THE PURSE OF FORTUNATUS.
KATHIE knelt a long while at the side of her little bed, for she had such a great number of mercies to acknowledge. Uncle Robert would have smiled if he had heard the last clause, - that she might find everything true to-morrow morning. She was so happy and so excited that she could hardly go to sleep. How good and kind God had been to her, and to them all!
It seemed to Kathie that she had had just one little nap when she opened her eyes and found the sun shining. Mrs. Alston was hardly dressed.
" 0 mamma, is it true that Uncle Robert came home ? "
" Quite true, dear. And now if you will get up, for I have overslept myself."
Kathie was out of bed in a twinkling. She looked so merry and happy that Aunt Ruth fairly laughed. " I do feel as if I could n't hardly stay in my skin," she said, gayly. " It 's so odd and strange, auntie. I do really believe in fairies."
Kathie ran down stairs to wait upon her mother a little, then she came back and helped Aunt Ruth dress. By that time Uncle Robert's voice was heard, and he carried Aunt Ruth down in his strong arms.
" We did n't hear half last night," Rob began; " I 've been wondering how you. came home from Australia and found us out at last."
" We will have many a long talk about that, Rob," said his uncle. " I came to the conclusion, while I was in Australia, that you were all very happy and had forgotten about me. Now and then I used to write, always directing my letters to New York. When I was tired of Australia and satisfied with what I had made, I went to London. Putting my affairs in a good shape there, I decided to take a little trip through Germany and France. At Paris I met an old friend and learned for the first time that your papa was dead. This gentleman could tell me nothing more than that the family had gone to some country place; so I hurried back to London, and started at once for America."
" 0 Uncle Robert, Europe must be splendid! I wish I could go some time."
"Wish the fourth," said his uncle, laughing; "yet it may all be possible."
• " And when you reached New York how did you find Brookside? " asked Kathie.
" I started first to find where you had gone. Your papa's partner was dead also, and his family had removed to the South. I made inquiries everywhere among old friends, but no one could tell anything about you."
" I think we were wrong in dropping all our old friends," Mrs. Alston remarked; " but I felt so utterly disheartened, and found so much to do, that I neglected to correspond with any one. And I suppose most of our acquaintances had their own cares and interests, and so we faded from their minds."
The oddest part of the search was, that I found two Mrs. Frederick Alstons,-one living out on Long Island, and one in Connecticut. Then a lawyer friend, to whom I applied, searched the record and found the name of the town in which your mother had bought a little property, sold by Mr. Golder. I felt sure that time of being right, and came hither directly. At the hotel I made some more inquiries; and once on the way, when I met a little fairy-"
Kathie smiled at this.
"So I took your mamma and Aunt Ruth quite by surprise.
" Did they know you ? " asked Bob. "Aunt Ruth guessed first."
"I remembered his eyes and his voice," said Aunt Ruth; " but the rest of his face has changed altogether."
"And I remember his eyes," said Fred, anxious to be heard on the subject.
' Bob laughed heartily at this. "Does n't your memory date back to the flood, Freddy ? I 've observed that it is n't so good about more recent occurrences."
Freddy looked rather cross at this.
It was decided after breakfast that Kathie might stay at home, as Uncle Rob desired it very much.
" You 11 miss some fun," said Bob; " I mean to tell all the boys. 0, won't Lottie Thorne make big eyes ? I' 11 say that Uncle Robert is as rich as a Jew. I feel pretty sure that I' 11 have my boat."
" Charlie will be so glad," said Kathie, thoughtfully.
Uncle Robert spent most of the morning talking with Aunt Ruth in the parlor. Kathie assisted her mother cheerfully, though she could hardly bear to go out of his sight.
" 0 mamma," she said, " how very happy we shall be ! It is nice to have plenty of money."
"And as generous a heart as Uncle Robert possesses."
That was the great thing, after all; and Kathie hoped she would never be selfish or proud, no matter how much might come to her in the way of good fortune.
Uncle Robert asked her to take a walk with him presently, and she started off in a most delighted fashion.
"Now, Kathie, about the wish. Poor Aunt Ruth-"
" If she only could be cured! People are some- times."
