Amarilly of Clothes-line Alley
Belle K. Maniates
Part 1 out of 4
Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Tony Browne and PG Distributed Proofreaders
AMARILLY OF CLOTHES-LINE ALLEY
BY BELLE K. MANIATES
AUTHOR OF DAVID DUNNE.
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY J. HENRY
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
He was gazing into her intent eyes with a look of adoration
"You may all," she directed, "look at Amarilly's work"
To-night he found himself less able than usual to cope with her caprices
"Be nice to Mr. St. John!" whispered the little peacemaker
[Illustration: He was gazing into her intent eyes with a look of
AMARILLY OF CLOTHES-LINE ALLEY
The tiny, trivial touch of Destiny that caused the turn in Amarilly's
fate-tide came one morning when, in her capacity as assistant to the
scrub ladies at the Barlow Stock Theatre, she viewed for the first time
the dress rehearsal of _A Terrible Trial_. Heretofore the patient little
plodder had found in her occupation only the sordid satisfaction of
drawing her wages, but now the resplendent costumes, the tragedy in the
gestures of the villain, the languid grace of Lord Algernon, and the
haughty treble of the leading lady struck the spark that fired ambition
in her sluggish breast.
"Oh!" she gasped in wistful-voiced soliloquy, as she leaned against her
mop-stick and gazed aspiringly at the stage, "I wonder if I couldn't
"Sure thing, you kin!" derisively assured Pete Noyes, vender of gum at
matinées. "I'll speak to de maniger. Mebby he'll let youse scrub de
Amarilly, case-hardened against raillery by reason of the possession of
a multitude of young brothers, paid no heed to the bantering scoffer,
but resumed her work in dogged dejection.
"Say, Mr. Vedder, Amarilly's stage-struck!" called Pete to the ticket-
seller, who chanced to be passing.
The gray eyes of the young man thus addressed softened as he looked at
the small, eager face of the youngest scrubber.
"Stop at the office on your way out, Amarilly," he said kindly, "and
I'll give you a pass to the matinée this afternoon."
Amarilly's young heart fluttered wildly and sent a wave of pink into her
pale cheeks as she voiced her gratitude.
She was the first to enter when the doors opened that afternoon, and she
kept close to the heels of the usher.
"He ain't agoin' to give me the slip," she thought, keeping wary watch
of his lithe form as he slid down the aisle.
In the blaze of light and blare of instruments she scarcely recognized
her workaday environment.
"House sold out!" she muttered with professional pride and enthusiasm as
the signal for the raising of the curtain was given. "Mebby I'd orter
give up my seat so as they could sell it."
There was a moment's conflict between the little scrubber's conscience
and her newly awakened desires.
"I ain't agoin' to, though," she decided. And having so determined, she
gave her conscience a shove to the remotest background, yielding herself
to the full enjoyment of the play.
The rehearsal had been inspiring and awakening, but this, "the real
thing," as Amarilly appraised it, bore her into a land of enchantment.
She was blind and deaf to everything except the scenes enacted on the
stage. Only once was her passionate attention distracted, and that was
when Pete in passing gave her an emphatic nudge and a friendly grin as
he munificently bestowed upon her a package of gum. This she instantly
pocketed "fer the chillern."
At the close of the performance Amarilly sailed home on waves of
excitement. She was the eldest of the House of Jenkins, whose scions,
numbering eight, were all wage-earners save Iry, the baby. After school
hours Flamingus was a district messenger, Gus milked the grocer's cow,
Milton worked in a shoe-shining establishment, Bobby and Bud had paper
routes, while Cory, commonly called "Co," wiped dishes at a boarding-
house. Notwithstanding all these contributions to the family revenue, it
became a sore struggle for the widow of Americanus Jenkins to feed and
clothe such a numerous brood, so she sought further means of
"I've took a boarder!" she announced solemnly to Amarilly on her return
from the theatre. "He's a switchman and I'm agoin' to fix up the attic
fer him. I don't jest see how we air agoin' to manage about feedin' him.
Thar's no room to the table now, and thar ain't dishes enough to go
around, but you're so contrivin' like, I thought you might find out a
way." Memories of the footlights were temporarily banished upon hearing
this wonderful intelligence. A puzzled pucker came between the brows of
the little would-be prima donna and remained there until at last the
exigency was triumphantly met.
"I hev it, ma! When's he comin'?"
"To-morrer fer breakfast."
"Then we must rayhearse to-night afore we kin put it on right. Come, all
you-uns, to the kitchen table."
The Jenkins children, accustomed to the vernacular of the profession,
were eager to participate in a rehearsal, and they scampered
boisterously to the kitchen precincts. Amarilly, as stage director,
provided seats at the table for herself, her mother, Flamingus, Gus, the
baby, and the Boarder, the long-suffering, many-rôled family cat
personating the latter as understudy. Behind their chairs, save those
occupied by the Boarder and the baby, were stationed Milton, Bobby, Bud,
and Cory. This outer row, Amarilly explained, was to be fed from the
plates of their elders with food convenient as was Elijah by the
Scriptural ravens. This plan lifted the strain from the limited table
appointments, but met with opposition from the outpost who rebelled
against their stations.
"I ain't agoin' to stand behind Flam or Gus," growled Milton. "I won't
stand no show fer grub at all."
"I ain't, neither," and "Nit fer me!" chorused the near twins, Bobby and
"I want to set at the table and eat like folks!" sobbed Cory.
Mrs. Jenkins advocated immediate surrender, but the diplomatic little
general, whose policy was pacification, in shrill, appealing voice
reassured and wheedled the young mutineers back into the ranks.
"It's the only way we can take a boarder," she persuaded, "and if we git
him, we'll hev more to eat than jest hot pertaters and bread and gravy.
Thar'll be meat, fresh or hotted up, onct a day, and pie on Sundays."
The deserters to a man returned from their ignominious retreat.
"Now, Co, you stand behind me, and when you git tired, you kin set on
half my chair. Milt, git behind ma, and Bud and Bobby, stand back of
Flamingus and Gus. If they don't divvy up even they'll hev to change
places with you. Now, to places!" This conciliatory arrangement proving
satisfactory, supper was served on the new plan with numerous directions
and admonitions from Amarilly.
"No self-helpin's, Milt. Bud, if you knock Flammy's elbow, he needn't
give you anything to eat. Bobby, if you swipe another bite from Gus,
I'll spank you. Co, quit yer self-reachin's! Flammy, you hev got to pass
everything to the Boarder fust. Now, every meal that I don't hev to
speak to one of youse in the back row, youse kin hev merlasses spread on
The rehearsal supper finished and the kitchen "red up," Amarilly's
thoughts again took flight and in fancy she winged her way toward a
glorious future amid the glow and glamor of the footlights. To the
attentive family, who hung in an ecstasy of approval on her vivid
portrayal, she graphically described the play she had witnessed, and
then dramatically announced her intention of going on the stage when she
"You kin do it fine, Amarilly," said the mother admiringly.
"And we-uns kin git in free!" cried Bobby jubilantly. In the morning the
Boarder, a pleasant-voiced, quiet-faced man with a look of kindliness
about his eyes and mouth, made his entrance into the family circle. He
commended the table arrangements, praised the coffee, and formed
instantaneous friendships with the children. All the difficulties of the
cuisine having been smoothed over or victoriously met, Amarilly went to
the theatre with a lightened heart. When Mr. Vedder came up to her and
asked how she had enjoyed the performance, she felt emboldened to
confide to him her professional aspirations.
The young ticket-seller did not smile. There was nothing about this
diligent, ill-fed, little worker that appealed to his sense of humor.
"It will be a long time yet, Amarilly, before you can go on the stage,"
he counselled. "Besides, you know the first thing you must have is an
Amarilly sighed hopelessly.
"I can't git to go to school till the boys hev more larnin'. I hev to
work here mornin's and help ma with the washin's in the arternoon.
Mebby, arter a little, I kin git into some night-school." A stage-hand
working near by overheard this conversation and displayed instant
interest in the subject of Amarilly's schooling.
"Couldn't you git off Saturday arternoons?" he asked.
"Yes, I could do that," assured Amarilly eagerly. "Is thar a Saturday
"Yes," replied the man. "There is a church guild, St. Mark's, that has a
school. My little gal goes. She larns sewin' and singin' and waitin' on
table and such like. You'd better go with her to-morrow."
"I kin sew now," said Amarilly, repeating this conversation to the
family circle that night, "and I'd like to sing, fer of course I'll hev
to when I'm on the stage, but I git enough waitin' on table to hum. I'd
ruther larn to read better fust of all."
"I ain't much of a scholar," observed the Boarder modestly, "but I can
learn you readin', writin', and spellin' some, and figgerin' too. I'll
give you lessons evenin's."
"We'll begin now!" cried the little tyro enthusiastically.
The Boarder approved this promptness, and that night gave the first
lesson from Flamingus's schoolbooks.
The next morning Amarilly proudly informed the ticket-seller that her
education had begun. She was consequently rather lukewarm in regard to
the Guild school proposition, but the little daughter of the stagehand
pictured the school and her teacher in most enticing fashion.
"You kin be in our class," she coaxed persuasively. "We hev a new
teacher. She's a real swell and wears a diamon' ring and her hair is
more yaller than the wig what the play lady wears. She bed us up to her
house to a supper last week, and thar was velvit carpits and ice-cream
and lots of cake but no pie."
