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Miss Theodosia's Heartstrings by Annie Hamilton Donnell

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her former incarnation, stood Miss Theodosia in good stead! As she had
bathed and rubbed and powdered her first baby eons ago, she bathed and
rubbed and powdered this second one now. For she called Elly Precious
her baby. That was their beautiful play.

"We'll keep it a secret, won't we?--just between you and me, dear! We
won't even tell Evangeline that you're my darlin' dear," she crooned
over this second baby. Elly Precious played the game; he was a little
sport, was Elly Precious.

The morning after the little new-nightgown episode, the bath progressed
thrillingly. That was, it seemed, the morning set by Elly Precious to
give this new mother a glorious surprise. It could not be said that he
had it up his little sleeve, being innocent of any manner of garment,
but he had it prepared.

Miss Theodosia dried the tiny body and set it far forward on her knees,
facing her, and began as usual:

"Now, baby, watch--watch hard! Make exactly the same noise I do." She
put her lips in position for clear enunciation.


Customarily, Elly Precious sat and chuckled gleefully and nakedly. This
was a favorite play. But, oh, to-day--

"Mum--mum," said Elly Precious distinctly. Miss Theodosia caught him to
her, slippery and sweet, with a cry of rapture.

"You said it! You said it, Elly Precious--darlin' dear! Now I shall wrap
you in a beautiful soft blanket and sing you a jiggy tune! Before I
dress you in horrid, bothery sleeves, we'll rock, and rock, you and
make-believe mum-mum!"

The big chair creaked delightsomely to the ears of Elly Precious. To its
accompaniment sang Miss Theodosia.

"Darlin' Dear! Darlin' Dear, Mum-Mum's here--oh, Elly Precious, I shall
send you to college! Of course, to college. You shall be a doctor--" Was
that the chair creaking, or a door? It was a door. On the doorsill stood
the Reformed Doctor, gazing in. The blanket had slipped away and it was
a beautiful, bare Elly Precious in Miss Theodosia's arms, against her
breast. The little picture stood out, distinct. But so soon it faded.
She was on her feet and facing that treacherous doorway. Flames burned
on her cheeks.

"Is it anything to be ashamed of to pretend he is my baby! Well, I've
done it--I'm pretending now. We were having a beautiful time till--"

"Till I came."

"Till you came. You heard what I said about making a doctor of him, I

He nodded. "I heard," he said meekly.

"But you didn't give me time to say it all. I was going to say he'd stay
a doctor and not reform!" With which Parthian shot, delivered with
spirit, Miss Theodosia turned her back and Elly Precious' back to the
intruder. What was left for him to do but retire, vanquished and
diminished? The business of the bath went on, but joyless now. There was
no further putting off of the horrid, bothery sleeves that Elly Precious
abhorred. He set up indignant wails, and Miss Theodosia's soul wailed in

"All our dear good time spoiled! We're not pretending any more; you're
Evangeline's darlin' dear. I'll put you on the bed and give you your
bottle." So abruptly had the beautiful game come to an end. Miss
Theodosia went away to prepare the bottle. As she went, a glint of white
underneath the door to out-of-doors caught her attention. Evangeline had
not tucked it under as far as usual. Perhaps it was not unnatural,
considering her new mood, that Miss Theodosia picked up the little
letter almost impatiently.

"He says he can come home day after to-morrow if he don't colapse, so
Stefana is cleaning the house and I'm helping and we can't hardly wait.
We've got a new cloesbasket Stefana's going to make bows for the
handles, tell Elly Precious.

"P. S. Pink bows."

Miss Theodosia was not impatient as she folded the little letter again.
Tears stood in her eyes. She hurried back, bottleless, to Elly Precious,
to tell him. That he had fallen asleep made no difference.

"You are going home day after to-morrow! Dream it in a little dream,
dear. When you wake up, it will be true. They can't hardly wait and
there's a new 'cloesbasket' with bows--P. S., pink bows. Oh, Elly
Precious, you know you're glad to go home! You've been pretending, too!"
Game little Elly Precious, to pretend! She stooped and kissed his eyes,
close shut in that dream of going home. "They are cleaning the house,"
she whispered, "they can't hardly wait."

A prescience of awful loneliness swept over her. She saw Theodosia
Baxter--lone and babyless again--set back in her empty house. The
curtain had gone down--would go down day after to-morrow--on the last
beautiful act.

"But I have two days left! I demand my pound--fifteen little pounds of
flesh!" Elly Precious' little pink flesh. She would play that last act
of the little game of make-believe. Intruders or no intruders, she would
play it! At once, she began again where they had left off.

"You will have to go to college very young, dear," she said. "They are
going to take you away from me day after tomorrow. A day and a half is
such a little college course; you'd be such a little Freshman, Elly
Precious! So we will have to give it up, dear. We'll just spend our last
days together. Who wants to know Latin and Greek anyway? I'll teach you
to pat little cakes in English!" Surely, surely she must have taught her
first baby to pat-a-cake. The blundering little hands in hers felt
strangely familiar. The first baby had been just as funny and sweet as
Elly Precious at that little lesson.

"If I only had a little more time!" sighed Miss Theodosia. "There is so
much left for us to do; it is cruel to hurry us so! We might--we might
run away, dear! You and I. To Europe and Asia and Africa! I'd show you
all the wonders of the world. Listen, Elly Precious,--the _pyramids_!
Wouldn't you love to see the pyramids? You could play in the warm sand,
anyway,--bury your little twelve toes deep! We would keep watch all the
time and _run_ when we saw Evangeline coming. We would never stop to put
on our shoes and stock--Elly Precious, you've gone to sleep!" So little
was he thrilled at the prospect of pyramids.

Miss Theodosia rocked him gently in her arms. Perhaps she would rock him
the whole day and a half--they could not prevent her! She would not stop
rocking if twenty Reformed Doctors came and looked at her. She would
rock in their faces!

A sudden and queer thought came to her of Cornelia Dunlap standing in
the doorway, looking in as John Bradford had done.

She saw the wreck of Cornelia's plump calm--Cornelia's wide-eyed
amazement. After she had reluctantly deposited the small, limp body upon
the couch to finish out the nap, she got her writing materials and wrote
to Cornelia Dunlap, with a whimsical little smile playing about her
lips. Her pen moved fast across the sheet.

"The baby is having a beautiful nap. While he is asleep, I can write to
you. Of course my time is limited--'what with' scalding and filling
bottles and giving little baths--Cornelia Dunlap, go and get a little
baby and wash him! In a tub, with your sleeves rolled up. Let him splash
the water into your face--over your dress--hear him laugh! Give him the
soap for a little ship a-sailing. Oh, Cornelia, teach him to pat-a-cake!
Get a baby with the measles if there's no other way. You will love him
in between all his little measles. But, listen to me; _take this
advice_: Don't let them take him back! Hold on to both his little hands.
Run away to Africa with him if there is no other way--he will love to
play in the sand beside the pyramids. Send him to college, Cornelia, and
I think--yes, make a doctor of him. Doctors are best.

"Morituri salutamus--we who are about to lose our babies and die wish
you happiness with yours, is the free translation. _Hold on to yours_.
He is a dear, I know. He may be as dear as mine, but he hasn't twelve

* * * * *

"Mercy gracious!"

It was the two days later and it was Evangeline. The child's radiant
face lighted up the room.

"He let me come! I promised Stefana I wouldn't kiss him till I got him
home so's she could, too. He said to kiss his neck or behind his ears."
As usual no confusion of personal pronouns troubled Evangeline.

"Mercy gracious!--oh, mercy gracious, he's improved! He's fatter! I
never thought measles'd be fattenin'! You're glad to see me, aren't you,
darlin' dear? I'm Evangeline! I've come to take you home. We've got
everything ready, only one bow, an' Stefana's piecin' that. Oh--my
darlin' dear!"

The curtain had gone down. Theodosia Baxter stood quite alone in her big
room. In her ears was suddenly the shriek of a steam whistle of welcome;
it died away, and the silence ached. A crumpled something half under a
chair caught her eye and she openly sobbed. It was a forgotten little

"I'm going to Rome--I'm going to Paris--to Anywhere! I can't stand
this!" she wailed. And then the creak of a door again.

He stood on the door-sill looking in.


"I've done it again!" came from the doorway repentantly, "but this time
I knocked, honest to goodness. Regular bangs! You ought to have heard,"
his tone assuming an injured cadence.

Miss Theodosia had recovered herself. She was unfeignedly glad to see
him this time.

"Maybe it was you, steam-whistling," she laughed. "I heard that! Oh, I
am glad enough you came this time! You've saved me from a trip to
Rome--tea is so much less expensive! I'll go and get it." She was off
directly and back again in remarkably quick time with her little kettle
and lamp. "Less time and fuss, too. See how little baggage! Now, Rome--"

"Don't mention Rome!" There was a deep note in John Bradford's voice. He
watched her making the tea. Miss Theodosia's hands were worth watching.

"Speaking of steam whistles reminds me of ears," he said.

"Naturally! The two go together, all right!" But she saw that his face
remained grave. "Oh!--you mean the steam-whistler's ears--I see."

"Yes, I have examined them rather carefully. They aren't hopeless little
ears--not hopeless. I'm not ready to go any farther than that yet. But I
intend--you see, I specialized in ears and a few other things at the
University--in practice, too, before--before I reformed."

Quickly Miss Theodosia looked up.

