ROB improved rapidly. He had a tremendous appetite, and everything he came across was just about right. Miss Jessie's gifts were positive luxuries. And another very pleasant surprise happened in a day or two,a call from Mrs. Grayson and Dick. Somehow Rob had n't kept up the acquaintance with Dick in a very earnest fashion.
"I thought you were coming over again," said Dick. '" I 've watched for you ever so many evenings."
"I did mean to, but there have been so many things, and my lessons to study in the bargain. I started for a prize, but I shall not get it now "; and Rob sighed.
" It 's too bad," rejoined Dick.
" I had one last quarter, though it was partly a Christmas gift,a splendid Robinson Crusoe! Is n't it odd that you never get tired of that book ? "
Dick smiled. "I have quite a library, Rob," he said, " and if you 'd like to have some of my books, you would be perfectly welcome to them. I was sick once, and I found getting well the most tiresome part of it."
Rob thanked him, and then they had quite a schoolboy talk about what they did at the academy and what they did at Mr. Johnson's. Rob told his friend the story of the snow-house and the play they had in it, and how they finally demolished it. Dick thought it must have been great fun, and wished he had been there.
The next Saturday was fine and sunny. Charlie Darrell came quite early, and Rob was delighted to step into the carriage and be whisked off to an enchanted country, as Kathie called it.
" I 'm coming for you in the afternoon," Charlie whispered.
Kathie nodded gayly as they drove away, and then she went to her sweeping. It was just like fairyland, after all, for some rode off to enjoy themselves, and others, like Cinderella, stayed at home to work. She did n't envy Rob a bit, and was real glad to have him go. But she wondered a little if anything very nice would ever happen to her. To be sure, going to the Darrells' in a carriage was something!
Very delightful she found it. Miss Jessie entertained them in a charming fashion. Kathie enjoyed the flowers and the birds, and especially the parrot, who had a droll way of winking and dropping his upper eyelid, and who could say remarkable things. Then there was the stereoscope with its beautiful pictures, and Grandma Darrell, who was very fond of children, and who told them stories of what happened when she was young. Indeed, Kathie glancing up by accident, observed to her dismay that it was nearly dark. Where had the afternoon gone ?
" I think we must go home right away," she said. " Mamma told me that it was best for Rob not to be out after dark."
" But you 'll go home in the carriage, so that can't make any difference. Supper will be ready in a little while."
Charlie uttered this in a most pleading tone and looked up with beseeching eyes.
" I think mamma did n't mean us to stay to supper," Kathie replied, frankly, " and it will be dark by the time we get home, even if we start now. Not but what it would, be very pleasant to stay, Charlie "; and there was a little quiver on Kathie's lip that came round to a smile.
"Kathie is quite right," said grandma. "It is always best for children to do just as they are bidden. Anything a little different to suit themselves, spoils the grace of the deed, and. is n't perfect obedience."
" Charlie, you had better order the carriage," said his sister, " and I will take Kathie up to my room to put on her cloak and hood. We have all had a very nice time."
The child slipped her hand into Miss Jessie's, and it received a tender little squeeze.
" Do you know, Kathie, I think you are a brave little girl ? " Miss Jessie said, as she was buttoning her cloak.
Kathie's eager eyes asked a question without a word.
" Because you showed so much decision in starting at the time your mother told you. I know you were enjoying yourself very much."
" 0, I was, dear Miss Jessie. When I looked up and saw how dark it was growing, I knew we ought to go home, but I did want to stay so much ' It almost gave me a pain to say the words first, only it was right."
"And. I don't coax you to stay, because I am pleased to see a little girl so ready to obey her mother. Some time you must come again and remain all day."
" I 've had such a lovely, lovely time! I 'm thankful for my own and for Rob's sake too. And I 'm glad you do not think I was ungracious "
Jessie stooped to kiss the pink cheeks. "I think you are a dear little girl. Is it easy for you to be so good ? "
" Not always," said Kathie, honestly. " Sometimes I have to try pretty hard, and. I 'm not very good .either."
Miss Jessie smiled at this. " I fancy we all find it so."
"Carriage ready" sang Charlie through the hall. Everybody kissed Kathie, and begged her to come again. Rob was bundled up like a mummy, he said. and away they all started, Charlie driving. Mrs. Darrell put in a basket containing something nice for Aunt Ruth.
They talked of their visit at supper-time. Fred thought it altogether too bad. that he could n't have gone,real mean, in fact.
" But I "II tell. you everything we did and all we saw," Kathie made answer. " I suppose they did n't ask you. because there wasn't any little girls nor boys to play with."
"I 'm not so very little," said Fred, with much dignity.
Rob managed to get along pretty well, and by the end of another week believed himself able for al- most anything. His sickness had made him rather more thoughtful and gentle, and he resolved seriously that he would set about conquering some of the giants. He held himself in lower esteem than heretofore, and was more willing to find some good in Kathie.
One day a beautiful little note came for Rob and Kathie in a French envelope, and with an embossed " D," quite large and handsome. Kathie, being home the earliest, had the first sight.
" I do wonder what it is I " she said, turning it over in her fingers, and debating whether she could wait for Rob to come before she broke the seal.
" An invitation, I suppose," said her mother.
"0, I did n't think of that! "D.' That might stand for Dorrance, but Sophie had a birthday party in the fall."
" And D stands for Darrell, too," exclaimed Aunt Ruth.
" Yes, but " And then Kathie wondered whether they really would invite her to a party at the Darrells'.
" I think I will not open it until Rob comes," she said, presently.
Aunt Ruth smiled, and Kathie knew she was pleased with her resolve.
It seemed as if Rob would never return. He had met Dick Grayson and gone home with him, so it was dark, and Kathie was setting the table, when he made his appearance. She produced the note in triumph.
"Why did n't you see what it was ? Guess I should n't have waited."
"I thought it would be a pleasure to you."
Rob was going to laugh, then he checked him- self.
" It was real sweet in you, Kathie, so open it now. I 'm dying with curiosity."
The daintiest little invitation to Charlie Darrell's birthday party on next Tuesday evening. It was Miss Jessie's writing, of course, fine and elegant.
" Was n't he mum about it to-day, though ? And won't it be splendid! "
" Can't I go this time ? " asked little Fred.
" 0 Freddy, we 're sorry; but it's a big children's party. I 'll be sure to tell you all they do, and some time, perhaps, you can go."
" But .it 's too bad "; and Fred began to cry.
