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Chapter 7
Tuesday, February 17.

Geoffrey has typhoid fever. So,—mother and Aunt Adelaide were right. Oh, why could we not have suspected before? The doctor says the disease has been coming on for months;—which accounts for Geof’s headaches, his sleepless nights, his general indifference and lassitude. And we know, too, now, that he never would have tried to run away, never would have frightened us so, had he been himself.

How hard and unsympathetic we must have seemed these last weeks; for he was sick, poor dear, and dazed, and stupid. He could not explain, and we would not understand.

Well, we are going to be good to him, at last, and make up,—Meta, Aunt Adelaide, all of us. “Only,” says Ernie, with an anxious little frown (it was she who brought the news this morning before school), “we will have to wait a while, I guess. Meta says Miss Barron, the trained nurse, is a regular tyrant. She won’t let any one near Geof.”

It seems that Meta wanted to go to Geoffrey and apologise as soon as she heard that he had typhoid. The memory of their various scraps and misunderstandings troubled her. She made quite a point of the matter, till Miss Barron said it was out of the question. Then Meta determined she would slip in on the sly,—for she is very wilful, once she gets an idea into her head. So she watched her chance, stole up when no one was on guard, got as far as the door, and peeped in.

The room was quite dark. Geoffrey’s head was swathed in towels and an ice-bag; he kept turning it from side to side upon the pillow. His eyes were staring open, and he was muttering to himself in an odd hoarse voice. Suddenly he caught sight of Meta, who was advancing on tip-toe into the room, started up on his elbow, and shouted “Scat!!”

She turned and ran, poor thing, right into Uncle George, who was coming upstairs with the doctor, and he scolded her, and sent her to her room.

I am afraid Geof is going to be very ill. Dr. Porter, who called to see Robin this afternoon, was extremely uncommunicative. “It is impossible to predict at this stage,” was all we could get him to say. “Fortunately, the boy has a good constitution.”
Wednesday, February 25.

Geof no better. Oh, how can we endure this suspense!
Sunday, March 1.

Geoffrey desperately ill. He is delirious the greater part of the time, or lies in a heavy stupour.

Poor little Ernie, who goes every day for news, crept up to his door yesterday morning, crouched outside, and listened. Geof was singing in a queer, hoarse voice:—
“Forty years on, when afar and asunder,
Parted are those who are singing to-day,
When you look back and forgetfully wonder,
What you were like in your work and your play....”

followed by snatches of the Eton Boating Song. Then he would break off to shout football signals:—

“25, 39, 15—Left-end and Tackle over! 19, 56, 22—You fellows, there! What are you trying for? 19’s a bluff! Can’t you remember what’s told you,—confound it!”

Interspersed with muttered snatches of German, and Latin paradigms. “And, oh,” mourned Ernie, pathetically, “we’ve done dear Geof a great injustice, Elizabeth. It’s amazing all that boy knows! He repeated lines and lines of C?sar;—I only wish Haze could have heard him!—and strings of irregular French verbs, and then began to say the Capitals of the States, and exports and imports! It was simply wonderful! I felt so proud!”

But mother and I are frightened. Geof never would have known such things in his right mind, we feel sure; and we suspect that Dr. Porter fears cerebral complications. A consultation was held yesterday, and a second nurse has been engaged to relieve Miss Barron.
Monday, March 9.

The fever has still three weeks to run. It does not seem as if Geof could hold out. Ernie has grown so pale and still these last few days. Mother and I are really anxious about her.
Wednesday, March 18.

I am desperate. I can’t bear it! I can’t! We have just been told that our precious Robin must undergo an operation. Didn’t we have enough to endure without this? Geoffrey so ill,—not past the crisis yet,—and now Bobsie, my own baby, whom I love better than anything in all the world!

God is cruel!... Oh, I don’t know what I am writing! I must calm myself.

This afternoon, after hearing about Robin and trying to write, and giving it up, I put on my hat and jacket and escaped alone to the Park. I walked fast, and just at first I did not notice anything,—the bare branches of the trees against the early sunset sky, the patches of melting snow about the rhododendron bushes, the children playing with their nurses on the common,—till one little fellow with rosy cheeks and shining eyes came running, laughing and shouting over his shoulder, and stumbled against me. “’S’cuse me!” he piped, and shied off again.

It was like a knife in my heart! I wondered stupidly why it should hurt so, and sat down on a bench to think;—and then I knew it was because Robin had never run like that. Oh, he has missed so much in his little life!

I remember perfectly Bobsie’s first birthday. How I woke with a start, before it was yet light, and saw the morning star, big and beautiful, shining in at my window. I sat up in bed, and clasped my knees and blinked at it,—conscious of an unusual stir in the house. Till all at once there rose a little cry! How my heart beat. I jumped out of bed, slipped on my dressing gown and slippers, and crept down the stairs to mother’s door, where I crouched against the wall and listened.