"There! You are harking back; please don't hark back! It was mean in me
to say it. I'm sorry! If I'd sent Elly Precious to college--while he was
my baby--and given him a doctor's degree, he could have taken it or left
it. He'd have had a right. Men have rights to their own lives."

"Sure," but John Bradford's tone was thoughtful rather than emphatic.
"Still--I sometimes wonder--"

"Why?--tell me why!" Now she was championing the Reformed Doctor! "You
could do as you pleased, couldn't you? It was your own life you were
'reforming.' Still, I wonder, too. Tell me how it happened."

"How do I know how it happened?" He was walking up and down the room.
"It was in my blood to write stories. I wrote them every chance I could
get. Had to write them. I suppose I woke up to the rather decent
conclusion that a man can't serve two masters and serve them well. Isn't
efficient. So I chose my favorite master. There you have it in a
nutshell. May I have mine in a teacup?"

She filled the dainty shell, but it rattled a little on its saucer. Miss
Theodosia felt about for less moving things; she was strangely moved.

"How is the love story getting on?" she asked.

"The--oh! Well, it had a setback awhile ago. Setbacks are not good for
love stories. But I shall go to work on it again."

"At once--to-day?" What was this sudden freak of hers to drive him to
work?--the work she had all but derided before.

"To-day. I'm working on it now--that is--er--"

"Before and after--tea," she smiled. "Well, I shall help you all I can
on that story. I feel in a penitent mood. When you begin on it again--"

"I've begun on it again."

"After you go home, I mean. When you go to work again, make believe I'm
David Copperfield's Dora--holding the pens!" Too late she saw her error
and hedged. "Or cups of tea to keep up your strength."

"I like pens better. If Dora were there--"

"One more cup? You've only had one. The cups are no size at all. And
while you drink it, tell me about your heroine. What have you named

"Dora," he said promptly. "You see, you've helped already."

It was pleasant, drinking tea like this, with John Bradford there,
opposite, having his second cup. A pleasant way to drink tea--with a
John! Miss Theodosia hugged herself happily. Even the forgotten little
nightgown on the floor failed to diminish her content. She had not
forgotten Elly Precious; she was merely making the most of the
ameliorations the gods offered. The kind gods. But conscience had to put
in its pious oar.

"I'm having a beautiful time; I don't know whether you are or not. But
I'm going to send you back to that love story. I hope the Recording
Angel will give me a white mark for it, or cross out a black one. The
goodness of me! I've been sitting here trying to strangle my conscience,
but you see it isn't my own--it's my grandmother's conscience; you have
to respect your grandmother's conscience. You'll have to go."

"I can work on it here," he pleaded, but she shook her head mournfully.

"I haven't the materials. It takes special paper, doesn't it, and pens?"

"I could--er--think up my plot."

"With me talking a blue streak? I should talk a blue streak; that's my
grandmother's, too. No, you must go. How will you ever get it done, if
you don't?"

"I sha'n't if I do. Staying here is doing me good. I need to 'get up
more strength.'"

She laughed, but remembered her grandmother. "No more tea," she said
kindly. "Conscience! But I'll tell you--you may come back after you've



And for many to-morrows he came back. On one of them the talk once more
reverted to the book that the Story Man was understood to be writing, in
some mysterious Place of Pens and Paper.

"I hope it's a regular romance," Miss Theodosia said.

"Romance? What is that? Is there such a thing? There may have been

Miss Theodosia's fair cheeks took on faint color. She turned upon him.

"Once nothing! I can't help it if that is slang; the occasion demands
slang. Are you trying to tell me romance is dead?"

He nodded. "Sterilized--Pasteurized--boiled out of us. I suppose," he
sighed, "we are more hygienic, but we have faded in the process. It
dulls romance to Pasteurize it."

She held up a staying hand.

"Please!" she said, "in words of one syllable and maybe you can convince
me. But you can't. Do you mean to say there are no sweet, blushing girls
left, with--with dreams?"

Again his sigh. It pained him to disillusion her.

"Not blushing ones. I tell you the color won't stand our modern
sterilization process. I misdoubt the dreams, too. If they dream 'em,
they're of independence and careers and votes; you wouldn't call those
romantic dreams, would you? The little 'clinging vines'--" he waved them
back into the past with a comprehensive sweep of his hand--"all gone.
Our present-day soil is too invigorating, too stimulating. The
young things stand up on their own roots. No more clinging. Each one
aspires to be a spunky little tree by herself. Look at 'em and see for
yourself--the subways and elevateds are full of 'em at the crush hours,
nights and mornings--all glorying in their independence--their fine,
strong, young roots. No blushing, no clinging there! Are you convinced?"

"I am not," flashed Miss Theodosia gamely. "There must be one little
dreamer of love dreams left."

"Show her to me."

"That isn't fair. I'm not in a way to know girls. I know just Stefana."

"And Evangeline."

"And Evangeline," laughed Miss Theodosia.

"Is she romantic?" demanded the Story Man. And there he had Miss
Theodosia. She had instant vision of Evangeline growing, straight and
thrifty already, on her own small roots. It was not possible to
visualize a blushing--a clinging little Evangeline.

"She is still young," Miss Theodosia murmured. "Besides, she's one of a
kind. There's only one Evangeline. You can't reason by only one of
anything. The exception proves the rule."

"Then you yield me Evangeline?"

"Yes, you may have her on your side," conceded Miss Theodosia
generously. It was rather in the way of a relief to shift the
responsibility for Evangeline. Miss Theodosia suddenly bubbled into low

"She is going to be a plumber."

"Evangeline a plumber?"

"Yes, because she's got to be rich, she says. She's 'sick 'n' tired' of
being poor, and you can make such _darlin_', roary, snappy fires in a
tin pail! Plumberin' will be fun."

He laughed a little, too, enjoyingly, but returned to his arguings. Said

"_Be_ a plumber, not marry one, you see. What did I tell you? Oh, you
have no monopoly on Evangelines! The woods are full of tame Evangelines,
anyway. You will have to come over to my side."

"Not at all. I haven't given up my own side. I shall hold on a little
while longer. I am not going to admit _yet_ that all sentiment is dead
and buried. And, anyhow, I don't see what it's being dead or alive has
to do with your story. I thought authors were creators. Can't you create
a little sentiment--romance? To my order?" she added demurely.

Replied the Story Man with grave eyes: "I shall do my best. We are a
good deal at the mercy of our heroines. But I will do all that I can to
win mine over, dear lady. Heaven knows I want to!"

"Then you are on my side now; you have changed your mind!" she cried
tauntingly. "Woman, thy name is not Fickleness, it is thy husband's
name! Well, I am glad it is going to be my kind of a story. How did I
know but it was to be a historical novel or a problem story--ugh! And,
instead, you're going to make love to your heroine in the dear old
thrilly way."

He stirred in his seat, and his eyes sought his hostess. But Miss
Theodosia's eyes were cheerfully following the infinitesimal stitches
with which she was rimming an infinitesimal round hole in the bit of
linen in her hand.

"How far have you got?" she questioned over a new stitch.

"Not very far," sadly; "I think I am a little afraid of my heroine."

"Mercy gracious! Well, I think I'd take her by the ear and march her
round to suit myself! If I wanted her to say '_yes_'--do you want her to
say 'yes'?"

Did he want her to say yes!

"I'm trying to lead her up to it," he said gently. Miss Theodosia bit
off her thread.

"March her up to it, march her! You're too gentle with her. What is the
use of being a Story Man? Might as well be a plumber like Evangeline!"

It was at this moment that Evangeline appeared on the little Flagg
horizon. They saw her coming their way, loaded as usual with Elly
Precious. The sag of her wiry little figure on the Elly Precious side
appealed strongly to Miss Theodosia. She dropped her foolish bit of
linen and hurried to meet that little sag. When she came back with Elly
Precious in her own arms, the Story Man was wandering away. He waved his
hat to them smilingly.

"Please drop him--drop Elly Precious," Evangeline said, "anywheres
_soft_. I don't want him to distrack your mind. You play with your dolly
an' be a darlin' dear, Elly Precious, while we talk."

Very gently Evangeline subtracted Elly Precious from Miss Theodosia and
removed him to an undisturbing distance. Then she returned and stood
before Miss Theodosia.

"Stefana was born to-morrow," Evangeline stated gravely. "You didn't
know, of course, nor neither did I till it kind of came out. I told
him," nodding in the direction taken by the Story Man. "We plotted up a
hatch--I mean we hatched up a plot. He said to talk it over with you. I
don't know what he's goin' to do, but he'll do it--he said he would. An'
I thought--I thought--" Unwonted hesitations disturbed Evangeline's
smooth flow of speech. She sat down suddenly.

"I guess I can say it easier sittin' than I could standin'. It's some
hard to say--it's so kind of _bareheaded_. But I don't know what else
to do. You see, Stefana'd hear me beatin' the eggs an' stirrin', if I
did 'em at home. An' besides, it would fall--oh, mercy gracious, I know
it would! I thought if I could do it over here--"

"Evangeline," Miss Theodosia said gently, "drop your voice at a period
and begin all over with a capital letter. Take your time, dear."

Said Evangeline with a sigh: "I'll try standin' up. I guess I kind of
mixed you up, didn't I? You see, what I _meant_ was, could I make
Stefana's birthday cake over here to your house where she can't hear me

"Oh, Stefana's birthday! That is why she was 'born to-morrow.'"

