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Chapter 1
New York, Wednesday, November 26.

We are the Dudley Grahams,—four children and a mother. We are very poor and keep a boarding-house; not because we like boarders, but because when dear father died a three thousand dollar life assurance and this house were our only “available assets,” as Uncle George, who was executor, explained: “and so you must take boarders.” We do; but it isn’t always pleasant.

The three thousand dollars did not last long, either; for there were a great many debts to be met that nobody had known anything about, and we had to have the library repapered and a new carpet in the hall, to impress the people who came to look for rooms. “We must be very polite and charming, too,” said Ernie, “and talk as hard as we can all the time, and then perhaps they won’t notice how shabby the rest of the things are.” But I fancy they did; because it was over two months before we could get anybody to stop with us, and the money in the bank grew less and less, while Uncle George grew more grim and disapproving, and said that dear father had been “criminally careless,” and that no man should be permitted to have a family, if he did not know enough to provide for it. But, at last, Miss Brown came; and then Mrs. Hudson and the Hancocks, and now we are really beginning to get along.

Father was Uncle George’s only brother. He was an inventor, and a true genius; but, unfortunately, nobody ever discovered this, except just us. He knew all about air-currents, the contractile bladders of fish, and the flight of birds. There is a great, ghostly, flying-machine in the workshop in the attic with dusty yellow sails, and a really wonderful motor. Haze, who sleeps in the workshop since he was obliged to give up his room to the boarders, often dreams that he is taking trips at night. He says the dreams are quite horrible, and calls them “nightmares”; but if only dear father had lived to perfect the machine, we are sure it would have been a success. And that would have been so pleasant, for father never had any successes, except just once,—which we did not profit by, as I will tell later.

Haze is my chum. He is fifteen, and I am seventeen; but sometimes we feel a hundred, because there are so many things to worry about. Dearest mother never worries. She is too Irish for that;—all she cares for, she says, is that her children shall be happy, and good, and clever, and have everything they want. Somehow she seems to believe that we are what she wishes us to be, too,—so that one would feel ashamed to appear discontented. But, oh, if you love your family the way I do, it is hard, hard, hard to be poor!

However, to return to our mutton,—in this instance Haze,—his real name is John Hazard, though he is never called John or Jack, only Hazard, or Haze, or Hazey, especially the last two, because they fit so well. For, though he is very clever and half through High School already, he is not a bit practical, never sees what goes on about him, and is always forgetting things. He does not care about athletics, either. He hasn’t the build, he says (his legs being too thin), nor the time nor the money. He is in his Junior year this term, the youngest in his class, and at present he is cramming like mad, so that he can take the final examinations next fall, and “begin to help the family.” That means giving up college, his fondest dream. It is mighty noble of Hazey; but, I must confess, not at all becoming. His face seems to grow smaller day by day, and his eyes, behind his goggly glasses, bigger. Dear Haze! he doesn’t even have time to talk to me any more, and that is why I thought of starting a diary. My cousin Meta has kept one for over a year,—a dainty little volume with gold clasps and a red morocco binding. This is just an ugly old account book of father’s that I found in the workshop. The first few pages are full of the most amazing a?rial computations; but there is plenty of room left for writing,—and one must have somebody to confide in!

After Hazard comes Ernestine. She is twelve, and is frequently called Ernie,—which name suits her just as well as Haze’s names do him; for she is really more of a boy than a girl, we think, despite her charming blue eyes and rose-leaf complexion. Ernie is very, very pretty, has sweet ways and a really lovely disposition; but, for all this, she is rather a trying child, for she is continually getting into scrapes, tearing her frocks, breaking the furniture, etc.,—and she always means so well that it is hard to scold her.

Geof is Ernestine’s chum, just as Hazard is mine. He is Uncle George’s son, but so much more like a brother than a cousin that I am going to describe him here. He is fourteen years old, and the direct opposite of Haze in nearly every way. He is a handsome fellow, big for his age, and rather sullen sometimes. That, I think, is because he is not happier at home. He goes to a fashionable school, plays football and hockey, and is perfectly hopeless in his studies. Uncle George maintains he could do better if he would. Aunt Adelaide, who is Geoffrey’s stepmother, says it is a case of “inherent stupidity.” Mother thinks neither is right, and that there is something radically wrong with the school methods. Altogether it is not pleasant for Geof, who wants to give up studying and go into business. This enrages Hazard.

“A fellow with your chances!” he says.

“I’d swap them for yours,” answers Geof, who is not brilliant at an argument. And Haze snorts derisively.

After Ernie comes Robin; he is six, and our baby. He has never been strong, because when he was a tiny mite of a thing a careless nurse dropped him and injured his hip. He has bright, dark eyes, and you can always tell when he is coming by the little hopping sound he makes with his crutch. It reminds one of a bird, so his name suits him, too. I love Robin better than anything in the world; and I am never going to marry, so that I can stay with him and take care of him always. But this is a secret.

And that (including mother, whom one can’t describe because she is too wonderful) is all there are of us, except the kitten, which is black and is named Rosebud, and the cook, who is also black and is named Rose. Of course, we did not name the kitten after the cook. It just happened that way.

As to Uncle George’s family,—whom we call the George Grahams,—they are very wealthy, and have a beautiful house, and horses, and plenty of servants. But we would not change with them. No, indeed!

When Uncle George comes to visit us of a Sunday morning, as he sometimes does to see how we are getting on, he is sure to stand in the middle of our shabby back parlour, and puff out his cheeks, and throw out his chest and say,—

“I don’t pretend to be a man of genius like your father. I went into business at fifteen years of age. I’ve pegged away a good forty years since then, and I guess I’ve managed to get pretty much what I want out of the world. Talent don’t pay, sir. No, sir; it’s common sense that pays.”