" It is real hard," said Kathie, in tender yet cheery tones. "Brave boys don't cry over disappointments ; they would always be babies if they did, and you don't mean to be a baby, do you ? "
" No-o," said Fred, over a big sob; " but could n't you ask Charlie Darrell to invite me ? "
" Not this time, Freddy dear; but if Miss Jessie ever asks me to come again, I 'll beg her to let me bring you along. You 'll have a funny time talking to the parrot. It will make you laugh to see him wink."
" How does he go ? "
Kathie made a droll face and rolled .her eyes around sleepily, until Fred laughed.
"Now I must have that new suit of clothes," began Rob; " my old trousers are dreadful shabby."
Kathie remembered noticing the knees the Saturday they were at Mrs. Darrell's, and feeling rather mortified as she contrasted them with Charlie's every-day ones, which were so much better; she felt the force of Rob's demand instantly.
" Yes," his mother said, " you do need a new suit badly; and you may as well have it now as a few weeks later."
Rob was delighted with her ready acquiescence. But the next day, when Kathie heard the girls planning what they were to wear, and several new dresses described, her own heart grew a trifle anxious.
"Mamma," she exclaimed that afternoon, as she was sewing away very industriously, "could you afford to buy me a new dress too ? "
Mrs. Alston did not reply immediately. "I suppose you couldn't"; and Kathie's voice as well as her face fell a little.
"I really can't afford to get Rob's clothes. His being sick has spent me a good deal of time when I might have worked; then the extra fire consumed so much coal that I must get another ton next week. There 's the doctor's bill also."
"0 mamma, if we were n't quite so poor! "
Kathie's lip quivered, and before she was aware a tear dropped.
" My darling," her mother said, " I am so sorry to disappoint you. I think Rob needs his clothes the most; and I shall order them at Mr. Brown's and pay for them as I can. I have n't the money to spare now to buy you a dress; and your scarlet one still looks very nice. The white one, I suppose, is altogether too small."
" And there's that great tear in the skirt, you know. Yes, I 'd rather wear the scarlet."
It was a severe trial to Kathie. The scarlet dress had been her only nice one all winter; and Lottie Thorne, who had quantities of pretty clothes, had declared that she must have a new dress or . she would not go; she would be ashamed to be seen in any of her old ones at such a place as the Darrells'.
What if she did n't go ? A great pang seized her heart. 0, she wanted to so much! Miss Jessie had treated her as if she were the greatest lady in the land; and if it did n't make any difference to her, why should she mind ? But would she be happy when she saw the rest looking so gay and pretty ?
Kathie had many anxious moments on the subject. She knew she ought to be content, and she tried hard; yet, in spite of her efforts, wishes and uncomfortable feelings would rush over her heart. Sometimes she felt that it would be better to give it up, then she thought she should be quite ashamed to say to Miss Jessie that she stayed at home because she had no new dress to wear. She would n't call that very brave; and Kathie seemed to have a consciousness that it was a very mean kind of pride.
She hoped no one would ask her what she meant to wear, and she managed to evade a confession of her poverty until Monday. Then Lottie Thorne was seized with a teasing fit and bantered her ungenerously.
" She means to outshine us all, so she won't tell. White satin, I suppose, and lace and diamonds. You 'll be the star of the evening."
" But you have a new dress, Kathie," said one of the girls. "Tell her and stop her talking."
Kathie choked down a big lump in her throat, and felt as if she must cry.
" I have n't any new dress at all," she said, desperately.
" You don't mean to wear that old scarlet thing ? " was the next disdainful question.
"If I go I shall have to, for I can't have any other."
Kathie summoned all her courage to utter that, and then she resolved to stay at home. Bob made his appearance on the scene just then, so the girls desisted from their tormenting.
" Come, Kathie," he said, rather gruffly, " let's go home."
Such an invitation was very unusual from Rob, and Kathie was glad to get away, even if the shelter of his wing did look rather threatening.
" You 're a little fool, Kathie," he began, angrily. " What did you want to tell them for, and have them all laughing at you ? "
" I could n't help it, Rob "; and there was a great tremble in Kathie's voice. "Besides, it was the truth, and I think we ought not to be ashamed of that. But1 believe I won't go."
" Yes, you must; Charlie would be awfully disappointed if you did n't, and then he does n't care half so much for fine things as you girls."
That was rather cruel. " I 'm sure I would n't care if the rest did n't make fun of me " ; and Kathie failed to choke off the sob this time.
Rob was silent, for conscience gave .him a hard pinch. He remembered how glad Kathie had been about his new clothes, and how pleased she always was to see him enjoy himself. And here he had talked crossly to her and had been angry when she was not at all at fault.
"Kathie," his voice had a softened inflection, as if he was almost crying, and he slipped his arm around her waist very gently, " Kathie, I don't seem to have much luck making war on my giants. I resolved, when I was sick, that I would never be cross or rough to you again, and I 've been both. I 'm sorry. I wish you had the new clothes instead of me. I don't deserve them anyhow."
" 0 Rob dear, my dress is good and pretty, only I 've worn it for nice all winter, and I suppose it does n't look real party-like. I 'm glad you came along just then, for it made the girls stop teasing me."
"Lottie Thorne is a hateful little thing! I guess I would n't be so ready to show her sums and all '. " Bob returned, decisively.
" That 's giants, Bob."
" Well, there's no use in my trying to be good."
" Yes, it is best for us all to try. If we don't succeed, there is a good endeavor which shows that we thought about it."
" Dreadfully discouraging, though."
Kathie glanced up with her bright smile, yet something like tears were still shining in her eyes.
" I believe you are the best little girl in the world, as Charlie Darrell says."
That was some comfort to Kathie. For the remainder of the afternoon Rob was quiet and helpful, and did not go out to play, but read stories to Freddy. When Kathie had gone to put him to bed after supper, Rob said, huskily, and in a rapid tone, as if he was afraid he should n't get through in time. " Mother, if I had given up my clothes could Kathie have had a new dress ? "
"You needed the clothes, Rob, even if you were not going to the party."
" But I'm sorry about Kathie. The girls are all making such a row over their new dresses."
There was a silence of a moment, half an hour it seemed to Rob, then he said, almost heart-broken, " Don't you. care a bit, mother ? Did n't you. like to have pretty things when you were a little girl ? "
" Can you keep a secret, Rob ? " Aunt Ruth asked.
"0 yes. What is it?" and he was all animation.
Aunt Ruth told him something in a very low tone, and if you could have seen his face ! It looked like an April sky after a shower.
" 0, I'm so glad ! It's just splendid ! If I could see it ! Could n't I, mother, just a moment ? "
Mrs. Alston opened the parlor and unlocked a bureau-drawer.
