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Chapter 3
Thursday, December 11.

This afternoon mother called on Mrs. Burroughs. She is the lady whose house Ernie broke into with the flying-machine, and I forgot to say how lovely she was about it. “Surprised, of course,” as Ernie admitted, “but so pleasant.”

Mother intended calling yesterday, to arrange about the broken glass, etc.,—for which, fortunately, Uncle George said he would pay,—but she was flat, poor dear, with a nervous headache, and so had to put it off. Ernie was rather shaken, too, and Robin quite excited and feverish.

As he continued to have a little “temperature” this morning, I did not give him his reading lesson till afternoon. He is really getting on very nicely, when one considers the disadvantages against which he has to fight;—not only his ill health, but he has had so many stories read to him, and is so far advanced for his age in other ways, that it is hard for him to read:—“I see a Cat. Does the Cat see me?” If he did not wish to crush Georgie’s rising conceit, I think we would have a struggle teaching him.

He said to me to-day when the lesson was over,—“Oh, Ellie, I do hate cats,—all but Rosebud!” and sighed prodigiously. It is amusing to hear Robin sigh. He is such a little boy, and the sigh is so very big. I told him he would make an invaluable passenger aboard a sailing vessel, for, if the wind died down, it would only be necessary for him to sigh once or twice to blow the ship right into port.

This idea tickled him mightily, and he sighed again even louder than before, and then he said he would tell me a story. I love Bobsie’s stories,—they are so original. Here is the one he told this afternoon:

“Once there was a Crusader, and his name was Max, and he lived up a tree in the Holy Land.”

“What sort of a tree, Robin?” I asked.

“It was a nut-tree,” Bobs replied, “and there were chestnuts on it, and hickory-nuts, and peanuts, too. The Crusader and the squirrels what lived with him used to eat them all day long. But one time the squirrels had gone out on a visit, and the Crusader was sitting on a branch alone, and he saw a Griffin go by. And the Griffin was muttering and murmuring to his self, ‘Oh, you wait, my fine lady, till I get home, and then won’t I have you for my tea! Oh! ho! my fine madam, just you wait, and then we’ll see!’ So Max, he knew right away that that meant a Princess; and he slid down the trunk of the tree, an’ he ran right up to him, an’ he shouted in his ear,—

“‘Where’s that Princess you have hid?’

“And the Griffin jumped, but then he pertended it was only a burr what he had in his foot, and he said,—

“‘Princess? Princess? I haven’t any Princess, my dear fellow. What are you talkin’ about?’

“And just then Max he heard a sobbing sound, which was the Princess weeping, and he shouted,—

“‘Oh my! not much you haven’t! I hear her crying this very instant, an’ if you don’t tell me where she is, I shall cut your head slam bang off!’

“But the Griffin he was v-e-r-y clever, and he said, ‘What do you mean, old nosey? Why, that’s only my sick grandmother that you hear. She has an influenza, and so she’s got to sniff!’

“But the Crusader was not so easily fooled as all that, and he took up his sword, an’ he cut off the Griffin’s head! bang!! And then he looked around for the Princess, an’ after a while he found her in a pit what the Griffin had dug. And then the Crusader, and the Princess, and the squirrels all went and lived in the Griffin’s castle, ’cause the Princess didn’t know how to climb trees, and anyhow Max was tired of nuts.”

Just as Bobsie finished his story mother came in from her call, and as we wanted to hear all about it, she took him in her lap in the big rocker, while I seated myself on the hassock at her feet. Mrs. Burroughs, she said, was charming,—so cordial and friendly, and would not listen to anything about “damages.” She seemed endlessly amused at Ernie’s escapade, and laughed and laughed over it. Then she would break off to apologise, and say she fully realised how great the shock must have been to us;—till some freshly funny aspect of the adventure would strike her, she would laugh again, and mother would laugh, too.

