happened four or five years ago, and to-day where do you
suppose Royal Purcel is, and what do you suppose he is doing? In Mr.
Carr's mills, learning to pick and buy wool?

Not he. He is in Paris with Jimmy Barrows, studying hard, and supporting
himself by making business illustrations for various newspapers. It is
humble work, but it serves for his support while he is preparing for
higher things; and the "higher things" are not far off, for two or three
of his sketches in oils have attracted the attention of the critics, and
he has furnished a set of drawings for a child's book that has been well
paid for and well spoken of. And Jimmy Barrows wrote home to Tom Lloyd
the other day,--

"Royal is going to be a howling success, as I always prophesied; but
what a time your uncle and I had to persuade his family of this
possibility, and to get him off from that wool-picking! But I guess they
began to believe we were right when this spoiled wool-picker wrote them
last week that he'd paid the last cent of his indebtedness to Mr. Lloyd.
Houp-la!"

"'A howling success'! And it's all through me," laughed Elsie, as she
read this portion of Jimmy's letter; "for if I hadn't eaten humble-pie,
and run after Master Royal that morning, he would not have met Jimmy
Barrows, and might have been wool-picking to this day. Yes; it's all
through me and my humble-pie. Houp-la!"

MAJOR MOLLY'S CHRISTMAS PROMISE.

CHAPTER I.

"Never had a Christmas present?"

"No, never."

"Why, it's just dreadful! Well, there's one thing,--you _shall_ have one
this year, you dear thing!" and Molly Elliston flung down the Christmas
muffler she was knitting, and stared at her visitor, as if she could
scarcely believe what she had just confessed to her. The visitor
laughed, showing a beautiful row of small white teeth as she did so. She
was a charming little maiden of twelve or thirteen, this visitor,--a
charming little maiden with the darkest of dark hair that hung in a
thick shining braid tied at the end with a broad red ribbon. Molly
Elliston thought she was a beauty, as she looked at her dimpled smiling
face,--a beauty, though she _was_ an Indian. Yes, this charming little
maiden was an Indian, belonging to what was once a great and powerful
tribe. When, three years ago, Molly Elliston had come out to the far
Northwest with her mother to join her father on his ranch, she had
thought she should never feel anything but aversion to an Indian. Molly
was then seven years old, and had always lived at some military post,
for her father had been an army officer until the three years before,
when he had given up his commission to enter into partnership with his
brother upon a sheep and cattle ranch. A few miles from this ranch was
an Indian reservation. The tribe that occupied it had for a long time
been quite friendly with white people, and were therefore not altogether
unwelcome neighbors to the Ellistons. Molly thought they were very
welcome, indeed, when one day, in the third summer of her ranch life,
she made the acquaintance of this pretty Wallula, who was not only
pretty, but very intelligent, and of a loving disposition that responded
gladly to Molly's friendly advances.

"But to think that you've never had a Christmas present!" exclaimed
Molly again, as Wallula's laugh rippled out. "If I'd _only_ known you
the first year we came! But I'll make it up _this_ year, you'll see; and
oh! oh!" clapping her hands at a sudden thought, "I know--I know what
I'll do! Tell you?" as Wallula clapped _her_ hands and cried, "Oh, tell
me, tell me!" "Of course I sha'n't tell you; that would spoil the whole.
Why, that's part of the fun that we don't tell what we are going to do.
It is all a secret until Christmas eve or Christmas morning."

"Yes, I know,--Metalka told me; but I forgot."

"Of course your sister must have known all about Christmas after she
came back from school. Why didn't _she_ make you a Christmas present,
then, Lula?"

"Metalka?" A cloud came over the little bright face. "Metalka didn't
stay long after she came back. She didn't stay till Christmas; she went
'way--to--to heaven."

"Oh!"

"If Metalka had stayed, I might have gone to school this year."

"I thought you _had_ been to school, Lula."

"Oh, no! only to little school out here summers,--little school some
ladies made; and Metalka tole me--taught me--showed me ev'ry day after
she came back--ev'ry day, till--til she--went 'way. I can read and
write and talk, talk, talk, all day in English,"--smiling roguishly,
then more seriously and anxiously. "Is it pretty fair English,--white
English,--Major Molly?"

"'White English'!" laughed back Major Molly. "You are such fun, Lula.
Yes, it's pretty fair--white English."

Lula dimpled with pleasure, then sighed as she said, "If I could go 'way
off East to Metalka's school, two, three, four, five year, as Metalka
did, then I could talk splen'id English, and I could make heap--no, all
sort things, and help keep house nice, and cook like Metalka."

"But why don't you go, Lula?"

"Why don't I? Listen!" and Wallula bent forward eagerly. "I don't go
because my father won't have me go. Metalka went. When she first came
back, she was so happy, so strong. She was going to have everything
white way, civ--I can't say it, Maje Molly."

"Do you mean civilized?"

"Yes, yes; civ'lized--white way. And she worked, she talked, she tried,
and nobody'd pay much 'tention but my father. The girls, some o' them,
wanted to be like her; but the fathers and mothers would n' help, and
some, good many, were set hard 'gainst it; and then there was no money
to buy white people's clothes, they said. It took all the money was
earned to pay big 'counts up at agency store, where Indians bought
things,--things to eat, you know; so what's the use, they said, to try
to live white ways when everything was 'gainst them, and they stopped
trying; and Metalka was so dis'pointed, for she was going do so
much,--going help civ-civ'lize. She was so dis'pointed, she by-'n'-by
got sick--homesick, and just after the first snow came, she--she went
'way to heaven. And that's why my father won't have me go to the school.
He say it killed Metalka. He say if she'd stayed home, she'd been happy
Indian and lived long time. He say Indian got hurt; spoiled going off
into white man's country."

"How came he to let your sister go, Lula?"

"Metalka wanted to go so bad. She'd heard so much 'bout the 'way-off
schools from some white ladies up at the fort one summer, and my father
heard too. A white off'cer tole him if Indian wanted to know how to have
plenty to eat, plenty ev'rything like white peoples, they must learn to
do bus'ness white ways, be edg'cated. So he let Metalka go; _he_ could
n' go, he too old; but Metalka could go and learn to read all the books
and the papers and keep 'counts for him, so 't he'd know how to deal
with white men. When Metalka first took 'count for him, after she came
back, my father so pleased. He'd worked hard all winter hauling wood,
and killing elk and deer for the skins; and my mother 'n' I had made
bewt'ful moccasins and gloves out o' the skins, all worked with beads;
and so he'd earned good deal money, and he 'd kept 'count of it
all,--_his_ way, and 't was honest way; and kept 'count, too, what he'd
had out of agency store; and Metalka understood and reckoned it all up,
and said he 'd have good lot money left after he'd paid what he owed at
the store. But, Maje Molly, he didn't! he didn't! They tole him he owed
_all_ his money, and when he said they'd made mistake, and showed 'em
Metalka's 'counts, they laughed at him, and showed him big book of
_their_ 'counts, and tole him Metalka didn't know 'bout prices o'
things. Then he came home and said: 'What's the use going to white
people's schools to learn white people's ways, when white people can
come out to Indian country and tell lies 'bout prices o' things?' And
that's the way 't is ev'ry time, my father say; the way 't was before
Metalka went to school. The bad white trader comes out to Indian country
to cheat Indians. _He_ knows white prices, but he don't tell Indian
white prices; he tell Indian two, three time more price. That's what my
father say. And Metalka, when she see it all, she so disjointed, she
never get over it, and my father say it killed her, like arrow shot at
her."

"But your father doesn't think all white people bad; he doesn't dislike
all their ways?"

"No; it's only white traders he thinks bad, and the white big chiefs who
break promises 'bout lands. He like white ways that Metalka brought
back, and he built nice log house to live in instead of tepee, 'cause
Metalka wanted it; and he like all you here, Maje Molly, 'cause you good
to me. But, Maje Molly"--and here the little bright face clouded
over--"my mother say _all_ white peoples forget, and break promises to
Indians."

"No, no, they don't, Lula; they don't, you'll see. _I_ sha'n't forget;
_I_ sha'n't break _my_ promise, you'll see,--you'll see, Lula. On
Christmas eve I shall send you a Christmas present, sure,--now
remember!" answered Molly, vehemently.

CHAPTER II.

It was the day before Christmas,--a beautiful, mild day, very unlike the
usual winter weather in the far West. At the Ellistons' windows hung
wreaths of pine, and all about on tables and chairs tempting-looking
packages were lying. Some of these were from their military friends, and
most of them were directed to "Major Molly," the name that had been
given to Molly when she was a little tot of a thing, and the pet of the
fort where she lived. On this Christmas day, as she watched her mother
fold up the pretty bright tartan dress that was to be her Christmas
present to Wallula, she said gleefully,--

"Don't forget, mamma, to write on the box, 'Wallula's Christmas present
from Major Molly.'"