" Hush, Bob," she said, in a whisper, as he was beginning exclamations.
" But it's so beautiful! I 'm just as happy now as I can be. I can hardly wait for to-morrow night."
" But you 're not to hint it. Aunt Ruth made it nearly all to-day. We did n't think of it until this morning."
They heard Kathie coming down stairs, so they shut up the drawer and went back. Rob studied his lessons industriously, but every once in a while a great bound of joy rushed over his heart, and he could hardly help jumping up and hurrahing around the room.
The next morning Mrs. Alston told Kathie to get ready early for school and she would buy her a new pair of shoes on the way, as she had several errands to do.
" Mamma. I 've decided not to go to the party," Kathie said, bravely.
" Why ? " and her mother appeared much surprised.
" Because I 'm afraid I should n't feel real happy. All the girls are going to dress so much. They think because Charlie Darrell's family are rich "
"But you see rich and poor have been invited. Miss Jessie knew that we could not afford to dress very handsomely. I think she and Charlie would be a good deal disappointed, and Rob also."
" Mamma, it is real hard to be laughed at, even when you know that you are doing just right. We could n't afford the dress, and I 've kept myself from wishing for it; but yesterday the girls teased me, and I concluded that I would stay at home. I shall not mind. I 'd rather go on some Saturday, if Miss Jessie should ask me."
" Would n't you do it to please me ? "
" Mamma ! " Kathie's voice was very entreating. Mrs. Alston made no reply, and after a pause Kathie said, in a slow, quiet tone, " Yes, mamma."
" Very well; I think you will be happy. And here we are at the shoe-store."
To Kathie's surprise her mother asked for bronzed boots. And there was the daintiest little pair that fitted her to a charm.
" I don't need them quite so nice; do I, mamma ? "
"Aunt Ruth wanted you to have them as a gift from her."
" Cinderella's glass slippers almost," she said, with a smile.
Nobody teased Kathie that day, and everything went on smoothly. Bob stopped on the way home for his clothes and found them royal, but it was very hard work to keep his mother's secret. They had an early supper, and then Aunt Ruth curled Kathie's "olden hair in a lovely fashion. Next she tried on her pretty boots.
" 0, I feel as if I were Karen in the little red shoes, and could dance forever," she said, gayly, making a lively pirouette around the room.
'"Now Aunt Ruth must be the fairy godmother and touch you with her wand," Rob exclaimed, laughing, and when he was once fairly started he could n't stop. He looked so mysterious and comical that Kathie said, " What is the matter. Bob ? "
" I can't help it "; and there was a suppressed convulsion.
Kathie viewed him in silent astonishment. Mrs. Alston left the room and presently returned with something that rustled, and she gave a quick turn.
" Now for the pumpkin and the mice! " and Rob could n't resist a shout on the war-whoop style.
Aunt Ruth held up the dress, but Kathie could not utter a word.
" Why, you little goose, don't you see what it is ? Not satin, but elegant blue silk! You will be the queen of the ball! "
Kathie's eyes filled with tears. Children some- times cry from pure gladness.
" 0 mamma, is it for me ? Where did it come from ? Why, I think I am Cinderella."
" I 'm going to tell you just where it came from, for we could not afford to buy anything so handsome and expensive. Aunt Ruth had the dress when she was a young girl, and the thought of it entered her mind a few days ago, so we concluded we would surprise you. Rob was let into the secret last night."
" Put it on quick, mother! " exclaimed Rob; " I want to see how she looks."
They had her dressed in a few moments, and Rob was recalled. He and Freddy went into ecstasies. She did look very lovely, for her cheeks were like roses, and the sweet expression of her face added a charm.
" There won't be as pretty a girl in the room," announced Bob, confidently.
" Hush, Bob. You must not make her vain."
"I don't believe anything could spoil Kathie. She's the best and dearest little girl in the whole world! " and Bob gave her a crushing hug.
Then Freddy took his turn, which was smothering, but Kathie bore it with the utmost patience.
" I 'm so glad and so happy. Aunt Ruth! It seems just as if I was in fairy-land! Why, I can't believe it all. I 'm almost afraid that it will come back to my old delaine dress when the clock strikes twelve."
" I guess not," said Aunt Ruth, smilingly. " I think you deserved something nice. But now you must get your rubber boots and your cloak, for the time is going fast."
" I think I can trust you to behave modestly, Kathie," her mother said, with tender gravity.
" 0 mamma, I don't feel a bit proud."
" For all you 're handsome," appended Rob.
" And dressed in blue silk," shouted Fred.
She kissed them all round and promised to bring Fred something nice. A very happy little girl was Kathie Alston, and Rob was delighted to the utter- most. She made him tell her how he came to find out about the dress, and her heart beat faster as she thought that he had cared so much.
" Your Highness is at the palace gate," announced Rob, with a great flourish. " The king's son for you, Cinderella."
THE Darrell mansion was lighted up brilliantly. It seemed to Kathie quite like entering fairy-land. Some brackets had been hung in the spacious hall, and Miss Jessie had arranged flowers upon them, trailing vines that looked so pretty drooping against the wall. There was quite a number of guests in the parlor, Kathie saw as she passed through. The girls were taken to Miss Jessie's room, and the boys to a spare chamber, as their host fancied they might like to beautify a little also.
There was Miss Jessie bright and smiling in the simplest of white dresses, with a blue sash and a blue ribbon in her hair, and a cluster of geranium leaves at her throat.
" Kathie Alston! " she exclaimed, stooping to kiss her. " Charlie began to wonder if you were coming." Then she helped take off her cloak, and Kathie thought she looked a little surprised at her dress. It brought an uncomfortable flush to her cheek. Did Miss Jessie consider it too fine ?
Kathie gave her curls a shake, and they came out all right. Then she went down stairs in a great whirl of excitement, hardly knowing who she was, and made a pause at the parlor door. Charlie was standing there and a cousin of his, a young lady about Miss Jessie's age, and she introduced the guests into the room. Now she said, " Miss Kathie Alston."
It seemed as if everybody looked towards her at once. Kathie had never known anything so dreadful in all her life. This time she blushed crimson and wished she was in her old scarlet dress, with the easy home feeling she usually enjoyed.
" 0 Kathie, how sweet you do look! " Charlie said, involuntarily.
Kathie thought she was surely going to faint; her head swam round, and the lights dazzled everywhere.
" 0 Kathie Alston," exclaimed a familiar voice, " where did you get that lovely dress ? And you said you were going to wear your scarlet delaine. You told a story about it! "
Kathie was just ready to cry, and she wished from the bottom of her heart that she had worn her old one
" I did n't know anything about it until to-night," she said, in a choking voice.