"Yes'm, in a thunder storm. I've heard Mother tellin'. It will have to
be a graham cake."

"A--what kind of cake, Evangeline? Maybe you'd better try sitting down;
I don't think I just understand."

"No'm, no'm, I guess you wouldn't, because you probably can always 'ford
white flour. I thought if I frosted it over real white, it would hide
the grahamness. I've got two eggs."

Understanding came to Miss Theodosia, though a little slowly. Was she
growing stupid?

"Evangeline, we'll make Stefana's cake together; we'll take turns
'stirrin''! We'll do it over here and keep it a beautiful secret."

The child was standing up now certainly, her wiry little body a-tilt
with excitement, a-quiver with it. Evangeline's eyes shone.

"Oh, I knew you would! I knew you would! You're such a _nangel!_ If you
was a kind of folks that liked to be kissed--"

The soft pink of Miss Theodosia's cheeks! She lifted her head and sat
very still.

"Come and try me, dear. Maybe I am that kind of folks." And in a little
whirlwind of tender gratitude descended Evangeline upon her. It was a
whole-souled kiss, the only brand possible to Evangeline.

"I--I am that kind!" gasped Miss Theodosia, emerging laughing but
tender-eyed. "Now let's begin the cake."

"Oh, yes, mercy gracious, yes! I'll go get the eggs 'n' graham flour,
an'--an' molasses. Could we sweeten it with molasses, Miss Theodosia?
It'll take all o' my sugar for the frostin'. We are pretty used to bein'
sweetened with molasses--"

Miss Theodosia had a swift mental taste on her tongue of Stefana's
graham birthday cake, molasses-sweet. There were her heartstrings at
their odd little twitching again!

"You won't have to go home at all, Evangeline. I've got all the
materials--" but at sight of the child's face, a little fallen and
troubled, she hastily appended--"except the eggs. I guess you'd better
go home and get those."

"Two!" sang Evangeline joyously, already on her way; "I've got two.
Two's a lot of eggs, isn't it?"

They mixed and beat and stirred together, and Evangeline never knew how
many more eggs than two went into the rich golden batter. Elly Precious,
tied for safety-first into one of Miss Theodosia's chairs, looked on
with an interest more or less intermittent; when Evangeline's offerings
of "teeny speckles" of toothsome batter were delayed, the interest
flagged. The baking time was for Evangeline a period of utmost
anxiety--there were so many direful things that might happen to
Stefana's cake. If it fell down or burned up--

"Oh!" she breathed with infinite relief when the strain was over, and
only lovely things had happened to the cake, "I'm so happy I could sing
if I had any vocal strings! That's queer about me, isn't it? I don't
have any trouble with my _talkin'_ strings."

"Not a bit," agreed Miss Theodosia gayly. "What makes you think you
couldn't sing?"

"Because once I tried to sing Elly Precious to sleep an' it woke him up,
awfully up. He was scared. So I always talk him to sleep. Miss
Theodosia, don't birthday cakes sometimes have candles round the edge of
'em? I don't mean Stefana's, of course, but rich folks' birthday cakes."

"_I_ mean Stefana's. Evangeline, we'll have thirteen candles!" but
inwardly she was wondering if forty would not fit better round the edge
of aged little Stefana's birthday cake. "And we'll decorate it--write
something on the top, you know. We'll make the Story Man do it for us."

Evangeline was awed into near-silence. "You mean--poetry? Mercy
gracious, poetry!"

"Something lovely," nodded Miss Theodosia a little vaguely. If it be
poetry, the Story Man must do that part, too. A little later, when
Evangeline had shouldered Elly Precious and departed and the Story Man
had sauntered again into sight, she hailed him with relief. Displaying
the snowy little cake, she explained the situation.

"You must do the rest. We want a 'sentiment' on it, Evangeline and I.
What is the use of being a literary person if you cannot inscribe a
birthday cake?"

He groaned a little, reminiscently. He remembered the autograph albums
of his bashful youth. How much better than an autograph album was a
frosted cake?

"Something appropriate, you know," encouraged Miss Theodosia, brightly.
"In lovely pink writing on top."

"'She hath starched what she could,'" he offered tentatively.

"Oh, for shame! Something nice and romantic."

"But romance is dead--hold on, I beg pardon! That is not decided yet; I
remember. You shall have your poetry, you and Evangeline. Something
after this wise:

"'Our most esteemed Stefana,
May rough winds never pain her'

"Do winds 'pain' people? But, to speak modestly, I call that a pretty
neat sentiment to turn out extempo like that. 'Stefana'--you can't deny
Stefana is a hard word to rhyme with. Now tell me a harder one!"

"Evangeline--Theodosia," she murmured. Her eyes dwelt lovingly on the
little white cake. He should not make fun of it!

"I'll decorate it myself," she said, "I'll have a little pink heart on
it--_two_ little pink hearts."

"With but a single thought. Make them with but a single thought--beat
them as one. There! I'm perfectly sober and sane now. It's a fine little
cake, and I'm not worthy to write poetry for it. Longfellow--
Shakespeare--Whitcomb Riley--we'll canvass them. Don't think
I'm not respectful to Stefana's birthday."

"I don't know what you call respect!" she retorted. But she knew the
next day. She found out what he called respect. The knowledge came, as
so much that was worth while came, through Evangeline, Elly Precious in
its wake. They came running this time. Elly Precious' small body rolled
and lurched with their hurry and the agitation of Evangeline's soul.


"Give me the baby. Sit down, dear. Now."

"The flower wagon brought Stefana--roses," whispered Evangeline. "In a
long box--an' tissue paper. Oh, my mercy gracious, stopped right
straight at our house! An' nobody dead." Evangeline's whisper rose to a
weird little cry. The wonder of the flower wagon stopping right
straight! And every one alive!

"Stefana's countin' 'em. I guess she's counted 'em a hundred times.
They's--thirteen! They've got the longest stems you ever _saw_! Stefana
can't get over their stems; she said they most made her cry."

For very breath Evangeline stopped. Over the little uneasy head of Elly
Precious shone Miss Theodosia's eyes. Miss Theodosia was softly
thrilled. The stems appealed, too, to her; she loved them long--long.

"Roses, you say?" Oh, Evangeline! Birthday roses for Stefana! What

"Red--red--red," chanted Evangeline "Thirteen red roses an' thirteen
long stems. In a pasteboard box with 'Miss Stefana Flagg' wrote on it.
You ought to seen how Miss Stefana Flagg looked! She--she kissed the
box. I guess now she's kissin' the roses. She never 'spected to have any
roses till she was dead. An' then she couldn't 've kissed 'em an' cried
at the stems," added Evangeline softly. She was suddenly a softened
little Evangeline, curiously gentled by Stefana's sweet, red roses. Miss
Theodosia caught her breath at the sight of the child's face and the
thought of Stefana kissing her roses.

"I wish--I wish you'd go over an' congratcherlate Stefana," whispered
Evangeline. "She'd be so tickled. I'll keep Elly Precious ever here, an'
Carruthers is playin' ball in a field." As though this ceremony of
'congratcherlation' demanded quiet and privacy.

And by and by Miss Theodosia went. She had a whimsical impulse to carry
her little silver card case, but she did not yield to the whimsey. She
did take off her little white apron and smoothe her hair. Stefana to-day
was a person for ceremonies and respect. Oh, the kindness, the clearness
of those long-stemmed roses! She had not thought to do it herself, but
he--a man creature--Miss Theodosia's eyes were tender.

Stefana was still sitting among her roses. They lay across her lap.

"Oh! Oh, come right in, Miss Theodosia!" she cried welcomingly. "But
please to excuse me for not getting up--I can't bear to disturb them.
Seems as if I could sit right straight in this chair till they withered!
I'm breathing easy so not to breathe the smell out. I never had any
roses before."

Her voice lowered to almost a whisper. She whispered a little laugh.

"Seems as if I'd ought to be married while I have 'em! They're such
beautiful roses to be married in!"

And this was Stefana, their matter-of-fact, starchy little white-washer!
This rapt, dreamy little face was Stefana's face!

"Sometimes," Stefana murmured, "sometimes I've dreampt--" but Miss
Theodosia did not quite catch what it was Stefana had sometimes
"dreampt," but it was something sweet. Stefana a little dreamer of sweet
dreams! One of them must have been a rose-dream, and this was that dream
come true.

The call of congratulation was a brief one. It seemed little short of
irreverence to have seen at all that picture of Stefana rocking her
roses in the little wooden rocker. Miss Theodosia slipped away with it
hung on the walls of her mind--she would never take it down.

John Bradford was coming along the road and she went a little way to
meet him. Some of Stefana's radiance was in her own face.

"I've found it," she announced in soft triumph.

"Good!" he hazarded at random. It was always good to find things. But he
wondered at the radiance.

"My romance that I knew was somewhere. I've found it! I told you so!"

"Found it where?" he demanded. He was unconsciously stirred by her
emotion. He followed her glance to the little House of Flaggs.

"Yes, there. Stefana is dreaming it over a lapful of red roses. I have
been there and seen her. Is romance dead--is it? Go and look at
Stefana!" But she held him back from going. "No, no, I didn't mean it!
Not in cold blood--I didn't go in cold blood. You will have to take my
word for it."

"I will take your word."

"That romance is not dead?"

"That romance is alive. But who would have thought of it's being

"Who would have thought!" echoed Miss Theodosia.

Elly Precious was fretting restlessly when she got back. The children
were on the porch.

