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Two Little Knights of Kentucky by Annie Fellows Johnston

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[Illustration: PLANS.]


* * * * *


It was the coldest Saint Valentine's eve that Kentucky had known in
twenty years. In Lloydsborough Valley a thin sprinkling of snow whitened
the meadows, enough to show the footprints of every hungry rabbit that
loped across them; but there were not many such tracks. It was so cold
that the rabbits, for all their thick fur, were glad to run home and
hide. Nobody cared to be out long in such weather, and except now and
then, when an ice-cutter's wagon creaked up from some pond to the
frozen pike, the wintry stillness was unbroken.

On the north side of the little country depot a long row of icicles hung
from the eaves. Even the wind seemed to catch its breath there, and
hurry on with a shiver that reached to the telegraph wires overhead. It
shivered down the long stovepipe, too, inside the waiting-room. The
stove had been kept red-hot all that dull gray afternoon, but the
window-panes were still white with heavy frost-work.

Half an hour before the five o'clock train was due from the city, two
boys came running up the railroad track with their skates in their
hands. They were handsome, sturdy little fellows, so well buttoned up in
their leather leggins and warm reefer overcoats that they scarcely felt
the cold. Their cheeks were red as winter apples, from skating against
the wind, and they were almost breathless after their long run up-hill
to the depot. Racing across the platform, they bumped against the door
at the same instant, burst it noisily open, and slammed it behind them
with a bang that shook the entire building.

"What kind of a cyclone has struck us now?" growled the ticket agent,
who was in the next room. Then he frowned, as the first noise was
followed by the rasping sound of a bench being dragged out of a corner,
to a place nearer the stove. It scraped the bare floor every inch of the
way, with a jarring motion that made the windows rattle.

Stretching himself half-way out of his chair, the ticket agent pushed up
the wooden slide of the little window far enough for him to peep into
the waiting-room. Then he hastily shoved it down again.

"It's the two little chaps who came out from the city last week," he
said to the station-master. "The Maclntyre boys. You'd think they own
the earth from the way they dash in and take possession of things."

The station-master liked boys. He stroked his gray beard and chuckled.
"Well, Meyers," he said, slowly, "when you come to think of it, their
family always has owned a pretty fair slice of the earth and its good
things, and those same little lads have travelled nearly all over it,
although the oldest can't be more than ten. It would be a wonder if they
didn't have that lordly way of making themselves at home wherever
they go."

"Will they be out here all winter?" asked Meyers, who was a newcomer in

"Yes, their father and mother have gone to Florida, and left them here
with their grandmother Maclntyre."

"I imagine the old lady has her hands full," said Meyers, as a sound of
scuffling in the next room reached him.

"Oh, I don't know about that, now," said the station-master. "They're
noisy children, to be sure, and just boiling over with mischief, but if
you can find any better-mannered little gentlemen anywhere in the State
when there's ladies around, I'd like you to trot 'em out. They came down
to the train with their aunt this morning, Miss Allison Maclntyre, and
their politeness to her was something pretty to see, I can tell
you, sir."

There was a moment's pause, in which the boys could be heard laughing in
the next room.

"No," said the station-master again, "I'm thinking it's not the boys who
will be keeping Mrs. Maclntyre's hands full this winter, so much as
that little granddaughter of hers that came here last fall,--little
Virginia Dudley. You can guess what's she like from her nickname. They
call her Ginger. She had always lived at some army post out West, until
her father, Captain Dudley, was ordered to Cuba. He was wounded down
there, and has never been entirely well since. When he found they were
going to keep him there all winter, he sent for his wife last September,
and there was nothing to do with Virginia but to bring her back to
Kentucky to her grandmother."

"Oh, she's the little girl who went in on the train this morning with
Miss Allison," said the ticket agent. "I suppose the boys have come down
to meet them. They'll have a long time to wait."

While this conversation was going on behind the ticket window, the two
boys stretched themselves out on a long bench beside the stove. The warm
room made them feel drowsy after their violent out-door exercise. Keith,
the younger one, yawned several times, and finally lay down on the bench
with his cap for a pillow. He was eight years old, but curled up in that
fashion, with his long eyelashes resting on his red cheeks, and one
plump little hand tucked under his chin, he looked much younger.

"Wake me up, Malcolm, when it's time for Aunt Allison's train," he said
to his brother. "Ginger would never stop teasing me if she should find
me asleep."

Malcolm unbuttoned his reefer, and, after much tugging, pulled out a
handsome little gold watch. "Oh, there's a long time to wait!" he
exclaimed. "We need not have left the pond so early, for the train will
not be here for twenty-five minutes. I believe I'll curl up here myself,
till then. I hope they won't forget the valentines we sent for."

The room was very still for a few minutes. There was no sound at all
except the crackling of the fire and the shivering of the wind in the
long stovepipe. Then some one turned the door-knob so cautiously and
slowly that it unlatched without a sound.

It was the cold air rushing into the room as the door was pushed ajar
that aroused the boys. After one surprised glance they sat up, for the
man, who was slipping into the room as stealthily as a burglar, was the
worst-looking tramp they had ever seen. There was a long, ugly red scar
across his face, running from his cheek to the middle of his forehead,
and partly closing one eye. Perhaps it was the scar that gave him such a
queer, evil sort of an expression; even without it he would have been a
repulsive sight. His clothes were dirty and ragged, and his breath had
frozen in icicles on his stubby red beard.

Behind him came a boy no larger than Keith, but with a hard, shrewd look
in his hungry little face that made one feel he had lived a long time
and learned more than was good for him to know. It was plain to be seen
that he was nearly starved, and suffering from the intense cold. His
bare toes peeped through their ragged shoes, and he had no coat. A thin
cotton shirt and a piece of an old gray horse-blanket was all that
protected his shoulders from the icy wind of that February afternoon.
He, too, crept in noiselessly, as if expecting to be ordered out at the
first sound, and then turned to coax in some animal that was tied to one
end of the rope which he held.

Malcolm and Keith looked on with interest, and sprang up excitedly as
the animal finally shuffled in far enough for the boy to close the door
behind it. It was a great, shaggy bear, taller than the man when it sat
up on its haunches beside him.

The tramp looked uneasily around the room for an instant, but seeing no
one save the two children, ventured nearer the stove. The boy followed
him, and the bear shuffled along behind them both, limping painfully.
Not a word was said for a moment. The boys were casting curious glances
at the three tramps who had come in as noiselessly as if they had snowed
down, and the man was watching the boys with shrewd eyes. He did not
seem to be looking at them, but at the end of his survey he could have
described them accurately. He had noticed every detail of their
clothing, from their expensive leather leggins to their fur-lined
gloves. He glanced at Malcolm's watch-chain and the fine skates which
Keith swung back and forth by a strap, and made up his mind, correctly,
too, that the pockets of these boys rarely lacked the jingle of money
which they could spend as they pleased.

When he turned away to hold his hands out toward the stove, he rubbed
them together with satisfaction, for he had discovered more than that.
He knew from their faces that they were trusting little souls, who would
believe any story he might tell them, if he appealed to their sympathies
in the right way. He was considering how to begin, when Malcolm broke
the silence.

"Is that a trained bear?"

The man nodded.

"What can it do?" was the next question.

"Oh, lots of things," answered the man, in a low, whining voice. "Drill
like a soldier, and dance, and ride a stick." He kept his shifty eyes
turning constantly toward the door, as if afraid some one might
overhear him.

"I'd put him through his paces for you young gen'lemen," he said, "but
he got his foot hurt for one thing, and another is, if we went to
showing off, we might be ordered to move on. This is the first time
we've smelled a fire in twenty-four hours, and we ain't in no hurry to
leave it, I can tell you."

"Will he bite?" asked Keith, going up to the huge bear, which had
stretched itself out comfortably on the floor.

"Not generally. He's a good-tempered brute, most times like a lamb. But
he ain't had nothing to eat all day, so it wouldn't be surprising if he
was a bit snappish."

"Nothing to eat!" echoed Keith. "You poor old thing!" Going a step
closer, he put out his hand and stroked the bear, as if it had been a
great dog.

"Oh, Malcolm, just feel how soft his fur is, like mamma's beaver jacket.
And he has the kindest old face. Poor old fellow, is you hungry? Never
mind, Keith'll get you something to eat pretty soon."

Putting his short, plump arms around the animal's neck, he hugged it
lovingly up to him. A cunning gleam came into the man's eyes. He saw
that he had gained the younger boy's sympathy, and he wanted
Malcolm's also.

"Is your home near here, my little gen'leman?" he asked, in a friendly

"No, we live in the city," answered Malcolm, "but my grandmother's
place, where we are staying, is not far from here." He was stroking the
bear with one hand as he spoke, and hunting in his pocket with the
other, hoping to find some stray peanuts to give it.

"Then maybe you know of some place where we could stay to-night. Even a
shed to crawl into would keep us from freezing. It's an awful cold night
not to have a roof over your head, or a crust to gnaw on, or a spark of
fire to keep life in your body."

"Maybe they'd let you stay in the waiting-room," suggested Malcolm. "It
is always good and warm in here. I'll ask the station-master. He's a
friend of mine."

"Oh, no! No, don't!" exclaimed the tramp, hastily, pulling his old hat
farther over his forehead, as if to hide the scar, and looking uneasily
around. "I wouldn't have you do that for anything. I've had dealings
with such folks before, and I know how they'd treat _me_. I thought
maybe there was a barn or a hay-shed or something on your grandmother's
place, where we could lay up for repairs a couple of days. The beast
needs a rest. Its foot's sore; and Jonesy there is pretty near to lung
fever, judging from the way he coughs." He nodded toward the boy, who
had placed his chair as close to the stove as possible. The child's face
was drawn into a pucker by the tingling pains in his half-frozen feet,
and his efforts to keep from coughing.

Malcolm looked at him steadily. He had read about boys who were homeless
and hungry and cold, but he had never really understood how much it
meant to be all that. This was the first time in his ten short years
that he had ever come close to real poverty. He had seen the swarms of
beggars that infest such cities as Naples and Rome, and had tossed them
coppers because that seemed a part of the programme in travelling. He
had not really felt sorry for them, for they did not seem to mind it.
They sat on the steps in the warm Italian sunshine, and waited for
tourists to throw them money, as comfortably as toads sit blinking at
flies. But this was different. A wave of pity swept through Malcolm's
generous little heart as he looked at Jonesy, and the man watching him
shrewdly saw it.

