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Title: The four Corners in California

Author: Amy Ella Blanchard

Illustrator: Wuanita Smith

Release date: August 6, 2023 [eBook #71353]

Language: English

Original publication: Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs & Company, 1907

Credits: David Edwards, Mary Meehan and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at


The Corner Series



George W. Jacobs & Company

Copyright, 1907, by
George W. Jacobs & Company
Published September, 1907

All rights reserved
Printed in U. S. A.

Up and Down the Parade Passed in Review.


I.Going Forth
II.The Old Gentleman
III.Among the Missions
IV.Making Acquaintances
V.Hunting a Home
VII.An Encounter
VIII.The Home of Ramona
IX.One Sabbath Day
X.The Tournament of Roses
XI.The Tomale Man
XII.Jo Poker
XIII.The Secret
XIV.The Tea
XV.At the Ranch
XVI.Nan's New Friend
XVII.Making Up
XVIII.In Santa Barbara
XIX.The Message
XX.Homeward Bound


Up and down the parade passed in review
The good priest gave many interesting accounts
"I shall love to sit and look at her"
Mary Lee had lost all faith in the burro
A little Scotch air brought bunny to his shoulder

The Four Corners in California



There was great commotion in the home of the Corners one day in October. Nan was flying up and down-stairs "like a hen on a hot griddle," Aunt Sarah said. Mary Lee, less excitable, was, nevertheless, nervously putting in and taking out various articles from a leather satchel. Jean was trying to sop up some ink her twin sister, Jack, had spilt on the floor and over her precious self. "I was just going to write a card so as it would be all ready to put on Aunt Helen's trunk," wailed Jack, "and the ink bottle slipped before I could catch it."

"Never mind, never mind," comforted Jean. "It's coming out a little bit, Jack, and there's plenty of time. Unc' Landy has something that will take it out real crick. Now, do be criet and I'll go ask him for it."

Somewhat pacified, Jack's sobs ceased, though she sat mournfully contemplating the spot on the floor. Fortunately the carpet was old, patched and darned in places, so the damage done was less remarked than if it had been a new one. There had been other overturnings of ink, of water, of various other things, in days gone by, so its color was dingy and uncertain. Jack turned her gaze from the carpet to her own stained fingers saturated to the tips with the inky fluid. "They'll look dreadful to travel with," she said ruefully as Jean returned, "and Aunt Helen says ladies never have black fingernails."

"Oh, well, we aren't ladies yet," returned Jean consolingly. "Of course we'll not have when we are ladies, because we'll have time then to sit and use all those little things Aunt Helen has: files and scissors and things. Here's the stuff, Jack. Unc' Landy says this is hosally-assy, and it is very strong; you have to use only a few grains of it in some water."

"I wonder what it's made of," remarked Jack, as Jean carefully poured a few crystals into her hand from the small vial she held.

"I asked him," returned Jean, "and he said he reckoned it was made of horses and mules, like glue. He said the Bible calls mules asses; you remember Balaam's ass that spoke. Unc' Landy said he didn't know what the ally meant, but there was the hoss and the ass. He said they make lots of things out of animals. Rennet is made from the stomachs of calves, and then there's ox-gall, he said, for setting colors."

"He's right knowing for an old darky," returned Jack, wetting her finger and carefully touching a crystal.

"That's not the way to do it," said Jean hastily. "You must put it in water."

"I don't see why this way isn't just as good," returned Jack. "It is coming out, Jean. See, that little spot is nearly clean."

"It would be just as well to do it the right way," persisted Jean. She went over to the washstand, procured a mug half full of water into which she poured some grains of the oxalic acid, and brought it to Jack who plunged her fingers in it and sat comfortably soaking them while Jean attended to the carpet.

They were absorbed in this occupation when Mary Lee came in. "What are you two doing?" she asked.

"Why, Jack spilled some ink and we are getting it all out," replied Jean.

"I should think you were," said Mary Lee, viewing the basin of discolored water. "What is the matter with your hands, Jack? Have you burned them?"

"No, I am soaking off the ink with hossally-assy that Unc' Landy gave me."

"Not hossally, goosey; it's oxalic."

"Oh, then it's oxes and mules, Jean," she said in an undertone to her twin sister.

"It is a good thing mother made you wear that old frock till the very last minute," remarked Mary Lee, opening a closet door and running her eye over the contents. "I believe we have left nothing here that we shall want. You children had better hurry up; Nan wants us to form a procession to make the good-byes. We're going right away." She came and stood near her little sisters. "I don't believe you can get any more out, Jean; it's an old faded carpet, anyhow, and very likely we shall have a new one when we get back. I wouldn't bother over it. Come on down. Time is flying and we must say the good-byes."

Thus admonished the twins arose from the floor, Jack carefully examining her fingers. "They're not crite so bad," said Jean.

"I think they're much better," declared Jack with conviction. "When they're dry they will do very well."

"I promised Unc' Landy that I would take the bottle right back to him," Jean said.

"And tell him it is oxes, not horses," said Jack emptying the contents of the mug. "Wait a minute and I'll go with you, Jean. We shall have to go to the stable to say good-bye to Pete and the cow and chickens. There's Nan calling now."

They ran down to find their two elder sisters waiting for them. "Come on," said Nan. "We shall have to dress pretty soon, and there is no time to lose. We are going to the stable first and the gardens last. Mary Lee has some food for the chickens and I have an apple for Pete."

They started out, Nan leading the procession. At the stable they found Unc' Landy looking glum and unresponsive. It was a sore day for him which saw his "fambly" depart for California.

He shook his head as the children went through the ceremony of making their adieux to the old mule, Pete. "Lak as not yuh-all's don' see dat ol' mewl agin," he remarked, "an' mebbe I git called to glory mahse'f fo' yuh gits back, yuh gwine stay so long."

"Why, aren't you well, Unc' Landy?" chorused the four girls.

"I got tur'ble mis'ry in mah back," he said, "an' I only tollable these days. Lak as not I don' las' th'ough de wintah."

This was distressing, but the practical Mary Lee remembered that Unc' Landy prophesied this calamity at the beginning of each season. In the spring it was a "mis'ry in de haid" which would prevent his living till autumn. In the summer he was "so plumb wo' out" he didn't expect to see another Christmas. In the winter he was "dat oneasy in de jints" he wasn't to be expected to leave his bed again by spring. Yet the prophecies never came true, Mary Lee reflected, so she said cheerfully: "It would be a real low-down trick, Unc' Landy, for you not to wait till we get back. I don't believe you could do us so mean as not to have us here to see to your funeral."

At which speech Unc' Landy chuckled and wagged his head, and when they took up the line of march after having parted from their stable pets he followed in their wake. Before long four others had fallen into line. The first of them was Phil Lewis, then came the Gordon boys, Ashby and Randolph, and lastly came Trouble, the old mongrel dog who had shared many an experience of the Corner family's. As for Phil, he was a "double cousin" because he was related to both the Lees and the Corners. The Gordon boys were cousins, too, though less nearly related. They were going to school in the town and were boarding at the Corners' house which was now overlooked by Aunt Sarah Dent.

"We don't mean to echo your good-byes," said Randolph, as he came up, "but we want your company when you are going to leave us so soon."

Mary Lee turned to Phil. "You will have an eye to poor old Trouble, won't you?" she said. "Doctor him up if anything happens to him. Then the chickens and the ducks and all, I depend on you, Phil, not to let anything happen to them."

"Gracious!" exclaimed Nan. "You certainly are giving Phil a weight of responsibility. As if he could run after the chickens and ducks all day."

"Oh, he knows I don't expect him to do that, but that I hope he will take a general supervision of them." Phil promised to do his best and Mary Lee knew he would not fail her.

Jack slipped her hand into Randolph's. He was a tall, fine looking boy who towered up above the little lass, but who was quite chummy with her. "Won't you sometimes let Baz in when he is shut out in the cold?" she whispered. Baz was her cat of whom she was very fond. "Everybody pays attention to Lady Grey," she went on, "but Baz will get neglected if I am not here."

Ran smiled down at her. "Shall I get a bell for his neck so I can tell when he is around?"

"Oh, no, he wouldn't like that. You named him Maher-shaleel-hash-baz, you know."

"And so as a sort of sponsor I must be responsible for him and try to keep him from picking and stealing, I suppose. I am afraid I can't answer for his misdemeanors, Jack, but I will try to give him a warm corner in my room when I am there."

Jack gave his hand a squeeze. "Oh, thank you," she said. "I knew you would."

Randolph turned to Nan. "And what shall we do for you?" he inquired.

Nan looked sober. "I think I will speak a word for Aunt Sarah. She is going to miss us awfully, and she will get very lonely on Sundays, I'm afraid."

Randolph gave the girl a quick look. He knew that in days gone by Aunt Sarah Dent and Nan had not been the best of friends. "It is good of you to think of Miss Sarah before any one else," he said. "I know you and she weren't always nick-ups."

"Oh, but we are now. Ever since she nursed me last year we have been."

"Well," said Ran, "if she is good enough to come here to keep house and look after the comfort of us boys, I reckon the least we can do is to make her as little trouble as possible and to think of her comfort sometimes."

"Spoken like a true Southern gentleman," returned Nan laughing.

From stable to hen-house; from hen-house to garden; from garden to orchard they had taken their way. Many were the charges Unc' Landy received concerning this hen, that duck; this crop of vegetables, that yield of fruit, and now the final spot was reached and they returned solemnly to the house, a little cast down as they considered how long it would be before they saw each familiar place again.

Leaving the three boys to pass away the time as they should choose till the moment came when they were to escort them to the railway station, the three younger girls hurried up-stairs to make ready for their journey. Nan, however, lingered below for a few moments. She had one more farewell to make. She slipped into the deserted living-room, and going to her piano, her last year's Christmas gift from her grandmother, she opened it, passed her hand lovingly along the keys, and laid her cheek against the shining case. "Good-bye, you precious thing," she whispered. "I wish I could take you with me, but I will come back to you, and there is one good thing about it; you will be exactly the same, no taller, as the boys will be; you will not get rheumatism in your joints, as Unc' Landy may do, and you will seem as young as ever when I come back." After a last loving pat upon the closed lid, she locked the piano and carried the key to Aunt Sarah for safe keeping. Then she went up-stairs to join the others in making ready for their journey.

Mary Lee's bag was neatly packed and Jean had followed her example by stowing away her belongings in an orderly manner, but Jack was pulling open bureau drawers and ransacking every corner for the gloves and handkerchief which she declared she had carefully laid away. "Do help me, Nan," she implored; "the others are so mean and say I am careless and that they will go off without me if I don't hurry. You won't let them leave me behind, will you, Nan?"

"Indeed I will not," said Nan heartily. "Don't fly about so crazily. Sit down for a second and try to think where you last saw the things. What were you doing after you had them?"

Jack plumped herself down on the floor and folded her hands. "I—let me see,—oh, yes, I went down-stairs to see if there were any more caramels. I ate one out of my box and there was a tiny corner that I wanted to fill up."

"Then like as not you left the things in the pantry."

"No, I didn't. I stopped on the way to put them somewhere."

"Have you looked in the living-room?"


"Then probably that is where they are. Come, let's go down and see if they are there." She led the way to the living-room and there, sure enough, the gloves and handkerchief were found hidden under a book on the table.

"What a place to put them," exclaimed Nan. "That's just like you, Jack. Come along, now. Put your hat on straight; it's over your left ear. The others are all ready. No, don't dive under the sofa for the cat; you'll get all in a mess. Here, you've dropped one of your gloves. Put them both on; it's the only safe way. Of course you'll lose them both before the journey is over, but you may as well start out all right. There are crumbs sticking to your mouth; wipe them off. Coming, mother," and pushing Jack ahead of her she gave one swift glance around the room and joined the group standing on the porch.

The carriage was already waiting at the door. Mary Lee and Jean were seated complacently therein. It was a big, roomy old hack such as the livery stable of the town afforded for the use of the traveling public, and there was space enough for the six of them to be comfortably seated without crowding. Mary Lee leaned back sedately, but Jack and Nan stretched their necks out of the window till the corner was turned, despite the criticism which this performance brought from Mary Lee.

"You look like country jakes," she declared, "as if you had never traveled before. Do take in your heads; people will laugh at you."

"I don't care if they do," responded Nan. "It won't be the first time we have been laughed at, will it, Jack?"

"And it won't be the last, if you are going to keep up this sort of doings," returned Mary Lee with a superior air.

"Oh, don't let's fuss just as we are starting out," put in Jean plaintively; "it takes away all the good taste."

"Well spoken," said Miss Helen. "Do be amiable, you others, and let us go forth with a good taste in our mouths, as Jean says."

In consequence all four smiled sweetly as if to assure one another of their kindly feelings, and even when Nan called to Jack, "Last look, honey," Mary Lee said no word though Jack reached far out to catch a final glimpse of the brown house in its frame of red and yellow autumn leaves.

This last view gave Aunt Sarah on the porch and Unc' Landy leaning on the gate, Trouble at his side looking up wistfully, one ear flopping dejectedly over his eye; it was clear that he understood that something unusual must be the matter when the entire family went off in this stately manner. Their last view of the station showed three lads standing a-row, little Phil craning his neck to look after the departing train, tall Ran waving his hat and Ashby, between the two, shouting something which they did not hear.

"Now, we're really off," said Nan with a sigh of satisfaction. "I have been dreadfully afraid that something would happen to prevent our trip, for it seemed such a tremendously splendid thing for all of us to do. We'll get somewhere, anyhow, even if there should be a railway accident."

"Oh, Nan," said Jean in an expostulatory tone, "what makes you say such a dreadful thing? I didn't want to think about railway accidents and now you've gone and made me."

"Sorry, dearie. I didn't mean to harrow up your sensibilities. There isn't going to be any accident; of course there isn't. Think of how many hundreds and thousands of journeys are taken every day and nobody gets hurt; it is the exception when anything bad happens, and I know it won't this time."

This confidence reassured Jean and she proceeded to unfasten her box of caramels in order to begin the enjoyment of that which was to her an important part of the day's doings.

"Six of us take up a good deal of room," remarked Jack who, as usual, chose to sit by the side of her eldest sister. Mary Lee and Jean were side by side while Mrs. Corner and Miss Helen occupied a third seat. "Just think, Nan, we were never in sleeping cars before," Jack went on.

"In sleeping cars?" exclaimed Nan. "We've scarcely ever been in any cars; I expect we'll get good and tired of them, too, before we get there."

"Oh, but we are to stop off at New Orleans."

"Yes, and other places, too, maybe: Houston and San Antonio, and Mexico, perhaps." She gave Jack a sudden ecstatic squeeze. "Oh, Jack, aren't we lucky to have an Aunt Helen to do all this for us?"

"She ought to do it," said Jack stoutly. "You know she ought to divide with us, for grandmother said it was what grandfather would have wanted her to do."

"Yes, I know that," returned Nan, "but some persons wouldn't have done it."

"She would have been the piggiest kind of a pig to keep it all, when there are five of us and only one of her," insisted Jack.

"All the same," continued Nan, "there are just such human pigs, but Aunt Helen is a darling." Here Nan fell into a fit of dreaming as was a frequent habit of hers, and Jack slipped away to the next seat and squeezed herself in by the side of her twin sister while Nan gazed out of the window and thought of many things. So many changes in one short year. Within that time she had met an unknown grandmother and had encountered her Aunt Helen only a year back, had made her acquaintance without knowing who she was, and had loved her at first sight. Thus had followed the renewal of relations between the old brown house where the Corner girls lived and the big house of Uplands to which the elder Mrs. Corner and her daughter had returned after several years' residence abroad. What a long winter it would have been, Nan reflected, if, while their precious mother was away in the Adirondacks for her health, there had been no Aunt Helen near by. How like a true fairy godmother she had come to them full of gifts which meant so much to a poverty-stricken household. Now Uplands was in ashes and the old brown house, fresh with new paint, was home to all of them except the grandmother whose troubled spirit had left a feeble body the spring before. After long estrangement the sister and wife of John Corner were again dear friends.

Nan looked across at them, at little Aunt Helen's white hair and sweet eyes, at her mother's pale, gentle, lovely face. With a swift movement which she could not resist, Nan rushed across the aisle and bestowed a kiss upon each.

Her mother smiling, turned to Miss Helen. "How like Nan," she said. "I can fancy just what made her do that."

Miss Helen nodded. "So can I." And her gaze fell upon Nan's dark head turned now toward the car window.

It was growing dark, and the landscape dimmed into large forms of purple mountains and russet plains, softly outlined in the October evening light. "Speeding away, speeding away into a new world," whispered Nan as the train rushed along.

But she was aroused from her dreams by Mary Lee's drawling voice in her ear. "Aunt Helen's called you three times, you old drowsy owl. Come along, we're going to the dining-car for supper."

"Oh, Nan," said Jack reproachfully, "how could you be so forgetful? Why, I've just been sitting here aching for the time to come when we could eat our supper. We never did have a real meal in a real dining-car before. I believe you would have sat there all night and dreamed, if we had let you."

"Night is the time to dream," replied Nan laughing as she bumped along the aisle of the swaying train in the wake of the others.

"Not when you haven't had any supper," returned Jack over her shoulder.



It was Jack who made their stay in New Orleans more memorable than it would otherwise have been, for she became possessed of a frantic love of elevators, and, having made friends with the elevator boy, spent most of her time, when she could escape from the others, in riding up and down from the top floor of the hotel to the basement. In consequence of this fancy she was led into a predicament which gave considerable trouble to the entire party.

Miss Helen was conducting the expedition to California, for she was an experienced traveler, but she confessed that Jack was an element such as she never before had been obliged to consider. The trunks had gone on to the station, the carriage was waiting at the door, the bill had been paid, the servants had received their tips, but no Jack appeared. Nan scurried in one direction, Mary Lee in another, Jean in a third. Had any one seen a little girl in brown hat and coat, wandering about the hotel?

"She was all ready to go, for I put on her hat myself," said Mrs. Corner. "What can have become of the child?"

Miss Helen started off to add her powers of search to the others. "We haven't a great deal of time," she remarked.

"Dear, dear, what could have made the child do so?" exclaimed Mrs. Corner, annoyed by the delay.

In a few minutes Jean came running in. "She's in the elevator," she said, "and it's stuck between the fourth and fifth floors, so she can't go up or down."

Then Nan came along followed by Mary Lee. "We've found out where she is, but we can't get at her. What shall we do?" they asked.

"I'm sure I don't know," said Mrs. Corner. "Go find your Aunt Helen, Nan, and tell her what is the matter. We shall have to wait till another train, I am afraid, though it will upset all our arrangements."

There was no help for it; wait they must, for it required some tinkering to free the elevator and its occupants. "Well, I hope you have had enough of elevators," said Mary Lee, as she, with her sisters, greeted the liberated Jack. "You've made Aunt Helen, and all of us, a lot of trouble, for it is too late for our train and we shall have to wait till afternoon."

