Bessie Bradford's Prize
Joanna H. Mathews
Part 2 out of 4
apothecary's. Do you comprehend me? If the doctor hears of one thing
he will hear of all."
Utterly subdued now, Lewis stammered his promise to comply with the
young tutor's request.
"One question," said Seabrooke, as the two younger boys turned to
leave the room. "How did you come to take a letter directed to my
father for one addressed to Dr. Leacraft?"
"I don't know," replied Percy, at whom he was looking. "I didn't look
at it particularly, but just put it in the stove when Lewis handed it
to me and told me to do it. We saw you writing for ever so long, and
thought that thick letter was to the doctor. We are--were in such a
hurry, you see."
"And I am sure Leacraft and Seabrooke are not so very different when
one is in a hurry," said Lewis.
"I see," said Seabrooke; "you made up your minds that the letter was
to the doctor, and were so afraid of being caught at your mean trick
that you did not take time to make sure. There's the study bell."
The confession and acknowledgment of their indebtedness was signed
that night by both of the guilty boys.
And this was the story which the sensitive, honorable Lena, the
faithful old Hannah had read--Percy's letter, which had commenced:
"I am in the most awful scrape any boy ever was in, and you are the
only one who can help me out of it. If you can't there is nothing for
me but to be expelled from the school and arrested and awfully
disgraced, with all the rest of the family; and the worst is that
Russell will be so cut up about it--you know his Royal Highness always
holds his head so high, especially about anything he thinks is
shabby--and I am afraid it will make him worse again. As for the
mother! words could not paint her if she hears about it. And if the
doctor gets hold of it!! I've told you how strict he is and what the
rules are. If it hadn't been an iron-clad place, I shouldn't have been
sent here. I hate these private schools where one can't do a thing
without being found out. Well, here goes; you must hear about it, and
it is a bad business."
Then followed, in school-boy language, an account of the whole
disgraceful transaction. A "bad business," indeed; even worse it
appeared to the young sister and the old nurse than it did apparently
"And now, dear Lena," he continued, "there's no one but you who can
help me. Lewis Flagg is going to have his share. He has a watch that
was his father's, a very valuable one, and his older brother wants it
awfully, and told him long ago he would give him a hundred dollars
for it; he has money of his own, the brother has, and Lewis says it
isn't half what the watch is worth; but he'll have to let it go. So
he's all right.
"But what am I to do? I have no such watch. I have nothing I could
sell without mamma and papa finding it out, and think of the row
there would be if they did. You are my only hope, Lena, and you might
do something for me. At any rate, think of Russell. Havn't you
something you could sell? Or--I do not like very much to ask you, but
what can a fellow in such a scrape do?--couldn't you ask Uncle Horace
to let you have it? I am sure he owes you something for saving his
house from being burnt up, and things would have been a great deal
worse if you hadn't found it out and been so brave; and besides, he
thinks so much of you since he will do anything for you, and you can
just tell him you want it for a private purpose. He'll give it to
you; it's only twenty pounds, Lena, and what is twenty pounds to him?
what is it to any of our people, only one wouldn't dare to ask papa
or mamma for it. We wouldn't get it if we did, and everything would
have to come out then; they never trust any one and _would_
know. Only get it for me, dear Lena, and save me and save Russell,
too. You have from now till after the Easter holidays; and think what
you'll save me from! Oh, dear! I wish I'd never seen Lewis Flagg. He
don't care a bit, so that he sees the way out of his own scrape. As
for that solemn prig, Seabrooke, who you'd think was one of the grown
masters with his uppish airs, well, never mind, I suppose he has let
us off easy on the whole, if I only raise my share of the money; and
he is honor bright about it and don't even act as if we two had done
anything worse than the others. Oh! do think of some way, and try
Uncle Horace. I know he'll prove all right, and you see we never
meant to do this.
"Your affectionate brother,
"PERCY H. NEVILLE.
"Oh, I forgot, how are the feet?
The shock of the whole thing; the disobedience and rebellion against
rules; the disgraceful theft of the letter; its destruction; the
peril in which Percy himself stood--all faded into comparative
insignificance with the risk for her adored elder brother. Absolute
quiet, freedom from all worry and anxiety during his protracted
convalescence had been peremptorily insisted upon by his physicians,
and it had proved before this that any excitement not only retarded
his recovery, but threw him back. That the knowledge of Percy's
guilt could be kept from Russell if it came to the ears of her father
and mother never occurred to her, and beyond words did she dread its
effect upon him. She knew that the news of her own serious injuries a
few weeks since had been very hurtful to him, and now her chief
thought was for him.
She lost sight altogether of the contemptible meanness of Percy's
appeal to her--a helpless girl--to rescue him from the consequences
of his own worse than folly, but she was bitterly stung by his
suggestion--nay, almost demand--that she should ask from their kind
and indulgent uncle the means of satisfying the justly outraged
Seabrooke; the uncle who had opened his heart and home to them, whom
she credited with every known virtue, and for whose good opinion and
approbation she looked more eagerly than she did for those of any
other human being, even the beloved brother Russell. No, no; she
would never ask him for such a thing, that honorable, high-minded,
hero-uncle, with his scorn for everything that was contemptible or
mean; "fussy," Percy had called him, about such matters.
Nor did it occur to her that in his selfish desire to secure her aid,
Percy had perhaps exaggerated the risk to himself--the risk of his
arrest and public disgrace, which would reflect upon the family.
Poor little girl! In her inexperience and alarm she did not reflect
that it was not at all probable that Percy would be arrested, even
though he should not be able to comply with Seabrooke's just demands;
and all manner of direful possibilities presented themselves to her
mind. Little wonder was it that she was perfectly overwhelmed, or
that mental excitement had prostrated her again and brought on a
return of her fever.
Nor was Hannah less credulous. She magnified the danger for Percy as
much as the young sister did, although her fears were chiefly for the
culprit himself. She had the means of relieving the boy's
embarrassment if they were but in her own hands, but she had put the
greater part of these in her master's care for investment, and she
could not obtain any large sum of money without application to him.
And, like Lena, she was afraid of exciting some inquiry or suspicion
if she did so. The poor old soul stood almost alone in the world,
having neither chick nor child, kith nor kin left to her, save one
bad and dissipated nephew whom she had long since, by the advice of
her master, cast off. If she asked Mr. Neville for the sum necessary
to help Percy out of his difficulty, he would, she felt confident,
suspect that she was about to give it to this reprobate nephew, and
Besides the accumulated wages in her master's hands she had one other
resource, quite a sum, which she carried about with her; a number of
bright, golden guineas tied in a small bag which she wore fastened
about her waist, and which was really a burden to her, since she
lived in constant fear of losing it. But this was for a purpose dear
to old Hannah's heart, namely, her own funeral expenses and the
erection of what she considered a suitable head-stone for herself
after she should have done with life. She would not trust this
precious gold to any bank or company, lest it should fail and leave
her without the means for what she considered a fitting monument for
herself. Within the bag was also an epitaph, composed by herself,
which was to be put upon the proposed gravestone. For Hannah had no
mean opinion of her own merits, and this set her forth as an epitome
of many Christian graces, reading thus:
"Here lies the mortal body of Hannah Achsah Stillwell which she was
hed nurse in the family of Howard Neville eskire for years and brung
up mostly by hand his children and never felt she done enuf for them
not sparin herself with infantile elements walkin nites and the like,
pashunt and gentle not cross-grained like some which the poor little
things they can't help theirselves teethin and the like, respeckful
to her betters knoin her place, kind to them beneth her--which she
was much thort of by all above and below her--and respected by her
ekals. Which to her Gabriel shall say in fittin time:
"Well done good and faithful servant
Come to the skys
Stranger read this pious lesson
Go and do likewise."
This gem she had read in turn to each of her nurslings as they came
to what she considered a fitting age to appreciate it; and they had
regarded it with great awe and admiration, till they outgrew it and
began to consider it as a joke. Not to Hannah, however, did any one
of them confide the change in his or her views, although they made
merry over it among themselves; and Harold and Elsie still looked
upon it as a most touching and fitting tribute to the merits of their
faithful old nurse, albeit it had been composed and arranged by
Hannah had also frequently found the bag and its contents an
incentive to well-doing, or an effective and gentle means of
coercion, as upon any rare symptoms of rebellion or mischief which
would occasionally arise within the nursery precincts, in spite of
iron rules and severe penalties, she was wont to detach the bag from
its hiding-place and, retiring to a corner, would count the gold and
read over the future epitaph, murmuring in sepulchral tones,
befitting such a lugubrious subject, that she should soon have need
This course had generally sufficed to bring the small rebel to terms
at once, and it would promise to be good if she would only consent to
live and continue her care of the nursery. And now, how could she
make up her mind to sacrifice this cherished sum even for the
reckless, selfish boy whom she loved? It had been dedicated to that
one purpose, and it had never before entered her thoughts to divert
it to any other. She was devoted to each one and all of her charges,
past and present; but for no other one than Percy would she ever have
thought of resigning this gold. Not to relieve the sickening terror
and anxiety of the poor little invalid; not to save the whole family
from the disgrace which she apprehended, would she have entertained
the slightest thought of doing so; but for the sake of her beloved
scrapegrace! Could she resolve to do it, was the question which was
now agitating her mind. If Hannah was worried she was apt to be
cross, and for the next day or two she was captious and exacting
beyond anything within the past experience of the nursery, driving
Letitia to the verge of rebellion, and exciting the open-eyed wonder
of the pattern Elsie. Over Lena she crooned and hovered, petting and
coddling her, and longing to speak some words of hope and comfort,
but not daring to do so lest she should betray herself and the
dishonorable way in which she had become possessed of the child's
Colonel Rush was seated in his library one afternoon when there came
a knock at the door; and being bidden to enter, the portiere was
drawn aside and old Hannah appeared, her face wearing an unusually
solemn and portentous expression.
"Beggin' your pardon, Colonel," she said, dropping her curtsey, "but
I'm not much hacquainted with these Hamerican monies, and would you
be so good as to tell me the worth of twenty-one gold guineas in the
dollars they uses in this country. More shame to 'em, say I, that
they didn't 'old by what was their hown when they was hunder the rule
of hour gracious lady, Queen Victoria, but 'ad to go changin' an'
pesterin' them what 'asn't no partickler hacquaintance with
Hannah was a privileged character, and sometimes expressed her
opinions with some freedom in the presence of her superiors.