"Of course," he whined, "a little gen'leman like you don't know what it
is to go from town to town and have every door shut in your face. You
don't think that this is a hard-hearted, stingy old world, because it
has given you the cream of everything. But if you'd never had anything
all your life but other people's scraps and leavings, and you hadn't any
home or friends or money, and was sick besides, you'd think things
wasn't very evenly divided. Wouldn't you now? You'd think it wasn't
right that some should have all that heart can wish, and others not
enough to keep soul and body together. If you'd a-happened to be Jonesy,
and Jonesy had a-happened to 'a' been you, I reckon you'd feel it was
pretty tough to see such a big difference between you. It doesn't seem
fair now, does it?"

"No," admitted Malcolm, faintly. He had taken a dislike to the man. He
could not have told why, but his child instinct armed him with a sudden
distrust. Still, he felt the force of the whining appeal, and the burden
of an obligation to help them seemed laid upon his shoulders.

"Grandmother is afraid for anybody to sleep in the barn, on account of
fire," he said, after a moment's thought, "and I'm sure she wouldn't let
you come into the house without you'd had a bath and some clean clothes.
Grandmother is dreadfully particular," he added, hastily, not wanting to
be impolite even to a tramp. "Seems to me Keith and I have to spend half
our time washing our hands and putting on clean collars."

"Oh, I know a place," cried Keith. "There's that empty cabin down by the
spring-house. Nobody has lived in it since the new servants' cottage was
built. There isn't any furniture in it, but there's a fireplace in one
room, and it would be warmer than the barn."

"That's just the trick!" exclaimed Malcolm. "We can carry a pile of hay
over from the barn for you to sleep on. Aunt Allison will be out on this
next train and I'll ask her. I am sure she will let you, because last
night, when it was so cold, she said she felt sorry for anything that
had to be out in it, even the poor old cedar trees, with the sleet on
their branches. She said that it was King Lear's own weather, and she
could understand how Cordelia felt when she said, _'Mine enemy's dog,
though he had bit me, should have stood that night against my fire!'_ It
is just like auntie to feel that way about it, only she's so good to
everybody she couldn't have any enemies."

Something like a smile moved the tramp's stubby beard. "So she's that
kind, is she? Well, if she could have a soft spot for a dog that had bit
her, and an enemy's dog at that, it stands to reason that she wouldn't
object to some harmless travellers a-sleeping in an empty cabin a couple
of nights. S'pose'n you show us the place, sonny, and we'll be
moving on."

"Oh, it wouldn't be right not to ask her first," exclaimed Malcolm.
"She'll be here in such a little while."

The man looked uneasy. Presently he walked over to the window and
scraped a peep-hole on the frosted pane with his dirty thumbnail. "Sun's
down," he said. "I'd like to get that bear's foot fixed comfortable
before it grows any darker. I'd like to mighty well. It'll take some
time to heat water to dress it. Is that cabin far from here?"

"Not if we go in at the back of the place," said Malcolm. "It's just
across the meadow, and over a little hill. If we went around by the big
front gate it would be a good deal longer."

The man shifted uneasily from one foot to another, and complained of
being hungry. He was growing desperate. For more reasons than one he did
not want to be at the station when the train came in. That long red scar
across his face had been described a number of times in the newspapers,
and he did not care to be recognised just then.

The boys could not have told how it came about, but in a few minutes
they were leading the way toward the cabin. The man had persuaded them
that it was not at all necessary to wait for their Aunt Allison's
permission, and that it was needless to trouble their grandmother. Why
should the ladies be bothered about a matter that the boys were old
enough to decide? So well had he argued, and so tactfully had he
flattered them, that when they took their way across the field, it was
with the feeling that they were doing their highest duty in getting
these homeless wayfarers to the cabin as quickly as possible, on
their own responsibility.

[Illustration: "ACROSS THE SNOWY FIELDS."]

"We can get back in time to meet the train, if we hurry," said Malcolm,
looking at his watch again. "There's still fifteen minutes."

No one saw the little procession file out of the waiting-room and across
the snowy field, for it was growing dark, and the lamps were lighted and
the curtains drawn in the few houses they passed. Malcolm went first,
proudly leading the friendly old bear. Jonesy came next beside Keith,
and the man shuffled along in the rear, looking around with suspicious
glances whenever a twig snapped, or a distant dog barked.

As the wind struck against Jonesy's body, he drew the bit of blanket
more closely around him, and coughed hoarsely. His teeth were chattering
and his lips blue. "You look nearly frozen," said Keith, who, well-clad
and well-fed, scarcely felt the cold. "Here! put this on, or you'll be
sick," Unbuttoning his thick little reefer, he pulled it off and tied
its sleeves around Jonesy's neck.

A strange look passed over the face of the man behind them. "Blessed if
the little kid didn't take it off his own back," he muttered. "If any
man had ever done that for me--just once--well, maybe, I wouldn't ha'
been what I am now!"

For a moment, as they reached the top of the hill, bear, boys, and man
were outlined blackly against the sky like strange silhouettes. Then
they passed over and disappeared in the thick clump of pine-trees, which
hid the little cabin from the eyes of the surrounding world.



In less time than one would think possible, a big fire was roaring in
the cabin fireplace, water was steaming in the rusty kettle on the
crane, and a pile of hay and old carpet lay in one corner, ready to be
made into a bed. Keith had made several trips to the kitchen, and came
back each time with his hands full.

Old Daphne, the cook, never could find it in her heart to refuse "Marse
Sydney's" boys anything. They were too much like what their father had
been at their age to resist their playful coaxing. She had nursed him
when he was a baby, and had been his loyal champion all through his
boyhood. Now her black face wrinkled into smiles whenever she heard his
name spoken. In her eyes, nobody was quite so near perfection as he,
except, perhaps, the fair woman whom he had married.

"Kain't nobody in ten States hole a can'le to my Marse Sidney an' his
Miss Elise," old Daphne used to say, proudly. "They sut'n'ly is the
handsomest couple evah jined togethah, an' the free-handedest. In all
they travels by sea or by land they nevah fo'gits ole Daphne. I've got
things from every country undah the shinin' sun what they done
brung me."

Now, all the services she had once been proud to render them were
willingly given to their little sons. When Keith came in with a pitiful
tale of a tramp who was starving at their very gates, she gave him even
more than he asked for, and almost more than he could carry.

The bear and its masters were so hungry, and their two little hosts so
interested in watching them eat, that they forgot all about going back
to meet the train. They did not even hear it whistle when it came
puffing into the Valley.

As Miss Allison stepped from the car to the station platform, she looked
around in vain for the boys who had promised to meet her. Her arms were
so full of bundles, as suburban passengers' usually are, that she could
not hold up her long broadcloth skirt, or even turn her handsome fur
collar higher over her ears. With a shade of annoyance on her pretty
face, she swept across the platform and into the waiting-room, out
of the cold.

Behind her came a little girl about ten years old, as unlike her as
possible, although it was Virginia Dudley's ambition to be exactly like
her Aunt Allison. She wanted to be tall, and slender, and grown up; Miss
Allison was that, and yet she had kept all her lively girlish ways, and
a love of fun that made her charming to everybody, young and old.
Virginia longed for wavy brown hair and white hands, and especially for
a graceful, easy manner. Her hair was short and black, and her
complexion like a gypsy's. She had hard, brown little fists, sharp gray
eyes that seemed to see everything at once, and a tongue that was always
getting her into trouble. As for the ease of manner, that might come in
time, but her stately old grandmother often sighed in secret over
Virginia's awkwardness.

She stumbled now as she followed the young lady into the waiting-room.
Her big, plume-covered hat tipped over one ear, but she, too, had so
many bundles, that she could not spare a hand to straighten it.

"Well, Virginia, what do you suppose has become of the boys?" asked her
aunt. "They promised to meet us and carry our packages."

"I heard them in here about half an hour ago, Miss Allison," said the
station-master, who had come in with a lantern. "I s'pose they got tired
of waiting. Better leave your things here, hadn't you? I'll watch them.
It is mighty slippery walking this evening."

"Oh, thank you, Mr. Mason," she answered, beginning to pile boxes and
packages upon a bench, I'll send Pete down for them immediately. Now,
Virginia, turn up your coat collar and hold your muff over your nose, or
Jack Frost will make an icicle out of you before you are half-way home.

They had been in the house some time before the boys remembered their
promise to meet them at the station. When they saw how late it was, they
started home on the run.

"I am fairly aching to tell Ginger about that bear," panted Keith, as
they reached the side door. "I am so sorry that we promised the man not
to say anything about them being on the place, before he sees us again
to-morrow. I wonder why he asked us that."

"I don't know," answered Malcolm. "He seemed to have some very good
reason, and he talked about it so that it didn't seem right not to
promise a little thing like that."

"I wish we hadn't, though," said Keith, again.

"But it's done now," persisted Malcolm. "We're bound not to tell, and
you can't get out of it, for he made us give him our word 'on the
honour of a gentleman;' and that settles it, you know."

They were two very dirty boys who clattered up the back stairs, and
raced to their room to dress for dinner. Their clothes were covered with
hayseed and straw, and their hands and faces were black with soot from
the old cabin chimney. They had both helped to build the fire.

The lamps had just been lighted in the upper hall, and Virginia came
running out from her room when she heard the boys' voices.

"Why didn't you meet us at the train?" she began, but stopped as she saw
their dirty faces. "Where on earth have you chimney-sweeps been?"
she cried.

"Oh, about and about," answered Malcolm, teasingly. "Don't you wish you

Virginia shrugged her shoulders, as if she had not the slightest
interest in the matter, and held out two packages.

"Here are the valentines you sent for. You just ought to see the pile
that Aunt Allison bought. We've the best secret about to-morrow that
ever was."

"So have we," began Keith, but Malcolm clapped a sooty hand over his
mouth and pulled him toward the door of their room. "Come on," he said.
"We've barely time to dress for dinner. Don't you know enough to keep
still, you little magpie?" he exclaimed, as the door banged behind them.
"The only way to keep a secret is not to act like you have one!"

Virginia walked slowly back to her room and paused in the doorway,
wondering what she could do to amuse herself until dinner-time. It was a
queer room for a girl, decorated with flags and Indian trophies and
everything that could remind her of the military life she loved, at the
far-away army post. There were photographs framed in brass buttons on
her dressing-table, and pictures of uniformed officers all over the
walls. A canteen and an army cap with a bullet-hole through the crown,
hung over her desk, and a battered bugle, that had sounded many a
triumphant charge, swung from the corner of her mirror.

Each souvenir had a history, and had been given her at parting by some
special friend. Every one at the fort had made a pet of Captain Dudley's
daughter,--the harum-scarum little Ginger,--who would rather dash across
the prairies on her pony, like a wild Comanche Indian, than play with
the finest doll ever imported from Paris.