To which Jack replied smoothly: "Good! then I can go up and down ever so many times more."

"Indeed, you will do nothing of the kind," returned Nan. "You will not get out of our sight again, for who knows but the next time you may have to stay all night between floors. I wouldn't trust to that elevator again."

This suggestion rather dampened Jack's ardor, and she submitted with rather a good grace to her mother's command to take no more elevator rides that day, and she welcomed Nan's suggestion that they go forth to find some pralines for Aunt Helen. "She is so fond of them," said Nan to her mother, "and it will keep Jack out of mischief if I take her to walk."

"I wasn't in any mischief," objected Jack. "I'm sure it wasn't my fault that the elevator stuck. You all talk as if I were always making accidents happen. Could I help it, mother?"

"No, but you could have helped being in the elevator at a time when you should have been on hand with your sisters; that is where the trouble came in. Do look in my bag, Nan, and get her a clean handkerchief; that one is a sight."

"May I have some smell-sweet on it—the clean one I mean?" said Jack, stuffing into her pocket the soiled little ball she held.

"No, you may not," returned Nan shortly. "I am not going to undo that bottle again. I wish we hadn't brought it; you've badgered me to death every time you have had a clean handkerchief, and we brought that cologne only for headaches. You are as bad as Unc' Landy about wanting to perfume yourself up."

"Is Jean going with us?" asked Jack, turning aside the reproof.

"No, Mary Lee is reading the rest of that story to her."

"Oh, I wanted to hear that, too," said Jack, turning back.

"You can't now, for I am not going to wait for you."

"Oh, Nan, you are so cross," complained Jack. "If you are going to be like this all the time, I wish we didn't have to go to California."

"I was cross," replied Nan contritely, "but I was so put out because we missed that train, Jack, and I haven't gotten over it yet. I'll be nice hereafter, and I will read the rest of the story to you if we get back in time, and if we don't I can read it to you on the train."

Jack's face cleared and she put her hand confidingly in Nan's. It was not often that this eldest sister bore down upon her so heavily, for she generally stood between herself and lectures, and to have Nan fail her in an hour of need seemed a very sorry thing to Jack, little sinner though she was.

They started down the corridor of the hotel but suddenly Jack turned and ran back. Nan followed close upon her heels, grabbing her by the shoulder before she had gone many steps. "I declare, Jack," she cried, "you are just like a mosquito; I think I have you and off you go. What are you going back for?"

"I only wanted to tell Mary Lee not to leave the book with the story in it."

"She won't leave it; she knows we haven't finished reading it. We must hurry or we won't get back for the next train and that would be a sad go."

"I shouldn't care," remarked Jack nonchalantly.

"To tell you the truth, neither should I," returned Nan, "for I am quite willing to see more of this nice old place, but we can't do just as we would like; we must think of mother and Aunt Helen. Don't stop to look at those postal cards, we can do that some other time."

So forth they fared into the streets of the old part of the city where in a certain shop the delectable sweets could be had in their perfection. It was in this same shop that they met the old gentleman. The encounter came about in this wise. Jack dropped a penny on the floor, and after groping for it under the counter, she came up in a dark corner and her head met the rotund middle of an old gentleman standing there. "Good gracious!" he exclaimed, fairly jumping in surprise as Jack crawled out.

"I hope I didn't hurt you," said Jack apologetically.

Then the old gentleman began to laugh, and said Jack afterward, "He was just like Santa Claus, for he shook like a bowlful of jelly. If I had known how far from his feet he stuck out in front I would have come out further along."

The laugh showed that he was not hurt, and Jack was so relieved that she laughed too. "Thought you'd knocked the breath out of me," said the old gentleman. "Well, I find I can breathe yet, though I wonder what made you come butting into me in that way. Are you a goat?"

"No," returned Jack; "I'm only a kid."

"Ho-ho! Ha-ha!" laughed the old gentleman. "That's pretty good. Come here, kid, and tell me which of the candies in those jars you think looks the most eatable."

Jack gravely scanned the jars. "I think that nutty kind looks best, don't you?" she said. "Unless you don't like nuts," she added.

"Very fond of 'em. I'll take a couple of pounds." He designated to the woman in charge the jar Jack had pointed out and when the candy was weighed he handed it to the child.

"But—but——" began Jack in surprise.

"But—but; that's just what you did to me." And again the old gentleman went off into a paroxysm of laughter in which Jack again joined, partly from pleasure at receiving the candy, and partly because the old gentleman's laugh was very contagious.

"I didn't suppose you liked it so well," said Jack when she had regained her gravity. "I didn't think you enjoyed it so much that you would want to pay me for butting you."

The old man's "Ho-ho!" again sounded forth, but he put up a protesting hand. "Here, here, that's enough," he said. "I haven't laughed so much for a month of Sundays. What's your name, kid?"

"Jack Corner."

"Jack Horner? Then you're fond of plums and Christmas pies. You are making fun of me, I'm afraid. Whoever heard of a girl being named Jack Horner. Now if you had said little Miss Muffet or Margery Daw I might have believed you."

"I'd rather be one of those than little Nan Etticoat, for she had a red nose," returned Jack. "But I didn't say Jack Horner. My name is Jacqueline Corner; they call me Jack for short. That's my sister Nan over there."

"Oh, she is Nan Etticoat, then, but I don't see that her nose is red nor her petticoats very short. Tell her to come over here. My name is Nicholas Pinckney."

"I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick," quoted Jack glibly with mischief in her eyes.

Mr. Pinckney pinched her ear. "Oh, you are a little baggage," he said. "Go along and bring your sister."

Jack straightway brought Nan over to where her new friend stood. "This is my sister, Nan," she began gravely, "Mr.—Mr. St. Nicholas——" she laughed merrily.

"Oh, you mischief," said the gentleman shaking a playful finger at her. "I know why you call me that. I am named Nicholas, as it happens, Miss Nan, Nicholas Pinckney. Now, young ladies, I want you to help me select a box of goodies for a lady. She happens to be my daughter, and though it is some time since she was a little girl she likes sweets and I want to take some to her. I am sure she will like what you can select better than any I might choose."

This was a pleasant task, and both girls entered into it with zest, so that the large box looked very tempting when it was filled. "Now send this to me." Mr. Pinckney gave his name and the hotel at which he was stopping.

"Why, that is where we are," said Jack.

"Is that so?" returned Mr. Pinckney. "I am glad to hear it, for now I can have company on the way there."

"We are only going to stay a few hours longer," Jack informed him. "We were going this morning." And then she told him of the reasons of the delay, which tale brought forth more merriment from her listener.

"And where are you going from here?" he asked, and when Nan told him he exclaimed, "Why, bless my soul, I am going to Los Angeles myself; that is where my daughter lives. I believe I will take the afternoon train. I was going to stay over till to-morrow, but I wouldn't miss a journey with the kid for a good deal. Come, let us walk up, you youngsters, so I can get my bill paid and my dunnage stored in my grip." He puffed and blew so that by the time the hotel was reached he could scarce utter a word and disappeared into one of the corridors on the first floor without anything more than a smile and a wave of the hand.

The two girls rushed to find their mother. "We've met the nicest man," they cried as they entered her room. "Just see all this candy he bought us."

"Why, my dears," Mrs. Corner looked half disapproval, "who was it?"

"He is Mr. St. Nick Pinckney," Jack informed her, "and he is a darling if he is fat, isn't he, Nan?"

"Yes, he is," Nan endorsed the opinion, "and he is going just where we are. We met him by accident, mother." And she told the tale of the encounter.

"If that isn't Jack all over," exclaimed Mrs. Corner. "I believe she would find an adventure in the most impossible of places. I don't exactly approve of your picking up acquaintances, children; it isn't always safe when you are traveling."

"Oh, but he is perfectly safe; I know he is," Nan assured her; "he wouldn't hurt a kitten, and you will say so when you have seen him. He is so jolly and has such a pleasant face. You and Aunt Helen will like him, I know. It was an awfully nice way to pass away the time; going for pralines, I mean, not butting over old gentlemen. We saw some more queer streets and Mr. Pinckney pointed out several interesting places to us. Are the pralines good, Aunt Helen?"

"They are delicious. Help yourselves, dearies;" she held out the box to the girls, "and then gather up your belongings, for we must start in season this time and before Jack is spirited away again."

"I'd like to watch for Mr. Pinckney," remarked Jack.

"No, not out of my sight for a second may you go," said Mrs. Corner. "This Mr. St. Nick may carry you off to Snowland for all I know, and I won't see you again till he puts you in my stocking next Christmas."

So Jack remained by her mother's side; but as they passed down the stairs and into the carriage she whispered to Nan: "I don't believe he is coming."

"I'm afraid he isn't," returned Nan in the same low tone. "Perhaps he couldn't get packed up in time."

But when they reached the railway station there he was, his portliness not preventing him from keeping on the trot, sending porters hither and thither, and seeing that the whole Corner party was comfortably established. He settled Jack in a seat by his side and evidently looked forward to being furnished with entertainment by that young person, and, indeed, Jack was quite equal to what was expected of her, though Mr. Pinckney did his share in making himself agreeable to her, and the two chattered away like old friends. What Mr. Pinckney did not learn about the Corner family that day he did before the journey was ended.

"We used to be as poor as church mice," Jack informed him confidentially. "That was before grandmother died. She quarreled with my father and when he died she marched off to Europe and took all her money with her so mother couldn't find a bit of it. Aunt Helen came back first and saw Nan and Nan made friends with her, though Aunt Sarah—you don't know Aunt Sarah Dent, she's mother's aunt and she couldn't bear Grandma Corner. Well, she just made an awful fuss and wouldn't let Nan go over to Uplands at all. Nan snuck off, though, and Aunt Sarah was as mad as hops. She shut Nan up and Nan fell down-stairs and broke her arm and then Uplands burned down and grandmother had to come to our house where she died." Jack took a long breath after her gallop through these annals of family history. Then she went on again:

"Mother was up in the Adirondacks and Aunt Sarah was keeping house and looking after us children, but mother came back and Aunt Helen went shares with us; her mother said she must, so Jean and I don't have to wear Nan's and Mary Lee's old clothes any more. This is a brand new coat and so is the hat. Don't you think they are pretty? Jean's are just the same, only Jean has a blue hair-ribbon and I have a brown one; we are twins, you know. Jean always calls us trins; she can't say twins, nor twice, nor queen, nor any such words. She gets her tongue twisted over them, she says. We are going to dress just alike till we are in our teens, and then mother says we are not to, for she doesn't like to see big girls dress the same. I think, too, I would rather not, then, though I don't mind it now."

"Why not now?" asked Mr. Pinckney to encourage her to keep up her chatter.

"Because," Jack leaned nearer to whisper, "if I can't find my things I can put on Jean's and no one knows the difference."

Mr. Pinckney shook his head. "That's not square, you know," he said.

"Oh, isn't it?" Jack considered the matter carefully, then she asked: "Why?"

"Because it is deceiving, you see. You are making others think it is yours when it isn't, and beside, if your sister came to look for her things and couldn't find them it would give her some trouble and annoyance; we should spare our friends that when we can."

"All right; I won't do it again," said Jack cheerfully. Then hastily changing the subject she said, "Nan's awfully smart. She can do all sorts of things. You ought just to hear her play on the piano and see what she can contrive out of nothing. I just love Nan."

"And don't you love the others?"

"Of course. Jean is my twin and I am bound to love her, but Mary Lee always pushes me on to scrapes somehow and Nan gets me out of them. I am always getting into scrapes like sticking in the elevator, you know. I fell into the pig-pen once."

Mr. Pinckney's "Ho-ho," rang forth at this and he leaned forward to say to Mrs. Corner: "She is a most amusing child, this little Jack of yours."

"Don't let her bore you," returned Mrs. Corner.

"Bore me? Faith, madam, I was never so interested in my life." He turned again to Jack.

"Did you ever get into scrapes when you were little?" asked Jack.

"I got into many and many a one, but I had no sister Nan to help me out."

"What did you do then?"

"I wriggled out the best way I could. You needn't look at me in that speculative way. I wasn't so fat as I am now. I was no bigger than you at the same age."

Jack immediately jumped up and clapped her hands upon that part of her person just below her waist line. "Oh," she exclaimed in alarm, "do you suppose I'll ever—I'll ever—look like St. Nick?"

"Never," returned Mr. Pinckney, his laugh ringing out again. "Don't be alarmed; I'm sure that affliction doesn't run in your family."

"Were your scrapes very bad?" asked Jack sitting down again after this assurance.

"Pretty bad, sometimes," was the reply.

"I'm awfully glad." Jack really looked pleased.

"You little sinner! I suppose you have a fellow feeling."

"Did you have brothers, and were their scrapes never so bad as yours?"

"I must confess to being the one who was generally in a pickle, and my brothers never did manage to get into such holes as I did."

"Good!" cried Jack. "Then you were just like me and I like you better than ever."

"That is some compensation," laughed the old gentleman. "Perhaps if I had known in those long ago days, what the future held for me in the frank liking of Jack Corner I might not have been as disturbed as I often was."

"Did they—did they ever put you to bed without your supper?" Jack asked after some thought.

"Often and often."

Jack snuggled closer to him. "Did they ever—spank you?" she said in an awed whisper.

The answer was whispered back. "Don't tell anybody, but I was spanked at least once a week."

Jack regarded him with increasing interest. "That's more than mine," she told him. "It never happened that often to me, for only Aunt Sarah believes in it; mother doesn't."

"Unfortunately it was my father who did."

Jack gave a long sigh. "That must have been pretty bad, but you don't mind it now, do you?" she said as she cuddled her hand in her friend's.

"Not a bit," he assured her.

"That's nice; I should have felt badly if you did. Let's talk about something else."

"Gladly," returned Mr. Pinckney with a twinkle in his eye.

"I just want to say," Jack went on, "that I shall probably never have any more, for Aunt Sarah isn't here with us and when we get back home mother will be there, too; besides I am too big." Having disposed of the subject in this comfortable way she felt that she had made a frank avowal to Mr. Pinckney and had placed herself above any future suspicions on his part, when punishments might be darkly mentioned.

The presence of the genial old gentleman did much toward adding pleasure to the trip for the entire party, as he was continually buying magazines, and illustrated papers for them all, was always alert in sending the porter for any comfort, had his head out of the window the moment they stopped at the larger stations, ready to hail any passing vendor of commodities in the direction of food or drink, so that they all fell into the habit of calling him Mr. St. Nick, and declared that they were as well off as if traveling with their grandfather.

"You see, unfortunately, I have no grandchildren of my own," he explained to Mrs. Corner, "and I do enjoy these young folks of yours immensely." He dubbed Jack, the Kid, Jean, the Trin, Nan was Zephyr, Zeph for short, and Mary Lee was Prisms, for he said she represented "Propriety, prunes and prisms."

With these newly acquired names they arrived at San Diego where they parted from the old gentleman who was going on to where his daughter lived in Los Angeles, and where they expected to see him later when they had taken their fill of San Diego County.



Miss Helen did not mean that they should settle down at once to work. "I think the children will learn much of history, and many other things as useful, if we see a little of this old California before we set them to work," she said to Mrs. Corner. "Moreover, we must decide upon our own abiding place before we can expect them to put their minds upon study, and besides it is not going to be easy to find just the right teacher for them."

"They are learning fast enough as it is," returned Mrs. Corner, "and we do not want to travel too rapidly. I am not imbued so deeply with the American spirit of hurry that I want to jump from place to place without getting an idea of where I am. It would be well, I think, to examine each locality carefully as we go along."

"That is exactly my idea," replied Miss Helen, returning to the book she was reading while her sister turned to gaze out upon the scene spread out before her. After a little pause Miss Helen spoke again, this time to the children who were gathered together with a story book which they were reading aloud by turns. "What do you girls say to a pilgrimage to the old missions?" asked their aunt.

"I'd love it," cried Nan.

"So should I," echoed Jack who always wanted to do whatever Nan did.

"What are old missions?" asked Jean. "Shall we see the missionaries and the heathen mothers throwing their children to the crocodiles? If we shall I don't want to go; it would make me feel too sad."

"Goosey!" cried Nan. "Of course not. This isn't India and besides people don't do nowadays as they used to when that little old hymn-book of Aunt Sarah's was made. They aren't that kind of missions, are they, Aunt Helen?"

"Not exactly, though no doubt in the early days there were customs among the Indians which would seem very dreadful to us now, and which the mission fathers had to overcome."

"Did they use to throw away their children?" asked Jean upon whose youthful mind this had made a great impression.

"Hardly, I think."

"Then what did the missionaries have to do?"

"They built churches for them and taught them all sorts of useful things. They learned to sew and to spin and weave, that is the women did, and the men were taught to be carpenters and farmers and builders."

"Were they very wicked?" asked Jack. "They were Indians, I thought, and of course they used to scalp people and tomahawk them and dash the babies against the trees to kill them; that is as bad, Jean, as throwing them into the river."

"It's worse," declared Jean.

"Oh, these were nice, kind Indians," said Nan comfortably; "I don't suppose they ever did those horrid things, did they, Aunt Helen?"

"They were gentler than most, I believe, and they responded very lovingly to the teachings of the priests. There is nothing in California more interesting, to my mind, than those old churches founded by the Spanish padres. Most of them are in ruins and the Indians, who labored so faithfully, were scattered far and wide. Their descendants have now so degenerated that there are very few to represent the industrious, gentle people watched over so carefully by Father Junipero and his followers. I must send and get a copy of 'Ramona,' for you older girls; we can read it aloud evenings, and I am sure you will soon be taking a very deep interest in these old missions."

"How many are there?" asked Nan.

"About twenty, but some of them are rather inaccessible and others are quite in a dilapidated condition so we will not visit all. We shall begin with San Diego, for here we are within six miles of the site, then we can go on to San Luis Rey and San Juan Capistrano on our way to Los Angeles, and then we can decide where we shall want to stay for the winter."

"I think it's awfully nice here," remarked Jack.

"Yes, but there might be a still nicer place," said Jean sagely, "and then we'd be sorry when we came to it that we hadn't looked further. You know we have said all along that we wanted to be near Mr. Pinckney," she reminded Jack.

"Oh, yes, that is so; we do want to do that, for then we may get boxes of candy every little while," returned Jack cheerfully.

"That's not the reason," said Nan severely. "It is because he is so nice and will make us all at home. Won't it seem queer to really settle down to live in a perfectly strange place? I wonder how in the world we shall know what to buy and what to pay for it. How shall you manage, mother?" She turned to Mrs. Corner.

"I shall not bother my head over that problem till I face it," her mother made reply. "I should judge from our experiences so far that we shall not want for what we need. It is surely a bountiful country and the marketing will be the least of our difficulties."

"What is the greatest, then?"

"Deciding where it will be best to locate. There are so many charming places described in these pamphlets that I am perfectly bewildered." She laid her hand upon a pile of circulars by her side.

"I think we'd better decide to stay where you feel the best," said Nan.