"I think she can be helped very much. She has not been in circumstances to have very good medical advice. Some day she and you and I will take a trip to New York, and learn what can be done."
" Uncle Robert - " Then Kathie made a long pause.
" Well, my dear ? "
" I 'd like to know " - and the color deepened in her face - " how much money we could spend ? I don't want to be extravagant, - and we can be very happy with a little more."
" I think we can count on the purse of Fortunatus in a moderate way. I' 11 promise to keep a piece of gold in yours always. We 11 have a new house any- where you choose, and a servant as soon as we can find one. I wish we could do it this morning."
" 0 Uncle Robert! "
" My little girl, I mean to make you all as happy as possible. You are such a wise, prudent little body that I can trust you with this wonderful purse, and I' 11 be your prince to come and go at your bid- ding."
Kathie gave his arm a hug and glanced at him with eyes that looked the brighter for their tears.
" To have a pretty house, and if Aunt Ruth could be cured! Uncle Robert, it must be such a comfort to make people happy."
" Have n't you tried it on a small scale ? "
Kathie blushed. "But it has been such a very little."
" I have observed that the people who have a desire to do a little under difficulties generally man- age to keep their kind heart in prosperity. Riches bring us new cares) and we should strive for pure motives, also to be kept from too much pride and vainglory. No amount of fine and beautiful things do us any good if our hearts are not right."
"That is just what Miss Jessie says, Uncle Robert."
" I shall begin to be jealous of Miss Jessie."
" And that will not be right. Miss Jessie was so good to us while we were poor, and visited us, and- You must love her. Mamma and Aunt Ruth do." Uncle Robert laughed.
" Somehow I can't believe it at all," Kathie went on, after several moments' seriousness. " I was just becoming content with poverty, and learning what to do for mamma. Not but what I am very glad and thankful, still I seem a little afraid, as if it was only a dream."
" You need not have any doubts, Kathie. If you should grow up to womanhood as sweet and simple as you are now, you. will be able to do a great deal of good and make many people happy."
Kathie studied Uncle Robert's face for some time, then she said, gravely, " Do you always think of the good, uncle ? "
" I am trying now, Kathie. There was a time when I sought my own pleasure without reference to any other object, but I trust it will never be so again."
" And what made you think first ? "
" I was very sick once in Australia, and all alone. It's a hard place when one is not well enough to rough it through, for there every man cares for him- self, and never minds his neighbor. I thought I should die, and then I wanted God; so like the Psalmist I cried unto him day and night."
" And then - " There was a sweet, grave light in the child's eyes.
" Something very curious happened to me. An old miner, a man who had been an English convict, found me one day and nursed me back to life. It seemed to me just as if God sent him. And though he was n't what some people would call religious, there was an earnest, simple clinging to the light, an unusual sense of honor and honesty. Well, I recovered, and took the man in my employ. About a year after that he died, and in ministering to him I learned another lesson that I hope I shall never forget."
" What, Uncle Robert ? "
"Doing the good that comes right in one's way. Our Saviour must have meant this when he said, ' The poor ye have always with you.' So it is not worth while to look very far for work. But I think you have managed to find it as well, and I am glad that you have been such a comfort."
Kathie did not reply immediately. Uncle Robert saw that she was revolving some grave subject in her mind, and presently asked her what it was.
She smiled a little. " I wonder," she said, "if it is easy for people to be good ? "
" What has been your experience on the subject ? "
" 0 Uncle Robert, I've had to try very hard some- times when it almost seemed as if I did 'nt want to. I used to stay and play with the children after school. and though it appeared only a few moments to me, it was a great deal longer, and mamma wanted me at home. But some of the girls thought it was mean, and one day Charlie Darrell asked me why I was so queer ? "
" Did you. tell him ? "
" No, Uncle Robert; it does n't seem right to talk much about those things."
" The best example, Kathie, is a quiet one. Just as soon as we begin to parade our good deeds before the world they become a snare. I know it is hard not to be appreciated, but this comes in time. There's a higher reward than being seen of men."
Kathie gave Uncle Rob's hand a little squeeze.
" And now, Kathie, we will have a little talk about the new house. Do you like Brookside, or would you rather go to some other place ? I believe I have a great fancy for a little country town, and it does n't make any difference to mamma and Aunt Ruth, except that I think Aunt Ruth's health would be better in the country."