A few moments later the door opened, and Mrs. Parsons, the nurse, poked her head out. “Bless my soul,” she said, “I almost thought you was a ghost, my dear. Run down to the library like a good girl, and tell your pa that everything is all right. It is a fine little boy and your mamma is doing nicely.”

“Oh, nurse,” I breathed, “might I see the baby first?”

“To be sure, you might,” answered Mrs. Parsons. And she went back into the room and returned again with a little white flannel bundle which she laid in my arms.

And I put back a corner of the blanket and peeped in, and there was Robin smiling up at me! His eyes were big and dark, just as they are to-day, and he blinked them. Everybody says it is impossible that Robin should have smiled; but I saw him, and I know. So the next morning, I put away my dolls, and never played with them again. It would have been too stupid, with a real baby to mother, and dress, and sing to.

“She’s crying!” chirped a little voice. For I was thinking of these things as I sat on the bench in the Park; and sure enough the tears were on my face, and I looked up to find three chubby tots standing hand in hand before me, staring in a solemn row.

So then I got up and came home again, since I did not care to make a public spectacle of myself;—and mother met me on the doorstep with outstretched hands, and her own brave smile.

“My darling,” she said, “I meant to spare you; but I am afraid it has come as too much of a shock. Come into the parlour. We will have a cup of cocoa.”

And when I was tucked snugly on the lounge and had wept my little weep where no one could see,—we talked it all out together. What comfortable institutions mothers are!

It seems that if Robin does not have the operation now he can never have it. A few months later would be too late. And though Dr. Porter had hoped to obviate the necessity by a long rest in bed, everything else has failed. There remains this one chance.

“So we must be brave for our baby, Elizabeth,” explained mother. “He is too young to make the decision for himself. The doctor spoke to me of the matter first before Christmas. I would not tell you then, dear, since there seemed a chance of escape, and we had worries enough without adding anything else. But that was why I was so determined not to draw from our little stock of money. You helped me there. Think how thankful we should be that we do not have to borrow, that we can engage a nurse for Robin,—everything that is necessary. He need not even be moved to a hospital, Dr. Porter says. It will all be over in a couple of weeks, and whatever the result there will be the inexpressible comfort of knowing that everything possible has been tried. Are you satisfied? Do you blame me?”

“No, no, indeed!” I answered. “Only,—I think I hate the doctor!”

“Oh, Elizabeth!” smiled mother, as she took my empty cocoa-cup and put it upon the table. “And now I want you to run up to your room, bathe your face, and put on a pretty frock. Mrs. Burroughs has sent over a charming mould of orange jelly and some lady-fingers for Robin. There is to be a tea-party in the nursery, and you and Abraham Lincoln are invited. What do you think of that?”

It was one of mother’s dear, considerate schemes to save my tell-tale eyes from a downstairs dinner. So I kissed her, sped up to my room, dabbed a little powder on the tip of my nose, and donned my forget-me-not dress. Robin’s invitation should be honoured with the best I had.

How his black eyes danced when I entered to him in all my finery:—

“Allow me the Honour of Presenting my Friend, Mr. Abraham Lincoln,” he piped. “There’s the globe, Elizabeth, on the side of the bed. You must pertend to shake hands, and p’raps we can get him to eat a little lady-finger.”

So I pretended to shake hands with the much-enduring Abraham Lincoln, and tempted him with lady-fingers and orange jelly, both of which delicacies he obstinately refused.

“Never mind,” says Robin. “He doesn’t know what’s good. We will eat instead.”

Such a jolly party as it was! We told stories, guessed riddles, and ran races to see who could dispose of the most sandwiches; till even the kind “Hippopotamus” could not have complained of Robin’s appetite. But, at last, he grew tired, and the weary pain returned:

“Take away the party, please, and sing to me, Ellie dear,” he said.

So I carried the tray outside, and came back and sat down by the bed, and with Robin’s thin little hand in mine, sang to him,—all the dear, familiar “heaven hymns” that we have both come to love so well. And Bobsie cuddled up against my arm and closed his eyes and sighed.

And then somehow I knew that if he is not to grow up strong and straight like other boys, if he is to suffer more and more as the years go by, it would be cruel to want to keep Robin. And, oh, I went on singing, and my voice did not once break or trail! So perhaps God will forgive the wicked words I wrote when I was so wild,—for I believe I can be brave now because after a bit Bobsie dropped asleep with his hand still in mine, and—I think, before I left him, that I said “good-bye.”
Sunday, March 22.

It is over. All yesterday morning Ernie and I sat on the attic stairs, holding each other’s hands and trying to feel hopeful.