It had been Molly's intention to have Wallula to tea on Christmas eve,
and then and there to bestow upon her the pretty gift. But invitations
to dine at the fort had frustrated this plan, and so it was arranged
that Barney McGuire, one of the ranchmen, should come up and carry the
box over to the reservation late that afternoon; and as the short winter
day progressed, and Molly found that she must have a little more time to
finish off the table-cover she wanted to take up to the Colonel's wife,
she said to her mother,--

"Instead of going on with you and papa at five o'clock, let Barney
escort me to the fort after he leaves Wallula's present; that will give
me plenty of time to finish the cover, and plenty of time to get to the
dinner in season."

"Very well," answered Mrs. Elliston; "but you must promise me to start
with Barney as soon as he comes back for you, whether the cover is
finished or not. You mustn't be late."

At five o'clock, when Captain Elliston and his wife rode off, Molly was
working away at her cover with the greatest industry. Now and then, as
she worked on, she glanced up at the clock. If everything went
smoothly,--if the silk didn't knot or the lace didn't pucker,--she would
be through long before Barney came back for her. But presently she
thought, where _was_ Barney. He ought to be there for the box by this
time. She worked on a little longer, her ear alert for the sound of
Barney's horse. At last she went to an upper window and looked out. She
could see, even in the gathering dusk, a great distance from that
window, away across toward the sheep-corrals and cattle-pens; but nobody
was in sight. What did it mean? Barney was punctuality itself.

Five, ten, fifteen, twenty minutes more she worked with flying fingers,
and still there was no sight or sound of Barney; but her work was
finished, and now--now, what then?

There was only Hannah and John, the two house-servants, at hand. Hannah
couldn't go, and John had strict orders never to leave the premises in
Captain Elliston's absence. She looked at the clock; every second seemed
an age. If Barney didn't come, if _no one was sent in his place_, her
promise to Wallula would be broken, and Molly remembered Wallula's
words, "My mother say all white peoples forget, and break promises to
Indians;" and her own vehement reply, "_I_ sha'n't forget; I sha'n't
break _my_ promise, you'll see, you'll see, Lula!" Break her promise
after that! Never, never! Her father himself would say she must
not,--would say that _somebody_ must go in Barney's place, and there
was nobody,--nobody to go but--herself!

"Yer goin' alone, yer mean, over to the Injuns!" demanded John, as Molly
told him to bring her pony, Tam o' Shanter, to the door.

"Yes, yes, and right away, John; so hurry as fast as you can."

"Do yer think yer'd orter, Major Molly? Do yer think the Cap'n would
like it?" asked John, disapprovingly.

"John, if you don't bring Tam 'round this minute, I'll go for him
myself."

"'T ain't safe fur yer to go over there alone!" cried Hannah.

"Safe! I know the way, every inch of it, with my eyes shut, and so does
Tam; and I know the Indians, and Wallula is my friend; and I told her
she should have her present Christmas eve, sure, and I'm going to keep
my promise. Now bring Tam 'round just as quick as you can."

John obeyed, though with evident reluctance, and Hannah showed her
disapproval by scolding and protesting; but they had both of them lived
on the frontier for years, and their disapproval therefore was not what
it might have been under different circumstances. Molly, they knew,
could ride as well as a little Indian, and was familiar with every inch
of the way, as she had said, and Wallula was her friend.

"And 't wouldn't 'a' done the least bit o' good to hev set myself any
more against her. If I had, just as like as not the Cap'n would 'a'
sided with her and been mad at me, for he thinks the Major's ekal to
'most anything," John confided to Hannah, as he brought the pony round.

The pony shied a little as Wallula's Christmas present was strapped to
his back. But at Molly's whispered, "Tam! Tam! be a good boy. We're
going to see Wallula,--to carry her something nice, just as quick as we
can go," the little fellow whinnied softly, as if in response; and the
next moment, at Molly's "Now, Tam," he started forward at his best
pace,--a pace that Molly knew so well, and knew she could trust,--firm
and even and assured, and gaining, gaining, gaining at every step.

"Good boy, good boy!" she said to him as he sped along. But as he began
to hasten his pace, it occurred to her that it was only about half an
hour's easy riding to the reservation, and that after leaving there she
could easily reach the fort in another half-hour,--so easily that there
was no need of hurrying Tam as she was doing; and she pulled him up with
a "Take it easy, Tam dear." As she spoke, Tam flung up his head, pricked
up his ears, and made a sudden plunge forward. What was it? What was the
matter? What had he heard? He had heard what Molly herself heard in the
next instant,--the beat of a horse's hoofs. But the minute it struck
upon Molly's ear she said to herself, "It's Barney; for that's old
Ranger's step, I know." Ranger was an old troop horse of her father's
that Barney often rode. But in vain she tried to rein Tam in. In vain
she said to him, "Wait, wait! It's Ranger and Barney, Tam!"

The pony snorted, as if in scorn, and held on his way. What _was_ the
matter with him? He was usually such a wise little fellow, and always
knew his friends and his enemies. _And he knew them now_! He was wiser
than she was, and he scented on the wind something that spurred him on.

But, hark! What was that whirring, singing sound? Was that a new signal
that Barney was trying? Was it--Whirr, s-st! Down like a shot dropped
Tam's head, and like an arrow he leaped forward, swerving sideways to
escape the danger he had scented,--the danger of a lariat flung by a
practised hand.

Oh, Tam, Tam! fly now with all your speed, your mistress understands at
last. She is a frontier-bred girl. She knows now that it is no friendly
person following her, but some one who means mischief; and that mischief
she has no doubt is the proposed capture of Tam, who is well known for
miles and miles about the country as a wonderful little racer. Yes,
Molly understands at last. She has _seen in the starlight_ the lariat as
it missed Tam's head, and she knows perfectly well that only Tam's speed
and sure-footedness can save them. Her heart beats like a trip-hammer;
but she keeps a firm hold upon the rein, with a watchful eye for any
sudden inequalities of the road, while her ears are strained to catch
every sound. Tam's leap forward had given him a moment's advantage, and
he keeps it up bravely, his dainty feet almost spurning the ground as he
goes on, gaining, gaining, gaining at every step. In a few minutes more
they will be out of the reach of any lariat, then in another minute safe
at Wallula's door.

In a few minutes! As this thought flashes through Molly's mind, wh-irr,
s-st! cuts the still air again. Tam drops his head, and plunges forward.

Though the starlight is brighter than ever, Molly does not _see_ the
lariat, but there is something, something,--what is it?--that prompts
her to fling herself forward face downwards upon Tam's mane; and the
lariat that was about to drop over her head once more falls harmless to
the ground, and Tam once more seems to know what danger has been
escaped, and starts forward again with an exultant bound. They are
almost there! Molly sees the smoke from the tepees of the reservation,
and a light from a log cabin, and draws a breath of relief. But not yet,
O brave little frontier girl, O gallant little steed, is the race won
and the danger passed! Not yet, oh, not yet! for just ahead there is a
treacherous pitfall which neither Tam nor his mistress sees,--a hollow
that some little animal has burrowed out, and into this Tam plunges a
forefoot, stumbles, and falls!

CHAPTER III.

"She _said_, 'I sha'n't forget; I sha'n't break _my_ promise. You'll
see, on Christmas eve, I shall send you a Christmas present, sure. Now
remember.' On Christmas eve! And to-night is Christmas eve!"

Wallula had said this over and over to herself ever since the sun went
down. She had kept count of the days from the day that Molly had made
her that vehement promise. That promise meant so much to Wallula. It
meant not merely a gift, but keeping faith, holding on, making real
friends with an Indian girl. And her mother had said, "_She'll_ forget,
like the rest. White peoples always forget what they say to Indians."
And her father had nodded his head when her mother said this. But
Wallula had shaken _her_ head, and declared with passionate emphasis
more than once,--

"Major Molly will never forget,--never! You'll see, you'll see!"

Wallula had awakened very early that morning, and the minute she opened
her eyes she thought, "This is the day before Christ's day. To-night,
'bout sundown, Major Molly'll keep her promise." All through the day
this happy thought was uppermost. In the afternoon she followed Major
Molly's instructions, and hung pine wreaths about the cabin.

The short afternoon sped on, and sundown came, and the gray dusk, and
then the stars came out.

"Where's your Major Molly now?" asked the mother. There was a sharp
accent in the Indian woman's voice, and a bitter expression on her face.
But it was not for Wallula; it was for the white girl,--the Major Molly
who, in breaking her promise to Wallula, had brought suffering upon her;
for on Wallula's face the mother could see by this time the shadow of
disappointment gathering. It made her think of Metalka. Metalka had gone
amongst the white people. She had come back full of belief in them, and
it was the white people's white traders with their lies and their broken
promises that had hurt Metalka to death. There was only little Wallula
left now. Was it going the same way with Wallula? These were some of
the Indian mother's bitter resentful thoughts as she watched Wallula's
face.