Aunt Adelaide, who is Uncle George’s second wife, is handsome and fashionable. She was a widow with one daughter when Uncle George married her. So you see that Meta is really no relation to either Geof or ourselves. She is six months older than I, and she and Geof do not get along so very well. She thinks him stupid because he does not like the things she likes, and he thinks her silly and affected. I am afraid she sometimes is.

Georgie is both Meta and Geof’s half-brother. He is a little younger than our Robin. He has very rosy cheeks, and beautiful clothes, and expensive toys. Once when he was sick for two weeks with German measles a trained nurse was engaged, and he had chicken broth and oranges every day. Sometimes I hate Georgie!—which is wicked.

Uncle George is devoted to his family, after his own fashion, and does not spare any expense where they are concerned; though he, himself, dresses plainly and never gives anything in charity. He says he does not believe in it, that no one ever gave anything to him.

One day when he was standing in the middle of our parlour with his cheeks puffed out as usual, Robin, who had been sitting in the window turning the pages of an animal picture-book, looked up.

“Did you ever wish you were a camel, Uncle George?” he asked.

“No; I can’t say I ever did,” answered Uncle George, condescendingly. “Why should I, now?”

“It would be so much easier for you to get into heaven,” chirped Robin. And, after a minute, when Uncle George had thought it over and began to understand, he laughed and really felt rather flattered. Dear father was so different!

I said I would tell about his one success, and how we did not profit by it as we should. It was a great pity, because most of the problems father worked on had no market value at all:—he was too brilliant to find it easy to consider commercial interests. But this was different,—something quite sellable and practical,—a mechanical attachment for dump-carts! How ever father came to think of it, he admitted that he did not know. He quite despised it, and was really rather ashamed even to explain the way it worked. But he made up his mind that for once a little money would be nice; so he took the model to Uncle George and asked for a loan. But Uncle George’s own affairs were rather involved just at that time, and besides he said he did not care for investments of such a nature. He never had much faith in father.

After that father was introduced to Mr. Perry, a lawyer and promoter, and a partnership was arranged between them by which father was to receive $500 down, and in one year’s time five per cent. of whatever income the invention continued to realize. The contract was drawn up, for father read it aloud to us one day at the lunch table.

“I’ll go around to Perry’s this afternoon,” he said, “and get this thing settled and off my mind.” We were all quite excited, for it was a long time since we had had anything to spend. I remember we sat in the window-seat in the dining-room and planned our winter clothes—Haze, Ernie, and I—for nearly two hours.

However, we none of us saw father when he came home. He went directly to his workshop, and about ten minutes later, as Rose was passing the door she thought she heard him call. So she peeped in, and saw him standing supporting himself with one hand on the table.

He tried to speak, but could only groan, and the next instant he fell to the floor. Dear father! it all seems like yesterday, now that I write it. Rose gave the alarm. Somehow we got him downstairs and into bed; but he did not recognise any of us, and the next morning at three o’clock he died.

Dr. Porter said the attack was brought on by worry and brain fatigue. It seems so sad, just on the eve of his first success! For nearly all the carts one meets throughout the city nowadays dump in father’s way, though the patent bears Mr. Perry’s name.

And we never found the contract! Mr. Perry says he knows nothing about it, and that he never signed any. He has his brother as witness to a verbal agreement entered into that same afternoon in his office by which father sold the model outright for five hundred dollars, which was paid to him the same date by check.

It is true that Mr. Perry paid father. We found the check in his waistcoat pocket; but it was only on account, we feel sure. Without the contract, however, we can prove nothing and are quite helpless.

Could father have lost it, or left it anywhere that afternoon? Even a little income would be very nice,—for then perhaps we would not have to take boarders.

There is Mrs. Hudson’s bell! She has rung twice. Rose won’t answer it. I must fly!
Saturday, November 29.

Blue! blue! blue! oh dear, I do feel blue, and so does every one else, even the kitten! In the first place the house is cold. We have not been able to get the dining-room above 58° at any time to-day, and the boarders appear to believe that we keep it at that cosey temperature out of pure spite and malevolence.

“My friend Mrs. Bo-gardus considers it a stupid form of suicide to economise coal in such weather,” Mrs. Hudson remarked this morning. We had not been economising, but nevertheless we felt crushed; for whenever Mrs. Hudson has a criticism to make it comes under cover of the same potent Name,—perhaps I don’t spell it quite correctly, but so it is invariably pronounced. None of us have ever met Mrs. Bo-gardus, none of us ever expect to meet her,—she is a sort of cousin to the famous “Mrs. Harris,” we are sometimes tempted to believe,—but it is through her reported remarks that we are given the coveted, if immensely overestimated, advantage of “seeing ourselves as others see us.”

This morning’s none too flattering vision resulted in Haze being sent down to shake up the furnace;—which did not prevent Miss Brown from wearing her pink knitted shawl all day, and sniffing, and rubbing the red tip of her nose. Just why these artless actions should have enraged me I don’t know; but, somehow, they did.

As Ernie once sagely remarked,—“However innocent a boarder’s habits, they are bound to be unpleasing.”

Then, too, I broke a string of my mandolin, and I have not five cents in the world with which to buy another. It is almost amusing to be as poor as that. Also, Haze is growing cross as well as homely, because it does not agree with him to study late at night.

Last evening when I put on my golf-cape and ran up to the workshop for a little chat I found the poor boy sitting in the flying-machine with his overcoat on,—it is cold in the workshop, let me tell you,—pegging away at his Latin. He looked up over his glasses and scowled at me.

“Won’t it make you dream worse than ever to sit there, dear?” I asked.

“The sails keep the draughts off,” answered Hazard in sepulchral tones.

“What are you studying, Haze?” I ventured next.

“My lessons,” came the communicative croak.

Nice, chummy conversation that! So I retired.