“He had such a pretty colour in his cheeks last evening,” said Ernie, “and he did so enjoy looking out the window. Buster was there, and John waved his hand before they went away. It was a good sign that the doctor should have let him up in his chair for half an hour,—don’t you think so, Elizabeth? Robin has a lot of vitality.”

“Yes; I know he has,” I agreed. “And if the operation does go well,—how splendid it will be!”

“Somehow one never thinks of Bobsie running about like other boys,” continued Ernie,—“going to school, and playing marbles, and doing errands. I,—I can’t hardly realise it.”

“Neither can I,” I answered, and for a while there was silence between us.

Then Ernie began again:—“How good everybody has been! Uncle George even offered to pay for the operation. I’m glad we didn’t have to accept, though;—and we ought to be very thankful, too, Elizabeth, about the boarders. The oatmeal was burned this morning,—did you notice?—and they never said ‘boo’! Just think, if Mrs. Hudson had been here!”

“I know it,” I answered. “Oh, Ernie, if Robin and Geof pull through, there is not another thing in the world we could dare to ask for!”

“I’ve prayed, and prayed,” returned Ernie, simply. “And I saw Miss Barron yesterday, and she says that Geof is holding his own.”

Then for a long time we were quiet, each thinking her own thoughts. It seemed as the morning would never go.

“Robin isn’t feeling anything at all,” said Ernie, at last. “Dr. Porter promised that. It was to take about an hour, Elizabeth, only, of course, there would be a great deal to get ready first. I must see what time it is. It seems as if we had been sitting here weeks!”

And Ernie opened the hall door and stole out into the light, blinking like a little owl. A moment more and she was back,—very white and scared.

“It smells so of chloroform,” she confessed. “I,—I didn’t quite reach the clock.”

So then we shut the door again, and waited a long, long while; till, at last, we heard mother call:—

“Elizabeth! Ernestine!”

I sat quite still, but Ernie ran down and threw back the door:—“We are here, mother dear, on the attic stairs.”

“Oh, my poor lambs,” said mother, with a little catch in her voice. “Couldn’t you have found a more comfortable place to wait? But it is over, now. Dr. Porter declares the operation a complete success; and Robin has come out from the an?sthetic beautifully!”

“Oh!” gasped Ernie. And then, with a quick little cry,—“Elizabeth! Elizabeth!”

I couldn’t see why she should be calling me, when I was right there sitting on the top step looking down at her. Till....

The next thing I knew they had me on the attic floor, a pungent scent of ammonia at my nose, while Ernie poured cold water down my neck in a vain attempt to get me to swallow, and mother relieved me of my collar-button.

“Go away!” I murmured, crossly. “I am only resting.”

“Then do it with your eyes open,” commanded Ernie. “We aren’t used to fainters in this family!”

“I think she is all right, now,” said mother. “We will get her into the workshop to Hazard’s cot.”

So there, despite all my protestations, they put me, and after a while the doctor came up and gave me some medicine in a glass. It was very mortifying, but he said I could not help it, and perhaps if I had not made up my mind to expect the worst, I should have borne the news better. And, next, if you please, I went to sleep,—it was that medicine, don’t tell me!—and never woke till evening, when dear Haze brought up a tray and sat beside me while I ate some chicken broth.

“Bobsie is doing splendidly,” he said. “Of course, we have none of us seen him yet, except mother. And, Elizabeth,—don’t faint, there’s a good girl,—but Geof has passed the crisis! They telephoned Uncle George at noon. The office had a half-holiday. I came home, heard the good news about Robin, and then went shopping!”

“Shopping, Hazey?” I repeated; for it seemed rather an odd way for him to spend his afternoon.

“Yes,” returned Hazard. “Want to see what I got?” And, with a somewhat conscious smile, he sidled toward the workshop door. A moment later and he was back, bearing a portentous-looking package:—which, the wrappings being quickly removed, revealed a beautiful Clement Braun print of the Sistine Madonna, finished in soft sepia tints and set off by a charmingly tasteful frame.

“Oh, Hazard!” I cried. “How lovely! Is it for Robin? No,—he is hardly old enough. You must have bought it for mother.”

“Well, I didn’t then,” contradicted Haze. “It’s just for you, my dear. You see I had planned to get something like this at Christmas, but I lost my money, and couldn’t; and you stood by me like a trump, while all the rest of the world thought I was pretty much of an ass,—and didn’t hesitate to say so, occasionally. Sometimes I have been afraid you didn’t know that I appreciate what a splendid chum you are, Elizabeth. So I determined to find some way to show you, and as soon as I began to draw my salary again I thought of this. It’s an Easter present,—but I wanted you to have it to-day.”