" Was it a present ? "
" Yes, from Aunt Ruth, and my boots too." Having thus confessed her sins, she glanced at Lottie Thorne in a most deprecating manner. Some one put an arm around her neck. It was Mary Cox, and the next instant she had kissed Kathie's burning cheeks.
" You are the sweetest and loveliest girl in the whole room," she exclaimed, in her warm, extravagant fashion. " I 'd give a kingdom if my hair curled like yours." For Mary's hair was black and straight as an Indian's.
Kathie took refuge beside Mary, who was always talking and laughing. Then she ventured to look round at the other girls. Lottie wore a lavender and white checked silk, trimmed with pretty pendent gimp. Sophie Dorrance had on her regular party dress, - pink tarlatan, ruffled, - and there seemed a perfect sea of bright, shimmering things.
They were all a trifle awkward at first. Miss Jessie came down and started some play. They stood in a ring with her in the centre. She said,
" Muldi Mustapha does so in the palace at Ispahan," and put one arm in motion; then another; afterward. one foot; and then every head was nodded, and they all looked funny enough. Whenever a new thing was said, she repeated the whole sentence, and the catch in it was when she said merely "and so," without the rest. Presently she uttered " and so." Up and down went every head but hers, and then there was a general laugh.
"Everybody will have to go in the ring," ex- claimed Charlie.
"I'll try it again," she said, good-naturedly; " hut this time you must be sharp."
They all thought they would be, but half, at least, were caught. Of course there was another shout.
There was a great deal of fun over it. Kathie forgot all about her dress, and began to be very happy. They played until nearly every one had been caught, then Miss Jessie went to the pitef), and two of the boys sang a comic song. After that they were fairly in motion. They had a game of pawns until they collected a pile of forfeits, when they went to work to redeem them. The first belonged to Dick Grayson, and it was held over Kathie's head. Dick was to " stand in the well." He called upon Kathie to help him out, and then she called Charlie. So they went on, enjoying their fun amazingly,-pillow and key, still quaker, consequences, and lots of laughable games. Indeed, there were two forfeits still remaining when they were summoned to supper.
Kathie had been everybody's favorite. She was kissed for the prettiest numberless times, called out for all the plays, and in constant demand. Lottie thought it was her elegant dress, and began to envy her; but the truth lay in Kathie's being so thoroughly sweet and ready to please. She quite forgot about herself, and those who are always trying to make others happy are generally happy themselves.
Charlie took her out to supper. Dick Grayson made an imaginary attack upon him, and threatened to carry her off to some corner. Miss Jessie was at the head of the table, and Cousin Emily at the lower end.' Very prettily arranged it was, with vases of flowers) and dishes of apples piled into pyramids, the little interstices filled with motto-papers; cakes, candies, and cream for the lighter part, and sandwiches for those who had played themselves hungry. There were Mr. and Mrs. Darrell and grandma, smiling at the children's merriment. What a delightful time they were having! Kathie laughed until it seemed as if she could hardly stand up. Everybody was so very good-natured and enjoyable.
After supper Miss Jessie went to the piano, and the children had several quadrilles. It was twelve o'clock before any one thought about it; then a number of the children were sent for) and the rest began to prepare for departure. The large family carriage was put in requisition, and quite a host taken the first time, but Charlie begged Rob and Kathie to wait.
" Have you enjoyed yourself ? " Miss Jessie asked, glancing into her smiling face.
" 0, so much! Miss Jessie, I think it 's such a nice thing to be rich. You can make so many people happy."
Kathie was so earnest that she could not help being equally frank.
" And it is nice to be able to enjoy pleasure. Nothing satisfies a person so well as to know that his or her efforts have been appreciated."
" Then you ought to have a good deal of satisfaction," said Bob, with a bright smile, " for I don't think there ever was such a splendid party, and there has n't a single accident happened. It 's been jolly all the way through "; then Rob blushed a little, and ended rather bashfully with, " I 'm only a boy, Miss Jessie."
" And I 'm used to boys' compliments, though Charlie is not very lavish in that respect."
" I don't believe boys ever are," said Charlie.
" They leave that for girls," suggested Rob.
" How about that, Kathie ? " asked Miss Jessie.
" I guess boys do not always say what they feel, but girls like to have everything nice and pleasant, and - " Kathie made a long pause, coloring deeply.
" Express their gratification more freely," said Miss Jessie, coming to her assistance.
The carriage returned, and Kathie went for her wraps. " I 've had such a lovely, lovely time," she said again. " I hope every one has been just as happy."
" You have a large heart, Kathie. I am sure you deserve a great deal of good fortune. I hope you will get it some day."
" We ought to send Fred some candies," Charlie said, as Kathie and his sister came down stairs.
Kathie had been thinking of this, but did not know exactly how to bring it about.
"I'll do up a parcel "; and in a few moments Miss Jessie had it ready, - to be given to Freddy with her love.
" And tell your Aunt Ruth that I 'm coming the first pleasant day to take her out driving," she continued.
Kathie thanked her with her bright eyes and sweetest smile.
There were several in the carriage beside Rob and Kathie, and they talked of the party till one by one was dropped out, and last of all the Alston children.
Mamma was sitting up and Aunt Ruth lying on the lounge. The one little lamp turned low looked oddly enough after the brilliance of the evening.
" And so Cinderella comes back to her chimney- corner," she said, gayly, kissing them both. " Dear godmother, I never was so happy in my life. But first I felt too grand in my dress. I had to forget about that."
" I 'm so glad you had it! " exclaimed Rob. " I saw ever so many of the girls staring at it. I guess Lottie Thorne was surprised enough. She thinks herself so grand! "
" But she was real sweet to me," said Kathie.
" Sweet! I 'd like to know what there was to make her sour, unless she felt so because your dress was the handsomest. Mother, Kathie was the prettiest girl there, and up in all the plays. It was just royal! I wish some one else would give a party. And now I 'm off for bed. Good night." Rob made a very tremendous bow, nearly standing on his head.
The next morning Freddy was delighted with his share of the feast. Kathie told him all she could remember, - how they had a menagerie, and every one could see just whatever animal he or she called for.
" But they did n't have real lions and elephants, -did they?" asked Fred, with big eyes.
" It was a looking-glass in another room, and you were taken in there and shown yourself. So if you asked to see a monkey, as several of them did, it was rather funny."
" What did you ask for, Rob ? "
" 0, I was let into the joke. Charlie and I were the porters, and kept the doors."
Then Kathie told about the other plays and all the amusing things that occurred.