"Nothing's the matter with him," Evangeline explained, "unless it's
because he's a-goin' to be taken. I told him he was. It is kind of
scaring to be taken. I feel kind of that way, too."

"Taken where?"

"Not any where--just _taken_. His picture an' mine an'
Carruthers'--we're all goin' to be taken now, pretty soon. I must go
home an' prink Elly Precious an' Carruthers. You see, Mr. Bradford
promised to take Stefana because it's her birthday, an' first we knew he
said he'd take all o' us! He's got a camera. That's him now! I guess
he's waitin' for Elly Precious an' me."

She was hurrying away, but bethought herself of something. "The cake!"
she said. "If Elly Precious'll be still, I can carry it on my other arm.
Maybe we'll be so busy being taken that I can't come over again before

"Run along," Miss Theodosia said; "I'll take it over. I haven't quite
got it ready yet," for there were the two little pink hearts to
add,--Stefana's heart and a little dream-heart. She smiled tenderly over
the fashioning of those little pink hearts. Miss Theodosia was not an
artist--they wavered and leaned, but they leaned toward each other!
Perhaps they were better to be little leaning hearts.

She carried the cake over, covered with a napkin. There were other
things, too, that she had prepared, and several trips were necessary. A
mold of quivering, scarlet jelly, full of fascinating glints of light;
scalloped, currant-rich cookies, a little platter of cold chicken--Miss
Theodosia carried them all over covered with napkins.

Evangeline was putting the finishing touches to the supper-table, which
was brave with the best Flagg dishes. It was rather a pitiful little
bravery, but satisfying to Evangeline. She hurried Miss Theodosia aside
and talked very fast.

"I've sent Stefana out with Elly Precious. We're goin' to blind her an'
lead her in an' count one--two--_look_! She'll see the cake the very
quickest thing! She won't cut off an inch o' the stems, so they're kind
of tall up 'n' down, you see. I mean the roses. I've put a corset steel
o' Mother's in an' kind of tied 'em to it. I hope you don't see any
corset steel."

"No." Miss Theodosia looked not at the centerpiece of roses but at the
cake, the tremulous jelly, the platter,--anywhere else. "No, I don't see
any, dear."

"It's perfectly lovely, isn't it? Mercy gracious--oh, mercy gracious!
It'll _dazzle_ Stefana. An' most every speck you did, Miss Theodosia.
Won't you please stay? Won't you _please_ to please?"

"No," for the sixth time persisted Miss Theodosia. "I'm going before
Stefana gets back. This is a Flagg celebration, dear. Just little

Evangeline drew a long breath. Then little twinkles lighted in her eyes.

"Well," she said, "they'll be star-spangled Flaggs to-night!"

She followed Miss Theodosia to the door. Even then she could not stop
talking. Her excited little voice followed Miss Theodosia home.

"He took us! He's blue-printing us to see if we wiggled. Elly Precious
did--mercy gracious! But maybe one of him, just one, didn't. He's goin'
to make reg'lar black an' white pictures of the unwiggled ones. I guess
you'll be surprised when you see us!" She was surprised. John Bradford
brought the little blue pictures to her the next day. They bent over
them together.

"Oh!" Miss Theodosia uttered softly, for the pictures were instantly
tangled in her heartstrings. She could hardly bear the one unwiggled one
of Elly Precious. He was draped in tall red roses; they covered his
little body and trailed their stems about his outspread legs. He had the
effect of peeping at Miss Theodosia through roses. But what she could
see of him was Elly Precious--her baby.

"Stefana posed him," the Story Man said, smilingly. "And Evangeline and
Carruthers, too. Look at Evangeline."

Across Evangeline trailed the roses. It was a rigid, terribly rigid,
Evangeline, but the roses saved her. Some softening grace emanated from
them and touched the solemn little face. A little more of Evangeline
than of Elly Precious peeped from behind them.

"Carruthers!--et, tu, Carruthers!" murmured Miss Theodosia. For here
again was the trail of the roses. Stefana had "posed" them in all the
little pictures. The effect of a rose-draped Carruthers was almost
startling. He gazed from behind them stolidly, unsmiling and
unhappy-souled. Carruthers did not enjoy being taken.

"Now look at Stefana," John Bradford said. This was his special
exhibit--exhibit S. He watched Miss Theodosia's face as she glanced at
the little blue print.

No roses trailing there. Just a radiant-faced Stefana gazing at Miss
Theodosia. It was the same face that hung on the walls of her memory.
Miss Theodosia had the sense of roses there, out of sight; it was as if
Stefana rocked them gently in her lap.

"She wouldn't wear the flowers herself," the Story Man was saying;
"Neither Evangeline nor I could make her. Queer little freak."

"She is wearing them!" smiled Miss Theodosia, "I can see them. It's only
because you are a man that you can't see,--you and Evangeline! Look at
the roses in Stefana's eyes--in her soul--"

"Oh, you woman! Women are curious things."

"Women are romantic things--oh, you man! Why should you understand us
Stefanas with your unsentimental soul-of-a-man? What do you know about
our dreams?" She had not meant to say quite that. "Stefana's dreams,"
she corrected herself. "What do you know about them? And still--"

Miss Theodosia looked up from the radiant little face of Stefana with
her dream-roses to the man-face beside her own.

"And still--you sent the roses," she said softly.


A letter came to Miss Theodosia one day. Queer how disturbing a letter
could be when for so long peace had enveloped her travel-worn spirit,
though it might have been because of the peace that she was disturbed.
Ordinarily a letter from Cornelia Dunlap was the forerunner of
interesting events to break the monotony of life. But life was not
monotonous now, and it presented interesting events without the
intervention--mentally and unkindly Miss Theodosia termed it
interference--of Cornelia Dunlap.

"Why need Cornelia write me now, or if she does write, why can't she
talk about mushrooms?" which were Cornelia's most recent palliative to
her self-imposed and brief sojourns in her little home town. It had been
cats when she and Miss Theodosia returned from Spain, Belgian hares
after their long stay in Egypt. Miss Theodosia herself had never tried
mushrooms nor Belgian hares. She had borne her short homecomings
unpalliated, and had flitted again relievedly. Usually she and Cornelia
Dunlap had flitted together. They had formed the flitting habit when
family bereavements had left them both lonely women.

"Why must she write about Japan?" sighed Miss Theodosia now, over the
disturbing letter. "What do I care about Japan?" Yet she always had
cared about Japan. Cornelia Dunlap and she had left that delectable
country of cherry blossoms and quaint, kimona-ed women for their old
age, they said, to help them bear it. But Cornelia had forgotten that.

"Let's go to Japan," she wrote. "I can pack in twenty-four hours; how
long will it take you? We'll stay there till cherry blossom time.
Frankly, Theodosia Baxter, I am bored, and you needn't tell me that you
aren't--frankly--too. You haven't even mushrooms (they didn't earn their
own living, my dear. I don't know what the trouble was). 'My native
country, thee,'--I love it. I tell you I do! You know yourself that I
never stay overnight in a place without unfurling my country's flag.
Remember in sunny Italy?--the little brown bambino that cheered my
colors? But I love my country best--in Japan! Come, dear, pack--pack! If
I can leave my mushrooms, I guess you can leave your lonesome, big house
in Nowhere."

Miss Theodosia dreamed a little over her letter, of the little island of
romance and flowers and fans. They did not need to wait; they could go
again when they were old.

She told John Bradford at their next meeting of the lure of Japan,
though in her heart she was not lured. She was not "bored"; it was not a
big, lonesome house in Nowhere! She would tell Cornelia Dunlap so. She
would tell her that Flaggs were better than mushrooms--they earned their
own living! Cornelia could run away alone to Japan to her cherry

But John Bradford had his scare, and through him Evangeline hers. Gloom
settled on Evangeline. If her beloved lady was going away--the bitter,
bitter taste of life without the beloved lady! But the inspiration that
flashed into Evangeline's nimble mind temporarily comforted her. She set
about its carrying-out. Inspirations were sweet morsels under
Evangeline's tongue.

To Miss Theodosia on her porch, telling Cornelia Dunlap that Japan had
no lure, came a solemn procession across the grass. Evangeline led, with
the effect of walking backward--though she walked straight ahead--and
waving a baton. Stefana had Elly Precious, and Carrathers tramped
soberly behind, in time to that imaginary wand. Miss Theodosia's
fascinated gaze was riveted to the procession's arms. The wonder grew
with nearness. Every individual parader in the procession wore a somber
black arm-band. Elly Precious held his small member straight out from
his side as if a little afraid of it.

"Evangeline!" uttered Miss Theodosia. It did not occur to her to address
any one but Evangeline. Instinctively she recognized that the procession
was Evangeline.

"Halt!" with an imaginary flourish. "Right about your faces!" Then
Evangeline turned to Miss Theodosia and offered her sad little

"We're in mournin'," she said. "All of us are--on our sleeves. Elly
Precious's doesn't stay on very well."

"Evangeline!" again cried Miss Theodosia, this time in a startled voice.
Fears beset her. Was it the mother, or had poor Aunt Sarah raveled out?
How could it have happened so suddenly--a bolt out of the clear little
Flagg skies?

"It's you," Evangeline said. Miss Theodosia settled a little in her
chair and waited. In time--Evangeline's time--she would know. Elly
Precious held out his rigid little mourning arm and softly whimpered.