Finally they began to talk of other things. It seems that Mrs. Burroughs had had a little boy who was an invalid. His name was Francis. He was ill for five years with some spinal trouble, and died when he was seven. Mother told me the sadder details later, for Robin takes his illness so much as a matter of course that we never like to say anything before him that would be apt to make him realise, or arouse apprehensions. Mrs. Burroughs’ husband had died some years previous, and so she was left quite alone, except for an aunt, an old lady of nearly seventy, who fortunately was out making calls Tuesday afternoon, and so escaped the excitement of Ernie’s invasion.

Mrs. Burroughs then asked mother a number of questions about Robin. She said she had often noticed his little pale face at the nursery window as she passed our house, and she wondered if he ever got out. Mother answered that we could not let him go very often this winter, for he took cold so easily, and his crutches seemed to tire him.

Then Mrs. Burroughs flushed a beautiful rose colour, hesitated, and said, in a breathless little way, that her boy, Francis, had had a wheel-chair for the last couple of years of his illness from which he had gotten a great deal of comfort and pleasure. She had often wondered, seeing Robin at the window, if it would not be nice for him, too. Half a dozen times, she said, she had been on the point of sending it over.

“And it shall come to him this evening. I don’t know what has held me back so long! You will let your dear little son accept it as a gift from my Francis, will you not, Mrs. Graham?” she pleaded. “Children have no feeling about taking presents from one another,—and I should be so very, very glad. For Francis always loved to give!”

Of course, mother could make but one answer,—and how splendid the chair will be for Robin! Now he can get out on the mild, sunny days, which was impossible for him when he was dependent only on Ernie’s sled. Dear little fellow!—he is delighted with the prospect, and we have great hopes of the good it will do him.

And how kind of Mrs. Burroughs to think of it, and offer it the way she did,—without any hint of patronage or condescension. She also asked with what mother called “a hungry look” if she might not run in sometime and make Bobsie’s acquaintance, and she invited Ernie and me to call upon her, too. I shall love to go, and even Ernie admits that perhaps it won’t be so bad, since Mrs. Burroughs seems to be “a delicate sort of person” who understands how “others feel.”

Really it is rather pathetic the way Ernie has brightened up since we have had the offer of the chair. I think in her secret heart she considers herself responsible;—a sort of unappreciated dea ex machina, as it were. And certainly it is an unlooked for and lovely end to what might have proven a very terrible adventure.
Saturday, December 13.

The sun shone bright and beautiful this morning, there was no wind, and the streets were clear of snow, so Bobsie went for a ride in his new wheel-chair. What do you think he wore? The dearest little fur-lined overcoat, and a fur cap with a military cockade, almost the exact duplicate of those belonging to Georgie which I was mean enough to envy the last time he came to see us!

This is the way it happened. The wheel-chair did not come from Mrs. Burroughs Thursday evening as we had hoped. Robin kept watching for it, and listening for the bell. I waited, too, but all in vain. I don’t know which of us went to bed the more disappointed. The next day, Friday, it rained. Robin could not have gone out under any circumstances,—but it was not until late in the afternoon, after hours of waiting, that the chair finally arrived.

It was left at the basement door by Mrs. Burroughs’ maid with a big bundle and a little note. Mother read the note, while I undid the bundle, cutting all the strings, you may be sure, and wondering what it might contain. Inside the wrapping paper there was a dear little steamer rug;—such a pretty, serviceable plaid, and warm as warm can be. Then came the overcoat, the fur cap with close ear-laps, just such as they are wearing this winter, and a charming pair of fur-lined gloves! But,—could we accept so much?

“Listen, Bobs,” said mother, and read the note aloud:

“My Dear Robin:—

“The wheel-chair which I am sending, and the coat and cap, belonged to a little boy whom I wish you might have known and loved. His name was Francis. If you had known him, you could not have helped loving him, I am sure. He was sick a great deal of the time, like you, and always so patient and good. Your mother tells me that you are good, too, and that is why I want you to have his things. I had to alter the coat and cap a little, or you would have had them before this, for my Francis always liked his clothes just so,—in the very latest style. Perhaps you feel that way, too! Please wear them,—and I hope you will enjoy the chair very much. It will make me happier to know that another little boy is making use of my boy’s things.