" 0, I don't want to go away," Kathie said, with a gasp. "I like all the girls so much, and Miss Jessie - "
" Then let us take a walk among the pretty places. I thought I saw some yesterday."
" Mr. Grayson lives in the nicest part of the town, I think, but-"
" But what ? "
"They 're very handsome," said Kathie, slowly, "with lawns and barns and carriage-houses." Then she glanced up at Uncle Robert, doubtfully.
" And cost a great deal of money, - was that what you were about to say ? "
Kathie smiled and colored.
"We will take a look at them, at all events. I expect you to grow up a young lady in this house, and I want it pretty and comfortable, with a good deal of room."
Kathie walked slowly along, revolving these things in her mind. She had thought only of moderate wealth, but such grandeur startled her a little. So she grasped Uncle Robert's hand tighter, until he looked down into the perplexed little face.
"What 's the trouble now?" he asked, cheerily.
" Not exactly trouble. Uncle Robert, I think you are very generous to come back and spend so much on mamma and the rest of us."
" If your father had lived, Kathie, it is not probable that you. would have known any want. He was beginning to be very prosperous when I went away, and he possessed a large, noble soul. I am going to take his place as far as I can. I want a pleasant home for myself, and I expect you to be my little girl, so I shall give you all the advantages in my power."
Kathie's eyes filled with tender tears. Looking around at the bright world on this sunshiny day, she thanked God softly for all his blessings.
" Here is Mr. Grayson's," she said, as they turned into a broad avenue, lined with wide-spreading elms.
Mr. Grayson's was certainly a very pretty country- house, roomy, with a large lawn sloping down to the street, a wide, vine-covered porch across the front and one end, a deep bay-window, and a profusion of handsome shrubbery.
" Very cosey and home-like. Now if we had such a house - "
" As handsome as that! " ejaculated Kathie.
" Quite as handsome "; and Uncle Robert's eyes had a merry twinkle in them, which showed how much he was enjoying Kathie's surprise.
"This is a lovely part of the town," he said, at length. "Over beyond is the river."
" Silver River, because it is so clear. That 's where Rob wants to go boating, but mamma does n't like to have him."
They went to the end of the street. Here the river broadened, making a pretty little lake. In fact it was only a slender arm connecting the lake with Guilford. River.
Just at this point, facing the lake, stood a rather deserted-looking mansion. The shrubbery around was luxuriant but untrimmed, the flower-beds had gone to weeds and grass the fall before, and presented a very untidy appearance.
" Does any one live here ? " "Uncle Robert asked.
" No. It belongs to a Mr. Tompkins, who had it rented out awhile. I believe some one died and left the place to him; but don't you think it 's dreary ? "
" It could be made very pleasant. If this space down to the lake was cleared and transformed into a lawn, - you see lying to the south would add a great charm. There are some noble old trees around. And this is n't very far from the depot, while it is quite removed from the manufactories. If it was touched with an enchanter's wand - You don't half believe in my unlimited powers, Kathie. When you come to find a piece of gold always in your purse - "
At this Kathie laughed.
" Here is Mr. Darrell's," she said, turning into another street. "It always seems so bright here."
" Suppose Miss Jessie was haughty and Charlie a disagreeable boy ? Is n't it the pleasant association that makes a place bright ? "
"I believe it is," she answered, thinking of the happy Saturday so long ago, when it seemed so hard to come away.
Going round by the school, they found that it was twelve o'clock, for the children were just being dismissed.
" How fast the morning has gone.' " Kathie re- marked, and then, looking over, she nodded gayly to the girls.
Bob ran across to them. "0, has n't it been jolly ! " he began. " I 've had lots of fun this morning, and I told Charlie that I thought I 'd. have a boat."
" Where 's Freddy ? "
" 0 the little lag-behind ! He 's somewhere."
Kathie looked as if she must go and find him. . But while she was debating he emerged from the crowd, and they all went homeward. Mamma had dinner prepared. Aunt Ruth had tied a ribbon in her soft hair and looked quite girlish.