"Give him to me, Stefana; he wants to come to me," Miss Theodosia said,
extending welcoming hands. Very gently she relieved the tension of the
small arm.

"We're in mournin' for you," Evangeline explained sadly. "_He_ said we
might as well make up our minds, I tied a stockin' round his arm, but he
took it off again because he said he didn't wear his stockin's--no, I
guess it wasn't his stockin's; it was his heart--on his sleeves. But he
said he was in mournin', too."

Miss Theodosia gave it up. She appealed to Stefana in gentle despair.

"You tell me, dear. What does she mean?"

"We're so sorry you are going to Japan, and Evangeline said we ought to
go into mourning, so we went," explained the quiet Stefana.

"She cried; you know you did, Stefana Flagg! I would've, only I was
gettin' the mournin' ready. I'm _goin_' to."

"Don't cry!" Miss Theodosia said, though she was doing it herself. The
pulling of her heartstrings! "Don't cry, Evangeline dear. I wish we
could take back Stefana's tears."

"You mean--you ain't goin'?"

"I ain't goin'," repeated Miss Theodosia, tremulously smiling. "Japan! I
wouldn't go to _six_ Japans!"

"Then take it off o' our arms, quick! You take off Carruthers', Stefana.
I'll undo Elly Precious's. Oh, goody! Oh, mercy gracious, I feel 's if
we ought to take hold o' hands an'--an' _wave_!"

At the end of her letter to Cornelia Dunlap Miss Theodosia wrote: "You
can't tempt me with all your cherry blossoms. I've got home, Cornelia,
and all my little Flaggs are waving. Come and see _my_ Flaggs."

* * * * *

It was mid-September and Miss Theodosia found out-of-doors a pleasant
place to be. She had made an errand down to the business portion of the
little town for the sheer pleasure of the going and coming,--a morning
errand, as the afternoons were sacred to tea,--and now was coming
leisurely back, sniffing the sun-sweet air. She turned off the quiet,
side street she had been using as a long way home, into the main street
of the town, only to find her progress interrupted by unseemly and noisy
crowds. Miss Theodosia loved all things seemly and quiet. How she
despised a crowd, and this one--she brought up short in actual disgust
on the outer edge of it. Thus was her stately little progress stayed.
People surged about her and jostled her good-naturedly. She was in the

"What is it? Has there been an accident?" she inquired of the nearest
jostler. It was a ragged and radiant child.

"Axident! Didn't ye know there was a circus? We're waitin' for the
p'rade. I hear it! I hear it comin'!"

The crowd surged ahead toward the street curb. Against her will, Miss
Theodosia surged, too. Loud cries filled her ears--ecstatic cries of
little children. Down the usually quiet street marched, in all its
brilliancy of color and tinsel and tawdry splendor, the street parade.
Horses curvetted, elephants patiently plodded, huge cars of mystery
swung by; clowns smirked, to the riotous joy of that awful crowd.

"See him sittin' tail to! That one there--there!"

"Look-a that one with the spotted panth! Look at him throw kitheth!"

"They's man-eatin' lions in that cage--see the lady sittin' with 'em!"

"See that man top o' the band waggin that shoots up his neck
_yards_--quick! See him shorten it again!"

Miss Theodosia saw all, against her will. All her thirty-six years she
had held aside her dainty skirts from people who went to circuses, but
how could she hold them aside now? There was not room. She was caught in
the swirl and noise and glee.

Suddenly a familiar voice struck her ear. Evangeline's voice! Drawn up
on the curbing in a vantage-spot that only they who come early and
patiently wait can secure, was the entire family of little Flaggs. At a
new angle Miss Theodosia was able to see plainly their breathless
ecstasy. She could hear what Evangeline was saying.

"Oh, isn't it elegant--oh, look, Stefana! Oh, don't you hope circuses'll
be free in Heaven--not jus' the p'rade, but the show!"

Then and there Miss Theodosia's heartstrings throbbed unmercifully; she
could not do anything with them; they would throb. In vain she turned
away--looked at other faces--listened to other voices. It was Evangeline
she heard, with her wistful cry, and the little line of Flaggs that she

"There's Miss Theodosia--there, there, Stefana! She's come to the

"Miss Theodosia! Miss Theodosia! Look, Elly Precious, quick!" And it was
Elly Precious she saw, held high by eager arms. That minute she yielded
to the wild impulse within. She pressed forward to speaking distance.

"Who will go to the show with me this afternoon? All in favor say aye."

"Mercy gracious, you don't honest mean--"

"Miss Theodosia!" Stefana's lean little face actually whitened.

"I honest mean. Isn't anybody going to say aye?"




The joyous chorus of "I's"! The jubilant waving of every little Flagg!
For the moment, the gorgeous tinseled parade was forgotten in the vaster
anticipative glories of the show. Miss Theodosia's heartstrings throbbed
a little louder but tunefully. She had forgotten her skirts.

Shows begin early and last long. Miss Theodosia's show began at the
opening of the gates. She and her little string of followers filed in.

"Mercy gracious!" breathed Evangeline in awesome delight at the vision
spread before her.

"Mercy gracious!" breathed Miss Theodosia. They were different mercy
graciouses. But a miracle was on the way to her, coming straight and
fast through the crowds of festive circus-goers. Very soon now--in an
hour--in another moment--It arrived! Miss Theodosia felt herself
yielding to the lure of the sawdust and the side shows--the pink
lemonade and the balloons. She was entering in! She was not Miss
Theodosia who detested crowds; in the tight grip of the miracle, she was
Miss Theodosia who thrilled and enjoyed.

"Isn't it elegant? Oh, aren't you happy!" cried Evangeline.

"Aren't I!" gallant Miss Theodosia responded. She caught Evangeline's
sleeve. "What is that man shouting about--there, in front of that big

"Oh, I don't know, but it's somethin' splendid. I know it's somethin'
splendid! I'll go 'n' see."

"I'll go with you. Stefana, stay with the rest of the children. We'll be
right back." Miss Theodosia laughed as she and Evangeline went, hand in
hand. In a moment they were back for the rest. It was "somethin'
splendid"--come! come!

They drank pink lemonade and ate ice-cream cones. Elly Precious and
Carruthers waved gay balloons. Evangeline chose a cane.

"I need one. I'm so happy I tumble over! I never was so happy 'xcept
when Elly Precious stopped havin' the measles. That was as splendid as
this, but it wasn't as _splendid_ splendid. Miss Theodosia, don't you
feel all beautiful and jiggy inside?"

"All beautiful and jiggy!" nodded Miss Theodosia, wondering a little
whether it was all circus or some pink lemonade.

"I like the wholeness of it best," Stefana said, taking in the animated
scene with an artist's eye.

"I don't! I like the every little speckness of it," Evangeline chirped.
"I like that 'normous big tent an' that tiny little one--I like that
balloon man--I like that little darky baby--isn't he black as the ace of
space, Miss Theodosia! Oh, I like every blade o'--sawdust!" Her laugh
trilled out gayly.

"But we haven't seen it yet--the show."

"Miss Theodosia! You don't honest mean we're goin' in? Stefana, she
does--she means! We're goin' in!" As of course they were. The best seats
in the great tented arena were none too good for them. Stefana
laboriously shut up Elly Precious' go-cart, and Miss Theodosia lifted
Elly Precious in her arms. In the procession they sought those
best-of-all seats. What followed, even Evangeline gazed upon in silence;
there were no words in Evangeline's dictionary for what followed. She
sat on the edge of the best-of-all seat and drank in riders and clowns
and dizzy performing fairies--an intoxicating draught.

"Miss Theodosia," in a tiny whisper.

"Yes, dear?"

"Ain't you glad you ain't dead? 'Cause you don't need to be." Which was
Evangeline's way of complimenting Heaven. There was no need of dying to
find out its marvels--not now. Miss Theodosia slipped one of the small
hands into hers and squeezed it; squeezing established understanding.
They knew--they understood.

"Well, upon my word!" a deep voice exclaimed behind them. With one
accord Miss Theodosia and her Flaggs wheeled about. The Tract
Man--Shadow Man--Reformed Doctor stood there, smiling. He was eating
popcorn from a paper bag. Transferring the bag to Evangeline, he held
out his hands for the baby.

"You here?" Miss Theodosia exclaimed stupidly.

"Yes--are you?"

Every one laughed. Laughing was so easy! Elly Precious from his lofty
shoulder-post clapped small, joyous hands and crowed. In the ring a
clown threw them kisses. A fairy in short, silvery skirts rode by on two
horses. "Wait! Watch her--watch her!" Evangeline whispered hissingly.
"She's goin' to jump through a hoop o' fire! Without burnin' up!"

John Bradford leaned forward to Miss Theodosia.

"Having a good time?" he whispered.

"Grand! Are you?"

"Hunkydory!" He might have been a boy, she a girl. These might have been
little Flagg brothers--sisters.

"We must have cones--ice-cream cones," he said.

"We've had 'em," piped Evangeline.

"We must have more cones, and cracker-jack."

"We've had crackerjack."

"We must have more crackerjack. Where is the Crackerjack Boy?"

At the end of the show in the ring they took a vote and decided to stay
to see it all over again. What did it matter if they had seen the tinsel
fairy jump through her fiery hoop or the acrobats perform their wonders?
They felt acquainted now. They were gazing, enchanted, at friends.

"My clown's lookin' at me! I'm goin' to bow to him."

"Mine's threw me a kiss!"