Amarilly's curiosity was aroused, and her red, roughened hand firmly
grasped the confiding one of her little companion as she permitted
herself to be led to the Guild school.
The teacher at the Guild was even more beautiful than Amarilly's fancy,
fed by the little girl's vivid description, had pictured.
"Her hair ain't boughten," decided the keen-eyed critic as she gazed
adoringly at the golden braids crowning the small head. The color of her
eyes was open to speculation; when they had changed from gray to green,
from green to hazel, and from hazel to purple, Amarilly gave up the
enigma. The color of her complexion changed, too, in the varying tints
"I do b'lieve she ain't got no make-up on," declared Amarilly
The little daughter of the stage-hand had not overappraised the diamond.
It shone resplendent on a slender, shapely hand.
"Miss King, I've brung a new scholar," introduced the little girl
importantly. "She's Amarilly."
As she glanced at her new pupil, the young teacher's eyes brightened
with spontaneous interest, and a welcoming smile parted her lips.
"I'm glad to see you, Amarilly. Here's a nice little pile of blue carpet
rags to sew and make into a ball. When you have made a lot of balls I'll
have them woven into a pretty blue rug for you to take home and keep."
"For the Boarder's room!" thought Amarilly joyously, as she went at her
work with the avidity that marked all her undertakings.
Presently a small seamstress asked for instruction as to the proper
method of putting the strips together. The fair face of the young
teacher became clouded for a moment, and she was unmistakably confused.
Her wavering, dubious glance fell upon Amarilly sitting tense and
upright as she made quick, forceful, and effective stabs with her
needle, biting her thread vigorously and resonantly. The stitches were
microscopic and even; the strips symmetrically and neatly joined.
The teacher's face cleared as she saw and seized her avenue of escape.
"You may all," she directed, "look at Amarilly's work and sew the strips
just as she does. Hers are perfect."
[Illustration: "You may all," she directed, "look at Amarilly's work."]
Amarilly's wan little face brightened, and she proceeded to show the
children how to sew, bringing the same ease and effectiveness into her
tutoring that she displayed when instructing her brothers and Cory.
The sewing lesson continued for an hour. Then the children sang songs to
a piano accompaniment, and there followed a lesson in cooking and the
proper setting of a table. All this instruction was succeeded by an
"I want you all to tell me what you are going to do when you grow to be
women," said Miss King.
In most cases the occupations of their parents were chosen, and the
number of washerwomen, scrubbers, and seamstresses in embryo was
"And you, Amarilly?" she asked, addressing the new pupil last of all.
Amarilly's mien was lofty, her voice consequential, as she replied in
"I'm goin' on the stage!"
The young teacher evinced a most eager interest in this declaration.
"Oh, Amarilly! We all have a stage-longing period. When did you first
think of such a career?"
"I'm in the perfesshun now," replied Amarilly pompously.
"Really! Tell me what you do, Amarilly."
"I scrub at the Barlow Theatre, and I went to the matinee day afore
yisterday. I hed a pass give to me."
These statements made such a visible impression on her audience that
Amarilly waxed eloquent and proceeded to describe the play, warming to
her work as she gained confidence. The gestures of Lord Algernon and the
leading lady were reproduced freely, fearlessly, and faithfully.
With a glimmer of mischief dancing in her eyes, the young teacher
listened appreciatively but apprehensively as she noted the amazed
expression on the faces of the teachers of adjacent classes when
Amarilly's treble tones were wafted toward them. Fortunately, the
realistic rendering of Lord Algernon's declaration of love was
interrupted by the accompaniment to a song, which was followed by the
dismissal of the school.
"Kin I take my strips home to sew on?" asked Amarilly.
"Oh, no!" replied Miss King. "That is not permitted."
Seeing the look of disappointment in the child's eyes, she asked in
"Why are you in such a hurry to finish the work, Amarilly?"
"We've took a Boarder," explained Amarilly, "and I want the rug fer his
room. It'll take an orful long time to git it done if I only work on it
an hour onct a week. He's so good to me, I want to do something to make
his room look neat, so he'll feel to hum."
The young teacher reflected a moment.
"I'll tell you what we'll do, Amarilly. I will buy one of the rugs that
are to be on sale at the church fair this week. They have some very nice
large ones. I will give it to you, and when yours is finished you may
give it to me in return."
"Oh, thank you!" cried Amarilly, her countenance brightening, "But won't
you need it afore I kin git this one done?"
"No; I am sure I shall not," replied the young lady gravely.
When they left the building the teacher paused as she was about to step
into her electric brougham. "Where do you live, Amarilly?"
Amarilly gave her street and number.
"You must live farther away than any of the other children. Get in,
dear; I will take you home."
She had opened the door as she spoke, and the little scrubber's eyes
were dazzled by the elegance of the appointments--a silver vase filled
with violets, a silver card-case, and--but Amarilly resolutely shut her
eyes upon this proffered grandeur and turned to the lean but longing
little daughter of the stage-hand.
"You see, I come with her," she explained simply and loyally.
"There is room for you both. Myrtie can sit on this little seat."
Overawed by the splendor of her environment, Amarilly held her breath as
they glided swiftly through the streets. There was other glory, it
seemed, than that of the footlights. When the happy little Myrtle had
been left at her humble home the young teacher turned with eager
anticipation to Amarilly.
"Tell me more about yourself, Amarilly. First of all, who is the
Amarilly explained their affairs, even to the "double-decker diner," as
the Boarder had called the table arrangement.
"And what has he done for you, Amarilly, that you are so anxious he
should have a rug?"
"He's larnin' me readin', writin', spellin', and figgers."
"Don't you go to school?"
"No; I hev to bring in wages and help ma with the washin's."
"I'll teach you, Amarilly," she said impulsively. "I'm sure I'm more
proficient in those branches than the Boarder."
"He sez," admitted Amarilly, "that it won't take him long to larn me all
he knows; but you see--" She spoke with delicate hesitancy and evident
embarrassment. "It's orful good in you to want to larn me--but he might
feel hurt-like if I was to quit him."
"You are right, Amarilly. You are a loyal little girl. But I tell you
what we will do about it. When you have learned all that the Boarder
feels he can teach you, you shall go to night-school. There is one in
connection with St. Mark's. I will see that you enter there."
"I didn't know thar was one fer girls," said Amarilly. "I'm glad thar's
a way fer me to git eddicated, fer I must hev larnin' afore I kin go on
the stage. Mr. Vedder, the ticket-seller to Barlow's, told me so."
"Amarilly,"--and an earnest note crept into the gay, young voice--"you
may find things that you will like to do more than to go on the stage."
"No!" asserted the youthful aspirant, "Thar ain't nuthin' else I'd like
"Amarilly, I am going to tell you something. Once, not long ago, I had
the stage fever, but I think I know now there is something--something I
should like better."
"What?" queried Amarilly skeptically.
"I can't tell you now, but you have a long time yet in which to decide
your future. Tell me what I can do to help your mother."
"If you could git us more washin's," exclaimed Amarilly eagerly, "it
would help heaps. We could take in lots more than we do now."
"Let me think. You see we keep a laundress; but--does your mother do up
very fine things--like laces--carefully?"
"She does," replied Amarilly glibly. "She kin do 'em orful keerful, and
we dry the colored stuffs in the shade. And our clo'es come out snow-
white allers, and we never tears laces nor git in too much bluin' or
starch the way some folks does."
"Then I'll give you my address and you can come for my fine waists; and
let me see, I am sure I can get St. Mark's laundry work for you, too."
"You're orful good, Miss King. This is where we hev to turn down this
The "court" appeared to Miss King more like an alley. The advent of the
brougham in the little narrow right-of-way filled every window with
hawk-eyed observers. About the Jenkins's doorstep was grouped the entire
household from the Boarder to the baby, and the light, musical voices of
children floating through the soft spring air fell pleasantly upon the
ears of the young settlement worker.
"So this is where you live, Amarilly?" she asked, her eyes sparkling as
she focussed them on the family. "You needn't come for the washing the
first time. I will bring it myself so I can see all your little
brothers. Be sure to come to the Guild next Saturday, and then I'll have
the rug for you to take home. Goodbye, dear."
Knowing that she was observed by myriad eyes, Amarilly stepped loftily
from the brougham and made a sweeping stage courtesy to her departing
"Are you on the stage now, Amarilly?" asked Co eagerly as she came to
meet her sister.
"No; but she," with a wave of her hand toward the swiftly gliding
electric, "is agoin to help me git eddicated, and she has give me a
beautiful rug fer the Boarder, and we're agoin' to hev her waists to
wash, and Mr. St. Mark's clo'es, and she told all the scholars to sew
like me 'cause' I sewed the best, and I've larned how to set our table.
We mustn't stack up the knife and fork and spoon on ends any more. The
knife goes to the right, the fork to the left of the plate, and the
spoon goes back of it and the tumbler and the napkin, when you has 'em,
to the right."
"I do declare, Amarilly, if it ain't jest like a fairy story!" cried
Mrs. Jenkins enthusiastically. "You allers did strike luck."
"You bet!" cried Bobby admiringly. "Things go some where Amarilly is."
Amarilly was happier even than she had been on the night of the eventful
matinée day. The electric brougham had seemed a veritable fairy
godmother's coach to her. But it was not the ride that stood uppermost
in her memory as she lay awake far into the night; it was the little
word of endearment uttered in caressing cadence.