"We will have to go out again this afternoon," Uncle Robert said to Kathie. " We must find mamma a servant, so that she will be a little more at liberty. And if there's a horse to be had we might take a drive."
Kathie's eyes sparkled.
" You 're having all the fun," exclaimed Bob.
" There will be a good many days in which to have fun," rejoined his uncle.
They had a long, serious talk after dinner. The house was altogether too small, even if there had been no other fault, so Uncle Robert proposed that they should have a new one as soon as possible. He had hosts of traps in New York and wanted a place to accommodate them. If no one lived in the Tompkins house, that might be purchased and re- arranged to their liking. They drove past it and took another look. It was rather pretentious. A two-story bay-window, and one corner of the house built up in turret fashion with a cupola on the top.
" There must be plenty of room," Uncle Robert said, and that was just what they wanted. The apartment on the second floor containing the bay-window should be Aunt Ruth's, on account of the nice southern outlook. And they would all go in there to spend their evenings.
" Something of an air-castle until we learn whether it will be sold or not," he went on, with a smile; " but as Kathie is fond of the fairy element in real life, we will not mind."
They found a servant who promised to come the next day, and went home quite well satisfied.
" Now for the purse," Uncle Robert said in the evening, producing a gold piece; but Kathie laughingly confessed that she had never owned one.
" Then Aunt Ruth must lend you hers. Now, here is a veritable purse of Fortunatus, and it is never to be empty."
" Can't I have one too ? " said Fred.
" I 'm afraid you and Rob do not understand the mysteries of fairydom quite so well," he answered, with a comical face.
" But, Uncle Robert, I 'm afraid I shall never have a chance to spend it."
" Then it will never be empty," explained Rob.
"That is n't in the bargain," said his uncle. " Kathie and I know how to manage, I think."
Kathie went to sleep dreaming of her gold piece that was never to fail. Had she really been transported to fairy-land ?
AN ENCHANTED COUNTRY.
THERE was a great time at school the next day. Kathie was besieged on every hand. Was it really true that her uncle had come home, and was he ever so rich ? Were they going to live in New York, and keep a carriage ?
Mary Cox gave her a warm squeeze. "I'm so glad," she said, " though I could n't love you any better if you owned the whole world."
""Was n't it queer that man should be your uncle ? " asked Lucy Gardiner. " Don't you feel a little afraid of him ?"
" 0, he has such a great beard! "
Kathie laughed gayly. " He 's just delightful," she said.
" And I suppose you will have lots of beautiful dresses," was Lottie Thorne's comment.
Kathie had n't thought of that, and she felt as nice in her pink gingham as if it had been silk.
Just after school was dismissed Miss Moore beckoned her to the desk, and put her arm around the 'little girl, kissing her fondly.
" I must congratulate you, Kathie," she said. " I am very glad that such good fortune has befallen you; but there is another thing that pleases me nearly as much."
Kathie's soft eyes questioned her teacher.
" I have observed a very great improvement in you since Christmas. You have always been studious, but, like the majority of children, quite thoughtless. It 's very natural, I suppose; but of late you have grown orderly, and always seem to be studying the pleasure and comfort of others. And now, my child, I hope nothing in your new life will induce you to forget this good beginning."
" I have been trying pretty hard," Kathie answered, as a little flush quivered over her face. " I used to forget so easily, but I 'm learning to put everything in its place, and not make trouble for others. Fighting giants. Aunt Ruth calls it."
" You make pretty steady war upon them."
" 0 Miss Moore, I want to be good, first of all."
" You are in the right way, Kathie, but you will find it difficult work. There is nothing like perseverance."
" It seems to me that everything will come easier. Why, I 've been so happy since Uncle Robert returned that I hardly know myself. Then to think of mamma and Aunt Ruth - "
" While you carry them so close to your heart you will not be in much danger. And I wish for you a happy, useful life."
It was all pleasure, Kathie thought. Uncle Robert was so good-natured and untiring, full of merriment, and always planning charming surprises. Aunt Ruth seemed to grow young every day, and the careworn look faded out of mamma's face.