There was a suit in her wardrobe, short skirt, jacket, leggins, and
moccasins, all made and beaded by the squaws. It was the gift of the
colonel's wife. Mrs. Dudley had hesitated some time before putting it in
one of the trunks that was to go back to Kentucky.

"You look so much like an Indian now," she said to Virginia. "Your face
is so sunburned that I am afraid your grandmother will be scandalised. I
don't know what she would say if she knew that I ever allowed you to run
so wild. If I had known that you were going back to civilisation I
certainly should not have kept your hair cut short, and you should have
worn sunbonnets all summer."

To Mrs. Dudley's great surprise, her little daughter threw herself into
her arms, sobbing, "Oh, mamma! I don't want to go back to Kentucky! Take
me to Cuba with you! Please do, or else let me stay here at the post.
Everybody will take care of me here! I'll just _die_ if you leave me in

"Why, darling," she said, soothingly, as she wiped her tears away and
rocked her back and forth in her arms, "I thought you have always
wanted to see mamma's old home, and the places you have heard so much
about. There are all the old toys in the nursery that we had when we
were children, and the grape-vine swing in the orchard, and the
mill-stream where we fished, and the beech-woods where we had such
delightful picnics. I thought it would be so nice for you to do all the
same things that made me so happy when I was a child, and go to school
in the same old Girls' College and know all the dear old neighbours that
I knew. Wouldn't my little girl like that?"

"Oh, yes, some, I s'pose," sobbed Virginia, "but I didn't know I'd have
to be so--so--everlastingly--civilised!" she wailed. "I don't want to
always have to dress just so, and have to walk in a path and be called
Virginia all the time. That sounds so stiff and proper. I'd rather stay
where people don't mind if I am sunburned and tanned, and won't be
scandalised at everything I do. It's so much nicer to be just
plain Ginger!"

It had been five months, now, since Virginia left Fort Dennis. At first
she had locked hen self in her room nearly every day, and, with her
face buried in her Indian suit, cried to go back. She missed the gay
military life of the army post, as a sailor would miss the sea, or an
Alpine shepherd the free air of his snow-capped mountain heights.

It was not that she did not enjoy being at her grandmother's. She liked
the great gray house whose square corner tower and over-hanging vines
made it look like an old castle. She liked the comfort and elegance of
the big, stately rooms, and she had her grandmother's own pride in the
old family portraits and the beautiful carved furniture. The negro
servants seemed so queer and funny to her that she found them a great
source of amusement, and her Aunt Allison planned so many pleasant
occupations outside of school-hours that she scarcely had time to get
lonesome. But she had a shut-in feeling, like a wild bird in a cage, and
sometimes the longing for liberty which her mother had allowed her made
her fret against the thousand little proprieties she had to observe.
Sometimes when she went tipping over the polished floors of the long
drawing room, and caught sight of herself in one of the big mirrors, she
felt that she was not herself at all, but somebody in a story. The
Virginia in the looking-glass seemed so very, very civilised. More than
once, after one of these meetings with herself in the mirror, she dashed
up-stairs, locked her door, and dressed herself in her Indian suit. Then
in her noiseless moccasins she danced the wildest of war-dances,
whispering shrilly between her teeth, "Now I'm Ginger! Now I'm Ginger!
And I _won't_ be dressed up, and I _won't_ learn my lessons, and I
_won't_ be a little lady, and I'll run away and go back to Fort Dennis
the very first chance I get!"

Usually she was ashamed of these outbursts afterwards, for it always
happened that after each one she found her Aunt Allison had planned
something especially pleasant for her entertainment. Miss Allison felt
sorry for the lonely child, who had never been separated from her father
and mother before, so she devoted her time to her as much as possible,
telling her stories and entering into her plays and pleasures as if they
had both been the same age.

Since the boys had come, Virginia had not had a single homesick moment.
While she was at school in the primary department of the Girls'
College, Malcolm and Keith were reciting their lessons to the old
minister who lived across the road from Mrs. MacIntyre's. They were all
free about the same hour, and even on the coldest days played
out-of-doors from lunch-time until dark.

To-night Virginia had so many experiences to tell them of her day in
town that the boys seemed unusually long in dressing. She was so
impatient for them to hear her news that she could not settle down to
anything, but walked restlessly around the room, wishing they
would hurry.

"Oh, I haven't sorted my valentines!" she exclaimed, presently, picking
up a fancy box which she had tossed on the bed when she first came in.
"I'll take them down to the library."

There was no one in the room when she peeped in. It looked so bright and
cosy with the great wood fire blazing on the hearth and the
rose-coloured light falling from its softly shaded lamps, that she
forgot the coldness of the night outside. Sitting down on a pile of
cushions at one end of the hearth-rug, she began sorting her purchases,
trying to decide to whom each one should be sent.

"The prettiest valentine of all must go to poor papa," she said to
herself, "'cause he's been so sick away down there in Cuba; and this one
that's got the little girl on it in a blue dress shall be for my dear,
sweet mamma, 'cause it will make her think of me."

For a moment, a mist seemed to blur the gay blue dress of the little
valentine girl as Virginia looked at her, thinking of her far-away
mother. She drew her hand hastily across her eyes and went on:

"This one is for Sergeant Jackson out at Fort Dennis, and the biggest
one, with the doves, for Colonel Philips and his wife. Dear me! I wish I
could send one to every officer and soldier out there. They were all
_so_ good to me!"

The pile of lace-paper cupids and hearts and arrows and roses slipped
from her lap, down to the rug, as she clasped her hands around her knees
and looked into the fire. She wished that she could be back again at the
fort, long enough to live one of those beautiful old days from reveille
to taps. How she loved the bugle-calls and the wild thrill the band gave
her, when it struck up a burst of martial music, and the troops went
dashing by! How she missed the drills and the dress parades; her rides
across the open prairie on her pony, beside her father; how she missed
the games she used to play with the other children at the fort on the
long summer evenings!

Something more than a mist was gathering in her eyes now. Two big tears
were almost ready to fall when the door opened and Mrs. MacIntyre came
in. In Virginia's eyes she was the most beautiful grandmother any one
ever had. She was not so tall as her daughter Allison, and in that
respect fell short of the little girl's ideal, but her hair, white as
snow, curled around her face in the same soft, pretty fashion, and by
every refined feature she showed her kinship to the aristocratic old
faces which looked down from the family portraits in the hall.

"I couldn't be as stately and dignified as she is if I practised a
thousand years," thought Virginia, scrambling up from the pile of
cushions to roll a chair nearer the fire. As she did so, her heel caught
in the rug, and she fell back in an awkward little heap.

"The more haste, the less grace, my dear," said her grandmother, kindly,
thanking her for the proffered chair. Virginia blushed, wondering why
she always appeared so awkward in her grandmother's presence. She envied
the boys because they never seemed embarrassed or ill at ease
before her.

While she was picking up her valentines the boys came in. If two of the
cavalier ancestors had stepped down from their portrait frames just
then, they could not have come into the room in a more charming manner
than Malcolm and Keith. Their faces were shining, their linen spotless,
and they came up to kiss their grandmother's cheek with an old-time
courtliness that delighted her.

"I am sure that there are no more perfect gentlemen in all Kentucky than
my two little lads," she said, fondly, with an approving pat of Keith's
hand as she held him a moment.

Virginia, who had seen them half an hour before, tousled and dirty, and
had been arrayed against them in more than one hot quarrel where they
had been anything but chivalrous, let slip a faintly whistled

The boys darted a quick glance in her direction, but she was bending
over the valentines with a very serious face, which never changed its
expression till her Aunt Allison came in and the boys began their
apologies for not meeting her at the train. Their only excuse was that
they had forgotten all about it.

Virginia spelled on her fingers: "I dare you to tell what made your
faces so black!" Keith's only answer was to thrust his tongue out at her
behind his grandmother's back. Then he ran to hold the door open for the
ladies to pass out to dinner, with all the grace of a young

When dinner was over and they were back in the library, Miss Allison
opened a box of tiny heart-shaped envelopes, and began addressing them.
As she took up her pen she said, merrily: "_Now_ you may tell our
secret, Virginia."

"I was going to make you guess for about an hour," said Virginia, "but
it is so nice I can't wait that long to tell you. We are going to have a
valentine party to-morrow night. Aunt Allison planned it all a week ago,
and bought the things for it while we were in town to-day. Everything on
the table is to be cut in heart shape,--the bread and butter and
sandwiches and cheese; and the ice-cream will be moulded in hearts, and
the two big frosted cakes are hearts, one pink and one white, with candy
arrows sticking in them. Then there will be peppermint candy hearts with
mottoes printed on them, and lace-paper napkins with verses on them, so
that the table itself will look like a lovely big valentine. The games
are lovely, too. One is parlour archery, with a red heart in the middle
of the target, and two prizes, one for the boys and one for the girls."

"Who are invited?" asked Malcolm, as Virginia stopped for breath.

"Oh, the Carrington boys, and the Edmunds, and Sally Fairfax, and Julia
Ferris,--I can't remember them all. There will be twenty-four, counting
us. There is the list on the table."

Keith reached for it, and began slowly spelling out the names. "Who is
this?" he asked, reading the name that headed the list. "'The Little
Colonel!' I never heard of him,"

"Oh, he's a girl!" laughed Virginia. Little Lloyd Sherman,--don't you
know? She lives up at 'The Locusts,' that lovely place with the long
avenue of trees leading up to the house. You've surely seen her with her
grandfather, old Colonel Lloyd, riding by on the horse that he calls
Maggie Boy."

"Has he only one arm?" asked Malcolm.

"Yes, the other was shot off in the war years ago. Well, when Lloyd was
younger, she had a temper so much like his, and wore such a dear little
Napoleon hat, that everybody took to calling her the Little Colonel."

"How old is she now?" asked Malcolm.

"About Keith's age, isn't she, Aunt Allison?" asked Virginia.

"Yes," was the answer. "She is nearly eight, I believe. She has
outgrown most of her naughtiness now."

"I love to hear her talk," said Virginia. "She leaves out all of her r's
in such a soft, sweet way."

"All Southerners do that," said Malcolm, pompously, "and I think it
sounds lots better than the way Yankees talk."

"You boys don't talk like the Little Colonel," retorted Virginia, who
had often been teased by them for not being a Southerner. "You're all
mixed up every which way. Some things you say like darkeys, and some
things like English people, and it doesn't sound a bit like the
Little Colonel."