"But we don't want to stay so long in one place that we can thoroughly test it till we come to the right one, and who is to know which that is?"

"Then try one or two and if you happen to feel fine in any of them there will be no need to try further."

"Quite true, my sapient daughter, we will take your sage advice."

Nan laughed and returned to her reading. She often surprised her mother by a sudden practical suggestion, for, full of sentiment though she was, she nevertheless had a keen insight and a warm sympathy which helped her judgments in matters where her heart was concerned. She adored her mother, and, being the eldest, realized better than the others what this winter meant to her, for on account of her health Mrs. Corner had been obliged to spend the previous winter away from her family and Nan dreaded lest worse should some day come, so California meant not only a place for pleasuring but one which they hoped might bring health and happiness to them all.

The thought of what it meant was upon Nan now and she did not listen to the fairy tale which Mary Lee was taking her turn in reading. The world was full of fairy tales, Nan thought, and they were almost living in one themselves, for was not Aunt Helen the fairy godmother who had made present delights possible. She smiled up at her aunt and left the group to follow the fortunes of sweet Babette while she joined the two who sat a little apart.

"The world is a mighty nice place most anywhere, when you are happy, isn't it, Aunt Helen?" said Nan.

"So you have found that out, have you?" replied her aunt smiling. "Yes, dear, one can be miserable in the loveliest spot on earth, and can be happy in the dreariest. The kingdom of heaven is within you," she added softly.

Nan pondered over this. "I never understood it in that way before," she said after a while. "I am glad I know now."

They were sitting on the porch of their hotel at San Diego. One could not tell that summer had gone, for though there was a slight pallor upon the lower hills, and the green of the chaparral was not so bright, the grass still showed as lively a color in a few moist places and as for the rest it might have been July, save that the days were shorter and the nights cooler. The rains would probably soon commence but Miss Helen thought they might count upon little interruption to their travels, since a rainy day at home did not set aside a journey.

But several rainy days did delay their start and in the meantime Nan and Mary Lee read "Ramona" zealously, becoming more and more fired with indignation at the treatment of the Indians, and more and more interested in the work of the padres.

"I am almost ashamed of being an American," said Nan with vehemence. "I never was before in my life, but when I think of those poor Indians driven out of their homes, and of how those dear old padres worked so hard for them to have their labor for nothing, it makes my blood boil. I am just ashamed of ourselves."

"But you didn't do it," returned Mary Lee, more quiet in her judgments.

"But my country did."

"Well, you couldn't help that."

"I'd like to help it."

"But they say the Indians have become miserable, disgusting, filthy creatures, not at all like they used to be."

"So much the more pity. They might have been kept respectable, and have grown still more so if they had not been robbed of everything."

"We can't tell what they might have been," said Mary Lee, determined to have the last word.

But Nan was equally determined. "If you feel that way about it I shouldn't think you would care to visit the missions," she remarked as she made her exit from the room.

However, Mary Lee was quite as interested as the others when they started out on their pilgrimage to the mission of San Diego, which was the first to be founded by good Father Junipero Serra. The six mile drive to the spot was a pleasant one, for though November winds were wailing through the Virginia woods scattering the brown leaves over the ground, here the sun was shining warm, and the first rain of a week earlier had given place to bright pleasant weather. The dry fields were turning to a vivid green as if it were spring rather than winter which was coming and the landscape was freshening up after the rainless summer.

"It is lovely, lovely," cried Mrs. Corner. "To think there will be no cold snows to chill one to the marrow, and that we shall see fruit and flowers growing the winter long."

"Won't there be any snow at all?" asked Jack wonderingly. "Then how can we go coasting?"

"You can't," said Nan briefly.

Jack looked a little disappointed. She dearly loved a rough and tumble time in the snow.

"And won't there be any Christmas?" asked Jean eagerly.

Nan laughed. "You little goosey, you know there will. You don't suppose Christmas is like a groundhog that only stays out when it doesn't see its shadow. Christmas comes anywhere and in any weather."

This relieved Jean's mind on that score and she settled back in the carriage and began thinking what she would like Santa Claus to bring her while the others looked out upon the road leading by Old Town and thought of the changes which had taken place since Junipero Serra first came that way to plant his mission.

"Shouldn't you like to have been there then?" said Nan to her Aunt Helen. "I wish I could have seen them swinging the bells over a tree and raising the cross while the Indians all stood around looking so surprised." Nan was the first to reach the old church. "I'd salute it with three cheers and a tiger," she said, "if I didn't think Father Junipero would be scandalized."

"You talk as if he could hear you," Mary Lee returned.

"Perhaps he can," said Nan.

Not much of the original church remained, but the portion of the adobe wall and the fachada still standing, gave them an idea of what had been.

"What is the new building?" asked Mary Lee. "It looks queer beside the other, doesn't it?"

"It is a school for Indian children," Miss Helen informed her.

"Can we go in?"

"We will see."

"I hope they will let us in," said Nan to Mary Lee, "don't you? I should like to see what an Indian school looks like."

"I wonder if they know any of the old, old hymns," said Miss Helen musingly. "It would be good to hear them."

To their gratification they were permitted to enter and not only saw the working of the school but heard the children sing some of the old anthems handed down from their forefathers. "Don't allow those old chorals to sink into obscurity," said Miss Helen to the priest who did the honors of the place. "Think, Nan," she went on, as she turned to her niece, "those are the same ancient chorals which were sung in Father Junipero's day."

"I can imagine just how it used to be," whispered Nan in reply.

As they came out they turned their steps toward the old church again. "But where are the flocks and herds, the busy men and women cheerfully working under their good teachers?" said Miss Helen. "Where are the vineyards and the fields of grain?" She looked out over the quiet landscape and sighed. "It was pretty hard," she said, shaking her head.

The good priest who showed them around gave many interesting accounts to which the older members of the party listened attentively. The twins were more interested in the swift little lizards darting in and out the crevices of the church, and in prying curiously into odd corners.

The Good Priest Gave Many Interesting Accounts.

"There is an underground passage from the old well," said Nan in an undertone to her sister. "The priest says it was probably used for storing tallow, but I believe it was made for escape in case of attack. He says that is what some persons think."

"It is more likely to be the tallow," returned Mary Lee, "but of course you would want it to be the other, for it is more romantic."

As they drove away Miss Helen remarked, "The school building certainly does detract from the beauty of the picture, but who would do away with it? Who would not keep alive some of the spirit of those once prosperous days? To think, Mary," she turned to Mrs. Corner, "we cross the ocean to see the old churches and the picturesque in other lands, while at our own doors are these missions which we allow to fall into decay. I really believe that not one half of our countrymen know what is in our own land when they go to Europe. I am sure I didn't know, except in a vague way. Every American who can afford it ought to make at least one pilgrimage to these old California missions. We must see as many of them as we can. They interest me more than big trees or orange orchards. I know one of my lassies who will be always ready to go with me when the others want to stay at home," she added as she glanced at Nan whose starry eyes were fixed on the retreating picture of the old ruin, and whose lips were moving. Leaning forward Miss Helen whispered, "What are you saying, Nan?"

"I was just thanking Father Junipero," she said simply. "Where is the next mission, Aunt Helen, and when shall we go there?"

"You and I will take a little excursion to San Luis Rey if no one else wants to go, and then on our way to Los Angeles we can all stop off at San Juan Capistrano; it is close to the railway station and we needn't lose much time in going there."

The visiting of one mission was quite enough for Mary Lee and the twins, and even Mrs. Corner declared that she was too tired to undertake a like journey soon again, so it was left to Miss Helen and Nan alone to make the trip to San Luis Rey.

"It's kind of nice and cozy for us to go off skylarking by ourselves," said Nan cuddling up to her aunt. "Of course I want the others to have a good time, but they wouldn't care for what we are going to do and would rather gad the streets of San Diego. What are you going in here for?" she asked as Miss Helen stopped at one of the shops.

"To get some chocolate and biscuits. I never undertake an expedition of this kind without laying in some sort of stores, for one never knows what will happen. I don't like to be stranded in a place where there are no resources, and I don't mean that either of us shall get starved out."

"It would be nice to have some oranges, too."

"We can get them along the way. They will be heavy to carry, and we'd better not try for them till we really need them."

"It will be lots of fun," said Nan contentedly. "Oh, me, Aunt Helen, I am having such a good time. Just think what a real fairy godmother you have been. When I think of how much we missed before you came into our lives I feel so satisfied at the change."

"I don't think the lack was any detriment, dear, for, after all, it is by contrast that we enjoy. If you had always been dragged around the world sight-seeing you would be tired out by this time; now everything is fresh and new and you are capable of much more enjoyment than if you had been pampered all your life. I believe in your having new and broadening experiences, but I don't think we shall insist upon your traveling all the time; this trip to California will have to do you for a while, but we will not look ahead."

"Let's not, though it is very temptatious."

"What a word."

"It is much better for what I mean than tempting; that sounds as if you meant something to eat, but temptatious, to my thinking, refers to your mind."

"Oh, you funny Nan," laughed Miss Helen.

Having supplied themselves with chocolate and other necessary things they started by train for the mission fathered so zealously by Padre Peyri. It compelled a drive of four miles from Oceanside, but this was a pleasant part of the programme and gave an opportunity of disposing of the chocolate and the fruit they were able to get along the way.

The fine old church, even in its dilapidation, was to be admired and Miss Helen pointed out to Nan the outlines of its towers, the beauty of its proportions.

"How unlike anything of ours it is," said Nan. "It has such numbers of pillars and is such a big affair. I don't see where all the people came from to fill it."

"But you see it wasn't all church, dearie. These missions held schools and the people lived here where they were trained for all sorts of occupations; the women learned to weave and spin; the men were taught cabinet making, carpentering and such trades. The Indians came from the little villages around which were called rancherias. Can't you imagine how interesting it must have been to see the religious processions marching along those old corridors chanting their hymns?"

"What is it used for now?" asked Nan gazing at the time-worn building.

"As a college for the training of missionaries to the Indians. It is hoped that they will be able to restore it eventually; a good work, I am sure."

"How they must have hated to give it up when it was turned over to the—what do you call it?"

"To the civil authorities. It is generally called the secularization of the missions, but you needn't try to remember that long word. Yes, we can be assured that it was a great trial, and you can imagine how it must have hurt those who revered the place when it was desecrated by bull fights which took place in the plaza. They say that crowds of people gathered on the roofs to see that dreadful sport. How different from the sweet and peaceful festas of the church. What a change from solemn anthems to the shouts of a bloodthirsty throng of spectators."

"I wonder Father Peyri didn't rise in his grave."

"One might think so if he had been buried here, but it is said that after the republic became a fact and the mission passed into the hands of the secularists, he made up his mind that his thirty years' service must end with his resignation. But he felt so badly about it that he went away in the night."

"Didn't they miss him and wonder where he was?"

"They did the next morning, and rode after him to San Diego, but he was already on the ship and was just putting out to sea. Some swam out to try to reach him, but he could not, or would not, come back, and passed from their sight with extended arms, blessing them. His poor Indians must have returned with deep sadness in their hearts, for they knew they would never see him again, and after thirty years of loving service such as his was, they must have felt that he was more than a father to them. What a subject for a poem it would be."

"It is all tremendously interesting," declared Nan. "It does make one know so much more about history to be actually on the spot where things have taken place. I knew in a sort of vague way about California belonging to Spain and to Mexico, and then to us, but I never thought much about the whys and wherefores; it always seemed so mixy-up and complicated. When you tell me about the missions I can understand that it was Spain that first held it, then when Mexico became a republic they wouldn't have any more Spanish rule and snatched the missions from the Spanish priests. Then we came along and did some more snatching from the Indians. We grabbed up California and stuck a new star on our flag, after the Mexican war, so now she is ours for keeps. I'm glad of that, but I want to hide my face under the bed-covers when I think of how outrageously we have treated the Indians."

"You certainly have the situation in a nut-shell," said Miss Helen with a smile as they left the carriage and made their way to the mission to gain a view of the interior of the church, to look at the fine old mortuary chapel, the ancient pulpit and the pathetic ruins, now the abode of toads and lizards, and where weeds ran riot.

Among the ruins they sat down with the padre who met them and who told them tales of the past. He opened his heart on the matter of his hopes for the future, his dear desire to see the mission fully restored, and, as they thought of its past, both Miss Helen and Nan echoed his wish.

"It's been like walking on my great-grandmother's shoes," said Nan as they drove away. "I feel as if I had been living in her time or even in my great-great's. I feel sort of blinky and queer in my mind, as you do when you come out of a dark place into the sunlight."

Miss Helen laughed. Nan's original similes always amused her. "How I shall love to take you to Europe," she said. "You are such a satisfactory sort of somebody, Nan."

"Am I? That's awfully complimentary, Aunt Helen."

"No, as a little boy I knew would say when you charged him with flattering you, 'that isn't a compliment, it's the truth.' One would suppose that a compliment couldn't be the truth from his point of view, but it can be and is, in this case. Nan, dear, take your last look of San Luis Rey; you may never see it again."

"I don't want to think that, but I'll take the look all the same," and Nan leaned out to see the fast vanishing campanile of the old church.



The travelers had scarcely arrived at Los Angeles before Mr. Pinckney called with his daughter, Mrs. Roberts. The latter was a tall, slender woman with lovely dark eyes and hair. She was much more quiet, though more nervous than her father. Both Mrs. Corner and Miss Helen liked her immensely, finding her gentle and sympathetic, yet with a keen sense of humor. She was admired, too, by the four girls, and they all became on friendly terms straightway. Mr. Roberts was a short, keen-eyed, middle-aged man who adored his wife and who made much of the Corner children. In fact, the friendship formed seemed to promise so pleasantly that Mrs. Corner and Miss Helen decided to choose Los Angeles as a home for several months, for it was found that Mrs. Corner's cough yielded to the climate and that she felt stronger here than elsewhere.

The Roberts and Mr. Pinckney were eager to help them select a proper house, so that it seemed that arrangements might be made with little exertion.

"It certainly is a great thing to have friends at hand who know the country thoroughly and who are so ready to give us their assistance in getting settled," said Mrs. Corner with a satisfied air, "and it was certainly a lucky day for us when the girls met Mr. Pinckney."

"Met him?" ejaculated Nan. "You would have thought it was a meeting if you could have seen Jack bump into him."

Every one laughed but Jack who had a far-away, thoughtful look upon her face. "You see, after all," she said presently, "that it was very lucky that I got caught in the elevator that day, for if I hadn't we shouldn't have had time to go for the pralines, and if we hadn't gone we should never have known Mr. St. Nick," a fact which no one could deny.

It was only a day or two later that the girls were sitting on the broad veranda of Mrs. Roberts' pleasant home. Mr. Pinckney had descended upon them that morning early, and nothing would do but he must bear the four away with him. "Jennie has set her heart on their coming to spend the day," he told Mrs. Corner, and so they were permitted to go, though their mother protested that it was an imposition to inflict Mrs. Roberts with the four at once.

"Do, Mary Lee," she gave this last charge, "do look after Jack, and see that she doesn't get into any dreadful mischief."

Mary Lee gave an affirmative nod of the head. "I'll look after her," she promised. As a rule Mary Lee and Jean could be relied upon to return home from an expedition in about as good trim as when they started out, but Jack never did, and even Nan met with more frequent mishaps than her more orderly sisters.

Up the hill steeps the little party had driven to arrive at last before the door of Mrs. Roberts' pretty home. Roses clambered over the veranda vying with fuchsias and heliotrope in their efforts to climb to the very roof of the house. Scarlet geraniums set off the pure white of calla lilies both forming a thick hedge in front of the garden. Flowers, flowers everywhere. "The trouble here is not to coax them to grow," said Mr. Pinckney, "but to keep them from over-running the whole place."

"And how do you like California?" was Mrs. Roberts' first question after she had welcomed the girls.

"We like it very strongly," replied Jack politely, who was foremost of the group.

Mrs. Roberts smiled at the odd expression, and disposed the girls about the veranda. Jack in some way felt that she must answer for the rest, since Mr. Pinckney was her special acquaintance, and so she established herself nearest to Mrs. Roberts.

"You haven't any little girls, have you?" she asked by way of beginning a chat.

"No," replied her hostess, "I am not as fortunate as your mother who has four. Don't you think she could spare me one?"

Jack considered this for a moment. "I don't know which one it could be," she said, "unless it were Mary Lee. Jean and I are twins, you know, so we couldn't be separated, and Nan always gets me out of scrapes so it wouldn't do to let her go. Do you think you would like to have Mary Lee? She behaves better than any of us and always keeps her hands clean."

Mrs. Roberts laughed. "I think it is very likely your mother wouldn't be willing to part with her any sooner than with one of the others. Have you any brothers?"

"No." Jack shook her head. "That's why they call me Jack; because mother wanted one of us to have papa's name. Have you any brothers?" she asked in turn.

Mrs. Roberts looked grave. "No," she said after a moment's silence. "I had a dear brother when I was your age, however," she added.

"And haven't you him now?" Jack slipped a sympathetic hand into her friend's.

"No, I haven't him now." Mrs. Roberts drew the child to her.

"Did he die when he was a little boy?" whispered Jack in an awestruck voice.

"No, not till he was a grown man."

"Oh." Jack pondered over this, then she said: "He was Mr. St. Nick's little boy, wasn't he?"

"Mr. St. Nick? You mean——?"

"Your father," returned Jack. "Don't you think he looks exactly like the pictures in 'Twas the night before Christmas?"

Mrs. Roberts had to smile, for Jack so evidently thought she was paying Mr. Pinckney a compliment. "I never had my attention called to it before," was the reply. "You see I have thought of him only as looking like my father."

This sufficiently explained it to Jack who remarked: "Yes, I suppose that must be so. I should never think of my mother as Mother Goose nor the old woman who lived in the shoe, no matter how she might look or how old she might be." Some one called Mrs. Roberts aside at this juncture, and Jack went over to where the other three were listening to Mr. Pinckney's account of a bee ranch. They had not heard the conversation between Mrs. Roberts and Jack and were surprised when the latter climbed upon Mr. Pinckney's knee and said: "Tell me about your little boy."

An expression came over Mr. Pinckney's face such as Jack had never seen there before, as he put her down abruptly and walked off without a word. Jack gazed after him in astonishment.

"There now, what have you said, Jack?" said Mary Lee reprovingly.

"I only asked him about his little boy," replied Jack in an injured tone.

"What little boy?"

"His little boy. Mrs. Roberts told me she used to have a little brother. He died, though, but I wanted to ask Mr. St. Nick about him."

"Don't you see it made him feel very badly? You must never mention the subject to him again," said Mary Lee in a severe tone.

"Well, then, I won't," said Jack, "but I do want to know."

"We're going to have honey; all we can eat," Jean informed her. "Mr. St. Nick said so."

"You ought just to hear him tell about the bees, Jack," said Mary Lee. "You see there are so many flowers all the time out here that the bees can gather such loads of honey. I think I will have a bee ranch when I settle in California."