After one or two consultations, inquiries were made about the house to which Uncle Robert had taken such a fancy. He learned that it could be purchased for a very moderate sum, much below its real value. It was considerably out of repair, and the grounds needed rearranging. He, Rob, and Kathie were first to inspect it, and she was very much interested. There was a nice wide hall through the middle, with a spacious parlor on one side, larger than that at the Darrells'. A library with the bay-window, a dining-room adjoining, and at the end of this a large conservatory. There were two or three kitchens in the rear, and on the next floor four handsome sleeping-rooms, with one smaller one over the conservatory. Rob took a great fancy to the tower, and thought he and Fred would take possession of the third floor, so as to be handy.
" Handy for what ? " asked Kathie.
" 0, a ghost. There ought to be a ghost here."
" I hope not."
" You would n't be afraid, Uncle Robert ? "
" Not much," said he, with a droll smile.
" There are no such things as ghosts," Kathie re- turned, with an assumption of bravery.
" Go up in this tower on a dark night. "
They mounted it now and were charmed with the prospect. As the house stood on a slight elevation they could see all the neighboring towns, and Brook- side lay at their very feet.
"0, I do like it ; " Kathie exclaimed with enthusiasm.
" This will be Point Lookout," said Bob. " 0, I wish we were on the sea-shore and could see the ships go by."
'" It may serve some other useful purpose," replied his uncle.
" When Fred is particularly noisy he can come up here and racket to his heart's content."
" I once heard of a man who used to have had tempers when the wind was in the east; so he built himself a little room which he called a growlery, and when he felt ill-humored he could retire to it," Uncle Robert said.
" Do you think we shall need a growlery ? " asked Kathie.
" Rather a dungeon to put our giants in," said Rob. Uncle Robert looked from one to the other for an explanation.
" Kathie and I fight giants sometimes," Rob re- turned, with a rising flush.
" Which of you is the better warrior ? "
" Kathie," Rob said, frankly. " I mean to, but I forget."
" And what are the giants, - bad habits ? "
" That 's it. Uncle Robert. I believe it is easier for girls to be good than for boys."
" It requires some resolution and perseverance on either side. I 'm glad you are both taking the giants before they have reached their full stature. But now we will go down and look at the grounds. If you can think of anything you would like very much you may make some suggestions."
"A boat-house," proposed Rob, with a merry twinkle in his eye.
" I think we will have to see about that," said his uncle. " Kathie, would n't it please you too ? "
" I 'd like Rob to have the boat. I believe I am a little afraid, and mamma has not been willing that I should go on the water; but she would n't object with you."
" Girls always squeal so when they 're frightened," Rob announced, rather disdainfully.
"We will have the boat another summer, if not this. I think there will be a great deal on hand. We shall hardly be moved and settled before September."
Rob looked surprised, for it seemed to him the whole matter ought to be accomplished in a month.
" Uncle Robert," Kathie began, " I 'd like to have a pretty summer-house out here, where we could play when the girls came to see me."
"It would be very nice. When the place is cleared up you may select a spot."
As it was growing dark they started for home. Just before they reached the cottage one golden star came out, and Kathie remembered the night she went to the baker's, and how it seemed to run on before, looking so bright and happy. Had she been like the star ?
Uncle Robert bought the place, and carpenters, masons, and laborers were set to work immediately. The walls needed repapering, for having been shut up so long they were quite discolored. For this and several other matters he deemed it necessary to go to New York.
"And now, Kathie, we can see if your wish is practicable," he said. " I told Aunt Ruth how anxious you were for her recovery, and she is quite willing to try any means that may be thought best; so I believe I will take you and her to the city with me, and we can have an opinion on the case."
" Oh ! " Kathie exclaimed, eagerly, " dear Uncle Robert, I shall be so glad if it can be done. Then there would n't be anything left to wish for!"
" I don't suppose she can be entirely cured; but if she can get about easily that will be a great improvement. I wonder how long it will take mamma to get you ready ? "
Kathie flew to inquire. Her mother had been making her several new dresses,-not half so elegant as Lottie Thorne thought they ought to be.
" You 11 be a real little dowdy, Kathie Alston," she said, rather spitefully; but Kathie was very well satisfied. She remembered how uncomfortable she had felt at first in her blue silk.
After a little discussion the first of the next week was appointed for starting. When Rob heard of the proposed journey he felt quite envious.