“With love to your mother and yourself, believe me,
“Your friend,
Clara Cecilia Burroughs.”

Now was not that a lovely note?

“Will you take the things, Bobsie dear?” said mother.

“’Course I will,” answered Bobs with a sympathetic sniff. He had felt the sadness underlying the gentle words, and stood quite grave and serious as we tried on the coat and gloves. They fitted as if they had been made for him, and how charming our Robin looked!

“I’ll have to be very good when I wear these,” he remarked, quaintly:—but, alas, for resolutions!

As I said, we took our first walk this morning, and Robin was so comfortable in his new chair with the steamer rug tucked close about his little thin legs! The street was full of his “friends,” and Bobs beamed on them with gracious condescension. A pretty glow of excitement burned in his cheeks; his eyes were bright as stars; he did not look like a little invalid boy.

“People will think I am riding just because I am so Rich,” he remarked, looking down at his fur-lined gloves;—and that moment turning the corner of Washington Square, whom should we meet but Georgie and his nurse, out for a morning stroll, too.

“Hello!” says Georgie, his eyes nearly popping out of his head with amazement,—“Where’d you get those things?” For, naturally, he had never seen Bobs attired so gorgeously before.

“Boy gave ’em to me,” answered Robin, loftily.

“What boy?” questioned Georgie. And then before Robin had time to reply,—“Pooh! I wouldn’t take coats an’ things from anybody, ’cept just my papa. I’d be ashamed to wear other people’s clothes!”

“No, you wouldn’t! Not the way I do!” shouted Robin, with flashing eyes. “This coat belongs to an Angel, I’d like to have you know! And nobody’d let you wear it,—you’re too bad!”

“Robin! Robin!” I cried. “What would Francis think if he could hear you now?”

Robin instantly subsided; and, indeed, it was not necessary for him to say more. Georgie was quite quelled and done for. The idea of the Angel coat was more than he could grapple with. He walked along beside the chair in a state of wondering, but subdued, solemnity.

After a while he began timidly to stroke the fur on Robin’s cuff.

“Is it warm?” he asked.

“Yes, it is,” answered Robin, still a trifle defiant.

“Suppose you tell Georgie about the things,” I said,—for Robin was clever enough to appreciate that the impression he had created, though delightful to his vanity, was not strictly in accordance with fact.

“Well,” he muttered, unwillingly, “Francis is an angel now, and this was his coat. And I’m sick like he was, and good, too, and that’s why I needn’t be ashamed to wear it.”

“So long as you stay good,” I answered.

And Robin blushed and hung his head, while Georgie sighed. He did not entirely understand, even yet, but somehow the tension of his prosaic little mind was relieved.

Nevertheless, he was very respectful and polite to Robin all the rest of the walk, and the explanation must have set him thinking, I suppose, for this afternoon while Bobs was upstairs taking a nap, who should appear at our door but Georgie, this time under the care of William, the coloured butler.

“Here,” he said, handing me a square package, prettily done up with tissue paper and red ribbon. “This is for Bobbie, because he is sick. Tell him it’s the one with the picture of the tiger. He likes that best, but I like the Brownie Books.”

“Oh, thank you, Georgie dear,” I said, kissing his little ruddy face. “What made you think to bring it over?”

“I wanted him to have something to ’muse himself with,” said Georgie, “and mamma said I might, if only I would stop teasing.”

“It was very kind of you, honey,” I answered, and Georgie beamed.

Sometimes I am ready to admit that I am unjust to Georgie. It isn’t his fault that he has all the things I want for Robin, to be sure.

And now I must write something that I dread to put down in black and white;—but there is no use shirking. We have to face it. The Hancocks are going! The news came quite unexpectedly to us all, and it is nobody’s fault.

