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Apples, Ripe and Rosy, Sir by Mary Catherine Crowley

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enough. With a jeering whoop, two shabby figures escaped into the road.

"The question is, where's the boat?" said Rob, as the party paused for
breath, finding that pursuit was useless.

They searched about in the vicinity without avail, but after some time
the _Jolly Pioneer_ was finally discovered half a mile farther down the
stream, entangled among a clump of willows, where the pirates, as Jim
designated the Jenkins boys, had abandoned it. To return to the place
from which they had taken the boat, in order to enjoy the discomfiture
and dismay of those against whom they had a grudge, was characteristic
of them.

"Good! I knew we'd find the boat all right!" began Leo, joyfully.

"By Jove! pretty well damaged, I should say!" cried Jack.

"Well, the paint is a good deal scratched, and the seats have been
loosened; but, after all, there is no great harm done," said Rob, more
hopefully.

Upon further examination, his view of the case proved to be correct.
He and Jack experienced but little difficulty in rowing back to the
original moorings, Jim and Leo following along the bank and applauding
their skill.

After this occurrence the _Jolly Pioneer_ and the _Merry-go-Round_ were
each fastened to a sapling, that grew near the water's edge, by chain
and padlock, which rendered them secure from interference.

And what merry times our friends had with them upon the creek that
summer! The _Jolly Pioneer_ proved worthy of its name, was always the
best of company, and led the way in many pleasant excursions up and
down the stream. The _Merry-go-Round_ was never far behind, and shared
the honors of all its adventures.

"I tell you now," exclaimed Leo, admiringly, one day when the lads were
preparing for a row, "I don't believe you'd find two such boats in all
the country about here."

A critical observer might have facetiously agreed with him, but the
boys were content with what they had, not being able to obtain anything
better; and is not that one way to be happy?

"Well, they may not be beauties," continued Jim; "and you can't exactly
call them racers; but, somehow, they keep afloat, and one can manage
them first-rate."

"And we've had enough fun with them to repay us for all the trouble we
had in making them," added Rob.

Jack laughed at the recollection.

"Yes," remarked Uncle Gerald, who had just come up, on his way to the
meadow pasture. "And I think, boys, you will all acknowledge that you
learned a good many useful things while building a boat."

A MAY-DAY GIFT.

I.

Early on the morning of the 1st of May, Abby Clayton ran downstairs,
exclaiming by way of greeting to the household:

"A bright May Day! A bright May Day!"

"It isn't very _bright_, I'm sure!" grumbled her little brother Larry,
who clattered after her. "There's no sunshine; and the wind blows so
hard I sha'n't be able to sail my new boat on the pond in the park.
It's mighty hard lines! I don't see why it can't be pleasant on a
holiday. Think of all the shiny days we've had when a fellow had to be
in school. Now, when there's a chance for some fun, it looks as if it
were going to rain great guns!"

"Well, it won't," said Abby, pausing in the hall to glance back at him,
as he perched upon the baluster above her. "It won't rain great guns,
nor pitchforks, nor cats and dogs, nor even torrents. It's going to
clear up. Don't you know that some people say the sun generally
shines, for a few minutes anyhow, on Saturdays in honor of the Blessed
Virgin?"

"This isn't Saturday," objected Larry, somewhat indignantly.

"Yes, but it is the 1st of May; and if that is not our Blessed Mother's
day too, I'd like to know what is!" said his sister.

"I don't believe that about the sun shining," continued Larry. "If you
are ten--only two years older than I am,--you don't know everything.
I'm going to ask mother."

The children entered the breakfast room, greeted their father and
mother, and then slipped into their places.

"Mother," began Larry, as he slowly poured the maple syrup over the
crisp, hot pancakes upon his plate, "is it true that the sun always
shines on Saturday in honor of the Blessed Virgin?"

"It is a pious and poetic saying," replied Mrs. Clayton. "But a
legendary sentiment of this kind often hides a deeper meaning. For
those who are devoted to the Blessed Virgin, there is never a day so
dark but that the love of Our Lady shines through the gloom like a
sunbeam, changing to the rosy and golden tints of hope the leaden
clouds that shadowed their happiness; and blessing the closing day of
life, which, to look back upon, seems but as the ending of a week."

Mrs. Clayton had hardly finished speaking, when a long ray of yellow
light fell upon the tablecloth.

"There! the sun's out now, anyway! Crickey, I'm so glad!" exclaimed
Larry.

"The clouds were only blown up by the wind," said his father. "I do
not think we shall have rain to-day."

"Mother, may I put on a white dress and go to buy my May wreath?" asked
Abby.

"The air is too cold for you to change your warm gown for a summer one,
dear," returned Mrs. Clayton. "You may get the wreath, though; but be
sure that you wear it over your hat."

Abby seemed to think it was now her turn to grumble.

"Oh, dear!" she murmured. "All the girls wear white dresses, and go
without hats on May Day. I don't see why I can't!"

Her complaint made no impression, however; so she flounced out of the
room.

"My mother is the most exaggerating person!" exclaimed the little girl,
as she prepared for her shopping excursion. She meant aggravating;
but, like most people who attempt to use large words the meaning of
which they do not understand, she made droll mistakes sometimes.

Abby had fifteen cents, which her grandma had given her the day before.

"I'll hurry down to the Little Women's before the best wreaths are
gone," she said to herself.

The place was a fancy store, kept by two prim but pleasant spinster
sisters. Besides newspapers, stationery, thread and needles, and so
forth, they kept a stock of toys, candies, and pickled limes, which
insured them a run of custom among the young folk, who always spoke of
them as the Little Women. Not to disappoint the confidence placed in
them by their youthful patrons, they had secured an excellent
assortment of the crowns of tissue-paper flowers which, in those days,
every little girl considered essential to the proper observance of May
Day.

Abby selected one which she and the Little Women made up their minds
was the prettiest. It usually took both of the Little Women to sell a
thing. If one showed it, the other descanted upon its merits, or
wrapped it up in paper when the bargain was completed. Neither of them
appeared to transact any business, even to the disposal of "a pickle
lime" (as the children say), quite on her own responsibility.

After Abby had fully discussed the matter with them, therefore, she
bought her wreath. It was made of handsome white tissue-paper roses,
with green tissue-paper leaves, and had two long streamers. There was
another of pink roses, which she thought would be just the thing for
Larry to buy with the fifteen cents which he had received also. But
Larry had said:

"Pshaw! I wouldn't wear a wreath!" Abby didn't see why, because some
boys wore them.

On the way home she met a number of her playmates. Several of them
shivered in white dresses, and all were bareheaded except for their
paper wreaths. Not one of the wreaths was so fine as Abby's, however.
But, then, few little girls had fifteen cents to expend upon one. Abby
perceived at a glance that most of those worn by her companions were of
the ten-cent variety. The Little Women had them for eight; and even
five copper pennies would buy a very good one, although the roses of
the five-cent kind were pronounced by those most interested to be
"little bits of things."

Abby talked to the girls a while, and then went home to exhibit her
purchase. Her mother commented approvingly upon it; and the little
girl ran down to the kitchen to show it to Delia the cook, who had
lived with the family ever since Larry was a baby.

Delia was loud in her admiration.

"Oh, on this day they do have great doings in Ireland!" said she; "but
nowadays, to be sure, it's nothing to what it was in old times. It was
on May eve, I've heard tell, that St. Patrick lit the holy fire at
Tara, in spite of the ancient pagan laws. And in the days when the
country was known as the island of saints and of scholars, sure
throughout the length and breadth of the land the monastery bells rang
in the May with praises of the Holy Mother; and the canticles in her
honor were as ceaseless as the song of the birds. And 'twas the
fairies that were said to have great power at this season--"

"Delia, you know very well there are no fairies," interrupted Abby.

"Well, some foolish folk thought there were, anyhow," answered Delia.
"And in Maytide the children and cattle, the milk and the butter, were
kept guarded from them. Many and many an evening I've listened to my
mother that's dead and gone--God rest her soul!--telling of an old
woman that, at the time of the blooming of the hawthorn, always put a
spent coal under the churn, and another beneath the grandchild's
cradle, because that was said to drive the fairies away; and how
primroses used to be scattered at the door of the house to prevent the
fairies from stealing in, because they could not pass that flower. But
you don't hear much of that any more; for the priest said 'twas
superstition, and down from the heathenish times. So the old people
came to see 'twas wrong to use such charms, and the young people
laughed at the old women's tales. Now on May Day the shrines in the
churches are bright with flowers, of course. And as for the innocent
merrymakings, instead of a dance round the May or hawthorn bush, as in
the olden times, in some places there's just perhaps a frolic on the
village green, when the boys and girls come home from the hills and
dales with their garlands of spring blossoms--not paper flowers like
those," added Delia, with a contemptuous glance at Abby's wreath,
forgetting how much she had admired it only a few moments before.

Somehow it did not now seem so beautiful to Abby either. She took it
off, and gazed at it with a sigh.

"Here in New England the boys and girls go a-Maying," she said. "Last
year, when we were in the country, Larry and I went with our cousins.
We had such fun hanging May-baskets! I got nine. But," she went on,
regretfully, "I don't expect any this year; for city children do not
have those plays."

She went upstairs to the sitting-room, where Larry was rigging his boat
anew. He had been to the pond, but the wind wrought such havoc with
the little craft that he had to put into port for repairs.

Half an hour passed. Abby was dressing her beloved doll for an airing
on the sidewalk,--a promenade in a carriage, as the French say. While
thus occupied she half hummed, half sang, in a low voice, to herself, a
popular May hymn. When she reached the refrain, Larry joined, and
Delia appeared at the door just in time to swell the chorus with honest
fervor:

"See, sweet Mary, on thy altars
Bloom the fairest flowers of May.
Oh, may we, earth's sons and daughters,
Grow by grace as fair as they!"

"If you please," said Delia at its close, "there's a man below stairs
who says he has something for you both."

"For us!" exclaimed the children, starting up.

"Yes: your mother sent me to tell you. He says he was told to say as
how he had a May-basket for you."

"A May-basket, Delia? What! All lovely flowers like those I told you
about?" cried the little girl.

"Sure, child, and how could I see what was inside, and it so carefully
done up?" answered Delia, evasively.

They did not question further, but rushed downstairs to see for
themselves.

In the kitchen waited a foreign-looking man, with swarthy skin, and
thin gold rings in his ears. On the floor beside him was a large,
rough packing-basket.