But I suppose I may as well be honest and admit that none of the reasons I have mentioned yet have anything to do with making me unhappy. It is about Robin. We ought to take such good care of him,—and we can’t! Thursday he caught cold sitting on the draughty floor; and, as usual, it settled in his little lame side. So mother kept him in bed yesterday morning, and I amused him with games and stories;—but after lunch he grew feverish and tired.

“Would you like me to read again, Bobsie?” I asked.

“No, thank you, honey,” he answered, and turned his head wearily among the pillows.

“Would you like to play ‘Tommy-Come-Tickle-Me,’ or ‘Thumbs Up’?”

“No, dear, they aren’t a bit of good when your legs ache. Sing, please.”

“What shall I sing?” I asked.

“About Heaven,” said Bobsie,—“like we did last Sunday night.”

It wasn’t a bit priggish, the way he said it,—just simple, and wistful, and very sweet.

So I took him in my arms in the big rocking-chair and sang all the heaven hymns I know. First, “There’s a Home for Little Children,” then “Jerusalem the Golden,” and,
“I heard a sound of voices
  Around the great white throne,
With harpers harping on their harps
  To Him that sits thereon.”

When I came to that last beautiful verse,
“O Lamb of God Who reignest!
  Thou Bright and Morning Star,
Whose glory lightens that new earth
  Which now we see from far!
O worthy Judge eternal!
  When Thou dost bid us come,
Then open wide the gates of pearl,
  And call Thy servants home,”

the thought flashed through me, “What if God should really take Robin from us,—him, too, as well as father!” And I stopped singing, and hugged him tight, and hurt his little, aching back!

“What’s the matter, Elizabeth?” asked Bobsie, fretfully. “I was just going to sleep.”

“Nothing, honey,” I answered.

But that night after I had gone to bed the terror returned, and I could not get any peace or rest. I could not say my prayers right, either, for it seemed as if heaven were full of harping, and singing voices, and God would not hear. So I tossed and turned, till finally I woke Ernie.

“What’s the matter, Elizabeth?” she asked, just as Robin had.

“Oh, Ernie,” I answered. “I’m so unhappy! I’ve been thinking that perhaps Bobsie is going to die.”

“Well, of course we’re all going to some day,” answered Ernie, sleepily. But she slipped her hand into mine like a cuddlesome kitten, and somehow I felt comforted.

Dr. Porter says that what Robin needs is “all the luxuries.” That is, to go away in the summer to the seashore or mountains, to have good nourishing food, proper clothing, and plenty of fresh air all the year round, and neither to be overstimulated nor worried. Nice possible prescription, that! Uncle George means to do what is right, I am sure; but, oh, why can’t he say,—

“Here is $5,000. Take it, and make Robin well.” If it were Georgie who was ill!

That reminds me that Geof was in this afternoon, quite sulky and injured because he had to go to the opera this evening.

“Meta has a friend staying with her,” he explained. “And they prance round and see everything. That’s all right; but why do they have to lug me along?”

“Poor Geof,” purred Ernie, who is always sympathetic. “What is it going to be?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” answered Geoffrey. “They’re all the same. A fellow in pink pants gets up and bellows at the top of his lungs,—‘Ish leap a dish!’ The lady answers to the same tune, only shriller, and then they both die. Giddy show that!”

We could not help laughing; but how I wish I were going in Geof’s place!

Mother would be sorry if she could see what I have written to-day. I think she would call it cowardly. She always faces things so bravely, dear mother!—and if she can be cheerful and light-hearted I am sure the rest of us should be. I’ll try,—I will,—I will,—whatever comes!
Sunday, November 30.

Robin is better. This morning he woke quite free from pain, so mother has let him up again. Perhaps God did hear, in spite of the harping,—foolish Elizabeth!
Monday, December 1.

Mrs. Hudson is going, and, oh dear! we can’t afford it. It is all Ernie’s fault, too. How could she have been so careless!

This is the way it happened. We have had a visit from Mrs. Bo-gardus! No one would have believed it possible; no one really, I suppose, except Miss Brown and Robin, entirely believed there was any “sich a person.” But to-day her existence was proven to us. Let me begin at the beginning and explain.

Mrs. Hudson has been with us six months now, renting the second-story alcove room; and during all that time, whether the beefsteak was tough or the house cold, she has never personally complained. It has been rather,—

“My friend Mrs. Bo-gardus simply couldn’t endure such a draught as this. It would give her pneumonia directly. She is a very sensitive woman;—what I call a true blood aristocrat.”

“Is she indeed?” Miss Brown would murmur, antiphonically responsive. Miss Brown is meek, and meagre, and easily impressed.

“Yes,” Mrs. Hudson would continue, swelling visibly under the arrested attention of the entire dinner table (for everybody listens when Mrs. Hudson talks):—“That is what I should certainly call her. Now a soup such as we are eating this evening simply wouldn’t sit on Mrs. Bo-gardus’s stummick. It is too thick.”

“Her stummick is too thick?” queries Mr. Hancock, anxiously. He is a dyspeptic, himself, and very much interested in anything pertaining to symptoms or dietetics.

“Not at all,” answers Mrs. Hudson, slightly ruffled at the misapprehension. “The soup is too thick.”

Whereupon Mr. Hancock, who has been eating quite comfortably up to the present moment, takes to stirring round and round his plate with reproachful sweeps of the spoon, till his wife inquires soothingly,—

“Don’t you think we might try some of that Glucose Bread we saw advertised, Ducky? I’m sure Mrs. Graham would get it for you.”

The Hancocks are young, and recently married. He is a bank clerk with poppy eyes; she is small, and plump, and pretty. They are “Ducky” and “Dovie” to each other,—but they are really nice and considerate, so one feels rather shabby to poke fun.

However, to return to Mrs. Bo-gardus. It was not only what she could not eat. She had a great many opinions as well, especially as to how people “in reduced circumstances” should live.