Mrs. Hancock saw mother this evening, and explained that Mr. Hancock’s married sister had come to the city and taken a furnished house, and it had always been understood between them that when this happened she and Mr. Hancock would rent a floor. She said she was really sorry to leave us, that she had no complaints to make; but they were anxious to be settled before Christmas, and felt obliged to give up their rooms next Saturday. That would give us a whole week in which to rent them, and she hoped we would have no trouble.

But, oh dear! we haven’t even had any applications for Mrs. Hudson’s room yet. It seems to be an unlucky season, or something, and when the Hancocks go, I don’t see how we are going to get on at all!

We will have only Miss Brown left, and she pays less than anybody else because her room is so small. Can a family of seven people live on ten dollars a week? That sounds like a problem in a Lady’s Magazine; but I fancy the answer will prove very different from those printed, if we are unlucky enough to have to try it.

“I have such a queer feeling whenever I look at Miss Brown,” confessed Ernie, as we put away the dinner dishes,—Rose having begged for an unexpected afternoon out. “Sort of as if we were a Cannibal family, and she was the last captive we had left. Just think, she means muttonchops, and beefsteak, and milk for Robin, and butter, and eggs, and everything except rent! We must guard her carefully, Elizabeth, and see to it that she does not escape!”

Poor Miss Brown! I had had somewhat the same feeling myself, though I would not have thought of expressing it in exactly Ernie’s words.

I think mother must have guessed from our faces how worried we were, for, as soon as the dishes were finished, she sat down at the piano and began to play the jolliest lot of college airs. And soon we were all singing and laughing; to hear us you wouldn’t have thought we had a care in the world. Certainly, for a time we forgot we had! Even Haze shut up his C?sar, and joined in the frolic.

Now wasn’t that exactly like mother,—and no one but her?

“We’ll think it out together, Elizabeth,” she whispered, as I bade her good-night. “Don’t worry, dear.”
Monday, December 15.

Mother and I have had our consultation, and we feel better. It was rather like a general and his adjutant preparing for a siege. First, we mustered our resources,—the house; so much coal in the cellar, furnace, and range; Miss Brown’s seven dollars a week, Hazard’s three: next, the demands that were to be met,—lighting (always an expensive item at this season of the year); milk for Robin; and the table expenses generally.

“The first thing to be done is to dispense with Rose,” said mother, pencil on lip. “Apart from the question of wages, she eats a great deal!”

At this we could not help laughing. The parsimonious picture presented was certainly ludicrous;—but, on an income of ten dollars a week, every potato counts, and Rose has never been either efficient or economical. We have kept her for her cheapness and general good temper. She has washed the dishes, cooked, after a fashion, and attended a great many funerals,—apparently the more the merrier.

“It’s ma cousin’s step-brudder’s lil’ boy, dis time, Mis’ Graham,” she explained to mother, Saturday afternoon. “That ain’ no very close kin, ’cordin’ to some folks’ way ob reckonin’, Ah know. But Ah’m one o’ them that believes in keepin’ up the dispectability ob the fambly tie. C’n Ah go?”

Of course, mother answered that she might, and consequently Ernie and I washed the dinner dishes. So, though perhaps Rose will be sorry to leave us, since she once confessed to Robin in an unconsidered burst of confidence, she considers us “a right sma’t fambly to do fer,” we cannot feel that she will be much of a loss; and, as we know she can get a place any time she wants it with her sister “at a swell boa’ding house in the fash’nable distric’s,” we are relieved of responsibility on that score.

So now it is settled;—and after next Saturday when the Hancocks leave we are to do everything ourselves, washing, cooking, sweeping, and all. I can’t say that I look forward to the experiment with any particular “thrill,” but mother is great to work with, and somehow we’ll pull through.

“Perhaps you will be willing to admit by this time, Elizabeth,” remarked Haze this evening, looking up from Treasure Island, “that I was right, and you were wrong. My salary comes in pretty conveniently just at present, eh?”