The colonel did not think it worth while to enlighten her on the
subject of American history, or to explain that the United States,
and even the early colonies, had never been beneath the rule of Queen
Victoria; but he gave her the information she desired.
"Twenty-one golden guineas would be somewhere from a hundred and five
to a hundred and ten or fifteen dollars, Hannah," he said; "it might
be even a little more; that would depend upon what is called the
price of gold. A guinea would be worth something over five dollars in
American money at any time, sometimes more, sometimes less, but
always beyond the five. Why?"--knowing of the secret fund for future
expenses, the story having been told to him by his nephews,--"have
you gold of which you wish to dispose? If so, I will do my best to
sell it for you at advantage."
"No, thank'ee, sir," she answered. "I'm only fain to know what it
would fetch," and with another curtsey she was gone, not daring
either to wait for farther questioning or to ask the gentleman to
exchange her gold for her. Indeed, upon the latter point she had not,
hitherto, at all made up her mind. But now it seemed to her that it
was clearly intended that she should make the sacrifice.
"Seems as if it was a callin' of Providence," she murmured to
herself, as she slowly and thoughtfully mounted the stairs and
returned to the nursery; and had any one known the circumstances he
might have seen that the old nurse's resolution respecting that gold
was wavering; "seems as if it was a callin' of Providence. 'Twould
just be a little more than the poor boy needs--oh, will he never
learn to say no when it's befittin 'he should!--just a little more,
and it do seem as if it were put hinto my 'ands to do it. An' I
s'pose I might believe the Lord will take care of them banks and
railroads an' things where the master 'as put what he's hinvested for
me. I don't know as I put so much faith in this hinvestin', you never
know what'll come of it with the ups and downs of them things. Dear,
dear! if I 'ad it now there needn't be no trouble about Master Percy.
But"--feeling for the precious bag--"I think I couldn't rest heasy
in my grave if I 'ad the statoo of the queen 'erself hover me if I'd
let the child I brought up come to this disgrace an' 'im the puny,
weakly baby he was, too, when I took 'im, the fine, sturdy lad he is
now if he is maybe a bit too soon led hastray. But what can you
hexpect of a lad when he's kept hunder the way hour boys is. An' he's
not a bad 'eart, 'asn't Master Percy, an' maybe he might put up a
monyment and a hepithet 'imself for me if he did but know I'd done
that for 'im. It's a risk, too; Percy's no 'ead on his shoulders, an'
I might be left with no tombstone an' no hepithet."
To one who knew Hannah it might have been easy to see which way the
balance was likely to turn; that cherished gold was sure to be taken
for Percy's rescue from the difficulty he was in; but she persuaded
herself that she had not yet made up her mind about the matter.
Meanwhile Lena was fretting herself ill over the terrible secret
which she imagined she shared with no one in the house; turning over
and over in her mind all manner of impossible devices for the relief
of her scapegrace brother. Not for one instant would she entertain
the thought of applying to her uncle in accordance with his
indelicate suggestion; and her father and mother were, to her mind,
as well as to Percy's, utterly out of the question. No idea of
applying to them entered her head. The change in her, her troubled,
worried expression, the almost hunted look in her beautiful eyes made
her uncle and aunt extremely anxious, especially as they could find
no clew to the cause, for they knew nothing of the letter from Percy.
The child wrote to her brother and told him that she could see no way
of procuring the money for him, for she _would not_ apply to
their uncle; but she would try and contrive some means of helping
With the heedless _insouciance_ which distinguished him, or
rather with the selfish facility with which he threw a share, and a
large share, of his burdens upon others, he had comforted himself
with the thought that Lena would surely contrive some way of helping
him; would, in spite of her declarations to the contrary, apply to
Colonel Rush, guarding his secret, and taking upon herself all the
weight and embarrassment of asking such an unheard of favor. But
although he did strive to be hopeful, he had times of the deepest
despondency and dread, when he looked his predicament fully in the
face; and he felt it hard that Lewis, who, after all, had been the
chief offender, should be, as he in his careless way phrased it, "all
right" at what seemed to be so little cost to him, while he, Percy,
was under this cloud of apprehension and uncertainty.
Harley Seabrooke was not hard-hearted, although he was determined
that the two boys should make full restitution, and justly so, and he
could not but feel sorry for Percy when these fits of despair
"Neville," he said to him one day, "have you written to your parents
about this matter?"
"To my father and mother! oh, no!" answered Percy, looking dismayed
at the bare idea of such a thing; "Oh, no, of course not. How could
"It seems to me," said Harley, eying the boy curiously, "that such a
thing is the most natural course when one is in such a difficulty.
Certainly it must involve confession, but they would be the most
lenient and tender judges one could have. Why not make a clean breast
of it, Percy, and have it over? You hardly, I suppose, can obtain
such a sum of money except by application to them; or have you some
other friend who will help you?"
"I have--I did--I mean I will," stammered Percy. "I have asked
and--and--I know I must have it somehow."
He looked so utterly depressed and forlorn that Harley's heart was
moved for him.
"If I were rich, Percy," he said, "if I could in any way afford it, I
would not insist upon such early payment of my loss; but it is only
just that you should make it good. You did not know what you were
doing, it is true, the extent of the injury to me; but you had
suffered yourself to be tempted into wrong by a boy much worse than
yourself, and you meant to play me a sorry trick, which has recoiled
upon yourself. That money, the check you destroyed, I had received
from a publisher for a piece of work over which I had spent much time
and which I had devoted to a special purpose. I have a young sister
who has a wonderful talent for drawing and painting, is, in fact, a
genius; and her gift ought to be cultivated, for we hope it will, in
time, be a source of profit to herself and others; but my father is
a poor clergyman, and all of us try to do what we can to help
ourselves and one another. You know on what terms I am here; and it
is only through the kindness of Dr. Leacraft that I enjoy the
advantages I do; and of late I have been able to earn a little by
articles I have written for papers and magazines. This two hundred
dollars I had received for a little book, and I intended it should be
the means of giving my little sister at least a beginning of the
drawing lessons which would be of so much use to her. You may judge
then if I do not feel that I must have it back, and that without
farther delay. I am sorry for you, but I cannot sacrifice my sister."
Seabrooke was regarded by the boys as unsympathetic, cold, and stiff
in his manner--perhaps he was somewhat so--and as he seldom spoke of
himself they knew little of his affairs or of his family relations;
and he was also considered to have a rather elderly style of talking,
unbefitting his comparatively few years.
Percy's manner, which had been rather sullen and listless when the
other began to speak, had brightened as Seabrooke went on; and when
he mentioned his sister, his face lighted with a look of interest
which somewhat surprised his senior.
"What is your sister's name? Gladys?" he asked.
"Yes," answered Harley, surprised at the question. "Do you know her?"
"Yes--no--my sister and some other girls I know, know her," said
Percy; and then followed the story of the meeting in the church and
of the interest taken in the young artist by Lena, Maggie and Bessie.
"So it was your friends and relatives, then, who sent the check for
the church to my father, and the Christmas box to my sister?" said
Seabrooke, feeling much more inclined to forgive Percy than he had
felt since the destruction of his letter.
"I don't know anything about a check," answered Percy, for Colonel
Rush had not mentioned that little circumstance to the junior portion
of his family, "but I do know that the girls sent your sister a
Christmas box, for I helped to pack it myself, and they are all agog
about some prize they hope to win among them, a prize which will give
them somehow, an artist education, which they can give to some girl
who needs it. I don't know exactly how it is, only I do know they are
all just agog about it, and they want it for your sister Gladys, at
least for a girl of that name. But I believe I ought not to have
spoken of that; it is only a chance, you know; there are ever so many
girls to try for the prize, and our girls may not gain it."
"And my sister don't want the chance," said Harley, the stubborn
pride which was one of his characteristics, up in arms at once. "We
may be and are poor, but we will not ask for charity."
"Well, you needn't be so highty-tighty about it," said Percy, taking
a more sensible view of the matter than his older companion did.
"_I_ don't call it charity, and if it is, it comes from somebody
who is dead, so one needn't feel any special obligation to the girls.
It is only that they earn the right to say to whom the gift shall go;
they don't _give_ it. And," he added, with his usual happy
faculty for saying the wrong thing, "I don't see why you should be so
stiff about it when you yourself"--he paused, seeing by the dark look
which came over Seabrooke's face that he had touched upon a sore
"You would say," said Harley, stiffly, "when I accept favors from Dr.
Leacraft for myself; but you will please remember that I, at least,
give some equivalent for my tuition, so I am not altogether a charity
scholar. And it is my object to provide for my sister myself, and I
still insist that you shall pay me what you owe me, Neville. If your
friends earned forty scholarships for Gladys, that would make no
difference in my just demands."
"Nobody asked that it should!" exclaimed Percy, flying into one of
the rare passions to which his amiable, easy-going nature would
occasionally lapse under great provocation, "nobody asked that it
should; and you are"--and here he launched into some most
uncomplimentary remarks, and then dashed from the room, leaving
Harley to feel that he had made a great mistake, and missed, by the
insinuation that Percy fancied he would abate his demands for
restitution, an opportunity of influencing the boy, who was easily
led for either good or evil.
The result of this was, on Percy's part, another frantic appeal to
Lena to find some means of helping him before Easter, that Seabrooke
was very hard on him and determined not to spare him.
This letter would never have reached Lena had it not been delivered
into the hands of Colonel Rush, who met the postman at the foot of
his own steps, and took this with others from him. For Hannah,
following out her policy that the end justified the means, and
undeterred by the scrape into which Percy had brought himself by
means somewhat similar, kept on the watch for letters for Lena,
determined to hide and destroy any which should come from Percy.
She fancied that she had not yet made up her mind to the course she
would pursue; but she really had done so, though the faithful old
nurse clung till the last moment to the cherished gold, with a faint
hope that something might yet chance to save it.
The colonel went up to pay a little visit to Lena, and came down
looking rather perturbed and anxious.
"That child continues to look badly," he said to Mrs. Rush, "and she
appears to me to have something on her mind. Do you think it is
possible, now that Russell is better?"
"I am sure of it," answered his wife, "sure that something is
troubling her very much, and I was about to speak of it to you. She
is such a reticent, reserved child, that I did not like to try and
force her confidence, although I have opened the way for her to give
it to me if she chose to do so."
"I brought her a letter from Percy yesterday," said the colonel, "and
when I handed it to her, she flushed painfully and seemed very nervous,
and I noticed that she did not open it while I was in the room. I
wonder if he is in any trouble."