“You dear!” I cried. “Oh, Haze, I’ve always wanted this Madonna. But it must have cost a lot,—and you have given mother two dollars every single week! How did you ever manage?”

Hazey blushed beamfully. “That’s all right,” he answered with becoming modesty. “I’m glad you like it.”

And, looking up, I noticed again what mother and I were commenting upon only the other day.

“Hazard,” I accused, “you are thin! You have been saving from your lunches,—don’t deny it!”

“Oh, I’m used to short rations,” admitted Hazard. “It wasn’t anything at all, Elizabeth. But it needn’t happen again, because (now don’t faint, there’s a dear) I’ve been promoted, and am to get five dollars a week from now on! It all comes from my head for figures. You see, I’ve been helping Mr. Simpkins lately,—he’s senior accountant,—and he was pretty well satisfied with my work. So when Bridges spoke of taking me back into the outside office, what should the old man do but go direct to Uncle George with the matter, and say he couldn’t get along without me. Uncle George was very much pleased, I really think; so I’m to have what is practically a junior clerk’s position,—though my official title is only ‘Simpkins’ boy,’—and a two-dollar increase in salary. Rather a pretty turn of luck, hey?”

“Then you helped turn it, Haze darling,” I answered. “And you’ve earned it every bit! You have worked well and faithfully at things you hated, without any hope of reward. Oh, I’m proud of you,—we all are!”

And just at that moment mother and Ernie came up, and helped me congratulate him;—and after a bit, when we had discussed the news from every possible point of view, we all went down to hang the picture, and Ernie and Haze insisted upon supporting me tenderly, one on either hand, which was ridiculous! And before I went to bed they let me in to kiss Robin; ... and now it is to-morrow morning. I am sitting at my desk writing, with, oh, such a thankful heart! while above me on the wall hangs Raphael’s most beautiful Madonna, quite glorifying and illuminating this shabby little room.
Sunday, April 5.

Spring has come at last with Easter. Such a beautiful blue sky as we woke to this morning, such tender breaths of gusty air!

“It seems funny to be putting on one’s winter hat,” remarked Ernie, cheerfully, as she picked up her shabby gray beaver and shook out its matted pompon; while I sniffed suspiciously at my white gloves in the window, wondering if they really did whiff faintly of gasoline.

“Yes,” I admitted. “Hand me that whisk-broom, please. Everybody will be wearing new clothes but us to-day, and we haven’t got any. Do you care?”

“I should think myself pretty mean if I did,” returned Ernie, roundly. “Come on, Elizabeth. The bells are ringing. We have barely time to say good-bye to Bobs.”

The nursery windows were open. The sunshine fell in bright patches across Robin’s little white crib, where he lay among his pillows, literally embowered amid blossoming plants.

“See, Elizabeth,” he called. “Here’s another!—a crimson bramble rose. It hasn’t any card, ’cept just a happy Easter one. Mother can’t guess who sent it, so I think maybe it was Mrs. Bo-gardus! That makes five flowers, and two rabbits, and three chickens, and a little red prayer-book, all for me! Here’s a pansy for you and Ernie, please; ’cause you want to look pretty Easter day.”

“Thank you, honey,” we answered. And, though the stems were very short, we managed to pin Robin’s pansies into our coats.

“They are playing ‘Welcome, happy morning!’” said Ernestine, as the front door closed behind us, and the jubilant music of the chimes rang more clearly to our ears. “Oh, Elizabeth, we are happy, aren’t we?”

“Indeed we are, Ernie dear,” I returned. And then we had to hurry, since it was already late.

“See, there are Aunt Adelaide and Meta,” I cried, presently, as we neared the church porch. “They are going in just ahead of us. How stunningly they are gotten up! Meta’s suit is charming, and what a love of a hat!”

“But we look nice, too,” returned Ernie, with an irrepressible little skip, and a downward glance at the bright flower in her button-hole. “We can’t help it, Elizabeth,—because, we are so glad!”

The swelling notes of the organ, the youthful, soaring voices of the choristers, in exultant anthem and hymn, the collect, and short, strong sermon, seemed all a wonderful expression of our own inward thanksgiving and gratitude. Never before has an Easter service meant so much to me, and I know it was the same with Ernie.

Our shabby gloves met in sympathetic clasp. We squeezed one another’s hands, and thought of that other morning when we sat side by side on the dark attic stairs, waiting for news of Robin. Oh, to have made up one’s mind to renunciation, only to have one’s treasure given back double-fold! For we have great hopes of Bobsie now; Dr. Porter is more than satisfied with the progress he is making; and only listen,—there’s more good news to tell!

For after service Aunt Adelaide and Meta waited for us in the church-porch, and we walked a couple of blocks together.