Certainly, Haze’s salary is one of the things we are counting on,—but, for all that, I can’t help grieving over him, poor dear. Though he does not utter a word of complaint, I know he realises more keenly every day the magnitude of the sacrifice he has made. He was not cut out for a business-man and finds it hard to adjust himself to the new conditions.

This very morning he was in trouble, over Treasure Island, if you please! Ernie got the book from the public library Saturday, expecting to read it herself; but, unfortunately, when she went to Sunday-school yesterday afternoon, she left it lying open on the workshop table. Haze strolled in, carelessly picked it up, and began to read. Naturally, when Ernie came home a couple of hours later, she demanded her story,—but pleadings and protestations were of no avail. Hazard would not even answer,—apparently he was deaf to all remarks. So Ernie lost patience, at last, and tried to snatch the book away; at which Haze rose, dazed yet dignified, placed it on his chair, and calmly sat down on it.

“I think you’re too mean for anything,” cried Ernie, with flashing eyes. “You haven’t any right to take my story and keep it from me, just because you are stronger than I am!”

“Don’t be a dog in the manger,” returned Hazard, loftily. “You can’t possibly expect to read the thing while I’m sitting on it, can you? Go away and find something useful to do. You’re only wasting both our time here, and naturally, when I’ve finished it, I’ll give it back.”

Ernie stamped and fumed, quite unable to appreciate the fine logic of this position; but Haze sat stolidly on, till at last she gave in,—she is always a generous child,—and Hazard arose, resumed his story, and read rabidly till bedtime. Even so, however, he did not finish the book, and took it with him this morning to read on the trolley;—in consequence of which he was carried seven blocks out of his way, and arrived a quarter of an hour late at the office!

Mr. Bridges, who is something of a disciplinarian and determined to show no partiality, “jumped on him like anything” he confessed to Ernie and me this evening,—“And, of course,” says Haze, “though I objected to the language he used, I was not in a position to resent it,—which comes of being an office boy!”

“Never mind,” purred nice little Ernie, immediately forgetful of any rancour she herself may have been cherishing. “Some day you’ll surprise them all, Hazard. They don’t appreciate you yet, dear,—but we know, don’t we, Elizabeth? Just let ’em wait a bit, and they’ll see!”
Thursday, December 18.

Tuesday I received an invitation from Aunt Adelaide to dine with them yesterday evening. I was to bring my mandolin, and after dinner Meta and I were to play from Iolanthe. The fairy music is very pretty on the mandolin.

There were to be a number of guests: an Englishman and his wife, a railroad president, and several others. Aunt Adelaide extends me one or two such informal invitations each winter. I expect she considers it her duty,—besides which it lends support to Meta, and two mandolins are better than one.

Naturally, the first question was as to clothes. Aunt Adelaide sees to it that two or three of Meta’s last season’s dresses are sent to me spring and fall. They are always chic, always pretty, and as we are very nearly of a size, they require little alteration. Yet, somehow, I hate to wear them,—especially in their native habitat, where I am perpetually haunted by the discomforting suggestion that they must be fatally familiar to all. However, it is expected; and Ernie declares that I ought to be grateful, since I am thus “provided with a wardrobe far above my station.”

She is too young to understand that that is just what I do not like. Last evening I wore a graceful little white surah frilled frock, garnished with artificial forget-me-nots. The idea! for a girl who expects to start in on the family-wash come Monday.

Uncle George’s house, as I have remarked before, is very imposing. There is a magnificent display of plate-glass windows, a flight of broad stone steps, and a really oppressive vestibule.

I was admitted by William, the coloured man, who took my instrument, and told me that “Miss Meta was above stairs; would I please go right up?”

Such a charming room as Meta has,—all rose and mossy green, with soft rugs, a desk, a bookcase, her favourite casts and photographs! Everything individual and personal,—which seems to me the greatest treat of all.