Mrs. Rush shook her head. She had not even noticed this, and had no
clew whereby she might guess at the cause of Lena's depression; but
"I am going to send for Maggie and Bessie to come and spend the day
with her. She is able, I think, to have them with her, and they may
brighten her a little."
No sooner said than done; the colonel, always glad of any excuse for
bringing these prime favorites of his to his own house, went for them
himself, and finding them disengaged, this being Saturday and a
holiday, brought them back with him.
He had the pleasure of seeing Lena's pale face light up when she saw
them, and soon left the young patient with her two little friends to
work what healing influences they might.
Now, although Lena was very fond of both these girls, Bessie was her
special favorite, perhaps because she, being less shy than Maggie,
had been the first to offer her sympathy and comfort at the time when
Lena had been left at her uncle's with her heart wrung with anxiety
and distress for her brother Russell who was then very dangerously
And Bessie was now quick to see that something was wrong with Lena.
Maggie saw it too, but shy Maggie, unless it was with some one as
frank as herself, could not seek to draw forth confidences. But, with
her usual considerate thoughtfulness, she did that which was perhaps
better; she presently withdrew herself to the next room with Elsie
and little May and amused them there, so that Lena might have the
opportunity of speaking to Bessie if she so chose.
But not even to Bessie would or could Lena confide the story of
Percy's misdoing and its direful results, longing though she might be
for her sympathy and advice. Lena knew Bessie's strict
conscientiousness, which was almost equalled by her own, and she knew
also Bessie's complete trust in her parents, and how in any trouble
her first thought would be to confide in them in full faith that they
would be only too ready to lift the burden from her shoulders.
No, Bessie was not like herself; she had no dread of her father and
mother, nor had any of the children in that large and happy family;
and it would have seemed unnatural to them to have any such fears.
But there was a question which had been agitating her own mind which
she meant to ask Bessie and hear her clear, straightforward views on
the matter; for Lena feared, and justly, that her own wishes might
have too much weight with her own opinion, and she dared not yield to
these for fear of doing wrong.
"Lena, dear," said Bessie, "is your brother Russell worse?"
"No," answered Lena, "he is improving every day now, mamma says."
"You seem rather troubled and as if something were the matter," said
Bessie, simply, but in half-questioning tones, thus opening the door
for confidence if Lena wished to give it.
"I would like to ask you something," said Lena, wistfully. "You
remember the checks papa and Russell sent me?"
"Oh, yes, of course," answered Bessie. "How could I forget them?"
"Do you think," said Lena, slowly and doubtfully, "that if a person
who was not a poor person was in great trouble, it would be quite
right to use some of that money to help them out of their trouble?
You know papa and Russell say I may use it for any charity I choose.
Do you think it would be called charity to do that when the person
was in trouble only because he had been--had done very wrong?"
"I don't know. I don't quite understand," said Bessie, quite at sea,
as she might well be, at such a vague representation of the case. "I
suppose," thoughtfully, "that it might be right if you felt quite
sure that your father or brother would be willing."
"But they would not be--at least--oh, I do not know what to think or
what to do," exclaimed poor Lena, breaking down under the weight of
all her troubles and perplexities.
"I can't tell what to say unless I know more about it," said Bessie,
taking Lena's hand; "but, Lena dear,"--approaching the subject of
Lena's relations with her own family with some reluctance, "but, Lena
dear, if you do not want to ask your father and mother, why do you
not ask Uncle Horace? He is so very nice and good, and he knows about
But before she had finished speaking she saw that the suggestion did
not meet the case at all.
"Uncle Horace! Oh, no!" ejaculated Lena, "that would be worse than
all! Oh, if I could only tell Russell!"
"Why do you not?" asked Bessie.
"It would make him ill again; it might kill him," answered Lena, more
excitedly than ever. "Tell me what it is right to do by myself,
"How can I, dear, when I do not know what it is?" said the troubled
and sympathizing Bessie.
Lena looked into the clear, tender eyes before her own, and her
resolution was taken; although, knowing, as she did, Bessie's almost
morbid conscientiousness and her horror of anything small, mean or
tricky, she knew that she would be terribly shocked when she heard
the source of the trouble; but she _must_ tell some one, must
have a little advice.
"I want to tell you, Bessie," she said, falteringly, "but you will
not tell any one, will you? Not even Maggie?"
"No. Maggie is very good about that, and not at all curious," said
Bessie. "I couldn't keep a secret of my own from her; but some one
else's she would not mind. But mamma--could I not tell mamma?"
"Oh, no," said Lena, "no! _Must_ you tell your mother
everything--things that are not secrets of your own?"
Bessie stood thoughtful for a moment.
"No," she at last answered, a little reluctantly. "If mamma knew it
would be a help to some one to have me keep a secret, I do not think
she would mind; for mamma has a good deal"--of confidence in her
children, she would have added, but checked herself with the thought
that Lena enjoyed no such blessing, and that she was presenting too
forcible a contrast between her own lot and that of her little
friend, and she hastily substituted, "a great deal of good sense for
her children. But, Lena dear, you do not know how well my mamma keeps
a secret, and how she can help people out of trouble."
"No, no!" said Lena again, "I couldn't let her know. He wouldn't like
it; he would never forgive me," she added, forgetting herself.
Light flashed upon Bessie.
"Lena, is it Percy?" she asked.
"Yes," faltered Lena; and then followed the whole story; at least,
the whole as she knew it, so much as Percy had revealed to her.
Bessie was indeed shocked, perhaps even more at the contemptible
selfishness and weakness which had led Percy to throw the burden of
this secret upon his young sister, and to appeal to her for help,
than she was by his original fault. Her own brother Harry was noted
for his chivalrous gallantry to girls; so much so, that it was a
subject of joke among his schoolmates and companions; and Fred,
although known as a tease, was quite above anything small or petty,
and would have scorned to ask such a thing as this from any girl,
especially from one who was weak and ill, and but just coming back
from the borders of the grave. Bessie felt no sympathy whatever for
Percy, but more than she could express for the innocent Lena; and her
indignation at the reckless brother found vent in terms unusually
emphatic for her.
But, alas for Lena! Bessie could see no way out of the difficulty
more than Lena could herself. In spite of her ardent wish to do this,
her upright little soul could by no means advise or justify for this
purpose the use of any part of the sums put by Mr. Neville and
Russell into Lena's hands.
"For you know, dear Lena," she said, "your father and brother said
for charity, didn't they? And Percy is not a 'charity.'"
"No," answered Lena, with a pitiful, pleading tremor in her voice,
"but papa said I could use it for any good object I chose. See,
Bessie, here is his letter, and that is just what he says."
"Yes," said Bessie, glancing at the lines in Mr. Neville's letter to
which Lena pointed, "yes; but Percy is not an 'object.' At least not
what your father means by 'any object.'"
"And he certainly is not good" she added to herself; then said slowly
again: "But, Lena, why don't you tell your brother Russell, when you
say he is so good and nice?"
But to this also Lena returned the most decided negative. No, Russell
must not be worried or made anxious and unhappy, no matter what might
happen to Percy or to the rest of the family. Russell must be spared,
at all hazards, and it was plainly to be seen that, distressed as she
was for Percy, his welfare was by no means to be weighed in the
balance against that of his elder brother.
Bessie, helpless as Lena herself, had no farther suggestion to offer,
and save that she now shared the burden of her secret with some one
who could sympathize, Lena had gained nothing by imparting it to her
little friend; and when Maggie returned, she found her looking as
depressed and anxious as before, while Bessie's sweet face also now
wore a troubled expression.
Maggie asked no questions; but when they were at home that evening,
Bessie said to her:
"Maggie, dear, I have to have a secret from you. It is not mine, but
Lena's, and she will not let me tell even you; and she will not tell
Uncle Horace or Aunt Marion or any of her people. And then again it
is not her very own secret, but some one else's, and it is a great
weight on her mind because she does not know what to do about it. And
so it is on mine," she added, with a deep sigh.
"I wish you could tell me," said Maggie; "not that I am so very
curious about it, although, of course, I should like very much to
know; but cannot you tell mamma, Bessie?"
"No," answered Bessie; "it seemed to me mamma would not mind if I
promised I would not tell even her, when Lena seemed to have such a
trouble and wanted to tell me. I can't bear not to tell her or not to
tell you; but I thought I would promise, because Lena is such a very
good girl and so very true, and she has such a perfectly horrible
mother. Maggie, every night when you say your prayers, do you thank
God that Mrs. Neville is not your mother? I do."
"Yes, and about a thousand times a day besides," answered Maggie.
"But, Bessie, could you help Lena in her trouble?"
"No," said Bessie, her face shadowed again, "and I do not see how any
one can help her, so long as she will not tell any grown-up person.
Not one of us children could help her."
Bessie was depressed and very thoughtful that evening, and so silent
as to attract the attention of her family; but to all inquiries she
returned only a faint smile without words, while to her mother she
confessed that she had "a weight on her mind," but that this was
caused by another person's secret which she could not tell.
Accustomed to invite and receive the unlimited confidence of her
children, Mrs. Bradford still treated them as if they were reasonable
beings, and on the rare occasions, such as the present, when they
withheld it, she was satisfied to believe that they had good and
sufficient reasons for so doing.
A BOX OF BONBONS.
If there was one of the two sisters who lay awake after the proper
time in the pretty room which Maggie and Bessie Bradford called their
own--a thing not of frequent occurrence, it was usually Maggie, when
she was revolving in her mind some grand idea, either as the subject
of a composition, or some of the schemes for business or pleasure
which her fertile brain was always devising. But on this night it was
Bessie who could not sleep for worry and anxiety over Lena's
perplexities. As a usual thing she was off to the land of Nod the
moment her head was on the pillow; but to-night she lay tossing and
uneasy until she thought the night must be almost gone. Then
suddenly, as a bright thought came to her--an idea which she thought
almost worthy of Maggie herself--she heard her mother in her own
"Mamma," she called, "is it almost time to rise?"
"Why, no, my darling," said Mrs. Bradford, coming in, "it is only
half-past ten o'clock. What woke you?"
"Oh, I have not been asleep at all, mamma," answered her little
daughter. "I thought I had been awake all the night."
"Oh, no," said Mrs. Bradford; "but it is certainly time that you were
asleep. Have you been troubling yourself, dear, over that secret?"
"I suppose that I have, mamma," answered Bessie; "but I have had a
very nice thought which I believe will help that secret, and I will
try not to be troubled about it any more."
And five minutes later, when her mother looked in again to see if she
were quiet, she found her sleeping.