" Seems to me you come in for all the nice things," he said, rather crossly; " I don't see why I could n't go too ! "
Kathie interceded for him in her sweetest fashion.
"It is quite impossible," replied Uncle Robert. " In the first place, boys are restless fellows; and he would want to go everywhere and see everything, while I prefer just now to devote all my spare time to you and Aunt Ruth. He would prove too great a charge for me. Do you feel very badly about it, Kathie ? " for he saw how sad the bright little face had grown.
" He would like it so much; and if you explained it all to him I think he would n't make much trouble."
" My little darling, I hate to refuse that tender heart anything; but Rob would have a much better visit alone, and I should feel relieved not to have him this time. He must learn that it is necessary to give up some desires in this life."
" But it seems to me that I have everything."
" Because you keep your wants so small, Kathie; and that is the great secret of enjoyment."
She could n't help pitying Rob, and easing his disappointment by the promise of going another time. He was inclined to be ungracious at first, quite forgetting that it was not Kathie's fault.
On Monday their trunk was packed and sent off by express. They were to follow at their leisure. Aunt Ruth had improved a good deal in health; but then she always was better in the summer. Kathie thought she looked especially sweet in her soft gray dress and bonnet, with a little cluster of forget-me-nots falling at one temple. It seemed so strange to go away on a journey, for Kathie had never been farther than the next town since she could remember.
Rob was delighted to drive them over to the station, and thought it would be royal when they had horses of their own. He looked after Kathie with longing eyes as she waved her hand from the car window, and gave Aunt Ruth a cheery smile. The locomotive uttered its shrill whistle, and away they went. It was June then, and the country was lovely everywhere. The houses and trees and winding river flew by them like dissolving pictures. Kathie held her breath from sheer surprise.
Though she enjoyed it very much, it was rather tiresome to Aunt Ruth, who was used to sitting in an easy-chair or lying on the lounge. By noon she began to look quite pale, and Uncle Robert asked if they had not better stay and rest at the place where they were to change cars.
" No, I think I' 11 go on and rest at the end of the journey," she replied.
They stopped long enough to get some refreshments. Kathie declared she was 'most starved, and was very sorry that Aunt Ruth could not eat anything. Uncle Robert took her out for a short walk around the depot, and when the bell rang they hurried back. A little after three they reached New York. Kathie was almost stunned by the noisy shouts, and looked around in a startled fashion. Everybody sprang up and rushed out of the car.
" We will sit still until the crowd has dispersed," Uncle Robert said; so they watched the passengers, ' and several times Kathie had a good laugh at some comical incident.
"Now I' 11 go find a hack," and Uncle Robert rose. He had made Aunt .Ruth quite comfortable by pillowing her with shawls.
So the two were left alone. There was n't very much fun looking out of the window now, and in a few seconds Kathie felt quite strange and lonesome. Then a man came in and began to turn the backs of the seats over. He glanced sharply at Kathie and her aunt, as if he wondered what they were doing there.
"Don't you think Uncle Robert stays a long ' while ? " Kathie whispered, timidly.
"He will be here in a moment," was the reply.
The cars gave a lurch and started on. Kathie turned pale, but before she could speak they stopped.
" 0 Aunt Ruth, what if we were to be taken on somewhere ? "
" We shall not be "; and. Aunt Ruth smiled.
" If Uncle Robert only would come! "
"There he is."
Sure enough, smiling gayly as if he had not been away more than a moment.
" 0 Uncle Robert, I thought you were lost! "
He patted the perplexed little face. " I should have to take leave of my senses first, before I could be lost in New York. Now, if you will carry the shawls, I' 11 take Aunt Ruth in my arms. 0, here 's her crutch too. I will come back after that."
Kathie followed down the long platform. A driver was holding open the coach door, and Uncle Robert placed the invalid tenderly within. Then he handed up Kathie and sprang after them, and the door shut with a click. Off they rolled. Kathie glanced out of the window.
" 0 Uncle Robert, does n't it look queer ? What lots and lots of houses! And how we do joggle! Won't it hurt Aunt Ruth?"
" It will be easier when we turn out of this street."