“Mrs. Bo-gardus thinks that if you can only afford one servant you should certainly engage two, for there is nothing that pays so well as style.”

She also “thought” a great many other things,—I can’t pause to relate them here,—and no matter how patently absurd her opinions might be, they were reported as such Delphic utterances that no one dreamed of questioning them.

Every fortnight or so Mrs. Hudson has been in the habit of paying Mrs. Bo-gardus a call. One always learned at the breakfast table when one of these visits was about to take place, for Mrs. Hudson dressed for them upon rising, no matter what time of day she may have planned to start, in a purple velvet walking-suit, with white linen collar and cuffs, and a very much crimped blond false front. Her own hair is decidedly gray. When she goes to church, or shopping with Miss Brown, or even to the theatre, this answers. It is only for Mrs. Bo-gardus the blond crimps appear.

Naturally this morning when Mrs. Hudson descended upon us “in full panoply of war-paint,” as Haze expressed it, we supposed she must be going to pay one of her ceremonial visits. Both mother and I felt relieved, for the house continued cold despite all our efforts; but we made no remark, and Mrs. Hudson volunteered no information till Rose appeared, rather untidy as to dress and apron, bearing a plate of slightly burned biscuits. Then it began.

“Mrs. Bo-gardus’s establishment consists of three maids and an imported butler. His name is Samuels,—with an s, if you please, Miss Brown. One can judge from that fact alone of the style to which she is accustomed.”

“Yes, indeed,” murmured Miss Brown.

“Now, anything like this,” continued Mrs. Hudson, helping herself to a biscuit and weighing it accusingly on extended palm, “simply wouldn’t sit on Mrs. Bo-gardus’s stummick. She is used to lunching at Sherry’s or the Waldorf, every day, if she pleases. However, I have warned her she must expect to find things different here. She is fully prepared; for I explained everything when I issued my invitation.”

“Mrs. Bo-gardus! here!” exclaimed mother, setting down the cream jug with undue suddenness; while Mr. Hancock, who had been morosely weighing his biscuit in servile imitation of Mrs. Hudson, dropped it into his coffee cup, and stared with popping eyes.

“Yes,” returned Mrs. Hudson, evidently very well satisfied with the impression she was producing. “Haven’t I mentioned that I am expecting a visit from Mrs. Bo-gardus to-day? She is coming to lunch with me. It seemed about time I should repay some of her hospitality. I hope my little plan in no way inconveniences any one?”

Haze kicked me under the table. Ernie wriggled ecstatically. Robin sighed, and opened wide, shining eyes; while poor Miss Brown murmured feebly,—

“Mrs. Hudson! Mrs. Bo-gardus! oh really!”

Mother was the first to regain her composure.

“We will be very glad to meet any friend of yours, Mrs. Hudson,” she said; “but I am sorry you did not tell me before. It would have been easier to make arrangements.”

“Certainly, I intended to do so,” observed Mrs. Hudson. “But the fact is, the matter slipped my mind.”

We looked at one another in open admiration. Could human cheek be carried further? Mrs. Bo-gardus was coming to luncheon, and the fact had slipped Mrs. Hudson’s mind!

Gradually the boarders faded from the room, leaving us to a hurried family council. It was Monday; there was cold roast left over from yesterday’s dinner, and a washerwoman in the kitchen. Yet, strangely enough, no one thought of rebellion or complaint.

“Mrs. Bo-gardus,” murmured Haze, in a voice as nearly like Miss Brown’s as he could make it, “Mrs. Bo-gardus, you know, is coming to lunch!”

And then, for no earthly assignable reason, we dropped into various receptacles along the way and melted and sobbed with mirth. Robin caught his knees in both arms and rolled over and over on the rug, a corner of the tablecloth stuffed in his mouth. Ernie began to caper and frisk madly about, hugging the bewildered and rebellious kitten. I sank helpless on the window-seat, and hid my face among the curtains.

“Shut the door, Hazard,” gasped mother, as soon as she was able to articulate. “They mustn’t hear us!”

At which the gale began afresh. Somehow the situation struck us as irresistibly funny.

“Well,” chuckled Hazard, weakly at last, “there’s no lark here for me. I shan’t meet her. I’ll be away at school.”

“And I have a holiday to-day and to-morrow, because they are repairing the furnaces! How jolly!” cried Ernie.

“Will she come in a hansom?” piped Robin, “or by fairy?”

He meant the ferry; and these two modes of conveyance are the most elegant known to his youthful experience.
“Yankee-doodle came to town,
Riding in a han-som!”—

parodied Haze.

“And driven by Samuels,—with an s, if you please, Miss Brown,” mocked Ernie, wickedly.

“Children! children!” warned mother. “We must be serious. It is Mrs. Bo-gardus, you know;—and I had planned cold veal for luncheon!”

“Not even chicken?” pleaded Ernestine.

The situation as one faced it loomed portentous. The psychic power of that Name was not to be lightly evaded.

“Well,” said mother, at last, with a little sigh, “we must do the best we can. Elizabeth will help me in the kitchen, Rose is never the least good of a Monday, and Ernestine can dress Robin and superintend the setting of the table. Let me see, there will be six, seven, of us,—eliminating Haze and Mr. Hancock, who fortunately do not lunch at home. I like an even table so much better.”

“Let me wait then, mother dear,” volunteered Ernie. “The way I do Sunday evenings when Rose is out. You know she never does serve things properly.”

“You would not mind?” asked mother.

“No, indeed; not a bit,” answered Ernie, frankly. “Everybody will know I am your daughter, just the same, and I think it is rather fun.”

So it was arranged. The menu took a little longer to plan; and with cooking, dusting, and dressing, the morning flew swiftly by. One might have supposed we were preparing for a royal visit.

Eleven o’clock struck,—half-past eleven. Robin and Ernie in their pretty blue sailor-suits flashed down to the kitchen for inspection.