"Oh, well, that's because we've travelled abroad so much, don't you
know," drawled Malcolm, "and we've been in so many different countries,
and had an English tutor, and all that sort of a thing. We couldn't help
picking up a bit of an accent, don't you know." His superior tone made
Virginia long to slap him.

"Yes, I know, Mr. Brag," she said, in such a low voice that her
grandmother could not hear. "I know perfectly well. If I didn't it
wouldn't be because you haven't told me every chance you got. Who did
you say is your tailor in London, and how many times was it the Queen
invited you out to Windsor? I think it's a ninety-nine dollar cravat you
always buy, isn't it? And you wouldn't be so common as to wear a pair of
gloves that hadn't been made to order specially for you. Yes, I've heard
all about it!"

Miss Allison heard, but said nothing. She knew the boys were a little
inclined to boast, and she thought Virginia's sharp tongue might have a
good effect. But the retort had grown somewhat sharper than was
pleasant, and, fearing a quarrel might follow if she did not interrupt
the whispers beside her, she said:

"Boys, did you ever hear about the time that the Little Colonel threw
mud on her grandfather's coat? There's no end to her pranks. Get
grandmother to tell you."

"Oh, yes, please, grandmother," begged Keith, with an arm around her
neck. "Tell about Fritz and the parrot, too," said Virginia. "Here,
Malcolm, there's room on this side for you."

Aunt Allison smiled. The storm had blown over, and they were all friends




"Now we can tell Ginger about the bear," was Keith's first remark, when
he awoke early next morning.

"But not until after we have seen the man again," answered Malcolm. "You
know we promised him that."

"Then let's go down before breakfast," exclaimed Keith, springing out of
bed and beginning to dress himself. A little while later, the old
coloured coachman saw them run past the window, where he was warming
himself by the kitchen stove.

"Daphne," he called out to the cook, who was beating biscuit in the
adjoining pantry, "Daphne, what's dem chillun alluz racin' down to de
spring-house fo' in de snow? Peah's lak dee has a heap o' business
down yandah."

Daphne, who had just been coaxed into filling a basket with a generous
supply of cold victuals, pretended not to hear until he repeated his
question. Then she stopped pounding long enough to say, sharply,
"Whuffo' you alluz 'spicion dem boys so evahlastin'ly, Unc' Henry? Lak
enough dee's settin' a rabbit trap. Boys has done such things befo'.
You's done it yo'se'f, hasn't you?"

Daphne had seen them setting rabbit traps there, but she knew well
enough that was not what they had gone for now, and that the food they
carried was not for the game of Robinson Crusoe, which they had played
in the deserted cabin the summer before. Still, she did not care to take
Unc' Henry into her confidence.

The food, the warmth, and the night's rest had so restored the bear that
it was able to go through all its performances for the boys'
entertainment, although it limped badly.

"Isn't he a dandy?" cried Keith; "I wish we had one. It's nicer than any
pets we ever had, except the ponies. Something always happened to the
dogs, and the monkey was such a nuisance, and the white rabbits were
stolen, and the guinea pigs died."

"Haven't we had a lot of things, when you come to think of it?"
exclaimed Malcolm. "Squirrels, and white mice, and the coon that Uncle
Harry brought us, and the parrot from Mexico."

"Yes, and the gold-fish, and the little baby alligator that froze to
death in its tank," added Keith. "But a bear like this would be nicer
than any of them. As soon as papa comes home I am going to ask him to
buy us one."

"Jonesy's nearly done for," said the tramp, pointing to the boy who lay
curled up in the hay, coughing at nearly every breath. "We ought to stay
here another day, if you young gen'lemen don't object."

"Oh, goody!" cried Keith. "Then we can bring Ginger down to see the bear

"Yes," answered the man, "we'll give a free show to all your friends, if
you will only kindly wait till to-morrow. Give us one more day to rest
up and get in a little better trim. The poor beast's foot is still too
lame for him to do his best, and you're too kind-hearted, I am sure, to
want anything to suffer in order to give you pleasure."

"Of course," answered both the boys, agreeing so quickly to all the
man's smooth speeches that, before they left the cabin, they had
renewed their promise to keep silent one more day. The man was a shrewd
one, and knew well how to make these unsuspecting little souls serve his
purpose, like puppets tied to a string.

Miss Allison was so busy with preparations for the party that she had no
time all that day to notice what the boys were doing. When they came
back from reciting their lessons to the minister, she sent them on
several errands, but the rest of the time they divided between the cabin
and the post-office.

Every mail brought a few valentines to each of them, but it was not
until the five o'clock train came that they found the long-looked-for
letters from their father and mother.

"I knew they'd each send us a valentine," cried Keith, tearing both of
his open. "I'll bet that papa's is a comic one. Yes, here it is. Papa is
such a tease. Isn't it a stunner? a base-ball player. And, whoopee!
Here's a dollar bill in each of 'em."

"So there is in mine," said Malcolm. "Mamma says we are to buy anything
we want, and call it a valentine. They couldn't find anything down on
the coast that they thought we would like."

"I don't know what to get with mine," said Keith, folding his two bills
together. "Seems to me I have everything I want except a camera, and I
couldn't buy the kind I want for two dollars."

They were half-way home when a happy thought came to Malcolm. "Keith,"
he cried, excitedly, "if you would put your money with mine, that would
make four dollars, and maybe it would be enough to buy that bear!"

"Let's do it!" exclaimed Keith, turning a handspring in the snow to show
his delight. "Come on, we'll ask the man now."

But the man shook his head, when they dashed into the cabin and told
their errand. "No, sonny, that ain't a tenth of what it's worth to me,"
he said. "I've raised that bear from the time it was a teeny cub. I've
taught it, and fed it, and looked to it for company when I hadn't nobody
in the world to care for me. Couldn't sell that bear for no such sum as
that. Couldn't you raise any more money than that?"

It was Malcolm's turn to shake his head. He turned away, too
disappointed to trust himself to answer any other way. The tears sprang
to Keith's eyes. He had set his heart on having that bear.

"Never mind, brother," said Malcolm, moving toward the door. "Papa will
get us one when he comes home and finds how much we want one."

"Oh, don't be in such a hurry, young gen'lemen," whined the man, when he
saw that they were really going. "I didn't say that I wouldn't sell it
to you for that much. You've been so kind to me that I ought to be
willing to make any sacrifice for you. I happen to need four dollars
very particular just now, and I've a mind to sell him to you on your own
terms." He paused a moment, looking thoughtfully at a crack in the
floor, as he stood by the fire with his hands in his pockets. "Yes," he
said, at last, "you can have him for four dollars, if you'll keep mum
about us being here for one more day. You can leave the bear here
till we go."

"No! No!" cried Keith, throwing his arms around the animal's neck. "He
is ours now, and we must take him with us. We can hide him away in the
barn. It is so dark out-doors now that nobody will see us. It wouldn't
seem like he is really ours if we couldn't take him with us."

After some grumbling the man consented, and pocketed the four dollars,
first asking very particularly the exact spot in the barn where they
expected to hide their huge pet.

Unc' Henry, coming up from the carriage-house through the twilight,
thought he saw some one stealing along by the clump of cedars by the
spring-house. "Who's prowlin' roun' dis yere premises?" he called. There
was no answer, and, after peering intently through the dusk for a
moment, the old darkey concluded that he must have been mistaken, and
passed on. As soon as he was gone, the boys came out from behind the
cedars, and crept up the snowy hillside. They were leading the bear
between them.

"We'll put him away back in the hay-mow where he'll be warm and
comfortable to-night," whispered Malcolm. "Then in the morning we can
tell everybody."

While they were busily scooping out a big hollow in the hay, they were
startled by a rustling behind them. They looked into each other's
frightened faces, and then glanced around the dark barn in alarm. An old
cap pushed up through the hay. Then a weak little cough betrayed Jonesy.
He had followed them.

"Sh!" he said, in a warning whisper. "I'm afraid the boss will find out
that I'm here. He started to the store for some tobacco as soon as you
left. He's been wild fer some, but didn't have no money. _Don't you
leave that bear out here to-night, if you ever expect to see it again!_
That wasn't true what he told you. He never saw the bear till two months
ago, and he sold it to you cheap because he's a-goin' to steal it back
again to-night, and make off up the road with it. He went off a-grinnin'
over the slick way he'd fooled you, and I jes' had to come and tell,
'cause you've been so good to me. I'll never forget the little kid's
givin' me the coat off his own back, if I live to be a hundred. Now
don't blab on me, or the boss would nearly kill me."

"Is that man your father?" began Keith, but Jonesy, alarmed by some
sudden noise, sprang to the door, and disappeared in the twilight.

The boys looked at each other a moment, with surprise and indignation
in their faces. There was a hurried consultation in the hay-mow. A few
moments later the boys were smuggling their new pet into the house, and
up the back stairs. They scarcely dared breathe until it was safe in
their own room.

All the time that they were dressing for the party, they were trying to
decide where to put it for the night, so that neither the tramp nor the
family could discover it. What Jonesy had told them about the man's
dishonest intention did not relieve them from their promise. They were
amazed that any one could be so mean, and longed to tell their Aunt
Allison all about it; still, one of the conditions on which they had
bought the bear was that they were to "keep mum," and they stuck
strictly to that promise.

By the time they were dressed, they had decided to put it in the blue
room, a guest-chamber in the north wing, seldom used in winter, because
it was so hard to heat. "Nobody will ever think of coming in here," said
Malcolm, "and it will be plenty warm for a bear if we turn on the
furnace a little." As he spoke, he was tying the bear's rope around a
leg of the big, high-posted bed.

"Won't Ginger be surprised?" answered Keith. "We'll tell her that we
have a valentine six feet long, and keep her guessing."

There was no time for teasing, however, as the first guest arrived while
they were still in the blue room.

"I hate to go off and leave him in the dark," said Keith, with a final
loving pat. "I guess he'll not mind, though. Maybe he'll think he is in
the woods if I put this good-smelling pine pillow on the rug
beside him."

"Oh, boys," called Virginia from the hall down-stairs. "See what an
enormous valentine pie Aunt Allison has made!"

Looking over the banisters, the boys saw that a table had been drawn
into the middle of the wide reception-hall, and on it sat the largest
pie that they had ever seen. It was in a bright new tin pan, and its
daintily browned crust would have made them hungry even if their
appetites had not been sharpened by the cold and exercise of the

"What a queer place to serve pie," said Malcolm, in a disapproving
undertone to his brother. "Why don't they have it in the dining-room? It
looks mighty good, but somehow it doesn't seem proper to have it stuck
out here in the hall. Mamma would never do such a thing."