“Come in!” she answered to my knock, and turned half round before the cheval-glass, a pout upon her pretty face.

“Oh, Meta!” I cried, “how charming!” For the dress of which she was evidently trying the effect before the mirror was truly lovely,—a Nile green rajah silk, with lace under-sleeves and a touch of amber fluff at the throat.

“Do you think so?” returned Meta, “You haven’t really seen it yet. Come and look how this shoulder pulls. Now wouldn’t that jar you!”

“There isn’t much amiss,” I answered. “The underseam wants to be let out a little, that’s all.”

“I declare I’ll give Miss Murray fits,” returned Meta, her face flushing unpleasantly. “It was all I could do to get her to promise the thing for to-night, and then to send it home like this! She’s a big fake,—forever working on mamma’s sympathies with that cough of hers! I’m going to change, Elizabeth, see if I don’t! All the girls are going to Madam Delahasset, now; and I don’t see why I should be made to look like a frump, just because Miss Murray is delicate, and has a pair of aged parents to support!”

“You’re exaggerating, Meta,” I returned. “There is nothing the least frumpish about that frock. It’s the prettiest thing I have seen in ages,—and as to the shoulder, that’s easily remedied, and might have happened with any one.”

“Do you really think so?” asked Meta, uncertainly.

“Why, of course I do,” I replied. “And what is more, I think Miss Murray is a wonder—always so chic and original.”

“Well, I’m glad you like it,” admitted Meta, who is not difficult to bring around if only one is firm enough. “Mamma believes in her; but there is nothing that upsets me so much as a new frock. See,—won’t my amber buckle be the very ticket with this girdle?”

“It’s stunning,” I returned, and threw my hat and gloves upon the bed.

“You look well yourself, Elizabeth,” continued Meta, turning, jewel-case in hand, to sweep me an approving glance. “Somehow, I never appreciate how nice my things are till I see them on you. Those bunches of forget-me-nots, for instance, didn’t look half so cute when I wore them. But, mercy, child—what have you been doing with your hands?”

“Dish-washing,” I was forced to admit. “Are they very bad?”

“H’m’m,” returned Meta, in dubious assent. “It wouldn’t matter so much if we didn’t have to play. Don’t you ever use cold cream?” And then, quickly, before I had time to reply,—

“How can you bear it, Elizabeth?—truly, now,—your life, I mean?”

“My life?” I questioned. “You want me to answer honestly? Well, first place, it’s interesting; one never has a moment to be bored. Of course, there are plenty of worries, and a good deal happens that one doesn’t like; but the planning is exciting, and the sense of battle. Then, too, there are such lots of funny things! I’m convinced that nothing develops one’s sense of humour like being poor,—and it teaches one to love one’s family, and gives one plenty of chance to show it, too, without being sentimental; and, oh,—it’s good training in other ways. For instance, it would take a lot more than a new frock to upset me, Meta, and——”

Here I stopped, amazed. Either it was pride that made me answer so, or I had suddenly discovered that being poor is not altogether such bad luck! I, who have kicked so determinedly against the pricks;—longing for the luxuries we can’t afford;—resentful of Georgie because for him they are afforded. Well, I must do better now. Since, among the thorns, there are roses to be found, why not pluck and wear them?

Meta still stood before the mirror, trying the effect of the amber buckle.

“I don’t understand a word you’ve been saying,” she confessed. “I’m afraid you’re talking through your hat, Elizabeth. But, come on. Let’s go down now—I’m ready, since you think my rags will do.”

And we proceeded to the drawing-room, where we found Aunt Adelaide and a number of guests already assembled.

Geof did not appear till dinner was announced. He sat next me, and after an unenthusiastic greeting began upon the oysters. It was evident he was in one of his moods.

“How’s hockey coming on, Geof?” I asked, under cover of the general conversation.

“It’s not coming on at all,” returned Geof, glumly. “Probably shan’t play any more this season.”