“Geof is very anxious to see you, Ernie,” said Aunt Adelaide. “Can you manage to get around for a little visit this afternoon? Dr. Porter has given his permission.”

“Oh!” cried Ernie, with an ecstatic little prance. “May I truly come? That’s the one thing needed to make the day perfect!”

“Ask your mamma to come with you,” smiled Aunt Adelaide;—for the old breach seems really healed at last. Our mutual anxiety over Geof and Robin has brought us closer together than anything else could ever have done. “Tell her please that there is a little matter Uncle George and I want to talk over with her.”

“Yes; certainly I will,” returned Ernie; while Meta asked, with a glance at the posy in my button-hole:

“Did Robin get many flowers for Easter?”

“Indeed he did,” I returned; “a pot of pansies, a lily, a purple hyacinth, and a beautiful crimson rambler. It is one mass of bloom. It came just before church, and there was no card, so we have been guessing ever since.”

Meta nodded her head in a satisfied way. “He and Geof ought to have something pretty,” she said. “They have been sick so long, and it must be horrid to lie in bed with nothing but the wallpaper to look at. I think it’s rather nice to send Easter cards with Easter flowers, instead of your name, don’t you?”

Then we separated, and I thought no more of Meta’s remark; but this afternoon when Ernie stole on tiptoe into Geof’s room, the first thing she noticed, after the patient, of course, was a second crimson rambler rose, the exact duplicate of Robin’s.

“Where did it come from, Geof?” asked Ernie, hoping to clear up the mystery of Bobsie’s plant. “Was there any card?”

“Why, no,” answered Geof. His poor hands were those of a skeleton; his voice was a whisper; his eyes seemed the only living thing left. When Ernie looked at him, she wanted to kiss him and cry;—but that would not have been cheering, so she asked about the crimson rambler, instead.

“It came this morning, just before church. Meta brought it up. There wasn’t any visiting card, but there was this Easter affair with the moulting angel. I told Meta he’d make a big mistake if he tried to fly with those wings; and she didn’t seem to like it much, though she said, ‘I was undoubtedly an authority on the subject!’ It’s the first natural remark she’s made to me since I’ve been sick,” added Geof, with a weak little chuckle. “I,—I rather think I liked it.”

“Well,” says Ernie, in a burst of really unusual perspicacity, “I don’t wonder Meta didn’t enjoy your criticism! I’m willing to bet my hat (it’s the old one with the frozen pompon, you know) that she alone is responsible for the angel and the rose, too. Robin received duplicates this morning, just about the same time; only his angel has a drum instead of a trumpet, and from something Meta said to Elizabeth I am almost sure that she chose them!”

Geof’s pale cheeks flushed and he lay quiet for a moment. “I never suspected it,” he said, at last; “but I guess perhaps you’re right. Certainly Meta has been treating me pretty white, lately, and the mater, too. I,—I wouldn’t wonder a bit, Bunnie, if things were going to be different.”

Meantime mother, Aunt Adelaide, and Uncle George were holding an equally interesting conversation in the library downstairs.

It seems that Dr. Porter wants Geof to go away for a couple of weeks; and he also remarked, in an apparently casual aside (though we are tempted to suspect it was premeditated), that a change would be an excellent thing for Robin; but that he did not feel at liberty to prescribe it when he thought of the heavy expenses we had been under for the operation. The two remarks worked together in Aunt Adelaide’s mind,—as perhaps they were intended to do,—and the result is that she has asked mother to take Geof and Robin, too, to Atlantic City for a fortnight, with Maria to help care for them, and Uncle George to foot the bills. And mother did not hesitate to accept, since Aunt Adelaide stated quite frankly that the obligation will be mutual. She does not want to leave the city just at present, and she quite shrinks from the responsibility of overseeing Geoffrey’s convalescence. Could anything be more splendid!

Just think of our dear little Bobsie enjoying a holiday by the sea!—growing fat and rosy playing about on the beach, picking up clam-shells, and——

But that reminds me. I must interrupt my jubilations to tell of the sad end of Abraham Lincoln! Ernie and I have suspected for a couple of days past that all was not well in the little glass globe. Since Thursday, A. L. has refused to snatch at a straw, no matter how persistently he has been “tickled.” Yesterday “he opened his mouth,” as Bobsie explained, and he has not closed it since;—till, this afternoon, when I was talking to Robin about his little red prayer-book,—which I had just rescued from forming a tent for one of the white mice,—my olfactory organ began to misgive me.

“It isn’t like your other books, Bobsie dear,” I was explaining. “You must never use it to play with, or be careless of it. You may keep it under your pillow with your handkerchief, if you want; and when you are older and can understand better, you will find it full of the most comfortable words. Whatever your sorrow, you will always find something to help. But, bless me! What a smell! Where does it come from?”