"No one ain't ever called me that afore," she murmured wistfully. "I
s'pose ma ain't hed time, and thar was no one else to keer."
Impulsively and tenderly her thin little arm encircled the baby sleeping
"Dear!" she whispered in an awed tone. "Dear!"
Iry answered with a sleepy, cooing note.
Colette King was not one whom the voice of the people of St. Mark's
would proclaim as the personification of their ideal of a pastor's wife,
yet John Meredith loved her with the love that passeth all
understanding. Perhaps the secret of her charm for him lay in the fact
that she treated him as she did other men--men who did not wear a
surplice. And yet his surplice and all that pertained thereto were
matters of great moment to the rector of St. Mark's. Little traces of
his individuality were evident in the fashioning of this clerical
garment. A pocket for his handkerchief was stitched on the left side.
The flowers, the baptismal font, the altar cloth, and the robes of the
vested choir he insisted should be immaculate in whiteness. White, the
color of the lily, he declared, was the emblem of purity. There were
members of his flock so worldly minded as to whisper insinuatingly that
white was extremely becoming to Colette King. Many washerwomen had
applied for the task of laundering the ecclesiastical linen; many had
been tried and found wanting. So after her interview with Amarilly,
Colette asked the rector of St. Mark's to call at her house "on
From the time he was ten years old until he became rector of St. Mark's,
John Meredith had been a member of the household of his guardian, Henry
King, and had ever cheerfully and gladly borne with the caprices of the
He answered the present summons promptly and palpitatingly. It had been
two weeks since he had remonstrated with Colette for the surprisingly
sudden announcement, made in seeming seriousness, that she was going to
study opera with a view to going on the stage. The fact that she had a
light, sweet soprano adapted only to the rendition of drawing-room
ballads did not lessen in his eyes the probability of her carrying out
She had met his reproving expostulations in a spirit of bantering
raillery and replied with a defiance of his opinion that had pierced his
heart with arrow-like swiftness. Since then she had studiously avoided
meeting him, and he was not sure whether he was now recalled to listen
to a reiteration of her intentions or to receive an anodyne for the
bitterness of her remarks at their last interview.
"I sent for you, John," she said demurely and without preamble, "to see
if you have found a satisfactory laundress yet for the surplices."
"Colette!" he exclaimed in rebuking tone, his face reddening at her
question which he supposed to be made in mere mockery.
"I am not speaking to you as Colette King," she replied with a look half
cajoling, half flippant, "but as a teacher in the Young Woman's
Auxiliary Guild to the rector of St. Mark's. You see I no longer lead a
foolish, futile life. Here is the evidence in the case," holding up a
slender pink forefinger. "See how it is pricked! For three Saturday
afternoons I have shown little girls that smelled of fried potatoes how
to sew. I shall really learn something myself about the feminine art of
needlework if I continue in my present straight, domestic path."
"Colette, you cannot know how glad I am to hear this. Why did you try to
make me think the laundry work was--"
"But the laundry work _is_ the main issue. Yesterday I had quite decided
to give up this uninteresting work."
Watching him warily, she let the shadow in his eyes linger a moment
before she continued:
"And then there came into my class a new pupil, poorly clad and
ignorant, but so redolent of soapsuds and with such a freshly laundered
look that I renewed my inclinations to charity. I took her home in my
electric, and she lived at a distance that gave me ample time to listen
to the complete chronicles of her young life. Her father is dead. Her
mother was left with eight children whom she supports by taking in
washing. They have a boarder and they go around the dining-room table
twice. My new pupil's name is Amarilly Jenkins, and she has educational
longings which cannot be satisfied because she has to work, so I am
going to enter her in St. Mark's night-school when she has finished a
special course with the private tutor she now has."
"Colette," said the young minister earnestly, "why do you continually
try to show yourself to me in a false light? It was sweet in you to take
this little girl home in your brougham and to feel an interest in her
"Not at all!" protested Colette. "My trend at present may appear to be
charitable, but Amarilly and I have a common interest--a fellow
feeling--that makes me wondrous kind. We both have longings to appear in
public on the stage."
At this sudden challenge, this second lowering of the red flag, John's
face grew stern.
"Amarilly," continued the liquid voice,--"has had more experience in
stage life than I have had. She has commenced at the lowest round of the
dramatic ladder of fame. She scrubs at the Barlow Theatre, and she is
quite familiar with stage lore. Her hero is the man who plays the role
of Lord Algernon in _A Terrible Trial_."
He made no reply, and Colette presently broke the silence.
"Seriously, John," she said practically and in a tone far different from
her former one, "the Jenkins family are poor and most deserving. I am
going to give them some work, and if you would give them a trial on the
church linen, it would help them so much. There was a regular army of
little children on the doorstep, and it must be a struggle to feed them
all. I should like to help them--to give them something--but they seem
to be the kind of people that you can help only by giving them work to
perform. I have learned that true independence is found only among the
John took a little notebook from his pocket.
"What is their address, Colette?"
She took the book from him and wrote down the street and number.
"Colette, you endeavor to conceal a tender heart--"
"And will you give them--Mrs. Jenkins--a trial?"
"Yes; this week."
"That will make Amarilly so happy," she said, brightening. "I am going
there to-morrow to take them some work, and I will tell Mrs. Jenkins to
send Flamingus--his is the only name of the brood that my memory
retains--for the church laundry."
"He may call at the rectory," replied John, "and get the house laundry
"That will be good news for them. I shall enjoy watching Amarilly's face
when she hears it."
"And now, Colette, will you do something for me?"
"Maybe. What is it?" she asked guardedly.
"Will you abandon the idea of going on the stage, or studying for that
"Perforce. Father won't consent."
A look of relief drove the trouble from the dark eyes fixed on hers.
"I'll be twenty-one in a year, however," she added carelessly.
John was wise enough to perceive the wilfulness that prompted this
reply, and he deftly changed the subject of conversation.
"About this little girl, Amarilly. We must find her something in the way
of employment. The atmosphere of a theatre isn't the proper one for a
child of that age. Do you think so?"
"Theoretically, no; but Amarilly is not impressionable to atmosphere
altogether. She seems a hard-working, staunch little soul, and all that
relieves the sordidness of her life and lightens the dreariness of her
work is the 'theayter,' as she calls it. So don't destroy her illusions,
John. You'll do her more harm than good."
"Not if I give her something real in the place of what you rightly term
"You can't. Sunday-school would not satisfy a broad-minded little
proletarian like Amarilly, so don't preach to _her_."
He winced perceptibly.
"Do I preach to _you_, Colette? Is that how you regard me--as a prosy
"No, John. Just as a disturber of dreams--that is all."
"A disturber of dreams?" he repeated wistfully. "It is you, Colette, who
are a disturber of dreams. If you would only let my dreams become
"Then, to be paradoxical, your realities might change back to dreams, or
even nightmares. Returning to soapsuds and Amarilly Jenkins, will you go
there with me to-morrow and make arrangements with Mrs. Jenkins for the
"Indeed I will, Colette, and--"
"Don't look so serious, John. Until that dreadful evening, the last time
you called, you always left your pulpit punctilio behind you when you
"Colette!" he began in protest.
But she perversely refused to fall in with his serious vein. Chattering
gayly yet half-defiantly, on her face the while a baffling smile, partly
tender, partly amused, and wholly coquettish--the smile that maddened
and yet entranced him--she brought the mask of reserve to his face and
man. At such times he never succeeded in remembering that she was but
little more than a child, heart-free, capricious, and wilful. Despairing
of changing her mood to the serious one that he loved yet so seldom
evoked, he arose and bade her good-night.
When he was in the hall she softly called him back, meeting him with a
half-penitent look in her eyes, which had suddenly become gazelle-like.
"You may preach to me again some time, John. There are moments when I
believe I like it, because no other man dares to do it" "Dares?" he
queried with a smile.
"Yes; dares. They all fear to offend. And you, John, you fear nothing!"
"Yes, I do," he answered gravely, as he looked down upon her. "There is
one thing I fear that makes me tremble, Colette."
But her mood had again changed, and with a mischievous, elusive smile
she bade him go. Inert and musing, he wandered at random through the
lights and shadows of the city streets, with a wistful look in his eyes
and just the shadow of a pang in his heart.
"She is very young," he said condoningly, answering an accusing thought.
"She has been a little spoiled, naturally. She has seen life only from
the side that amuses and entertains. Some day, when she realizes, as it
comes to us all to do, that care and sorrow bring their own sustaining
power, she will not dally among the petty things of life; the wilful
waywardness will turn to winning womanliness."
The next afternoon when Amarilly came home from the theatre, her mother
met her with another burst of information.
"Miss King and the preacher was here. He's agoin' to give us all the
church surpluses to wash and his house-wash, too. Flamingus is to go fer
them to the rectry to-night, and you're to go to Miss King's and get the
waists she has to be did up. She left two car tickets fer you."
"We air jest astubbin' our toes on luck," gasped Amarilly.
"The fust pay from the new washin's shall go fer a new hat and dress fer
you, Amarilly. It's acomin' to you all right. 'Twas you as got this work
"No!" was the emphatic reply. "We'll git some more cheers, knives,
spoons, plates, cups, and two more leaves fer the table, so's the
chillern kin all set to table to onct."