“Will she be here soon?” pranced Robin. His eyes were bright as stars, his cheeks as pink as roses.

“I think so,” answered mother. “Run up to the nursery now, where you can watch from the window.”

At quarter to twelve precisely there sounded the clatter of horses’ feet upon the asphalt. Shall I confess it? Interrupting a hasty toilet I ran to the window, too, and peeped out like any child.

A hansom-cab, as Robin had predicted, was drawn up before our door. From it stepped a middle-aged lady. She was tall, somewhat spare, attired in conventional black. From the distance at which I surveyed her she looked a little, just a little, like—Miss Brown! She mounted the steps and rang the bell.

The excitement died from my brain. A chill feeling of disappointment crept over me. Was this the ph?nix? this the invisible mentor under whose dicta our household had trembled for so many months? A minute later the sound of subdued greeting floated up from the hall below.

“How do you do, Mrs. Hudson?”

“How do you do, Mrs. Bo-gardus?”

I went into the nursery to capture Robin and give his locks one final dab before lunch should be announced.

“She’s just like anybody else,” he mourned, lifting a tear-stained face from where it had been buried in his arm against the window sill.

“Well, dearest, what did you expect?” I asked, with an absurd inflection of sympathetic woe.

“I don’t know,” admitted Bobsie, “but, somehow, I thought—she would be different.”

Then the bell rang, and we hastened downstairs.

In the dining-room the presentations were being made.

“Mrs. Graham, allow me the Honour of Presenting my friend Mrs. Bo-gardus; Mrs. Bo-gardus, Mrs. Graham.—— Miss Brown, allow me to Present my friend Mrs. Bo-gardus; Mrs. Bo-gardus, Miss Brown.—— Mrs. Hancock, allow me the Honour of Presenting my friend Mrs. Bo-gardus; etc.——”

Immediately our spirits rose. It was an Occasion, after all. Mrs. Hudson felt it, I felt it, Robin felt it. He put out his little hand quite prettily when his turn came.

“So this is the lame boy?” remarked Mrs. Bo-gardus, in a stiff falsetto.

“No,” protested Robin (I don’t think he had ever been called lame, before), “I just hop a little, because sometimes my side aches.”

“It is the same thing, my dear,” explained Mrs. Hudson. “Mrs. Bo-gardus knows all about such matters. She sits on two hospitals boards, and is Secretary of the Free Kindergarten Association.”

“Indeed!” murmured Miss Brown.

With Mrs. Hudson as expositor, and Miss Brown as chorus, Mrs. Bo-gardus’s glory could not wane. She shone upon us, enigmatic, sphinx-like, throughout a somewhat oppressive meal. No one but Mrs. Hudson ventured to mingle in the conversation. Indeed, it was not necessary. Ernie waited very prettily; the croquettes were silently engulfed, likewise the custards. And, despite Mrs. Bo-gardus’s sensitive “stummick,” we were encouraged to believe that they would sit.

“My dear, will you play for us?” Mrs. Hudson asked after lunch. “Mrs. Bo-gardus is very fond of music.” It was rather a royal command than a request, but without an e string what could one do?

“Then perhaps your little brother will recite?” persisted Mrs. Hudson.

“What shall I say, Elizabeth?” asked Robin, obligingly.

“Suppose you say ‘My Shadow,’” I suggested.

So Bobsie, flushed and honoured, standing on the worn Bokhara rug, began:—
“I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.”

The ladies sat about the parlour, their hands folded in their laps, Mrs. Bo-gardus with her head a little to one side as if listening for a false note, Mrs. Hudson pompously responsible, Miss Brown meekly appreciative.
“The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow,—
Not at all like proper children, which is always rather slow,”

piped Robin in his pretty treble.
“For he sometimes shoots up taller,——”

Mrs. Bo-gardus’s head tilted just a little to the left.

“Shoots?” queried Mrs. Hudson. “Are you sure of that word Shoots?”

Robin paused, and looked doubtfully at me.

“Yes,” I answered. “Shoots is right.”
“—like an india-rubber ball,”

continued Robin.

Mrs. Bo-gardus’s head again cocked towards the left, and a slightly pained expression gathered between her brows.

“Isn’t it plant, my dear?” corrected Mrs. Hudson. “Since the first word is shoots it certainly must be an india-rubber plant?”

“No,” I said, “ball is right.”
“And he sometimes gets so little that there’s none of him at all,”

persisted Robin, bravely.

Mrs. Bo-gardus pursed her lips.

“Well, well,” concluded Mrs. Hudson, hurriedly. “This is a very pretty piece, no doubt, and we are much obliged; but Mrs. Bo-gardus can’t sit here all the afternoon listening to one little boy recite, when she might hear twenty any day she pleased, all with kindergarten training, too! There are some photographs we have planned to look over upstairs, so if you will excuse us——” And the two ladies, rising with majestic accord, swept from the room.

It was rather dampening, to be sure, but Bobsie bore it well. Only his lower lip trembled a little as he asked,—

“It couldn’t have been a rubber-plant, now could it, Ellie?” That is his pet name for me. He uses it when he stands in need of comfort.

“No, honey,” I answered. “It certainly couldn’t.”

When just at that moment there was a crash, and a hurtle, and a smothered squeal in the hall outside, and we all ran out to see what could be happening.

I shall never forget it. Down the stairway from the second story, step after step, with a little bump on each, coasted Ernie. Her feet were stuck out straight before her, her arms were aloft, in one hand she bore a pitcher of ice-water, in the other a tumbler, while mother’s old silver serving tray rattled and rolled ahead. The poor child’s mouth was open, and every few steps she would emit a deprecating little squeak, as if to say:—

“I know I ought not to be tumbling downstairs. But what are you going to do about it?”