"Aw, it's made of paper! She fooled us, sure, Malcolm," called back
Keith, who had run on ahead to look. "It is only painted to look like a
pie. But isn't it a splendid imitation?"

Virginia, pleased to have caught them so cleverly, showed them the ends
of twenty-four pieces of narrow ribbon, peeping from under the
delicately brown top crust. "The white ones are for the girls, and the
red ones for the boys," she explained. "There is a valentine on the end
of each one, and those on the red ribbons match the ones on the white.
We'll all pull at once, and the ones who have valentines alike will go
out to dinner together."

The guests came promptly. They had been invited for half-past six, and
dinner was to be served soon after that time. The last to arrive was the
Little Colonel. She came in charge of an old coloured woman, Mom Beck,
who had been her mother's nurse as well as her own. The child was so
hidden in her wraps when Mom Beck led her up-stairs, that no one could
tell how she looked. The boys had been curious to see her, ever since
they had heard so many tales of her mischievous pranks. A few minutes
later, when she appeared in the parlours, there was a buzz of
admiration. Maybe it was not so much for the soft light hair, the
star-like beauty of her big dark eyes, or the delicate colour in her
cheeks that made them as pink as a wild rose, as it was for the
valentine costume she wore. It was of dainty white tulle, sprinkled with
hundreds of tiny red velvet hearts, and there was a coronet of
glittering rhinestones on her long fair hair.

"The Queen of Hearts," announced Aunt Allison, leading her forward. "You
know 'she made some tarts, upon a summer day,' and now she shall open
the valentine pie and see if it is as good as her Majesty's."

The big music-box in the hall began playing one of its liveliest
waltzes, the children gathered around the great pie, and twenty-four
little hands reached out to grasp the floating ends of ribbon.

"Pull!" cried the little Queen of Hearts. The paper crust flew off, and
twenty-four yards of ribbon, each with a valentine attached, fluttered
brightly through the air for an instant.

"Now match your verses," cried her Majesty again, opening her own to
read what was in it. There was much laughing and peeping over shoulders,
and tangling of white and scarlet ribbons, while the gay music-box
played on.

In the midst of it Virginia beckoned to the Little Colonel. "Come
up-stairs with me for a minute, Lloyd," she whispered, "and help me
look for something. Aunt Allison has forgotten where she put the box of
arrows that we are to use in the archery contest after dinner. There is
the prettiest prize for the one who hits the red heart in the centre of
the target."

"Oh, do you suppose you can hit it?" asked Lloyd, as she and Virginia
slipped their arms around each other, and went skipping up the stairs.

"Yes, indeed!" answered Virginia. "I used to practise so much with my
Indian bow and arrow out at the fort, that I could hit centre nearly
every time. I am not going to shoot to-night. Aunt Allison thinks it
wouldn't be fair."

When they reached the top of the stairs, Virginia went into her room to
light a wax taper in one of the tall silver candlesticks on her
dressing-table. "I think that Aunt Allison must have left those arrows
in the blue room," she said, leading the way down the cross hall which
went to the north wing. "She made the pie in there this morning, and all
the other things were there. Nobody comes over in this part of the
house much in winter, unless there happens to be a great deal
of company."

The taper that Virginia carried was the only light in that part of the
house. When she reached the door of the blue room she turned to Lloyd.
"Hold the candle for me, please," she said, "while I look in
the closet."

It was a pretty picture that the little "Queen of Hearts" made, as she
stood in the doorway, with the tall silver candlestick held high in both
hands. Her hair shone like gold in the candlelight, and her glittering
crown flashed as if a circle of fairy fireflies had been caught in its
soft meshes. Her dark eyes peered anxiously around the big shadowy room,
lighted only by her flickering taper.

Down-stairs, Malcolm and Keith were almost quarrelling about her. It
began by Malcolm taking his brother aside and offering to trade
valentines with him.

"Why?" asked Keith, suspiciously.

"'Cause yours matches the Little Colonel's, and I want to take her out
to dinner," admitted Malcolm. "She is the prettiest girl here."

"But I don't want to trade," answered Keith. "I want to take her

"I'll give you the pick of any six stamps in my album if you will."

"Don't want your old stamps," declared Keith, stoutly. "I'd rather have
the Little Colonel for my partner."

"I think you might trade," coaxed Malcolm. "It's mean not to when I'm
the oldest. I'll give you that Chinese puzzle you've been wanting so
long if you will." Keith shook his head.

Just then a terrific scream sounded in the upper hall, followed by
another that made every one down-stairs turn pale with fright. Two
voices were uttering piercing shrieks, one after another, so loud and
frantic that even the servants in the back part of the house came
running. Miss Allison, thinking of the candle she had told Virginia to
light, and remembering the thin, white dress the child wore, instantly
thought she must have set herself afire. She ran into the hall, so
frightened that she was trembling from head to foot. Before she could
reach the staircase, Virginia came flying down the steps, white as a
little ghost, and her eyes wide with terror. Throwing herself into her
aunt's outstretched arms, she began to sob out her story between great,
trembling gasps.

"Oh, there's an awful, awful wild beast in the blue room, nearly as tall
as the ceiling! It rose up and came after us out of the corner, and if I
hadn't slammed the door just in time, it would have eaten us up. I'm
sure it would! Oo-oo-oo! It was so awful!" she wailed.

"Why, Virginia," exclaimed her aunt, distressed to see her so terrified,
"it must have been only a big shadow you saw. It isn't possible for a
wild beast to be in the blue room you know. Where is Lloyd?"

"She's up heah, Miss Allison," called Mom Beck's voice. "She's so
skeered, I'se pow'ful 'fraid she gwine to faint. They sut'nly is
something in that room, honey, deed they is. I kin heah it movin' around
now, switchin' he's tail an' growlin'!"

Malcolm and Keith, with guilty faces, went dashing up the stairs, and
the whole party followed them at a respectful distance. When they opened
the door the room looked very big and shadowy, and the bear, roused from
its nap, was standing on its hind legs beside the high-posted bed. The
huge figure was certainly enough to frighten any one coming upon it
unexpectedly in the dark, and when Miss Allison saw it she drew
Virginia's trembling hand into hers with a sympathetic clasp. Before she
could ask any questions, the boys began an excited explanation. It was
some time before they could make their story understood.

Their grandmother was horrified, and insisted on sending the animal away
at once. "The idea of bringing such a dangerous creature into any one's
house," she exclaimed, "and, above all, of shutting him up in a bedroom!
We might have all been bitten, or hugged to death!"

"But, grandmother," begged Malcolm, "he isn't dangerous. Let me bring
him into the light, and show you what a kind old pet he is."

There was a scattering to the other end of the hall as Malcolm came out,
leading the bear, but the children gradually drew nearer as the great
animal began its performances. Keith whistled and kept time with his
feet in a funny little shuffling jig he had learned from Jonesy, and the
bear obligingly went through all his tricks. He was used to being pulled
out to perform whenever a crowd could be collected.

Virginia forgot her fear of him when he stood up and presented arms like
a real soldier, and even went up and patted him when the show was over,
joining with the boys in begging that he might be allowed to stay in the
house until morning. Mrs. Maclntyre was determined to send a man down to
the cabin at once to investigate. She had a horror of tramps. But the
boys begged her to wait until daylight for Jonesy's sake.

"The man will beat him if he finds out that Jonesy warned us," pleaded
Keith. He was so earnest that the tears stood in his big, trustful eyes.

"This is spoiling the party, mother," whispered Miss Allison, "and
dinner is waiting. I'll be responsible for any harm that may be done if
you will let the boys have their way this once."

There seemed no other way to settle it just then, so Bruin was allowed
to go back to his rug in the blue room, and the door was
securely locked.

Keith took Lloyd down to dinner, and his grandmother heard him
apologising all the way down for having frightened her. The little Queen
of Hearts listened smilingly, but her colour did not come back all
evening, until after the archery contest. It was when Malcolm came up
with the prize he had won, a tiny silver arrow, and pinned it in the
knot of red ribbon on her shoulder.

"Will you keep it to remember me by?" he asked, bashfully.

"Of co'se!" she answered, with a smile that showed all her roguish
dimples. "I'll keep it fo'evah and evah to remembah how neah I came to
bein' eaten up by yo' bea'h."


"It seems too bad for such a beautiful party to come to an end," Sally
Fairfax said when the last merry game was played, the last story
told, and it was time to go home. "But there's one comfort," she added,
gathering all her gay valentines together, "there needn't be any end to
the remembering of it. I've had _such_ a good time, Mrs. MacIntyre."

It was so late when the last carriage rolled down the avenue, bearing
away the last smiling little guest, that the children were almost too
sleepy to undress. It was not long until the last light was put out in
every room, and a deep stillness settled over the entire house. One by
one the lights went out in every home in the valley, and only the stars
were left shining, in the cold wintry sky. No, there was one lamp that
still burned. It was in the little cottage where old Professor Heinrich
sat bowed over his books.



Some people said that old Johann Heinrich never slept, for no matter
what hour of the night one passed his lonely little house, a lamp was
always burning. He was a queer old German naturalist, living by himself
in a cottage adjoining the MacIntyre place. He had been a professor in a
large university until he grew too old to keep his position. Why he
should have chosen Lloydsborough Valley as the place to settle for the
remainder of his life, no one could tell.

He kept kimself away from his neighbours, and spent so much time roaming
around the woods by himself that people called him queer. They did not
know that he had written two big books about the birds and insects he
loved so well, or that he could tell them facts more wonderful than
fairy tales about these little wild creatures of the woodland.

To-night he had read later than usual, and his fire was nearly out. He
was too poor to keep a servant, so when he found that the coal-hod was
empty he had to go out to the kitchen to fill it himself. That is why he
saw something that happened soon after midnight, while everybody else in
the valley was sound asleep.

Over in the cabin by the spring-house where the boys had left the tramp
and Jonesy, a puff of smoke went curling around the roof. Then a tongue
of flame shot up through the cedars, and another and another until the
sky was red with an angry glare. It lighted up the eastern window-panes
of the servants' cottage, but the inmates, tired from the unusual
serving of the evening before, slept on. It shone full across the window
of Virginia's room, but she was dreaming of being chased by bears, and
only turned uneasily in her sleep.

The old professor, on his way to the kitchen, noticed that it seemed
strangely light outside. He shuffled to the door and looked out.

"Ach Himmel!" he exclaimed, excitedly. "Somebody vill shust in his bed
be burnt, if old Johann does not haste make!"

Not waiting to close the door behind him, or even to catch up something
to protect his old bald head from the intense cold of the winter night,
he ran out across the garden. His shuffling feet, in their flapping old
carpet slippers, forgot their rheumatism, and his shoulders dropped the
weight of their seventy years. He ran like a boy across the meadow,
through the gap in the fence, and down the hill to the cabin by
the spring.