Wallula found it very hard to bear this watchfulness. She felt as if her
mother were glad that her prophecy had proved true, that the white girl
had broken her promise; but Wallula was wrong. Her mother's bitterness
and resentment were the outcome of her anxiety. She would have given
anything, have done anything, to have saved Wallula this suffering. If
something would only happen to rouse Wallula, she thought, as she
watched her. There had come a visitor to their cabin the other day,--the
chief of a neighboring tribe. When he saw Wallula, he said he would come
again and bring his little daughter. If he would only come soon! If he
would only--But, hark! what was that? Was it an answer to her wish,--her
prayer? Was he coming now--_now_? And, jumping to her feet, the woman
ran to the door and flung it open. Yes, yes, it was in answer to her
prayer; for there, over the turf, she could see a horse speeding towards
her. It was coming at breakneck speed. "Wallula! Wallula!" she turned
and called. An echo seemed to repeat, "Lula, Lula!" At that echo
Wallula leaped up, and sped past her mother with the fleetness of a
fawn, calling as she did so, "I'm coming, coming!" In the next instant
the wondering woman saw her child running, as only an Indian can run, by
the side of a jet-black pony whose coat was flecked with foam, and whose
breath was well-nigh spent. As they came nearer into the pathway of
light that the pine blaze sent forth from the open door, something that
looked like a pennon of gold streamed out, and a clear but rather shaken
voice cried, "Lula, Lula, I've kept my promise; I've kept my promise!"

The next moment the owner of the voice had slid from the pony's back
into Wallula's arms, and Wallula was stroking the streaming golden hair,
and crying jubilantly, "She's kept her promise, she's kept her promise!"

"Yes, I've kept my promise. I've brought your Christmas present. There
it is in that box strapped across Tam. If somebody'll unstrap it and see
to Tam, we'll go into the house, and I'll tell you what a race I've had.
I can only stay a few minutes, for I must get to the fort if your
father'll go with me. I don't dare to go alone now."

"To the fort?" asked Wallula, wonderingly.

"Yes, I'm going there to dinner; but let's go in. I'm so tired I can
hardly stand; and Tam--"

But as a glance showed her that Tam was being cared for, and that
Wallula's mother was carrying the box into the house, Major Molly
followed on with a sigh of relief, and, doffing the riding-suit that
covered her dress, flung herself down before the blazing fire, and began
to tell her story. When she came to the point where Tam stumbled and
fell forward, she burst out excitedly,--

"Oh, Lula, Lula! I thought then I should never get here, and I don't
know how we did it, Tam and I; I don't know how we did it, but I kept my
seat, and I gave a great pull. I felt as strong as a man, and I cried,
'Tam! Tam! Tam!' and Tam,--oh, I don't know how he did it,--Tam got to
his feet again, and then he flew, flew, _flew_ over the ground. We'd
lost a minute, and I expected every second the lariat would catch us
sure after that, but it didn't, it didn't, and I'm here safe and sound.
I've kept my promise, I've kept my promise, Lula."

"Yes, she kep' her promise, she kep' her promise!" repeated Wallula in
glad triumphant accents, glancing at her mother, and at the tall gaunt
figure of her father standing in the shadow of the doorway.

[Illustration: Wallula clapped her hands with delight]

Wallula was a young girl, and this mystery of a Christmas-box was full
of delight to her; but just then a greater delight--the joy of Major
Molly's fidelity--made her forget everything else. But Molly did not
forget. The minute she had finished her story she sprang to her feet,
and produced the contents of the box. Wallula clapped her hands with
delight when the pretty bright dress was held up before her.

"Just like Major Molly's,--just like Major Molly's! See! see!" she
called out to her father and mother.

The mother nodded and smiled. The father's eyes lighted with an
expression of deep gratification; then he leaned forward eagerly, and
said to Molly,--

"Tell 'gain 'bout where you saw--heard--lar'yet."

"Just as we got to the little pine-trees where the old Sioux trail
stops," answered Molly, promptly.

"Yah!" ejaculated the Indian, grimly, in a tone of conviction. Then,
turning, he took down a Winchester rifle, slung it over his shoulder,
and started towards the door, saying to Molly as he did so: "You stay
here with Wallula. I go up to fort and tell 'em 'bout you."

"Oh, take me with you, take me with you!" cried Molly, jumping up.

The Indian shook his head. When Molly insisted, he said tersely: "No,
not safe for little white girl yet. Maje Molly stay here till I come
back."

Molly's face fell. Wallula stole up to her. "I got bewt'ful Chris'mas
present for Maje Molly," she said softly. "Maje Molly stay see it with
Wallula."

"You dear!" cried Molly, flinging her arm round Wallula.

The Indian father nodded his head vigorously, and his face shone with
satisfaction. "Yes, yes!" he said. "Wallula take care you. You stay till
I come back."

In looking at and trying on the "bewt'ful Chris'mas present,"--a pair of
elaborately embroidered moccasins lined and bordered with rabbit
fur,--and in dressing Wallula up in the tartan dress, the time flew so
rapidly that long before Molly expected it the cabin door opened again,
and the tall gaunt figure reappeared.

Behind it followed another figure. Molly ran forward as she saw it,
and, "Papa, papa!" she cried, "I waited and waited for Barney, and he
didn't come; and I couldn't bear for Lula not to have her Christmas
present to-night, for I'd promised it to her to-night. She told me, when
I promised, that white people always broke their promises to Indians,
and I said over and over that _I_ wouldn't break _my_ promise; and I
couldn't--I couldn't break it, papa."

"You did quite right, my little daughter,--quite right."

There was something in her father's manner as he said this, a
seriousness in his voice and in his eyes, that surprised Molly. She was
still more surprised when the Indian suddenly said,--

"She little brave; she come all 'way 'lone to keep promise, so she not
hurt my Wallula. She make me believe more good in white peoples; so I go
to fort,--I keep friends."

"You've been a friend indeed. I sha'n't forget it; we'll none of us
forget it, Washo," said Captain Elliston; and he put out his hand as he
spoke, and grasped the brown hand of the Indian in a warm friendly
clasp.

At the fort everything was literally "up in _arms_,"--that is, set in
order for business, and that meant ready for resistance or attack. Molly
had lived most of her fourteen years at some Western military post, and
she recognized at once this "order" as she rode in.

"What _did_ it mean?" she asked again, as the Colonel himself met her
and hurried her into the dining-room; and the Colonel himself answered
her,--

"It means, my dear, that Major Molly has saved us from being surprised
by the enemy, and that means that she has saved us from a bloody fight."

"I--I--" faltered Molly. Then like a flash her mind cleared, and she
struck her little hand on the table and cried,--

"It was an Indian, an unfriendly Indian, who followed me, and Washo knew
it when I told my story!"

"Yes, Washo knew it, and, more than that, he had known for some days
that those particular Indians had been planning a raid upon us, and he
didn't interfere; he didn't warn us because he had begun to think that
we were all bad white traders, and he wouldn't meddle with these braves
who proposed to punish us, though he wouldn't go on the war-path with
them. But, Major Molly, when he heard your story, when he saw how one of
us could be a little white brave in keeping a promise to an Indian, _for
your sake_ he relented towards the rest of us."

"And when he asked me to tell him where I first heard the lariat--"

"When he asked you that, he was making sure that it was his Sioux
friends,--for he knew they were to send out a scout who would take
exactly that direction."

"But why--why did the scout chase _me_?"

"He was after Tam, no doubt,--for this Sioux band is probably short of
ponies, and Tam, you know, is a famous fellow,--and the moment the scout
caught sight of him he would give chase."

"Did he get Ranger that way? And where, oh, where is poor Barney?"

"The probability is that the scout visited the corral first, and
captured Ranger, who is almost as famous as Tam."

"But, Barney--oh, oh, _do_ you think Barney has been killed?"

"We don't know yet, my dear. Your father has gone off to the ranch with
a squad of men. He'll soon find out what's happened to Barney. And
don't fret, my dear, about your father," seeing a new anxiety on Molly's
face. "The raiders by this time have seen our signals, and have found
out we're up and doing, and more than a match for them; so don't
fret,--don't fret, any of you," turning to his wife and Mrs. Elliston.
"I don't think there'll be so much as a skirmish."

And the Colonel was right. When the Indians saw the signals and the
other signs of activity, they knew that their only chance of overcoming
the whites by taking them unawares was gone. There were a few shots
fired, but no skirmish; and by the time the moon rose, the fort scouts
brought in word that the whole band had departed over the mountains. A
few minutes after, when Captain Elliston rode in, the satisfaction was
complete, for he brought with him the news of Barney's safety. Ranger,
however, was gone. The Indian--or Indians, for there were two of them at
that point--had succeeded in capturing him just as Barney had started
out from the corral. A stealthy step, a skilful use of the lariat, and
Barney was bound and gagged, that he might give no alarm; and all this
with such quiet Indian alertness that a ranchman farther down the
corral heard nothing.

So harmlessly ended this raid, that might have been a bloody battle but
for Major Molly's Christmas promise!

POLLY'S VALENTINE.

CHAPTER I.