Stefana, more refined in taste, had adopted a beauteous creature in gold
and blue, and starry spangles. Her beauteous lady waved a scepter at her
as she glided by.

"She's got so many ruffles on! An' they're beau-ti-fully done up!"
sighed Stefana in gentle envy of some unknown artist in starch.

"Now what?" demanded the man of the party at length. "Anybody want to
stay here any longer? Or shall we discover new territory?" He took
Evangeline aside and questioned her.

"Have you seen everything out there?" indicating the attractions without
the big tent.

"We've seen a nawful lot. We've had a nelegant time," Evangeline
whispered back. Desire and loyalty to Miss Theodosia fought a duel in
her small breast and the issue was yet doubtful.

"Isn't there something left that you'd like to see?" The order was
changed; here was man tempting woman. Desire won the duel with one
mighty blow. Evangeline tiptoed up as near his ear as possible and
breathed two words.

John Bradford turned to the little crowd.

"We'll go to see the Fat Lady," he said to Miss Theodosia; "I'll take
the kiddies, while you sit down somewhere and rest.

"Sit down somewhere? Haven't I been sitting down somewhere? Don't you
suppose I want to see the Fat Lady, too?" laughed Miss Theodosia. Fat
ladies appealed to her invitingly, in this remarkable mood of hers--Miss
Theodosia's circus mood.

"You're playing the game like a trump! I didn't dream you could
'pretend' a circus was yours. Must be some harder than pretending
babies--" John Bradford got no farther. She turned indignant eyes upon

"'Game'--'pretend'--I'd have you know I'm having a nelegant time! You
must be the Pretender."

"Me? I'm having the time of my life! I am going to put a circus into my
love story."

"This circus?"

"This identical one."

"With me and the little Flaggs in it?"

"You--and the little Flaggs."

They had fallen behind the children, and a side eddy of the crowd had
flowed between. The Fat Lady was at the further end of the grounds, but
there was no hurry; she would remain just as fat a Fat Lady if they
pleasantly dallied a little. Stefana had, with the deftness of
genius-born skill, solved the puzzle of opening the folded-up go-cart,
and the Man Person of the party was no longer burdened with Elly

Suddenly into the pleasant dallying leaped Carruthers with terrified
little face.

"They're lost! We can't find 'em! I can't an' Stefana can't. They ain't
anywhere! We were lookin' at a man with turkles you wind up, an' when we
stopped lookin' they weren't there--not anywhere. They ain't anywhere!
Not any--'

"Stop him!" begged Miss Theodosia. "He'll keep right on anywhere-ing. We
must find Stefana."

"Stefana said--oh, I couldn't hear what Stefana said, but she pointed
an' pointed, an' I came lickety. They're lost! They ain't anywhere!"

Stefana appearing here, the story was repeated. Like that--Stefana
snapped her fingers--they had disappeared.

"I've hunted and hunted. Everybody's seen children with go-carts, but
they weren't Evangeline 'n' Elly Precious."

Miss Theodosia's own face was pale, but she achieved a light laugh.

"No wonder you haven't found them yet! In this crowd. It takes
time;--you tell them to be patient and we'll find the right go-cart."
She appealed to the Man Person.

"Sure, we'll find the right go-cart! Where do you think they could have
vanished? Down a hole in the ground?"

Miss Theodosia clapped her hands valiantly. "That's it! Evangeline found
a hole and took Elly Precious down, to show him the White Rabbit and the
Red Queen! Evangeline would love to be an Alice in Wonderland. Go and
find the hole," to the Man Person. "I'll stay right in this spot with
the children. See, in front of this ice-cream tent."

"Good idea!--I'll bring them back with me unless you find them first."

But they were not with him when he returned half an hour later. In spite
of himself, he looked anxious.

"Queer thing! What color dress did she have on? I've tried to remember."

"Pink--oh, pink!" sobbed Stefana, "but it was most washed out. It had
two tucks let down, an' it was limpy in the skirt, behind--the starch
gave out." There were so many Evangelines, but it didn't seem as if
there'd be another Evangeline limpy behind! "An' Elly Precious's lower
teeth are through, and his shoes are buttoned inside, I remember now! We
were in such a hurry--there wouldn't be another baby buttoned inside."

After still further vain hunting, John Bradford sent the three home.

"You may find Evangeline there, getting supper!" he said, "but I'll stay
here on the chance you don't. I'll investigate every hole on the
grounds! Don't anybody worry--now, mind! There's nothing to worry

"Fat Lady!" Miss Theodosia suddenly exclaimed as one with inspiration.
"We've never thought of her; that's where they've gone! Evangeline
couldn't wait. She had some pennies."

"I've investigated the Fat Lady--no good. They don't let go-carts in,
and there weren't any outside. But, of course, I can go the whole
figure, to make sure. I'll go all the whole figures. Can't you trust

"We can. Come, children. I'll coach you on Wonderland, so if Evangeline
is there you'll know what she is seeing! Gryphons, Mock 'Turkles,' Mad
Hatters--a circus within a circus! It's so much like Evangeline to find
that White Rabbit hole!" Miss Theodosia clung determinedly to a cheerful
view of the situation. But, secretly, she worried. As the time went on,
she worried harder. Two babies--one wheeling the other! What was
Evangeline but a baby?

Miss Theodosia took the two little surviving Flaggs to her own home and
plied them with goodies--many goodies. She unearthed from hiding-places
candied ginger and guava jelly; she invented toys for the deaf little
Flagg and occupations for Stefana. She found a dog-eared copy of
"Alice," dear to her own childhood, and read to Stefana--anything to
occupy the waiting. It was long waiting!

It grew dark. Once Miss Theodosia heard heavy steps trying painstakingly
to be light ones. She found the Man Person outside the door.

"Nothing yet? You haven't any trace--" It was needless asking.

"You don't think--"

"Of course, I don't think! Nothing on earth could happen to those


"Aren't allowed on the grounds, and you couldn't have got Evangeline off
the grounds with a tackle and falls. I know what I think."

"Then tell it--mercy gracious!"

"I think it's Evangeline that's happened. Mark my words! Now I'm going
back again. I just came to--I suppose I thought I was coming to relieve
your mind!" He laughed sorrily and softly.

"Oh, go--yes, go! It's--it's long past Elly Precious' bedtime." He could
hear soft sobbing as he went away. Miss Theodosia was mourning for her
baby. The Man Person's throat tightened; he broke into a run.

Stefana met Miss Theodosia at an inner door. She had her hat on and
Carruthers by the hand.

"I'm going home to put him to bed. I--I shan't look at the clothes
basket. But if Elly Precious is dead, I'll put wh-white ribbons on the
h-handles!" With a moan, Stefana threw herself into the kind arms of
Elly Precious' friend who loved him, too!

"Hush, dear! Elly Precious isn't dead, but I hope he is asleep.
Evangeline, I know, will take care of him. Let's trust Evangeline."

"Maybe she's dead, too!"

"Stefana! I'm disappointed. I thought you were a brave girl."

"I am!" sobbed Stefana, gathering herself together. Miss Theodosia
watched her go quietly away, hand in hand with the little brother that
was left. But Miss Theodosia was no longer brave. Sudden terrors seized
upon her. She remembered how round and white Elly Precious was--how he
showed the little teeth that had got through--how he had loved to watch
Evangeline dance, through the window.

"Theodosia Baxter, I'm disappointed! I thought you were a brave girl."

As she stood in the moist darkness, a sound came to her--too soft for a
man-sound. It grew a very little more distinct.

"Miss Theodosia--sh! he's gettin' ready to go off. I want him to go off
soon's I get him home--I don't want to 'xcite him. I jus' came to tell

"Evangeline! Have you got him there?"

The softest of giggles. "Why, of course! He's too valuable to leave
anywheres. Leave a Best Baby! That's the s'prise! He's a prize baby,
Elly Precious is! I've got it in my pocket!"


"I've got to take him home an' bed him down!" Horsey little Evangeline!
"Then I'll come back an' show it to you. Isn't it puffectly elegant that
he took a prize! We've had the best time!" And in the darkness Miss
Theodosia heard soft, retreating steps and the faintest creak of wheels.
Left alone, she leaned for support on the porch pillar, overcome by the
Evangelineness of Evangeline. And they had all had so far from the "best
time"--they had suffered so!

"Mercy gracious!" sighed Miss Theodosia weakly, but aloud.

"What did I tell you?" The Man Person's voice! What kind of a ghostly
night was this? "Didn't I say it was Evangeline that had happened, 'mark
my words'? Well, wasn't it?"

"Tell me instantly how she 'happened'! I'm all in the dark."

"Same here. Can't see an inch before my nose. If we had a lamp--"

"Didn't she tell you? Didn't she come home with you?"

"No--no, I came home with her. Behind her--she didn't know. Wanted to
let her do the whole thing alone. I confess I was curious."

"Curious! After hunting hours and hours--"

"'Curious--after--hunting--hours--and hours,'" he intoned. She could
hear him getting ready to laugh. "The moment I caught sight of the
little imp, I forgot I was tired. Whatever she's been up to, it's
something interesting. May I wait and hear her tell about it?"

"Of course you may! I should think you'd earned admittance." Miss
Theodosia was sizzling gently with perfectly natural irritation. Now
that her baby was safe, she had leisure to be irritated.

"Come and rest in the easiest chair you can find. When I think--"

"Don't think! Let's just have cups of tea and wait for the show to

"But why aren't you cross? I am."