"Papa," said Bessie, walking into the library the next morning, all
ready for school, and not seeing for the moment that any one was with
her father, "papa, are you going early to your office?"
Mr. Bradford was fond of a long walk on a pleasant morning, and would
occasionally start from home with his little girls on their way to
school, leave them at Miss Ashton's, and then proceed on his way down
town. They always considered this a treat, and he knew now that
Bessie hoped for his company in lieu of that of Jane, the
"I think that I shall do so that I may have the pleasure of escorting
two little damsels to school," he answered.
"Then perhaps I shall be fifth wheel to a coach that only needs
three," said a deep, jolly voice from the other side of the room; and
Bessie, turning, saw the tall form of her Uncle Ruthven standing
before one of the book-cases, in which he was searching for a book he
had come to borrow.
Her face brightened with a look which told that this "fifth wheel"
could never be _de trop_; and she sprung toward him with a
welcoming kiss and good morning.
Uncle Ruthven was mamma's dear and only brother, and a great favorite
with his young nieces and nephews, who thought this much travelled,
"much adventured uncle," as Bessie had once called him, a wonderful
hero, and the most entertaining of mortals. So Maggie was as well
pleased as Bessie when she heard by whom they were to be escorted to
school, papa and Uncle Ruthven forming as desirable a pair of
cavaliers as could well be imagined by any two little maidens.
But Uncle Ruthven was somewhat amused to see how Bessie contrived
that he should walk with Maggie, while she took Mr. Bradford's hand
and tried to keep him a little behind. Observing this, and rightly
conjecturing that she had something to say to her father, Mr. Stanton
obligingly drew Maggie on a little faster till they were sufficiently
in advance of the others to permit Bessie to make her confidences.
"Papa," said the little girl, as soon as she thought that her sister
and uncle were out of hearing, "papa, you know that you told me I
might begin to take music lessons after Easter?"
"I remember my promise quite well, dear, and you shall certainly do
so," answered her father. "You have been a dear, patient child about
those lessons, and you may depend now upon your reward."
Bessie had for a long time been anxious to take lessons upon the
piano; but her father and mother had thought it best to defer it, as
she was not very strong, and they had considered that her daily
lessons at school were sufficient for her without the extra labor
which music lessons and practising would involve. This decision had
been a disappointment to her, but she had borne it well, never
fretting and teasing about it, only looking forward eagerly to the
time when she might begin; and her parents now thought her old enough
"Well, I want to ask you something, papa," she said, coloring a
little, but throwing back her head to look up into his face with her
clear, fearless eyes. "How much would it cost for me to take music
"Forty dollars a quarter is Miss Ashton's price, I think," answered
Mr. Bradford, wondering what this earnest little woman was thinking
"And two quarters would be eighty dollars--and twenty more would be a
hundred," slowly and thoughtfully said Bessie, who was not remarkably
quick at figures. "That would take two quarters and a half a quarter
to make up a hundred dollars, would it not, papa?"
"Yes," answered her father.
"Then," said Bessie, eagerly, "if I wait for my music lessons for two
quarters and a half longer, will you let me have the hundred dollars
they would cost, papa? I would rather have it; oh, much rather,
"My child," said her father, "what can you possibly want of a hundred
dollars? Have you some new charity at heart?"
"No, papa," answered the child with growing earnestness; "it is not a
_charity_, but it is for a secret--not my secret, papa,--you
know I would tell you if it was--but another person's secret. And
that person is so very deserving, anybody ought to be very glad to do
a kindness for that person, and she cannot tell anybody about
it--only she told me, and mamma knows I have a secret--and I do want
so very much to help her, and I think I would say I would never take
music lessons all my life to do it."
And more she poured forth in like incoherent style, pleading too,
with eyes and voice and close pressure of her father's hand.
Mr. Bradford was a lawyer of large practice and not a little note,
accustomed to deal with knotty problems, and to solve without
difficulty much more intricate sums than the putting of this two and
two together, and he could guess pretty well in whose behalf Bessie
was pleading now. He had heard during the past week of Lena Neville's
unaccountable depression and nervousness, and of her refusal to
disclose its cause; knew that his little daughters had spent the
previous afternoon with her, and that Bessie had returned from
Colonel Rush's house with "a weight on her mind," as she always
phrased it when she was troubled or anxious, and that even to her
mother and Maggie she had not confided the source of that "weight."
To Mr. Bradford, accustomed to the open natures and sweet,
affectionate ways of his own daughters, Lena Neville was by no means
an attractive child; but so far as he could judge, she was upright
and perfectly straightforward, and with no little strength of will
and purpose; and petted as she was by her indulgent aunt and uncle,
he could not believe that she had brought herself into any difficulty
which she could not confess, on her own account.
No; there must be something behind this; there must be some other
person whom she was shielding, and whom she and Bessie were striving
to rescue from the consequences of his or her own folly and
wrong-doing, and Mr. Bradford believed that he had not far to look
for this person. He had, even in the short period of the Christmas
holidays, when Percy had been much with his own boys, marked the
weakness of his character and the ease with which he was swayed for
either good or evil, according to the temptations or influences
presented to him; and he now felt assured that he had fallen into
some trouble and had appealed to his sister for pecuniary aid; and
that this must be very serious, Mr. Bradford rightly judged, since
Lena dared not apply to the uncle who was so ready to do everything
to make her happy and contented in his house.
And what to do now, Mr. Bradford did not know. It might not be best
that Percy--if it were indeed he for whom these two little girls were
acting--should be shielded from the consequences of his wrong-doing;
and in his own want of knowledge of the circumstances he could not,
of course, judge how this might be; but his pity and sympathy were
strongly moved for Lena; and she was, indeed, unselfish, little
heroine that she was, deserving of any kindness or relief that could
be extended to her. But to act thus in the dark was repugnant to him;
and his judgment and his feelings were strongly at variance as he
listened to Bessie's pleadings that she might be allowed to make this
"I must think this over for a little, my darling," he said; but when
he saw the disappointment in her face and the gathering tears in her
eyes, he felt that he could not altogether resist her, and he added,
"I think we shall find some way out of this difficulty; but are you
sure that this person has no grown friend to whom she could apply?"
"She thinks not, papa," answered Bessie,"_I_ think she could and
ought to, but she thinks not; and I feel quite sure you would let me
do this if you knew all the reasons."
"Mamma and I will talk the matter over, dear," said Mr. Bradford;
"and you are a dear, generous little girl, to be willing to do this;
for I know how much your heart has been set upon your music lessons."
"But my heart is more set upon this, papa; oh, quite, quite more
set," said Bessie, quaintly.
"We must hurry on now a little," said Mr. Bradford, giving an
encouraging pressure to the small hand within his own, "and you must
try not to worry yourself over this matter."
"What is in that little woman's mind? May I know?" asked Mr. Stanton,
when he and his brother-in-law had left their two young charges at
Miss Ashton's door and had turned their faces business-ward. "Or is
it of a private nature?" he added.
"Well, I suppose I may tell you what she asked; for if I yield every
one will know it, as she has talked so much of her music lessons,"
said Mr. Bradford; "and I will tell you my suspicions. I fear that I
am perhaps too much inclined to yield to her plea, while I am not
satisfied that it is wise to do so. But I am not sure that you will
be a very unprejudiced adviser," he added, knowing well that Uncle
Ruthven was generally of the opinion that it was well to yield to the
wishes of his favorite nieces, Maggie and Bessie.
Then he told of Bessie's proposal, and of whither his own suspicions
"The dear little soul!" said Mr. Stanton, "and these music lessons
have been the desire of her heart for the last two years."
"Yes for a longer time than that," said Mr. Bradford; "she is making
a real sacrifice in offering to give them up. Of course, there is no
necessity for her to do that; she shall have her music lessons. But
the question with me is whether it is well to work blindly in this
way, even for the purpose of relieving these two innocent children."
"I ask nothing better for my girls than that they may grow up like
yours," said Mr. Stanton, extending his hand to his brother-in-law.
But he offered no advice, expressed no opinion.
Many a time during his busy day did his little daughter's pleading
face rise before Mr. Bradford, and he found himself unable to resist
it, and resolved that he would cast scruples to the winds and tell
Bessie she should have the sum she had asked for. But although he
would not tell her this yet, she should not lose her much desired
lessons; she should begin them at the promised time, and they should
be his Easter gift to her.
Mr. Stanton found a little private business of his own--quite
unexpected when he left home--to attend to after he parted from his
brother-in-law at the door of his office, a little business which was
attended with the following results.
Mr. Bradford reached home that afternoon, and entering the door with
his latch-key was just closing it behind him when Bessie came flying
down the stairs and precipitated herself upon him like a small
whirlwind, followed by Maggie in a state of equal excitement and
making like demonstrations.
"Spare me, ladies," he said, when he could speak; "with your kind
permission I should wish to take farewell of the remainder of my
family before I am altogether suffocated. Might I ask the cause of
this more than usually effusive greeting?"
The answer to this was continued embraces and caresses from both his
captors, a series of the little ecstatic squeals Maggie was wont to
give when she was especially delighted with anything, and from Bessie
the exclamation of:
"Oh, you dear, darling papa! You needn't try to be anonymous, for we
know you did it! There was nobody else, for nobody else knew. We know
it was you; we know it!"
"If I might be allowed to take off my overcoat and to sit down,"
gasped Mr. Bradford.
Then he was released, and proceeded to take off his overcoat, while
the two little girls seized upon one another and went dancing about
the hall to the music of Maggie's continued squeals.
"Have I made a mistake as to my own house and found my way into a
private insane asylum?" said Mr. Bradford, pretending to soliloquize.
"It must be so, else why this wild excitement? These must be two of
the wildest and most excitable of the inmates. I must escape."
[Illustration: "HAVE I FOUND MY WAY INTO A PRIVATE INSANE ASYLUM?"]
And he made a feint of trying to do so, running into his library and
sinking into an easy chair where he was speedily held captive again
by two pair of arms piled one above the other about his neck, while
all manner of endearing epithets were lavished upon him.
"Thank you very much," he said at last, "for all these compliments,
but really I am ignorant why I am particularly deserving of them at
the present moment."
"Oh, you needn't pretend you don't know now, you sweet, lovely
darling," said Maggie, with a fresh squeeze and a kiss, planted
directly upon his right eye. "You have lifted the most dreadful
weight off of Bessie's mind. I don't know what it was, but I know
that she had one, and now it is all gone."