"That'll be a hull lot more convenient," admitted Mrs. Jenkins
hopefully. "Co spills things so, and the boys quarrel when you and the
Boarder ain't here to keep peace. It was jest orful this noon. You
wasn't here and the Boarder kerried his dinner. 'Cause Flam put too much
vinegar on Milt's beans, Milt poured it down Flam's neck, and when I
sent him away from the table he sassed me."
"Jiminy!" protested Amarilly indignantly. "I'd make Milt go without his
"'Tain't his stummick I'm agoin' to punish," said Mrs. Jenkins
sarcastically. "I've laid by a willer switch that'll feel sharper than
the vinegar he wasted. You'd better go to Miss King's right away--and,
Amarilly, mind you ride both ways. It's too far to walk. Don't you sell
This last prohibitory remark was made in remembrance of Amarilly's
When Amarilly was admitted to the basement of her young benefactress's
home a trimly-capped little maid took her to Colette's boudoir.
"Sit down and talk to me, Amarilly. I want to hear more about Lord
Algernon and Mr. Vedder and Pete. Here's a box of chocolate creams that
must be eaten while they are fresh."
Amarilly was slightly awed at first by the luxurious appointments of the
room, but she soon recovered her ease and devoured the novel sweets with
appreciative avidity. Then she proved herself a fascinating raconteur of
the annals of a world unknown to Colette. It was a matter of course to
Amarilly that the leading lady should be supporting an invalid sister;
that the languid Lord Algernon should be sending his savings to his old
mother who lived in the country; that the understudy should sew
industriously through rehearsals and behind the scenes between parts for
her two little fatherless girls; that Pete Noyes should "bank" to buy a
wheeled chair for his rheumatic father; that the villain was "layin' by"
for his parents to come from the Fatherland, and that the company should
all chip in to send the property woman's sick child to the seashore. But
to Colette the homely little stories were vignettes of another side of
"Have you been to the rectory yet, Amarilly?" she asked presently, when
Amarilly's memories of stage life lagged.
"No; Flammy has went fer Mr. St. Mark's things."
"Mr. St. Mark's!"
Colette laughed delightedly.
"I thought you told me that the preacher's name was Mr. St. Marks. You
said mebby you could git his wash fer us."
"No, Amarilly. I did not mean that. St. Mark's is the name of the church
where he officiates. He could never under any conditions be a St. Mark."
"Wat's his name?"
"St. John, of course. And most people call him a rector, but really your
name suits him best. He does preach--sometimes--to me."
At the end of the week Colette again sent for John--to call "on laundry
business"--her little note read.
"I couldn't wait," she said when he came, "to learn how Mrs. Jenkins
pleased you. My waists were most beautifully laundered. She is certainly
a Madonna of the Tubs."
"You have indeed secured a treasure for me, Colette. The linen is
immaculate, and she shall have the laundering of it regularly."
"I am so glad!" exclaimed Colette fervently. "They need it so much, and
they are so anxious to please. Amarilly was so apprehensive--"
John's face had become radiant.
"It is sweet in you to be interested, Colette, and--"
"I wish you would see her," said Colette, ignoring his commendatory
words and voice. "She's an odd little character. I invited her to
luncheon the other day, and the courses and silver never disturbed her
apparently. She watched me closely, however, and followed my moves as
precisely as a second oarsman. By the way, she called you St. Mark. I
know some people consider you and St. Mark's as synonymous, but I
explained the difference. She tells me absorbingly interesting stories
of theatre life--the life behind the scenes. You see the 'scent of the
The shadow fell again, but he made no response.
The following Monday the young minister chanced to be in the culinary
precincts of the rectory when Amarilly called for the laundry, none of
the boys having been available for the service.
An instant gleam of recognition came into his kindly eyes.
"You must be Amarilly Jenkins. I have heard very good accounts of you--
that you are industrious and a great help to your mother."
Amarilly looked at him shrewdly.
"_She_ told you," she affirmed positively.
There was but one "she" in the world of these two, and John Meredith
"She's orful good to us," continued Amarilly, "and it was through her,
Mr. St. John, that we got the surpluses."
"It was, indeed, Amarilly; but my name is not St. John. It is John
"She was jest kiddin' me, then!" deduced Amarilly appreciatively. "I
thought at fust as how yer name was St. Mark, and she said you could
never be a St. Mark, that you was St. John. She likes a joke. Mr.
Reeves-Eggleston (he's playin' the part of the jilted man in the new
play this week) says it's either folks as never hez hed their troubles
or them as hez hed more'n their share what laughs at everything, only,
he says, it's diffrent kinds of laughs."
The reference to the play reminded John of a duty to perform.
"Miss King told me, Amarilly, that you want to go on the stage when you
"I did plan to go on, but she said when I got eddicated, I might hear of
other things to do--things I'd like better. So mebby I'll change my
A beautiful smile lightened John's dark eyes.
"She, was right, Amarilly. There _are_ things that would be better for
you to do, and I--we--will try to help you find them."
"Every one gits the stage fever some time," remarked Amarilly
philosophically, "She said so. She said she had it once herself, but
she knew now that there was something she would like better."
His smile grew softer.
"She wouldn't tell me what it was," continued Amarilly musingly. Then a
troubled look came into her eyes.
"Mebby I shouldn't tell you what she says. Flamingus says I talk too
"It was all right to tell me, Amarilly," he replied with radiant eyes,
"as long as she said nothing personal."
Amarilly looked mystified.
"I mean," he explained gently, "that she said nothing of me, nothing
that you should not repeat. I am glad, though, to see that you are
conscientious. Miss King tells me you are to go to the night-school. Do
you attend Sunday-school?"
Amarilly looked apologetic.
"Not reg'lar. Thar's a meetin'-house down near us that we go to
sometimes. Flamingus and me and Gus give a nickel apiece towards gittin'
a malodeyon fer it, but it squeaks orful. 'Tain't much like the
orchestry to the theayter. And then the preacher he whistles every time
he says a word that has an 's' in it. You'd orter hear him say: 'Let us
sing the seventy-seventh psalm.'"
At the succession of the sibilant sounds, John's brown eyes twinkled
brightly, and about his mouth came crinkly, telltale creases of humor.
"And they sing such lonesome tunes," continued Amarilly, "slower than
the one the old cow died on. I was tellin' the stage maniger about it,
and he said they'd orter git a man to run the meetin'-houses that
understood the proper settin's. Everything, he says, is more'n half in
"Amarilly," was the earnest response, "will you come to St. Mark's next
Sunday to the morning service? The music will please you, I am sure, and
there are other things I should like to have you hear."
Amarilly solemnly accepted this invitation, and then went home,
trundling a big cart which contained the surplices and the rectory
Colette's remarks, so innocently repeated to him, made John take himself
"I knew," he thought rapturously, "that she was pure gold at heart. And
it is only her sweet willfulness that is hiding it from me."
That evening he found Colette sitting before an open fire in the
library, her slender little feet crossed before the glowing blaze. She
was in a gentle, musing mood, but at his entrance she instantly rallied
to her old mirth-loving spirit.
"I have made Amarilly's acquaintance," he said. "She is coming to church
"A convert already! And you will try to snatch poor Amarilly, too, from
her footlight dreams?"
"Colette," he replied firmly, "you can't play a part with me any longer.
You, the real Colette, made it unnecessary for me to remonstrate with
Amarilly on her choice of professions. She is wavering because of your
assurance that there are better things in life for her to engage in."
He was not very tall, but stood straight and stalwart, with the air of
one born to command. At times he seemed to tower above all others.
She regarded him with an admiring look which changed to wonder at what
she read in his eyes. In a flash she felt the strength and depth of his
feeling, but her searching scrutiny caused him to become tongue-tied,
and he assumed the self-conscious mien peculiar to the man not yet
assured that his love is returned. Once more a golden moment slipped
away with elfish elusiveness, and Colette, secure in her supremacy,
resumed her tantalizing badinage.
The Jenkins family was immediately summoned in council to discuss
Amarilly's invitation to attend divine service at St. Mark's.
"You air jest more'n hevin' advantages," said Mrs. Jenkins exultingly.
"Fust the matinée, then the Guild, and now St. Mark's is open to you.
But you'd orter hev a few fixin's to go to sech a grand place,
Amarilly shook her determined little head resolutely.
"We can't afford it," she said decisively. "I'd stay to hum afore I'd
spend anything on extrys now when we're aketchin' up and layin' by."
"'Twould be good bookkeepin' fer you ter go," spoke up Flamingus. "You
see the preacher's givin' us his business, and we'd orter return the
favor and patrynize his church. You've gotter hustle to hold trade arter
you git it these days. It's up to you ter go, Amarilly." Mrs. Jenkins
looked proudly at her eldest male offspring.
"I declare, Flamingus, you've got a real business head on you jest like
your pa hed. He's right, Amarilly. 'Twouldn't be treating Mr. Meredith
fair not ter go, and it's due him that you go right, so he won't be
ashamed of you. I'll rig you up some way."