" The Darrells are not a bit proud," Rob said, in a pleased and satisfied tone; " they never show off anything as if they thought it was so much better than what you had at home. You would surely lie surprised."
" A very foolish and ill-bred thing for any one to do," said Mrs. Alston.
" Lottie Theme's always at it. Last night she had to tell half a dozen times at least what her mother had, making it out a little better than Mrs. Darrell's."
" But Lottie is real pleasant," said Kathie, anxious to give her all her due.
" When you let her have her own way and listen to all. her stories. Mother, I sometimes think Kathie has n't a bit of spirit. Lottie places her and makes fun of her, and is real hateful, and then Kathie helps her out of the drag."
"I should say Kathie had just the right kind of spirit," Mrs. Alston replied.
" But she 's always sorry when she has been cross."
" So she says; but I don't believe it is true sorrow. She does the same thing right over again. And I hate people who brag and make such a fuss over their own things. Miss Jessie does n't."
" Miss Jessie is a lady, and that one can be, rich or poor," Aunt Ruth said.
Miss Jessie fulfilled her promise a few days after this. The keen March winds had dried up the roads so that it was very good travelling. Aunt Ruth had a long, pleasant ride. It seemed quite like old times.
And then one day she called upon a little business, when a sudden shower came up, and she had to take off her hat and wait awhile.
" Mamma," Kathie said, in a whisper, " could n't we ask Miss Jessie to stay to tea ? We have a nice cake and some cold meat, and we could fix the table real prettily; and when Bob comes home he will be so pleased."
Bob was off playing, as usual; yet since his sickness he had made quite an improvement in many things. To his mother this was deeply gratifying. But Kathie was a comfort to her daily and hourly.
" Why, yes," she said, slowly; then added, with a smile, "You don't feel troubled about the old carpet now ? "
"Miss Jessie doesn't mind; and when we give the best we can - "
" Those who love us accept the offering just as it is given."
So Kathie invited Miss Jessie. She smiled a little, and said) " That is hardly worth while; the shower will be over presently."
" But I 'd like to have you so very much."
" Would you ? "
The pleading eyes were most eloquent.
" Very well," Miss Jessie said, with a sweet smile.
Kathie left her to talk to Aunt Ruth a few moments while she went to mamma.
" If you would like to make some biscuits, Kathie, they will bake very quickly," Mrs. Alston said.
Kathie was delighted. Now and then she made biscuits and cake, and always had excellent luck.
There was a small storeroom off of the kitchen, where they could work when the weather was not too cold. Kathie tied on a large apron) prepared all her materials, and in a short time had a panful of nice round biscuits that raised up like pound-cake. Then she helped her mother set the table. She could n't but feel secretly glad that they had pretty China, and silver forks, and some nice napkins. Mrs. Alston had not thought it necessary to give up all the refinements of life simply because they had met with a reverse of fortune. She had endeavored to so train her children that they would behave properly in any society, and had been most particular that they should not be awkward or ill-bred at the table.
" Now, Kathie, you may go back to the parlor," her mother said. " I 've just put the tea to draw, and Bob will be in soon."
Miss Jessie had been entertaining Freddy as well as Aunt Ruth. Indeed, now she had him on her lap, telling him. how the horse once ran away with her.
" But was n't you afraid V asked Fred. " I should think girls would always be."
Miss Jessie laughed merrily at this.
"Not very much. We had a long straight road before us, and Hero was n't vicious. Now we have a horse that no one but papa drives, and his name is Firefly."
" 0," exclaimed Fred, " one day Charlie and I were horses) and we rode Kathie home on Charlie's nice sled. My name was Firefly. I hope Santa Claus will bring me a sled next Christmas."
" What did he bring you last Christmas ? "
"0, nothing much. Mamma said he was very poor, but I think he went to your house first and left that pretty sled. And I wanted a drum, but he did n't even leave that."
" He must have had your place down last, then; I hope he will do better next time, and not wait until his bag is empty. What did you have, Kathie ? "
" A book of fairy-stories, and I like them so much."
" They are n't real true stories," explained Fred.
" But, Miss Jessie, some of them can be made true, and it is delightful to think of all the pleasant things in the world, if you can't have them."
" That is the true secret of enjoyment, Kathie, and you are fortunate to have learned it so soon. You can enjoy a great deal that belongs to another person almost as well as if it were yours, if you only have. a happy, contented mind. Failing in that, no amount of pleasure or wealth will satisfy a person."
" And the best of all is to be happy and to make others so," Kathie said, thoughtfully.
" Have you been trying the last ? " Miss Jessie asked, with a smile.
" Kathie is our little fairy," Aunt Ruth said, passing her arm around the child's neck.
" Then you turned the stories to some account t. "
" 0 Miss Jessie, I can't do much, but I thought I 'd try some little things "; and Kathie colored.
" That word try is like a magic wand. It has assisted me a good many times. You always look so bright and cheerful that one would guess you had access to the fairy fountain."
Rob had come in, washed his face and brushed his hair, and now opened the parlor door. Supper was ready also, and he invited them out after he had spoken to Miss Jessie.
They had a gay, social time. The party was talked over, and presently it came out about Kathie's dress, that had happened just like a fairy-story. They were not afraid of Miss Jessie, but felt perfectly at ease with her. She appeared to enjoy the surprise very much.
Rob was sorry that Charlie was not present having a good visit with them. It still kept raining, and Miss Jessie thought that she had better go home before it grew any darker. Kathie proposed that she should put on mamma's waterproof, and Rob took the large umbrella.
" I 've had such a nice time," she said, in her soft, pleasant tone, "and I shall come again real soon. But remember that you three children are to spend a Saturday with Charlie, and have a good long drive."
Fred was in ecstasies. Rob escorted Miss Jessie in a most gallant fashion, quite delighted with the honor. Kathie helped her mother wash the tea- dishes) and then she sat down in the corner in her little rocker.
" What makes you so quiet ? " her mother asked) presently.
" Was I, mamma ? I was only thinking what a pleasant visit it had been, and how sweet Miss Jessie is. And it seems to me that I don't mind being poor half as much as I did a month ago. Some of the girls always make a great time over what they have at home, and talk of their new clothes. It makes me feel as if they considered it quite a benefit to me; but Miss Jessie never does anything of the kind. I believe she would have been just as sweet if I had worn my scarlet dress to the party. And she is always so good, so much like Aunt Ruth."
Aunt Ruth smiled to hear herself thus praised.
"Miss Jessie is a Christian lady," Mrs. Alston replied. " She tries to follow the Golden Rule."