Polly was seven years old before she knew anything about valentines.
This may seem very strange to most girls, for most girls have heard all
about Valentine's Day by the time they are three or four, and have had
no end of fun sending and receiving these friendly favors. But Polly
didn't know a thing about them until she was seven. I'll tell you why.
Polly was one of a number of children who lived in an Orphan's Home, and
Polly herself was the youngest of the orphans.

One morning as she looked out of the window, she saw the postman
suddenly surrounded by a whole flock of little girls, and heard one of
them say, "Oh, _haven't_ you got a valentine for me?" And then the whole
flock cried, "And for me? and for me?" And the postman laughed
good-naturedly, and, looking through his pack of letters, took out two
or three quite big square envelopes, and handed them to one and another
of the clamorous little crowd.

Polly, hearing and seeing all this, wondered what a valentine could be.
She did not ask anybody the question, however, just then; but when the
postman came around at noon, and she saw the same scene repeated, her
curiosity could not be restrained any longer, and she started off to
find Jane McClane,--for Jane was fourteen years old and knew everything,
Polly thought.

Jane was in the linen-room mending a sheet when Polly found her, and
being rather lonesome was quite willing to enter into conversation with
any one who came along. But Polly's question made her open her eyes with
surprise.

"A valentine?" she exclaimed. "You don't mean to say, Polly, you never
heard of a valentine before?"

"No, never," answered Polly, feeling very small and ignorant.

"Well, to be sure," said Jane, "you're very little, and ain't 'round
much, but I _should_ have thought you'd have heard _somebody_ say
something about valentines before this; but you ain't much for listening
and asking, I know."

"No," echoed Polly; "but I'm listening now."

Jane laughed. "Yes, I see you are. Well, a valentine is just a piece of
poetry, with a picture to it, that anybody sends to a person on
Valentine's Day."

"What's Valentine's Day?"

"Why, it's the day you send valentines, to be sure,--the 14th of
February."

"Is it like Christmas? Was Valentine very good, and is it his birthday
as Christmas is Christ's birthday?"

"Mercy, no! What queer things you do ask when you get going, Polly!
Valentine's Day is just Valentine's Day, when folks send these poetry
and picture things for fun, and don't sign their own names, only 'Your
Valentine,' and that means somebody who has chosen--chosen to be
your--well, your beau, maybe."

"What's a beau?" asked innocent Polly.

"Polly, you don't know _anything_!" cried Jane, in an exasperated tone.
"A beau is--is somebody who likes you better 'n anybody else."

"Oh, I wish I had one!"

"Had one--what?" asked Jane.

"A beau to like me like that; to send me a valentine."

"Oh, oh! you are such a baby," laughed Jane.

"I ain't a baby!" cried Polly, indignantly; and then her lip quivered,
and she began to cry.

"Hush, hush!" said Jane; "if Mrs. Banks hears you, she'll send you out
of here quicker 'n a wink."

But Polly could not "hush" all at once, and continued to sob and sniff
behind her apron; Jane trying in the mean time to soothe her, but not
succeeding very well, until she thought to say,--

"If you won't cry any more, Polly, I'll get Martha"--Martha was the
chambermaid--"to show you _her_ valentine; it's a beauty."

Polly dropped her apron and began to swallow her sobs, while Jane ran to
Martha, who was very proud of her valentine, and very glad to show it
even to little Polly Price; and the valentine _was_ a beauty, as Jane
had said. Polly, looking through the tears that still hung on her
lashes at the group of little cherubs that were dancing out of lily-cups
and roses, cried, "Angels, angels!" winding up with, "Oh, I _wish_
somebody 'd send me a valentine!"

"She didn't know a thing about valentines; never heard of them till just
now," Jane explained to Martha.

"Well, to be sure," said Martha, "she is the greenest little thing; but
then she ain't never been to school like the rest of ye, and things is
very quiet and out-of-the-way like in the Home here, and she's nothin'
but a baby."

"I ain't a baby! I ain't, I ain't!" screamed Polly.

"Polly, Polly!" warned Jane. But Polly only burst out afresh in loud
sobs and cries. Jane was a good-natured girl, but she could not stand
this, and, reaching forward, she gave Polly a little shake, and said,
"Now, Polly Price, you just stop and be a good girl, or I'll never have
anything more to do with you."

Polly gasped. Three years ago, when she was first brought to the Home,
she had been assigned to a little bed next the one that Jane occupied,
and had been more or less under the elder girl's care. Jane had been
very good to the child, and with her womanly ways and superior
knowledge she stood to Polly for both mother and sister. No wonder,
then, that she gasped at Jane's threat. What would she do if that threat
were carried out, and Jane had nothing more to do with her? What would
life be in the Home without Jane?

Polly did not ask herself these questions in exactly these words, but
she felt the desolate possibility that had been suggested to her; and it
was so appalling that it quite overpowered her flare of temper, and
stopped her sobs and cries as effectually as Jane could have desired.
But Jane herself, busy with her darning, did not notice the expression
of Polly's face, and had no idea how deeply her words had penetrated the
child's mind until hours afterwards, when, as she was preparing to go to
bed, Polly's voice called softly,--

"Jane, haven't I been a good girl since?"

Jane started. "What in the world are you awake for now, Polly Price?"
she asked. "It's nine o'clock. You ought to have been asleep long ago."

"I couldn't go to sleep, I felt so bad," answered Polly.

"You felt so bad; where? Have you got a sore throat?" inquired Jane,
remembering that a good many of the children's illnesses began with sore
throat.

"No, 'tisn't my throat."

"Where is it, then--your stomach?"

"No, it's--it's my feelin's. I felt bad 'cause--'cause you said if I
didn't stop cryin' and be a good girl, you wouldn' ever have anythin' to
do with me any more. But I did stop, and I _have_ been a good girl
since, haven't I?"

"Yes, oh, yes, you've been good since," bending down to tuck Polly in.
As she stooped, Polly flung her arms around Jane's neck, and
whispered,--

"Do you love me just the same, Jane?"

"Yes, I guess so," replied Jane, smiling.

"I love you better 'n anybody in the world, Jane."

"And you'd choose me to be your valentine, then, wouldn't you?" laughed
Jane.

"Oh, yes, yes; and if I could only send you one of those po'try picture
things, I'd send you the most bewt'f'lest I could find. Don't you wish I
could, Jane?"

"Yes, of course I do."

"Did you ever have a valentine, Jane?"

"No, never."

"Those girls 'cross the street had 'em, and Martha had one. Why don't
you and I have 'em, Jane?"

"You 'n' I? Those girls across the street know girls and boys who have
fathers and mothers to give them money to buy valentines with."

"Why don't we know such girls and boys?"

"'Cause we don't. We're poor, and live in an Orphans' Home. Those girls
only know folks that live like themselves."

"But Martha lives right here, just where we do, and Martha had a
valentine."

"Martha's different. She's only paid for staying here to work. She's got
folks outside that she belongs to. It was a cousin of hers sent her that
valentine."

"Oh," and Polly gave a soft sigh, "I wish _we_ had folks that we
belonged to! Don't you, Jane?"

"_Don't_ I!" and as Jane said this, she dropped down upon Polly's little
bed, and covered her face with her hands.

"Oh, Jane, Janey! what's the matter? Has somebody hurted your feelings?"

"No, no," answered Jane, brokenly; "nobody in particular. I--I felt
lonesome. I do sometimes when I get to thinking I don't belong to
anybody and nobody belongs to me."

"Janey, _I_ belongs to you, don't I?" And around Jane's neck two little
arms pressed lovingly.

"You don't belong to me as a relation does. You ain't a sister or a
cousin, you know."

"Can't you 'dopt me, Jane?"

Jane laughed through her tears. "What do you know about adopting?" she
asked.

"Martha tole me 'bout it. She said folks of'n 'dopted children to be
their very own, and that mebbe some time somebody'd 'dopt me; and I tole
her then I didn' want anybody to 'dopt me, but--I'd like you to 'dopt
me, Jane. Couldn't you?" with great earnestness.

"Of course not, Polly. Folks who adopt children are older 'n I am, and
have money to take care of 'em. But I do wish some nice lady would adopt
you,--some nice lady with a nice home."

"But I'd rather stay here 'long o' you, Jane. I don't want to go 'way
from you; I'd be lonesome. But mebbe they'd 'dopt you too. Would you
like to be 'dopted, Jane?"

"I don't know's I would. I'm too old now; I couldn't get to feel as if
they were own folks, as if I really belonged to them, as you could.
But, Polly," suddenly sitting up and looking very seriously at Polly,
"you mustn't think I'm finding fault with the Home here. It's a very
comfortable place, and we are treated well. I only feel kind of lonesome
sometimes when I see girls like those across the street, who have
mother-and-father homes."

"And valentines," cried Polly.

"Oh, Polly, Polly! you'll dream of valentines to-night," laughed Jane;
"and mind you send me one in your dream, and the very prettiest you can
find."