"And you did it in such a delightful way, too, papa," said Bessie;
"sending it in that lovely box of bonbons."
"Sending what--the weight?" said Mr. Bradford.
"Now, papa!" expostulated both at once. "You know what we mean, and
you needn't pretend that you don't," said Bessie. "No, you took away
the weight, and you're just too good for anything."
"If you would throw a little light, perhaps I could understand,"
answered her father; "but really, as it is, I cannot take credit to
myself for having lifted any one's burdens to-day, at least, not
"Oh, papa," said Bessie again, "you know you sent me what I asked you
for this morning in a box of Huyler's, all beautifully done up,
and--oh! I know you, papa--my name written on the parcel by some one
else, so I wouldn't know. But just as if I wouldn't know; it _could
not_ be any one but you, because no one else knew that I wanted
"Upon my word, this is very embarrassing," said Mr. Bradford. "I
should be very glad to be able to say that I had been so generous and
given so much pleasure; but I must disclaim the deed. Upon my honor,
as a gentleman, I know nothing of your box of bonbons or its
To tell the truth, he was really somewhat embarrassed, for he could
give a very good guess as to the donor of the gift, who, since he had
chosen to be "anonymous," must not be betrayed, and these very
interested inquirers were likely to put some searching questions
which it might be difficult to evade. To avoid these--truth compels
me to state--Mr. Bradford took an ignominious flight, for, saying
that he must hasten upstairs to dress for dinner, he put aside the
detaining arms which would have kept him till conjecture was
satisfied, and once more assuring his little girls that he had
absolutely nothing to do with the box of bonbons and its valuable
contents, and congratulating Bessie that her heart's desire was
attained, he hurried away to his own room. Here he found Mrs.
Bradford, who had thought, as did the little girls, that he had been
the one to relieve Bessie's mind by this means.
Discreet Bessie, and equally discreet Maggie, had neither one
betrayed the little circumstance of the gift to the former to the
general household, mamma alone sharing the secret, and even she did
not know for what purpose it was destined.
The two girls had been with their mother in Mrs. Bradford's
morning-room after they returned from school, when Patrick came to
the door and delivered "a parcel for Miss Bessie."
The nature of this parcel disclosed itself even before it was opened.
There is a peculiar distinctive air about such parcels which stamps
them at once as mines of delight, and Maggie had little hesitation in
pronouncing it to be "a monstrous box of Huyler's! Must be three
pounds at least!"
Uncle Ruthven--that which proved a mystery to Maggie and Bessie need
prove no mystery to us--was a generous giver, and when he did a kind
action it was carried out munificently; and the wrappings being taken
off and the cover of the box removed, a most tempting sight was
"There is a note to tell you who it is from," said Maggie, seeing an
envelope lying on the top of the bonbons.
But Maggie was mistaken, for the envelope contained no writing,
nothing to give, by words, a clue to the giver; but the candies were
forgotten when Bessie drew therefrom a new crisp one hundred dollar
bill. For a moment both she and Maggie stood speechless with
surprise; then the color surged all over Bessie's face, and clasping
her hands together she said, softly, but not so softly but that mamma
and Maggie did not catch the words:
"Papa, oh, papa! I know what that is for." Then turning to her
mother, she said: "It is my secret, mamma; that is, that other
But mamma and Maggie, although in the dark and much puzzled about all
this mystery, rejoiced with her in the relief which was evidently
afforded by this gift, the removal of the "weight;" and Maggie was
quite as ecstatic over papa's goodness as was Bessie herself.
And nowhere was papa disclaiming all knowledge of the gift, at least
disclaiming all responsibility therefor. The mystery thickened for
all concerned. Who could have known, thought Bessie, how very much
she wished for this sum of money?
But how to convey this money to Lena was now the question with
In her innocent simplicity she believed that she had not disclosed
the identity of the person whose secret she was bearing, that this
was still unsuspected by her parents and Maggie, to whom she had
confided that the secret existed. Mystery and management and all
concealment were hateful to her; and as has been seen, she was no
adept at them, and she now felt herself much nonplussed. If she asked
to go to Lena, or to send the money to her, suspicion would be at
once aroused, and loyalty to Lena forbade this.
Moreover, judging not only by herself, but also by what she knew of
Lena, she feared that the pride and independence of the latter would
rebel, even in such a strait, against receiving pecuniary aid from
one who, until a few short months ago, had been a stranger to her,
and she would spare her if possible.
Then suddenly an idea occurred to her which removed, at least, the
latter difficulty. Why not make use of the very way in which this
well timed gift had come to her and send it to Lena anonymously? No
thought of keeping it or converting it to her own use had for one
instant entered Bessie's mind; to her it seemed Heaven-sent, and as
if destined for the very purpose for which she had been longing for
it. To the bonbons she felt that she could lay claim for herself and
her brothers and sisters, but for her own part she could not really
enjoy them until the more valuable portion of the contents of the box
was on its way to its destination.
After some thought and planning about the method of accomplishing
this, she carried an envelope to Jane, the nursery maid, believing
rightly that Lena would not recognize her handwriting, made her put
Lena's address upon it, and then privately enclosed therein the
precious hundred dollar note; and the next morning on the way to
school with her own hand she posted it in the letter-box on the
nearest corner. Lena was not to know whence or from whom it came.
She never thought of any risk in sending it in this unprotected
manner; but happily it fell into honest hands throughout the course
of its journeyings and safely reached those for which it was
The relief that it was to Bessie to have this accomplished can
scarcely be told.
"Oh!" she said to herself, "I'll never, never, never again let any
one tell me a secret which I may not tell to mamma and Maggie,
The concealment and the management to obtain her object without
revealing it had been more of a cross to her than can well be
imagined, unaccustomed as she was to anything of the kind.
Hannah had asked for "a morning out;" a request which greatly amazed
her temporary mistress, Mrs. Rush, inasmuch as the old woman had no
friends or acquaintances in the city, and was possessed of a
wholesome dread of the snares and pitfalls with which she believed it
abounded, and even when out with her charge would never go without an
escort beyond the park on which Colonel Rush's house fronted and
whence she could keep it in view.
But permission, of course, was granted, and Hannah, after
ascertaining that a banker's office was the proper place to exchange
her precious gold, sallied forth with it, having finally resolved to
sacrifice it for Percy's relief without further delay, as Easter was
drawing near and the time of reprieve was coming to a close.
It would take too long to tell of the trials and tribulations she
encountered on her way to her destination. She consulted every single
policeman she met, and then had so little confidence in their
directions and advice that she still felt herself hopelessly
bewildered and at sea in the business streets of the great city;
while whenever she was obliged to cross among the trucks,
express-wagons and other vehicles, she felt as if there would be an
immediate necessity for the epitaph. As may be supposed, she afforded
no little sport to the guardians of the peace, but they were, on the
whole, kind and considerate to her and often passed her on from one
But at length, unshielded for the time by any such friendly
protection, she stood at the corner of the greatest and most thronged
thoroughfare and one almost equally crowded which intersected it, and
vainly strove to cross. The policeman on duty there was for the
moment engaged with a lost child and had no eyes for her.
She made several frantic dives forward; but the confusion of wheels,
horses' heads and shouting drivers speedily drove her back to the
sidewalk after each fresh essay; and she was beginning to be in
despair when she felt herself spasmodically seized by the arm, and a
terrified voice said in her ear--no, not in her ear, for Hannah's ear
was far above the diminutive person who had clutched her, and whom
she turned to face,--
"Don't! don't! You'll be run over--yes, over--over indeed! Wait for
the policeman--yes, policeman--'liceman, indeed!"
Hannah's eyes fell upon a very small old lady, attired in a quaint,
old-fashioned costume, with little corkscrew curls surrounding her
face, and carrying a good-sized leather satchel, while her every
movement and word betrayed a timid, nervous, excitable temperament.
"Don't, don't!" she reiterated, "you'll be crushed--yes, crushed,
indeed, crushed; that horse's head touched you, head--indeed--yes,
head. What a place this city is--city, indeed, yes, city. Why did I
come back to it, back, yes, back?"
There are some who may recognize this old lady, but to Hannah she was
an utter stranger, and she gazed upon her in surprise. She was
generally very offish and reserved with strangers, but now a common
misery made her have a fellow-feeling for the little oddity, and she
Seizing the hand of the woman, whom she could almost have put into
her pocket, she drew it through her arm, and said:
"Ye may well say it; what a place hindeed! But hover I must go some
ow, so come on, ma'am. If so be we're sent to heternity, we'll go
together, an' I'll see you safe through it."
But, apparently, the prospect of going to eternity at such short
notice and under such doubtful protection was not pleasing to Miss
Trevor, and she shrank back from the thronging dangers before her.
But now came the policeman and escorted the two women, both large and
small, through the terrors which had beset them, landing them safely
on the other side of the street.
Hannah's eye had recognized the lady even beneath Miss Trevor's
shabby black dress and strange manner, and she now turned to her with
"Which way are you bound, ma'am? If so be your way's mine, we might
'old on together. There seems to be pretty much men around 'ere, an'
I never did take much stock in men. Leastway honly in one or two,"
with an appreciative remembrance of Colonel Rush and her young
master, Russell Neville.
"I'm going to the banker's--yes--banker's--banker's--yes, going,"
answered Miss Trevor, still flustered and nervous, and forgetting, in
the distractions of the crowd, her usually besetting terror that
every one who addressed her or looked at her in the street was
actuated by purposes of robbery, and speaking as if there were but
one banker in the great city.
But Hannah was wiser.
"There be a lot of 'em I 'ear," she said, "an' I don't know which is
the best of 'em. What do you say, ma'am? Who be you goin' to, by your
"To Mr. Powers," answered Miss Trevor. "Powers, yes, Powers. A good
man and a kind--yes, man, indeed, man."
"Is he the kind of a one--a banker, I mean," said Hannah, "that would
give you a note for gold--golden guineas?"
Miss Trevor looked at her suspiciously for one moment. Was this a
trap? Was this friendly person, who was seemingly as much at sea as
she was herself in this wilderness of business streets and crowd of
business men, some swindler in petticoats, some decoy who would lead
her where she might be robbed of all she had about her that was
valuable, of the really precious contents of that shabby, worn
satchel? The bare idea of such a thing was enough to lend wings of
terror to Miss Trevor's feet; and she was about to dart away from
Hannah's side when the hand of the latter in its turn arrested her,
giving, if possible, new force to the fears of the old lady.
"What did I come for?" she ejaculated, "yes, come. I wish I was back
in Sylvandale--yes, Sylvandale, indeed, 'dale."