Mrs. Hudson and Mrs. Bo-gardus, who had started to go up in search of the photographs, stood midway of the flight, directly in the path of danger.

“Ernie! Oh, Ernie!” I cried. “Look out! Look out for Mrs. Bo-gardus!”

“I c-c-c-can’t!” gurgled Ernie. “Let her g-get——”

And then there was a second crash, and a splash, and a renewed series of squeals, and Mrs. Hudson, and Mrs. Bo-gardus, and Ernie, and the pitcher, and the silver tray, all came crashing and bumping down together in one ignominious tangle.

Mother, and Mrs. Hancock, and Rose came running from various parts of the house. In a moment there was quite a crowd gathered.

First Mrs. Hudson was picked up, spluttering and bewildered; next we rescued Mrs. Bo-gardus; then Ernie, who still clung desperately to her half-empty pitcher. All dignity, all sense of social circumstance, had vanished. The members of the dripping little group glared upon one another, humanly, democratically mad.

“Here,” said Ernestine, thrusting out the pitcher resentfully to Mrs. Hudson, “I guess this belongs to you.”

“This” was the ceremonial blond front, which had somehow come unpinned in the mêlée, and was now floating mermaid-wise in a few inches of ice-water at the bottom of the pitcher.

Mrs. Hudson sniffed, fished out her crimps, and flapped them scornfully.

“I leave this house to-morrow,” she remarked. “Children are all very well in their place!”

“It wasn’t my place,” contradicted Ernie, wrathfully. “I slipped on the top step and tobogganed!”

“Ernestine!” rebuked mother. “I trust you are not hurt,” she continued, turning to Mrs. Bo-gardus, who stood beside the newel-post, ruefully rubbing an elbow.

“Not being a Christian Scientist, nor yet a gutta-percha image, I confess to a few bruises,” returned that lady, spitefully; after which she and Mrs. Hudson swept on their way upstairs, leaving us at gaze.

“As if I meant to,” brooded Ernestine. “I’m not a Christian Scientist, myself. Why couldn’t they get out of the way, I’d like to know? and—who’s Mrs. Bogardus, anyhow?”

For the first time the question was presented to us squarely. We gaped at one another, like so many goldfish.

“That is so,” admitted Miss Brown in a timid voice, after a moment of deep thought. “Who is she?”

“And it couldn’t have been a rubber-plant,” chirped Bobsie with sudden easy confidence, “because then there wouldn’t be any rhyme.”

“It was a hired hansom she came in,” observed Mrs. Hancock, cheerfully. “And did you notice that she ate three of those fried croquettes for lunch? Her stummick can’t be so very sensitive, after all! I shall have to tell my husband!”

Certainly, Ernestine’s pitcher of ice-water had had a wonderfully quenching effect! But Mrs. Hudson is going, and, as I said, we can’t afford it.

“I was only trying to help,” murmurs Ernie, mournfully pulling off one of her long stockings, as she sits on the floor in the middle of our little room. “Do stop writing, Elizabeth, and come to bed. There is a smudge of ink on the tip of your nose where you dipped it in the bottle, and I just know you are saying it is all my fault!”

Dear little Ernie, how did she ever guess?
Tuesday, December 2.

Mrs. Hudson left this afternoon, despite the fact that Ernie apologised to her very meekly this morning.

“Do you really think I ought, mother?” Ernie asked.

“Yes, dear; I do,” mother answered. “She was frightened and hurt and we are all sorry.”

Ernie made a wry face. “Perhaps she’ll stay, if she knows I did not mean it,” she said.

“No,” answered mother. “I am sure that she will not. It is not for that reason that I want you to apologise. Apart from the financial inconvenience I can’t regret Mrs. Hudson’s decision. In some ways it will be a great relief.”

“Well, here goes,” announced Ernestine. “The little Christian martyr bids a last bye-bye to her fond family.” And she turned and ran from the room.

She found Mrs. Hudson packing.

“You know I did not mean to tumble downstairs, Mrs. Hudson,” she told me later that she said:—“and I’m sorry that I had the pitcher with me. I was taking it up to your room for Mrs. Bo-gardus.”

“You seemed to be coming down the stairs when we met you,” returned Mrs. Hudson, suspiciously.

“Yes,” confessed Ernie. “I know it. I had brought up only one glass. I was going back for another, and my foot tripped.”

“Well,” returned Mrs. Hudson, evidently quite unmollified, “we will say no more about it. For a long time I have felt that a change would be desirable. Yesterday’s incident simply confirmed me in my half-formed resolution. I am going from here to stop with a Friend for a day or two, till I can look around and get more comfortably settled.”

“I hope you will have a good time, I’m sure,” observed Ernie, forgivingly. “But I wouldn’t want to visit her.”

Mrs. Hudson stared. “You?” she queried. “Oh, my dear!”

And directly after lunch she left us, and Ernie started in on a wild hunt for “the dump-cart contract.” To look for the contract is Ernie’s last resource in times of trouble.

“It must be somewhere, Elizabeth,” she argues, “and why not about the house? We know perfectly well that father went especially to get it signed that afternoon. He wouldn’t have come away without it. Perhaps it’s poked in a bureau-drawer, or under the blotting-paper on his desk, or maybe even back of the cuckoo-clock!”

And so, though these very places have been ransacked again and again, Ernie proceeded to turn the workshop upside down;—covered herself with dust crawling under Hazard’s cot, skinned the tip of her nose on the gas-fixture, and tore a great rent in her pink flannel petticoat.

About three o’clock Geof dropped in, as he generally does on his way home from school, and joined in the chase.

“Do you mean to say you have really lost a Boarder?” he asked, summing the catastrophe with a worried look. “You can’t afford it, can you?”

“No,” answered Ernie, mournfully, “we can’t. I just wish mother would whip me, as I deserve. It’s awful to love your family, Geof, and be nothing to them but a misfortune. Perhaps, if we don’t let Mrs. Hudson’s room soon, we won’t be able to afford ice cream on Sundays, and Mr. Hancock likes ice cream better than anything in the world. They will be leaving next.”