"I will, I will!" exclaimed Polly, flinging her arms again about Jane's
neck, and giving her a good-night hug and kiss. "The very prettiest I
can find! the very prettiest I can find!" And saying this over and over,
Polly drifted away into the land of sleep.

CHAPTER II.

And sure enough, when it was well on towards morning, she did dream of
valentines,--piles and piles of them, and out of them all she was
hunting for the prettiest, when she heard a strangely familiar voice,
calling,--

"Come, come, Polly! It's time to get up if you want any breakfast."

Polly opened her eyes to see Martha looking down at her. "Oh, Martha,
Martha," she cried, "if you hadn't waked me, I should have got it. I'd
_almost_ found it, and in a little minute I'd 'a' had it sure."

"Had what?" asked Martha.

"Janey's valentine;" and, sitting up, Polly told her dream.

Martha laughed till the tears came. "You _are_ the funniest young one we
ever had here," was her comment, when she caught her breath. "Some time
you'll dream you're an heiress, and wake up counting out your money to
buy valentines with."

"What's an heiress?" inquired Polly.

"Oh, a girl that has a bankful of money," replied Martha, carelessly.

Polly gave one of her long-drawn "O--hs," then slipped out of bed, and
began to dress so slowly that Martha said to her,--

"What are you dreaming about now, Polly?"

But Polly didn't answer. She was too busy pulling on her stockings, and
thinking of something else that Martha had said, and this "something"
was "a girl with a bankful of money." Martha little suspected what
effect her words had had, little thought what a fine scheme she had set
going. If she had, the scheme would certainly never have been carried
out, or never have been carried out as Polly planned it. And Polly knew
this perfectly well, and kept as still as a mouse all through
breakfast,--so still that the matron, Mrs. Banks, asked, "Don't you feel
well, Polly?" whereat Polly choked over her oatmeal as she confusedly
answered, "Yes, 'm."

If it had been any other child, Mrs. Banks would have suspected that
there was some mischief brewing behind this stillness; but Polly had
never been given to mischief, so she was not further questioned or
observed, and thus left to herself she scampered back to the dormitory
after the chamber-work was done, and, going straight to a small bureau
that stood between Jane's bed and her own, she cautiously pulled out the
lower drawer, and took from it a little toy house. This pretty toy house
was nothing more nor less than a child's bank that had been given to
Polly one Christmas, and into which she had dropped the pennies that had
been bestowed upon her from time to time. Polly had long yearned for a
paint-box; and whenever she went out, she used to stop at a certain
shop-window where these tempting things were displayed, and wonder how
much they cost. One day she summoned up courage to go in and ask the
price of the smallest.

"Twenty-five cents," the clerk told her. Polly at first was dismayed.
Twenty-five cents seemed a vast sum to her. But it was a long time yet
to next Christmas, and perhaps by then she _might_ find even as much as
that in her bank. This hope had warmed her heart for weeks, so that when
she was smarting under the first sense of disappointment about the
valentines, she consoled herself with the thought of the little
paint-box that might soon be hers. But when Martha had said, "Some time
you'll dream you're an heiress, and wake up counting your money out,"
and had told her an heiress meant a girl with a bankful of money, like a
flash of lightning came another thought into Polly's mind,--the thought
that then and there from _her_ little bank she might count the money to
buy a valentine for her dear Jane; and once this thought had entered
Polly's head there was no putting it out. Over and above everything it
kept gaining, until it sent her to tugging at that red chimney. Then
suddenly the chimney that had stuck so fast gave way.

Polly nearly fell backward, it was so sudden; but righting herself, she
shook the treasure into her lap, and fell to counting it. She counted up
to ten; that was as far as her knowledge of arithmetic went. Putting
aside the ten pennies into a little pile, she began to count the rest.
"One, two, three," she went on until--why, there was another pile of
ten, and more yet; and the "more yet" counted up to five. Polly couldn't
"do sums." She couldn't add these two piles of ten and the "more yet,"
and she couldn't ask Jane or any one else in the house to do it for her.
But what she _could_ do, what she _would_ do, was to slip the whole
treasure back into the bank, and take it around to the shop on the
corner, the shop where she had seen the paint-boxes, and where she was
sure she should also find plenty of valentines. So getting into her
little coat and hood, she scampered out and off, unseen and unheard by
any of the household. It was rather terrifying to find several other
customers in the shop, but she had no time to wait until they had left,
and, going bravely forward, she called out, "Please, I want a
valentine." But the clerk was busy, and paid no attention to her; so she
pressed a little nearer, and piped out again in a louder tone, "Please,
I want a valentine."

But even this did not succeed in getting his attention. Oh, what
_should_ she do! Perhaps in another minute Jane or Martha or Mrs. Banks
would have missed her, and be hunting for her; perhaps they would be
sending a policeman after her. Oh dear! oh dear! And summoning up all
her courage, she cried out in a voice full of sobs and tears, "Oh,
please, _please_, I want a valentine right off now this minute!"

"Don't you see I'm busy now?" said the clerk, sharply.

But the lady he was waiting upon had turned and looked at Polly as she
spoke, and immediately said to the clerk,--

"Oh, do attend to the child now. Her mother has probably told her to
make haste."

"She hasn't any mother. She's one of the children at the Orphans' Home,"
replied the clerk in a lower tone.

"Oh!" And the lady started and looked at Polly with new interest, and
then insisted still more earnestly that she should be attended to at
once, at the same time beckoning Polly to come forward.

Polly obeyed her; but as she glanced at the cheap little five-cent
valentines the clerk put before her, she shook her head disdainfully. "I
want a bigger one; I want the bewt'f'lest there is," she informed him.

The young man laughed. "How much money have you got?" he asked.

Polly produced her bank, and triumphantly shook out its contents.

"Oh,"--laughing again,--"all that? How much is it?"

"I don't know jus' exac'ly. I can count up to ten, and there's two ten
piles, and--and--five cents more."

"Oh, two tens and five. Yes, I see,"--running his fingers over the
little heap,--"that makes twenty-five. You've got twenty-five cents.
Here are the twenty-five-cent valentines;" and he uncovered another box,
and left her to make her choice.

"Twenty-five cents!" echoed Polly. Why, why, why, that was enough to buy
the little paint-box! She glanced down at the twenty-five-cent
valentines. They presented a dazzling sight of cherubs' heads and wings
and flowery garlands. She lifted her chin a little higher, and there,
staring her in the face, was the very little paint-box, with its two
brushes and porcelain color plate, and it seemed to say to her: "Come,
buy me now; come, buy me now. If you don't, somebody else will get me."
And she _could_ buy it now, if only--she gave up the valentine--Jane's
valentine; and--why shouldn't she? She hadn't told Jane anything about
it; Jane didn't expect it; Jane wouldn't ever know about it. Why
shouldn't she? And Polly drew a deep sigh of perplexity as she asked
herself this question.

"What is it?" a soft voice said to her here. "What is it that troubles
you? Tell me. Perhaps I can help you."

Polly started, and turned to see the lady who had made way for her
standing beside her. The lady smiled reassuringly as she met Polly's
perplexed glance, and said again,--

"What is it? Tell me."

And Polly, looking up into the kind sweet face, told the whole
story,--all about the long saving for the little paint-box, Jane's
valentine, and everything, winding up eagerly with the appeal,--"And
wouldn't _you_ buy the paint-box now 'stead of the valentine, 'cos the
paint-box mebbe'll be gone when I get more money?"

"Wouldn't I? Well, I don't know what I should have done when I was a
little girl like you. I dare say, though, that I should have felt just
as you do--have done just as you, I see, are going to do now."

"Bought the paint-box!" cried Polly.

"Yes, bought the paint-box," laughed the lady.

Polly beamed with smiles, and gave a rapturous look at the treasure that
was so soon to be hers. But presently the rapture faded, and a new
expression came into her face. The lady was watching her very
attentively.

"Well, what now?" she inquired. "Doesn't the paint-box suit you?"

Polly gave an emphatic nod. Perhaps it was that nod that sent two little
tears to her eyes.

"Then, if it suits you, shall I speak to the clerk, and tell him you've
changed your mind about the valentine, and will buy the paint-box?"

Polly shook her head, and two more tears followed the first ones.

"You're not going to buy the paint-box?"

"N-o, I--I gu-ess not. I guess I'll buy the valentine. Jane didn't ever
get a valentine, and she hasn't got anybody to give her one but me."

The blurring tears made Polly's eyes so dim here, she could scarcely
see; but through the dimness she sent one last good-by look at the dear
paint-box, and then resolutely turned to the valentines, from which she
selected the biggest and "bewt'f'lest" she could find, the lady crowning
her kindness by stamping and directing it, and finally mailing it in the
letterbox just outside the shop door.

CHAPTER III.

"What yer watchin' for, Polly?"

Polly didn't answer.

"Guess I know," said Martha, laughing; "yer watchin' for the postman to
bring yer a valentine."

"I ain't," said Polly.

Just then the postman crossed the street, and ring, ring, went the Home
bell.