"I'm going to have grapes or oranges, I don't know which," said Nan. "The orange trees look so beautiful with the blossoms and fruit on them at the same time, though the vines are pretty, too, and I like raisins immensely."

"I think I'll have peanuts," decided Jean.

"Just think, Jack, of elderberry bushes seven feet around," Nan went on, "and of pumpkins weighing three hundred pounds; they beat mine all hollow, don't they? Do you like Mrs. Roberts, Jack?"

"Oh, she is fine," returned Jack, enthusiastically. "She wants Mary Lee for a daughter. I shouldn't be surprised if she asks mother for her."

"What?" Mary Lee stopped short in her measurement of a tall calla lily.

Jack nodded. "Yes, she does. She wants one of us and I thought you'd be the best for her."

"Jack Corner, I'd like to know what you mean by thinking my mother would give me away?" Mary Lee was righteously indignant.

"Why," said Jack calmly, "wouldn't you like to be Mr. St. Nick's granddaughter? I would. He wants one the worst kind; he told me he did."

"Well, he won't get me," retorted Mary Lee, walking off with an offended air.

"Who won't get who?" asked Mr. Pinckney, into whom in her dudgeon she almost ran.

Mary Lee stopped short. "Oh, it is just some of Jack's nonsense," she said.

"She doesn't want to be your granddaughter," said Jack in an explanatory tone, "and I don't see how we'll manage it unless you were to have Jean and me both. I told her, too, that you never had had any granddaughter."

Mr. Pinckney was smiling down rather wistfully into the upturned little face. "I certainly ought to have one," he said. "Come over here, kid, and I will tell you about something. You must excuse my leaving you so suddenly just now, but the truth is it was a great sorrow to me to lose my son, and I cannot always speak of it calmly. His name, my dear, was the same as yours, Jack; he was always Jack to me. You never saw a dearer little lad, but after he grew up he was a little headstrong. He was bent upon traveling and seeing the world; he had always longed to visit California and he came out here where he met a Mexican girl whom he married without consulting his family. I suppose he thought there would be objections raised and that he would run no risks of being separated from the girl. I was more easily angered then than I am now, and I wrote him a harsh letter in the heat of my first feelings. I refused to acknowledge his wife and bade him not to bring her home. I did not hear from him after that, though it was always my intention to forgive him finally. At the end of a year I had a few lines from his wife; it told me of his death." The old gentleman's voice broke as he uttered these words.

Jack had edged up close to him and now put her arms around him. "And did you come and find his wife?" she asked.

"My daughter and I came as soon as possible. We found my son's grave, but his wife had disappeared. We knew only her first name, for I would express no interest in her and made no inquiries of my son. She was a Mexican, I said, and that was all I wanted to know. I do not know to this day where they were married or where he met her. His last letter was from San Diego, but there could be found no clue to him there. So you see, little Jack, that perhaps, after all I would not make a very good grandfather when I made so poor a father."

"Oh, but you would, I know you would," said Jack comfortingly. "Even my mother is very cross with me sometimes, but she gets over it and is lovely afterward."

Mr. Pinckney smiled down at her and stroked her hair softly as he went on. "My daughter met Mr. Roberts out here, and married, so that brings me to California every little while, and I am still searching. There now, that is the whole story; we won't speak of it again," and the girls all understood that from henceforth they were to avoid the subject. Yet sometimes when a grave expression came into Mr. St. Nick's cheery face each said to herself: "He is thinking of his son."

Mrs. Roberts' home was something more than a pleasant house surrounded by grounds, for it was a place of several acres where Mr. Roberts raised grapes for turning into raisins, and where he could display many fruit trees which it pleased his fancy to cultivate; here, too, many beehives showed that the bees reveled in the flowery fields near at hand. Altogether it was a delightful spot in which to spend the day. Mary Lee was most interested in the bees. "What fields and fields of flowers they have to roam over," she said as she looked up toward the hills, and down toward the valley. "If I were a bee I should choose California for my home, for then I should have flowers all the year round."

Nan admired the graceful pepper trees and the orange groves. The California of other days appealed strongly to her imagination and she asked a thousand questions about Ramona's home, about the Indians, the Mexicans and such things as suggested romance and poetry. The twins applied their thoughts to anything that came handy and spent most of their time watching a pet paisano, or chaparral cock, which Mr. Roberts had tamed. They were much diverted, too, by the Chinese cook who wagged his head at them every time he came out of the kitchen and said "Velly nice lil gallee," to their great amusement. "Oh, I do wish we could have a Chinese cook when we get a house," said Jean.

"We are going to," answered Jack; "Aunt Helen said so."

But it was all on account of her interest in John Chinaman that the day did not pass without trouble for Jack who, as usual, could not escape from some disaster. John, or Wah Sing as was his real name, was trotting back and forth from kitchen to garden, his long queue neatly wound around the back of his head, and his shoes making little noise as he moved about. His blue jacket was a pleasant bit of color in the landscape where the more brilliant hues of blossoms abounded. Jack followed after him, being vastly amused by his methods and finding in his childlike smile a certain fascination. When Jean had tired of watching Wah Sing, Jack still hovered around him, but finally the fascination was changed into horror as she saw him secure two chickens which he carried to the kitchen door and left tied till he should go inside. Jack waited for him to come out. What was he going to do next? Kill the chickens, she feared. Would he shoot them, wring their necks, chop off their heads? She did not want to see the process but she would stay till she saw what he was going to do and then she would run away.

She stood her ground till John came out with a large kettle of boiling water, and then to her horror and dismay she saw him pick up one of the chickens and plunge it into the steaming caldron alive. With a shriek of protest Jack rushed forward, wrested the unfortunate chicken from the Chinaman's grasp, and fled toward the veranda, her hands smarting from holding the victim. She did not stop till she had sobbingly laid the squawking fowl at Mrs. Roberts' feet.

"Oh, he is wicked, wicked," she cried. "He was scalding it to death; oh, you'll not let him do it, you'll not."

Mrs. Roberts hurried to comfort the distressed child. "Why, you poor darling, what is it? Can't you tell me?" she said taking Jack in her arms.

"John-Wah Sing put the poor chicken into boiling water when it was alive," sobbed Jack. "I couldn't let him do it, and I got it out, but if it hurts my hands so, how much more it must have hurt the poor chicken."

"Your little hands haven't feathers on them though," said Mrs. Roberts, "and I don't suppose it hurt the chicken any more than it did you, but it is a fiendish way those Chinamen sometimes have of preparing chickens for plucking." She turned to her father. "How many times I have told Wah Sing that I will not allow him to practice his heathenish methods here, but I suppose to-day he thought he must have everything extra nice and his theory is that a chicken is much better so prepared. Will you go and see him and be as wrathy as you can. I must see to this dear child's poor little hands." She called one of the house servants who bore away the rescued chicken, which it must be said was promptly despatched in a more humane way. Then, while Mr. Pinckney gave Wah Sing a piece of his mind, Mrs. Roberts gave herself up to Jack whose hands were not so badly burned as one might imagine, and though the child suffered for awhile, by the time dinner was ready the worst was over and she was able to enjoy her dainty meal though nothing would induce her to touch the chicken.

Mr. Pinckney devoted himself to her, and piled her plate with all sorts of good things so that she did not miss having chicken, but she did not care to go near the Chinaman again.

"They are not all like that," Mrs. Roberts told her, "and indeed I am sure our man will never do so again while he is in this house."

Yet when Jack reached home she begged her mother never to employ a Chinese servant, and it was a long time before she could recover from her horror of Wah Sing.

To relieve the situation, Mr. Pinckney and his daughter strove to tease Mary Lee that they might divert Jack's thoughts from the painful subject, and they succeeded so well so far as Mary Lee was concerned that she really began to fear that they were in earnest in meaning to adopt her. She was very quiet during the drive home, but as soon as she had gained her mother's side, she rushed into her arms crying, "Don't give me up, mother! Don't!"

This was so unlike the placid Mary Lee that her mother wondered. "What does she mean?" she asked looking around. Mr. Pinckney seeing that he carried matters a little too far said: "It is all our fault, Mrs. Corner. Mrs. Roberts and I told the kid that as you had four daughters you might spare us one, and she seemed to think Prisms, here, could be most readily parted with, so we have been teasing Mary Lee till the child really believes we mean to wheedle you into giving her away. Now, if we take any one it must be the twins, for I have come to the conclusion that one will not be enough, for Mrs. Roberts might want her at the same time that I did and there would be trouble in the family, so we'll take the twins, please."

This was turning the tables on Jack who, when it came to the test, was appalled at the idea of belonging to any one but her mother, and she precipitately fled to her room dragging Jean with her. After locking the door they hid under the bed where they kept very quiet for a time.

"They shan't have us," whispered Jack. "I don't want to be adopted, do you, Jean?"

"No," agreed Jean, "not even by Mr. St. Nick or Mrs. Bobs. I reckon he'd give us lots of pretty things," she remarked after a short silence.

"But we couldn't have mother nor Nan nor Aunt Helen and we'd have to be named Pinckney or Roberts and we'd have to live here always," returned Jack. "It would be dreadful not to see our own kin, you know."

"Yes, it would," Jean answered. "I want to belong to my own mother, I reckon. Do you suppose he'll send a police officer after us?" she asked after a while.

"Oh, no, I don't believe he would do that."

"Nor soldiers."

"Of course not; he's not a general nor a king."

"Then why did we run and hide?" asked Jean with less imagination than her twin sister.

"Oh, just because he might have grabbed us and have done something or other." Jack was rather vague as to her ideas of what was possible danger to them.

"Maybe he'll forget it," said Jean when the time of imprisonment seemed becoming wearisome and when no exciting pursuit thrilled her with alarm.

"Perhaps he will," Jack admitted, "and at any rate he will know we don't want to be adopted and he'll go home and tell Mrs. Bobs and she will say, 'Well, we'll have to get some one else who has no mother.'"

"I don't want them to get any one else," said Jean, "because," she added greedily, "the adopted child would get all the candy."

Jack considered this thoughtfully, lying stretched out at full length, her head poking out from under the bed like a turtle from its shell. "I reckon," she said after a while, "they can get along without any child; they have done it all this time and they can just keep on doing it. Which would you rather belong to, Jean, Mrs. Bobs or Mr. St. Nick?"

"Mrs. Bobs, I think."

"I'd rather belong to Mr. St. Nick. Then your name would be Jean Roberts and mine would be Jack Pinckney; wouldn't that be queer?"

"Awfully qreer. I shouldn't like my name to be different from yours; we wouldn't seem like trins any more. There's somebody coming, Jack."

"Keep very still," whispered Jack.

There came a pounding on the door and a voice called: "Where are you, children?"

"It's Nan," whispered Jack drawing her head back under the bed.

"Where are you?" repeated Nan.

No answer.

"Mr. St. Nick has gone and mother wants you," came next.

"He's gone," whispered Jean. "He won't take us to-day, Jack. Let's get out." So out they crawled and joined the others on the veranda.

"Come here, you silly little girls," said their mother. "Don't you know that I would never part with one of my blessed children under any circumstances? You are little goosies to get such an idea into your heads. I am sure Mary Lee, at least, ought to have known better."

"They seemed so tremendously in earnest," said Mary Lee ruefully. "You would have thought it absolutely had to be if you had been there."

Mrs. Corner laughed. "I am afraid after all you haven't had a very happy day," she said.

"Oh, we did, we did," declared Mary Lee, "even if I was teased and Jack did get her hands hurt. They are perfectly dear lovely people and I want to go there whenever I can." The others echoed Mary Lee's opinion, even Jack, who concluded the matter by saying:

"I think we ought to try to get a granddaughter for Mr. St. Nick when he wants one so much," a remark which bore fruit in the future in a way no one expected.



"We've found it," said Mary Lee, hurrying in one day.

Every one looked up. "Found what?" came a clamor of voices.

"The house. Mr. St. Nick and I have found the dearest place and he's going to take you, mother, and Aunt Helen to see it. I know you will like it."

"Oh, I want to go, too," cried the twins simultaneously.

"There will not be any use in your going unless we are really intending to live there," remarked Nan oracularly. "Tell us about it, Mary Lee."

"Well, it's all on one floor, or means to be but isn't, because it is on the side of a hill, and you do have to go up two or three steps to the kitchen and dining-room."

"How funny to go up to a kitchen."

"It won't seem queer when you get used to it. There are trees all around and a broad veranda just covered with roses and fuschias and things. There is a living-room and ever so many bedrooms hitched on here and there so that it is sort of uneven looking, but it is so covered with vines that you like the unevenness. There is a garden and orange trees, lots of them, and grapes and all sorts of things that we hoped for."

Every one began to look interested. "Is it furnished?" asked Miss Helen.

"Yes, even to a piano and a dish-cloth hanging up in the kitchen. The people who own it want to sell, but are willing to rent it to a good tenant. Mr. Roberts knows them. The father has died and most of the children are married so that those who are left want to go where the others live. I believe there is only the mother and one daughter who are left."

"Where is it? Very far?" asked Nan eagerly. "Could you and I go there by ourselves?"

"You'd better not attempt it," said Mrs. Corner. "Wait till Mr. Pinckney comes and we learn more."

Mr. Pinckney arrived early in the afternoon. The carriage which he drove would seat but three others, so Nan, by reason of her superior years, was given a place to the great disappointment of the twins. They were comforted, however, by Mr. Pinckney's promise to take them the following day, if it was decided that the house would suit.

"You couldn't both go, anyhow," Mary Lee reminded them, "so it will be much better to wait."

"If Mr. St. Nick were not so fat I could sit with him and Nan," said Jack.

"But he is fat, so there is no use if-ing," returned Mary Lee.

But though the twins were disappointed Nan was in her element. Such an expedition appealed to her strongly; it had all the element of a voyage of discovery and meant much. Up the hillside they drove, passing quaint adobe houses of the old Spanish town, attracted by rose-embowered cottages, peeping in at some more pretentious mansion within whose grounds grew palms and tropical plants. "When you consider that the city covers thirty-six square miles," remarked Mr. Pinckney, "you may imagine that one can drive quite a distance before reaching the further edge. The house we are to see is in the suburbs and we have some way to go."

"Is it near Mrs. Roberts'?" asked Nan eagerly.

"Not very far; within easy walking distance; that is one of the advantages, we think."

"There is the ocean," cried Nan, as a far-off glittering line of light caught her eye.

"That it is truly," replied Mr. Pinckney, "and not so far off, either. We are between what we might call 'the devil and the deep blue sea,' for those mountains can be pretty wicked looking in a storm."

It was a fair scene as observed from their final point of view; the river winding its way through a narrow passage between high hills, the city stretching away like a park beautified by sheltering trees, and for a background the mountains never changing yet ever changeful.

"If we had time I would suggest going a little further where we should find a pretty little lake," said Mr. Pinckney. "We have come beyond our destination, but I wanted you to see this view which you can reach very easily from where we are going. Does it please you, ladies?"

"It is magnificent," said Miss Helen delightedly. "I am sure it will be worth a great deal to be neighbors to such a spot as this."

They turned and drove slowly down hill till they reached a pleasant quiet street where the picturesque house stood. Nan could not contain her raptures but squealed out delightedly. "Oranges, our own! See them on the trees. Oh, look at the flowers! Grape-vines, mother! Aunt Helen, just look at that dear little orchard! Can that be an olive tree, a real olive tree for us? And I am sure those are figs. I shall go wild if I find anything more. No, I don't care anything about the inside, I am so satisfied with the outside. Just let me prowl around the garden. If it suits you in there it will suit me."

But left to herself she calmed down in a little while and followed the others into the house. This proved to offer room enough, and, while not furnished quite as Miss Helen would have had it, was sufficiently comfortable and the question of taking it was decided then and there to Nan's great delight. Mary Lee had not told the half. There were pleasures in store of which she had not dreamed, Nan declared.

It did not take long to have the house put in order and to remove their trunks to it, so in another week they were feeling quite at home. Then came the question of a servant, though to the delight of the girls the matter of lessons was not to be taken up just yet. Jack rebelled against having a Chinese servant, but finally gave in when she was promised that there should be no killing of chickens on the place and that only those ready dressed should be brought from the market.

And therefore, one morning a bland, almond-eyed individual made his appearance before breakfast. He had been engaged by Mrs. Roberts for the Corners and came well recommended. Indeed Ming was a treasure and both Mrs. Corner and Miss Helen congratulated themselves on having found such a gem. But at the end of two weeks he suddenly announced that he must go at once; he was "solly" but he had decided to go to New York with a friend and open a laundry where he would make "heap much money." Could he have an old umbrella which he had discovered standing in the corner of the kitchen? He had heard that it rained a great deal in New York and it would be so useful to him. The umbrella was his, Mrs. Corner told him, and he departed, seemingly grateful and regretful, after presenting each member of the family with a gift. For a few days after this a procession of Chinamen walked in and out the gate, but at last one was secured who seemed to offer the best possibilities and peace reigned in the household.

"Why did you leave your last place?" was one of Mrs. Corner's first questions.

"Heap too stinge," replied Li Hung blandly.

"Well, we are not that," said Miss Helen with a laugh as she nodded to her sister, but in a private conference they decided that it would not do to give out the groceries and such things to this sensitive Chinaman, though it had been their custom at home to do so. "All of the man's references lay stress upon his honesty," said Miss Helen, "and I think we can risk it."

Li Hung, though not quite so capable as Ming, was nevertheless a good-natured, kindly-disposed fellow, willing to do his best which best was better than Mrs. Corner had found in her servants at home, so she did not regret Ming although a funny sequel to his leave-taking was discovered quite by accident.

"I don't see why Mrs. Butler's front door is never opened wide," said Nan one day. "I've noticed for a long time that when any one goes there the door is opened only a tiny crack."

"That reminds me," said Mrs. Corner, "I must send over some Maryland biscuits to Mrs. Butler; she was so kind when we first came and supplied us with so many nice things when we were servantless. She says she is very fond of beaten biscuits but has never had any out here."

So that very afternoon Nan was despatched to their opposite neighbor's. The house stood back some distance from the street, but its front door, draped with roses was plainly visible from the Corners'. Nan rang the bell and in a few minutes the door opened a few inches. Nan stepped inside. The man who opened the door retreated partially behind it. "Mrs. Corner sends——" began Nan, then she nearly dropped her plate in surprise. "Why, it's Ming," she exclaimed. "We thought you had gone to New York."

"Not yet. After while," he answered and bolted.

Presently Mrs. Butler appeared. Nan gave her message with the plate of biscuits and then said: "I was so surprised to see Ming, Mrs. Butler; we thought he had gone to New York."

Mrs. Butler smiled. "Why, did he live with you? I didn't know that," she said, "and I didn't know that he had a notion of going to New York."

"And he has been living here all this time," said Nan. "No wonder he never wants to open your door more than a crack." And she told their experience. "I wonder why he left," she said in conclusion.