The man-voice in the dark was soothing.

"Oh, no, you only think you are, dear lady. You are deceiving yourself.
Crossness and--er--nerve-itis are two very different diseases (you note
I term them both diseases). I speak as One Who Did Once Know."

Miss Theodosia, on her way for cups of tea, paused in her dim doorway.

"Diseases change so. In ten years--"

"In ten years 'nerve-itis' has lost none of its pep--rather annexed
more. It may have another name."

"Nerve-itus Dance," murmured the voice in the doorway. "That's
it--that's what I was having when you came. I don't think I am quite
over the attack yet."

"Three lumps of sugar dissolved in a cup of tea," prescribed the
man-voice promptly. "Repeat the dose in five minutes. Never known to
fail. As a preventive of--er--contagion, it is well for any also who
have been exposed--"

"I'll have it there in a minute. The kettle's boiling," called Miss
Theodosia from interior regions. She came back presently with a tray lit
by a tiny flare of candle-light.

"'How far that little candle throws his beams--
So shines a good deed in a naughty world'"

quoted he. "The good deed is the good tea."

"And the naughty world is Evangeline. Won't you have three lumps just
this time, to make perfectly sure you don't contract my Nerve-itus

"Safety first," he laughed. "Four lumps. This is our first tea-party at
'Candle-lighting Time,' isn't it?"

Now Miss Theodosia laughed. It was easy to laugh with Elly Precious
being bedded down instead of lost.

"How you do quote to-night!" she said. "That's the third time, counting
'Safety First,' in the last five minutes."

"Pardon," he craved. "It's because I feel happy. I'm likely to quote again
at any minute."

"Well, quote the Scriptures then to Evangeline when she comes."


She was coming now. They could hear the light, hurrying steps. Was
Evangeline never tired? Did neither parades nor circuses--mysterious
wanderings nor mysterious triumphs--affect her?

"The show is about to begin," murmured Miss Theodosia.

It began immediately. Evangeline came bursting in upon them, waving a
blue ribbon. She was a fresh and radiant Evangeline.

"Stefana says I can't stay only a minute. Stefana's kind o' mad, but she
didn't dass to be, out loud, for fear we'd 'xcite Elly Precious. He's
asleep. I was so proud of his arms an' legs when I undressed 'em!
They're very high-percented arms 'n' legs. Mercy gracious, yes! Don't
you see this ribbon's blue--blue--blue! That's because he's a Best Baby,
an' the prize was five dollars, an' they gave him a dollar 'special,'
too, that we're goin' to put in the bank--"

Miss Theodosia held up her hand.

"Begin at the beginning," she commanded. "Where have you been all this
time? What on earth have you been doing?"

"Showin' Elly Precious," flashed back Evangeline brightly. "You've heard
o' Poultry Shows? Well, this wasn't. This was a Baby Show. We never
noticed it was advertised in the p'rade at all--a man with a sandwich
on. A lady told me. She said the circus folks were pretty bright,
because all o' the world loved babies an' they knew 'twould make a
beautiful side show. She said they knew it would draw, an' it did. It
drew me an' Elly Precious! The circus folks offered prizes. They weighed
an' measured 'em to see which was a Best Baby, an' Elly Precious was!
You better be proud that you--that you measled a Best Baby!"

Miss Theodosia's glance met the Man Person's. The show was turning out

"I've got to go back, or Stefana--oh, mercy gracious me, it was worth
folks bein' mad! There was a nurse there an' a lovely lady an' a doctor.
They let me stay Elly Precious's nap out, because it isn't a sleep
go-cart. He has to sit up straight in it. The lady said to lie him down
there an' let him sleep. But we didn't expect he'd sleep so long--the
lady went away, but I stayed. I wasn't goin' to wake a Best Baby up out
o' a sound sleep! It made us a little late gettin' home."

"Yes, go on," murmured the Man Person feelingly.

"Why, that's as far as there is to go. Then we came home."

"Why didn't you go back and tell Stefana or Miss Theodosia? Where was
your Baby Show, anyway?"

"In a tent. I happened to get a peek in an' saw folks with babies, an' I
was a folks with one, so I just went in. That's all. I was goin' to tell
Stefana, but he cried an' I couldn't leave him. He wouldn't have took a
prize, cryin'. I had to keep dancin' to him--mercy gracious! But it was
worth it. Then when he'd got all measured an' weighed,--it's pretty
wearin' work,--he went to sleep. I told you that. I had to wait for him
to wake up." For the first time Evangeline was on the defensive; she
read the faint disapproval in Miss Theodosia's face.

"Mercy gracious, I never s'posed you'd go an' worry! I thought--I
thought you'd jus' be pur-roud." Actually, Evangeline was crying now.
Miss Theodosia's disapproval vanished instantly. With a sweep of her
arms, she gathered a forgiven Evangeline in. The Man Person stood
outside the little zone of feminine emotion, but he had his own brand.

"We _are_ pur-roud," Miss Theodosia crooned over the subdued little
figure. "It's perfectly splendid about the blue ribbon and the prize!"

"An' the special."

"An' the special. Think of what his mother will say! But I knew he was
the Best Baby all the time; it was written in between every little
measle!" And saving laughter righted the situation; Evangeline bounded
back to her usual spirits. "Now," Miss Theodosia said, "I'll get you
some preserved ginger and shoo you home! You mustn't stay another
minute, or Stefana will surely be over here with a policeman."

"Stefana's proud, too--she needn't pretend! I saw her kissin' Elly
Precious's knee. But she'll scold; she thinks it's her duty. Mercy
gracious, when Aunt Sarah knits an' Mother's back, I hope Stefana'll
grow down again."

The Man Person poised his teacup above the saucer, arrested by this new

"Er--grow how?"

"Down. She's so terrible grown-up now. It's been pretty wearin' on my
nerves. We use' to play dolls together. We don't ever now. She's too
starched up."

"Poor Stefana with her starch!" murmured Miss Theodosia. The poor little
martyr to starch! It was to be hoped, indeed, that when Aunt Sarah knit,
Stefana could grow down again and play dolls.

"Do you know her mother--Evangeline's?" Miss Theodosia asked, after the
child had gone. "Is Evangeline like her;--is that where she gets her

"No, she must get it from the father. The mother is exactly like
Stefana, or may be I've got it the wrong end to. I never saw the father;
he died a few weeks before the baby was born."

"Well, the father must have been remarkable; somebody is responsible for
Evangeline. I love that child next to--my baby. Supposing--I think of it
sometimes--supposing I had staid in Rome or Paris or Farthest
Anyplace--not come home at all, you know,--then I should have missed it
all. I should never have known those children."

"Nor me," he ventured. She did not appear to hear, but went on musingly:

"Something sent me home--I needed those children."

"And me!"

"I was going on a fast train--a through express--straight to Lonesome

She laughed softly as if she were alone. "If Evangeline hadn't Flagged
my train--it was Evangeline! She switched me off on another track."
Miss Theodosia's tender eyes lifted and met the Man Person's with a
little start of recognition as if saying: "Why, are you here!" But she
met those other eyes staunchly. "I'm glad I stopped off at this Flagg
station. I like it here."

For a little the big room, bright with lamplight, was so still that the
clock ticked impertinently. Miss Theodosia's tea cooled in its cup, and
John Bradford had long ago forgotten his. The big hands on the
chair-arms gripped them unconsciously. Then, suddenly, the man got to
his feet and walked to the far end of the room. On his return he stopped
before Miss Theodosia, looking down.

"I love you," John Bradford said. The impertinent clock kept on, but
Miss Theodosia could not hear it now for the ticking of her heart. Was
she a frightened girl that she could not lift her eyes?

"I was on that express, too--bound for that same place. I thank the Lord
I got off here. I shall always thank Him, whether you can love me or
not. I shall always love you. If you thought, sometime--I can wait--"

Miss Theodosia's eyes lifted. But she shook her head.

"I'm afraid not--sometime."

He still stood, looking down. Very gently he touched her hair; she could
hear the long breath he drew.

"I was afraid so. It was too much to ask. But I had to take my chance.
Don't be distressed, dear. I am happy, loving you. You can't deny me
that! I've loved you ever since I found you mending my shirt. I have had
a beautiful time loving you, and it will keep right on. But I was crazy,
wasn't I, to think--of course you 'couldn't sometime.'"

"Because I love you now," she said steadily. "I have--I have just found
it out!"

The gently stroking hand ceased its work. John Bradford caught the sweet
face between his great palms and turned it upward to his.

"Dear!" he cried. He was a boy, she a girl. Love has no age. It swept
over them, a young sweet tide. This man--this woman. There was no one
else in the world then.

"Dear!" she whispered, matching her love-word to his, "and I never knew
till a minute ago!"

"I always knew. The shirt had no part in it! I have loved you since the
world began and the morning stars sang! You were made for me to love;
all these years I have been waiting for you, dear."

"All these years!" she repeated a little sadly--"that reminds us. But we
are not old! I won't be--I won't have you be! What is time, anyway?"

"Nothing!" He blew it away in a whiff of scorn. "What is anything but
that I love you and you love me? We are just born now--this is our
birthday! May I kiss you on your birthday, dear? Will you kiss me on

The clock must have stopped in very astonishment at this scandal of
grown love playing young love. At any rate, there was only the sound of
the young love in the room. The room sang with the beautiful sound of

It seemed a very long time afterward that John Bradford asked his
man-question: "When?"