" Uncle Robert, where do all the people come from ? "
He laughed. "Why, the streets are quite thin now! An hour or two later and there will be a crowd."
Kathie was silent from astonishment. " What beautiful stores'" she said presently. "Why, Uncle Robert, it is like fairy-land."
" We will take a walk down Broadway some day, and you will think it more wonderful than ever."
They stopped in front of what seemed to Kathie a palace. She felt quite strange because there were so many people standing round, and it appeared as it every one stared at her, so she clung very closely to Uncle Robert.
" Why, Conover! " said a frank voice. " Who ever expected to see you here ? Can I be of any assistance ? "
" Meredith '. " returned Uncle Robert. " I 'm glad to see you. I believe I left you climbing the Alps. Will you take charge of this little girl and a shawl ? "
It seemed to Kathie that he looked wonderfully like Uncle Rob, for he had a full beard and eyes that sparkled with fun. He picked up the shawl and drew Kathie's hand just through his arm with the utmost ease and grace, leading her through the hall and up the wide stairs that were soft as a cushion. She felt quite lost as she entered the parlor, for a deep glass coming nearly down to the floor showed her herself and Mr. Meredith, and one opposite gave back the same picture.
" This is my sister. Miss Conover," Uncle Robert said as soon as she was seated in a great crimson arm- chair, " and this my niece. Miss Kathie Alston. My friend, Mr. Meredith, Ruth, whom I met in Europe."
" I 'm right glad to see you, Conover, and if I can be of the slightest service, command me to the utmost. It will be a charity to find me some employment."
Kathie could n't help smiling. Mr. Meredith's voice had such a merry ring, and he shrugged his shoulders so oddly.
" You can entertain the ladies while I find a room. I hope we shall not have to go up to the skylight."
" You can step in the elevator and come down," re- joined Mr. Meredith, "or enjoy yourself like the German student who lived in the first story if you entered by the chimney"
"Scaling the roofs beforehand ? I 've turned quiet and sensible."
" The excuse that is generally made for laziness."
Uncle Robert bowed himself away, and Mr. Meredith began to talk to Kathie, who told him very frankly that this was her first visit to the city, although she had been born there.
" There will be a great many things to entertain you then. I shall petition for the situation of escort several times. I hope we shall get on famously together. I have & niece just about your age, and we have gay times."
" Does she live here ? " asked Kathie, timidly.
" Only awhile in the winter. My brother's residence is a short sail up the Hudson. I'11 try and persuade Mr. Conover to go there some day. Do you like to sail ? "
" I don't know," Kathie answered, a little doubtfully. Uncle Robert came back presently. He had secured two very nice rooms, and their trunk, having arrived, had been sent up already.
" 0 Uncle Robert, I don't believe I ever could find my way around this place," Kathie said, amazed at the stairs and halls.
" I' 11 have to hire a guide as they do in the Catacombs."
The rooms were very cosey, and to Kathie's inexperienced eyes extremely elegant. Aunt Ruth was so tired that she begged to be laid on the bed at once.
" You must be housekeeper and settle the things," she said to Kathie.
Uncle Rob unlocked the trunk and helped Kathie unpack. They hung up the dresses in the wardrobe, and laid the smaller articles in the drawers. Kathie was so neat and handy that she quite surprised Uncle Rob. In a few moments they were all in order.
" What can be done for you, my dear, tired sister ?" Uncle Robert asked.
" I wish you would order me some tea and toast, and if Kathie will help me to undress, I shall be more comfortable. Every bone in my body aches."
She did look very pale and tired. Uncle Rob went to his own room, and then Kathie bathed Aunt Ruth's face and hands, brushed her hair smooth, put on a nice fresh night-dress and arranged the pillows.
" It seems so odd to go to bed in the afternoon," she said, with a smile.
"I can rest better in this manner."
The toast and tea came up. Aunt Ruth did n't seem much hungry; but Kathie fed her just as mamma used to feed Rob when he was sick, and presently she declared herself quite refreshed.
"You. are a most charming little nurse, Kathie,'' said Uncle Robert; " I shall be tempted to fall ill some time."
" Not here," returned Kathie, entreatingly; " I should get lost the first time I ventured into the hall."