"I told you so," said Martha, as she ran down to answer it. In a minute
she was back again holding out a big square envelope, and saying again,
"I told you so."

"'T ain't for me," cried Polly.

"Ain't your name Polly Price?"

"Yes," faltered Polly.

"Well, here 's 'Polly Price' written as plain as print. Just look now!"
and Martha held forth the missive.

Polly looked. She could read her own name in writing; and there it was,
sure enough, plain as print,--Polly Price, and it was written on an
envelope exactly like the one she had chosen to send to Jane. A fearful
thought came into Polly's mind. She had told the lady her own
name,--Polly Price,--and it was Polly Price she had written on the
envelope instead of Jane McClane. Oh! oh! oh! and then Polly burst
out,--

"It ain't mine, it ain't mine, it's Jane's. The lady made a mistake."

"What lady?"

"The lady in the shop."

"What shop?"

And then Polly had to tell the whole story.

"And that's where you were after breakfast, you little monkey, breaking
a bank, and running away with it, to buy Jane McClane a valentine. Well,
if this isn't the funniest thing I ever heard of. Jane! Jane! come up
here and show Polly _your_ valentine!" And up came Jane, her face
beaming with smiles, holding in one hand a big square envelope, and in
the other an open sheet all covered with lilies and roses and cherubs'
faces; that very "bewt'f'lest valentine" that had been chosen for her.

Polly, staring at it in amazement, cried out, "Why, she's got it! she's
got it!" And then, pulling open the envelope addressed to Polly Price,
she stared in amazement again, and cried out, "Why, this is just like
_that_ one,--the one I bought for you, Janey!"

And then it was Jane's turn to cry out in amazement, to say, "_You_
bought it; how did _you_ buy it, Polly?"

"She broke a bank and ran away with the money," laughed Martha.

"I didn't, either. The chimney's made to come out, and the bank's my
bank," retorted Polly, indignantly.

"You took _your_ money,--your money you've been saving to buy the
paint-box with, to buy this valentine for me?" asked Jane.

"Yes," faltered Polly.

"And gave up the paint-box! Oh, Polly, Polly, you're a dear;" and Jane
swooped down upon Polly with a tremendous hug. Polly returned the
embrace with ardor, and then, "Who d' you s'pose," she asked, "who d'
you s'pose sent _me_ one jus' exactly like yours? It must be somebody
that likes me jus' as I like you, Janey."

"Mrs. Banks wants you to go down to the parlor, Polly. There's some one
to see you," a voice interrupted here.

"To see _me_?" cried Polly.

"Yes,--don't stop to bother,--run along." And Polly ran along as fast
as her feet could carry her, wondering as she went who had come to see
_her_, who had never in her life had a visitor before. At the foot of
the stairs she stopped in shy alarm. Then she tiptoed across the hallway
to the parlor threshold, and there she saw the lady who had been so kind
to her in the shop.

"Oh, it's you!" exclaimed Polly, joyfully.

The lady laughed, and held out her hand. "Yes, it's I," she said. "Did
Jane get the valentine all right, and did she like it?"

Polly nodded, and then burst out with the story of her own
valentine,--"Jus' like Janey's!"

"And who d' you s'pose sent it?" she asked confidingly, nestling against
the lady's knee.

"I think it must have been one of the good Saint Valentine's
messengers," answered the lady.

Polly's eyes opened very wide. "Saint Valentine! Tell me 'bout him," she
said.

"A very wise man has told about him,--a man by the name of
Wheatley,--and he says that this Valentine was a good bishop who lived
long ago, and so famous for his love and charity that after he died he
was called Saint Valentine, and a festival was held on his birthday,
when all the people would send love tokens to their friends."

Polly's face was radiant. "Oh, I _thought_ Valentine was a somebody very
good, and that Valentine's Day was his birthday. I asked Jane if 't
wasn't. Oh, Janey, Janey!" running to the foot of the stairs in her
excitement, "come down and hear 'bout Saint Valentine!"

"Polly!" said Mrs. Banks, reprovingly.

"Oh, don't stop her," cried the lady. "I like to hear her, and I want to
see Janey." After this there was nothing for Mrs. Banks to do but to
send for Jane. As the strong, womanly-looking girl entered the room, a
new idea entered the lady's mind. "It's the very thing," she said to
herself,--"the very thing." At that instant carriage wheels were heard
at the door, and the bell was rung sharply and impatiently. "Oh, it must
be my Elise," said the lady.

The next instant the door was opened, and in hopped--that is the only
word to use--a little lame girl of ten or eleven, lifting herself along
by a crutch. She was very pale, and her eyes were sunken with suffering;
but she looked about her with a smile, and said in a quick, lively
way,--

"I got tired of driving 'round the square waiting for you, mamma; so I
thought I'd come in."

"I'm glad you did; I wanted you to see--"

"I know--Polly! Mamma 's told me all about you, Polly, you and Jane and
the valentine; and that's Jane. How do you do, Polly? how do you do,
Jane?" nodding and laughing at them in a way that made Polly and Jane
laugh too, whereupon this odd little girl exclaimed, "That's right,
laugh, do! I like laughy folks;" and then, as she said this, her little
figure swayed and would have fallen, if Jane, who was very quick of
motion, hadn't sprung forward and caught her in her arms. The girl's
face was all puckered up into little wrinkles of pain; but as soon as
she could speak, she said, "Aren't you strong, though, Jane!"

Jane couldn't say a word, but Polly piped out, "If I let you have my
valentine to look at a little while, do you think you'd feel better?"

"Lots, Polly, lots. Mamma told me about you; and when you come to stay
with us, you'll be a regular treat."

"Stay with you?" cried Polly, wonderingly.

"Yes; what," turning to her mother, "haven't you asked her yet, mamma?"

"No; I've only talked with Mrs. Banks."

"Well, I'll talk to Polly. Polly, we've been looking for a nice little
girl like you to come and stay at our house. I'm lame, and I can't do
much. When mamma came home and told me about you and the bank and the
paint-box and the valentine, I said, 'That's the girl for me; let's go
and ask her to come.' And _won't_ you come, Polly?"

"I--I'd like to if--if Jane can come too."

"Don't. Polly. I can't--I can't!" whispered Jane.

"Oh, mamma, mamma!" cried the lame Elise, entreatingly.

"Mamma" turned to Mrs. Banks. "If she _would_ only come and help
us,--come and try us, at least,--I'm sure we could make satisfactory
arrangements."

Mrs. Banks nodded, and smiled approval. "Of course Jane can go if she
chooses."

"And you _will_ choose,--you will, won't you, Jane?"

"Course she will," cried Polly; and then everybody laughed, and
everything was as good as settled from that moment. Then it was that
Polly burst out, "I should be puffickly happy now if I only knew jus'
who that mess'nger was that sent my valentine."

"Tell her, mamma, tell her!" called out Elise; and "mamma" bent down,
and said to Polly,--

"It was somebody who saw what a loving heart a certain little girl had
when she chose to give up her paint-box to buy her dear Jane a
valentine."

"'Twas you, 'twas you!" cried Polly, joyfully. "Oh, I jus' love
Valentine's Day, and I knew it must be Somebody's birfday,--some very
good Somebody!"

SIBYL'S SLIPPER.

CHAPTER I.

When Sir William Howe succeeded General Gage as governor and military
commander of the New England province, he at once set to work to make
himself and the King's cause popular in a social way by giving a series
of fine entertainments in the stately Province House.

To these entertainments were bidden all the Boston townsfolk who were
loyal to the British crown. Amongst such, none were more prominent or
made more welcome than Mr. Jeffrey Merridew and his pretty young niece,
Sibyl.

Mr. Merridew was a stanch royalist, though he was by no means a violent
hater of the rebels. Many of them were his old friends and neighbors;
and his only brother, Dr. Ephraim Merridew,--Sibyl's father,--was a
rebel at heart, though in far-away Barbadoes, where he was at that time
engaged in business, he could not serve the rebel cause in person, as he
would gladly have done. But he left behind him a son who, in full
sympathy with his father's views, ranged himself boldly on the rebel
side, as part and parcel of the American army.

A rebel relative in Barbadoes was not a matter to trouble oneself about
greatly, but a rebel relative on the spot, so to speak,--for young
Ephraim was only four miles away at the Cambridge rallying-ground,--was
a different thing; and, amiable and easy-going as Mr. Jeffrey Merridew
was disposed to be, his nephew's close proximity could not, under the
peculiar circumstances, but be embarrassing and disturbing on occasions;
for the young man, besides being his nephew, was Sibyl's brother, and
Sibyl, as a member of a royalist's family,--for her father on his
departure for Barbadoes had left his motherless girl in her uncle's
charge,--could not, of course, be allowed free intercourse with one who
had placed himself in an attitude of active hostility to the royal
cause.

When Sibyl was apprised of this dictum, she at once made passionate
protest against it. "What harm do the King's soldiers think poor Eph can
do them by now and then paying a visit to his sister?" she asked her
uncle scornfully.