The costuming of Amarilly in a manner befitting the great occasion was
an all-absorbing affair for the next few days. Finally, by the
combination of Mrs. Jenkins's industry and Amarilly's ingenuity, aided
by the Boarder and the boys, an elaborate toilet was devised and
executed. Milton donated a "shine" to a pair of tan shoes, the gift of
the girl "what took a minor part." Mrs. Jenkins looked a little askance
at the "best skirt" of blue which had shrunk from repeated washings to a
near-knee length, but Amarilly assured her that it was not as short as
the skirts worn by the ballet girls. She cut up two old blouses and
fashioned a new, bi-colored waist bedizened with gilt buttons. The
Boarder presented a resplendent buckle, and Flamingus provided a gawdy
The hat was the chief difficulty. On week days she wore none, but of
course St. Mark's demanded a headgear of some kind, and at last Mrs.
Jenkins triumphantly produced one of Tam o' Shanter shape manufactured
from a lamp mat and adorned with some roses bestowed by the leading
lady. The belligerent locks of the little scrub-girl refused to respond
to advances from curling iron or papers, but one of the neighbors whose
hair was a second cousin in hue to Amarilly's amber tresses, loaned some
frizzes, which were sewed to the brim of the new hat. The problem of
hand covering was solved by Mr. Vedder, as a pair of orange-tinted
gloves had been turned in at the box-office by an usher, and had
remained unclaimed. They proved a perfect fit, and were the supreme
triumph of the bizarre costume.
Not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed in splendor greater than
that displayed by Amarilly when she set forth on Sunday morning for St.
Mark's. Promptness was ever Amarilly's chief characteristic, and she
arrived long in advance of the ushers. This gave her an opportunity to
sample several pews before finally selecting one whose usual occupants,
fortunately, were out of the city.
The vastness and stillness of the edifice, disturbed now and then by
silken rustle and soft-shod foot were bewildering to Amarilly. She
experienced a slight depression until the vibrating tones of the organ
fell softly upon the air. The harmony grew more subdued, ceased, and was
succeeded by another moment of solemn silence. Then a procession of
white-robed choristers came down the aisle, their well-trained voices
ringing out in carolling cadence.
"Them's the chorus," thought Amarilly.
Entranced, she listened to the service, sitting upright and very still.
The spiritual significance of the music, the massing of foliage and
flowers in the chancel, the white altars with their many lighted
candles, were very impressive to the little wide-eyed worshipper.
"Their settin's is all right," she said to herself critically, "and it
ain't like the theayter. It's--"
A sudden revealing light penetrated the shadows of her little being.
"This is the real thing!" she acknowledged.
There was only one disappointment to mar the perfection. She felt quite
aggrieved that Mr. Meredith--or Mr. St. John as she still called him in
her thoughts--did not "come on" in the first act.
"Mebby he don't hev the leadin' part to-day," she thought
disappointedly, as a callow youth, whose hair was pompadoured and whose
chin receded, began to read the lessons for the day. Amarilly was kept
in action by her effort to follow the lead of the man in front of her.
"It's hard to know jest when to set or stand or pray, but it keeps
things from draggin'," she thought, "and thar's no chanct to git sleepy.
It keeps me jest on the hump without no rayhearsal fer all this scene
Her little heart quickened in glad relief when the erect form of John
Meredith ascended the pulpit to deliver the sermon.
"That other one was jest the understudy," she concluded.
The sermon, strong, simple, and sweet like John himself, was delivered
in a rich, modulated voice whose little underlying note of appeal found
entrance to many a hard-shell heart. The theology was not too deep for
the attentive little scrubber to comprehend, and she was filled with a
longing to be good--very good. She made ardent resolutions not to "jaw"
the boys so much, and to be more gentle with Iry and Go. Her conscience
kept on prodding until she censured herself for not mopping the corners
at the theatre more thoroughly.
At the conclusion of the sermon the rector with a slight tremor in his
mellifluous voice pronounced the benediction. Amarilly's eyes shone with
a light that Lord Algernon's most eloquent passages could never have
The organ again gave forth its rich tones, and a young, fair-haired boy
with the face of a devotee arose and turned toward the congregation, his
face uplifted to the oaken rafters. A flood of sunshine streamed through
the painted window and fell in long slanting rays upon the spiritual
face. The exquisite voice rose and fell in silvery cadence, the soft
notes fluting out through the vast space and reaching straight to
Amarilly's heart which was beating in unison to the music. "Oh," she
thought wistfully, "if Pete Noyes was only like him!"
She responded to the offertory with a penny, which lay solitary and
outlawed on the edge of a contribution plate filled with envelopes and
bank bills. The isolated coin caught the eye of the young rector as he
received the offerings, and his gaze wandered wonderingly over his
fashionable congregation. It finally rested upon the small, eager-eyed
face of his washerwoman's daughter, and a look of angelic sweetness came
into his brown eyes with the thought: "Even the least of these!"
Colette, statuesque and sublime, caught the flash of radiance that
illumined the face of her pastor, and her heart-strings responded with a
There was another fervent prayer in low, pleading tones, after which
followed the recessional, the choir-boys chanting their solemn measures.
Amarilly in passing out saw John, clad in a long, tight-fitting black
garment, standing at the church door.
"He's got another costume fer the afterpiece," she thought admiringly.
"He must be a lightning change artist like the one down to the vawdyveel
that Pete was tellin' of!"
Then two wonderful, heart-throbbing things happened. John took
Amarilly's saffron-clad hand in his and told her in earnest, convincing
tones how glad he was that she had come, and that he should look for her
"He held up the hull p'rade fer me!" she thought exultingly.
As he was speaking to her his gaze wandered away for a second; in that
infinitesimal space of time there came into his eyes a dazzling flash of
light that was like a revelation to the sharp-eyed little girl, who,
following the direction of his glance, beheld Colette. Then came the
second triumph. Colette, smiling, shook hands with her and praised her
"Did you like the service, Amarilly?" she whispered. "Was it like the
"It was diffrent," said Amarilly impressively. "I think it's what heaven
"And did you like the sermon St. John preached?"
Amarilly's lips quivered.
"I liked it so much, I liked him so much, I'd ruther not talk about it."
Colette stooped and kissed the freckled little face, to the utter
astonishment of those standing near and to the complete felicity of John
Meredith, who was a witness of the little scene though he did not hear
Amarilly walked homeward, her uplifted face radiant with happiness.
"The flowers, the lights, oh, it was great!" she thought. "Bud could
sing like that if he was learnt. He couldn't look like that surplused
boy, though. He sorter made me think of Little Eva in the play they give
down to Milt's school. I wish Bud's hair was yaller and curly instead of
black and straight!"
Amarilly's reminiscences next carried her to the look she had seen in
the rector's eyes when he beheld Colette coming out of the church.
"It was the look Lord Algernon tried to give Lady Cecul," she thought,
"only he couldn't do it, 'cause it wasn't in Him to give. And it
couldn't never be in him the same as 't is in Mr. St. John and Miss
King. It ain't in her yet to see what was in his eyes. Some day when she
gits more feelin's, mebby 't will be, though."
When Amarilly had faithfully pictured the service to the household,
Bud's anaemic face grew eager.
"Take me with yer, Amarilly, next time, won't yer?" he pleaded.
"It's too fer. You couldn't walk, Buddy," she answered, "and we can't
afford car-fare fer two both ways."
"I'll take him to-night," promised the Boarder. "We'll ride both ways,
so fur as we kin. I'd like to hear a sermon now and then, especially by
a young preacher."
The little family stayed up that night until the return of Bud and the
Boarder who were vociferous in approval of the service.
"It ain't much like our meetin'-house," said Bud. "It was het and lit.
And the way that orgin let out! Say, Amarilly, thar wasn't no man in
sight to play it! I s'pose they've got one of them things like a
pianner-player. Them surplused boys sung fine!"
"He give us a fine talk," reported the Boarder. "I've allers thought if
a man paid a hundred cents on the dollar, 't was all that was expected
of him. But I believe it's a good idee to go to church and keep your
conscience jogged up so it won't rust. I'll go every Sunday, mebby, and
take Bud so he kin larn them tunes."
"I never go to no shows nor nuthin'!" wailed Cory.
"I'll take you next time," soothed Amarilly. "I kin work you'se off on
the kinductor as under age, I guess, if you'll crouch down."
Monday's mops and pails broke in upon the spell of Amarilly's spiritual
enchantment to some extent, but remembrance of the scenic effects
lingered and was refreshed by the clothes-line of vestal garb which
manifested the family prosperity, and heralded to the neighborhood that
the Jenkins's star was in the ascendant.
"Them Jenkinses," said Mrs. Hudgers, who lived next door, "is orful
stuck up sence they got the sudsin' of them surpluses."
This animadversion was soon conveyed to Amarilly, who instantly and
freely forgave the critic.
"She's old and rheumatic," argued the little girl. "She can't git to go
nowhars, and folks that is shut in too long spiles, jest like canned
goods. Besides, her clock has stopped. Nobody can't go on without no
Out of pity for the old woman's sequestered life, Amarilly was wont to
relate to her all the current events, and it was through the child's
keen, young optics that Mrs. Hudgers saw life. An eloquent and vivid
description of St. Mark's service was eagerly related.
"I allers thought I'd like to see them Episcopals," she remarked
regretfully. "Ef church air wa'n't so bad fer my rheumatiz, I'd pay
car-fare jest to see it onct. I was brung up Methodist though."
This desire suggested to Amarilly's fertile little brain a way to make a
contribution to John Meredith's pet missionary scheme, whose merits he
had so ardently expounded from the pulpit.
"I'll hev a sacrud concert like the one he said they was goin' to hev to
the church," she decided.