“Abraham Lincoln,” answered Robin, in solemn accents.

“So it does!” I returned, sniffing suspiciously into the little globe. “This will never do, Bobs. He’s stark dead, child! I must take it down and throw it into the back-yard.”

“You shan’t!” howled Bobsie, in a sudden outburst of uncontrollable woe. “I ’spected maybe he was sick; so I gave him some of my medicine and a teaspoonful of beef tea! You mustn’t throw him into the back-yard, Elizabeth! He’s been too good, I tell you!”

“But what is to be done about it then, dear?” I asked; for such violence of anguish was unusual on the part of Robin. “We can’t keep him here any longer. You can see that for yourself.”

“Then let’s have a nice little funeral,” sniffed Robin, pathetically. “We’ll b-bury him beneath the crimson bramble rose, and you can read some of the com-comfortable words out of my little red prayer-book.”

“But, Bobsie,” I remonstrated; “prayer-books weren’t written about clams! I don’t think there is anything here.”

“You said I would always f-find something to c-comfort me,” sobbed Bobsie. “And now, when I need it most,—you won’t even look!”

What was to be done? Robin’s faith was really touching. I could not bear to disappoint him, if it could be helped.

“Well, honey,” I said, at last, “don’t cry any more. We will bury Abraham Lincoln under the crimson bramble rose. Come,—you shall dig the grave with this silver teaspoon, and then if there is anything about clams in the prayer-book, I’ll read it to you.”

So Abraham Lincoln was neatly interred; and as Robin patted down the earth with the bowl of his silver spoon, I began in a grave voice from the Benedicite:

“O ye Whales, and all that move in the waters, bless ye the Lord: praise Him, and magnify Him for ever.”

It was the best I could do, after a vain flutter of pages, and though a clam isn’t exactly the same as a whale, Robin was more than satisfied.

“What did I tell you?” he asked. “I knew there’d be something if only you would look! And I s’pose Abraham Lincoln moved, Elizabeth, when he came from the fishman’s at Christmas to this little globe.”

Later, when I told Ernie of the tragedy, she took it almost as seriously as Robin. “Of course we had to expect that he would die sometime,” she admitted, with a little sigh. “And I’m glad he waited till we had the crimson rambler under which to bury him. It must have been a great comfort to Bobsie! Abraham Lincoln was always such a tactful clam!”
Saturday, April 18.

The most wonderful thing has happened. I shall be able to fill the last two pages of my diary with such news,—and all because Ernie and I determined to clean house!

“It’s absurd to miss them so,” said Ernie, as she set Bobsie’s books straight in the nursery book-shelf yesterday afternoon. “But, somehow, I can’t get used to seeing this room so tidy!”

“And how queer it is not having any trays to carry,” I answered. “Mother and Bobs have never been away from us before. I wonder if there will be another letter this evening.”

“Mother writes such lovely letters, and Geof’s postscripts are so funny,” chuckled Ernie, with a slap at the front of her sailor blouse, where the last family epistle reposed. “Fancy Robin refusing clam-fritters, and telling the head waiter all about Abraham Lincoln in the hotel dining-room!”

“Well, I shall be glad when they are home again,” I admitted. “Perhaps that sounds selfish, since the change is doing them so much good; but I can’t help feeling lonely when you are at school, dear.”

“Elizabeth, don’t you think it would be nice to have a little surprise for mother?” asked Ernestine. “Something useful that would save her work or trouble, after she comes back? I’ll tell you what,—suppose we clean house! You, and Rose, and I could do it perfectly well; and this place hasn’t had a good raking out in ages!”

“That’s rather a sensible idea,” I agreed; “especially now, when the family is so small. We could manage the attic, the basement, and the parlour floor, perhaps; but we mustn’t disturb the boarders. Have you noticed, Ernie, that the Lysles have been receiving summer resort pamphlets in almost every mail this week? I am afraid it means they are planning to leave the city early,—and Miss Brown told me Monday that she had an invitation to spend July and August with her nieces in the Adirondacks. I try not to worry; but we have drawn our last money from the bank, and, oh, I do dread the summer!”

“Don’t think about it, then,” returned Ernie, stoutly. “We’ve weathered a good many storms, honey, and it would be pretty ungrateful for us to fret now. Perhaps something will turn up at the last moment. I wish we were going to the country, too!” she added, with an inconsistent little sigh.

“Robin has never seen a clover field,” I answered, “nor a live cow. And I haven’t tasted buttermilk since I was seven years old. Just think, the woods are full of violets this very minute,—and thrushes, and bluebirds!”