"My dear," said Mrs. Butler laughing, "it was for nothing in the world but because you didn't have company enough. He told me he had left his last place on that account."

"How could we have company when we have just come and know scarcely any one?" said Nan in an aggrieved voice.

"I'm afraid Ming's pride in his cookery overbalanced his consideration for you," said Mrs. Butler. "I never dreamed I was robbing you of a capable man."

"Oh, but we're all right now," said Nan. "We wouldn't give up our man for any one; we just love him," she added feeling afraid she had made Mrs. Butler uncomfortable. But she went home wiser than before in her knowledge of "ways that are dark and tricks that are vain."

It was quite as she said; they would not give up Li Hung for any other, for he improved daily and they became greatly attached to the good honest fellow. They discovered that he made frequent visits to the capable Ming and in exchange for lending a helping hand was given lessons in cookery. As he did not neglect his own work to do this, and they were the gainers by his adding new recipes to his list, nothing was said. Except for these absences he rarely wanted to go out and gave himself up heart and soul to the interests of the family. He never forgot the wild laughter which greeted the appearance of the first pair of chickens he served. These he set on the table with an air of great pride, for they were done to a turn and looked delicious, but their trussed legs were pinned together with two large safety-pins which shone out in distinct contrast to the browned skin. Li Hung was mortified, but he lived and learned, for the next time the legs were neatly slipped in place, so had he benefited by a visit to Ming.

"He is so beautifully clean," said Mrs. Corner with a satisfied sigh as he left the room one day. "Where shall we find his like when we get back? Look at that spotless white jacket and that apron so smoothly starched and ironed."

"He's tied the apron so tight that the back of his jacket sticks out like a fan-tailed pigeon," said Nan, "but he is clean, and so good-natured."

"I never tasted such delicious strawberry short-cake," said Miss Helen delicately nibbling at the last morsel in her plate. "We must learn how he makes it, Mary."

So Li Hung became established as a member of the household and when the time came that they must leave their pleasant quarters one of their chief regrets was giving up Li Hung who had been such a source of comfort.

Into the new home they soon settled down with a feeling of perfect content. They were near enough to the centre of the city to be able to enjoy its privileges, yet they were surrounded by country sights and sounds. The mountains rose up behind them reminding them of their own beloved Virginia, and they were not so far from the sea but that they could easily spend a day there when they willed.

Jack and Jean made a fascinating playhouse, tepee style, in the garden, sewing old gunny sacks together for a covering. Long poles, stuck in the ground, held this queer roof, and they devised all sorts of furnishings. They even set up a second one that they might visit one another, and, because this building of a village was so delightful an occupation, they began a third but Mrs. Corner put a stop to this.

"I really can't have so many unsightly objects on the lawn," she said. "I can patiently endure two, but three are a little too many. People will have an idea that part of Chinatown has moved up into our grounds."

Li Hung, ever ready with gifts, had given each of the twins a Chinese doll which they named respectively Ming and Li Hung. There was much altercation over the virtues of these two dolls, Jean insisting that her Ming was superior to Jack's Li Hung, but this dispute was not serious and life under the tepees was very happy. Sometimes Nan, in a fit of childishness, joined in their plays, taking the summer-house for her home and calling it Roseville, while the twins' place of residence she dubbed Gunny-town. Many a wonderful feast was spread under the tepees when oranges in various forms served as the principal dish and lemonade made a cheap and refreshing drink for both oranges and lemons were to be had for the gathering. Nan was inspired with a desire to make orange-flower water and after some difficulty was able to get a recipe. She bent all her energies to the work of preparing it and did actually turn out something fairly palatable. She attempted orange marmalade, too, but Li Hung could make so much better preserves that Nan's marmalade was seldom used except at the garden feasts.

It was Nan, too, who was the one to inaugurate a weekly ceremonial the first of which she called "The Feast of Roses." To this affair each of the family received an invitation written on rose-colored paper. To it was pinned a rose. The invitation ran as follows: "You are honorably bidden to the Feast of Roses at the sign of the Golden Buds, Roseville, this afternoon at four o'clock."

"What is Nan up to now?" asked Mrs. Corner as Jean handed her the note.

"It's a great feast," said Jean importantly.

"Some of Nan's make believes that she so delights in," said Miss Helen.

"But where is the Golden Bud?" Mrs. Corner asked Jean.

"You will know it by the golden buds over the door," said Jean, not too willing to spoil Nan's mysteries.

"It's in the summer-house, I imagine," said Miss Helen as Jean went out. "We must be sure to go, Mary, or they will be dreadfully disappointed."

Promptly at four o'clock the two ladies appeared at the door of the little summer-house. "How pretty!" exclaimed Miss Helen as she put her head inside. The place was hung with small rosy lanterns and at each place was a big pink rose in the centre of which was burning a tiny candle. In the glass bowl of lemonade were floating rose-leaves, little rosebuds bordered the cake on the table and the tea-cups were white with a pattern of roses. The fragrant tea Li Hung had presented, telling Nan that it was such as his countrymen used and that it was "Heap much good." The cake, too, he had made. There were sandwiches of crackers between which were pressed rose-leaves and there was a dish of candied rose-leaves. The girls were all in pink with roses pinned on their frocks.

"I certainly think you deserve credit, Nan, for getting up such a pretty feast," said her aunt. "It is a shame there are so few to enjoy it."

"Next time I will invite Mrs. Roberts and Mr. St. Nick," said Nan. "I'll have something different then. But I didn't do this all myself, Aunt Helen; the girls all helped me and so did Li Hung."

"Well, it is quite too pretty not to be repeated," said Miss Helen.

And so the feasts were begun. Each week a different flower was used for decoration and Nan enjoyed hugely the appreciation her efforts brought forth. The twins and Mary Lee were scarcely less eager than their eldest sister and were her able helpers while Li Hung could be depended on for some novelty.

And so the golden days passed happily till it seemed that there must be a limit set to continual play and Miss Helen began to look around for a teacher for her nieces.

"I don't think we want them to study too hard," she said to Mrs. Corner, "but they ought not to get into the habit of thinking life must be only pleasuring."

"They must learn the blessedness of work," said Mrs. Corner. "They will enjoy play the more then. I think it is time the holiday was over. It has been a long one this year. I trust to you, Helen, to find them a proper teacher."

"I'll do my best," returned Miss Helen. "Mrs. Roberts will probably look out for us and we might advertise."

Both these plans were carried out, and a number of applicants appeared, but for some reason or other none of them suited Miss Helen. The first was a tall angular elderly woman from Massachusetts who spoke with a strong Yankee accent. She had taught a district school when she was a girl and thought herself amply qualified to be a governess to four little girls; her attainments, however, were so few that in spite of her calm self-complacence she was dismissed in short order. The second was a very young blooming girl, all fly-away feathers and be-ringed hands. She really didn't have to teach, she informed Miss Helen, but papa wouldn't give her enough pocket money and she wanted to buy some new things; an evening cloak and a bracelet; she'd love to teach four sweet little girls and she wouldn't be a bit strict. She was gently given to understand that she would not do and went away wondering why. The third was a sharp-eyed young woman of whom Miss Helen actually had hopes, for she seemed rather well qualified, but when she gave an example of her musical performances by putting her foot on the loud pedal and keeping it there during the whole time of her pounding out a showy waltz, and when her French was tested, Miss Helen's hopes waned, although she did take the young lady under consideration. "I could give Nan lessons myself, I suppose," she told Mrs. Corner, "and the children needn't take up French."

"No indeed; we'll not have anything of that kind," replied the girls' mother. "You are very good, Helen, but I don't intend that you shall bother over Nan's music when there must be suitably equipped teachers to be had. We'll continue the search."

"I'm glad you didn't take the black-eyed one," said Nan when number three was finally set aside. "She looked as hard as nails and I know she and Jack would have been scrapping half the time. Do, dear Aunt Helen, pick out a nice, pretty, amiable somebody whom we can respect and yet who isn't the bossy kind."

"You'll have to reconcile yourselves to obeying a governess, Nan," said Miss Helen smiling.

"Oh, we'll obey all right; see if we don't, but Jack and I do hate to be visibly bossed. We don't mind it so much when people don't make a sharp point of things in that severe kind of way some people, like Aunt Sarah, for instance, have. We don't have much respect either for people who let us walk over them, so please get a governess that is just right."

"I'll try," returned her aunt gravely, for she took the remarks to heart.



It was in old Sonora town that Miss Helen came across Señorita Dolores Mendez de Garcia. This part of the city always fascinated Miss Helen and she took frequent walks through the ancient streets bordered by the houses built a century before and occupied by the former Spanish residents. But a few of these now remained, though the quaint one-storied, adobe structures, with their deep-niched windows, spoke eloquently of a former régime. It was at the door of one of the best preserved of these houses that there stood a dark-eyed girl as Miss Helen passed by. Her fair skin and soft brown hair marked her as unlike her dark-complexioned neighbors, and when she picked up the handkerchief which Miss Helen accidentally dropped she returned it saying, "Permit me to return your handkerchief, madam." It was then that Miss Helen marked the girl's grace and refinement. "Surely," she said to herself, "she is a descendant of some blue-blooded hidalgo. I should like to know more of her." Then as a sudden thought struck her she said to the girl, "Could you recommend to me a good teacher of Spanish? I wish to take a few lessons."

The warm color spread over the girl's soft cheeks as she replied hesitatingly: "Perhaps if madame will allow me to call upon her I shall be able to give her the information she desires."

Miss Helen gave her address and made an appointment for the next day, then she went on her way wondering if she had been too impulsive. The appointment was promptly kept and the conference was a long one. Mrs. Corner was finally called in and the session continued behind closed doors.

"What in the world do you suppose they can be talking about all this time?" said Nan to Mary Lee as the two swung in a hammock on the veranda. "They've been there hours I do believe."

"Aunt Helen said the young lady was to tell her about a Spanish teacher," returned Mary Lee, "but I should think she must be giving a lesson herself."

"Hark, there is the piano," said Nan, "and it is not Aunt Helen playing. That surely must be a Spanish dance. Isn't it lovely? It sounds like castanets and Moorish palaces and things."

"Oh, you are so romantic, Nan," said Mary Lee; "you are always imagining all sorts of things."

"She plays well," continued Nan without heeding her sister, and listening intently to the music. "I wonder if she plays the guitar or the mandolin; I should love to hear her."

"They are coming out now," remarked Mary Lee after a pause. "She is very pretty, Nan, isn't she?"

Nan drew herself up from her lounging position and Mary Lee did the same. The movement attracted Miss Helen's attention. "Come here, girls," she said, "I want you to meet Miss de Garcia who will perhaps be your teacher for the time you will be here." Miss Helen was anxious to note the effect upon the girls, of this latest applicant.

The young lady gave a flashing smile to each of the girls and extended a slim hand. "I am pleased to meet the young ladies," she said with a slight accent and deliberate utterance. "We shall be good friends, yes?"

The girls were ready to promise friendship on the spot, and after a few more words Miss de Garcia departed promising to be on hand the next morning to begin her work.

As soon as she was out of hearing the questions began. "Where did you find her, Aunt Helen? Is she Spanish? Isn't she lovely? Are we to have Spanish lessons? Can she teach English? Oh, do tell us all about her."

"I met her quite by accident," said Miss Helen, "but I was charmed at once. I had no idea of engaging her as a teacher for you children till I learned that she was quite qualified and then it seemed as if a good providence had sent her to me. She has given me satisfactory references, and there seems no reason why she should not be everything we could desire. She speaks French as well as she does English, for she was partially educated in France at a convent there, and spent a year in England. She is an orphan who was adopted by her aunt when she was scarce more than a baby. The aunt has since died, but the girl has been living in the family of her aunt's husband where I fancy she is not entirely happy. Now the uncle has married a second time and Miss de Garcia felt that her place in the household is not such as it was during her aunt's lifetime, therefore she is very anxious to be independent for she cannot bear to be a burden upon those to whom she is not related by ties of blood. I learned this only through some little remarks she happened to make, for she made no complaints, yet I judge that is the situation."

"She is the loveliest thing I ever saw," said Mary Lee with a long sigh. "Those beautiful melting dark eyes, that lovely hair and that exquisite complexion; I shall love to sit and look at her."

"I Shall Love to Sit and Look at Her."

"In which case you will not learn very much," returned Miss Helen laughing. "When Mary begins to get sentimental," she went on saying to Mrs. Corner, "I feel as if California were really going to our heads. What have you to say, Miss Nan?"

"Words fail," replied Nan expressively.

"Then you think she will do," said Miss Helen with a smile.

"She's exactly right," returned Nan. "Are you going to engage her, Aunt Helen?"

"If her references prove satisfactory, as I have no doubt they will. She seems to me really a great find. How often it is that we get what we want quite by accident. After all our inquiries and advertisements to merely chance upon Miss Garcia seems queer. Her French is beautiful, and though she is not a great musician, she has temperament and has been taught in the right way."

"I loved those things she was playing," said Nan. "They were Spanish, weren't they?"

"Some of them."

"I thought so. I felt the castanets and tambourines were there."

Miss Helen nodded approvingly. "That's it exactly. I am glad you recognized just what I did. I shall certainly be disappointed now if there is any adverse report."

"Whom does she give as reference?" inquired Mrs. Corner.

"An old priest, an antique Spanish lady and her uncle, but," seeing Mrs. Corner's doubtful expression, "I am content with them. She has not lived in this city long and has made few friends. If we could wait she would like me to write to the heads of the schools where she was educated: the convent mother in France and the principal of the English school, but I think we can waive that. Aren't you satisfied, Mary? Would you rather wait?"

"I am perfectly satisfied if you are."

"Then to-morrow I will start out upon my visits to her three friends. I shall rather enjoy myself, I fancy. One doesn't often have a chance to meet such people in anything like an intimate way."

Miss Helen was not disappointed in her expectations, for she did enjoy her visits. "The old priest is a dear," she reported, "and Señora Rodriguez is perfectly charming. I wish you could hear her broken English and see the way she uses her fan in those lovely slim hands of hers. As for the uncle he is a quiet, grave sort of man. He has found life a disappointment, I should imagine, for he has such a sombre face and never once smiled. However, they all had only good to say of Miss Garcia and I feel sure we shall make no mistake in engaging her."

"Then it is all settled, is it?" asked Nan eagerly.

"Yes, all settled, and you are to begin work to-morrow. Are you ready for it, girls?"

"I am. Are you, Mary Lee?" said Nan.

"I am when we are to have such a dear as that to teach us."

"I think we have found the kind you want, Nan," said Miss Helen with a smile. "I am sure we shall all respect Miss Garcia, and I am equally sure she will not let you walk over her."

"That's good," returned Nan. "You've done noble, Miss Helen, as Unc' Landy says," and she ran out to hunt up the twins and to tell them this important news. She was as much excited as Mary Lee and was usually much more romantic, yet, strange to say, it was Mary Lee who gave a doting affection to the new governess. Nan admired her immensely and felt the influence of her gentle dignity, but Mary Lee fell in love with her in that fond and foolish way that girls sometimes have. She was always at the gate to watch for her approach; she hoarded up dainties for her until her mother said she believed Mary Lee grudged the entire family anything specially good.

Miss Garcia accepted all these attentions with a grave graciousness, but was not spoiled by them. "She is just like a queen," said Mary Lee. "I'd love to dress her in silks and satins and shower jewels upon her. She dresses so very plainly. Do you suppose she hasn't any real nice things?"

"I don't suppose she has," returned Nan, to whom the remark was made. "She would look lovely in fine fixings, wouldn't she? I suppose her uncle is not well off, and he has a wife and children to support. I shouldn't wonder if they had had money though, for the other day she was speaking of the great estates the Spaniards used to have and told how they had lost them all. I should think they would hate the Americans."

"I reckon they do," said Mary Lee, "but my señorita doesn't hate us."

"Your señorita! You would suppose you had discovered her and then bought her," replied Nan in a vexed tone. "I declare, Mary Lee, you make me ill the way you go on, and I don't believe she cares for you any more than for the rest of us. I believe she is fondest of Jean, myself."

This was gall and bitterness to poor Mary Lee, who felt such jealous pangs as never before had she endured and which had the effect of sending her with a miserable countenance to the further end of the veranda when Miss de Garcia next came.

"Why do you retire so far from the ozzers?" asked the governess. "I cannot hear you so well."

Mary Lee edged a little nearer but sat gloweringly through the lesson hours. She kept her place, however, after the rest were free, and let her eyes linger on her teacher's head, bent over some exercises she was correcting. After a while the exercises were laid aside with a sigh and Miss de Garcia smiled upon her adoring pupil.

Mary Lee moved toward her. "Are you tired?" she said.

"A little; not too much. Have you somesin for me to explain to you?"

Mary Lee dropped a light kiss upon her teacher's bright hair. "I didn't wait for that," she said, then all the pain of her jealousy found relief in the words: "I love you so. May I call you Miss Dolores? It is such a beautiful name."

"Do you like it? My aunt was named so. If you like, yes. I do not object that you say Miss Dolores."

"It makes you seem nearer; it is not so distant and formal as Miss de Garcia, and I love you so much."

"I am pleased if you do," was the reply. "One finds not too many to love one as the years pass, as time rolls on."

"I don't see how any one could help loving you. I should think thousands would," said Mary Lee in the fulness of her devotion.

"My aunt did love me; my grandfazer, too; when I was a child in Mexico."

"Oh, did you live in Mexico?"

"I went many times to visit my grandfazer. He was at one time of California. A large ranch he had, cattle, sheep, horses, servants. Nothing is left." She sighed.

"Did the Americans take them from him?"

"Their coming made a difference. I know not if it was robbing as some say."

"I should think you would hate the Americans."

"I do not. No. My fazer was American."

"Oh, was he?"

"So I am told and that from him I have the hair and skin, but I do not bear his name."

"Oh, how queer. I mean, why not?" It was unusual to find Miss de Garcia in so expansive a mood, and Mary Lee hung upon her every word, proud of being made her confidante.

Miss de Garcia was silent a moment. "Because you love me I will tell you, though I do not say so much to strangers. I do not know my fazer's name. He died before I was born. My mozer died when I was a baby at her fazer's home in Mexico. I was given my aunt's name. I called her mamma and my uncle papa; he it is who is Garcia. They would not speak of my fazer; I know not why. My grandfazer did not like the marriage, was all my aunt would tell me."

"Oh, how Nan would revel in this romantic history," was Mary Lee's thought, though she only said, "Did you live long in Mexico?"

"No, I came to California with my aunt and uncle when they came. When I was sixteen I went to France with my aunt, who placed me in school; after I was in England one year, then I returned to see my aunt die, my grandfazer's estates wasted, my uncle in poverty and myself at last, as you might say homeless Now that my mozer's people are all gone, I wish if I might know some of my own blood, for my uncle who is kind is made more poor by another marriage to a widow who had children. I am alone." She said these last words so sadly that Mary Lee was seized with an overwhelming pity, and kneeling down showered kisses upon her hands. "You are not alone," she cried. "We love you; all of us do. Oh, if mother and Aunt Helen would only take you home with us you should never feel alone."