She was fully aware of the sensation created by the Thursday clothes-line
of surplices, and she resolved to profit thereby while the garments
were still a novelty. Consequently the neighborhood was notified that a
sacred concert by a "surplused choir" composed of members of the Jenkins
household, assisted by a few of their schoolmates, would be given a week
from Wednesday night. This particular night was chosen for the reason
that the church washing was put to soak late on a Wednesday.
There was a short, sharp conflict in Amarilly's conscience before she
convinced herself it would not be wrong to allow the impromptu choir to
don the surplices of St. Mark's.
"They wouldn't spile 'em jest awearin' 'em onct," she argued sharply,
for Amarilly always "sassed back" with spirit to her moral accuser.
"'Tain't as if they wa'n't agoin' into the wash as soon as they take 'em
off. Besides," as a triumphant clincher, "think of the cause!"
Amarilly had heard the Boarder and a young socialist exchanging views,
and she had caught this slogan, which was a tempting phrase and adequate
to whitewash many a doubtful act. It proved effectual in silencing the
conscience which Amarilly slipped back into its case and fastened
She held nightly rehearsals for the proposed entertainment. After the
first the novelty was exhausted, and on the next night there was a
falling off in attendance, so the young, director diplomatically
resorted to the use of decoy ducks in the shape of a pan of popcorn, a
candy pull, and an apple roast. By such inducements she whipped her
chorus into line, ably assisted by Bud, who had profited by his
attendance at St. Mark's.
The Jenkins dwelling was singularly well adapted for a public
performance, as, to use Mrs. Wint's phraseology, "it had no insides."
The rooms were partitioned off by means of curtains on strings. These
were taken down on the night of the concert. So the "settin'-room," the
"bedroom off" and the kitchen became one. Seats were improvised by means
of boards stretched across inverted washtubs.
At seven o'clock on the night set for the concert the audience was
solemnly ushered in by the Boarder. No signs of the performers were
visible, but sounds of suppressed excitement issued from the woodshed,
which had been converted into a vestry.
Presently the choir, chanting a hymn, made an impressive and effective
entrance. To Amarilly's consternation this evoked an applause, which
jarred on her sense of propriety.
"This ain't no show, and it ain't no time to clap," she explained to the
Boarder, who cautioned the congregation against further demonstration.
Flamingus read a psalm in a sing-song, resonant voice, and then Amarilly
announced a hymn, cordially inviting the neighbors to "jine in." The
response was lusty-lunged, and there was a unanimous request for another
tune. After Amarilly had explained the use to which the collection was
to be put, Gus passed a pie tin, while an offertory solo was rendered by
Bud in sweet, trebled tones.
The sacred concert was pronounced a great success by the audience, who
promptly dispersed at its close. While the Boarder was shifting the
curtains to their former positions, and Mrs. Jenkins and Amarilly were
busily engaged in divesting the choir of their costumes, the front door
opened and disclosed a vision of loveliness in the form of Colette.
"I knocked," she explained apologetically to the Boarder, "but no one
heard me. Are the family all away?"
"They are in the woodshed. Walk right out," he urged hospitably.
Colette stepped to the door and, on opening it, gazed in bewilderment at
the disrobing choir.
"These are not St. Mark's choir-boys, are they?" she asked wonderingly.
Mrs. Jenkins felt herself growing weak-kneed. She looked apprehensively
at Amarilly, who stepped bravely to the front with the air of one who
feels that the end justifies the means.
"It was fer him--fer Mr. St. John I done it," she began in explanation,
and then she proceeded to relate the particulars of her scheme and its
She had but just finished this narrative when suddenly in the line of
her vision came the form of the young rector himself. He had been
ushered out by the Boarder, who was still actively engaged in "redding
"I came to call upon you, for I consider you one of my parishioners
now," he said to Amarilly, his face flushing at the unexpected encounter
Amarilly breathed a devout prayer of thankfulness that the last surplice
had been removed and was now being put to soak by her mother.
Colette's eyes were dancing with the delight of mischief-making as she
directed, in soft but mirthful tones:
"Tell Mr. St. John about your choir and concert."
Amarilly's eyes lowered in consternation. She was in great awe of this
young man whose square chin was in such extreme contradiction to his
softly luminous eyes, and she began to feel less fortified by the
reminder of the "cause."
"I'd ruther not," she faltered.
"Then don't, Amarilly," he said gently.
"Mebby that's why I'd orter," she acknowledged, lifting serious eyes to
his. "You said that Sunday that we wa'n't to turn out of the way fer
"I don't want it to be hard for you to tell me anything, Amarilly," he
said reassuringly. "Suppose you show me that you trust me by telling me
about your concert."
So once more Amarilly gave a recital of her plan for raising money for
the mission, and of its successful fulfilment. John listened with
varying emotions, struggling heroically to maintain his gravity as he
heard of the realization of the long-cherished, long-deferred dream of
"And we took in thirty-seven cents," she said in breathless excitement,
as she handed him the contents of the pie tin.
"Amarilly," he replied fervently, with the look that Colette was
learning to love, "you did just right to use the surplices, and this
contribution means more to me than any I have received. It was a sweet
and generous thought that prompted your concert."
Amarilly's little heart glowed with pride at this acknowledgment.
At that moment came Bud, singing a snatch of his solo.
"Is this the little brother that sang the offertory?"
"Yes; that's him--Bud."
"Bud, will you sing it again for me, now?"
"Sure thing!" said the atom of a boy, promptly mounting a soap box.
He threw back a mop of thick black hair, rolled his eyes ceilingward,
and let his sweet, clear voice have full sway.
"Oh, Bud, you darling! Why didn't you tell me he could sing like that,
Amarilly?" cried Colette at the close of the song.
"We must have him in St. Mark's choir," declared Mr. Meredith. "You may
bring him to the rectory to-morrow, Amarilly, and I will have the
choirmaster try his voice. Besides receiving instruction and practice
every week, he will be paid for his singing."
Money for Bud's voice! So much prosperity was scarcely believable.
"Fust the Guild school, Miss King's washing, the surpluses, and now
Bud!" thought Amarilly exuberantly. "Next thing I know, I'll be on the
"I must go," said Colette presently. "My car is just around the corner
on the next street. John, will you ride uptown with me?"
He accepted the invitation with alacrity. Colette's sidelong glance
noted a certain masterful look about his chin, and there was a warning,
metallic ring in his voice that denoted a determination to overcome all
obstacles and triumph by sheer force of will. She was not ready to
listen to him yet, and, a ready evader of issues, chatted incessantly on
the way to the car. He waited in grim patience, biding his time. As they
neared the turn in the alley, she played her reserve card.
"Henry didn't think it prudent to bring the big car into the Jenkins's
_cul-de-sac,_ so he waited in the next street. I expect father will be
there by this time. We dropped him at a factory near by, where he was to
speak to some United Workmen."
Colette smiled at the drooping of John's features as he beheld her
father ensconced in the tonneau.
"Oh, John! I am glad you were here to protect my little girl through
these byways. I was just on the point of looking her up myself."
When the car stopped at the rectory and Colette bade John good-night,
the resolute, forward thrust was still prominent in his chin.
He went straight to his study and wrote an ardent avowal of his love.
Then he sealed the letter and dispatched it by special messenger. There
would be no more suspense, he thought, for she would have to respond by
a direct affirmation or negation.
In the tide of the Jenkins's prosperity there came the inevitable ebb.
On the fateful Friday morning succeeding the concert, Mrs. Hudgers,
looking from her window, saw a little group of children with books under
their arms returning from school. Having no timepiece, she was
accustomed to depend on the passing to and fro of the children for
guidance as to the performance of her household affairs.
"My sakes, but twelve o'clock come quick to-day," she thought, as she
kindled the fire and set the kettle over it in preparation of her midday
A neighbor dropping in viewed these proceedings with surprise.
"Why, Mrs. Hudgers, ain't you et yer breakfast yet?"
"Of course I hev. I'm puttin' the kittle over fer my dinner."
"Dinner! why, it's only a half arter nine."
Mrs. Hudgers looked incredulous.
"I seen the chillern agoin' hum from school," she maintained.
"Them was the Jenkinses, Iry hez come down with the scarlit fever, and
they're all in quarrytine."
"How you talk! Wait till I put the kittle offen the bile."
The two neighbors sat down to discuss this affliction with the ready
sympathy of the poor for the poor. Their passing envy of the Jenkins's
good fortune was instantly skimmed from the surface of their
friendliness, which had only lain dormant and wanted but the touch of
trouble to make them once more akin.
When the city physician had pronounced Iry's "spell" to be scarlet
fever, the other members of the household were immediately summoned by
emergency calls. The children came from school, Amarilly from the
theatre, and the Boarder from his switch to hold an excited family
"It's a good thing we got the washin's all hum afore Iry was took,"
declared the optimistic Amarilly.
"Thar's two things here yet," reported Mrs. Jenkins. "Gus come hum too
late last night to take the preacher's surplus and Miss King's lace
waist. You was so tired I didn't tell you, 'cause I know'd you'd be sot
on goin' with them yourself. They're all did up."
"Well, they'll hev to stay right here with us and the fever," said
At heart she secretly rejoiced in the retaining of these two garments,
for they seemed to keep her in touch with their owners whom she would be
unable to see until Iry had recovered.
"I don't see what we are going to do, Amarilly," said her mother
despairingly. "Thar'll be nuthin' comin' in and so many extrys."