"_That_ a May-basket!" exclaimed Abby, hardly able to restrain the
tears of disappointment which started to her eyes.

"_Si, signorita_," replied the man.

Her frown disappeared. It was certainly very nice to be addressed by
so high-sounding a title. She wished she could get Delia to call her
_signorita_. But no; she felt sure that Delia never would.

"Pshaw! It's only a joke!" said Larry, after a moment. "Somebody
thinks this is April-fool Day, I guess."

"Have patience for a leetle minute, please," said the man, as he cast
away the packing bit by bit. The children watched him with eager
interest. By and by he took out a little bunch of lilies of the
valley, which he handed to Abby with a low bow. Next he came to
something shrouded in fold after fold of tissue-paper.

"And here is the fairest lily of them all," he said, in his poetic
Italian fashion.

"What can it be, mother?" asked the little girl, wonderingly.

Mrs. Clayton smiled. "It is from Sartoris', the fine art store where
you saw the beautiful pictures last week; that is all I know about it,"
she replied.

The man carefully placed the mysterious object on the table.

"It is some kind of a vase or an image," declared Larry.

"Why, so it is!" echoed Abby.

In another moment the tissue veil was torn aside, and there stood
revealed a beautiful statue of the Blessed Virgin.

"Oh!" exclaimed Larry, in delight.

"How lovely!" added his sister.

The image was about two feet high, and of spotless Parian, which well
symbolized the angelic purity it was intended to portray. To many,
perhaps, it might appear simply a specimen of modeling, but little
better than the average. However, those who looked on it with the eyes
of faith saw before them, not so much the work itself, as the ideal of
the artist.

The graceful figure or Our Lady at once suggested the ethereal and
celestial. The long mantle, which fell in folds to her feet, signified
her modesty and motherly protection; the meekly folded hands were a
silent exhortation to humility and prayer; the tender, spiritual face
invited confidence and love; the crown upon her brow proclaimed her
sovereignty above all creatures and her incomparable dignity as Mother
of God.

"And is this beautiful statue really ours--just Larry's and mine?"
asked Abby.

"So the messenger says," returned Mrs. Clayton.

"Who could have sent it, I wonder?" inquired Larry.

The Italian pointed to the card attached to the basket. Abby took it
off and read:

"To my little friends, Abby and Larry Clayton, with the hope that,
especially during this month, they will try every day to do some little
thing to honor our Blessed Mother.

"FATHER DOMINIC."

"From Father Dominic!" exclaimed the boy, in delight.

"How very good of him!" added Abby, gratefully.

Father Dominic--generally so called because his musical Italian surname
was a stumbling-block to our unwieldy English speech--was a particular
friend of Mr. and Mrs. Clayton, who appreciated his culture and
refinement, and admired his noble character and devotion to his
priestly duties. He was an occasional visitor at their house, and took
a great interest in the children.

"How nice of him to send us something we shall always have!" Abby ran
on. "Now I can give the tiny image in my room to some one who hasn't
any."

"May we make an altar for our statue, mother?" asked Larry.

Although as a rule a lively, rollicking boy, when it came to anything
connected with his prayers, he was unaffectedly and almost comically
solemn about it.

"Yes," responded Mrs. Clayton. "And I think it would be a good plan
also to frame the card and hang it on the front of the altar, so that
you may not forget Father Dominic's words: 'Try every day to do some
little thing to honor our Blessed Mother.'"

II.

"O mother!" cried Abby, the day after the arrival of the unique
May-basket from Father Dominic, "now that we have such a lovely statue
of the Blessed Virgin, don't you think we ought to make a regular
altary."

"A what!" exclaimed Mrs. Clayton, at a loss to understand what her
little daughter could possibly mean. "I told you that you might have
an altar, dear. And you may arrange it whenever you please."

"No, but an altary," persisted Abby. "The Tyrrells have an altary in
their house, and I wish we could have one too. Why, you must know what
it is, mother,--just a little room fitted up like a chapel; and the
family say their prayers there night and morning, and at other times if
they wish."

"Oh, an oratory!" observed Mrs. Clayton, trying to repress a smile.

"Perhaps that _is_ the name," admitted Abby, a trifle disconcerted.
"Anyhow, can't we have one?"

"Well--yes," said her mother, after a few moments' reflection. "The
small room next to the parlor might be arranged for that purpose."

"That would make a beautiful al--chapel!" exclaimed Abby. She did not
venture to attempt the long word again.

"I think I could get enough out of the carpet that was formerly on the
parlor to cover the floor," mused Mrs. Clayton aloud. "The square
table, draped with muslin and lace, would make a pretty altar. Then,
with the pictures of the Sacred Heart and the Bouguereau Madonna to
hang on the walls, and my _prie-dieu_--yes, Abby, I think we can manage
it."

"Oh, how splendid!" cried the little girl. "When shall we begin to get
it ready?"

"Perhaps to-morrow," answered her mother; "but I can not promise to
have the preparations completed at once. It will take some time to
plan the carpet and have it put down."

Abby was not only satisfied, but delighted. She told Larry the minute
he came into the house. He had been over to the pond with his boat
again.

"That will be grand!" said he. "When you get everything fixed, I'll
bring you the little vase I got for Christmas, and my prayer-book,
and--oh, yes, my rosary, to put on the altar. And, then," he went on,
quite seriously, "there's my catechism, and the little chalk angel,
and--"

"The little chalk angel!" repeated Abby, scornfully. "Why, that has
lost its head!"

"But it's a little chalk angel all the same," argued Larry. "And if I
find the head, it can be glued on."

"Oh--well; we don't want any trash like that on our altar!" rejoined
his sister. "And the books and rosary can be kept on the shelf in the
corner. It would be nice to have the vase, though."

Larry, who at first had been rather offended that his offerings were
not appreciated, brightened up when he found he could at least furnish
something to adorn the shrine.

The following day was Saturday. There was, of course, no school, and
Abby was free to help her mother to get the little room in order. She
was impatient to begin. But alas for her plans! About nine o'clock in
the morning Mrs. Clayton suddenly received word that grandma was not
feeling well, and she at once prepared to visit the dear old lady.

"I may be away the greater part of the day, Delia," she said, as she
tied the strings of her bonnet; "but I have given you all necessary
directions, I think,--Larry, do not go off with any of the boys, but
you may play in the park as usual.--And, Abby, be sure that you do not
keep Miss Remick waiting when she comes to give you your music lesson."

"But what about the altary--oh, oratory I mean?" asked Abby, dejectedly.

"There is a piece of muslin in the linen press which you may take to
cover the altar," said her mother; "but do not attempt to arrange
anything more. I will attend to the rest next week. I am sorry to
disappoint you and Larry; but, you see, I can not help it."

She harried away; and the children ran up to the parlor, which was on
the second story of the house, to take another look at their precious
statue, which had been placed on the marble slab in front of one of the
long mirrors. Then they went into the small room which was to be the
oratory. The only furniture it contained was the square table which
they had brought there the evening before. Abby got the muslin, and
began to drape the table to resemble an altar; Larry looking on
admiringly, volunteering a suggestion now and then. She succeeded
pretty well. Larry praised her efforts; he was prouder than ever of
his sister,--although, as he remarked, "the corners _would_ look a
little bunchy, and the cloth was put on just a _teenty_ bit crooked."

Presently the little girl paused, took several pins out of her
mouth--which seemed to be the most available pincushion,--and glanced
disconsolately at the pine boards of the floor.

"What is the use of fixing the altar before the floor is covered!" she
said. "I am almost sure I could put down the carpet myself."

"Oh, no, you couldn't!" said Larry. "You'd be sure to hammer your
fingers instead of the tacks--girls always do. But if you get the
carpet all spread out, _I'll_ nail it down for you."

The roll of carpet stood in the corner. It had been partially ripped
apart, and there were yards and yards of it; for it had covered the
parlor, which was a large room. Mrs. Clayton intended to have it made
over for the dining-room, and estimated that there would be enough left
for the oratory. She had not thought it necessary to explain these
details to Abby, however.

"We'll do it," declared the latter. "Mother said to wait, but I don't
believe she'll care."

"Course she won't," agreed Larry.

Both the children felt that what they had decided upon was not exactly
right,--that it would be better to observe strictly their mother's
instructions. But, like many people who argue themselves into the
delusion that what they want to do is the best thing to be done, Abby
tried to compromise with the "still small voice" which warned her not
to meddle, by the retort: "Oh, it will spare mother the trouble! And
she'll be glad to have it finished." As for Larry, the opportunity to
pound away with the hammer and make as much noise as he pleased, was a
temptation hard to resist.

Abby opened the roll.

"What did mother mean by saying she thought she could get enough out of
this carpet to cover the floor?" said the little girl, with a laugh.
"She must have been very absent-minded; for there's lashin's of it
here, as Delia would say."

"Oh, my, yes--lashin's!" echoed Larry.

Abby was what is called "a go-ahead" young person. She was domestic in
her tastes, and, for her years, could make herself very useful about
the house when she chose. Now, therefore, she had no diffidence about
her ability to carry out her undertaking. And Larry, although he
frequently reminded her that she did not know _every_thing, had a
flattering confidence in her capacity.

"I'll have it done in less than no time," she said, running to get her
mother's large scissors.

Click, click went the shears as she slashed into the carpet, taking off
breadth after breadth, without attempting to match the pattern, and
with little regard for accuracy of measurement. Instead of laying it
along the length of the room, she chose to put it crosswise, thus
cutting it up into any number of short pieces.

"No matter about its not being sewed," she went on; "you can nail it
together, can't you, Larry?"

"Oh, yes!" said Larry.

The more hammering the better for him. He hunted up the hammer and two
papers of tacks, and as fast as Abby cut he nailed.

Delia was unusually busy; for it was house-cleaning time, and she was
getting the diningroom ready for the new carpet. Therefore, although
she heard the noise upstairs, she gave herself no concern about it;
supposing that Larry was merely amusing himself, for he was continually
tinkering at one thing or another.

By and by Larry remarked: "Say, Abby, you've got two of these pieces
too short."

Abby went over and looked at them. "Gracious, so I have!" she said.
"Well, put them aside, and I'll cut two more."

Click went the scissors again, and the carpet was still further
mutilated. Then, as a narrow strip was required, a breadth was slit
down the centre. Finally the boards were covered.

"There!" she cried triumphantly. "It is all planned. Now, I'll nail."

Larry demurred at first, but Abby was imperious. Moreover, the
constant friction of the handle of the hammer had raised a blister in
the palm of his hand. Abby had an ugly red welt around her thumb,
caused by the resistance of the scissors; for it had been very hard
work to cut the heavy carpet. But she did not complain, for she felt
that she was a martyr to industry.

At last the work was completed; and, flushed and tired, with her
fingers bruised from frequent miscalculated blows from the hammer, and
her knuckles rubbed and tingling, she paused to admire the result of
her toil. The carpeting was a curious piece of patchwork certainly,
but the children were delighted with their achievement.

The lunch bell rang.

"Don't say anything about it to Delia," cautioned Abby.

Larry agreed that it would be as well not to mention the subject. They
did not delay long at the meal, but hastened back to their self-imposed
task.

"Now let's hurry up and finish the altar," said Abby.

Having completed the adornment of the table, by throwing over the
muslin a fine lace curtain, from the linen press also, and decking it
with some artificial flowers found in her mother's wardrobe, Abby
brought the statue from the parlor, and set it upon the shrine which
she and Larry had taken so much trouble to prepare. Larry placed
before the lovely image his little vase containing a small bunch of
dandelions he had gathered in the yard. He was particularly fond of
dandelions. Abby had nothing to offer but her May wreath, which she
laid beside it. But the decorations appeared too scanty to satisfy her.

"I'll get the high pink vases from the parlor," said she.

"Yes," added Larry. "And the candlesticks with the glass hanging all
round them like a fringe, that jingles when you touch them."

The little girl brought the vases. Then she carried in the candelabra,
the crystal pendants ringing as she walked in a way that delighted
Larry. She knew perfectly well that she was never allowed to tamper
with the costly ornaments in the parlor; but she excused herself by the
plea: "I'm doing it for the Blessed Virgin." Larry also had a certain
uneasiness about it, but he said to himself: "Oh, it must be all right
if Abby thinks so! She is a great deal older than I am, and ought to
know."

The shrine was certainly elaborate now. The children were so engrossed
with admiring it that they did not hear the house door open and close.
A step in the hall, however, reminded the little girl of her music
lesson.

"Gracious, that must be Miss Remick!" she said, in confusion.

She quietly opened the door of the oratory, intending to peep into the
parlor to see if the teacher was there. To her surprise she
encountered her mother, who had just come up the stairs. But Mrs.
Clayton was much more astonished by the sight which greeted, her eyes
when she glanced into the oratory.

"O Abby," she exclaimed, in distress and annoyance, "how could you be
so disobedient! O Larry, why did you help to do what you must have
known I would not like?"

Larry grew very red in the face, looked down, and fumbled with one of
the buttons of his jacket,

"But, mother," began Abby, glibly, "it was for the Blessed Virgin, you
know. I was sure I could put down the carpet all right, and I thought
you would be glad to be saved the trouble."

"Put it down all right!" rejoined her mother. "Why, you have ruined
the carpet, Abby!"

Both children looked incredulous and astonished.

"Don't you see that you have cut it up so shockingly that it is
entirely spoiled? What is left would have to be so pieced that I can
not possibly use it for the dining-room, as I intended."

Abby was mortified and abashed. Larry grew more and more uncomfortable.

"And, then, the vases and candelabra!" continued Mrs. Clayton. "Have
you not been forbidden to lift or move them, daughter?"

"Yes, mother," acknowledged the little girl. "But I thought you
wouldn't mind when I wanted them for the altar. I didn't suppose you'd
think anything you had was too good for the Blessed Virgin."

"Certainly not," was the reply. "I had decided to place the candelabra
on your little shrine. The pink vases are not suitable. But these
ornaments are too heavy for you to carry. It was only a happy chance
that you did not drop and break them. And, then, the statue! Do you
not remember that I would not permit you to move it yesterday? How
would you have felt if it had clipped from your clasp and been dashed
to pieces?"

A few tears trickled down Abby's cheeks. Larry blinked hard and stared
at the wall.

"My dear children, that is not the way to honor our Blessed Mother,"
Mrs. Clayton went on to say. "Do you think that she looked down with
favor upon your work to-day? No. But if you had waited as I told
you,--if each of you had made a little altar for her in your heart and
offered to her the beautiful flowers of patience, and the votive lights
of loving obedience,--then indeed you would have won her blessing, and
she would have most graciously accepted the homage of such a shrine.
As it is, you see, you have very little, if anything, to offer her."

III.

For two or three days Mrs. Clayton suffered the oratory to remain as
the children had arranged it. They said their prayers there morning
and evening; and to Abby especially the ridges and patches in the
carpet, which now seemed to stare her out of countenance, the pink
vases, and the candelabra, were a constant reproach for her
disobedience. Larry, too, grew to hate the sight of them. He often
realized poignantly also that it is not well to be too easily
influenced by one's playmates; for if he happened to be late and ran
into the room and popped down on his knees in a hurry, he was almost
sure to start up again with an exclamation caused by the prick of one
of the numerous tacks which he had inadvertently left scattered over
the floor.

When the good mother thought that the admonition which she wished to
convey was sufficiently impressed, she had the carpet taken up,
repaired as much as possible, and properly laid. Then she hung soft
lace curtains at the window, draped the altar anew, took away the pink
vases, and put the finishing touches to the oratory. It was now a
lovely little retreat. Abby and Larry never tired of admiring it.
They went in and, out of the room many times during the day; and the
image of the Blessed Virgin, ever there to greet them, by its very
presence taught them sweet lessons of virtue. For who can look upon a
statue of Our Lady without being reminded of her motherly tenderness,
her purity and love; without finding, at least for a moment, his
thoughts borne upward, as the angels bore the body of the dead St.
Catherine, from amid the tumult of the world to the holy heights, the
very atmosphere of which is prayer and peace?

Whenever Abby felt cross or disagreeable, she hid herself in the
oratory until her ill-humor had passed. This was certainly a great
improvement upon her former habit, under such circumstances, of
provoking a quarrel with Larry, teasing Delia, and taxing her mother's
patience to the utmost. She liked to go there, too, in the afternoon
when she came in from play, when twilight crept on and deepened, and
the flame of the little altar lamp that her father had given her shone
like a tiny star amid the dusk of the quiet room. Larry liked it
better when, just after supper, the candles of the candelabra were all
lighted, and the family gathered around the shrine and said the Rosary
together.

To Abby belonged the welcome charge of keeping the oratory in order;
while Larry always managed to have a few flowers for his vase, even if
they were only dandelions or buttercups. He and his sister differed
about the placing of this offering.

"What a queer boy you are!" said Abby to him one day. "Your vase has a
pretty wild rose painted on it, yet you always set it with the plain
side out. Nobody'd know it was anything but a plain white vase. You
ought to put it round this way," she added, turning it so that the rose
would show.

"No, I won't!" protested Larry, twisting it back again. "The prettiest
side ought to be toward the Blessed Virgin."

"Oh--well--to be sure, in one way!" began Abby. "But, then, the shrine
is all for her, and this is only a statue. What difference does it
make which side of the vase is toward a statue? And it looks so funny
to see the wrong side turned to the front. Some day we'll be bringing
Annie Conwell and Jack Tyrrell, and some of mother's friends, up here;
and just think how they'll laugh when they see it."

Larry flushed, but he answered firmly: "I don't care!--the prettiest
side ought to be toward the Blessed Virgin."

"But it is only a statue!" persisted Abby, testily.

"Of course I know it is only a statue," replied her brother, raising
his voice a trifle; for she was really too provoking. "I know it just
as well as you do. But I think Our Lady in heaven understands that I
put the vase that way because I want to give her the best I have. And
I don't care whether any one laughs at it or not. That vase isn't here
so Annie Conwell or Jack Tyrrell or anybody else will think it looks
pretty, but only for the Blessed Virgin,--so there!"

Larry, having expressed himself with such warmth, subsided. Abby did
not venture to turn the vase again. She was vaguely conscious that she
had been a little too anxious to "show off" the oratory, and had
thought rather too much of what her friends would say in regard to her
arrangement of the altar.

It was about this time that Aunt Kitty and her little daughter Claire
came to stay a few days with the Claytons. Claire was only four years
old. She had light, fluffy curls and brown eyes, and was so dainty and
graceful that she seemed to Abby and Larry like a talking doll when she
was comparatively quiet, and a merry, roguish fairy when she romped
with them.

"How do you happen to have such lovely curls?" asked Abby of the
fascinating little creature.

"Oh, mamma puts every curl into a wee nightcap of its own when I go to
bed!" answered the child, with a playful shake of the head.

Larry thought this very droll. "Isn't she cunning?" he said. "But
what can she mean?"

"Your mother puts your hair into a nightcap!" cried Abby. "Those are
curl papers, I suppose."

"No, nightcaps," insisted the little one. "That's the right name."

The children puzzled over it for some time; but finally Aunt Kitty came
to the rescue, and explained that she rolled them on bits of muslin or
cotton, to give them the soft, pretty appearance which Abby so much
admired; because Claire's father liked her to have curls, and the poor
child's hair was naturally as straight as a pipe stem.

"Come and see our chapel, Claire," said Abby; the word oratory did not
yet come trippingly to her tongue.

Claire was delighted with the beautiful image, and behaved as
decorously as if she were in church. Afterward the children took her
to walk. They went into the park, in which there were many handsome
flower-pots, several fountains, and a number of fine pieces of marble
statuary. Claire seemed to be much impressed with the latter.

"Oh, my!" she exclaimed, pointing to them reverently. "Look at all the
Blessed Virgins!"

The children laughed. She stood looking at them with a little frown,
not having quite made up her mind whether to join in their mirth, or to
be vexed. When her mistake was explained to her, she said, with a pout:

"Well, if they are not Blessed Virgins, then I don't care about them,
and I'm going home."

The children had promptly sent a note to Father Dominic thanking him
for his appropriate May-Day gift. Each had a share in the composition
of this acknowledgment, but it had been carefully copied by Abby.
Later they had the satisfaction of showing him the oratory. While
Claire was with them, he happened to call again one evening just as the
young people were saying good-night.

"Larry," whispered Abby, when they went upstairs and she knelt with her
brother and cousin before the little altar,--"Larry, let's say our
prayers real loud, so Father Dominic will know how good we've got to be
since we've had the lovely statue."

"All right," said Larry, obediently.

They began, Abby leading off in clear, distinct accents, and Larry
following in a heavy alto; for his voice was unusually deep and
sonorous for such a little fellow. Baby Claire listened wonderingly.
Then, apparently making up her mind that the clamor was due to the
intensity of their fervor, she joined with her shrill treble, and
prayed with all her might and main.

To a certain extent, they succeeded in their object. The din of their
devotions soon penetrated to the library, where their friend Father
Dominic was chatting with Mr. and Mrs. Clayton. In a few moments the
latter stepped quietly into the lower hall.

"Abby!" she called, softly.

The little girl pretended not to hear, and kept on.

"Abby!"--there was a decision in the tone which was not to be trifled
with.

"What is it, mother?" she asked, with an assumption of innocence,
breaking off so suddenly as to startle her companions.

"Not so loud, dear. You can be heard distinctly in the library."

Abby and Larry snickered; Claire giggled without knowing why. Then
Abby applied herself with renewed earnestness and volubility to the
litany. She did not intend any disrespect: on the contrary, she meant
to be very devout. But she not only believed in the injunction "Let
your light shine before men," but felt that it behooved her to attract
Father Dominic's attention to the fact that it _was_ shining. Clearer
and higher rose her voice; deeper and louder sounded Larry's; more
shrilly piped Claire.

"Abby!" called Mrs. Clayton again, with grave displeasure. "That will
do. Children, go to your rooms at once."

The others stole off without another word, but Abby lingered a minute.
Father Dominic was going, and she could not resist the impulse to wait
and learn what impression their piety had made. Leaning over the
balusters, she saw him laughing in an amused manner. Then he said to
her mother:

"Tell Abby she has such a good, strong voice, I wish I could have her
read the prayers for the Sodality. She would surely be heard all over
the church."

He went away, and Abby crept upstairs with burning cheeks and an
unpleasant suspicion that she had made herself ridiculous.

Mrs. Clayton suspected that her little daughter had overheard the
message. She therefore spared the children any reference to the
subject. But the next time they met Father Dominic he alluded, as if
casually, to the devotions suitable for May, and then quite naturally
went on to speak of the virtues of the Blessed Virgin, especially of
her humility and love of retirement; saying how, although the Mother of
God, she was content to lead a humble, hidden life at Nazareth, with no
thought or wish to proclaim her goodness from the house-tops. The
lesson was gently and kindly given, but Abby was shrewd enough and
sufficiently well disposed to understand. She felt that she was indeed
learning a great deal during this Month of Mary.

About the middle of the month there was a stir of pleasurable
excitement at St. Mary's School.

"Suppose we get up a May drama among the younger pupils?" suggested
Marion Gaines, the leading spirit of the graduating class.

The proposition was received with enthusiasm, and Mother Rosalie was
applied to for permission.

"Yes," she answered, "you have my consent to your plan; but on one
condition--that you arrange the drama and drill the children
yourselves. It will be good practice for you in the art of
composition; and, by teaching others, you will prove whether or not you
have profited by Professor Willet's lessons in elocution."

The Graduates were delighted.

"That is just like Mother Rosalie," said Marion. "She is willing to
trust us, and leaves us to our own resources, so that if we succeed all
the credit will be ours. Now we must draw up a plan. Shall we decide
upon a plot, and then each work out a portion of it?"

"Oh, dear, I never could think of anything!" declared one.

"I should not know how to manage the dialogue. My characters would be
perfect sticks," added a second.

"I can't even write an interesting letter," lamented some one else.

"I respectfully suggest that Marion and Ellen be requested to compose
the drama," said the first speaker, with mock ceremony.

"I agree with all my heart!" cried one.

"And I,"--"and I!" chimed in the others.

"It is a unanimous vote," continued their spokesman, turning to the
young ladies in question, with a low bow.

"But we shall have all the work," objected Marion.

"No: we will take a double share at the rehearsals, and they will be no
small part of the trouble."

"I'll do it if you will, Ellen," began Marion.

"I don't mind trying," agreed Ellen.

Thus the matter was settled.

"Let us first select the little girls to take part in our drama,"
Marion continued.

"There's Annie Conwell," said one.

"And Lucy Caryl," interposed another.

So they went on, till they had chosen ten or twelve little girls.

"As it is to be a May piece, of course we must have a Queen," said
Ellen.

"Yes; and let us have Abby Clayton for the Queen," rejoined Marion.
"Abby is passably good-looking and rather graceful; besides, she has a
clear, strong voice, and plenty of self-confidence. She would not be
apt to get flustered. Annie Conwell, now, is a dear child; but perhaps
she would be timid, and it would spoil the whole play if the Queen
should break down."

After school the little girls were invited into the Graduates'
class-room; and, although not a word of the drama had yet been written,
the principal parts were then and there assigned. Lucy Caryl was to
have the opening address, Annie as many lines as she would undertake,
and so on.

Abby was delighted to find that she was chosen for the most prominent
_role_. She ran all the way home, and skipped gaily into the house and
up to the sitting-room, where Mrs. Clayton was sewing.

"O mother!" she exclaimed, tossing off her hat and throwing her books
upon the table, "we are to have a lovely drama at our school, and I'm
to be the May-Queen!"

IV

"Just think, Larry!" said Abby to her brother, when he came home after
a game of ball, "I'm to be Queen of May!"

"You!" he cried, in a disdainful tone.

"Yes, indeed! And why not? I'm sure I don't see why you should look
so surprised. I've been chosen because I can speak and act the best in
our division."

"But the Blessed Virgin is Queen of May," objected Larry.

"Oh, of course!" Abby said. "But this will be only make believe, you
know. We are going to have a drama, and I'm to be Queen,--that is all."

"I should think you would not even want to play at taking away what
belongs to the Blessed Virgin," persisted Larry, doggedly. "She is the
Queen of May, and no one ought to pretend to be Queen besides."

"Oh, you silly boy! There is no use in trying to explain anything to
you!" cried Abby, losing patience.

For the next half hour she was not so talkative, however, and after a
while she stole away; for in spite of her petulance at Larry's words,
they had suggested a train of thought which made her want to be by
herself. She went up to the oratory and stayed there a long time, amid
the twilight shadows. Finally the ringing of the supper bell put an
end to her musings. She knelt a few minutes before the statue, and
then ran down to the dining-room. She was very quiet all the evening;
and, to Mrs. Clayton's surprise, the family heard no more of the May
drama.

The next day, at school, Abby waylaid Marion Gaines in one of the
corridors.

"I want to speak to you," she began.

"Well, what's the matter, Abby? What makes you so serious this
morning?" inquired Marion.

"Nothing--only I've been thinking about the May piece, and I want to
tell you that I'd rather not be Queen," faltered the little girl,

"You'd rather not be Queen!" repeated Marion, in astonishment. "Why
not? I thought you were delighted to be chosen."

"So I was--yesterday," the little girl hastened to say; for she would
not have Marion think she did not appreciate the compliment.

"Then what has caused you to change your mind so suddenly?" Marion went
on. "What a fickle child you are, to be sure!"

"It is not that," stammered poor Abby, a good deal confused;
"but--but--well, you know the Blessed Virgin is Queen of May, and it
seems as if we ought not even to play at having any other Queen."

Marion stared at her incredulously. "And so missy has a scruple about
it?" she said, smiling.

"No," returned Abby; "but my brother Larry thought so. And if it looks
that way even to a little boy like him, I think I would rather not
pretend to be Queen."

"A May piece without a Queen! Why, it would be like the play of Hamlet
with Hamlet left out!" declared Marion. "Did you not think that if you
declined the part we might give it to some one else?"

Abby colored and was silent. This had, indeed, been the hardest part
of the struggle with herself. But there was an element of the heroic
in her character. She never did anything by halves; like the little
girl so often quoted, "when she was good, she was very, _very_, good."

Marion stood a moment looking at her. "And do you really mean," she
said at length, "that you are ready to give up the _role_ you were so
delighted with yesterday, and the satisfaction of queening it over your
companions if only for an hour?--that you are willing to make the
sacrifice to honor the Blessed Virgin?"

With some embarrassment, Abby admitted that this was her motive.

A sudden thought occurred to Marion. "Then, Abby, you shall!" said
she. "I'll arrange it; but don't say a word about it to any one. Let
the girls think you are to be Queen, if they please. Why, missy," she
went on, becoming enthusiastic, "it is really a clever idea for our
drama. We shall have a lovely May piece, after all."

Marion hastened away, intent upon working out the new plan which her
quick fancy had already sketched in outline. To be sure, she and Ellen
had devised a different one, and agreed that each should write certain
scenes. Ellen had taken the first opportunity that morning to whisper
that she had devoted to the drama all the previous evening and an hour
before breakfast. Marion, indeed, had done the same.

"But it will not make any difference. We can change the lines a
little," she said to herself, after reading the manuscript, which Ellen
passed to her at the hour of German study,--a time they were allowed to
take for this particular composition.

Ellen, however, thought otherwise.

"What! another plan for the May piece!" she said, when Marion
mentioned the subject. "Why, see all I've written; and in rhyme, too!"

"But it can be altered without much trouble," explained her friend.

"No, it can't. You will only make a hodge-podge of my verses," she
answered, excitedly. "I do think, Marion, that once we agreed upon the
plan, you ought to have kept to it, instead of changing everything just
because of a notion of a little girl like Abby Clayton. Here I've been
working hard for nothing,--it was just a waste of time!"

Marion pleaded and reasoned, but without avail. Ellen's vanity was
wounded. She chose to imagine that her classmate, and sometimes rival,
did not care whether her lines were spoiled or not.

"No, no!" she reiterated. "I'll have nothing to do with your new plan.
You can get up the whole piece yourself."

"At least give me what you have written," urged Marion. "We are so
hurried, and the children ought to have their parts as soon as
possible."

But Ellen remained obdurate.

Marion consulted the others of the class, and, after some discussion,
they decided in favor of the later design. For the next few days she
devoted every spare moment to the work. By the end of the week she had
not only finished the portion she had been expected to write, but also
much of what Ellen was to have done; and the parts were distributed
among the children. There were still wanting, however, the opening
address and a dialogue, both of which Ellen had completed.

"Oh, dear," cried Marion, "that address of Ellen's is so pretty and
appropriate! If she would only let us have it! As we planned it
together, if I write one the principal ideas will be the same; and
then, likely as not, she will say I copied from hers. How shall I
manage?"

Ellen remained on her dignity. She would have nothing to do either
with Marion or the drama, and kept aloof from her classmates generally.

The intelligence had spread through the school that the two graduates
had differed over the May piece. The exact point in dispute was not
known, however: for Marion wished to keep her design a secret, and
Ellen would not condescend to explain. In fact, she did not clearly
understand it herself; for she had been too vexed at the proposal to
change the plan to listen to what Marion said upon the subject.

During this state of affairs poor Abby was very unhappy. She felt that
she was the cause of all the trouble; and it seemed hard that what she
had done with the best of intentions should have made so much
ill-feeling. This disastrous occurrence was followed by another, which
made her think herself a very unfortunate little girl.

As has already been explained, it was Larry's delight to keep always a
few fresh blossoms in his pretty vase before the beloved statue of the
Blessed Virgin. This he attended to himself, and no one ever
interfered with the vase. On the day referred to Abby had been
rehearsing with Marion, and thus it happened that they walked part of
the way home together. Marion stopped at a florist's stand and bought
a little bunch of arbutus.

"Here, put this on your altar," she said, giving it to Abby. She had
heard all about the oratory.

When the little girl reached the house Larry had not yet come in, and
the flowers had not been renewed that day.

"I'll surprise him," she said to herself. "How pleased he will be to
see this nice little bouquet!"

She took the vase, threw away the withered violets it contained,
replaced them with the May-flowers, and put it back. But, alas! being
taken up with admiring the delicate pink arbutus, and inhaling its
fragrance, she did not notice that she had set the vase in an unsteady
position. The next moment it tipped over, fell to the floor, and lay
shattered at the foot of the altar. Abby stood and gazed at it
hopelessly, too distressed even to gather up the fragments.

"Oh, what will Larry say!" she cried, wringing her hands. "He thought
so much of that vase! What shall I do?"

While she was thus lamenting she heard Larry's voice. He was coming
straight up to the oratory. In another minute he threw open the door;
he had a little cluster of buttercups in his hand, and was so intent
upon putting them in the vase that he was half-way across the room
before he noticed the broken pieces on the floor. When he did so, he
stopped and glared at his sister.

"O Larry," she stammered, contritely, "it was an accident! See!
Marion Gaines gave me those lovely May-flowers, and I thought you'd be
pleased to have them in your vase. Just as I went to put it back, it
fell over. I'm awfully sorry!"

Larry's eyes flashed angrily, and his face grew crimson.

"Abby Clayton," he broke out, "you are always meddling! Why can't you
let things that don't belong to you alone?"'

A storm of reproaches would no doubt have followed, but just then his
angry glance turned toward the statue. There stood the image of Our
Lady, so meek and beautiful and mild. And there, in a tiny frame at
the front of the altar, hung father Dominic's words of advice: "Try
every day to do some little thing to honor our Blessed Mother."

Larry paused suddenly; for his indignation almost choked him. But in
that moment of silence he had time to reflect. What should he do
to-day to honor the Blessed Virgin, now that his little vase was
broken? He looked again at the statue. The very sight of the sweet
face suggested gentler thoughts, and counselled kindness, meekness, and
forbearance.

"Well, Abby," he blurted out, "I suppose I'll have to forgive you; but,
oh, how I wish I were only six years old, so that I could cry!"

So saying, Larry laid the buttercups at the feet of Our Lady's statue,
and rushed from the room.

The next day it happened that Ellen discovered Abby in tears at the
window of the class-room. Ellen, although quick-tempered and
impulsive, was kind-hearted.

"What is the trouble now, child?" she asked, gently, taking Abby's hand
in hers.

"Oh," sobbed Abby, "I feel so dreadfully to think that you and Marion
don't speak to each other! And it's all my fault; because from
something I said to Marion she thought that, instead of taking one
among ourselves, it would be much nicer to choose the Blessed Virgin
for our May-Queen."

"And was that Marion Gaines' plan?" asked Ellen, in surprise.

"Why, yes! But surely she must have told you!" said the little girl.

"I see now that she tried to," replied Ellen, with a sigh at her own
impetuosity. "But I was too vexed to listen. I did not really
understand before. Dry your tears, Abby; I'll do my best to make
amends now. How foolish I've been!" she ejaculated, as Abby ran off in
gay spirits. "And how I must have disedified the other girls! I must
try to make up for it."

She found the verses she had written; and, on looking them over,
concluded that, after all, they needed only the change of a few words
here and there. Then she wrote a little note to Marion, as follows:

"DEAR MARION:--I did not realize until today what you wanted to do
about the May piece. If my verses would be of any use at this late
hour, you are welcome to them. I should like to do all I can to help
now, to make up for lost time."

"ELLEN."

Marion gladly accepted the overtures of peace. The May drama was duly
finished, the rehearsals went on smoothly, and on the last day of the
Month of Mary the performance took place.

It had been rumored in the school that Abby was not to be Queen, and
there was much speculation as to which of the little girls had been
selected instead. As the drama progressed, and the plan was unfolded,
the audience was taken completely by surprise. Everyone had been eager
to see the May-Queen; but there was a general murmur of appreciation
when, at the close, the curtain rose upon a beautiful tableau; a shrine
glittering with many lights, in the midst of which was enthroned a
lovely image of Our Lady, at whose feet the children laid their crowns
of flowers--a crown to honor each transcendent virtue,--and paid their
homage to their beautiful Queen of May.

A few days later Father Dominic called at the Claytons.

"Well, children," he asked, incidentally, "have you done anything to
please the Blessed Virgin during the past month?"

Abby and Larry were silent, but their mother kindly answered:

"I think they have tried, Father Dominic. And as for your lovely
May-Day gift, the presence of the statue seems to have drawn down a
blessing upon the house."

TILDEREE.

I.

Quite happy indeed was the home of Tilderee Prentiss, though it was
only a rough log house on a ranch, away out in Indian Territory. Her
father was employed by the owner of the ranch. He had, however, a
small tract of land for himself, and owned three horses and several
cows. Her mother's duties included the management of a small dairy and
poultry yard, the products of which were readily sold at the military
post some miles distant.

There were two other children: Peter, thirteen years old; and Joanna,
or Joan as she was called, who had just passed her eleventh birthday.
They took care of the fowl, and were proud when at the end of the week
they could bring to their mother a large basket of eggs to carry to the
Fort.

The only one of the family who could afford to do nothing was
six-year-old Tilderee, though they thought she did a good deal--that
is, all except Joan; for she seemed to make everybody's else burden
lighter by her merriness, her droll sayings, and sweet, loving little
ways.

Yet she was continually getting into mischief; and to see her trotting
to and fro, eager to be of use, but always lending a little hindering
hand to everything, one would hardly consider her a help. "How should
I ever get on without the child!" her mother would often exclaim; while
at the same moment Tilderee might be dragging at her gown and
interfering with her work at every step.

How frequently Mrs. Prentiss laughed, though with tears in her eyes, as
she thought of the time when Tilderee, a toddling baby, was nearly
drowned by tumbling head-foremost into a pailful of foaming milk, and
no one would have known and rushed to save her but for the barking of
the little terrier Fudge! Then there was the scar still to be found
beneath the soft ringlets upon her white forehead, a reminder of the
day when she tried to pull the spotted calf's tail. How frightened
"papa" was at the discovery that his mischievous daughter had been at
his ammunition chest, played dolls with the cartridges, and complained
that gunpowder did not make as good mud pies as "common dirt!"

Peter and Joan could add their story, too. Peter might tell, for
instance, how Tilderee and Fudge, the companion of most of her pranks,
frightened off the shy prairie-dogs he was trying to tame; saying they
had no right to come there pretending to be dogs when they were only
big red squirrels, which indeed they greatly resembled. Still he was
very fond of his little sister. He liked to pet and romp with her, to
carry her on his back and caper around like the friskiest of ponies.
When he paused for breath she patted his sun-burned cheek with her
dimpled hand, saying, in her cooing voice, "Good brother Pippin!" which
was her nickname for him. Then he forgot that she delighted to tease
him,--that her favorite pastime was to chase the young chicks and cause
a tremendous flutter in the poultry yard; and how vexed he had been
when she let his mustang out of the enclosure, "because," she said,
"Twinkling Hoofs needs a bit of fun and a scamper as well as anybody;
and he was trying to open the gate with his nose." It took two days to
find the mustang and coax him back again. Tilderee was penitent for
fully ten minutes after this escapade; but she endeavored to console
herself and Peter by declaring, "I know, Pippin, that the Indians must
have Twinkling Hoofs by this time. And he's so pretty they'll keep him
for a chief to ride; a big, fat chief, with a gay blanket and a feather
headdress, and red and blue paint on his face. Won't Twinkling Hoofs
be s'prised at all that? But never mind, Pippin; papa will let you
ride the old grey horse!"

No one knew better than Joan, however, just how tantalizing Tilderee
could be,--how she dallied in the morning playing hide-and-seek,
refusing to have her face washed and her tangled hair brushed into
shining curls; this, too, when Joan was in the greatest hurry to go and
give the fluffy chicks and the grave old fowl their breakfast. It was
very well for Peter to say, "What should we do without Tilderee?" If
she bothered him he could take his rifle and go shooting with Abe, the
old scout; or jump upon Twinkling Hoofs and gallop all over the ranch.
How would he like the midget to tag after him all day, to have the care
of her when mother went to the Fort to sell the butter and eggs?
"Indeed I could get on very well without the little plague," Joan
sometimes grumbled--"just for a _teenty_ bit of a while," she generally
added, hastily; for she really loved her little sister dearly. Joan
tried hard to be patient, but she had a quick temper, and occasionally
forgot her good resolutions. This happened one day when her mother had
gone to dispose of the dairy products. The provocation was certainly
great.

Joan had a lovely French doll--the only French doll in the Territory,
and probably the most beautiful one to be found within many hundred
miles. Mrs. Miller, the wife of one of the officers at the Fort,
brought it to her from Chicago; and the little girl regarded it as more
precious than all the family possessions combined. What, then, was her
consternation this morning to see Fudge dash around the corner of the
house dangling the fair Angelina by the blue silk dress, which he held
between his teeth, and Tilderee following in wild pursuit! Joan rushed
out and rescued her treasure; but, alas! it was in a sadly dilapidated
condition. She picked up a stick and started after the dog, but
Tilderee interfered.

"Oh, please, dear Joan!" she cried, holding her back by the apron
strings. "Fudge isn't the most to blame. I took Angelina. I s'pose
he pulled off the wig and broke the arm, but I pushed the eyes in;
didn't mean to, though--was only trying to make them open and shut.
Tilderee's so sorry, Joan!"

The explanation ended with a contrite sob and what Mr. Prentiss called
"a sun shower." But the sight of the child's tears, instead of
appeasing, only irritated Joan the more. Giving her a smart shake, she
said excitedly:

"Tilderee Prentiss, you're a naughty, naughty girl! I wish you didn't
live here. I wish mother had let you go with the lady at the Fort who
wanted to adopt you. I wish I hadn't any little sister at all!"

Tilderee stopped crying, and stood gazing at the angry girl in
astonishment; then, swallowing a queer lump that came in her throat,
she drew herself up with a baby dignity which would have been funny but
for the pathetic expression of her sweet face, as she lisped slowly:
"Very well. P'rhaps some day Tilderee'll go away and never come back
again!"

She turned and went into the house, with Fudge at her heels. As he
passed Joan his tail, which had drooped in shame at his conduct,
erected itself defiantly, and he uttered a growl of protest.

Joan remained disconsolately hugging and weeping over the ill-fated
Angelina. But, somehow, she did not feel any better for having yielded
to her anger. "Tilderee deserved a good scolding," she said to herself
over and over again. Still there was a weight upon her heart, not
caused by the ruin of the doll; for, notwithstanding all the excuses
she could muster, her conscience reproached her for those unkind,
bitter words. After a while, remembering that she had been cautioned
not to let Tilderee out of her sight, she started to look for her. The
culprit was soon discovered in the corner of the kitchen cupboard,
which she called-her "cubby-house," engaged in lecturing Fudge for
running away with Angelina.

"Never meddle with what does not belong to you!" she said, laying down
the law with her mite of a forefinger; and, to make her words more
impressive, giving him an occasional tap on the nose. He listened
dutifully, as if he were the sole transgressor; but interrupted the
homily now and then by lapping the hand of his little mistress with his
tiny red tongue, as a token of the perfect understanding between them.

When they looked up and saw Joan, both glanced at her deprecatingly,
but quite ready to assume a defensive attitude. Ashamed of having
allowed her indignation to carry her so far, she was, however, inclined
to be conciliatory; and therefore, with an effort, managed to say, as
if nothing had happened:

"Come, Tilderee! Watch at the window for father, while I get dinner
ready."

Tilderee at once sprang to her feet gaily, threw her arms around Joan's
waist, and held up her rosy mouth for the kiss of mutual forgiveness,
Fudge wriggling and wagging his tail.

Joan now busied herself about the mid-day meal, for which her mother
had made the principal preparation before setting out. She said
nothing about the tragedy of the morning when her father came in,
partly because she felt that nobody could appreciate the depth of her
grief but mother, and because she had made up her mind not to complain
of Tilderee,--a conclusion which she secretly felt entitled her to rank
as a heroine. But Tilderee related the occurrence herself as soon as
her mother returned.

"Fudge and me broke Joan's beauty doll. We didn't mean to, and we're
awful sorry,--honest and true we are!"

"But that will not mend Angelina," said Mrs. Prentiss, gravely.

Tilderee hung her head. She now realized for the first time, that no
matter how grieved we are, we can not always repair the wrong we have
done. The mother, though a plain, uneducated woman, had plenty of good
sense, and did her best to train her children well. She now talked
very seriously to her little daughter, and Tilderee promised to be less
meddlesome and more obedient in the future.

"Fudge and me wants to be good," she said, penitently; "but we forgets.
P'rhaps if we were other folks, and our names were something else
'sides Tilderee and Fudge, we might be better."

"I'm afraid Fudge is a hard case," sighed her mother, restraining a
smile; "and I should not like to see my little girl changed into any
one else. But I expect we ought to call you as you were christened,
and that is Matilda. It is a saint's name, you know; and you can pray
to your name saint to help you."

The little lass was delighted to have the question settled in this
manner, and from that time strove to insist upon her proper title. But
it was not easy to drop the pet name, and Tilderee she was oftenest
called, till long after the date of this story. For several days she
tried very hard to be good; she said her prayers night and morning with
special earnestness, always closing with: "Please, God, take care of
Tilderee, and keep her and Fudge out of mischief."

Joan, on her part, endeavored to be more gentle with her little sister;
for, while every day she lamented the fate of the doll, she could not
think of it without feeling a trifle uncomfortable about the way she
had spoken to Tilderee.

The two little girls were not allowed to go beyond the enclosure which
surrounded the house, unless accompanied by their father or mother.
The few Indians in the vicinity had hitherto been peaceable and
friendly; but it was considered well to be cautious, and the country
was too sparsely settled to render it safe for one to wander about
alone. When Mrs. Prentiss, mounted on the old grey horse, rode to the
Fort to sell her butter and eggs, Peter went with her on Twinkling
Hoofs; and each took the precaution to carry a pistol for self-defence
in case of attack.

This being the state of affairs, great was the alarm of all one day as
it became evident that Tilderee was missing. The ranch was a scene of
intense excitement when, after an exploration of the neighborhood, the
child was not found. The news spread like a prairie fire. The
settlers for miles around joined the party which set out to continue
the search. The poor mother was frantic. The father went about
helplessly, like a man dazed by a terrible blow. Peter galloped wildly
to and fro upon Twinkling Hoofs, without an idea where he was going.
Joan cried as though her heart would break.

Fudge had disappeared also. Had he gone with Tilderee? There was a
grain of comfort in the suggestion; yet, even so, what could a poor
baby do, astray and with no other defender? Evening came, and still
there was no trace of the child. All through the night they continued
to seek her, guided by the light of the stars and the glimmer of their
pine torches. But in vain.

II.

On that memorable day, shortly after dinner, if mother had not been so
absorbed by the discovery that certain wee, blundering fingers had
sprinkled sugar instead of salt over her new batch of butter; or if
Joan, instead of going for the third time since morning to the lowest
drawer of the deal clothes-press which contained the family wardrobe,
to take an aggrieved look at Angelina,--if either had glanced out of
the doorway, she would have seen a diminutive figure tripping down the
trail in happy unconcern, with Fudge gambolling along in front.

Tilderee did not mean to be disobedient: she had no intention of
running away; but it was so easy to forget that she had passed the
bounds which love had set for her, when the May breezes, like eager
playmates, seemed to beset her to frolic with them, catching at her
frock, tip-tilting her pretty print sunbonnet (the one with the tiny
pink roses scattered over a blue ground), ruffling her chestnut curls,
and whisking her little plaid shawl awry. A patch of yellow wild
flowers by the way appeared all at once endowed with wings, as from
their midst arose a flight of golden butterflies. What fun to chase
them! Fudge thought so too, and a merry pursuit followed. Tired and
out of breath, Tilderee paused at last. Fudge returned with a bound to
her side, and stood panting and wagging his tail, as if to ask: "Well,
what shall we play next?" They were now half a mile from home, but
neither turned to look back.

"Fudge, I'm going to pick a lovely bouquet for mother," Tilderee
confided to him, patting his shaggy head. He sniffed his approval, and
trotted after her as she flitted hither and thither culling the bright
blossoms. Now she left the lowlands called the prairie, and climbed
Sunset Hill in search of prettier posies. Beyond this rocky knoll was
an oak wood, from the direction of which came the noise of running
water. At the sound Tilderee remembered that she was thirsty. "There
must be a brook in yonder," she said. "Come, Fudge, let us go and
see." Trampling among the brambles, the little girl pushed on, and soon
came to a small stream dashing along over a stony course. Forming an
oak leaf into a cup, as she had often seen Joan do, Tilderee dipped it
into the clear current; and by this means, and the sips between times
which she took up in the hollow of her hand, succeeded in obtaining a
refreshing drink; while from the opposite bank Fudge put down his head
and took his share with less ceremony.

Tilderee chose a seat upon a log and rested. To amuse herself she
broke off pieces of the underbrush and began to strip them of their
leaves. "To make horsewhips, you know," she explained, with a teasing
glance at Fudge. He understood very well, and shrank away a trifle;
but the next minute the baby hands caressed his rough coat, and she
added lovingly: "No, no, Fudge! Nobody shall touch such a good dog!"
Throwing aside the sticks, she tried to weave the leaves into garlands,
as Joan had taught her. The attempt was hardly a success. As the
wreath with which Fudge submitted to be crowned speedily fell apart,
she concluded that, instead of making a chain for herself, it would be
nicer to carry the oak twig for a sun-shade. At present, however, she
laid it carefully on the ground beside her flowers, and proceeded to
play in the stream, with bits of bark for boats. Fudge enjoyed this
too for a while, but soon he grew restless.

All at once the child became aware that the woods had grown darker; the
sunlight no longer glanced in among the green boughs; through the
foliage she caught a glimpse of the western sky, which was flecked with
flame and beryl and amber. Next she realized that it must be a great
while since dinner. With the sense of hunger came a feeling of dismay.
Where was she, and how should she get home? "It must be most supper
time, Fudge," she said, choking down a sob. The little dog looked up
into her face with affectionate concern, and thrust his cold nose into
her hand, as if to say encouragingly: "Trust me, and I will lead you
back." He began to sniff the ground; and, having found the scent,
endeavored to prevail upon his young mistress to follow his guidance.
But Tilderee was sure that she knew best. "No, Fudge," she called;
"not that way. This is the right path, I'm sure. Come quick!" Vainly
the sagacious animal used all his dumb arts to induce her to rely upon
him; vainly he crouched and whined, and begged her to go _his_ way.
Tilderee obstinately stumbled on in the opposite direction. Fudge laid
down and watched her despairingly for a few moments; then, with a sigh
almost like that of a human being, he sprang after her. If actions
speak louder than words, could he have said more plainly: "Well, if you
_will_ get lost, I must go with you to take care of you?"

They wandered on, far beyond the source of the stream, emerged from the
wood, and strayed along the side of a deep gorge or canon. At every
step the surroundings grew wilder, the way more rocky and precipitous.
If she had been older, what terrors would have affrighted the child!
An appalling dread of the Indians, fear of the wild cattle of the
wilderness, the apprehension of countless dangers. But in her baby
innocence, Tilderee knew nothing of these perils. She only felt that
she was weary and chilled, and faint for want of food. "Oh Fudge, if
we could only get home to mother!" she moaned. "Tilderee's so tired
and sleepy, and it will be dark night soon." At the thought she threw
herself on the ground and began to cry bitterly.

Fudge looked disconsolate. A second he stood irresolute and
distressed, but presently drew nearer, and, with unobtrusive sympathy,
licked away the salt tears that rolled down her chubby cheeks. Then he
roused himself, as if he comprehended that something must be done, and
ran to and fro, barking with all his might, and poking about with his
nose to the earth. At length he came upon a nook under a projecting
rock, which seemed to promise a slight shelter from the cold night air.
Perhaps it was the instinct of self-preservation which led him to
attract the attention of his helpless companion to it. Several times
he returned to her, looked beseechingly into her face, then ran back to
the rock.

"You want me to go in there, Fudge?" she faltered at last, noticing his
antics. "Well, I will. P'rhaps it'll be warmer. And I'm afraid
nobody'll come now till morning."

Dispirited, Tilderee dragged herself to the refuge he had found. "I
'xpect it's time for night prayers," she said, with a tremor in her
voice; "and I always say them with mother or Joan." Now she knelt upon
the damp mould, made the Sign of the Cross, and, clasping her
brier-scratched hands, repeated the "Our Father" and "Hail Mary" more
devoutly than ever before. When she came to the special little
petition at the close, "Please, God, take care of Tilderee, and keep
her and Fudge out of mischief," she broke down again, and, weeping
convulsively, threw her arms around the neck of her obstreperous but
loyal playmate and friend, exclaiming, "Oh Fudge! if we ever get safe
home we'll never be naughty again, will we?"

Yet exhausted nature stills even the cry of grief and penitence.
Tilderee, moreover, felt wonderfully comforted by her prayer. To the
pure heart of a child Heaven is ever "close by." From her rude asylum
under the cliff the little wanderer looked across at the sky. It was
clear and bright with myriad stars. Suddenly one flashed across the
broad expanse, blazed from the very zenith, and sped with incredible
velocity down, down, till it disappeared in the depths of the ravine.
"Ah," said she, with eyes still fixed upon the spot whence had gleamed
the meteor, "p'rhaps it was an angel flying down to me! I won't be
afraid, 'cause I know God will take care of me." Drawing the small
plaid shawl from her shoulders, she spread it over herself like a
blanket; sparing a corner for Fudge, however, who stationed himself
upon it, prepared to ward off all dangers from his charge. And thus
she fell asleep, cheered by the presence and warmed by the breath of
the faithful little dog, her sole protector, humanly speaking, in that
lonely wilderness.

* * * * *

During the long night, while the searching party was scouring the
country, Mrs. Prentiss remained at home, keeping a bright light in the
window, a fire on the kitchen hearth, the kettle on the crane, and
everything ready to gladden and revive her darling in case, as she
persisted in hoping, the dear little rover should, with the aid of
fudge, find her way back of her own accord. How many times she started
up, thinking she heard the patter of childish feet! How many times she
rushed to the door at some sound which to her eager heart seemed like a
cry of "Mother!" But Joan, who now kept as close to her as Tilderee
was accustomed to do, would murmur sadly, after they had listened a
while: "It is only the wind or the call of a bird." At which the
unhappy woman, with a great effort to be calm, would sigh: "Let us say
the Rosary again." Joan, whose face was stained with tears, and her
eyes swollen and red from weeping, responded as best she could between
her sobs.

Poor Joan learned in those hours what a terrible punishment is that of
remorse. Amid all her thoughts of Tilderee one scene was ever before
her: the picture of a rosy culprit, with tangled curls and beseeching
eyes, grieved at the mischief she had done, and stammering, "I'm so
sorry, Joan!" And then herself, as she snatched up the doll and
answered harshly: "You naughty girl! I wish you didn't live here! I
wish I hadn't any little sister at all!" Well, her wish had come true:
Tilderee was gone. Perhaps she would never live in the log house
again. There was no "little plague" to vex or bother Joan now. The
lighter chores, which were her part of the housework, could be finished
twice as soon, and afterward she would have plenty of time to do as she
liked: to play with and sew for Angelina, for instance. Angelina!--how
she hated the very name! She never wanted even to see the doll again.
Tilderee might get up a "make-believe" funeral, and bury it under the
white rosebush. Yes, that would be the prettiest spot; and for old
affection's sake the thing should be done properly if she came back,
--ah, _if_! And then Joan would put her head down upon the table or a
chair, whichever happened to be near, or hide her face in the folds of
her apron, and cry: "What _shall_ I do without Tilderee! Oh, if God
will only give her back to us, I will never say a cross or angry word
again!"

Dawn brought no news of the lost child, and the dreary night of
suspense was succeeded by a day of anguish. At intervals the seekers
sent a message back to the desolate home. Sometimes it was: "Keep up
your courage; we trust all will be well." Or, "Though we have not yet
found the child, please God we will soon restore her to you," and so
on. But, soften it as they could, the fact remained--their expedition
had been fruitless: Tilderee was still lost. They at length despaired
of gaining trace or tidings of her, and agreed that it was useless to
continue the search.

"She must have fallen over a precipice," maintained one of the men.

"If so, we should have met with some sign--" argued another, hesitating
at the thought of what that sign might be.

"It is probable that she has been stolen by the Indians," said
Lieutenant Miller, of the Fort; "and we must adopt other means to
recover her."

Once more dusk was approaching, and they were about to turn back,
when--hark! there was a shout from the borders of the canon beyond. A
few moments before, Abe, the old scout, had disappeared in that
direction. As he pressed onward he presently discovered that, in a
wavering line, the brambles seemed to have been recently trodden down.
A little farther on, almost hidden among the briers and dry leaves, lay
a withered wild flower, like those that grew in the plain below; and
farther still, caught upon a bush, was a bit of the fringe of a shawl,
so small that it might have escaped any but his "hunter's eye." As he
stood still, with senses alert, he heard a sound amid the brush; and,
turning quickly, saw that which made him send forth the ringing halloo
to his comrades. It was a little dog crawling down toward a hollow,
where a spring of water gushed from the ground.

"Fudge!" he called, softly. The dog started, fawned upon him with a
low whine; and, with many backward glances to make sure that he was
following, led the way to a high rock which shelved inward, forming a
sort of canopy above the bank. There, in the rude recess, as he felt
confident would be the case, was the lost child. At first he feared
she might be dead, so pale and motionless she lay; but when he
whispered gently, "Tilderee!" the white eyelids fluttered, then
unclosed; the dull eyes lighted up in recognition, and she smiled a
wan, weak little smile. Once more Abe's cheery voice rang out,
calling, "Found! found!" and the woods and cliffs made merry with the
echoes. His companions hastened toward the ravine; but he met them
half way, carrying the little one in his arms.

What a shout of joy greeted the sight! What a feeling of thankfulness
filled each heart! Mr. Prentiss, strong man though he was, at the
relaxing of the terrible tension, fainted like a woman. For a second
Peter felt his brain in a whirl, then he leaped upon Twinkling Hoofs,
whom he had been leading by the bridle, breathed a word in the ear of
the clever mustang, and sped away like the wind, "to tell them at
home." Who could describe the emotions of the fond mother when, half
an hour later, she clasped her darling to her breast?

What a happy stillness reigned in the house for hours, while Tilderee
was tenderly brought back from the verge of starvation! In the
beginning she was too feeble to speak; but after a while Mrs. Prentiss
noticed that she wanted to say something, and, bending over her, caught
the tremulous words: "Oh mother, I'll never be disobedient any more!"
It was then that the good woman, who, as the saying is, "had kept up"
wonderfully, was overcome, and wept unrestrainedly.

As for Joan, it seemed to her that there could never be any mourning or
sadness again. When she had done everything possible for Tilderee, she
lavished attentions upon Fudge, and announced to him that henceforth he
was to be called Fido (faithful); at which he wagged his tail, as if he
found the _role_ of hero quite to his liking. Joan's heart was so
light that she wished everyone in the world could share her happiness;
but whether she laughed or chattered, or hummed a little song to
herself, the refrain of all this gladness was "Oh, how good God is!
How good God is!"

A LITTLE WHITE DRESS.

"Only three weeks more, Constance. Aren't you glad?" said Lillie to
her little companion and neighbor as they hurried to school.

"Indeed I am. But it's so long in coming!" sighed Constance. "The
days never seemed to go so slowly before."

"I have made a calendar, and every morning I cross off a date; there
are already seven gone since the 1st of May," explained Lillie, with a
satisfied air, as if she had discovered the secret of adding "speed to
the wings of time." "We shall not have a great while to wait now."

Was it a grand holiday that our young friends were anticipating so
eagerly, or the summer vacation, now drawing near? One might suppose
something of the kind. But not at all. On the approaching Feast of
the Ascension they were to make their First Communion; and, being
convent-bred little girls, every thought and act had been directed to
preparation for this great event, to which they looked forward with the
artless fervor natural to innocent childhood. No one must imagine,
however, that they were diminutive prudes, with long faces. Is not a
girl or boy gayest when his or her heart has no burden upon it? In
fact, it would have been hard to find two merrier folk, even upon this
bright spring morning.

Lillie was a sprightly creature, who, somehow, always reminded Sister
Agnes of one of the angels in Murillo's picture, "The Immaculate
Conception,"--a lively, happy-go-lucky, rollicking angel, who plays
hide-and-seek among the folds of Our Lady's mantle, and appears almost
beside himself with the gladness of heaven's sunlight. Yet Lillie was
by no means an angel. She had her faults of course, and these often
sadly tried the patience of the good Sister. She was quick-tempered,
volatile, inclined to be a trifle vain. Alas that it is so hard to
keep a child's heart like a garden enclosed as with a fragrant hedge,
laden with the blossoms of sweet thoughts,--safely shut in from the
chilling winds of worldliness! She was lovable withal, generous,
affectionate, and would make a fine woman if properly trained.

Constance, a year older, was more sedate, though with plenty of quiet
fun about her. But, as a general thing, she knew when to be serious
and when to play,--a bit of wisdom which Sister Agnes frequently wished
she could manage to impart to the others of the band of aspirants, of
whom the gentle nun had special charge.

Constance and Lillie were nearly always together. Now, as they
tripped, onward, they were as happy as the birds in the trees above
them, and their voices as pleasant to hear. Having turned the corner,
they began to meet a company of children, who came along, sometimes in
groups, again in detachments of twos and threes, all clad in white,
with white veils upon their heads and floating about them as they
passed joyously on, as if keeping time to the music of their own happy
hearts. Poor children they were, most of them, with plain, ordinary
faces, but upon which now shone a light that made one think of old
sweet stories,--of St. Ursula and her throng of spotless maidens; of
Genevieve, the child-shepherdess of Nanterre. Who that has ever
witnessed such a scene can forget it!--this flock of fair, spotless
doves amid the dust or mire of the city streets, that by their very
passing bring even to the indifferent spectator a thought above gain or
traffic,--a memory perhaps of guileless days and noble aspirations, as,
looking up at the blue, calm sky, perchance he likens them to the snowy
cloudlets that gather nearest to the sun and are irradiated by its
brightness.

"Why," exclaimed Constance, "here come the first communicants of St.
Joseph's parish! They must be just going home from Mass. How happy
they all are, and how pretty in their white dresses!"

"They do look lovely," assented Lillie, readily. "How could they help
it? And some of the dresses are nice, but surely you see, Connie, that
others are made of dreadfully common material, and the veils are coarse
cotton stuff."

"Well, I suppose they couldn't afford any better," returned Constance,
regretfully.

"I declare there's Annie Brogan, whose mother works for us!--don't you
know?" cried Lillie, darting toward a girl who had parted with several
others at a cross-street and was walking on alone.

As Constance did know, she hastened to greet her, and to vie with
Lillie in congratulating her. "O Annie, what a happy day for
you!"--"What a favored girl you are!"--"I almost envy you!"--"We have
three whole weeks to wait yet!" This is about what they said, again and
again, within the next few minutes; while Annie turned from one to the
other, with an added gentleness of manner, a smile upon her lips, and a
more thoughtful expression in her grey eyes.

Yes, she was happy; she felt that this was indeed the most beautiful
day of her life. To be almost envied, too, by such girls as Lillie
Davis and Constance Hammond! This was almost incredible; and so she
continued to smile at them, putting in a word now and then, while they
chattered on like a pair of magpies, and all three were in perfect
sympathy.

Presently Lillie chanced to glance at the little communicant's white
gown, which, though fresh and dainty as loving hands could make it, was
unmistakably well worn, and in some places had evidently been carefully
darned; indeed, her sharp eyes discovered even a tiny tear in the
skirt, as if Annie had unwittingly put her fingers through it when
searching for the pocket.

"Why, Annie Brogan," she exclaimed, thoughtlessly, "you did not wear
that dress to make your First Communion!"

"Yes, to be sure. Did not mother do it up nicely?" answered Annie,
with naive appreciation of the patient, painstaking skill which had
laid the small tucks so neatly, and fluted the thin ruffles without
putting a hole through them. "And mother was saying, when she was at
work on it, how thankful we ought to be to have it; since, much as she
wished to buy a dress for me, she would not have been able to do so,
with the rent and everything to pay; and how good your mamma was to
give it to me."

"Pshaw!" rejoined Lillie. "I could have given you a dress ten times
better than that if I had only remembered. Mamma just happened to put
that in with a bundle of some of my last summer's clothes, which she
hoped Mrs. Brogan might find useful. But she never dreamed you would
wear it to-day."

"I thought it was so nice!" said Annie, coloring, while a few tears of
chagrin and disappointment sprang to her eyes; somehow, a shadow seemed
to have unaccountably arisen to dim the brightness of this fairest of
days,--a wee bit of a shadow, felt rather than defined.

"So it is nice!" declared Constance, frowning at impulsive Lillie, to
warn her that she had blundered. "It is ironed perfectly; your mother
has made it look beautiful. And what a pretty veil you have!"

"Yes, I did buy that," replied Annie, in a more cheerful tone.

"Oh, it's all right! And Our Lord must have welcomed you gladly,
Annie, you are so good and sweet," added Lillie. "I didn't mean any
harm in noticing your dress; it was only one of my stupid speeches."

Lillie looked so sorry and vexed with herself that Annie laughed. The
shadow was lifted; the children wished one another good-bye; Annie went
homeward, while the others quickened their pace, fearing that they
would be late for school.

But the circumstance had made an impression, especially upon Lillie;
and at the noon recreation, which the first communicants spent
together, she hastened to tell her companions about it.

"Just imagine!" she cried; "Annie Brogan made her First Communion this
morning, and she wore an old dress of mine,--an old dress, all mended
up, that mamma gave her!"

"The idea!"--"What was she thinking of?" etc., etc.; such were the
exclamations with which this announcement was greeted. Most of the
girls did not know in the least of whom Lillie was speaking, but it was
the fact which created such a sensation.

"Why didn't she get a new one?" inquired Eugenia Dillon, a girl of a
haughty disposition, who attached a great deal of importance to costly
clothes.

"Hadn't any money," responded Lillie, nibbling at a delicious pickled
lime which she had produced from a corner of her lunch basket.

"Then I'd wait till I had--"

"Oh, not put off your First Communion!" protested one of the group.

"Why, yes," returned Eugenia, conscious that she had scandalized them a
little and trying to excuse herself. "It is not respectful or proper
not to be fitly dressed for such a great occasion."

"But Annie was as neat as could be," said Constance; "and looked as
pretty as a picture, too. I'm sure Our Lord was as pleased with her as
if she were dressed like a princess, because she is such a good little
thing."

"Come, Connie, don't preach!" objected Eugenia, impatiently. "Besides,
how could she have looked pretty in a mended dress? I wish you could
see the one I'm going to have! It's to be of white silk,--the best
that can be got at Brown's."

"It won't be any more beautiful than mine. I'm to have tulle," said
Lillie.

"And I--" continued Constance.

"Mine is to be trimmed with point-lace," broke in another.

"And I'm to wear mamma's diamonds," boasted somebody else.

"You can't," demurred a quiet girl, who had not spoken before. "Sister
Agnes said that we are not to be allowed to wear jewelry or silk
either; and that, though the material for the dresses may be of as fine
a quality as we choose, they ought not be showy or elaborate."

"That is all very well to say," answered Eugenia. "The nuns can
enforce these rules in their boarding-schools, but hardly in a
day-school like this. We'll wear what we please, or what our mothers
select. Mamma has decided to get the white silk for me, because so
many of our friends will be present, and she wants my dress to be the
handsomest of any."

This information was received without comment, but it aroused in some
foolish little hearts a feeling of envy, and in others a desire of
emulation.

Eugenia Dillon was the richest girl in the school. Her father, a
plain, sensible man, who had lacked early advantages, had within a few
years amassed a considerable fortune, which he would gladly have
enjoyed in an unostentatious, unpretending manner. This, however, did
not suit his wife at all. Mrs. Dillon, though a kind-hearted,
charitable woman, was excessively fond of style, lavishly extravagant,
and inclined to parade her wealth upon all occasions. She did not
realize that the very efforts she made to attain the position in
society which would have come to her naturally if she had but the
patience to wait, caused her to be sneered at as a _parvenu_ by those
whose acquaintance she most desired. Unconscious of all this, she
pursued her way in serene self-satisfaction,--a complacency shared by
Eugenia, who delighted in the good fortune and bad taste which
permitted her to wear dresses of silk or velvet to school every day in
the week, and caused her to be as much admired as a little figure in a
fashion-plate by those of her companions who were too unsophisticated
to know that vain display is a mark of vulgarity.

"Oh children, children!" exclaimed Sister Agnes, who caught the drift
of the conversation as she came into the room. "Do not be troubling
your precious little heads about the fashions. We must all trust
something to the good sense of your mammas that you will be suitably
gowned. Certainly it is eminently fitting that one should be
beautifully attired to honor the visit of the King of kings.
Considered in this light, no robe could be too rich, no ornament too
splendid. But, lest a small thought of vanity should creep in to spoil
the exalted motive, the custom is to adopt a lovely simplicity. If you
notice, we never think of the angels as weighed down with jewels.
Bestow some of this anxiety upon the preparation of your hearts; see
that you are clothed in the royal robes of grace; deck yourself with
the jewels of virtue,--rubies for love, emeralds for hope, pearls for
contrition, diamonds for faith, and purity. It was with gems like
these that the holy maidens, Saints Agnes, Philomena, and Lucy, chose
to adorn themselves, rather than with the contents of their trinket
caskets."

Thus the nun continued to speak to the band of little girls, who had
eagerly gathered around her; thus was she wont to teach them lessons of
wisdom in a sprightly, gay, happy-hearted way, as if generosity,
unselfishness and self-denial were the most natural traits imaginable,
and the whole world fair because it is God's world, and we are all His
children. Was it this spirit of joyousness which attracted young
people especially to her, and gave her such an influence with them?

"Somehow, when Sister Agnes talks to me," even so flighty a little
personage as Lillie Davis said one day, "I feel as if I could make any
sacrifice quite as a matter of course, and without a speck of fuss
about it."

"Yes," agreed Connie. "She seems to take your hand in her strong one
and to lead you up a stony, hilly path; and then, when you come to the
roughest, steepest places, she almost carries you onward; and you are
ashamed to complain that you are tired, because, though she is so
gentle with you, she does not mind such trifles at all herself--"

"She makes me think," interrupted Lillie, "of the pleasant, sunshiny
breeze that comes up sometimes on a cloudy morning, and chases away the
mists through which everything looks so queerly, and lets us see things
as they really are."

Lillie's quaint comparison was an apt one, as was proved in the present
instance.

When Sister Agnes had gone the subject which the girls had been
discussing presented a different aspect, and the keynote of her
character which always impressed them--"Do noble deeds, not dream them
all day long,"--caused them now to feel dissatisfied with themselves
and to cast about for something to do. This reminded Constance again
of Annie Brogan and the white dress that Lillie had regarded with so
much scorn.

"Girls," said she, "wouldn't it be nice if we could give a dress and
veil, and whatever is necessary, to some poor child who is to make her
First Communion on the same day as ourselves? Perhaps, too, we could
arrange to have her make it with us. Don't you think this would make
us happy, and be a good way to prepare?"

"It's a grand idea, Connie!" proclaimed Lillie, with ready enthusiasm.

"How could we do it?" asked the quiet girl, coming to the practical
question at once.

"By giving up some of our ribbons and candies and knickknacks during
the next few weeks, maybe," continued Constance earnestly, thinking it
out as she went along. "Suppose we all agree to get the pretty dresses
the nuns wish us to wear on that day, instead of the showy ones we
want? They would not cost as much, and our mothers would, I am sure,
let us use the extra money in this way."

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