“Oh, cheer up,” said Geoffrey. “You’re not a misfortune to anybody, Ernie. If only Uncle Dudley had finished this,”—the three of us were standing rather disconsolately about the flying-machine,—“you wouldn’t have to think of boarders, or dump-carts, or anything like that. You’d be rich, and famous, too. Did he ever make an ascension, do you know?”

“Once, late at night, he tried,” answered Ernestine. “But I don’t think it was a success. He only rose a few feet from the roof, and then got tangled in some of the neighbours’ clothes-lines. Come on, Geof. Let’s look once more in the cuckoo-clock. It stands at the foot of the stairs, you know. Father might have stopped to wind it, and slipped the agreement into the works by mistake. It buzzed fearfully the last time we tried to make it go,—as if it were suffering from some sort of impediment.”

Entertaining no personal hope in regard to the cuckoo-clock, I left them on the landing and ran down to the dining-room, where I found Haze, who had also just come in. He was standing in the window, looking ruefully over the gas bill, which the postman had handed him through the grating.

“So Mrs. Hudson has really gone?” he began, throwing off his overcoat. “Well, as far as I can see, that means just one thing.”

“What does it mean, Haze?” I asked, surprised at his tone.

“That I give up High School,” answered Hazard gloomily, and cast his books and cap together upon a chair.

“Oh, Hazey!” I protested. “Wouldn’t that be rash? We may let Mrs. Hudson’s room to-morrow.”

“We may,” returned Hazard, “but we won’t.”

Then he seated himself astride the chair, his arms folded across the back, his chin resting upon his arms.

“It’s this way, Elizabeth,” he began. “I’m the man of the family, and I mustn’t shirk my responsibilities.”

“But you aren’t shirking, Hazard,” I urged, settling myself in the window-seat opposite him. “You are working, and working hard, to finish your education. It would be a dreadful thing for you to give up now,—it would mean a handicap for years, perhaps for life.”

“Some fellows have got to accept a handicap,” answered Hazard. “And the very fact that they know it spurs them on,—so that in the end, perhaps, it isn’t a bad thing. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately; but I couldn’t make up my mind and so I wouldn’t talk, not even to you, old girl. But this is how it stands. I can’t bear to see mother struggling along with the house, and Robin, and all her worries,—trying to satisfy everybody, being snubbed sometimes, and—unappreciated. At first, I thought I’d give up college (you know, I’d intended going in for the Conklin Scholarship, and every one said I would win it, too), but even so there would be two more years of study, and I’m not sure I could keep up the pace I’ve set myself lately. Then, I had a talk with Merriweather the other day” (Dr. Merriweather is the principal of Hazard’s school), “which wasn’t altogether satisfactory. He doesn’t think a fellow gets any good cramming the way I’ve been doing, and he intimated that even if I took the examinations next fall, and passed ’em, he wasn’t at all sure that he would graduate me. Well, that pretty nearly settled the business, and now this affair at home drives in the last nail. I’m going to quit, and take my proper place as the head of the family.”

“But, Hazard,” I urged, “don’t you think you ought to consult mother, or some older person, first? It’s a very grave step for you to take on your own responsibility. And besides, I don’t believe mother will let you be the head of the family. And who would employ you? and what sort of position could you fill?”

“That depends upon the acumen of the man to whom I apply,” returned Hazey, with such an owly look through his big glasses that I really wanted to laugh. “You know, Elizabeth, how Uncle George is continually repeating that though he doesn’t care for talent in his business he is willing to pay for ‘brains.’ I’ve got ’em, and I’m going to rent them to him! It’s a sacrifice, but I’ve made up my mind, so there’s no use arguing.”

“But you’ll wait till the end of the week, any way, dear,” I pleaded. “Give us that long, at least, to rent the room.”

“Yes; I’ll wait till Saturday,” compromised Hazard. “We shall have finished the Punic Wars by that time, and I’ve written a rather stunning outline on the subject I should like to have criticised. But if the room isn’t rented by then I quit. Now, remember, Elizabeth, not a word of this to anybody,—especially Ernestine. I don’t want her to feel that she is in any way responsible for blighting my career.”

“I won’t tell,” I answered; and so, of course, I haven’t; but, oh, I am very much afraid that Hazard is making a mistake!
Wednesday, December 3.

We advertised Mrs. Hudson’s room to-day. It cost a dollar. Ernie wanted to say that we are a refined Christian family with a good table, but mother would not hear of it;—which was lucky, considering the price! When the advertisement was finally ready, Haze and I took it around to the newspaper office;—and the long shining shafts cast by the electric-lights on the wet asphalt (it had been raining) made us feel quite frisky. I would rather be a medi?val knight than a girl whose mother keeps a boarding-house,—but, as Haze observed, there are diversions in every lot.
Friday, December 5.

This morning we had a call from Aunt Adelaide. She came “to advise” us, because she had heard about Mrs. Hudson. Aunt Adelaide does not call very often; but when she does, she makes the best of her time. To-day she had Georgie with her,—so charmingly dressed! He wore a dear little fur-lined overcoat, and a cap with snug ear-laps, and a jaunty cockade. How I wanted them for Robin!—who took cold yesterday when Ernie had him out on her sled. It was the first snowstorm of the season, and Bobs did so beg to go; but to-day he is in bed again, suffering with rheumatism in his back. Dear, patient, little lamb!

“So much sickness is most unfortunate,” reproved Aunt Adelaide. “Can’t you subordinate the children a little more, Margaret? How can you expect people to stop in a house where there is continual invalidism?”

“I don’t expect it,” returned mother, cheerfully. “It is a perpetual surprise to me that anybody should stay.”