"No extrys," cheerfully assured the little comforter. "The city
doctor'll take keer of Iry and bring the medicines. We hev laid by some
sence we got the church wash. It'll tide us over till Iry gits well. We
all need a vacation from work, anyhow."
At the beginning of the next week a ten-dollar bill came from Colette,
"to buy jellies and things for Iry," she wrote. A similar contribution
came from John Meredith.
"We air on Easy Street onct more!" cried Amarilly joyfully.
"I hate to take the money from them," sighed Mrs. Jenkins.
"We'll make it up to them when we kin work agin," consoled Amarilly.
"Better to take from friends than from the city. It won't be fer long.
Iry seems to hev took it light, the doctor said."
This diagnosis proved correct, but it had not occurred to Amarilly in
her prognostications that the question of the duration of the quarantine
was not entirely dependent upon Iry's convalescence. Like a row of
blocks the children, with the exception of Flamingus and Amarilly, in
rapid succession came down with a mild form of the fever. Mrs. Jenkins
and Amarilly divided the labors of cook and nurse, but the mainstay of
the family was the Boarder. He aided in the housework, and as an
entertainer of the sick he proved invaluable. He told stories, drew
pictures, propounded riddles, whittled boats and animals, played "Beggar
my Neighbor," and sang songs for the convalescent ward.
When the last cent of the Jenkins's reserve fund and the contributions
from the rector and Colette had been exhausted, the Boarder put a
willing hand in his pocket and drew forth his all to share with the
afflicted family. There was one appalling night when the treasury was
entirely depleted, and the larder was a veritable Mother Hubbard's
"Something will come," prophesied Amarilly trustfully.
Something did come the next day in the shape of a donation of five
dollars from Mr. Vedder, who had heard of the prolonged quarantine.
Amarilly wept from gratitude and gladness.
"The perfesshun allers stand by each other," she murmured proudly.
This last act of charity kept the Jenkins's pot boiling until the
premises were officially and thoroughly fumigated. Again famine
threatened. The switch remained open to the Boarder, and he was once
more on duty, but he had as yet drawn no wages, one morning there was
nothing for breakfast.
"I'll pawn my ticker at noon," promised the Boarder, "and bring home
something for dinner."
"There is lots of folks as goes without breakfast allers, from choice,"
informed Amarilly. "Miss Vail, the teacher at the Guild, says it's
"It won't hurt us and the boys," said Mrs. Jenkins, "but Iry and Co is
too young to go hungry even if it be hygeniack."
"They ain't agoin' hungry," declared Amarilly. "I'll pervide fer them."
With a small pitcher under her cape she started bravely forth on a
foraging expedition. After walking a few blocks she came to a white
house whose woodhouse joined the alley. Hiding behind a barrel she
watched and waited until a woman opened the back door and set a soup
plate of milk on the lowest step.
"Come a kits! Come a kits!" she called shrilly, and then went back into
The "kits" came on the run; so did Amarilly. She arrived first, and
hastily emptied the contents of the soup plate into her pitcher. Then
she fled, leaving two dismayed maltese kittens disconsolately lapping an
"Here's milk for Iry," she announced, handing the pitcher to her mother.
"Now I'll go and get some breakfast for Co."
She returned presently with a sugared doughnut.
"Where did you borry the milk and nut-cake?" asked her mother
"I didn't borry them," replied Amarilly stoically. "I stole them."
"Stole them! Am-a-ril-ly Jenk-ins!"
"Twan't exackly stealin'," argued Amarilly cheerfully. "I took the milk
from two little cats what git stuffed with milk every morning and night.
The doughnut had jest been stuck in a parrot's cage. He hedn't tetched
it. My! he swore fierce! I'd ruther steal, anyway, than let Iry and Co
"What would the preacher say!" demanded her mother solemnly. "He would
say it was wrong."
"He don't know nothin' about bein' hungry!" replied Amarilly defiantly.
"If he was ever as hungry as Iry, I bet he'd steal from a cat."
The season was now summer. Some time ago John Meredith had gone to the
seashore and the King family to their summer home in the mountains,
unaware that the fever had spread over so wide an area in the Jenkins
domain. The theatre and St. Mark's were closed for the rest of the
summer. The little boys found that their positions had been filled
during the period of quarantine. None of these catastrophes, however,
could be compared to the calamity of the realization that Bud alone of
all the patients had not convalesced completely. He was a delicate
little fellow, and he grew paler and thinner each day. In desperation
Amarilly went to the doctor.
"Bud don't pick up," she said bluntly.
"I feared he wouldn't," replied the doctor.
"Can't you try some other kinds of medicines?"
"I can, but I am afraid that there is no medicine that will help him
Amarilly turned pale.
"Is there anything else that will help him?" she demanded fiercely.
"If he could go to the seashore he might brace up. Sea air would work
wonders for him."
"He shall go," said Amarilly with determination.
"I can get a week for him through the Fresh Air Fund," suggested the
He succeeded in getting two weeks, and, that time was extended another
fortnight through the benevolence of Mr. Vedder.
Bud returned a study in reds and browns.
"The sea beats the theayter and the church all to smitherines,
Amarilly!" he declared jubilantly. "I kin go to work now."
"No!" said Amarilly resolutely. "You air goin' to loaf through this hot
weather until church and school open."
The family fund once more had a modest start. Mrs. Jenkins obtained a
few of her old customers, Bobby got a paper route, Flamingus and Milton
were again at work, but Amarilly, Gus, and Cory were without vocations.
Soon after the quarantine was lifted Amarilly went forth to deliver the
surplice and the waist which had hung familiarly side by side during the
weeks of trouble. The housekeeper at the rectory greeted her kindly and
was most sympathetic on learning of the protracted confinement. She made
Amarilly a present of the surplice.
"Mr. Meredith said you were to keep it. He thought your mother might
find it useful. It is good linen, you know, and you can cut it up into
clothes for the children. He has so many surplices, he won't miss this
"I'll never cut it up!" thought Amarilly as she reverently received the
robe. "I'll keep it in 'membrance of him."
"It's orful good in him to give it to us," she said gratefully to the
That worthy woman smiled, remembering how the fastidious young rector
had shrunk from the thought of wearing a fumigated garment.
At the King residence Amarilly saw the caretaker, who gave her a similar
message regarding the lace waist.
"I'll keep it," thought Amarilly with a shy little blush, "until I'm
merried. It'll start my trousseau."
She took the garments home, not mentioning to anyone the gift of the
waist, however, for that was to be her secret--her first secret. She hid
this nest-egg of her trousseau in an old trunk which she fastened
On the next day she was summoned to help clean the theatre, which had
been rented for one night by the St. Andrew's vested choir, whose
members were to give a sacred concert. A rehearsal for this
entertainment was being held when Amarilly arrived.
"These surplices are all too long or too short for me," complained the
young tenor, who had recently been engaged for the solo parts.
Amarilly surveyed him critically.
"He's jest about Mr. St. John's size," she mused, "only he ain't so fine
With the thought came an inspiration that brought a quickly waged
battle. It seemed sacrilegious, although she didn't express it by that
word, to permit another to wear a garment so sacred to the memory of Mr.
Meredith, but poverty, that kill-sentiment, had fully developed the
practical side of Amarilly.
She made answer to her stabs of conscience by action instead of words,
going straight to her friend, the ticket-seller.
"That feller," she said, indicating the tenor, "ain't satisfied with the
fit of his surplus. I've got one jest his size. It's done up spick and
span clean, and I'll rent it to him fer the show. He kin hev it fer the
ev'nin' fer a dollar. Would you ask him fer me?"
"Certainly, Amarilly," he agreed.
He came back to her, smiling.
"He'll take it, but he seems to think your charge rather high--more than
that of most costumers, he said."
"This ain't no common surplus," defended Amarilly loftily. "It was wore
by the rector of St. Mark's, and he give it to me. It's of finer stuff
than the choir surpluses, and it hez got a cross worked onto it, and a
pocket in it, too."
"Of course such inducements should increase the value," confirmed Mr.
Vedder gravely, and he proceeded to hold another colloquy with the
twinkling-eyed tenor. Amarilly went home for the surplice and received
therefor the sum of one dollar, which swelled the Jenkins's purse
And here began the mundane career of the minister's surplice.
Ever apt in following a lead, Amarilly at once resolved to establish a
regular costuming business. It even occurred to her to hire out the lace
waist, but thoughts of wedding bells prevailed against her impulse to
open this branch of the business.
When the young tenor returned the surplice he informed Amarilly that two
young ladies of his acquaintance were going to give a home entertainment
for charity. Among the impromptu acts would be some tableaux, and the
surplice was needed for a church scene. So the new venture brought in
another dollar that week.
One day Bud came home capless, having crossed a bridge in a high wind.
"I seen an ad," said the thrifty Flamingus, "that the Beehive would give
away baseball caps to-day."
Amarilly immediately set out for the Beehive, an emporium of fashion in
the vicinity of the theatre. It was the noon hour, and there were no
other customers in evidence.
The proprietor and a clerk were engaged in discussing the design for a
window display, and were loath to notice their would-be beneficiary.
Finally the clerk drawled out:
"Did you want anything, little girl?"
"I called," explained Amarilly with grandiose manner, "to git one of
them caps you advertised to give away."
"Oh, those were all given out long ago. You should have come earlier,"
he replied with an air of relief, as he turned to resume the
all-absorbing topic with the proprietor.