All one side of it was in flames. The fire was curling around the front
door and bursting through the windows with fierce cracklings. Dashing
frantically around to the back door, he threw himself against it,
shouting to know if any one was within. A blinding rush of smoke was his
only answer as he backed away from the overpowering heat, but something
fell across the door-sill in a limp little heap. It was Jonesy.

Dragging the child to a safe distance from the burning building, he ran
back, fearing that some one else might be in danger, but this time the
flames met him at the door, and it was impossible to go in. His hoarse
shouting roused the servants, but by the time they reached the cabin the
roof had fallen in, and all danger of the fire spreading to other
buildings was over.

While the professor was bending over Jonesy, trying to bring him back to
consciousness, Miss Allison came running down the path. She had an
eiderdown quilt wrapped around her over her dressing-gown. The shouts
had awakened her, also, and she had slipped out as quietly as possible,
not wishing to alarm her mother.

"How did it happen?" she demanded, breathlessly. "Is the child badly
burned? Is any one else hurt? Is the tramp in the cabin?"

No one gave any answer to her rapid questions. The old professor shook
his head, but did not look up. He was bending over Jonesy, trying to
restore him to consciousness. He seemed to know the right things to do
for him, and in a little while the child opened his eyes and looked
around wonderingly. In a few minutes he was able to tell what he knew
about the fire.

It was not much, only a horrible recollection of being awakened by a
feeling that he was choking in the thick smoke that filled the room; of
hearing the boss swear at him to be quick and follow him or he would be
burned to death. Then there had been an awful moment of groping through
the blinding, choking smoke, trying to find a way out. The man sprang to
a window and made his escape, but as the outside air rushed in through
the opening he left, it seemed to fan the smoke instantly into flame.

Jonesy had struck out at the wall of fire with his helpless little
hands, and then, half-crazed by the scorching pain, dropped to the floor
and crawled in the opposite direction, just as the professor burst
open the door.

The sight of the poor little blistered face brought the tears to Miss
Allison's eyes, and she called two of the coloured men, directing them
to carry Jonesy to the house, and then go at once for a doctor. But the
professor interfered, insisting that Jonesy should be taken to his
house. He said that he knew how to prepare the cooling bandages that
were needed, and that he would sit up all night to apply them. He could
not sleep anyhow, he said, after such great excitement.

"But I feel responsible for him," urged Miss Allison. "Since it happened
on our place, and my little nephews brought him here, it seems to me
that we ought to have the care of him."

The professor waved her aside, lifting Jonesy's head as tenderly as a
nurse could have done, and motioned the coloured men to lift him up.

"No, no, fraulein," he said. "I have had eggsperience. It is besser the
poor leedle knabe go mit me!"

There was no opposing the old man's masterful way. Miss Allison stepped
aside for them to pass, calling after him her willingness to do the
nursing he had taken upon himself, and insisting that she would come
early in the morning to help.

Unc' Henry was left to guard the ruins, lest some stray spark should be
blown toward the other buildings. "Dis yere ole niggah wa'n't mistaken
aftah all," he muttered. "Dee was somebody prowlin' 'roun' de premises
yistiddy evenin'." Then he searched the ground, all around the cabin,
for footprints in the snow. He found some tracks presently, and followed
them over the meadow in the starlight, across the road, and down the
railroad track several rods. There they suddenly disappeared. The tramp
had evidently walked on the rail some distance. If Unc' Henry had gone
quarter of a mile farther up the track, he would have found those same
sliding imprints on every other crosstie, as if the man had taken long
running leaps in his haste to get away.

Jonesy stoutly denied that the man had set fire to the cabin. "We nearly
froze to death that night," he said, when questioned about it afterward,
"and the boss piled on an awful big lot of wood just before he went
to bed."

"Then what made him take to his heels so fast if he didn't?" some one

"I don't know," answered Jonesy. "He said that luck was always against
him, and maybe he thought nobody would believe him if he did say that he
didn't do it."

Several days after that Malcolm found the tramp's picture in the
_Courier-Journal_. He was a noted criminal who had escaped from a
Northern penitentiary some two months before, and had been arrested by
the Louisville police. There was no mistaking him. That big, ugly scar
branded him on cheek and forehead like another Cain.

"And to think that that terrible man was harboured on my place!"
exclaimed Mrs. MacIntyre when she heard of it. "And you boys were down
there in the cabin with him for hours! Sat beside him and talked with
him! What will your mother say? I feel as if you had been exposed to the
smallpox, and I cannot be too thankful now that the boy who was with him
was not brought here. He isn't a fit companion for you. Not that the
poor little unfortunate is to blame. He cannot help being a child of the
slums, and he must be put in an orphan asylum or a reform school at
once. It is probably the only thing that can save him from growing up to
be a criminal like the man who brought him here. I shall see what can be
done about it, as soon as possible."

"A child of the slums!" Malcolm and Keith repeated the expression
afterward, with only a vague idea of its meaning. It seemed to set poor
Jonesy apart from themselves as something unclean,--something that their
happy, well-filled lives must not be allowed to touch.

Maybe if Jonesy had been an attractive child, with a sensitive mouth,
and big, appealing eyes, he might have found his way more easily into
people's hearts. But he was a lean, snub-nosed little fellow, with a
freckled face and neglected hair. No one would ever find his cheek a
tempting one to kiss, and no one would be moved, by any feeling save
pity, to stoop and put affectionate arms around Jonesy. He was only a
common little street gamin, as unlovely as he was unloved.

"What a blessing that there are such places as orphan asylums for
children of that class," said Mrs. Maclntyre, after one of her visits to
him. "I must make arrangements for him to be put into one as soon as he
is able to be moved."

"I think he will be very loath to leave the old professor," answered
Miss Allison. "He has been so good to the child, amusing him by the hour
with his microscopes and collections of insects, telling him those
delightful old German folk-lore tales, and putting him to sleep every
night to the music of his violin. What a child-lover he is, and what a
delightful old man in every way! I am glad we have discovered him."

"Yes," said Mrs. Maclntyre; "and when this little tramp is sent away, I
want the children to go there often. I asked him if he could not teach
them this spring, at least make a beginning with them in natural
history, and he appeared much pleased. He is as poor as a church mouse,
and would be very glad of the money."

"That reminds me," said Miss Allison, "he asked me if the boys could
not come down to see Jonesy this afternoon, and bring the bear. He
thought it would give the little fellow so much pleasure, and might help
him to forget his suffering."

Mrs. MacIntyre hesitated. "I do not believe their mother would like it,"
she answered. "Sydney is careful enough about their associates, but
Elise is doubly particular. You can imagine how much badness this child
must know when you remember how he has been reared. He told me that his
name is Jones Carter, and that he cannot remember ever having a father
or a mother. I questioned him very closely this morning. He comes from
the worst of the Chicago slums. He slept in the cellar of one of its
poorest tenement houses, and lived in the gutters. He has a brother only
a little older, who is a bootblack. On days when shines were plentiful
they had something to eat, otherwise they starved or begged."

"Poor little lamb," murmured Miss Allison.

"It was by the brother's advice he came away with that tramp," continued
Mrs. MacIntyre. "He had gotten possession of that trained bear in some
way, and probably took a fancy to Jones because he could whistle and
dance all sorts of jigs. He probably thought it would be a good thing to
have a child with him to work on peoples' sympathies. They walked all
the way from Chicago to Lloydsborough, Jones told me, excepting three
days' journey they made in a wagon. They have been two months on the
road, and showed the bear in the country places they passed through.
They avoided the large towns."

"Think what a Christmas he must have had!" exclaimed Miss Allison.

"Christmas! I doubt if he ever heard the word. His speech is something
shocking; nothing but the slang of the streets, and so ungrammatical
that I could scarcely understand him at times. No, I am very sure that
neither Sydney nor Elise would want the boys to be with him."

"But he is so little, mother, and so sick and pitiful looking," pleaded
Miss Allison. "Surely he cannot know so very much badness or hurt the
boys if they go down to cheer him up for a little while."

Notwithstanding Mrs. Maclntyre's fears, she consented to the boys
visiting Jonesy that afternoon. She could not resist the professor's
second appeal or the boys' own urging.

They took the bear with them, which Jonesy welcomed like a lost friend.
They spent an interesting hour among the professor's collections,
listening to his explanations in his funny broken English. Then they
explored his cottage, much amused by his queer housekeeping, cracked
nuts on the hearth, and roasted apples on a string in front of the fire.

Jonesy did not seem to be cheered up by the visit as much as the
professor had expected. Presently the old man left the room and Keith
sat down on the side of the bed.

"What makes you so still, Jonesy?" he asked. "You haven't said a word
for the last half hour."

"I was thinking about Barney," he answered, keeping his face turned
away. "Barney is my brother, you know."

"Yes, so grandmother said," answered Keith. "How big is he?"

"'Bout as big as yourn." There was a choke in Jonesy's voice now.
"Seein' yourn put his arm across your shoulder and pullin' your head
back by one ear and pinchin' you sort in fun like, made me think the way
Barney uster do to me."

Keith did not know what to say, so there was a long, awkward pause.

"I'd never a-left him," said Jonesy, "but the boss said it 'ud only be a
little while and we'd make so much money showin' the bear that I'd have
a whole pile to take home. I could ride back on the cars and take a
whole trunk full of nice things to Barney,--clothes, and candy, and a
swell watch and chain, and a bustin' beauty of a bike. Now the bear's
sold and the boss has run away, and I don't know how I can get back to
Barney. Him an me's all each other's got, and I want to see him
_so_ bad."

The little fellow's lip quivered, and he put up one bandaged hand to
wipe away the hot tears that would keep coming, in spite of his efforts
not to make a baby of himself. There was something so pitiful in the
gesture that Keith looked across at Malcolm and then patted the
bedclothes with an affectionate little hand.

"Never mind, Jonesy," he said, "papa will be home in the spring and
he'll send you back to Barney." But Jonesy never having known anything
of fathers whose chief pleasure is in spending money to make little
sons happy, was not comforted by that promise as much as Keith thought
he ought to be.

"But I won't be here then," he sobbed. "They're goin' to put me in a
'sylum, and I can't get out for so long that maybe Barney will be dead
before we ever find each other again."

He was crying violently now.

"Who is going to put you in an asylum?" asked Malcolm, lifting an end of
the pillow under which Jonesy's head had burrowed, to hide the grief
that his eight-year-old manhood made him too proud to show.