" I 'd like to be just such a young lady. Of course I'll never be rich, but I can do a good many things for you and Aunt Ruth and the boys. I want to be a comfort, so that you ll always be glad you had a little girl called Kathie."
" My darling, I give thanks every day of my life " ; and her mother kissed her fondly. "I am truly pleased to have you satisfied with your station and your life, and to see you endeavor to look on the bright side of everything. If you cultivate this spirit, your life will be a round of enjoyment, even though toilsome. You are my bright little fairy." No, the fairies did n't all live in palaces.
ONE bright May afternoon Kathie was playing with two school friends, Lucy and Annie Gardiner. Mrs. Alston preferred that she should run out of doors as much as possible, and she had given her permission to stop on the way home from school, and spend an hour with her companions. They were out on the green in front of Lucy's house, playing " tag," and running like frolicsome kittens.
A gentleman walked slowly by them, but they were so engrossed that they hardly noticed him. By and by he halted and took a step backward, pausing near Kathie. " Can you tell me where Mrs. Alston lives ? " he asked.
Kathie opened her eyes quite wide, then, remembering that it was not polite to stare, said, pleasantly, " 0 yes, only it is n't a very straight way from here. I'll show you."
" You can't go home, Kathie," exclaimed Annie, with apprehension. " You have n't been here half an hour yet."
" I'll just run to the corner and back "; so she turned to the stranger, who was a little in advance.
" There are several little houses just alike, - Cottage Row, it 's called. You go down this street two blocks, then you turn to the right and keep on until you come to an old stone house, and from there you can see them. The third one is - " mamma's, she was going to say, but she felt a little strange and substituted - " Mrs. Alston's."
" Thank you; I guess I'll find it. Is this Mrs. Alston a widow ? "
" Yes," Kathie replied, wonderingly, and then she watched him as he turned the corner. A kind of foreign-looking gentleman, very dark, and with a great beard; but now that she thought of it, it - almost seemed as if she had seen him somewhere before.
" Kathie ! " called Lucy. '" Don't let him' kidnap you. He looks like a-a-"
" What ? " and Kathie laughed.
" Pirate, I guess."
" 0 Lucy! He 's quite handsome."
" Well, then he 's a Hungarian refugee, or a Pole.
The Poles are sometimes banished from their homes, you know. Never mind him. Let 's play again. You were it, Kathie."
They started off on another race, and yet Kathie found herself wondering if the man was a stranger, and if he had been banished to a far land. He looked sad and troubled, but what could he want with mamma ? Yet the thought did not long disturb her fun. The girls all loved to play with Kathie, she was so good-natured.
By and by she ran in the house to see how late it was, although Lucy protested she had n't been there an hour.
" Yes, and five minutes over; I must surely go."
" Just let us have one more good run," pleaded Annie.
" If you 'll run down to the corner with me."
" I hope you will be as prompt and obedient when you go anywhere," Mrs. Gardiner said to her little girls. " Kathie, tell. your mother that we shall have an abundance of strawberries, and some day she must send you over to pick a good pailful."
" Thank you," Kathie answered, with a delighted smile.
The girls went to the corner and kissed her many times, just as if they were not going to see her at school the next morning.
As she neared the cottage she felt quite curious to know what the gentleman could have wanted with her mother. All she could think of was some sewing. In spite of the misfortune of Rob's sickness, they were going to have a new parlor carpet; Kathie had earned a little money toward it herself. She had hemmed a dozen handkerchiefs for Mr. Darrell, who had insisted upon paying her very liberally, and then she had crocheted some edging. Only the day before she had persuaded her mother to go to the store and. look at a very pretty one. So with the carpet, the stranger, and some sewing quite mixed up in her brain, she ran through the little dooryard, entered the kitchen, but heard voices beyond in the parlor.
" Kathie ! " her mother said.
She threw off her hat and entered the room shyly. There sat the stranger with his arm around Aunt Ruth, and her face quite hidden on his shoulder. Her mother had been crying, and in a moment Kathie was full of anxious fear.
" This is my little Kathie," Mrs. Alston exclaimed. her voice still tremulous.
What had happened ? What business had this stranger here making mamma unhappy ?
" 0, I saw her before; she directed me. Kathie, I'll give you three guesses to tell who I am."
That merry, mischievous twinkle in his eye was just like Bob's. 0, it could n't be !
" Not Uncle Robert! " she said, with a cry.
Aunt Ruth raised her face, still wet with tears, but it looked very happy.
" Come and kiss me, Kathie; I wanted to take you up in my arms out there in the street. Uncle Robert, to be sure ! "
Kathie glanced from one to the other. Was it really the truth? She had fancied Uncle Robert coming home, but to have him actually here!
The strong arms drew her down to his breast, and the sweet little face was covered with kisses.
" Why, Kathie," he began, " Aunt Ruth was sure that you expected me."
" But - we all thought - you were dead."
" You find that I am not. Alive and well, and glad enough to see you all, though for years and years I 've thought you dead. I wonder I did n't guess when I looked at your face. Aunt Ruth used to have golden curls."
" 0 Aunt Ruth ! Mamma! are n't you glad ? Is it really Uncle Robert ? and will you stay with us always ? "
" Always, I hope, while God spares me."
" Why, I can't believe it at all; and it seemed to me that Uncle Robert would be quite old,-something like Mr. Darrell."
" Well, there are some white threads in my hair, and a few white whiskers, but I am not very ancient. I don't seem to remember much about the ark, and can't boast of an acquaintance with Noah."
That made Kathie laugh. "0 mamma, are you real glad ? You look so grave and -as if it could n't be quite true. Why, I want to jump up and down, and shout as loud as I can, 'Uncle Rob 's come home ! ' "
Uncle Rob laughed then. Yes, his eyes were like Brother Rob's, only merrier, and with a soft, tender expression.
Mrs. Alston smiled, but the tears came in her eyes again ; and Kathie understood then just how she felt, - that her heart was so full she could n't speak.
" You did n't know me, Uncle Robert ? " Kathie went on ; " and I never thought - 0, was n't it queer that you. should have asked me, and that I should have directed you ? I kept wondering what you could want with mamma. And Lucy Gardiner said maybe you were a Hungarian refugee, and was afraid you would kidnap me! "
"I did have half a mind to. Of course I never supposed that it was my own little niece Kathie; but I took a good look at your sweet face. I was so anxious to find you all, and it seemed as if I never should. I had called on several wrong Mrs. Alstons."