Amarilly's interest in the window display dispelled any disappointment
she might have had in regard to Bud's head covering.
"Now," said the clerk didactically, "my idea is this. Have a wedding--a
church wedding. I can rig up an altar, and we'll have the bride in a
white, trailing gown; the groom, best man, and ushers in dress suits to
advertise our gents' department, the bridesmaids and relatives in
different colored evening dresses, and in this way we can announce our
big clearing sale of summer goods in the ready-to-wear department. It'll
make a swell window and draw crowds. Women can never get by a wedding."
"That's a dandy idea, Ben," approved the proprietor.
"Oh, I am a winner on ideas," vaunted the clerk chestily.
So was Amarilly. She stepped eagerly up to the window designer.
"Do you keep surpluses?"
"No; don't know what they are," replied the clerk shortly, turning from
her. "We'll get a wreath of orange flowers for the bride, and then we
can have a child carrying the ring, so as to call attention to our
"A surplus," explained Amarilly, scornful of such avowed ignorance, "is
the white gown that Episcopal ministers wear."
"No; we don't keep them," was the impatient rejoinder.
"Well, I hev one," she said, addressing the proprietor this time, "a
real minister's, and I'll rent it to you to put on your figger of the
minister in your wedding window. He'll hev to wear one."
"I am not an Episcopalian," said the proprietor hesitatingly. "What do
you think, Ben?"
"Well, it hadn't occurred to me to have an Episcopal wedding, but I
don't know but what it would work out well, after all. It would make it
attract notice more, and women are always daffy over Episcopal weddings.
They like classy things. We could put a card in the window, saying all
the clergy bought the linen for their surplices here. How," turning to
Amarilly, "did you happen to have such an article?"
"We do the washin' fer St. Mark's church, and the minister give us one
of his surpluses."
"The display will be in for six days. What will you rent it for that
"I allers git a dollar a night fer it," replied Amarilly.
"Too much!" declared the clerk. "I'll give you fifty cents a day."
"I'll let it go six days fer four dollars," bargained Amarilly.
"Well, seeing you have come down on your offer, I'll come up a little on
mine. I'll take it for three-fifty."
"I will, if you'll throw in one of them caps fer my brother."
"All right," laughed the proprietor. "I think we'll call it a bargain.
See if you can't dig up one of those caps for her, Ben."
Without much difficulty Ben produced a cap, and Amarilly hurried home
for the surplice. She went down to the Beehive every day during the
wedding-window week and feasted her eyes on the beloved gown. She took
all the glory of the success of the display to her own credit, and her
feelings were very much like those of the writer of a play on a first
From a wedding to a funeral was the natural evolution of a surplice, but
this time it did not appear in its customary rôle. Instead of adorning a
minister, it clad the corpse. Mrs. Hudgers's only son, a scalawag, who
had been a constant drain on his mother's small stipend, was taken ill
and died, to the discreetly disguised relief of the neighborhood.
"I'm agoin' to give Hallie a good funeral," Mrs. Hudgers confided to
Amarilly. "I'm agoin' to hev hacks and flowers and singin' If yer St.
Mark's man was to hum now, I should like to have him fishyate."
"Who will you git?" asked Amarilly interestedly.
"I'll hev the preacher from the meetin'-house on the hill, Brother
"I wonder," speculated Amarilly, "if he'd like to wear the surplus?"
Foremost as the plumes of Henry of Navarre in battle were the surplice
and the renting thereof in Amarilly's vision.
"I don't expect he could do that," replied Mrs. Hudgers doubtfully. "His
church most likely wouldn't stand fer it. Brother Longgrass is real kind
if he ain't my sort. He's agoin' to let the boys run the maylodeun down
here the night afore the funyral."
"Who's agoin' to sing?"
"I dunno yit. I left it to the preacher. He said he'd git me a picked
choir, whatever that may be."
"My! But you'll hev a fine funeral!" exclaimed Amarilly admiringly.
"I allers did say that when Hallie got merried, or died, things should
be done right. Thar's jest one thing I can't hev."
"What's that, Mrs. Hudgers?"
"Why, you see, Amarilly, Hallie's clo'es air sort of shabby-like, and
when we git him in that shiny new caskit, they air agoin' to show up
orful seedy. But I can't afford ter buy him a new suit jest for this
"Couldn't you rent a suit?" asked Amarilly, her ruling passion for
business still dominating.
"No; I jest can't, Amarilly. It's costin' me too much now."
"I know it is," sympathized Amarilly, concentrating her mind on the
puzzling solution of Hallie's habiliment.
"Mrs. Hudgers," she exclaimed suddenly, "why can't you put the surplus
on Hallie? You kin slip it on over his suit, and when the funeral's
over, and they hev all looked at the corpse, you kin take it offen him."
"Oh, that would be sweet!" cried Mrs. Hudgers, brightening perceptibly.
"Hallie would look beautiful in it, and 'twould be diffrent from any one
else's funeral. How you allers think of things, Amarilly! But I ain't
got no dollar to pay you fer it."
"If you did hev one," replied Amarilly Indignantly, "I shouldn't let you
pay fer it. We're neighbors, and what I kin do fer Hallie I want ter
"Well, Amarilly, it's certainly fine fer you to feel that way. You don't
think," she added with sudden apprehension, "that they'd think the
surplus was Hallie's nightshirt, do you?"
"Oh, no!" protested Amarilly, shocked at such a supposition. "Besides,
you kin tell them all that Hallie's laid out in a surplus. They all seen
them to the concert."
The funeral passed off with great éclat. The picked choir had resonant
voices, and Brother Longgrass preached one of his longest sermons,
considerately omitting reference to any of the characteristics of the
deceased. Mrs. Hudgers was suitably attired in donated and dusty black.
The extremely unconventional garb of Hallie caused some little comment,
but it was commonly supposed to be a part of the Episcopalian spirit
which the Jenkinses seemed to be inculcating in the neighborhood.
Brother Longgrass was a little startled upon beholding the white-robed
corpse, but perceiving what comfort it brought to the afflicted mother,
he magnanimously forbore to allude to the matter.
After the remains had been viewed for the last time, the surplice was
removed. In the evening Amarilly called for it.
"He did look handsome in it," commented Mrs. Hudgers with a satisfied,
reminiscent smile. "I wish I might of hed his likeness took. I'm agoin'
to make you take hum this pan of fried cakes Mrs. Holdock fetched in.
They'll help fill up the chillern."
"I don't want to rob you, Mrs. Hudgers," said Amarilly, gazing longingly
at the doughnuts, which were classed as luxuries in the Jenkins's menu.
"I dassent eat 'em, Amarilly. If I et jest one, I'd hev dyspepsy orful,
and folks hez brung in enough stuff to kill me now. It does beat all the
way they bring vittles to a house of mournin'! I only wish Hallie could
hev some of 'em."
The surplice, carefully laundered after the funeral, was ready for new
fields of labor. The tenor, first patron of Amarilly's costuming
establishment, was wont to loiter in the studio of an artist he knew and
relate his about-town adventures. This artist was interested in the
annals of the little scrub-girl and her means of livelihood.
"I have in mind," he said musingly, "a picture of a musician, the light
to be streaming through a stained window on his uplifted head as he sits
at an organ."
"The Lost Chord?" inquired the tenor.
"Nothing quite so bromidic as that," laughed the artist. "I have my
model engaged, and I had intended to have you borrow a surplice for me,
but you may ask your little customer to rent me her gown for a couple of
On receipt of this request delivered through the medium of the ticket-
seller, Amarilly promptly appeared at the studio. She was gravely and
courteously received by the artist, Derry Phillips, an easy-mannered
youth, slim and supple, with dark, laughing eyes. When they had
transacted the business pertaining to the rental of the surplice,
Amarilly arose from her chair with apparent reluctance. This was a new
atmosphere, and she was fascinated by the pictures and the general air
of artistic disarrangement which she felt but could not account for.
"'Tain't exactly the kind of place to tidy," she reflected, "but it
needs cleaning turrible."
"Do you like pictures?" asked the young artist, following her gaze.
"Stay a while and look at them, if you wish."
Amarilly readily availed herself of this permission, and rummaged about
the rooms while Derry pursued his work. Upon the completion of her tour
of inspection, he noticed a decided look of disapproval upon her face.
"What is the matter, Miss Jenkins? Aren't the pictures true to life?" he
inquired with feigned anxiety.
"The picters is all right," replied Amarilly, "but--"
"But what?" he urged expectantly.
"Your rooms need reddin' up. Thar's an orful lot of dust. Yer things
"Oh, dust, you know, to the artistic temperament, is merely a little
"'Tain't only misplaced. It's stuck tight," contended Amarilly.
"Dear me! And to think that I was contemplating a studio tea to some
people day after to-morrow, I suppose it really should be 'red up'
again. Honestly though, I engage a woman who come every week and clean
"She's imposed on you," said Amarilly indignantly. "She's swept the dirt
up agin the mopboards and left it thar, and she hez only jest skimmed
over things with a dust-cloth. It ain't done thorough."
"And are you quite proficient as a _blanchisseuse?"_
Amarilly looked at him unperturbed.
"I kin scrub," she remarked calmly.
"I stand rebuked. Scrubbing is what they need. If you will come
to-morrow morning and put these rooms in order, I will give you a dollar
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