Aunt Adelaide stiffened. “Have you considered the consequences if they did not?” she asked.

“Yes,” admitted mother. “We should starve, I suppose,—since man does not live by advice alone.”

“George was really very much put out when he heard that you had lost Mrs. Hudson,” continued Aunt Adelaide. “It is most discouraging. You were beginning to get along quite nicely;—and a man who has so many heavy responsibilities naturally feels each extra burden.”

“Of course,” agreed mother. “It must be very trying to have poor relations, I am sure.”

Here Georgie interrupted. “You said I should visit with Bobsie, mamma,” he cried. “I want to go up now, and tell him about my new rocking-horse. It’s stupid down here.”

“Elizabeth will take you, love,” answered his mother, apparently without the least thought of “subordination.” So I took Georgie by the hand and led him up to the nursery.

When I returned to the library the conversation had been switched:

“Positively, he grows worse and worse,” Aunt Adelaide was saying as I entered the room. “Yesterday he was openly impertinent to me, and flatly refused to accompany Meta to dancing-school. I do not wish to bring the affair to his father, who is rather severe at times, but I declare there is no managing the boy. He won’t study, he has no manners, and he resents interference in any direction.”

It was Geoffrey, of course—and I felt sorry. So did mother. The mocking note had quite died from her voice, as she answered simply and kindly,—

“I think you are a little unjust, Adelaide. Geoffrey requires tactful handling, I know. He is apt to be sullen at times; he is not bookish; but in his own way, along the mechanical line, it seems to me that he is really clever.”

Aunt Adelaide sighed. “Heaven forbid his being an inventor! One is misfortune enough for any family.”

Mother merely smiled that little quiet smile of hers, and asked how Meta was progressing with her music. She will never discuss father with either Aunt Adelaide or Uncle George;—but the attack was not to be so easily repelled, and Aunt Adelaide returned to it a moment later by asking bluntly if there had been any further news of Mr. Perry, and whether we had given up all hope of finding the contract.

“George says the whole affair is entirely typical of poor Dudley,” she declared. “He has not an ounce of patience with it.”

And then, after a few further generalities, Aunt Adelaide prepared to leave, quite unconscious that she had said anything to wound or offend any one, and I was sent upstairs to fetch Georgie.

I knew that there was trouble as soon as I opened the nursery door. For Bobs in his little old flannel dressing-gown was sitting up very straight and white-lipped in mother’s big bed pretending to look at a picture-book; while Georgie, with red face and hands thrust deep in his knickerbocker-pockets, was standing by the window, pretending to look out.

“I’ll tell you something more you don’t know,” said Robin, glancing up from his book after a moment’s silence. They had neither of them seen me enter the room. “Shall I?”

“I know more’n you do!” chanted Georgie, monotonously.

“You don’t know what a Chimera is; and you don’t know what a Gorgon is; and you don’t know what a Hippogrif is; and you don’t know what a Ninkum is! You wouldn’t if you saw one! And you don’t know what a Siren is; and you don’t know what Syrian is, now neither! Do you?”

George seemed rather overpowered by this erudite outburst; but he reiterated stubbornly:—“I know more’n you do!”

“What’s a Very Imp?” asked Bobs, excitedly. “You don’t know! And what’s a Jabberwock? and what’s a Mockturtle?”

“You eat it in soup,” answered Georgie, brightening up a bit. “We had it the night the General came, and William let me taste some out of a teaspoon in the butler’s pantry,—so there!”

“Nonsense!” Bobs’ scorn was withering. “Maybe you’d eat a Ninkum in fish-cakes! We don’t! A Mockturtle was once a real turtle, and——”

But here I thought it best to interfere. “Aunt Adelaide is going, Georgie,” I said. “You had better come downstairs, now.”

As soon as Georgie saw me he put his finger in his mouth and began to cry and asked to be taken down to mamma, for Bobsie was rude to him and said he didn’t know things.

“That certainly is not very polite,—to company!” I answered for Robin’s best good; and took Georgie by the hand and led him away. But just as we reached the foot of the stairs we heard the unrepentant Robin sing out triumphantly,—

“I’ll tell you some more things you don’t know, too. You don’t know what a Crusader is, nor a Centaur, nor you don’t know nothing!”

Georgie was quite overcome by this last taunt. He clenched his fist savagely. “I just guess I do know sompfin’,” he sobbed. “I’m going to ask mamma if I don’t.” And he broke away from me, and ran into the parlour.

Of course, Aunt Adelaide soothed him, and assured him that he knew a great deal for a little boy of his age, but that he must be patient with his little sick cousin.

So Georgie stopped crying and looked virtuous; while Aunt Adelaide explained to mother that she knew just how it was in regard to Robin, and thought it only natural that he should be pettish and quarrelsome, and that she would bring Georgie soon again to cheer him up! After which our visitors departed in quite a pleasant glow of self-satisfaction; and mother went downstairs to the kitchen,—very mad,—to superintend the preparation of luncheon; and I ran up to the nursery,—very mad,—to try and soothe Robin’s ruffled spirits.

Nor did it take me long to learn the cause of the disagreement,—for Bobsie was only too eager to confide. It seems that among his other new possessions Georgie has a nursery governess who is teaching him to read, and though Robin did not mind about the pony, and never once thought of envying the fur-lined overcoat and cap, he could not bear to be told that Georgie knew more than he did! The idea is really ridiculous to any one who knows the two children; but, on the whole, it had been an excellent thing for Master Robin to face, for now he is determined to learn to read, too,—a proposition we could never get him to entertain before, as he always said “he perferred to lie still and listen.” I am to give him lessons each morning, and if he sets his mind to it, I am sure he will get on rapidly.

Just think! dearest Haze walked home from school this afternoon,—though it is over three miles,—and bought a string for my mandolin with his car fare. Not many brothers would think of a thing like that.


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