" Was n't that funny ? When did you come home, Uncle Robert ? Have you told mamma and Aunt Ruth everything ? 0, won't Bob be delighted ? But where have you been all these years when we all thought you dead ? "
"It's a long story, my little Kathie. I reached New York three weeks ago, after having been round the world."
" But why did n't you write ? "
" I have written many times. It is so strange that no letter ever reached you, for I sent several to different friends. I 've been away over ten years, and yet the time appears very short to me. I 'm so glad to get back to you."
He kissed Aunt Ruth again fondly. "My dear sisters," he said, " how you have waited and suffered ! My whole life shall be devoted to making amends for these years of absence."
There was a noisy raid at the kitchen door, and voices in high discussion. Mrs. Alston rose and went out.
" Might n't he let me have his top a teeny little while, mamma?"
" You don't know how to spin it, Fred ; what's the use ? "
" Hush, children. Freddy, wash your hands and face. There's a great stranger in the parlor. 0 Rob ! " Mrs. Alston's voice quivered, and her eyes filled again.
" Dear mother," and Rob's arms were around her neck, " what has happened ? I 'm sure we were poor enough, and have had our share of misfortunes - "
" It 's a wonderful joy, Rob. It has quite unsettled my nerves."
Rob kissed her and winked away a tear. Of late he had learned to love her better, and care for all her little anxieties. " Well, if it 's joy, I think I can stand it. But I don't know of any one - "
"It is dear Uncle Robert, whom we all thought dead."
" Uncle Robert ! Hurrah .' Really and truly, mother ? Where is he,-in the other room ? " and Rob made a dash, then stopped suddenly.
Uncle Robert came out. " Here is the one I remember; but he has changed, it must be confessed, from the wee baby with whom I used to frolic. Robert, my namesake, your mother ought to be proud of such a fine, manly boy."
Rob was seized with an unaccountable fit of shyness. This handsome great fellow, still young enough to be a boon companion in many things, was his own uncle! He felt as if he had suddenly discovered a treasure.
"Me too. Uncle Robert," said Fred, rushing in with a sublime disregard of grammar and a scorn of common introductions.
" He recalls poor Fred," said Uncle Robert, taking him in his arms. "Dora, if the struggle has been hard, you have a nice family, and I 'm thankful they are all alive. While I live they shall have a father's care."
Kathie came too. " 0 Rob," she exclaimed, " I can't make uncle seem a bit real. Does n't it sound like-like-"
" A fairy-story. Now, Kathie, here 's a real. live one. He 's been in some enchanted palace seven years!"
"And I was playing with Lucy and Annie Gardiner when he came along, and he asked me the way."
" Then I suppose he is your prince."
" That's just it," said Uncle Rob. " She looked like a fairy out there on the hill, and she is to be mine. I'll build a castle for her - "
" And take me too," exclaimed Fred, enforcing his request with a thrust from his heel.
" 0 Freddy, don't be so rough," entreated Kathie. " Uncle Rob, if you take me, all the rest will have to go."
" Are you everybody's good fairy ? "
" Mine especially," said her happy mother, passing her hand over Kathie's shoulder.
" But, uncle," began Rob, " where have you been all these years ? You must have travelled a good deal."
" I 've been half over the world, shipwrecked, murdered, taken prisoner, run away, hunted elephants in India, lions in Africa, dug gold in Australia - "
" 0 Uncle Rob ! Mother, I want dreadfully to say ' bully ' for this once! And you 'll tell me all about it ? "
" Let Uncle Robert get his breath. Don't eat him quite up," said their mother.
" I should be doubly unfortunate if, escaping all those dangers, I fall into the hands of cannibals now"; and Uncle Rob laughed as he kissed them all round.
" Kathie, we must be preparing some supper," Mrs. Alston remarked.
" We 'll go entertain Aunt Ruth in the mean while "; and Uncle Rob marshalled the boys off to the parlor. It seemed as if everybody talked at once.
" We ought to have something real nice," Kathie said, reflectively. " I'll make some biscuits."
" If you will run to the store I'll attend to that." Kathie found the basket, listened to her mother's orders, and ran off cheerfully. Yet it was real hard to leave Uncle Bob, and she felt almost afraid that when she returned she would find it a dream. Just; at the store door Miss Jessie passed her.
" Are they all well at home ? " she asked. " Why, you look bright as a rose."
" 0 Miss Jessie, our Uncle Robert that I once told you about has come back."
" Why, I thought he was dead ! " and Miss Jessie looked puzzled.
" But he is n't. He 's come back alive and well and handsome, and I know you 11 like him. He is going to stay with us always. It 's just splendid ! "
" Indeed it is," returned Miss Jessie, " and I wish you joy."
Kathie hurried .home, and in a little while the supper-table was ready.
" Mamma," she said, with the last touch, " if we are poor, I think we are the happiest people alive."
Her mother smiled a little oddly at this.
Uncle Robert had already told the boys about an elephant-hunt where two poor natives were killed. They pitied them, to be sure, but concluded that it made the story more interesting.
" But what I want to know most," said Kathie, " is how Uncle Robert kept alive all the time, and came back at last ?"
" We will have a good talk after supper. It does seem strange. I can hardly realize it. To. find you after so many years ! "
Aunt Ruth and Mrs. Alston forgot how long and wearisome they had been. The future had brightened so much in a few hours.
They had a gay time at the supper-table. Uncle Rob was very entertaining and amusing. Kathie stole shy glances at him, and received a bright smile in return. Aunt Ruth looked so pretty with a faint flush on her cheek and a tender light coming and going in her soft eyes.
At last they were settled in the parlor, - Uncle Robert on the sofa with Aunt Ruth on one side, and Kathie on the other, and Fred on his knee. Rob brought a low chair as close as he could get it, and leaned his arm on his mother's lap.
Uncle Rob's story was a long one. Most of it had been told over in the afternoon, but there would always be freshly remembered incidents. He had left Bombay for a trip to Java, but deciding not to return, had sent for his letters. In some way they had missed him and been lost. He had waited awhile before writing, and then gone on a new tour to the adjacent islands, where he and his party had been taken prisoners by a hostile tribe. Closely guarded as they were, escape proved almost impossible. He was seized with a fever and was ill for a long while, indeed, left to perish at last; but Nature proved a skilful physician. After he began to improve he met with an opportunity to go to Africa, and, thankful for any relief, he accepted at once. At the first available port he despatched a letter homeward, stating his intention of joining a company of explorers. Mrs. Alston having left the city, this also went astray. Having no knowledge of that fact he was quite easy in his mind, although it was a long while before he met with a chance to send again. Three years he spent in Africa, when he returned once more to India. No tidings there, and then he began to feel alarmed. He could hardly decide whether to go home at once or remain and try his fate a little longer. Then he resolved to go to Australia and make a fortune, and after that was achieved to come home and settle for life, unless those he loved were no longer living.