Aunt Ruth sipped her tea until she began to feel rather sleepy; then she told Kathie to get ready for dinner and go down with Uncle Rob, and during the quiet she might manage to get a nap.
So Kathie brushed out her shining hair and put on a white dress. Uncle Robert tied her blue party sash after he came in, and then, kissing Aunt Ruth many times, they went down to the parlor.
" Here 's a veritable fairy ! " exclaimed Mr. Meredith. " Will you sit here by the window ? How is your sister, Conover ? "
"Very much fatigued. I brought her to New York for medical advice. A number of years ago she had a bad fall, which crippled her; but having known some wonderful cures myself, I have faith to believe that she can be helped. I should like to meet a skilful and honorable physician, and learn just what could be done, for I should n't want her subjected to any unnecessary suffering."
" I have an old uncle who is held in high repute by medical men generally, and I 'd like you to see him, Conover. You may be sure that he will tell the truth. He does n't attend to anything but office practice except sometimes for an old friend; yet I think he could be persuaded to come here and see her."
" Very kind of you, indeed. I feel rather strange here now, and the people I used to know have mostly forgotten me. A great many changes occur in ten years."
" Have you been away that long ? "
" Nearly eleven years; but I realize the lapse of time more by the alterations in all I see here than in my own experience there. I regret deeply that I did not return sooner; but for a long, long while I never heard a word from home."
Mr. Meredith was a good deal interested and began to question his friend. As travelling acquaintances in Germany they had learned very little of each other's past life, though much pleased with the chance encounter.
Kathie looked out of the window, greatly amazed at the sight. A procession of people appeared to be going up both sides of the street, and in the middle an interminable confusion of carriages, omnibuses, drays, express-wagons, and, it seemed to her, every- thing that could be put upon wheels. Occasionally a brave pedestrian ventured across the street, running between the horses, in imminent danger of having his .head bitten off or being trodden under foot, she thought. Then a strange, sharp clang sounded through the rooms, making echoes everywhere. She sprang up and glanced at Uncle Robert.
" Only the gong," he answered, laughingly. " Now we will go to dinner, for I dare say you need yours."
With her hand in Uncle Robert's she went to the long dining-hall. The children's supper at the Darrells was nothing in comparison. Kathie was too well bred to stare 'about or show her surprise. To be sure, the tall waiter standing behind, bowing and asking rapid questions, rather disconcerted her. Uncle Robert took pains to make her comfortable, and Mr. Meredith was very agreeable. Kathie stole a glance now and then at the long rows,- ladies very handsomely dressed and fine-looking men chatting gayly. It was like a story.
"What a little lady that child is ! " Mr. Meredith said in a low tone to "Uncle Robert. " You must certainly go up the river with me one day. I want Ada to see her."
Uncle Robert looked very much gratified. He ran up stairs presently to see how Aunt Ruth progressed, and brought back a favorable account.
" Does n't she want me ? " asked Kathie.
" Not unless you are too tired to stay down here."
Kathie said she was not. The parlors were lighted up and looked enchanting. One after another sauntered in, and presently a lady began to play on the piano. Some friends of Mr. Meredith found him out, and formed quite a circle about them. He brought one lady to introduce to Kathie, a very sweet-looking person, to whom the child took an instant fancy. Mrs. Havens asked her if she was there alone with her uncle, and Kathie said they had come with her aunt, who was an invalid. This led to quite a conversation on the subject, until suddenly her eyes felt as if there had been a leaden weight attached to them.
" Uncle Robert," she said, when there was a pause, " if you please I will go up stairs." Then she bade them all good night.
" A charming child! " exclaimed Mrs. Havens.
" We must manage to see the aunt to-morrow, for I am much interested in them. I knew some Alstons a number of years ago, but I don't suppose it is her family."
Kathie talked a little while to Aunt Ruth, then put her clothes away in an orderly fashion, said her prayers, and crept in beside the invalid.
" It seems so lonesome without mother and Rob and Freddy, - does n't it ? And though I 'm tired and sleepy, I don't believe I can ever go to sleep. There 's such a noise in the street, and I 'm not used to living in palaces."
But a soft little laugh was the last sound Aunt Ruth heard.
On to chapter 13
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