"An old lady with white hair what comes here every day. The professor
said he would keep me if he wasn't so old and hard up, and she said as
how a 'sylum was the proper place for a child of the slums, and he said
yes if they wasn't nobody to care for 'em. But I've got somebody!" he
cried. "I've got Barney! Oh, _don't_ let them shut me up somewhere so I
can't never get back to Barney!"

"They don't shut you up when they send you to an asylum," said Malcolm.
"The one near here is a lovely big house, with acres of green grass
around it, and orchards and vine-yards, and they are ever so good to the
children, and give them plenty to eat and wear, and send them
to school."

"Barney wouldn't be there," sobbed Jonesy, diving under the pillow
again. "I don't want nothing but him."

"Well, we'll see what we can do," said Malcolm, as he heard the
professor coming back. "If we could only keep you here until spring, I
am sure that papa would send you back all right. He's always helping
people that get into trouble."

Jonesy took his little snub nose out of the pillow as the professor came
in, and looked around defiantly as if ready to fight the first one who
dared to hint that he had been crying. The boys took their leave soon
after, leading the bear back to his new quarters in the carriage house,
where they had made him a comfortable den. Then they walked slowly up to
the house, their arms thrown across each other's shoulders.

"S'pose it was us," said Keith, after walking on a little way in
silence. "S'pose that you and I were left of all the family, and didn't
have any friends in the world, and I was to get separated from you and
couldn't get back?"

"That would be tough luck, for sure," answered Malcolm.

"Don't you s'pose Jonesy feels as badly about it as we would?" asked

"Shouldn't be surprised," said Malcolm, beginning to whistle. Keith
joined in, and keeping step to the tune, like two soldiers, they marched
on into the house.

Virginia found them in the library, a little while later, sitting on the
hearth-rug, tailor-fashion. They were still talking about Jonesy. They
could think of nothing else but the loneliness of the little waif, and
his pitiful appeal: "Oh, don't let them shut me up where I can't never
get back to Barney."

"Why don't you write to your father?" asked Virginia, when they had told
her the story of their visit.

"Oh, it is so hard to explain things in a letter," answered Malcolm,
"and being off there, he'd say that grandmother and all the grown people
certainly know best. But if he could see Jonesy,--how pitiful looking he
is, and hear him crying to go back to his brother, I know he'd feel the
way we do about it."

"I called the professor out in the hall, and told him so," said Keith,
"and asked him if he couldn't adopt Jonesy, or something, until papa
comes home. But he said that he is too poor. He has only a few dollars a
month to live on. I didn't mind asking him. He smiled in that big, kind
way he always does. He said Jonesy was lots of company, and he would
like to keep him this summer, if he could afford it, and let him get
well and strong out here in the country."

"Then he would keep him till Uncle Sydney comes, if somebody would pay
his board?" asked Virginia.

"Yes," said Malcolm, "but that doesn't help matters much, for we
children are the only ones who want him to stay, and our monthly
allowances, all put together, wouldn't be enough."

"We might earn the money ourselves," suggested Virginia, after awhile,
breaking a long silence.

"How?" demanded Malcolm. "Now, Ginger, you know, as well as I do, there
is no way for us to earn anything this time of year. You can't pick
fruit in the dead of winter, can you? or pull weeds, or rake leaves?
What other way is there?"

"We might go to every house in the valley, and exhibit the bear," said
Keith, "taking up a collection each time."

"Now you've made me think of it," cried Virginia, excitedly. "I've
thought of a good way. We'll give Jonesy a benefit, like great singers
have. The bear will be the star performer, and we'll all act, too, and
sell the tickets, and have tableaux. I love to arrange tableaux. We were
always having them out at the fort."

"I bid to show off the bear," cried Malcolm, entering into Virginia's
plan at once. "May be I'll learn something to recite, too."

"I'll help print the tickets," said Keith, "and go around selling them,
and be in anything you want me to be. How many tableaux are you going to
have, Ginger?"

"I can't tell yet," she answered, but a moment after she cried out, her
eyes shining with pleasure, "Oh, I've thought of a lovely one. We can
have the Little Colonel and the bear for 'Beauty and the Beast.'"

Malcolm promptly turned a somersault on the rug, to express his
approval, but came up with a grave face, saying, "I'll bet that
grandmother will say we can't have it."

"Let's get Aunt Allison on our side," suggested Virginia. "She's up in
her room now, painting a picture."

A little sigh of disappointment escaped Miss Allison's lips, as she
heard the rush of feet on the stairs. This was the first time that she
had touched her brushes since the children's coming, and she had hoped
that this one afternoon would be free from interruption, when she heard
them planning their afternoon's occupations at the lunch-table. They had
come back before the little water-colour sketch she was making was
quite finished.

There was no disappointment, however, in the bright face she turned
toward them, and Virginia lost no time in beginning her story. She had
been elected to tell it, but before it was done all three had had a part
in the telling, and all three were waiting with wistful eyes for
her answer.

"Well, what is it you want me to do?" she asked, finally.

"Oh, just be on our side!" they exclaimed, "and get grandmother to say
yes. You see she doesn't feel about Jonesy the way we do. She is willing
to pay a great deal of money to have him taken off and cared for, but
she says she doesn't see how grandchildren of hers can be so interested
in a little tramp that comes from nobody knows where, and who will
probably end his days in a penitentiary."

Aunt Allison answered Malcolm's last remark a little sternly. "You must
understand that it is only for your own good that she is opposed to
Jonesy's staying," she said. "There is nobody in the valley so generous
and kind to the poor as your grandmother." "Yes'm," said Virginia,
meekly, "but you'll ask her, won't you please, auntie?"

Miss Allison smiled at her persistence. "Wait until I finish this," she
said. "Then I'll go down-stairs and put the matter before her, and
report to you at dinner-time. Now are you satisfied?"

"Yes," they cried in chorus, "you're on our side. It's all right now!"
With a series of hearty hugs that left her almost breathless, they
hurried away.

When Miss Allison kept her promise she did not go to her mother with the
children's story of Jonesy, to move her to pity. She told her simply
what they wanted, and then said, "Mother, you know I have begun to teach
the children the 'Vision of Sir Launfal.' Virginia has learned every
word of it, and the boys will soon know all but the preludes. There will
never be a better chance than this for them to learn the lesson:

"'Not what we give, but what we share,
For the gift without the giver is bare.'

"This would be a real sharing of themselves, all their time and best
energies, for they will have to work hard to get up such an
entertainment as this. It isn't for Jonesy's sake I ask it, but for the
children's own good."

The old lady looked thoughtfully into the fire a moment, and then said,
"Maybe you are right, Allison. I do want to keep them unspotted from a
knowledge of the world's evils, but I do not want to make them selfish.
If this little beggar at the gate can teach them where to find the Holy
Grail, through unselfish service to him, I do not want to stand in the
way. Bless their little hearts, they may play Sir Launfal if they want
to, and may they have as beautiful a vision as his!"



The Jonesy Benefit grew like Jack's bean-stalk after Miss Allison took
charge of it. There was less than a week in which to get ready, as the
boys insisted on having it on the twenty-second of February, in honour
of Washington's birthday; but in that short time the childish show which
Ginger had proposed grew into an entertainment so beautiful and
elaborate that the neighbourhood talked of it for weeks after.

Miss Allison spent one sleepless night, planning her campaign like a
general, and next morning had an army of helpers at work. Before the day
was over she sent a letter to an old school friend of hers in the city,
Miss Eleanor Bond, who had been her most intimate companion all through
her school-days, and who still spent a part of every summer with her.

"Dearest Nell," the letter said, "come out to-morrow on the first
afternoon train, if you love me. The children are getting up an
entertainment for charity, which shall be duly explained on your
arrival. No time now. I am superintending a force of carpenters in the
college hall, where the entertainment is to take place, have two
seamstresses in the house hurrying up costumes, and am helping mother
scour the country for pretty children to put in the tableaux.

"The house is like an ant-hill in commotion, there is so much scurrying
around; but I know that is what you thoroughly enjoy. You shall have a
finger in every pie if you will come out and help me to make this a
never-to-be-forgotten occasion.

"I want to make the old days of chivalry live again for Virginia and
Malcolm and Keith. I am going back to King Arthur's Court for the flower
of knighthood at his round table. Come and read for us between tableaux
as only you can do. Be the interpreter of 'Sir Launfal's Vision' and the
'Idylls of the King,' Give us the benefit of your talent for sweet
charity's sake, if not for the sake of 'auld lang syne' and your
devoted ALLISON."

"She'll be here," said Miss Allison, as she sealed the letter,
nodding confidently to Mrs. Sherman, who had come over to help with
Lloyd's costume. "You remember Nell Bond, do you not? She took the
prize every year in elocution, and was always in demand at every
entertainment. She is the most charming reader I ever heard, and as for
story-telling--well, she's better than the 'Arabian Nights.' You must
let the Little Colonel come over every evening while she is here."

Miss Bond arrived the next day, and her visit was a time of continual
delight to the children. They followed her wherever she went, until Mrs.
Maclntyre laughingly called her the 'Pied Piper of Hamelin,' and asked
what she had done to bewitch them.

The first night they gathered around the library-table, all as busy as
bees. Keith and the Little Colonel were cutting tinsel into various
lengths for Virginia to tie into fringe for a gay banner. Malcolm was
gilding some old spurs, Mrs. Maclntyre sat stringing yards of wax beads,
that gleamed softly in the lamplight like great rope of pearls, and Mrs.
Sherman was painting the posters, which were to be put up in the
post-office and depot as advertisements of the Jonesy Benefit.

Miss Allison, who had been busy for hours with pasteboard and glue,
tin-foil and scissors, held up the suit of mail which she had
just finished.

"Isn't that fine!" cried Malcolm. "It looks exactly like some of the
armour we saw in the Tower of London, doesn't it, Keith?"

"I've thought of a riddle!" exclaimed Virginia. "Why is Aunt Allison's
head like Aladdin's lamp?"

"'Cause it's so bright?" ventured Malcolm.

"No; because she has only to rub it, and everything she thinks of
appears. I don't see how it is possible to make so many beautiful things
out of almost nothing."

Virginia looked admiringly around at all the pretty articles scattered
over the room. A helmet with nodding white plumes lay on the piano. A
queen's robe trailed its royal ermine beside it. A sword with a jewelled
hilt shone on the mantel, and a dozen dazzling shields were ranged in
various places on the low bookshelves.

It was easy, in the midst of such surroundings, for the children to
imagine themselves back in the days of King Arthur and his court, while
Miss Bond sat there telling them such beautiful tales of its fair ladies
and noble knights. Indeed, before the day of the entertainment came
around they even found themselves talking to each other in the quaint
speech of that olden time.