"Harm? You are very young, Sibyl, and don't understand these things.
Your brother has chosen very foolishly to join the rebel forces, and so
has made himself one of our acknowledged enemies; and I never heard of
declared enemies in time of war walking in and out of each other's
houses like tame cats," answered Mr. Merridew, sarcastically.

"But Eph, such a boy as Eph, only nineteen, only two years older than I!
What harm could he do now, more than he has ever done, by coming to his
uncle's house as a visitor?" still persisted Sibyl, rather foolishly.

"What harm!" exclaimed Mr. Merridew, impatiently. "What a child you are,
Sibyl! Why, his coming here would compromise me fatally with the royal
government. I should be suspected of disloyalty, and do you think that
he, your brother, could be in any such communication with us and fail to
see and hear many things that might bring us disaster if reported to his
officers?"

"You think Eph would be so mean as to tell tales?" exclaimed Sibyl, in
high indignation.

"Tell tales!" repeated Mr. Merridew, flinging back his head with
irrepressible laughter at Sibyl's ignorance. Why, my dear, the reporting
of important facts, however gained in times of war, is part of war
tactics; it is not called 'telling tales.'"

"And would you--would you, if you were in Ephraim's camp as a
visitor,--would you--"

"Tell tales?" laughed Mr. Merridew. "Indeed I would, if I heard anything
worth telling,--anything that I thought would save the cause I believed
to be a righteous cause." Then, more seriously: "Why, Sibyl, it would be
my duty to do it."

"Oh! oh!" cried Sibyl, "it is odious, odious, all this war business."

"Yes, I grant you that; but who is to blame for bringing this odious
business upon us? Who but these foolish malcontents, these rebels,
like--"

"Like my father and my brother," broke in Sibyl, hotly, as Mr. Merridew
hesitated.

"Yes, like your father and your brother, I am sorry to say," concluded
her uncle, gravely.

"No, no, no!" cried Sibyl, excitedly. "It is not they who are to blame.
They are good and brave and wise. They only want justice and fair play.
It is the King's folk who are to blame,--the King's folk who want to
oppress the people with unjust taxes, that they may live in greater
grandeur."

Mr. Merridew stared in silent astonishment at this unexpected outburst.
Then, in a severer tone than his niece had ever heard from his lips, he
said,--

"So this is the treasonable talk you have heard from your brother; these
are the teachings that he has been instilling into you? Ah, it is none
too soon that you are cut off from the influence of that headstrong
boy."

"But it was my father who instilled these teachings into my brother.
They are his principles, and they are my principles too!"

"Your principles!" and Mr. Merridew, his sense of humor immensely
tickled at the sound of this fine word, that rolled off with such an
assumption of dignity from those rosy young lips, burst into a great
laugh. Yet then and there he said to himself, "That Jackanapes of a boy,
to fill her head with this treasonable stuff! But we'll see, we'll see
if we can't crowd all such stuff out with livelier things when we have
those fine doings at the Province House Sir William is talking of. Her
principles! The little parrot!" and he laughed again.

CHAPTER II.

"And you're to dance the last dance with me, remember, Miss Merridew."

"Indeed, Sir Harry, I will not promise you that."

"You will not promise? But you _have_ promised."

"_Have_ promised? What do you mean, sir? I think you are forgetting
yourself!" and Miss Sibyl Merridew lifted up her graceful head with a
little air of hauteur that was by no means unbecoming to her piquant
beauty.

But young Sir Harry Willing was not to be put down by this pretty little
provincial,--not he; and so, lifting up _his_ head with an air of
hauteur, he said to Miss Sibyl,--

"I crave Miss Merridew's pardon, but perhaps if she will reflect a
moment she will recall what she said to me yester morning when I begged
her to give me the pleasure of dancing the last minuet with her
to-night."

Waving her great plumy feather fan to and fro, Sibyl looked across it at
her companion, and answered in a little sweetly impertinent tone,--

"But I never reflect."

"So I should judge, madam," retorted the youth, wrathfully; "but
perhaps," he went on, "if Miss Merridew will deign to bestow a glance
upon this"--and the young fellow pulled from his pocket a gold-mounted
card and letter case, out of which he took a tablet upon which was
written: "Met Miss Sibyl Merridew this morning on the mall. She promised
to dance the last minuet with me to-morrow night. Mem. Send roses if
they are to be had in the town!"

Sibyl blushed as she read this. Then lifting the flowers--Sir Harry's
roses--to her face for a moment, she dropped a demure courtesy and said,
with a gleam of fun in her eyes,--

"If Sir Harry finds that it is necessary for _him_ to recall his friends
and engagements by memorandum notes, he certainly cannot expect an
untutored provincial maid, who carries no such orderly appliance about
with her, to charge _her_ mind unaided."

"An untutored provincial maid!" exclaimed Sir Harry, all his wrath
extinguished by her pretty recognition of his flowers and his admiration
of her ready wit,--"an untutored provincial maid! By my faith, Miss
Sibyl, you'd put to shame many a court dame. But, hark, what's that? As
I live, the musicians are tuning up for the minuet." And smilingly he
held out his hand to her.

[Illustration: A very pretty pair]

"A very pretty pair," said more than one of the assembled company, as
the two took their places in the beautifully decorated ball-room; and as
the dance progressed, Mr. Jeffrey Merridew, watching his niece from his
post of observation, said to himself with, a congratulatory smile,--

"Where now are Miss Sibyl's fine rebel principles? I scarcely think they
would stand a test."

Almost at that very moment Sir Harry, boy as he was, spite of his
one-and-twenty years, was giving vent to a little boastful talk about
"our army" and "those undisciplined rebels who would never stand the
test against a full regiment of regulars."

"Why," Sir Harry declared at length, led on by Sibyl's air of great
interest, "we have positive information that their troops at Cambridge
have neither arms nor ammunition to carry on a defence, and they are in
a sorry condition every way; it is impossible for them to resist us
successfully. We shall literally sweep them off the face of the earth
if they attempt it."

"And you--the King's troops?" inquired Sibyl.

"We--well, we have been a little straitened ourselves for the munitions
of war," replied the young aide-de-camp, "but by to-morrow night a
vessel will arrive for us that will relieve all such necessities. Ah,"
with a gay smile, "what would not these rebels give to get possession of
this information, and put their cruisers on the alert to capture such a
prize!"

"But there is no possibility of this?"

"Not the slightest. But you are pale,--don't be alarmed; there is no
danger. The rebels have no suspicion of the expected arrival, we are
certain."

"But if they had?"

"Well, that might alter the case. Their seamen know their business
better than their landsmen."

All this in the pauses of the dance. When they started up again, the
music had accelerated its time, and down the great hall they led the way
at a fine pace; but in swinging about to return, Sir Harry felt his
companion falter.

"What is it?" he asked anxiously.

"My slipper," she replied with a vexed laugh; and, stooping as she
spoke, she whisked off a little satin shoe, the high hollow metal heel
of which had suddenly given way. Certainly no more dancing that night.
For that matter, though, it was near the end of the ball. But could not
_he_ do something? Sir Harry asked. He had tinkered gunscrews; why not a
slipper? No, no; nothing could be done then and there. A new heel must
be hammered and fitted on.

But then and there Sibyl had a sudden inspiration. _Something could_ be
done. She was to go to Madame Boutineau's rout the next evening. She
needed these very slippers for that occasion. Would Sir Harry--on his
way to his quarters that night--would he think it beneath his dignity to
leave the slippers at Anthony Styles the shoemaker's? It was just there
by the tavern at the sign of the gilded boot. He had only to drop the
shoe, with a message she would write to go with it, into the tunnel-box
by the door, and Anthony would find it by daylight and set to work upon
it at once, that she might not be disappointed, for it was a longish
job, she knew.

Beneath his dignity! Sir Harry laughed. He was only too glad to do her
bidding.

And would he then give her a bit of paper and pencil and take her to
the cloak-room for a moment?

Alone in the cloak-room, Sibyl wrote her message to Anthony Styles.
Folding the paper in the slipper, and wrapping the whole in her
pocket-handkerchief, she fastened the parcel securely with the silken
cord that had held her fan.

"And may I have the last dance to-morrow night?" asked Sir Harry,
smilingly, as he took leave of her a few minutes later.

"Perhaps, if I may depend upon you--and Anthony Styles," she answered.
Her eyes sparkled like dark jewels as she spoke; her cheeks burned like
red twin roses.

CHAPTER III.

Robe of satin and Brussels lace,
Knots of flowers and ribbons too,
Scattered about in every place,
For the revel is through.

And there, in the midst of all this pretty disorder of satin and lace
and flowers, sits Sibyl, far into the night, or rather morning, turning
over and over in her mind something that effectually banishes sleep.

By and by, as she turns it over for the twentieth time, she says aloud
to herself: "To think that it should be given to _me_ to do,--made _my_
duty! Uncle Jeffrey taught me that, as he has taught me many things
these past months,--to keep my own counsel, for one thing.