The tears rose to Miss de Garcia's eyes. "I have talked too much of myself," she said, "but it has done me good. It is my birthday and no one knew. You are very kind, very dear, to feel so sympathy for me; as the Spanish say, you are very friend to me. I shall not forget, Mary Lee, but I must go now."

"How I love to hear you roll your R's," said Mary Lee. "Please don't go just yet; wait till I come back."

She rushed off to her mother and aunt. "Mother, Aunt Helen," she cried, "can't we invite Miss Dolores to stay to dinner with us? It is her birthday and no one knows, and mayn't I make a birthday cake for her? I think I could if Nan would help me. Oh, please say yes. Won't you go right out, mother, and ask her to stay? I am so afraid she won't wait."

"Why, my dear," Mrs. Corner looked at her sister. "Certainly we shall be glad to ask her. Her birthday, did you say? Then I will order something extra."

"Do you suppose she will have to have tortillas and tamales and such things?" asked Mary Lee eagerly, turning to her aunt as her mother left the room.

"Nonsense," said Miss Helen. "You forget, Mary Lee, that she has lived in Paris and England, and is quite used to different dishes, beside there is no doubt but she will enjoy a change from frijoles negros and red pepper."

"Oh, I hope she'll stay," said Mary Lee, clasping her hands anxiously.

"I think she is going to," said Miss Helen, going to the window. "I see she is sitting down again. I must go out and talk to her. Go hunt up Nan, Mary Lee, and hurry up your cake or it will not get done in time for dinner, though perhaps after all it will not do to have it then; it will be piping hot, but we can save it for tea."

Mary Lee rushed off to find her sister, and presently they were at work in the little buttery which led out of the kitchen where Li Hung was at work. It would never have done to invade his kingdom, and when the girls wanted to prepare anything themselves they always took to the buttery, though Li Hung always smilingly allowed them to use the stove and was ready to help when they required his aid. Mary Lee was bubbling over with excitement. Her usual calmness had disappeared entirely under pressure of the occasion. She poured forth into Nan's willing ear the story she had heard from Miss Dolores. "Isn't it romantic?" she said at last, pausing to take breath.

"I should think so," returned Nan, briskly beating eggs. "Why, Mary Lee, it is just like Ramona. She was adopted by her aunt and didn't know her father's name and all that. Isn't it queer? Do you suppose she will marry an Indian like Allessandro? Dear me, it is just like a story."

"It isn't just like Ramona," said Mary Lee the literal, "for you know her father gave her to the Señora Ramona, who was no relation at all, and then she gave her to her sister, Felipe's mother. Besides her father was a Scotchman, not an American."

"Well, it is near enough alike," returned Nan, seeing things less in detail. "It must be very funny not to know who your father was. I wonder if he was a criminal or a gambler or had killed some one. You know what wild, lawless men used to come West in those days."

"Yes, they did at first I know, when the old forty-niners began to search for gold, but this was later, for Miss Dolores is only twenty-two."

"Well, but even then it wasn't like it is now. Mr. St. Nick said when he first came out here in 1880, Los Angeles was a very small place, the streets were not paved and most of the houses were of adobe, so it couldn't have been so awfully civilized."

"I shouldn't want to say that before Miss Dolores. Her people think the Americans have spoiled all the old elegance of the Spanish days."

"Why do you call her Miss Dolores? I think the señorita sounds much prettier; it makes her seem Spanish right off."

"But I think Dolores is so beautiful; it means sorrow, she told me once, and I think it seems more intimate to say Miss Dolores."

"Well, you may call her that, but I shall say señorita. Any one could be named Dolores, but no one would think of calling any but a Spanish lady señorita, just as you would say mademoiselle to a French woman. Take care, Mary Lee, you are putting in too much flour; the cook book says scant cups, not heaping ones."

"Oh, does it?" Mary Lee emptied out some of the contents of her over-full cup before she stirred the flour into the mixture.

"Now beat like mad," said Nan, "and here, let me put in some of the beaten whites of the eggs before you add more flour."

"Oh, I do hope it will be good," said Mary Lee watching her sister slide off some of the frothy heap into the cake bowl. "Did you tell Li Hung this was to be a birthday dinner?"

"No, but I will tell him." When she carried the cake out to put it in the oven she gave the information to the Chinaman, who looked pleased; he liked opportunities to try his powers.

"You likee I make plitty salad?" he asked. "Plitty flowel, plitty namee? You lite namee evlybody on paper, I makee him on salad."

"Oh, he's going to do something lovely," Nan told her sister when she returned to her. "He says he will watch the cake and take it out when it is done, but I think I shall have an eye to it, too. I have promised to write the names of all of us, but I think it will be better to print them. What would you say, Señorita de Garcia, or Señorita Dolores?"

"I suppose Señorita de Garcia would be more correct for a dinner," said Mary Lee after weighing the question.

Nan at once set to work to print out the names and was so interested in watching the baking of the cake and in the process of preparing the salad that she did not appear till dinner was about ready.

In the meantime Mary Lee had sought out the twins and had arrayed them and herself in festal garments. She had rummaged through her own belongings and had appealed to her mother and aunt so that each one had some gift to lay by Miss de Garcia's plate. The twins produced two souvenirs which they had bought in San Diego: a little box of orangewood and a paper cutter, Mrs. Corner contributed a small Indian basket, Miss Helen a pretty fan, and Nan, in desperation at being out of it all by remaining so long in the kitchen, dragged from her trunk a photograph of the old San Diego mission and tied it up hastily. Mary Lee sacrificed her beloved Venetian beads which she admired almost more than any of her possessions, yet nothing was too good for the señorita and she would have the pleasure of seeing her wear them.

Therefore, when the guest of honor was ushered to the table she was overpowered by the array before her. Tears came to her eyes and for a moment she could not speak, then when she did the Spanish words slipped between the English ones when she tried to express her thanks. "Amigas mias," she began—"my friends, you have made me glad, ashamed, muy felices—so happy. I cannot say my thanks. Mil gracias señoras, señoritas. Beso a sus manos de ustedes; I kiss your hands; I thank God for my good friends."

"We just loved to do it," exclaimed Jack anxious to put her at her ease, "and just see what a good dinner we are going to have because it is your birthday."

The laugh that followed took away every vestige of embarrassment, and when the wonderful salad was brought in every one was on sufficiently informal terms to think it no breach of etiquette to admire the yellow flowers of mayonnaise on green lettuce leaves which surrounded the red tomato centres, the red forming a good background for the ivory white lettering of the names.

"What are the letters made of?" whispered Jean to Jack.

"I know," said Nan from the other side; "they are cut out of the hard boiled whites of eggs."

The dinner certainly did Li Hung credit, and proved his claim to being equal to emergencies.

"I'd like to take him home with us," declared Miss Helen.

"I'd rather take Miss Dolores," remarked Mary Lee.

The cake was brought in later in the day when tea was served in the garden, winter though it was. To this cake Li Hung had added his own embellishments; it was frosted artistically and bore Miss de Garcia's name in tiny pink flowery letters. Miss Dolores declared it was too pretty to cut, yet all insisted that she should divide it, and Mary Lee flushed with pleasure when she and Nan were praised for being expert cake makers.

Under the warmth of love and friendship Miss Dolores became really joyous and told many tales amusing or pathetic. She confided to her friends that her uncle was going to remove to Mexico and that she thought she would not go with him, preferring to make her own living in the States. "I cannot be dependent," she said. "I shall be American and not be afraid. You have shown me that one need not fear to work, and if all are so good, so kind, so generous as you why should I hesitate?"

"When is your uncle going?" asked Mrs. Corner.

"Soon, two weeks, perhaps."

"And then where will you go to live?"

"I do not know. Some neighbors perhaps will give me room for little. I shall try to go where is protection and retirement."

"But why not come here to us? We have room to spare, and at any rate, during our stay here, we should be glad to have you, and in the meantime you can be making plans for your future."

The señorita's gratitude was pathetic, though she looked more of it than she spoke, and so to Mary Lee's great joy it was arranged that the señorita should take up her residence with the Corner family, a fortunate thing as time proved, for even the simple accident of dropping a handkerchief can change the manner of one's whole life.



Mr. Pinckney had been away on a business trip to San Francisco and his return was hailed with joy by all the girls, Jack especially. To see his rotund figure approaching, to see the smile dawning upon his pleasant face as the four tumultuously rushed to welcome him was enough to warm the heart of a less amiable individual. Nan, with her long dark braids swinging, was in the lead, she being the tallest; Jack never failed to be a close second as she pushed her unruly locks from her eyes or clutched an escaping hair ribbon; Mary Lee, neat and orderly came next, and little Jean, whose ribbons were always in place, brought up the rear.

"Well, well, well," cried Mr. Pinckney as welcoming shouts of "Mr. St. Nick! Mr. St. Nick!" greeted his ears, "here you all are and here I am back again."

Jack precipitated herself into his arms. "I am so glad to see you," she cried.

"So are all of us," chimed in the rest.

"We have so much to tell you," began Nan.

"What do you think? Miss Dolores is here. She lives with us now," Mary Lee informed him.

"We have a pet paisano; Mr. Roberts gave him to us," announced Jean.

"Dear me," returned the old gentleman, "so much news. Who is Miss Dolores, by the way?"

"Our governess. Why, don't you remember about her?" said Mary Lee in an aggrieved tone.

"Oh, yes, yes, Miss de Garcia; I had forgotten her first name, and I was scarcely thinking of her at all, to tell you the truth, for I only saw her once, you may remember, and as I returned only last night Mrs. Roberts has not had time to tell me all that has been going on."

"Well, come in and we will tell you everything," said the girls.

"This is Saturday and we don't have any lessons except music," Mary Lee told him. "I am not taking music anyhow, for I like drawing better, and I am so interested in trying to draw the wild flowers, and after a while Miss Dolores will show me how to color them."

"I am going to learn to play the guitar or the mandolin when I am bigger," said Jack. "I'd rather do that than play the piano. You don't know what lovely songs the señorita sings."

"Dear, dear, I must see this teacher of yours again, for I am beginning to get jealous," returned Mr. Pinckney; "I can't sing songs to the accompaniment of a guitar, and the first thing I know I shall see you all running off and leaving me while you crowd around this new teacher. I think I shall have to try to pick the banjo and learn some coon songs to keep you with me."

The picture of Mr. Pinckney singing coon songs to a banjo was enough to evoke shouts of laughter, and they all proceeded toward the veranda in high spirits, Jack hanging on one arm of her friend and Mary Lee having gained possession of the other. "Don't you think the señorita is beautiful?" asked the latter. "Her hair is brown, dark brown with reddy gold streaks through it that make it look much lighter."

"As if you had poured light taffy on black and hadn't mixed it up much," volunteered Jack.

Mr. Pinckney laughed. "A romantic comparison, kid."

"I should say it was like brown silk shot with gold," remarked Nan.

"That is better," said Mr. Pinckney.

They had arrived at the veranda now, where the three ladies were sitting, Miss Helen with a Spanish book in her hand, Mrs. Corner with a piece of sewing, and the señorita employed in doing a square of Mexican drawn work which she did beautifully, and which she called callado. Mary Lee was very anxious to learn how to imitate some of the beautiful things her teacher did. She had already begun a simple piece of work which she now took up that she might have the excuse of sitting next her beloved Miss Dolores and getting directions from her. Mr. Pinckney was established in a comfortable chair in the midst of the group. Nan rushed off to make some lemonade, Jean went to find the paisano, and Jack perched herself upon the arm of their visitor's chair that she might make whispered remarks from time to time.

In the midst of the merry-making the señorita's laugh was heard as some funny speech was made. At the first sound of it, Mr. Pinckney turned suddenly and looked at her with a puzzled expression, and every little while he regarded her with the same look. "Miss Garcia's face is not familiar, but surely I have heard that laugh often before. I cannot place it, but it seems strangely familiar," he said to Miss Helen.

"Such resemblances are very puzzling," returned Miss Helen, "but I don't think they always mean anything."

"Where did you find such a rara avis as the young lady seems to be?"

"Quite accidentally," Miss Helen told him. "She is a very lovely girl, quite alone in the world, and we feel ourselves very fortunate in having secured her services. I am thinking of asking her to go back with us when we return, for even if it should seem best to send the girls to school, I am sure I could find a good position for her in the family of some one of my friends. She is very pretty, don't you think?"

"Rather an unusual type, and yes, she is pretty. I should not call her beautiful but singularly attractive." He looked earnestly at the señorita who was now watching Jean and Jack performing some gymnastic feats to the possible peril of limbs and frocks. "If I had had a granddaughter," Mr. Pinckney went on musingly, "she might have looked something like that."

Just here Jean's attempt to poise herself on one foot like a flying Mercury ended in a fall from the veranda's railing which fortunately brought about no worse hurt than a bumped forehead, but for the moment she was the centre of attraction, and after Mr. Pinckney had taken his leave, Jack, finding herself deprived of Jean's society, because her twin preferred to stay and be coddled, went off to discover some new entertainment. Mary Lee still industriously pulled threads, Nan devoted herself to picking out chords on Miss Dolores's guitar, and sang in an undertone a little Spanish melody her teacher had taught her. It went rather haltily because of the groping for an accompaniment, but Nan enjoyed it.

Jack's eye roved over the immediate neighborhood, and caught sight of Li Hung's blue jacket down in the vegetable garden. She would go and see what he was doing.

Li Hung was close to the hedge, his head bent over his basket. As Jack approached he looked up, attempted to rise and failed; his long queue was in some mysterious way, attached to the hedge. Jack at once took in the situation and at the same moment she heard a suppressed giggle. Without attempting to rescue Li Hung from his uncomfortable position she flew out upon the sidewalk, bent upon vengeance, for she had espied a small boy crouching outside. Before he had time to flee or to recover from his surprise at her sudden appearance, she pounced upon him, tumbled him over, sat upon his prostrate form and began to pommel him with her fists. Li Hung finding that he could not extricate himself, went on placidly picking tomatoes till Jack should return to set him free. "Me waitee, you come plitty soon," he called out in his high-pitched voice as Jack continued her pommeling.

The boy was squirming under her fists and was making powerless efforts to rise when an automobile whizzed around the corner. At the sound of the "Honk! honk!" the boy lifted up his head and shouted "Help! help!" The single occupant of the automobile stopped his car and sprang out to observe the singular spectacle of a nice looking little girl, sitting on a boy's prostrate form which she violently pounded with her fists.

"Here, here," cried the young man, "what's all this? See here, boy, how do you happen to let a girl do you up this way?"

"He is a bad boy," said Jack tossing back her refractory locks. "He tied poor Li Hung's queue to the hedge so he can't get away. Won't you please sit on the boy and hold him down till I come back? I want to untie Li Hung, and I'm not through with the boy yet; he won't say he is sorry."

"Don't you think he has had enough?" asked the young man. "How long have you been at it?"

"Oh, not very long," said Jack looking down at her victim and pounding more gently.

"Will you say you're sorry, boy?" asked the newcomer.

"No, I won't," said the boy. "Say, help me up, mister, and I'll show you how I can give it to her. I'll do her up good if she is a girl."

"You'll do nothing of the kind," replied the young man sternly. "I'll tell you what I'll do," he went on addressing Jack; "I'll go in and unfasten the Chinaman while you finish up the boy; he deserves it, I'm convinced."

At this encouragement Jack proceeded more vigorously with her punishment of the boy who kicked and squirmed, but could not unseat his chastiser. In a few minutes the young man reappeared. "He's all right," he said nodding toward Li Hung who stood at the gate, basket on arm. "Shall we let the Chinaman have a whack at you, boy, or have you had enough? I've a mind to give you one or two myself for saying you would pitch into a girl when you know she was in the right. Here now, young lady, I reckon we'll call time. Now, get out, youngster," he gave the boy a little touch with his foot, "and if you ever get into any such trouble again when I am around I'll do the punishing myself. Get out, quick." He lifted Jack up bodily and the boy staggered to his feet, stood for a second, then as Li Hung made a lunge at him, took to his heels and was out of sight in a moment.

"Missee plitty fine gallee; plunis boy allee lite," said Li Hung with a beaming smile. "Li Hung likee lil gallee Jack." He trotted back to the house while Jack brushed from her frock the dust of the fray.

"I'm awfully glad that you came along," she said to her new acquaintance. "I didn't dare get up, you see, because I was afraid the boy would pitch into me and Li Hung couldn't get free to go tell any one."

"It was an awkward predicament," said the young man. "It seems to me you are a spunky young lady to start this thing when you didn't know how you'd get out of it."

"Oh, but I didn't think about that part; I was so mad. It was such a mean scurvy trick. I can't bear to see anybody do another so mean. It certainly was mighty low-down of that boy."

"Say," said the young man, "where are you from? Old Verginny, I'll bet a sixpence."

"Why yes, but how did you know?"

"By the way you speak. Shake hands, won't you? I'm a native of the Old Dominion myself and it is good to see home folks."

Jack stretched out a grimy paw which was heartily shaken by her friend. "What's your name?" she asked.

"Well, I suppose a Chinaman might call me One Lung, though at home I am Carter Barnwell. Cart, some call me; Barn others. You see we put the cart before the barn, not before the horse, in my case. What's your name? It ought to be Amazon."

"That's a river in Brazil," returned Jack, "I am not named after any river. My name is Jacqueline Corner, but everybody calls me Jack, and I like it because it was my father's name." She was always very ready to give this explanation. "Is that your automobile?" she inquired.

"Yes, would you like to take a ride?"

"Oh, I'd love it, but perhaps I ought to ask my mother if I may go; she doesn't know you, you see." Jack paused in perplexity, then she said confidentially, "You know I shouldn't like to have her find out that I was fighting a boy in the street, at least not just yet."

The young man laughed. "Suppose I go up and interview her myself. I can find satisfactory references as to who I am, I think, and I reckon I can explain how I came to make your acquaintance without giving you away. I'll go around to the front gate, shall I?"

"Oh, please, and I'll go in the back way and tell Li Hung not to say anything about the fight. Come slowly so I will have time to tell him." She started toward the gate, then came back. "Will it be very deceitful," she said, "not to tell mother all about it at once? She mightn't let me go with you if she thought I had done wrong. I am trying not to do anything like that since Mr. St. Nick told me it was mean."

The young man looked down at her with a contemplative smile that had something of sympathy and something of admiration in it. "Suppose you don't come just yet," he said. "Perhaps if you stay back I can put the matter in such a way as to tell the truth and yet not make your part seem too dreadful. How will that do? Suppose you give me fifteen minutes."

"All right." Jack accepted the proposition thankfully and went in at the gate while her friend returned to his automobile whose "Honk! honk!" was presently heard as he turned the corner.