Here Uncle Robert paused a moment.
" And was there any chance to make a fortune ? "
Rob uttered this in a slow, grave tone, and glanced up doubtfully.
" 0," exclaimed Fred, " have you lots of money ? "
" How much do you call lots ? "
" Well," said Freddy, meditatively, " if you have a good deal, I 'd like to have a stunner of a present next Christmas."
" Fred ! " his mother exclaimed, in surprise. Uncle Robert laughed. " What do you call a stunner, Freddy ? " he asked.
" I 'd like to have a sled bigger and handsomer than Charley Darrell's. Would n't I make her go downhill!"
Kathie's eyes suddenly grew large and luminous. She was glad to have Uncle Robert just for himself, but what if he had come home rich ? Every pulse gave a quick throb.
" Well, Robbie, what would you have done, - stayed and made a fortune ? " asked his uncle.
" Would n't I, though! Just give me a chance to dig gold! A pocketful of rocks wouldn't be anything. What did you do? "
Kathie leaned over breathlessly. Did such wonderful things ever happen to any one ?
"I made the fortune. It was difficult work, and I do not know as money would ever tempt me to undergo such hardships again; but it is over now, and I'm thankful that I have something to share with you all."
" Hurrah !" shouted Rob, " Kathie, here's your prince, sure enough ! "
"Was that what Kathie expected?"
" She's death on fairy-stories, and this comes out exactly like one."
Uncle Robert turned her face around so that he could look into the eyes now downcast.
" And you wished for a fortune ? What would you do with it, Kathie ? "
" 0 Uncle Robert, I never thought much about that, at least, not having it myself. I wanted to be a fairy and make everybody happy; but I 've been learning that there are a great many pleasant and good things besides money, though that is very nice. And we should be glad to have you even if you were - ever so poor."
"My little darling, I am thankful for all your sakes that I can make the rest of life very delightful and happy. I think those who are cheerful and content in poverty will find much to enjoy in a wider sphere. And I'll promise to be your prince, Kathie."
She smiled tenderly.
" This is better than the party, -isn't it?" said Rob; " and I thought that splendid ! "
" What about it ? " asked Uncle Robert.
Kathie colored and laughed, but was not very ready in answering.
" 0, I'll tell you," Rob began in great earnestness. "We have been poor all our lives, to be sure. If papa had lived it would have been different with us. I don't know as I 've cared much about it, for I have managed to enjoy pretty good times, only now and then - "
Rob made so long a pause that his uncle said,
" The party was your text. Don't let it get astray from your sermon."
" 0 yes ! " and Rob laughed. Then he went on quite graphically, describing his own delight at the promise of a new suit of clothes, and his sorrow, when he came to think of it, that Kathie must go without; last of all the surprise.
Uncle Robert gave Kathie a hug. "That does sound wonderfully fairy-like," he said. " I remember the blue silk dress, for I took Aunt Ruth to a party the first time she wore it. I 'm glad so nice a thing happened to you, my little girl. Did you feel very grand ? "
" 0 no ; I almost wished for my old scarlet dress, and then I played until I forgot all about it. We had such a lovely time. Mamma, I met Miss Jessie by the store and told her the good news. Uncle Robert, I want you to see Miss Jessie. She is the sweetest young lady in the world."
" And they 've such lots of things, - a parrot that can say real words, just as funny as he can be. 0 Uncle Robert, could you get me a parrot ? "
Fred had been so quiet that they all thought him asleep, and they laughed at his sudden outburst.
" I guess we can find a parrot. Kathie, what will you have ? "
"I don't know," she answered, slowly. "I 'm afraid I shall want too many things."
" If uncle will give us three wishes," said Rob.
" Well, begin. Let us see what they are. Fred wants a sled and a parrot. What else ? You can. have one more wish, Freddy."
" Can. I have a pair of states ? I think I 'm big, enough."
" Why, Fred, you are laying in a stock for next winter," said his uncle, gayly.
" But I can have the parrot on rainy days, when I have to stay in the house."
" Down in the cellar or up in the garret," laughed Rob. " You make so much noise that the addition of a parrot close by one 's ears might n't always be agreeable. Or perhaps we can build you both a coop out in the garden."
"And could n't I take my dinner there, mamma, and live ? Would n't it be fun ? "
" Now, Rob, let us hear yours! "
" Three yards of black pudding - "
" Fast of your nose," appended Kathie, merrily.
" Don't interrupt me now, Kathie. It 's serious business, and I must consider. First of all, I 'd like a beauty of a sail-boat. There 's such a lovely river here. Uncle Robert."
" Then you 'll have to engage me as captain, and I shall ask a large salary."
" But could n't you teach me to manage a boat ? "
" In the course of time. What else ? "
" A real fine, handsome horse. But 0 dear, only one more.' " and Rob made a comical gesture of despair. " Uncle, the purse of Fortunatus."
"0 Rob, that will break me. I can't promise about that last. Kathie, it 's your turn."
The child was silent some moments, then she said, slowly, " I don't know as you can give me what I would most like." She put her arms up suddenly and drew Uncle Robert's head nearer in range of her voice and whispered something in his ear.
" 0, I heard, - a blue silk dress for Aunt Ruth, 'cause she gave hers to Kathie ! " shouted Fred.
" A miss that time, Freddy " ; and a sweet seriousness came over Uncle Robert's face. " I don't know, Kathie; you are a darling little girl to think of it first. That must be our secret, and we will talk it over to-morrow. Now another."
Rob looked as if he was trying to divine his sister's wish, but his uncle's face did not afford him the slightest clew.
" I 'd like to have a pretty little cottage, Uncle Robert, if it would n't cost too much, and a lawn in front with beautiful flowers and trees."
" We might compass that."
" And. a servant for mamma, so she will not have to work so hard."
" Nothing for yourself, Kathie ? "
" Why, it's all for me," answered Kathie, in a surprised tone.
Uncle Robert kissed her. " You are a dear, generous little girl," he said, with deep feeling.
" And it's past eleven o'clock, so we must all go to bed," announced Mrs. Alston. " The rest will keep until to-morrow."
There was a protest against this, but Uncle Robert overruled it. Then the children made an onslaught upon him and kissed him nearly to pieces, he said. " I am almost afraid to go to sleep, lest our castle tumbles down and Uncle Rob disappears," Kathie said, as she nodded her golden-crowned head at the door.
On to chapter 11
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