“I know it,” returned Ernie, glancing pensively out the window at the battered row of ash-cans that lined our dusty street. “I wish we could rent this old house,” she added, vindictively, “and go away, and start a chicken farm! I’m tired of boarders, Elizabeth;—even when they are as kind and considerate as Miss Brown and the Hippo family!”

“You can’t be as tired of them as I am,” I answered,—“because you don’t have to order their meals! But we would need the front stoop browned over, and the cellar concreted, before we could dream of letting; and such things cost money. It just seems as if our hands were tied.”

“Which needn’t prevent them from wielding a broom!” exclaimed Ernie, springing up with an energetic shake of her short skirts. “Come on, child,—I’m ashamed of us! A little hard work is the medicine we need. The idea of sitting here in opposite rocking-chairs, croakin’ at one another like a pair of discontented grannies, when Robin and Geof are growing fat in Atlantic City, and mother is having a really truly holiday for the first time in years! I’m going up to begin on the attic this instant; and if we have to feel blue in June,—why, that’s nearly two months off, yet.”

“But it’s four o’clock, Ernie,” I protested. “Don’t you think we had better put off the house-cleaning till to-morrow?”

“No, I don’t,” returned Ernie, impetuously. “There is a pile of magazines in the workshop that hasn’t been looked over since the year 1, Tecpatl! Mother told me weeks ago that she wanted them sent to the Philippines. She asked me to go through them then. So, come on.”

“Very well,” I answered, meekly. And a few moments later Ernie and I were seated on the workshop floor, each with our separate bunch of dusty literature.

“Here’s that nice story about the rogue elephant,” began Ernie, comfortably. “I don’t think we can let that go. And, oh! here’s the copy of Scribbler’s with The Magic Ring. Do you remember, we read it aloud one Christmas? It is about the two little boys who went to the Circus.”

“I thought,” returned I, severely, “that we came up here to get these magazines ready to send to the Philippines?”

“So we did,” mumbled Ernie, “but if we don’t go through them, how are we to know which ones we ought to send?”

At that moment I came upon an odd instalment of The Refugees, a thrilling historical romance that had haunted my memory for years. “Of course,” I agreed, with suspicious alacrity; and after that we sat together on the workshop floor, and read and read; till the shadows began to steal out from the corners, the room grew dusk and gloomy, and I looked up with straining eyes to remark,—

“Ernestine, it is simply provoking! Why will editors always break off at the most exciting spot? The Indians are attacking the blockhouse, I can’t find the next instalment, and——”

“Whoop-ee!” rang the shrill war-cry. “Whoop! Whoop! hurrah! hur-roo-o!”

For a moment I glared about me in terror. Was I in the workshop or the Canadian backwoods? Was the wildly whirling figure that pranced and capered about me, now advancing, now retreating, my own little sister Ernie, or a bloodthirsty Iroquois savage?

“I’ve found it! I’ve found it!” shrilled the jubilant song. “After all my hunts, Elizabeth! In the cuckoo-clock, under Hazard’s bed!—And to think we nearly sent it to Manila!”

“What are you talking about, Ernestine?” I demanded, severely. “No matter what you have found, you ought to be ashamed to shout so! You know that Miss Brown has a headache, and besides I quite mistook you for an Indian!”

Ernie dropped down beside me, and flung her arms about my neck. “Honey,” she breathed,—“it’s the contract,—the Dump-Cart Contract, at last! Stuck between the pages of an old copy of Cayler’s Engineering Magazine! And to think, we almost sent it to Manila!”

So! I understood. The room began to swim about me. My head sank limply to Ernie’s supporting shoulder.
I stood in the kitchen doorway and listened

“Don’t you dare go and faint on me!” threatened that unsympathetic young person. “If you do, I’ll spill water over your new rosebud stock. I mean it, Elizabeth!”

“You shan’t!” I retorted; and sat up, clutching my precious embroidered collar with one hand, while I extended the other for the contract.

Ernie picked up the yellow-backed magazine, which she had dropped in the window when she began her wild war-dance, and extracted a legal-looking document.

“Here it is,” she said; “and it was by the merest chance I found it. I knew there would be nothing in Cayler’s to interest us, though some stray engineer in Manila might like it. And I was just about to put it with these other magazines we don’t want,—when I noticed the date, and that made me think of dear father. So I opened it, just to see what he had been reading, and the first thing I came on was the contract! Oh, Elizabeth, he must have slipped it in here on his way home from Mr. Perry’s office that very afternoon! How natural it seems! And Rose cleared it away later, and we never suspected! Well!”

By this time Ernie and I were reading the document through, our heads close together in the window, our hearts thumping. Despite the legal verbiage which we did not altogether understand, despite the fast-fading light, there could be no doubt. The Dump-Cart Contract was found! It was also dated, witnessed, and signed, with a pathetic little blot of ink under the dear familiar G stem in father’s name.