A moment later Mrs. Corner was surprised to see a lad, of eighteen or so, dismount from his car and come toward the house. "Some friend of Helen's," she said to herself and was about to call her sister from the other side of the veranda when the young man mounted the steps and bowed before her. "Mrs. Corner?" he said inquiringly.

"I am Mrs. Corner." The answer was given with an expectant look.

"I am Carter Barnwell, from Richmond, Virginia. I happened to be coming along when a boy was playing a trick on your Chinaman. He fastened his queue to the hedge by slipping his hand through and getting hold of the end while the man was busy at work in the garden. Your little girl, Jack, was so outraged that she was bent on serving the boy as he deserved. I happened to come up in time to take sides, and—I say, Mrs. Corner, she's a dandy. She never thought of herself and I wish you could see the way she gave it to the boy. She had him down and he couldn't budge."

Mrs. Corner looked shocked. "Jack fighting in the streets, Mr. Barnwell? I am distressed to hear such a thing."

"Oh, but she wasn't exactly fighting. There wasn't a chance for the boy to get in a stroke. He was flat down, you see, and she was sitting on him. She pounded him well, I tell you. She is afraid you will think she really was fighting, but I think it was mighty fine of her to champion the Chinaman."

Miss Helen had come up during the recital. A smile played about her mouth. "What was the Chinaman doing all this time?" she asked.

"Just placidly going on with his work," returned Carter. Then catching the twinkle in Miss Helen's eye he burst into a boyish laugh in which the others could but join.

"It was funny, Mary, you must admit," said Miss Helen.

"It was, of course, but I don't like Jack to precipitate herself into street quarrels with hoodlum boys."

"Of course you don't, but her motives were good we cannot deny."

"I acknowledge that. She should have been a boy, for she is so impetuous and does get into such scrapes in her efforts to help some one else."

"She got out of this scrape all right," returned Mr. Barnwell.

"Thanks to you," returned Mrs. Corner. "Helen, this is Mr. Carter Barnwell, from Richmond. My sister, Miss Corner, Mr. Barnwell."

Miss Helen gave a pleased exclamation. "I wonder if you could, by any chance, be the son of my old friend Molly Carter. She married a Barnwell, Jethro Barnwell, and lives in Richmond."

"I don't know of but one Jethro Barnwell in Richmond," said the lad smiling, "and I happen to be his son. If you know my mother, Miss Corner, I am a lucky fellow to have this chance of meeting you all."

"And it is a great pleasure to me," returned Miss Helen. "Come right up and sit down, Mr. Barnwell."

"Oh, call me Carter, won't you? It is so good to see home folks and to hear my name called as it is at home. Why, I know I have heard my mother speak of you, Miss Corner. Weren't you schoolmates, and didn't you meet in Europe some years ago and travel about together for awhile?"

"Why, yes, of course we did. Carter be it, then. I am glad to have this chance of seeing Molly's boy."

"I'm out here for my health," said Carter. "Oh, I'm not in such bad shape, but the doctor said one of my lungs was a bit wrong after pneumonia, and I had better not take any risk. He advised my dropping college for a year, and so I've come out here for the winter. I say, it's a great place, isn't it? I was sort of homesick at first, for I didn't know a soul, but I'm getting used to it now. Hotels are such beastly places, you know."

"They are when one is alone. You must consider us old friends, however," said Miss Helen. "I am so pleased to find out you are Molly's son, and if there is a moment's homesickness, Carter, come right here and we will drive it away."

"You are good, Miss Corner. Won't mother be happy when she knows you are here. I say, I am in luck."

"So are we," said Miss Helen, smiling. "There comes Jack, Mary."

Jack, with hanging head, sidled out the door and came hesitatingly forward as her mother held out her hand. "Don't scold her," begged Carter in an undertone.

Mrs. Corner nodded reassuringly. "It wasn't very nice for a little girl to be fighting in the streets, was it?" she whispered, as she drew Jack to her.

"It wasn't nice," Jack honestly admitted, "but I was so mad. Not a soul saw us, mother, till Mr. Barnwell came along, and he didn't count."

Carter laughed. "Oh, she's great, Mrs. Corner. I've not had so much fun since I left home. How is your Chinaman, Miss Jack?"

"He's all right. He's going to make me a cake and bring me a present, he says."

"I should think he would want to," said Carter. "I should under like circumstances."

"May I go with him?" Jack asked her mother, nodding toward Carter.

"Go where?" Mrs. Corner looked puzzled.

"Why, in his automobile for a ride." Jack gave Carter a reproachful look.

Mrs. Corner shook her head doubtfully. "Do you think it is just the time to give you a treat, Jack?"

Jack looked down a little abashed.

"Do let her go, Mrs. Corner," said Carter eagerly. "It was really her kind-heartedness that made her pitch into the youngster. He wasn't a real hoodlum, either, for he was well-dressed, and I fancy he lives somewhere about here. I'll be very careful of her and won't stay too long if you'll let her go."

Jack raised imploring eyes to her mother's face. To have such a treat possible and not to be allowed to enjoy it was tragic. She went over to her Aunt Helen and whispered: "Please tell her to let me go."

Miss Helen nodded reassuringly. "I don't think it was an ordinary piece of misbehavior, Mary," she remarked. "I must confess that I should have felt much as Jack did under the circumstances, and then, too, we must consider that Jack was the family benefactor, for Li Hung might be sitting there still if she had not come to his rescue, and where would our next meal be?"

"There is something in that," returned Mrs. Corner. "You will not go far, Mr. Barnwell, will you? I may be overcautious, but I don't know yet how expert a chauffeur you may be."

"Oh, I am very careful," Carter assured her. "I expect, or rather I expected to be an engineer, and so of course I know machines and things. I think you can trust me, Mrs. Corner."

Jack was gazing anxiously into her mother's face. All this precaution seemed very unnecessary, she thought. "May I go?" she again asked.

Her mother looked down with a smile at the anxious little face. "Well, yes, you may," she said after a pause which seemed very long to Jack.

With a little squeal of delight Jack danced down the steps only to be called back. "Here, here," cried her mother, "you can't go looking like that." And Jack returned crestfallen, to be led away while her mother administered a few words of counsel, brushed her disordered locks and freshened her up generally.

Ten minutes later Jack appeared radiant, and in an ecstasy of delight went whizzing off by Carter's side, watched by the envious eyes of a little boy skulking around the corner. Here he was lying in wait for a belligerent little girl when she should appear. Completely foiled by circumstances, he slowly walked away muttering: "Little old wild-cat, jumping on a feller 'fore he can turn 'round. I'll fix her."



Carter Barnwell proved to be a pleasant addition to the little circle. He was a bright, cheery lad, always ready to do a service, unselfish, courteous, and grateful for the open hospitality shown him.

"I tell you," he said, "it's mighty different when you meet some of these cold unresponsive people who can only invite you to their houses when there is a special dinner on, and who nearly die if any one happens in to a meal unawares. Give me the kind of friends such as we have in old Virginia, who don't care for frills, and are glad to have you take pot-luck with them. It sends a chill down my spine when I get into some of these stiff inhospitable houses one happens on, sometimes not a thousand miles from home. You all are just my sort, Mrs. Corner."

"Of course we are," she replied, "because you are just our sort. We have always been used to sharing with our friends whatever we have, and we know when they come they are glad to accept a simple meal in the spirit it is offered while they are just as ready to do the same by us. I must confess there is less of all that than there used to be, but I hate to see friendliness and open handed hospitality passing away before the modern formalities."

"It does me good to hear you talk so," returned Carter, "though I must say that here on the coast one meets with plenty of generous treatment. I suppose one doesn't really need to get the blues, but when a fellow doesn't feel quite up to his best he rather shrinks from strangers and wants his own. That's the way it was with me when I first came."

Mrs. Corner looked at the young man with motherly concern; he certainly looked better and brighter these last few days.

"I make every excuse to come over here," he went on laughing, "but to-day I have a good one. I want to know if we are to take that trip to the Camulos ranch. Will the girls all go? I suppose the twinnies will feel out of it if they don't. I have the chance of getting a big motor car and can take the whole bunch—I beg your pardon, I mean the entire crowd."

Mrs. Corner laughed. "You don't have to mind your p's and q's with me," she said. "I like boys to be boys. It is very nice of you, Carter, to want us all to go. Nan and Mary Lee are so deeply interested in Ramona that they will be perfectly wild to go, but don't you think we'd better divide up? Let me see—four—six, eight of us are a good many."

"But that is just the point; if I can get this big car there will be plenty of room; the only point is that we must decide at once, in the next day or two, for the golden opportunity happens to be the present. Could you all start to-morrow?"

Mrs. Corner said that she would consult her sister and Carter sat down on the pleasant veranda to await her return.

Presently Jack and Nan came around the corner of the house, their hands full of flowers. They did not see Carter who had established himself in the hammock. "Mother and Aunt Helen have their heads together and are talking, talking as fast as can be," said Jack. "I saw them when I went in for the string. I believe something is going to happen, Nan."

"Something is always happening here," returned Nan, gathering a bunch of heliotrope together and binding it firmly to a hoop she was holding.

"I mean something unusual."

"So do I mean that."

"Oh, Nan, you are always teasing."

"No, I'm not. I'm just talking facts. Hand me a rose, a white one, Jack. What is your idea of the unusual thing that is going to happen?"

"Maybe we are going to have a party."

"I'd like to know who would come to it. We know about six people besides the Robertses."

"Well, that would be enough for a dinner party."

"I don't believe it is that."

"What do you think then?"

"I think they are talking over our sins."

"Oh, Nan, that is horrid. I don't like to think it is that."

"You know we are not perfect," said Nan solemnly.

"I know that, but I don't like to be reminded of it."

"If you are never reminded of it how can you improve?"

"You talk just like Aunt Sarah."

"Oh, goodness! then I'll stop and change my tune. Let me see, what delightful thing can we imagine, Jack, to take the taste out of our mouths? Think of the very nicest thing that could happen, and we will pretend that mother and Aunt Helen are talking of that."

Jack thoughtfully disposed some red roses upon a spray of glossy green leaves. "Let's pretend Mr. St. Nick is going to take us to some lovely place," she began, "and——"

Here a mysterious voice interrupted: "What's the matter with somebody else taking you to some lovely place?"

Jack started up and dropped her roses in a heap, while Nan exclaimed: "Carter Barnwell, how long have you been eaves-dropping?"

"Only a moment. As soon as things looked as if they might become too serious I spoke out. You really haven't said anything worth listening to yet. The only remark that impressed me at all was that which announced that you weren't perfect. I thought you all were."

"That's too beautiful a compliment to pass over," said Nan. "You are forgiven."

"I can tell you I think, what is at present occupying the thoughts of your elders in there."

"What? Oh, Cart, are you planning to take us somewhere?"

"I am, fair maiden."

"All of us?" put in Jack.

"Every mother's son——I mean daughter."

"Oh, where? Do tell us," cried Nan.

"Haven't you been pining to see the home of Ramona?"

"Oh, Carter, indeed we have. Is that it?"

"That is it."


"To-morrow, if the powers so decide. That is probably what your aunt and mother are considering now."

"I'm going right in to see," said Nan laying down scissors and string and rushing off. She was back in a few minutes. "We're going, we're going!" she cried. "Jack, go find Mary Lee and Jean and tell them to come right here; we must have the fun of talking it all over. Carter, you are a brick."

"So glad."

"He's better than a brick," said Jack throwing affectionate arms around him; "he is a darling. I want to kiss him."

"You embarrass me. I'm blushing," cried Carter pretending to hide his face while Jack bestowed a cyclonic kiss upon his ear, and Nan laughed at his pretended coyness. Then off skipped Jack to find the other two sisters and soon the whole party was busily talking over the morrow's excursion.

Early the next day Carter appeared with the large touring car in which they were to go, and there was much excitement among the children in the getting off.

It was a ride of forty-eight miles to the Camulos ranch, and if they should conclude to extend it further to Santa Barbara they would travel over a hundred miles, but the further the better, said the young people.

It promised to be a delightful trip. Each of the girls settled herself according to her liking. Mary Lee with Miss Dolores by her side was supremely happy, while Jean was content to sit on the same seat with these two. Nan could turn to her Aunt Helen on her right and to her mother on her left, so she was suited, while Jack occupied what to her was the place of honor, by Carter's side. His goggles sent her into shrieks of laughter every time he turned his eyes her way. "You look like some funny bug," she told him. "Like a grasshopper on its hind legs, with poppy eyes and a funny cap."

"Look here; stop making fun of me," said Carter in pretended resentment. "I'll tell your mother on you. Mrs. ——"

"Oh, don't call her," said Jack in alarm, "she might make me change seats with Jean, and I don't want to."

"After that subtle compliment, I can't do anything worse than stop the machine in the middle of the road and leave you to get home the best way you can. How will you manage to do it?"

"The same way you will," returned Jack not at all nonplussed.

Meanwhile Nan on the back seat was making excited remarks to her Aunt Helen. "Isn't it wonderful to think that we are going through California in something as if we were flying through the clouds in a chariot? Those pink flowers are pink clouds, that field is a grayish one, and the sky around it is green instead of blue. Shall we stay long at the Camulos ranch, do you suppose? Oh, me, I am so happy; I'd like to be a bird and sing, sing all day."

"Your throat would get mighty dry with the dust," remarked Mary Lee from the opposite seat.

"Oh, you are so dreadfully matter-of-fact, Mary Lee," said Nan descending from her raptures. "Let's talk about Ramona and the missions, Aunt Helen. Do you suppose there was really a Ramona? I like to think so."

"We can pretend there was even if there wasn't," answered her aunt. She was always ready to humor Nan's imagination. "We'll give her the benefit of the doubt and Allessandro, too. The fact that the Camulos ranch still exists and is the very spot where the scene of Mrs. Jackson's story is laid, makes it seem very real."

As they approached the place, Nan grew fidgety. She stood up every few minutes and craned her neck to see the low adobe house made so famous by the writer. At last there it was with its broad verandas; there was the inner court open on the east, there the room occupied by Ramona. On the south veranda Felipe had rested while Allessandro played upon his violin. Yonder to the west was the little chapel and there hung the three old bells brought from Spain so long ago. On the east side of the garden a long arbor led to the little brook where Ramona's lover first beheld her washing the altar cloth. All these sights gave thrills to the girls and indeed their elders were not unmoved. The señorita felt at home on what to her seemed Spanish soil and the others felt as if they had stepped back into a past age.

Courteously the family invited them to remain as long as it suited them, and even offered to entertain them at the next meal. Dinner they had taken on the way, and though it was a great temptation to remain under the historic roof, the travelers felt that it would be an imposition to linger beyond such time as they might satisfy their interest in H. H's lovely story. Therefore when they had given a proper amount of time to examining the various places they left the old house set in among its great vineyards, olive groves and orange trees, and resumed their journey to Santa Barbara which they hoped to reach before night.

The beautiful Santa Clara valley with its river meadows still green and lovely, was a pleasant place to travel through or to linger in, and Miss Helen declared that they must take a more leisurely journey through it, and perhaps spend some time at Santa Barbara when they should be journeying toward the north.

Nan's raptures had subsided under the sight of realities and for some time she sat silently dreaming, following Ramona through her sad experiences, but suddenly a sharp report made her spring to her feet and indeed caused every one to give an alarmed exclamation. The automobile came to a standstill. Carter clambered down and looked contemplatively at one of the tires. "The blamed old thing has busted," he said. "There's something else wrong, too," he went on. "I don't know just what till I examine. I'm afraid there is no Santa Barbara to-night. Let me see; we've probably come ten or twelve miles since we left Camulos." He took out his road map and looked it over. "The nearest town must be Santa Paula—everything is Santa something out here—I don't see anything to do but to get help there." He looked about him. "Will you ladies stay in the car or will you go to that house I see yonder through the trees? I fancy it is a bee ranch, for you can see the white beehives."

"I thought they were sheep," said Jack.

"Beehives," Carter declared. "It looks like rather a nice place. Must be the owner is making a success out here; they don't all do it by a long shot. I wish we were nearer San Buenaventura; you could pass away the time at the old mission church there, but there is no help for it. Shall we try the house or would you rather walk to the next railway station? We might get a train there for Santa Barbara."

"Is it far to the station?" asked Mrs. Corner.

"I don't know exactly. We are between Sespe and Santa Paula and they are seven miles apart; I judge it could not be less than two or three miles."

"Oh, then, let us try the house; probably we could get a conveyance there, which would take us to either the town or the station."

This was decided upon and all took up the line of march, Carter leading the way.

They had not walked far up the long avenue of trees before they saw a man coming toward them. "Hallo, friends," he said as he came up. "Glad to see you. Your family?" he said jovially to Carter.

"I am not a Mormon and these are not my seven wives," replied Carter in the same spirit. "We've come up from Los Angeles in an automobile, and the beastly thing has broken down out there on the road. If it had been my own car such a thing shouldn't have happened. May these ladies wait here till I can get up to the nearest town? I suppose it is Santa Paula."

"You're right, it is. Why, of course they can wait here and welcome. Glad to have them. Do you want a horse, or will you go up by train? One of my men can drive you over and you can get the next train and save time, maybe. Come along right up. I'll see that you get there in time. Not a Mormon, eh? Well, I should judge not by your age. Your mother and sisters and aunt, probably."

"No, only friends, good friends."

"Well, my females will be glad to see 'em. We've got a little gal about the size of one of these young misses. Bess! Bessie!" he raised his voice. "Step up on the piazza, ladies, and take seats. I'll call some one."

"Don't disturb your family," said Mrs. Corner in protest.

"Oh, bless you, ma'am, it won't disturb 'em; they'll like it. The little gal don't have many playmates. I'm laying out to send her away to a good school when she gets bigger. She don't have anything but dogs and cats to play with out here. Ah, Bessie," he called again.

Presently a little girl about the age of the twins came running around the corner of the house. She stopped short at sight of the visitors. "Come along, Bess; they won't bite you," said the man.

The child came nearer and regarded the twins interestedly. Jean gave her a beaming smile which was answered in kind, and seeing that the mountain would not come to Mahomet, the twins decided that it would have to be the other way, and both went forward to make the acquaintance of little Bessie Sanders. In a short time the three were playing together, and making a friendly tour of inspection, Bessie piloting them all over the place to view "the orchard, the meadow, the deep tangled wild-wood," though instead of "the rude bucket which hung in the well" there were big windmills to draw up the water for use in house and garden.

Nan, Mary Lee and the señorita left their elders sitting on the veranda, Mrs. Sanders a pleasant, homely woman, being glad to entertain them while the girls and their governess wandered out to the orange grove where the great golden globes of luscious fruit were hanging. "Help yourselves to anything you see," had been Mr. Sanders' hospitable charge, and they did not disregard it when it came to oranges.