The name had a familiar--since the events of the last few days, an
unpleasantly familiar sound to Hannah, and she gave a little start.
"Sylvandale," she repeated; "do you know Sylvandale?"
But again her inquiry only provoked increased alarm in the breast of
Miss Trevor. She had heard of swindlers pretending to know of places
and people belonging to those whom they would victimize; and had not
Hannah's hold upon her been firm she would have wrenched herself free
Hannah repeated her question in a rather different form and with an
"Do you come from Sylvandale? And you maybe know Dr. Leacraft's
school? An' you maybe 'ave seen my boy, Master Percy Neville, my boy
that I nursed?"
Now it so happened that Miss Trevor had seen and marked Percy
Neville, and moreover that she had a very exalted opinion of the
young scapegrace. For she did live in Sylvandale, with a nephew who
had some years since persuaded her to give up teaching in the city in
Miss Ashton's and other schools, and to come to him and let him care
for her in her old age. The home she had gladly accepted; but she
possessed a spirit of independence, and insisted on giving such
lessons as she could procure. She had been fairly successful in this,
and had laid by quite a little sum, which she intended to leave to
this kind nephew. But while this money was in her own keeping, it was
a burden and a care to her, for she lived in constant dread of
robbers and of losing her little savings; therefore she had come to
the city to place it in safe keeping. Belle Powers had been her
favorite pupil while she taught at Miss Ashton's, the child having a
remarkable talent for drawing and making the most of the instruction
she received. Belle thought so much of her queer little teacher that
she had interested her doting father in the old lady, and he had
performed two or three small acts of kindness for her which her
grateful heart had never forgotten. Consequently she credited Mr.
Powers and Belle with every known virtue, and believed that she could
not possibly place her savings in any safer place than the hands of
that gentleman; and perhaps she was not far wrong.
But on her way to the city and to Mr. Powers' office she had been
warily on her guard for snares and pitfalls tending swindlerwise,
until she had fallen into the hands of Hannah. But her unworthy
suspicions of that good person were speedily put to flight by the
mention of Percy Neville's name.
Coming up the village street of Sylvandale one day, she had been
chased by a flock of geese, and as she was hurrying along as fast as
her age and infirmities permitted--anything in the shape of dignity
she had cast to the winds before such foes--she encountered some of
Dr. Leacraft's scholars returning from an afternoon ramble. Most of
them had laughed at the predicament of the terrified old lady, who
certainly presented a ridiculous sight; but Percy, pitying her
plight, and with a strongly chivalrous streak in his nature, had
made a furious onslaught on the geese, and presently turned the
pursuers into the pursued. Then he had picked up the ubiquitous
satchel which Miss Trevor had dropped in her flight, attempted to
straighten her bonnet which was all awry--she thought none the less
of him because his awkward efforts left it rather worse than
before--and escorted her quite beyond the reach of the hissing,
long-necked enemy, who seemed inclined to renew the attack were his
protection removed and the coast clear.
From this time Percy Neville was a hero and a young knight _sans
peur et sans reproche_ with Miss Trevor. She had inquired his
name, and maintained that it just suited him, and her wits had been
constantly at work all winter to devise such small gifts and treats
for him as she was able to procure. Many a basket of nuts and apples,
many a loaf of gingerbread, or other nice home-made dainty, had found
its way into Percy's hands, and had met with ready acceptance and
been heartily enjoyed by the schoolboy appetites of himself and his
companions. Percy always exchanged a cheery nod and smile with her
when he met her, or a pleasant word or two if he encountered her in
the village store or elsewhere.
And now she heard his name in terms of proprietorship and tenderness
from this woman who claimed to be his nurse; and she was at once
arrested in her attempt to shake her off.
"Master Percy Neville--Neville, indeed, Percy!" she exclaimed; "yes,
yes--oh, yes--the dear boy! Those other geese were after me--yes,
geese, indeed, chasing me down the sidewalk--yes, sidewalk, geese
they were--geese--and he came, the dear boy--came and shoo-ed them
away--shoo-ed them, yes, shoo-ed, indeed, shoo-ed."
And now she was quite ready to answer any and every question which
Hannah might put to her, and, so far as she was able, to put her in
the way of that which she was seeking. She confided her own purpose
to the old nurse, and Hannah was fain to tell her hers, at least so
much as that she was anxious to convert her gold into a bank-note
which she might send to Percy without exciting his suspicions as to
whence it came. Of course she gave no hint of his wrong-doing,
saying only that she wished him to have the money and that he should
not know the donor.
But, jostled and pushed about by the passers-by hurrying on during
the most busy time of the day, they could not talk at their ease
there on the sidewalk; and presently Hannah proposed retiring within
the shelter of the broad hallway of an imposing building, where the
two old innocents sat themselves down on a flight of stone stairs and
exchanged confidences. They exchanged more; for before the close of
the conference Hannah's gold, or the greater part of it, was in Miss
Trevor's satchel and a hundred-dollar note in Hannah's hands.
Hannah's arithmetic was much at fault, notwithstanding the
information she had gained from Colonel Rush on the subject of her
finances; and her unheard-of confidence in this utter stranger of an
hour since was further strengthened when Miss Trevor, with her
superior knowledge, made it clear to her that she was about to give
her too much gold in exchange for the bank-note.
Moreover, the odd little drawing-teacher, whom Hannah afterwards,
when some qualms as to her own prudence assailed her, characterized
as "hevery hinch a lady if she was that queer you'd think she'd just
hescaped the lunatic hasylum," removed another stumbling-block from
the path of the latter. She offered, if Hannah desired it, to carry
the money for Percy back to Sylvandale, and to see that it was safely
given into his hands; thus delivering the faithful old nurse from her
dilemma as to the means of conveying it to him. Having once lost some
money through the mail, she had also lost all faith in that, and
knowing nothing of the ways now afforded for sending it in safety,
she had been in some perplexity over this. And, will it be believed?
she committed it to Miss Trevor's keeping without other guarantee
than her word that Percy should receive it without knowing whence it
came. Hannah would readily have let the boy know that she had sent
it, for she was not disposed to hide her light under a bushel; but
she dared not, lest she should betray the dishonorable part she had
played in reading his letter to Lena and so discovering the
disgraceful secret. She was further satisfied, however, as to Miss
Trevor's good faith, after she had, at her request, accompanied her
to Mr. Powers' office. The name of Powers had not conveyed any
especial meaning to Hannah, although she did know that one of Lena's
classmates was named Belle Powers, and she had seen the little girl
once or twice; but when she entered the gentleman's office and
remembered that she had seen him at the Christmas party at Mr.
Bradford's and afterwards at Colonel Rush's, she at once set the seal
of her approval upon him as being "the friend of such gentry;" and
when Mr. Powers received Miss Trevor with great respect and
attention, and promised with many expressions of good will to carry
out her wishes, she plumed herself upon her sagacity in so
intuitively discovering the quality of the little old lady's
"hinches." It is true that these were few in quantity, but Hannah
believed that they were of the right material; nor was she far wrong.
But to make assurance doubly sure she stepped up to Mr. Powers at a
moment when Miss Trevor, intent upon securing the lock of her
satchel, had turned her back, and whispered to him:
"She's all right, isn't she, sir?"
"Oh, yes, yes; only a little odd, but quite herself; as sane as you
are," answered the gentleman, supposing that Miss Trevor's manner had
led Hannah to infer that she was insane.
"If she wasn't hall right I'd lose my buryin' and my moniment for
nothing," said Hannah, almost in the same breath; and Mr. Powers
stared at her, believing that she herself must be a candidate for the
lunatic asylum. Hitherto he had not paid much attention to her,
merely glancing at her as she came in, and supposing her to be Miss
Trevor's attendant; but at this extraordinary speech he scrutinized
her narrowly, wondering if she were quite in her right mind and if it
were safe to let Miss Trevor go about under her guidance.
Having transacted her business, Miss Trevor asked Mr. Powers
concerning Belle and some of her young friends whom she also taught.
And then, to Hannah's dismay, she asked him if he could tell her
anything of Mrs. Rush and her sister, Mrs. Stanton, names very
familiar to Hannah, and which she was not pleased to hear at the
present juncture. She would never have taken Miss Trevor into partial
confidence, would never have entrusted her with the mission to Percy,
had she known that the old lady was acquainted with members of the
very family in whose service she was, with the uncle and aunt of the
boy whom she was secretly striving to save from disgrace.
What should she do now? And here was Mr. Powers actually advising the
old lady to go up and see Mrs. Rush and her late pupils if she had
time to do so. Poor Hannah! she may almost be forgiven for the
dishonorable way in which she had contrived to possess herself of
Lena's letter, for the sake of her loyalty to and self-sacrifice for
her nurslings. Her chief thought now was less for her money than for
the risk of the discovery of Percy's secret by his relatives. She
must be very careful to keep out of the way of any one coming to
Colonel Rush's house, at least, for a day or two. She was in a very
bad humor now, this old Hannah, and as dissatisfied with the turn
matters had taken as but a short time since she had been well
pleased. She quite resented Miss Trevor's acquaintance with Mrs. Rush
and other friends of the Neville family, and her looks toward that
lady were now so glum and ill-natured that Mr. Powers could not fail
to notice them, and was more than ever beset by doubts as to her
perfect sanity. They were a queer couple, he thought, to go wandering
together through the distracting business streets.
When Hannah was worried she was cross, as has been seen; and now,
being thus assailed with doubts as to the wisdom of the course she
had pursued, she proved herself no agreeable companion, and laid
aside the respectful tone and manner with which she had hitherto
treated Miss Trevor, till the old lady began to feel uneasy in her
turn, and her manner and speech became more queer, jerky, and
confused than ever.
At last, when they reached the corner of the street, she grabbed the
arm of a policeman and in her broken, incoherent way, begged to be
put into a street car; and as one happened to be passing at the
moment, the request was complied with and Miss Trevor borne away
before Hannah had fairly realized that she had left her.
Poor Hannah! If she had been uneasy before, it may be imagined what a
state of mind she was in now. She stood watching the retreating
conveyance in a bewildered sort of way till it was almost lost to
sight among the crowd of vehicles; and then, with some vague notion
of pursuing Miss Trevor and demanding back her money, hailed another
car and entered it.
But after she was seated, sober second thought came to her aid, and
all the reasons she had before formed for trusting Miss Trevor,
returned to her, till she once more rested satisfied that the means
for Percy's rescue from the toils he had woven for himself were in
AN UNEXPECTED MEETING.