“What!” I replied, for Geof is captain of his school team, a crack player, fast, and wonderfully clever. “Not even the Lakeville match? I thought you had it all arranged!”

“So we have,” muttered Geof, crumbling a bit of bread between his fingers. “The match’ll come off, all right;—under a different captain, that’s all.”

“Oh, Geoffrey!” I said; for I saw by his face and the nervous movements of his hand how deeply the matter cut. “What has happened? You’re not in trouble again at school?”

“I’d get on all right at school,” returned Geof, sullenly, “if only they’d stop nagging at home. It seems the Governor’s not pleased with my reports,—one can’t especially blame him for that,—and the ultimatum’s gone forth that I am to give up athletics,—my place on the team and all. He’s put up to it, of course. I’m sharp enough to know that.”

“But, Geoffrey,” I said, “if scholarship is the only difficulty, why don’t you buckle down and study? Aunt Adelaide is really anxious about you. Her motives are good,—and, after all, the matter rests in your own hands,—it isn’t hockey, as hockey, that is objected to. You know that.”

Geof turned from me. I saw that I would receive no further answer; and yet I felt sorry for the poor fellow, stubborn and headstrong as I know him to be.

When we returned to the drawing-room, Meta, Geof, and I retired to a window-recess, where we felt ourselves screened from observation.

“Mamma’s evenings are so dull,” Meta began, plaintively. “One puts on one’s best clothes, and then nothing happens at all! Seventeen is a hateful age anyway, it seems to me. One is not grown up, and yet one is no longer a kid. Fancy, Elizabeth! mamma says I am not to come out till I am twenty! Did you ever hear anything so unjust? All this talk about education makes me tired.”

“Much you have to complain of,” jeered Geof;—“a fudge party every other week, and girls so thick about the house one can’t move without stepping on ’em!”

“Oh, I’m not trying to infringe your patent,” replied Meta, smartly. “Did you know, Elizabeth, that Geof has taken out a patent on martyrdom, since he’s been forbidden athletics? He has even got to give up his beloved hockey. It’s a national misfortune, let me tell you.”

“That’s all you know about it,” returned Geof. “But who’d expect you to understand, anyhow? You haven’t an atom of sport in your make-up!”

He raised an excited arm as he spoke, and as ill luck would have it struck Meta rather sharply on the side of the head. I should have laughed had I been in her place, for it was not really much of a blow, and we were crowded so against the window-seat that accidents were only natural. But she cried out,—

“Geof! stop that! You hurt me!”

And Uncle George, who was standing near enough to overhear the exclamation, turned and rumbled in that heavy bass of his,—“Are you teasing your sister, sir? Leave the room;—since you can’t conduct yourself like a gentleman.”

Geof jumped up and looked at Meta, as if expecting her to explain; I waited, too; but never a word did she say. Then Geoffrey, very red and stormy, walked toward the door. How sorry I felt; for every one had turned at Uncle George’s voice, and it sounded brutal,—the way one would order a dog.

“Meta!” I whispered; “how could you? It was an accident—you know that perfectly well!”

Meta raised her hand to her hair with an airy little laugh. “He mussed my pompadour, all the same,” she explained. “And besides, Geof will understand. He knows perfectly well that I owed him one.”

I turned away, shocked and disgusted, and presently Aunt Adelaide asked us to play.

The music went well enough: people applauded, and declared it delightful; but, so far as I was concerned, the evening had proved anything but a success.

About half-past nine I made my adieus, and was conducted home under the wing of the dignified and awe-inspiring William.

Well, I had not had a pleasant time, but I think I learned a lesson. Meta’s question and my unexpected answer in return. Certainly, there are advantages in being poor;—for, under given circumstances, one would have to be so very selfish to be selfish at all, that that in itself is a safeguard.

Poor Geof! poor Meta! I lay awake and thought of them late into the night. They waste so much that is good and pleasant, and are not nearly as happy as any of us, whom they often pity, I feel sure.


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