"When your book is written--the love story. Not till then."

"It's getting on beautifully!" he pleaded. "It never will be done.
There's going to be no end to the chapters."

"Mercy gracious! Where are you now?"

"The heroine has just said yes. The hero has just kissed her--he is just
going to kiss her ag--"

"Mercy--mercy gracious!" Miss Theodosia's fair cheeks flooded pink. She
held up a staying hand.

"Wait--till I get--get used to being a heroine! Am I? Was _that_ the
love story?"

"That was the love story. I have been working on it every day. Some days
I had set-backs--when the heroine flung things in my face about reformed
doctors, and times like that."

"She took them back again, those things. She was a kind sort of a

"She was a dear. He wanted to kiss her when she took them back, those
things. I had all _I_ could do to keep him from it. He was a tough sort
of a hero to work with. I had my hands full."

"Did you love--did the hero love the heroine when they sat drinking cups
of tea?"

"A little harder every cup."

"When they nursed the measles?"

"A little more every measle."

"When they went to the circus?" She drew a long, happy breath. "I like
to have been that heroine! Dear, is it right to be as happy as this? For
old folks, I mean--near-olds? Oughtn't we to knock on wood? Oh, I've
just thought of Evangeline. What will Evangeline say?"

"Something Evangelical," he laughed. "I hope I'll be there."


Evangeline had excitements of her own. As though prizes for Best Babies
were not enough, a new excitement began the very next day. Two
excitements--one on the lovely heels of the other. Evangeline, gasping
in the joyous throes of the first-comer, raced over to Miss Theodosia,
as she had learned to race with troubles as well as joys. All the way
she emitted sounds approximating steam-whistles. The very nature of the
news she was carrying suggested the sounds she made carrying it.

"The elegantest thing has happened--I mean's goin' to!" She could not
wait to get quite there, but sent her news ahead of her through the
transmitting medium of air. Miss Theodosia, on her porch, sat dreaming
her love's young dream--young, not old; not old!

"The elegant elegantest! He's goin' to be cured! He won't be deaf o'
hearin' any more! I mean he thinks he won't--I mean _he_--"

"Sit down on the step, dear. Count ten, then start again."

"Onetwothreefour--oh, I can't wait to get to ten! If your little brother
had always been deaf o' hearin' an' a doctor looked into him with a
spy-glass an' said I think this boy can be cured, I'm goin' to take him
to a hospital an' have him operated when his mother is willin' if she
gets home--I mean if she gets home when she's willin'--oh, I mean--"

"Yes, dear. Sit still. I understand, and I think she will be willing
when she gets home, don't you? Oh, Evangeline, won't we all be happy to
have Carruthers cured of his poor little deafness o' hearing! I know the
doctor, and he knows ears! We'll trust him, Evangeline. He will do
everything in the world there is to be done. And we'll stay at home and

"Pray!" cried Evangeline. Her little thin face lifted to the blue
heavens. "I've woke up right slap in the middle o' nights an' prayed:
'Oh, Lord, that made a little children an' forgot his ears, do somethin'
now--don't you think you'd ought to, O Lord? It don't seem fair not to.
He ain't ever heard Elly Precious crow, nor laugh--think o' that, dear
Lord.'" The shrill voice dropped suddenly. "But He never." Evangeline

"Till now, dear--we hope He will now. He and the doctor who knows ears.
I thought you were so pleased and that you were--"

"Oh, yes'm, oh, I am! It was just--I was thinkin' how lovely Elly
Precious's laugh sounds an' Carruthers not ever hearin' it. So far, I
mean." Evangeline caught her courage again in both hands. "But he'll
laugh 'nough more times when he can hear--I mean when Carruthers can.
Won't it be puffectly elegant!"

It was later in the same day when the second excitement struck the
little House of Flaggs. Evangeline raced again across the separating
green grass to Miss Theodosia. This time she went at reduced speed
because she had Elly Precious over her shoulder. Miss Theodosia saw them
coming and smiled.

"More news! I know it is puffectly elegant by Evangeline's face. Well,

"Mercy gracious! Take him before I spill him! I'm so happy I joggle.
She's knittin' an' she's comin' home! I mean knittin' _enough_. She said
wait--to--see--you--your--mother--' Mercy gracious, when Stefana got to
your mother, seemed as if I'd burst! We hollered it to Carruthers, an'
he burst! An' Elly Precious knows she's comin', I know he knows. Tickle
him an' see how pleased he is!" Without comma or semicolon, to say
nothing of periods, Evangeline panted on. Out of breath at last, her
voice sat down an instant, as it were, to rest. It was up again in a

"To-morrow is most to-day! It'll be to-day to-morrow! Oh, mercy gracious
me! We're goin' to sweep under everything an' behind--every las' thing,
under 'n' behind. She won't find a grain o' dust. An' Stefana's makin'

"Mercy gracious!" softly ejaculated Miss Theodosia.

"I mean to eat in the dessert--corn-starch. We've begun to skim Elly
Precious's bottles. You can eat thin bottles, can't you, darlin' dear,
when Mother's comin' home? Corn-starch has to have cream on it--when
Mother's comin' home!" She laughed joyously. All past and creamless
corn-starches were a joke. Laughing at them was easy at this happy

"Isn't it splendid Aunt Sarah went to knittin'? Mercy gracious, I hope
she won't--won't drop a stitch for Mother to have to stay an' pick up!"
Evangeline's laugh trilled out once more.

"Do you suppose you'd dass to cut Elly Precious's hair, Miss Theodosia,
while I danced like everything an' made faces? Dutchy, you know, in the
back o' his neck--he's straggly now. I'd make awful faces--"

"I wouldn't 'dass,' dear," smiled Miss Theodosia. "I never could cut
fast enough and you never could dance hard enough--we'd hurt him."

"Well, she'll look at the front o' him first--never mind. We're goin' to
put on that darlin' little ni'gown you made, for a dress--belt it in,
you know, with a ribbon off the handle o' the clo'es-basket; Stefana's
ironed it out. An' we're goin' to pin on his blue ribbon prize."

John Bradford came that evening to sit on the porch in the soft warmth
that autumn had borrowed from summers-to-come, with promissory note to
pay it back when lovers were through with it. Miss Theodosia met him
with the news.

"Mustn't it be beautiful to be welcomed home like that, dear? If you
could have seen Evangeline's little shiny face! And the way Elly
Precious laughed--when I tickled him! And, oh, John--Do you hear me
call you John? I thought it would be hard!"

"'And, oh, John--'" he prompted, putting it yet further off by a

"Oh, John, I know about Carruthers. You're going to take him away to
cure him."

"To try to cure him," John Bradford said gravely.

"You'll do it, dear--you and the Lord! Evangeline and I are trusting.
Hark, she is coming! No one else sounds like that!"

"No one else gallops--canters--breaks speed limits!" he laughed. "Now
what? More news?"

The same news over again, but Evangeline saw that which momentarily
banished it from her mind. She saw John Bradford standing behind Miss
Theodosia's chair; she saw him stoop over it.

"Mercy gracious, he kissed her!" gasped Evangeline. Something told her
to turn and gallop back, but she could not stop in time. She was already
at the foot of the steps. Awful embarrassment seized her--seized
Evangeline! In the faint, reflected lamplight from within the house she
could see the two above her looking down. Mercy gracious!

"Sit down, Evangeline."

"I'm s-sittin'--I _think_ I'm sittin' down." Up-standings and
down-sittings were confused in the general dizziness of things. Perhaps
she was standing up.

"You're not sick, are you, Evangeline? You're not saying anything."

Then Evangeline said something.

"I--I saw him--doin' it, I mean. Mercy gracious, _what'll I do_?" For
some inherited delicacy of instinct made of her a dreadful intruder; she
saw herself in the shameful act. Instinctively Evangeline knew she was
on sacred ground.

"I couldn't stop, I was goin' so fast. It's too late not to see him
doin' it; I don't know what to do."

With swift, light steps Miss Theodosia was down beside her. John
Bradford with one step was there. Evangeline looked shamefacedly up into
their two kind faces.

"I'm sorry," she whispered. For answer, John Bradford took one of Miss
Theodosia's hands and laid it on hers. He held out one of his own.

"May I have this lady to be my wedded wife, Evangeline? Will you give
her to me?" His big voice was very tender. Evangeline looked into his
shining eyes. The mystery of love swept through her small, sweet soul.
She shut her eyes as if from some light too bright for them. If she were
alone, she would say her prayers. But the tender voice was going on.

"May I have her, Evangeline--will you put her hand in mine? She is very
dear, indeed, to me." She could feel Miss Theodosia's soft hand quiver
against her own hard little palm. Miss Theodosia's eyes were tender,

Then, suddenly, inspiration came to her. She laid the soft hand in the
big hand and looked up, smiling into John Bradford's face.

"I'm willin'," she said, "if you'll honor an' obey."

It was as if a silken gown enfolded Evangeline's straight little
shoulders and they heard her say: "I pronounce thee." The strange little
ceremony left them hushed.

No one spoke again for a little space. Somewhere sleepy birds twittered,
disturbed by rustling leaves or stealthy marauders. Somewhere a clock
intoned distantly. A train far away rushed through the night, perhaps to
some Lonesome Land, but they were not on it. Then John Bradford broke
the spell. He leaned down and kissed Evangeline.

A little laugh bubbled up to him. "You must've made a mistake. I'm the
wrong one--mercy gracious!"

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