"Who do you think is going to win that prize of Mr. Ashton's?" asked
Fred Bradford of his sisters that day at the dinner table. "It is
coming near Easter, you know, and you must have some idea by this
"Why, Maggie, of course," answered Bessie, positively, for the
question was not one which admitted of dispute to Bessie's mind. She
gave no time for her sister to answer, and Maggie did not reply.
"You seem to be very sure of your position, little woman," said her
"Well, papa," said Bessie, still confidently, "Lena has not been able
to try for it, you know, since she was burned; and Gracie _will
not_ try. She says she don't want it, and she acts very queerly
and seems to have no interest about it at all."
"Perhaps she's ashamed of the way she behaved that day she had the
row with Lena," said Fred, who had heard the account of Gracie's
ill-behavior, not from Maggie and Bessie, but from some of "the other
fellows" whose sisters were members of the "Cheeryble Sisters."
Bessie shook her sunny head.
"No, I don't think so," she answered. "At least she has never said
so, and if she felt sorry enough to keep her from trying for the
prize, I should think she would tell Lena so."
"_You_ would, but not she," said Fred. "Catch Gracie Howard
eating humble pie. But you don't seem to have much idea of gaining it
"I!" said Bessie, opening wide her eyes in undisguised astonishment,
"why, no; I am not even trying for it."
"Well, it is too late now, as it is so near Easter," said Harry; "but
since the prize is for general improvement and not for any one
particular composition, I do not see why you should not have tried
and generally improved as well as the others."
"Well, I did try to do the best I could and to improve myself,"
answered Bessie; "but I did not think about gaining the prize. I know
"Catch Bess not doing her level best for conscience' sake, prizes, or
no prizes," said Fred. "Oh, I say, Bess, you are going to begin your
music lessons at Easter, are you not?"
The color flushed all over Bessie's face and neck as she answered,
after a moment's hesitation, "No, I am not, Fred; and no questions
"'No questions asked,'" repeated Fred, laughing, "but that is rather
hard on our curiosity, when you have been so wild for music lessons
for the last year or more. What have you been doing that they are
forfeited, for I know papa promised them to you after Easter?"
"I told you no questions asked," repeated Bessie, in a slightly
irritated tone, and looking very much disturbed.
"Hallo!" said the astonished Fred, taking these for the signs of
guilt. "Hallo! our pattern Bess has never been doing anything wrong,
has she? And so very wrong that--ouch! Hal, what was that for? I'll
thank you not to be kicking me that way under the table!"
For Harry had given him a by no means gentle reminder of that nature;
and now his father, too, came to the rescue.
"Let your sister alone, Fred," he said. "I can tell you that she has
done nothing wrong. She and I have a little understanding on this
matter; but she has forgotten that there is no necessity for doing
without the music lessons, and she is, I assure you, to have them.
But, as Bessie says, 'no questions asked.' We will drop the subject."
Bessie's soft eyes opened wide, as she gazed at her father in pleased
surprise. Although the money which had been devoted by her to Lena's
relief had not come through him, it actually had not occurred to her
until this moment that she would not be called upon to give up the
music lessons. She had made the sacrifice freely for Lena's sake, and
had had no thought of evading its fulfilment, even after
circumstances had turned out so differently from anything that she
She flashed a grateful, appreciative glance at her father from out of
the depths of those loving eyes, but said nothing; and, as Mr.
Bradford had decreed, the subject was changed. The father and his
little daughter understood one another.
Mr. Bradford did not, however, tell Bessie that he had never intended
that she should be obliged to carry out her sacrifice; she had
offered it unselfishly, and in good faith, and he would let her have
the satisfaction of feeling that she had been willing to do this for
her little friend.
Bessie was not sure whether or no she was in haste to see Lena and
hear from her of the providential gift she had received. She was so
little accustomed to conceal her feelings, to evasion, or to
affectation of an ignorance which did not exist, that she did not
know how she was to maintain an appearance of innocence when Lena
should tell her that which she would doubtless believe to be
surprising news; and more and more confirmed became her resolution
"never, never, never to have another secret" which she could not
share with her mother and Maggie.
But when she did see Lena--which was not until the latter had sent
for her to come to her--all difficulty on that score was removed, for
the news which her friend had to communicate to her was really so
extraordinary and unlocked for that she did not need to affect
surprise, or to feel embarrassed over her own share in the events
Lena had to relate. And the possibility of Bessie being the donor of
that sum of money never occurred to Lena. Perhaps she would have been
glad to know it, for Lena was a proud child, with a very independent
spirit, and in spite of the immense relief it was to her to be able
to free Percy from the difficulties in which he had involved himself,
there had been an uncomfortable feeling back of that from the sense
of obligation to some unknown person. Who could have sent her that
money? Who could have been aware of her extreme need of it?
There is small occasion to say that it had scarcely come into her
hands when it was sent again on its travels; this time to Percy.
The hilarious acknowledgment which immediately came back to her was a
relief in more ways than one, although she was half provoked at the
_insouciant_, devil-may-care-now spirit which it evinced.
"You're the dearest of little sisters, the brickiest of bricks! But
there is no need for me to rob you of your hundred dollars. You say
somebody sent it to you anonymously; well, the same somebody, I
suppose, has done the same good office for me, sent me a hundred
dollars. You say you don't know who it could be; why, it was Russell,
of course. You know he's just as generous as generous can be, and
since he came into his own money he can't rid himself of it fast
enough, but must always be finding out ways of spending it for other
people. And I don't see anything so strange in this way of doing it.
He knew the powers that be would make an awful row if they knew we had
all that money to spend at our own sweet wills, so he took this way of
sending it to us, so that we could keep our own counsel; and if they
do find out we have it, we can say we don't know where it came from.
It is a blessed thing they will never know that I had mine, at any
rate, or ask where it went. You may be sure it did not stay in my
hands long, but went into those of Seabrooke in five minutes. How I
did want to keep it too. But there, Seabrooke is paid, and I'm free
and no one the wiser; at least, no one that I'm afraid of, so no harm
is done. But to think I've had to lose that money for such a thing as
that. I suppose it was a shabby trick to play, and I tell you I think
I never heard anything quite so scurvy as Flagg putting that stuff
into Seabrooke's carafe to make him sleep, and I'm sure Seabrooke
feels more put out about that than he does about the letter, because
that was malice prepense, and the other was--well--an accident; at
least, we did not know the mischief we were doing, and we have made it
all right. But he can't get over the drugging, and I'm glad I had no
hand in it, for I do not know what the doctor will say to it. He is
not back yet; but his son is better, and he will be here when we come
after the Easter holidays. I'm rather sick of Flagg anyway; he has
mean ways, and our dear old Russell wouldn't tolerate him for a
moment, so I'll shake him off all I can when I come back to school.
I'll keep your hundred dollars till I come home, and hand it to you
then. You're a trump, Lena, and I never would have taken it if I could
have helped it. But I would have had to do it if this other hundred
had not come. And, do you know, there is one thing that puzzles me. It
came by post from New York in a hair-pin box, and done up in about a
thousand papers-at least there were six--so I suppose Russell sent to
some one in the city to do it for him; but the whole thing was awfully
womanish. The address was in the most correct, copy-book-y
handwriting, every point turned just so, every loop according to rule.
But it came just in the nick of time, and saved me and your money.
Bless your heart, how are the feet?
"Your own all the same everlastingly obliged brother,
Thankful as Lena had been to receive this letter, so annoyed was she
by Percy's indifferent, careless way of looking upon his own misdeeds
that she did not show it to Bessie; she was ashamed to do so,
knowing, as she did, Bessie's conscientiousness and strict sense of
honor and honesty. "All right now." Was this indeed all the
impression made upon Percy by his late peril, all the shame and
regret he could feel? Child though she was, and several years younger
than her erring brother, the ways of right and wrong were so much
clearer to her than they were to him, she had so much more
steadfastness of character and purpose.
"Now," she said, when she had told Bessie all, "now if I could only
find out who sent me that money and return it when Percy sends it
back to me. But you see, Bessie, I am not so sure that it was
Russell. It is not at all like the way he does things; he is never
mysterious or anonymous; and he is not at all afraid of papa or
mamma, and can do what he likes with his own money. He is very, very
generous, and always takes such nice ways of being kind to people and
giving them pleasure; and I do not think that this would be at all a
nice way of sending presents to Percy and me. Do you, Bessie?"
"No," answered Bessie, doubtfully, remembering her own way of
conveying to Lena the means of rescuing Percy,--"no--I--do not like
anonymousity very much; but I suppose there are times when one has to
"Um-m-m; no, I do not think so," said Lena, all unconscious of
Bessie's secret, and looking at her with surprise; for she knew
Bessie's ideas about underhand dealings to be as uncompromising as
But Bessie stuck to her point; she had known of a case where "to be
anonymous" was the best and only course to take, so it had seemed to
her, and she was not to be convinced that there were not times when
it was justifiable.
However, she was not anxious to dwell upon the subject, and soon
changed it. She knew that Lena's unknown friend was not her brother
Russell, and she was herself mystified about the other sum sent to
Percy; but, fearful of betraying her own part, she began to talk of
"Do you remember, Lena," she said, "that next Sunday is Easter
Sunday, and that Saturday is the day for Miss Ashton to name the one
who deserves Mr. Ashton's prize?"
"Yes," answered Lena, rather despondently, "but that cannot make much
difference to me, except that I shall be so glad if you or Maggie win
"Oh, Maggie will, certainly," said Bessie, secure in her belief that
no one could compete with her sister, now that Lena was supposed to
be out of the question and Gracie Howard had decidedly withdrawn from
the contest. "Maggie is sure to have it, and you know that she is
anxious for it so she can give it to Gladys Seabrooke, as you would
"I was thinking," said Lena, with a little hesitation, very different
from her usual straightforward, somewhat blunt way of speaking, "I
was thinking that you and Maggie praise me too much for wishing to
earn the prize for Gladys Seabrooke. I would like to be the one to
win it for her; but I think--I know--it is more for my own sake than
for hers. You know I told you I wished so much that papa and mamma
would think me so much improved by Miss Ashton's teaching that they
would wish me to stay with her; and they would think it a sign of
that if I did win the prize."
"Yes, I know," answered Bessie; "but I thought your father had
promised that you should stay with Uncle Horace and Aunt May, and go
to Miss Ashton's while you were in our country."