"Señor Sanders has very familiar face," said the señorita musingly. "I wonder where I have some time to see him." When they returned to the house she was enlightened, for Mr. Sanders turning to her said, "I wonder if Don Arnaldo de Garcia is a relative of yours, Miss de Garcia. I didn't catch the name when the ladies here first mentioned it."

"If it is my uncle of whom you speak, he is Arnaldo de Garcia. I was thinking that I have been seeing you in some time past."

"Very likely, very likely. I knew de Garcia well in Mexico where I was for several years before I was married. Then I lost sight of him, though I heard he had come to California. I used to see him often at his father-in-law's in those days."

"Ah, then it is there I have seen you, when I was little girl like these." The señorita put her hand on Jean's head.

"Yes, yes, to be sure; I remember there was a little girl who used to run in and out. Where is your uncle now?"

"He has gone back to Mexico. For a little while he is living in Los Angeles, but he likes it not so well. He returns with his wife and children."

"Ah, he has children? You were the only one I used to see in those days."

"Yes, he has married a second time. His wife was a widow with children of her own and since there are two others."

"Ah, yes, yes. I remember the first wife very well, a fine woman. Her people were my good friends. Fine old man your grandfather."

Mary Lee listened attentively to all this. Anything which pertained to her dear Miss Dolores was of the greatest importance to her. Fortunately she remembered the conversation afterward, and it was well that she did; on such slight threads do fortune or misfortune hang.

Carter returned later with the necessary things to doctor up the motor car, but it was too late to start for Santa Barbara that day and as Mr. Sanders insisted upon keeping the party for over night, they consented to stay as it was evidently his wish. The next morning it was decided to return home and make the trip to Santa Barbara when the flower festival should take place, and when they could remain as long as they felt inclined.

"Li Hung will not know what has become of us," said Mrs. Corner, "for I told him we would be back by this evening, and to-morrow will be Sunday, Helen, so I think we would better go back, for you know we promised to dine with the Robertses to-morrow."

Miss Helen agreed that they must not go on, though the younger ones begged hard not to go back.

"You will let Bessie come to see us, won't you, Mr. Sanders?" said Jean, who had taken a fancy to the little girl.

"To be sure I will," was the reply. "And when you come this way you must all stop as long as you can. You'll find the latch-string out, ain't that so, mother?" He turned to his wife.

"I reckon the door'll be wide open when they come along," she said hospitably. "I wish, Mrs. Corner, you'd let the little girls come up and stay with Bess awhile. We'll take good care of them and Mr. Sanders will go down for them any time."

"Oh, may we come?" cried Jean, before whose vision arose unlimited supplies of honey, raisins for the taking, horses to ride and such delights as only a big ranch could afford.

"We'll see about it," said Mrs. Corner. And they all went off laden down with branches of oranges, combs of honey, and a basket of choice fruit, although the month was December.

"It was a great trip," said Carter as the automobile dashed around the last corner and stopped before the door of the cottage in Los Angeles. "We'll go again, won't we? Any time any of you want to see some old mission or get into a new bit of country, say the word and off we'll go. I am having the time of my life with you all."

"It's just like having a big brother," said Nan delightedly, as she watched him whirl off. "This world is so full of surprises and nice things, isn't it, kiddy?"

"This world is so full of such numbers of things,
We all ought to be as happy as kings,"

quoted Jack, as they went up the steps to where Li Hung, clean and smiling, stood ready to receive them.



The rainy season had begun. A strong south wind coming in from the sea brought the first heavy winter storm. Already the mountain crests showed snowy peaks, but the valleys had for some time displayed a lively green after the rainless summer, and since the first light showers had given new life. Nan sat at her window looking off at the mountains and humming a little Spanish air she had been practicing. She strummed a noiseless accompaniment on the pane as her thoughts were following out a line of possibilities which a talk with Mary Lee had started.

"The señorita looks so sad," Mary Lee had remarked, "I am sure she is thinking of how alone in the world she is. Isn't it hard that any one so young and so lovely should have no relatives at all?"

"She might get married," Nan had replied. "Maybe Carter will fall in love with her."

"Carter! why he is only a boy eighteen years old; he is younger than she is."

"Oh, well, he is not so very much younger, and he would do on a pinch. I can't think of any one else at present, Mary Lee, if you must have a husband for her. To be sure there is Mr. St. Nick, but he is as much too old as Carter is too young; in fact he is old enough to be her grandfather."

"I didn't say anything about a husband; I was only thinking how we could cheer her up."

"Well, a husband would do that if we could find the proper one. I'm sure no one could be more cheerful than Carter."

"Oh, Nan, you are so silly; he will not do at all."

Nan laughed wickedly. "Perhaps you want to save him for yourself when you are older."

"I think you are perfectly horrid," returned her sister. "When I come to you for advice and sympathy you are mighty mean to be so—so—flippant. I don't believe you care one bit for Miss Dolores."

"I care for her lots, but I'm not so silly about her as you are. I don't go hoarding up her cast-off shoe-strings and her discarded hairpins as you do."

"I never did save a hairpin, and you know it."

"Well, it is only because you don't happen to have found one," retorted Nan. Then came the strumming on the pane and the humming of the Spanish song while Mary Lee nursed her grievance. After awhile Nan broke the silence by saying in conciliatory tones: "What is it you want me to do? I'm sure we did all we could at Christmas, and she had a lovely time. Wasn't it funny to have such a summery Christmas, with flowers growing out of doors and all that? And didn't Mr. St. Nick make a fine Santa Claus? I think he had courage to take the character when he looks it so exactly. 'His eyes how they twinkled, his dimples how merry,'" she quoted.

"Yet," said Mary Lee thoughtfully, "I've seen him look very serious and almost stern; you wouldn't think he could when he is so jolly and full of fun."

"I think it is when he has been talking about his son that he looks that way."

"I wonder he can be so merry," said Mary Lee.

"Why, but Mary Lee, that happened years ago, before our father died. I am sure we loved our father, and yet we can laugh and carry on just the same as if he were here."

Mary Lee acknowledged the truth of this, but the thought of it took them back to their Virginia home, and Nan said: "Oh, Mary Lee, do you remember how cold it was last year and how we all went over to Uplands with the Christmas gifts? Poor old Uplands all in ruins. Daniella was with us then. I wonder where she is now."

"Never mind about Daniella, let us talk about Miss Dolores," said Mary Lee. "Wouldn't it be fine if she could discover something about her father? I have thought about it so much. Do you suppose we could do it?"

"Gracious, girl, how could we when we don't even know his name. She doesn't know it herself."

"I know that, but there might be a way; such strange things do happen. Can't you think of some plan, Nan? You are always so clever about puzzling out things."

Nan felt that after her teasing remarks she did not deserve this compliment to her powers, and in return became as serious as her sister could desire. "I'll tell you what we'll do," she said after having given the subject grave consideration for a few minutes. "We'll tell Mr. St. Nick about it; there's no telling what he may advise."

"When he couldn't find his own daughter-in-law I don't believe he could do much for Miss Dolores," argued Mary Lee.

"Well, he will know better than any one else how to set about it. By the way we are to go there for dinner on Sunday, to the Robertses, I mean. I hope it will stop raining by then. Carter is invited, too. How he did enjoy Christmas."

"How we all did enjoy it," said Mary Lee. "Don't you love your crêpe kimono and those lovely fans and things they gave us?"

"I certainly do. We really never had a better Christmas, although we were away from home. Last year mother was away and that took off the edge from everything."

"It is a great thing to have money," remarked Mary Lee sententiously. "Last year we were so awfully poor and were at our wits' ends to know how we could get presents for everybody and this year all we had to do was to buy things."

"I'm not sure but I liked the old way better," returned Nan thoughtfully. "There was more of ourselves in the things we gave." They lapsed into silence each wandering back into the ways of the old home life. Nan broke the silence by saying, "There comes Carter in all the rain. Shall we go in to see him or shall we leave him to the señorita?" she asked mirthfully.

For answer Mary Lee stalked indignantly away but was recalled as Nan sang after her: "Oh, Mrs. Barnwell, don't get jealous."

"I'll tell mother how you behave," said Mary Lee on the verge of tears. "She won't like your talking that way anyhow; she'll say it is very silly and pert and—and—you know she won't like it, Nancy Corner."

Nan well knew her mother would not like such silly speeches and as Mary Lee moved off she called after her: "I take it all back, Mary Lee. You needn't tell mother. Come on, let's go in and see Cart. We might play ping-pong or something, for it is too wet to go out. Come on. Did its old sissy tease it?" she said affectionately putting an arm around her sister and rubbing her cheek against hers.

Mary Lee accepted the olive branch and the two went together into the living-room where Carter was walking on his hands for Jack's benefit. These two were great cronies, and indeed, Carter seemed to prefer Jack's society to that of any of the others. Mrs. Roberts showed especial favor to gentle little Jean, Nan and her Aunt Helen had always been particular chums, Mary Lee gave no one a chance to dote on her since she was absorbed in the señorita, and Mrs. Corner mothered them all. After lessons Jean almost daily was seen running down street to where Mrs. Roberts lived and Nan often followed to talk to Mr. Pinckney who enjoyed her bright sallies and queer whimsies. The Corners had made other acquaintances, but the Robertses and Mr. Pinckney stood first in their affections while Carter had become almost one of the family.

The storm was over by the next day and now could be expected a period of sunshiny weather till the February rains began. It was a time of much dreaming to Nan. Old Spain appealed to her so that she often lived in its past history and looked with inward eye upon the California of the eighteenth century, yet she was quite as much interested in the progress of modern enterprise and took in quickly all that was told her of newer methods and of the opening up of the country. Mary Lee, too, had her dreams, but they were all for the señorita. What if her father was not dead, that he could be discovered not the worthless renegade whom every one supposed him to be, but a man whom time had made important, who now possessed wealth and station in which his daughter could share. She confided these dreams to Nan sometimes but never to the señorita. Yet Nan who could ordinarily plunge into the wildest regions of improbability was here practical.

"If she had such a father don't you suppose he would have found her out long ago?" she would ask. "He must have known her mother's people and it would have been easy enough to find them." So Mary Lee's hopes for the moment would be crushed, though they would soon grow apace as some new possibility presented itself, and she would come to Nan with some such remark as: "Surely Miss Dolores's uncle would know about her father."

"But he won't tell," Nan would remind her. "He promised her aunt on her death bed as she had promised her father before her never to tell who he was. It is like the most mysterious sort of story."

Sunday afternoon came their opportune moment to confide in Mr. Pinckney. Jean and Jack were absorbed in a trayful of sea shells which afforded them no end of amusement. They were playing a Sunday play, they explained. The red deep lacquer tray was the Red Sea, the white shells were the children of Israel who were to go over on dry land; the colored shells were the Egyptians who should be drowned in crossing, for Jack had a tumbler of water ready for the right moment. She assured Nan that Mrs. Roberts had told her the water would hurt neither shells nor tray and they expected much satisfaction in overwhelming Pharaoh and his host.

Mrs. Corner with Miss Helen was talking to Mrs. Roberts in a corner of the pleasant living-room, Carter and the señorita had sauntered into the garden and therefore Nan and Mary Lee pounced upon Mr. Pinckney as he was taking his after dinner cigar on the veranda.

"Now, Miss Zeph," he said as the two girls settled themselves near him, "you can just tell me a story. I feel lazy and want to be amused."

Nan looked at Mary Lee. "Let's tell him about the señorita," she said suddenly.

Mary Lee looked approval. "It's a mighty romantic story," she remarked.

"Oh, but you have told it to me," he said. "I want something quite fresh and new."

"We haven't told you near all," said Nan. "Did you know, for instance, that she had an American father?"

"No." He looked surprised, then he asked: "Who was he?"

"She doesn't know."

Mr. Pinckney sat up and appeared more interested. "She doesn't know? How is that?"

"Why, her mother married against her father's wishes and when Miss Dolores's father and mother died she was adopted by her aunt who gave her her own name and when she grew up wouldn't tell her who her father was. Her aunt made Mr. Garcia promise not to tell and he won't, so Miss Dolores can't find out anything. Her aunt used to be quite well off and educated Miss Dolores beautifully, but now her uncle has lost almost everything and she has no other relatives. There were only the two sisters, her aunt and her mother. One was named Dolores and the other Elvira."

"Elvira?" Mr Pinckney spoke the name slowly and thoughtfully.

"Yes, it isn't as pretty a name as Dolores, do you think?"

He did not answer, but sat with his head thrown back puffing at his cigar and watching the smoke drift off among the vines.

Mary Lee took up the tale. "We think, or at least Nan says, that probably her father was a convict or something, or maybe just a gambler, and that her mother's family were ashamed of him."

Mr. Pinckney roused himself. "Very likely, very likely. That would explain it of course."

"Still maybe he wasn't, and if he was maybe his family are good people and would be nice to her. She is so lovely anybody ought to be proud as a peacock to have her kin to the family. Now don't you think we could find out without her knowing? Then if they turned out to be no 'count people she need never know."

"We thought," put in Nan eagerly, "as you are traveling about 'hether and yen' as Landy says, you might come across some sort of—of—what do you call it?—clue, without going out of your way."

Mr. Pinckney regarded her thoughtfully. "I could do that. I should like to learn more. Do you know her mother's maiden name?"

"Mendez, I believe, wasn't it, Mary Lee?"

"Yes, it is her other name. She is Dolores Elvira Inez Mendez de Garcia. Inez is her saint's name, St. Agnes, you know."

"Isn't it an awfully long name?" said Nan as Mr. Pinckney carefully wrote it down.

"The thing to do," he said, "is to find her baptismal record. If she was the child of Elvira Mendez and an unknown American it may not be difficult. I suppose you have no idea whether she was born in California or in Mexico."

"I might find out," said Mary Lee. "I think it was in Mexico. I will try to get her to tell me just where it was. That would be a help, wouldn't it?"

"Surely it would. Well, young ladies, I will try to prove myself an elderly fat knight errant and do service for your beautiful princess."

"Oh, thank you," they both cried. "She is such a dear," sighed Mary Lee. "Don't you think she is lovely, Mr. St. Nick?"

"She is a very sweet young lady, but rather quiet, isn't she?"

"She can laugh real heartily," said Nan, "and she laughs just like Mrs. Roberts."

Mr. Pinckney looked at her with a curious expression on his face. "So she does," he said. "Strange I didn't notice that. Her laugh sounded so familiar that I mentioned it to Miss Helen, but I couldn't place the person whom she reminded me of. It is very curious," he added meditatively. "If"—he began, but broke off again. "Well, never mind about that. I'll report to you from time to time as I make progress. It is really a very interesting quest."

"Let's not tell any one yet," said Nan. "It makes it much more interesting to have a secret." So the compact was made, just as Miss Dolores and Carter came up the steps.

"Heigho, Cart," sang out Nan. "Come up, you two and help us keep the Sabbath."

"How are you keeping it?" said Carter sitting down on the long bamboo couch by Nan's side.

"Oh, we're keeping it properly. This morning we all went to church, and this afternoon we are doing unto others as we would have them do unto us."

"In what way?" queried Carter.

"Giving them the benefit of our brilliant conversation."

Carter laughed. "What are the kiddies doing?"

"Drowning Pharaoh in the Red Sea. I fancy they are getting their share of the splashing, too."

"Jack is no doubt, but I don't believe Jean has a drop on her."

"Oh, Jack will have charge of the water works, you may be bound."

They were quite right, for presently the twins came out, Jack plastering down her locks with her wet hands and Jean right as a trivet in her Sunday best though bearing carefully the tray of shells which she set in the sun to dry.

"Just look at your frock, Jack," said Nan. "Why didn't you wear an apron?"

"Forgot," said Jack, looking down at her damp frock and trying to smooth it out.

"Don't do that," cried Nan; "you're making it worse. Fortunately it will wash. Go out in the sun and dry it."

"I know where there is a fine sunny spot," said Carter jumping up. "Come along and we'll find it," and he bore the moist Jack away while Jean, bereft of her twin, solaced herself with Mr. Pinckney.

"I suppose you are going to make mummies of the Egyptians," he said. "I see you are drying them up. Are the children of Israel there too?"

"Yes," replied Jean seriously; "all but Moses. He rolled under the sideboard and we couldn't get him, but Mrs. Bobs says Ah Wing will find him when he sweeps."

"So he doesn't see the Promised Land with the rest," remarked Mr. Pinckney. "Poor Moses."

Jean slipped down from his knee.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

"I'm going after Jack. I've just thought it would be lovely to hide a little Moses in the bulrushes and have Miriam watching. There is a tiny pink shell on top there that will just do for a baby. It will be a mighty fine play, nicer than the other, I think, though that was crite nice, too." She went off to seek Jack.

"Seven little Indians outside the door
Three trotted off and then there were four,"

improvised Nan.

"We're not Indians, if you mean us," said Mary Lee.

Nan looked at Mr. Pinckney who laughed. "Prisms will have a spade a spade," he said. Then he turned suddenly to Miss Dolores. "I am told your father was an American, Miss Garcia; do you know anything at all about him? Where he was from, what he looked like, what was his age, or any facts at all?"

The señorita shook her head. "I know nothing except that I have his fair skin and that his hair was lighter than mine. He died before I was born, and that was a year after he married my mother."

"You do not know where they were married?"

"No, señor."

"But it was—pardon the question, how many years ago?"


Mr. Pinckney sat musingly looking off into the garden where Jack and Jean were hiding Moses in a thicket of presumable bulrushes. They were singing:

"To the side of the river so clear
They carried the beautiful child,"

and their childish voices were drifted toward the listeners on the veranda, with the scent of roses and lilies.

"Twenty-three years," repeated Mr. Pinckney, "and that is all you know."

"All. The subject was tabooed in my uncle's family, but once when some one asked if I resembled my mother my aunt said: 'Yes, in feature and all except hair and complexion, but even her hair is darker than her father's.' So I learned that much."

Mr. Pinckney did not put any more questions, for the triumphant train of maidens came bearing the infant Moses to the palace, and the twins announced that they had decided to make Mr. St. Nick king, pressing upon him such arduous duties that he had no time for further inquiries. For, when a somewhat bald head wears a crown it is apt to sit more uneasily than upon one better covered.

"You must have this serape for a robe," insisted Jack, flinging an Indian blanket around him. "We shall have Miss Dolores for Pharaoh's daughter. The shells are too little. I am to be Miriam and we are going to take the little Chinese image for Moses; Mrs. Bobs said we might."

"We don't have to have the ark of bulrushes now," said Jean.

"Put Moses in Pharaoh's daughter's lap," said Jack. "I wish I knew what her name was."

"I can tell you," said Nan; "it was Thermeutis."

Jack stared and repeated the name softly to herself. Nan's facts were always thankfully received, and could be counted upon as being correct.

"I must confess that Moses is not a beauty," remarked Nan as she looked at the face of the ugly, fat little image staring from the folds of a white towel, "and you were just singing 'To the side of the river so clear they carried the beautiful child.'"

"We'll just have to pretend he is beautiful."

"He looks as if he had a bad case of mumps," