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Apples, Ripe and Rosy, Sir by Mary Catherine Crowley

Part 4 out of 4

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"And you must not breathe a word of it to anybody--not even to Teresa!"
said Ellen.

"Oh, no!" said Elsie, quite flattered that such a big girl should
confide in her.

Then--ah, merry Ellen!--did she not go herself and tell Teresa,
charging her also not to reveal it? Later she took occasion to say a
word to Frances upon the same topic.

"Splendid!" cried the latter. "I'll not speak of it, I promise you."

Finally, Ellen suggested the very same thing to Will, who chuckled,
looked at Joe, and asked:

"Are you sure you're on the right track?"

"You'll see if I'm not!" replied Ellen.

"Well, all I say is," he went on, condescendingly, "you've hit upon a
capital scheme; and you may bet your boots on it that I won't do
anything to spoil it."

The girl looked down at her strong but shapely shoes (she was a bit
vain of her neat foot), and thought that she would not be so unladylike
as to 'bet her boots' on anything. But, as Will's observation was
entirely impersonal, and intended as a pledge that he would follow her
instructions, she made no comment. Moreover, she had now brought about
the state of affairs which she had mischievously designed. Each of
the party except Joe supposed that he or she had a secret with Ellen
which the others knew nothing about; to each she had whispered her
conjecture regarding Joe's purpose, and planned that they, the two of
them, should please him by joining in it, without intimating their
intention to him or any one. What a general astonishment and amusement
there would be when it came out that all had known what each had been
enjoying as a secret!

Meantime they had been active, and each had gathered a fair quantity of
pretty flowers--arbutus, violets, anemones, and cherry blooms; to which
Teresa and Elsie insisted upon adding buttercups and even dandelions.
Now the sun was going down, and they gaily turned their steps toward
home.

III.

"A happy May-day!" the children called to one another the next morning,
as they set out, at a very early hour, upon their pleasant round of
floral gift-leaving. Before doing so, however, each had held a special
conference with Ellen.

"Yes, I've managed it. Won't everybody be surprised?" she quietly
agreed again and again. And yet _how_ surprised everybody would be
only sportive Ellen knew.

At half-past seven they reassembled for breakfast, which Elsie and Will
took with their cousins. What a comparing of notes there was during
the meal! Teresa had been caught hanging a basket at her little
friend, Mollie Emerson's. Will's mother had seen him dodging round the
corner after fastening one on the front gate for her.

"O Joe! what did you do with that beautiful basket you arranged with so
much care,--the large one with the freshest flowers, I mean?" asked
Frances, with an ingenious air.

"Never mind!" answered Joe laconically, helping himself to another
glass of milk.

Everyone stole a knowing look at Ellen, without noticing that everyone
else was doing so; but that young lady imperturbably buttered a second
muffin, and studiously fixed her eyes on the tablecloth.

"Come, there is the Mass bell ringing!" called Mr. Moore from the hall.
A stampede followed. To be late for Mass on May-day would be
inexcusable.

Shortly afterward, our friends filed into the Moore's family pew in the
village church. As Joe knelt down he turned his gaze with a gentle,
happy expression to the Blessed Virgin's shrine. The next moment he
started, and cast a glance of pleased inquiry toward Ellen. His sister
smiled back at him, then bowed her head to recover her gravity.
Hanging from the altar-rail, directly before the statue of Our Lady,
was Joe's handsomest May-basket, just as he knew it would be; for he
had fastened it there himself the first thing in the morning. But
there also were five other pretty baskets,--the offering which each of
his sisters and cousins had made, unknown to one another. The pleasant
discovery created a momentary flutter in the pew, but that was
all--then.

So this was Ellen's surprise! Each silently admitted that it was a
good one. When they left the church, however, they had a merry time
over it.

"But, Ellen, how did you know what I was going to do with my basket?"
asked Joe at last.

"I didn't until I heard you humming the new May hymn which we learned
last Sunday," replied Ellen; "that reminded me of what mother said
about the old May customs. I wondered if you were thinking of this
too, and presently it all flashed upon me."

"Well, if you are not a true Yankee at guessing!" was his only answer.

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