When Malcolm accidentally ran against his grandmother in the hall,
instead of his usual, "Oh, excuse me, grandmother," it was "Prithee
grant me gracious pardon, fair dame. Not for a king's ransom would I
have thus jostled thee in such unseemly haste!" And Ginger, instead of
giving Keith a slap when he teasingly penned her up in a corner, to make
her divide some nuts with him, said, in a most tragic way, "Unhand me,
villain, or by my troth thou'lt rue this ruffian conduct sore!"

The library-table was strewn with books of old court life, and pictures
of kings and queens whose costumes were to be copied in the tableaux.
There was one book which Keith carried around with him until he had
spelled out the whole beautiful tale. It was called "In Kings' Houses,"
and was the story of the little Duke of Gloster who was made a knight
in his boyhood. And when Keith had read it himself, he took it down to
the professor's, and read it all over again to Jonesy.


"Think how grand he must have looked, Jonesy," cried Keith, "and I am to
be dressed exactly like him when I am knighted in the tableau." Then he
read the description again:

"'A suit of white velvet embroidered with seed pearls, and literally
blazing with jewels,--even the buttons being great brilliants. From his
shoulder hung a cloak of azure blue velvet, the colour of the order,
richly wrought with gold; and around his neck he wore the magnificent
collar and jewel of St. George and the Dragon, that was the personal
gift of his Majesty, the king.'

"Think how splendid it must have been, Jonesy, when the procession came
in to the music of trumpets and bugles and silver flutes and hautboys!
Wouldn't you like to have seen the heralds marching by, two by two, in
cloth of gold, with an escort of the queen's guard following? All of
England's best and bravest were there, and they sat in the carven stalls
in St. George's Chapel, with their gorgeous banners drooping over them.
I saw that chapel, Jonesy, when we were in England, and I saw where the
knights kept the 'vigil of arms' in the holy places, the night before
they took their vows." He picked up the book and read again: "'Fasting
and praying and lonely watching by night in the great abbey where there
are so many dead folk.'

"Oh, don't you wish you could have lived in those days, Jonesy, and have
been a knight?"

It was all Greek to Jonesy. The terms puzzled him, but he enjoyed
Keith's description of the tournaments.

Several evenings after that, Keith went down to the cottage dressed in
the beautiful velvet costume of white and blue, ablaze with rhinestones
and glittering jewels. He had been wrapped in his Aunt Allison's golf
cape, and, as he threw it off, Jonesy's eyes opened wider and wider
with wonder.

"Hi! You look like a whole jeweller's window!" he cried, dazzled by the
gorgeous sight. The professor lighted another lamp, and Keith turned
slowly around, to be admired on every side like a pleased peacock.

"Of course it's all only imitation," he explained, "but it will look
just as good as the real thing behind the footlights. But you ought to
see the stage when it's fixed up to look like the Hall of the Shields,
if you want to see glitter. It's be-_yu_-tiful! Like the one at Camelot,
you know."

But Jonesy did not know, and Keith had to tell about that old castle at
Camelot, as Miss Bond had told him. How that down the side of the long
hall ran a treble range of shields,--

"And under every shield a knight was named,
For such was Arthur's custom in his hall.
When some good knight had done one noble deed
His arms were carven only, but if twain
His arms were blazoned also, but if none
The shield was blank and bare, without a sign,
Saving the name beneath."

Keith had been greatly interested in watching the carpenters fix the
stage so that it could be made to look like the Hall of the Shields in a
very few moments, when the time for that tableau should come. He knew
where every glittering shield was to hang, and every banner and

"How do you suppose those knights felt," he said to Jonesy, "who saw
their shields hanging there year after year, blank and bare, because
they had never done even one noble deed? They must have been dreadfully
ashamed when the king walked by and read their names underneath, and
then looked up at the shields and saw nothing emblazoned on them or even
carved. Seems to me that I would have done something to have made me
worthy of that honour if I had _died_ for it!"

Something,--it may have been the soft, rich colour of the
jewel-broidered velvet the boy wore, or maybe the flush that rose to his
cheeks at the thrill of such noble thoughts,--something had brought an
unusual beauty into his face. As he stood there, with head held high,
his dark eyes flashing, his face glowing, and in that princely dress of
a bygone day, he looked every inch a nobleman. There was something so
pure and sweet, too, in the expression of his upturned face that the
light upon it seemed to touch it into an almost unearthly fairness.

The professor, who had been watching him with a tender smile on his
rugged old face, drew the child toward him, and brushed the hair back
on his forehead.

"Ach, liebchen," he said, in his queer broken speech, "thy shield will
never be blank and bare. Already thou hast blazoned it with the beauty
of a noble purpose, and like Galahad, thou too shalt find the Grail."

It was Keith's turn to be puzzled, but he did not like to ask for an
explanation; there was something so solemn in the way the old man put
his hand on his head as he spoke, almost as if he were bestowing a
blessing. Besides, it was time to go to the rehearsal at the college.
One of the servants had come to stay with Jonesy while the professor
went over to practise on his violin. He was to play behind the scenes, a
soft, low accompaniment to Miss Bond's reading.

By eight o'clock, the night of the Benefit, every seat in the house was
full. "That's jolly for Jonesy," exclaimed Malcolm, peeping out from
behind the curtain. "We counted up that ten cents a ticket would make
enough, if they were all sold, to pay his board till papa comes home,
and buy him all the new clothes he needs, too. Now every ticket
is sold."

"Hurry up, Malcolm," called Keith. "We are first on the programme, and
it is time to begin."

There was a great bustle behind the scenes for a few minutes, and then
"Beauty and the Beast" was announced. When the Little Colonel came on
the stage leading the great bear, such a cheering and clapping began
that they both looked around, half frightened; but the boys followed
immediately and the Little Colonel, dressed as a flower girl, danced out
to meet Keith, who came in clicking his castanets in time to Malcolm's
whistling. The bear was made to go through all his tricks and his
soldier drill.

The children in the audience stood on tiptoe in their eagerness to see
the great animal perform, and were so wild in their applause that the
boys begged to be allowed to take it in front of the curtain every time
during the evening when there was a long pause while some tableau was
being prepared.

Over the rustle of fluttering programmes and the hum of conversation
that followed the first number, there fell presently the soft, sweet
notes of the professor's violin, and Miss Bond's musical voice began the
story of the Vision of Sir Launfal.

"My golden spurs now bring to me,
And bring to me my richest mail,
For to-morrow I go over land and sea
In search of the Holy Grail."

Here the curtains were drawn apart to show Malcolm seated on his pony as
Sir Launfal, "in his gilded mail that flamed so bright." It was really
a beautiful picture he made, and his grandmother, leaning forward, her
face beaming with pride at the boy's noble bearing, compared him with
Arthur himself, "with lance in rest, from spur to plume a star of

The next tableau showed him spurning the leper at his gate, and turning
away in disgust from the beggar who "seemed the one blot on the summer
morn." How Miss Bond's voice rang out when "the leper raised not the
gold from the dust."

"Better to me the poor man's crust.
That is no true alms which the hand can hold.
He gives nothing but worthless gold
Who gives from a sense of duty."

In the next tableau it was "as an old bent man, worn-out and frail,"
that Sir Launfal came back from his weary pilgrimage. He had not found
the Holy Grail, but through his own sufferings he had learned pity for
all pain and poverty. Once more he stood beside the leper at his castle
gate, but this time he stooped to share with him his crust and wooden
bowl of water.

Then it happened on the stage just as was told in the poem.

A light shone round about the place, and the crouching leper stood up.
The old ragged mantle dropped off, and there in a long garment almost
dazzling in its whiteness, stood a figure--

"Shining and tall, and fair, and straight
As the pillar that stood by the Beautiful gate."

They could not see the face, it was turned aside; but the golden hair
was like a glory, and the uplifted arms held something high in air that
gleamed like a burnished star, as all the lights in the room were turned
full upon it, for a little space. It was a golden cup. Then the
voice again:

"In many climes without avail
Thou hast spent thy life for the Holy Grail.
Behold it is here--this cup, which thou
Didst fill at the streamlet for me but now.
The holy supper is kept indeed
In whatso we share with another's need."

It was an old story to most of the audience, worn threadbare by many
readings, but with these living illustrations, and Miss Bond's
wonderful way of telling it, a new meaning crept into the well-known
lines, that thrilled every listener.

"Could you understand that, Teddy?" asked old Judge Fairfax, patting his
little grandson on the head.

"Course!" exclaimed seven-year-old Ted, who had followed his sister
Sally to every rehearsal.

"When you give money to people just to get rid of 'em, and because you
feel you'd ought to, it doesn't count for anything. But if you divide
something you've got, and would like to keep it all yourself, because
you love to, and are sorry for 'em, then it counts a pile. Sir Launfal
would have popped Jonesy into a 'sylum when he first started out to find
that gold cup, but when he came back he'd 'a' worked like a horse
getting up a benefit for him, and would have divided his own home with
him, if he hadn't been living at his grandmother's, and couldn't."

An amused smile went around that part of the audience which overheard
Ted's shrilly given explanation.

Pictures from the "Idylls of the King" followed in rapid succession,
and then came the prettiest of all, being the one in which Keith was
made a knight. Virginia as queen, her short black hair covered by a
powdered wig, and a long court-train sweeping behind her, stood touching
his shoulder with the jewel-hilted sword, as he knelt at her feet. Lloyd
and Sally Fairfax, Julia Ferris, and a dozen other pretty girls of the
neighbourhood, helped to fill out the gay court scene, while all the
boys that could be persuaded to take part were dressed up for heralds,
guardsmen, pages, and knights. That tableau had to be shown four times,
and then the audience kept on applauding as if they never intended
to stop.

The last one in this series of tableaux was the Hall of the Shields, as
Keith had described it to Jonesy. A whole row of dazzling shields hung
across the back of the stage, emblazoned with the arms of all the old
knights whose names have come down to us in song or story. Then for the
first time that evening Miss Bond came out on the stage where she could
be seen, and told the story of the death of King Arthur, and the passing
away of the order of the Round Table. She told it so well that little
Ted Fairfax listened with his mouth open, seeming to see the great arm
that rose out of the water to take back the king's sword into the sea,
from which it had been given him. An arm like a giant's, "clothed in
white samite, mystic, wonderful, that caught the sword by the hilt,
flourished it three times, and drew it under the mere."

"True, 'the old order changeth,'" said Miss Bond, "but knighthood has
_not_ passed away. The flower of chivalry has blossomed anew in this new

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