At first we could hardly believe our good fortune!

“Five per cent. of whatever profits the invention is making,” gasped Ernie,—“and perhaps some back money, too! Oh, Elizabeth, the boarders can leave whenever they like, now! The quicker the better—We can shut up this house, and go away to the country. Robin shall play in the clover fields, you shall drink buttermilk, and I will start a chicken farm! What a lovely surprise for mother!”

And she threw her arms about my neck, and for a while we wept and laughed together.

“And to think how ungrateful we were this very afternoon! It makes one rather ashamed doesn’t it, dear?” I concluded, with a penitent sniff. “Haze and I will go and see Uncle George this evening. He will advise us.”

“About what?” asked Hazard’s voice, with a worried little accent, from the attic stairs. “Has anything happened? Is there bad news from mother?”

“No, indeed,” we answered. “Come in. Light the gas. We’ve something to show you.”

So Hazard came. Ernie struck a match, and again in the dear, familiar workshop, where so many important councils have been held, so many family problems settled, we read the contract through together.

“Well,” says Haze, with a little sigh. “So it is really found! What a scamp that Perry is! Yes, Elizabeth, you and I will see Uncle George this evening.”

“I’m coming, too,” piped Ernie. “I found it! I want to see what he will say!”

So after dinner,—where it was rather trying, I can tell you, to talk and eat as if nothing had happened because we did not think it wise for the boarders to suspect till things should be a little more definitely settled,—we slipped into our hats and jackets and hurried around to Uncle George’s.

He sat at his desk in the library with a number of papers before him, and he looked up, rather surprised and displeased, as William ushered us into the room.

“Anything wrong at home?” he began. “You are not in trouble again, I hope, Hazard?”

“No, sir,” says Haze, importantly. “Not this time, thanks.” And he handed Uncle George the contract.

Well, you just ought to have seen Uncle George’s face change as he read it.

“Where did this come from?” he asked, abruptly. “Who found it? when?”

“I did,” piped Ernie; “this afternoon in an old copy of Cayler’s Engineering Magazine. And, oh, Uncle George, it was the narrowest escape! We nearly sent it to Manila, to the sick soldiers!”

“H-m-m!” says Uncle George, surveying the signatures again. “You are to be congratulated, young lady.” And then he added in a lower tone, as if to himself:—“I’ve done poor Dudley a great injustice. Apparently he wasn’t altogether a fool.” And, turning to Haze, he continued, “I’ll keep this paper, my boy, and look out for your interests. Undoubtedly you have all been very badly treated. With the contract here to prove it, we could prosecute Perry, and perhaps even land him behind the bars, but that would be a rather poor satisfaction, after all, and if you follow my advice you will use your power to settle things as expeditiously and as much to your advantage as possible.”

“Oh, yes!” answered Ernie, Haze, and I, together. “We don’t want to put anybody in jail. All we want is a little money.”

“Well,” returned Uncle George, “I’ll do my best to get it for you.” And then he took us into the drawing-room, and we related the story again to Meta and Aunt Adelaide, who listened with all their ears.

“How perfectly dandy!” cried Meta, clapping her hands when the last explanation had been made, and the last question answered. “Oh, I am so glad, and I guess you are, too, Elizabeth,—even if you didn’t mind being poor!”

“Indeed I am,” I agreed. “And I never said I didn’t mind, Meta;—only that there were certain advantages which one had to experience to find out.”

And then Aunt Adelaide rang the bell, and ordered seltzer lemonade and strawberry shortcake, and we feasted and planned. And later we came home and planned some more, after writing the good news to mother; till now it is nearly twelve o’clock, and I am sitting at my desk pouring out the wonderful story afresh, while Ernie lolls on the side of the bed, and maunders drowsily:—

“I think I’ll try Cochin Chinas, unless they’re the kind that wear ruffly pantalets. Did you ever hear of the lady that started with one egg, and ended with fifty thousand dollars? Oh, do come to bed, Elizabeth, or it will never be to-morrow morning. Our luck has changed!—and we want to wake up and find that we haven’t dreamed it.”

What Ernie says is true. Our luck has changed, indeed! And yet,—what is luck? I like to remember something the kind “Hippopotamus” said to mother one evening this winter when Robin was very sick, when Rose seemed extra-incompetent, when we were all feeling blue.

“Mrs. Graham,” he remarked, “you’re a lucky woman. I don’t care how vexatious things may seem, I don’t care how unfortunate:—with four such children as you have, there’s bound to be luck in a house!”

Wasn’t it pretty of him? And now that the Dump-Cart Contract is found, now that we are poor no longer, it will be good to remember that, for better or worse, we, ourselves, must always be the real luck of the Dudley Grahams.

The End


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