"Yes," said Lena, "but I want to stay here till I am quite grown up
and educated. I want papa and mamma to think that I am doing better
here, improving more than I have ever done before--as I am--so that
they will leave me till I am grown up and quite old. Uncle Horace and
Aunt May would keep me; Uncle Horace said he would like to have me
for his girl always."
Not even her opinion of Mrs. Neville as a mother, not even her
appreciation of the happiness of a home with her beloved Colonel and
Mrs. Rush could quite reconcile Bessie to the fact that Lena was not
only willing but anxious to leave her own home and family and to
remain in a country where she would be separated from them for years
to come; but nevertheless she felt a great sympathy for her and a
strong desire that this wish should be fulfilled. Still she could
not but have a little feeling of gladness that, according to her
belief, there was no one who could now compete with her own Maggie
for the prize; and she rather evaded the subject and took up that of
school-news until Maggie, who had come with Jane, the nursery-maid,
to take Bessie home, ran in.
She brought with her the papers read at the last meeting of the
"Cheeryble Sisters' Club," such papers being, at Lena's special
request, always turned over to her for perusal.
"Whose are these?" asked the young convalescent, when Maggie
delivered them to her.
"One is Bessie's, and it is poetry. Did you know that Bessie had
begun to write poetry?" said Maggie.
"Two poetesses in one family!" said Lena. "No, I did not hear that
Bessie wrote poetry too."
"And this is so sweet," said Maggie; "such a pretty idea. And this
paper is Lily's. Lily has given up the resolution that she would
never let her compositions be read in the club, and this is the
second one she has given us. It is good, too," she added. "And this
is another one from Frankie. He seems to think himself quite a
'Cheeryble Sister,'" she added, laughing.
"Can you not read them to me before you go?" asked Lena, and Maggie
"I'll read the best first," with a smile full of appreciative pride
at Bessie, "for fear Jane comes and asks me to hurry because she has
a million things to do."
And accordingly she unfolded one of the papers she had laid upon
Lena's table when she came in; but before she had time even to
commence it, Jane put her head in at the door with the usual formula.
"Miss Maggie and Miss Bessie, will you please come. I have a million
things to do, and ought to be at home."
"In a few moments," answered Maggie; but Jane added to her
persuasions by saying:
"And it's snowing, too; a snow kind of soft-like that'll be turning
into rain before long, and Miss Bessie'll get wet."
This moved Maggie, as the politic Jane knew that it would do, for it
was not expedient for Bessie to be out in the damp or wet; and when
she glanced out of the window and saw that the maid's words were
true, she lingered no longer, but laid the papers down again and told
Lena they must go; and Jane, congratulating herself that she had
gained her point so easily, was bearing away her young charge when an
The children were in Mrs. Rush's sitting-room, and just at this
moment she came in, accompanied by a little old lady, who will,
doubtless be immediately recognized by those who have met her before.
"Maggie and Bessie, you are not just going, are you?" said Mrs. Rush.
"Here is an old friend who would like to see you, at least for a few
"I think we must go, Aunt May," said Maggie, "for it is snowing, and
mamma would not like Bessie to be out." Then, turning to the little
old lady, "How do you do, Miss Trevor? It is a long time since we
have seen you."
"Time, indeed; time, yes, time," said Miss Trevor, shaking hands
warmly with both Maggie and Bessie. "And you've grown, yes, grown,
actually grown--why, grown!" she added, in a tone which would
indicate that it was a matter of surprise two girls of the ages of
Maggie and Bessie should grow. Then she put her head on one side and
critically scanned her quondam pupils, giving them little nods of
approval as she did so.
Maggie and Bessie were used to Miss Trevor's odd ways and manner of
speaking; but to Lena they were a novelty, as she had never seen her
before, although she had heard of her from her aunt and from her
schoolmates, who often made merry over the recollection of her
peculiarities when she had been their teacher in writing and drawing.
Presently she turned to Lena and surveyed her as if she were a kind
of natural curiosity; yet there was nothing rude or obtrusive in the
"My niece, Lena Neville, Miss Trevor," said Mrs. Rush. "Lena, dear,
this is Miss Trevor, of whom you have often heard me speak."
"So this is the little heroine," murmured Miss Trevor, "heroine, yes,
heroine, indeed. Fire, oh yes, indeed, fire; such courage, such
presence of mind, yes, mind, indeed, mind."
Lena was annoyed. She did not like allusions to the fire, to her own
bravery and her rescue of her little sister, even from those who were
near and dear to her; and from strangers they were unendurable to
her. She shrank back in her chair and half turned her face from Miss
Trevor, while the dark look which Mrs. Rush knew so well, but which
she seldom wore now, came over it.
She hastened to effect a diversion.
"Miss Maggie, if you please, it's snowing fast," said Jane, "and I've
"The young ladies cannot walk home in this wet snow," interposed Mrs.
Rush. "The carriage has gone for the colonel; when it returns it
shall take them home. And, Miss Trevor, it shall take you also. You
can go to the nursery if you choose, Jane."
So Jane, forgetting the "million things" in the prospect of a
comfortable gossip with old Margaret, departed to the nursery till
the carriage should return and her young ladies be ready to go.
Miss Trevor, who was at her ease with Mrs. Rush and her former pupils
of Miss Ashton's class if she was with any one, asked many questions
about the studies of the latter and of the progress they were making
in the two branches in which she had been their instructress, and
gave some information respecting herself; Lena listening and looking
on in wonder at her peculiarities of speech and manner, but taking no
part in the conversation.
But at last Miss Trevor turned to her again.
"Neville, you said, my dear Mrs. Rush,--your niece--yes, Neville,
indeed, Neville. Such a favorite with me--me, indeed, yes, favorite.
I know a boy, yes, boy--indeed, youth--such a fine youth--such a
hero--ro, indeed, ro--does not fear geese--hissing creatures, my
dears--yes, creatures, indeed creatures, my dears, yes, creatures,
indeed. Neville he is, yes, Neville--chevalier _sans peur et sans
reproche, 'proche_, indeed, _'proche_."
Now, as may be supposed, Lena was far from regarding her brother
Percy as a "chevalier _sans peur et sans reproche_." She had
little reason, in view of late occurrences, to do so, and she never
connected him with the heroic youth on whose praises this odd little
old lady was dwelling. She felt no interest in her, only a sort of
impatient surprise, and wished that her aunt would take her away.
Miss Trevor dwelt farther upon the episode of the geese and Percy's
coming to the rescue; and while Lena maintained a sober face, seeing
nothing especially funny in the story, Maggie and Bessie, and even
Mrs. Rush, had some difficulty in restraining themselves from
laughing outright at the tragic tale she contrived to make out of it,
and the thought of the droll spectacle the old lady must have
presented as she flew down the street, pursued by the hissing,
But presently Lena's attention was aroused.
"But are flocks of geese allowed to wander loose in the streets of
Utica, Miss Trevor?" asked Mrs. Rush. "I thought it was too much of a
place for that."
"Oh, no, my dear not Utica, no indeed, not Utica--did you not know?
We moved, yes, moved, a year ago, yes, 'go, to Sylvandale, yes,
Sylvandale--yes, 'dale," said Miss Trevor.
"Sylvandale! Neville!" said Mrs. Rush. "Lena has a brother at school
at Sylvandale. Percy Neville! Can it be that our Percy is your young
cavalier, Miss Trevor?"
"Percy Neville," repeated Miss Trevor, "yes, indeed, that is his
name, name, yes, name. Is it possible he is your brother?" turning to
Lena with a face now radiant with pleasure at this discovery. "Ah!
such a boy, boy, indeed, boy!"
Lena was interested now, and, perhaps a trifle uneasy, lest by any
possibility some knowledge of Percy's escapades should have come to
Miss Trevor and might by her be incautiously betrayed to Colonel and
Mrs. Rush. She turned rather an anxious eye upon the old lady,
wishing that she would not pursue the theme of Percy and his valorous
deeds, but not seeing very well how she could change the subject.
Words did not come easily to Lena.
And her fears were not without foundation, although Miss Trevor knew
nothing of Percy's troubles. Further and more startling revelations
were to come.
For just at the moment, to this assembled group, entered Hannah,
bearing in her hands a tray, on which was a cup of beef-tea for Lena.
She was close to her little lady before she perceived the stranger,
whom she would have shunned as she would a pestilence. The
recognition was mutual, and to Hannah most unpleasant, and in the
start it gave her she nearly dropped the tray and its contents.
"Merciful Lord!" she ejaculated, taken completely off her guard; but
the exclamation was far more of a prayer than an irreverent mention
of her Maker's name.
For was not her beloved nursling in danger? Her Master Percy, for
whom she had sacrificed so much, was he not in danger of betrayal and
disgrace in case this old lady should touch upon the subject of the
money confided to her care to be conveyed to him?
She was not gifted with presence of mind, and she stood perfectly
still, staring in undisguised perturbation at Miss Trevor.
Perceiving this, Miss Trevor believed that it was caused not only by
surprise at seeing her there when she had told Hannah that she
expected to return at once to Sylvandale, but also by the fear that
the money had not reached its destination in good time, and she
hastened to relieve her, thus bringing on the disclosures which
Hannah was dreading.
"Good morning," she said, kindly. "Your money has gone, yes gone, my
good woman, gone. I stayed in the city, yes, stayed, but the money
has gone. He has it, the dear boy, yes, boy, he has it."
It was not her money but her boy that Hannah was fearing for now, and
for whom she stood dismayed at the sight of Miss Trevor. Moreover,
although she knew her place, and generally treated her superiors with
all due respect, if there was one thing more than another which
exasperated her, it was to have any one call her "my good woman;"
and, hastily setting her tray upon the table, she looked daggers at
Miss Trevor, as she answered, snappishly:
"I wasn't askin' ye nothin', ma'am."
Then she turned and fled, desirous to avoid all questions, although
it was not Hannah's way to flee before danger, either real or
[Illustration: "I WASN'T ASKIN' YE NOTHIN', MA'AM."]
FRANKIE TO THE FRONT AGAIN.
It was the worst thing she could have done for her cause. It was her
custom to stand over Lena "till hevery drop of that beef-tea is
taken," knowing, as she did, that her young charge was averse to the
process; and, had she stood her ground she might have evaded or
parried questions, and perhaps have conveyed to Miss Trevor her
desire for secrecy; but her dark looks and sudden exit, evidently
caused by the presence of the latter, put the timid old lady into one
of her flutters.
"What is it, my dear?" she asked, turning to Mrs. Rush, and speaking
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