"Ah, Uncle Jeffrey, you have fancied me all these months naught but a
vain little puppet who could be led to forget anything in a round of
routs and balls. Well, I like the routs and balls dearly, dearly, but I
like something else better. I like what my father has taught us, what
my dear Eph is going to fight for, and perhaps die for, far, far better.
Yet I felt like a cheat to-night as I led Sir Harry on to tell me what
he did,--Sir Harry, who thinks me, as all the rest do, a stanch little
Tory, for I have kept my counsel indeed, and no one suspects. But oh, it
is odious, it is odious, this war business; yet I have been taught how
to do my duty, and I have done it. Yes, I have done my duty, for 'the
reporting of important facts, however gained, in times of war, is part
of war tactics.' Yes, these are your words, Uncle Jeffrey, and oh, how
they flashed up to me to-night when Sir Harry told me of the British
vessel, and how they fairly rung in my ears like an order, when it
suddenly came to me how I could get this important fact that I had
gained sent to the right quarter by means of good Anthony Styles and
that parcel-box of his, through which so many messages have gone safely.

"Oh, I could laugh, I could laugh, if I didn't shiver so, when I think
of it! Sir Harry, Sir Harry of all persons, dropping that message into
Anthony Styles's hands,--Anthony Styles, the stanch rebel whom they
think a stanch Tory! Oh, I could laugh, I could laugh! And now if
everything goes well,--if everything goes well, my dear rebels will not
be swept off the earth by British arms quite yet!

[Illustration: Sibyl's reflections]

"But, hark! that is the clock; it is striking one, and I out of bed and
gabbling to myself in this foolish way of mine, 'like a play-acting
woman,' as Uncle Jeffrey would say of me. But I will not stay up a
minute longer. So good-night, good-night, my dear rebels, g--ood-night!"

* * * * *

The clock was striking four the next afternoon when a weather-beaten
man, who had a look as if he had once been a seaman, knocked at the side
door of Mr. Jeffrey Merridew's mansion and asked to see young Mistress
Merridew.

"It's Shoemaker Styles," the maid informed Sibyl, "and he says you must
come down and try on the slipper he has brought; he's not sure about the
heel. He's in the hall-room, mem."

It was with a wildly beating heart that Sibyl, obeying this summons, ran
down to the little hall-room where Anthony Styles awaited her.

He stood with the slipper in his hand as she entered the room; and
before he could close the door behind her, he called out in a frank,
loud voice: "I thought you had better try on the shoe, miss; I wasn't
sure of the heel."

The moment the door was closed, however, he came forward eagerly, and in
a low tone said: "It's all right, little mistress. I heard the click of
the tunnel-box last night, for I hadn't turned in, and afore many
minutes I was up and off in my boat with the message in my head; I burnt
the paper! There was a stiff breeze, and I reached the cutter in the
quickest time I ever made, and got back afore daylight with nobody the
wiser. Shoemaker Styles understands his old sailor business better than
shoemaking," with a grim laugh, "and no Tory knows these waters as I
do."

"And it's all right, and the end will be all right?" faltered Sibyl,
anxiously.

"All right! You'll know for yourself by nightfall, perhaps; and now God
bless you, little mistress. You've done a great service; and if ever
Anthony Styles can sarve you, he'll do it with a whole heart,--God bless
you, God bless you!" and with these words Shoemaker Styles hurried off,
leaving Sibyl with the slipper still in her hand, and both of them quite
oblivious of that important trying-on process.

The day after the ball was a busy one for Sir Harry Willing, and it was
not until late in the afternoon that he felt himself at liberty to take
his accustomed saunter about town.

As he came in sight of the gilded boot, he smilingly thought: "I wonder
if Shoemaker Styles has done his duty by the little slipper; if he has,
I shall dance with my lady Sibyl at Madame Boutineau's this evening."

But Sir Harry did not dance at Madame Boutineau's that evening, for when
at nightfall he returned to his quarters, he was met by the disastrous
tidings that the long-looked for, eagerly expected British brig, loaded
with supplies for the King's army, had been captured off Lechmere's
Point by the Yankee rebels.

It was not many months after this capture that the British evacuated
Boston. When Sir Harry Willing took leave of Sibyl Merridew, he pleaded
for some token of remembrance.

"You will not promise yourself to me," he said in reproachful accents,
"but give me some token of yourself, some gage of amity at least."

"But what--what can I give you, Sir Harry?" asked Sibyl, not a little
touched and troubled.

"Give me the little slipper you wore that night we danced together at
the Province House."

"That--that slipper?" and Sibyl blushed and paled.

"Yes--ah, you will, you will."

A moment's hesitation; then with a strange smile, half grave, half gay,
Sibyl answered, "I will."

A LITTLE BOARDING-SCHOOL SAMARITAN.

CHAPTER I.

It was Saturday afternoon, and Eva Nelson and Alice King were sitting in
their little study parlor at the Hill House Seminary poring over their
lesson chapter for the next day. It was the tenth chapter of St. Luke,
with the story of the good Samaritan. At last Eva flung herself back and
exclaimed, "We _can't_ be good as they were in those Bible days, no
matter _what_ anybody says; things are different."

"Of course they are," responded Alice. "Who said they weren't?"

Eva turned to the volume before her, and read aloud about the man who
had fallen among thieves, and the good Samaritan who came along and
bound up his wounds and took care of him.

"Now how can we do things like that?" she said.

"Oh, Eva, I should think you were about five or six years old instead of
a girl of thirteen. Nobody means that you are to do just those
particular things. What they do mean now is that you are to be good to
people who are in trouble,--people who need things done for them."

"Well, I'd be good to them if I had a chance; but what chance do I have
now with all my lessons? When I grow up, I shall belong to charitable
societies, as mamma does, and give things to poor folks, and go to see
them. I can't now; girls of our age can't, of course."

"We can do some things in vacations,--get up fairs and things of that
kind, and give the money to the poor."

"Oh, I've done that. I helped in a fair last summer, and we gave the
money to the children's hospital. But Miss Vincent said last week that
all of us could find ways of doing good every day if we would keep our
eyes and ears and hearts open; and I've felt ever since that she was
keeping her eyes open on the watch for something she expected _me_ to
do."

"Nonsense! She knows as well as we do that we haven't time to do any
more now. She means when we grow older. But look at the clock,--five
minutes to supper-time, and I've got to 'do' my hair all over, the braid
is so frowzely."

"What makes you braid it? Why don't you let it hang in a curl, as you
used to?"

"I told you why yesterday,--because that Burr girl has made me sick of
curls, with that great black flop of hers stringing down her back. She'd
make me sick of anything. I haven't worn my red blouse since she came
out with that fiery thing of hers. _Isn't_ it horrid?"

"Yes, horrid!"

A few minutes after, as Eva and Alice were stirring their cocoa at the
supper-table, the girl they had been criticising came hastily into the
dining-room and took her place. She was a tall girl for her age, with a
heavy ungainly figure, a swarthy skin, and black hair which was tied
back in a long curl. She wore a dark plaid skirt, with a blouse of fiery
red cashmere, and a hair ribbon of a deep violet shade. Nothing could
have been more ill-matched or more unbecoming. The girl who sat beside
her, pretty Janey Miller, was a great contrast, with her blond curls,
her rosy cheeks, and simple well-fitting dress of blue serge. Her every
movement, too, was as full of grace as Cordelia Burr's was exactly the
reverse. Everything seemed to go well with Janey; everything seemed to
go ill with Cordelia. She spilled her cocoa, she dropped her knife, she
crumbled her gingerbread, and she clattered her cup and saucer.
Certainly she was not a very pleasant person to sit near. But Janey
tried to conceal her annoyance, and succeeded very well, until at the
end of the meal Cordelia, in her headlong haste in leaving her seat,
tipped over a glass of water upon her neighbor's pretty blue dress. This
was too much, for Janey, and it was little wonder that she jumped up
with an impatient exclamation, nor that she declared to Eva and Alice a
little later that Cordelia ought to be ashamed of herself for being so
careless, and that she did wish she didn't have to sit next to her.

"I suppose, though, I shall have to sit there until the end of this
term; but there's _one_ thing I'm not going to do any more,--I'm not
going to dance with her. She doesn't keep step, and she _does_ dress
so!" concluded Janey.

"Yes, she does dress dreadfully; and to think it's her own fault. She
chooses her things herself," said Eva.

"No!" exclaimed Janey.

"Yes, she does; her mother is 'way off somewhere, and Cordelia gets what
she likes."

"And she doesn't know any better than to like such horrid things!
Sometimes she looks as if she'd lived with wild Indians!"

"That's it; that's it, I forgot!" shouted Eva. "She _has_ lived 'way off
out in a Territory on an Indian reservation. Her father is an army
officer of some kind."

"Young ladies, young ladies, look at your clocks!" suddenly called a
voice outside the door.

"Why, goodness, it's bedtime!" whispered Janey. "Good-night,

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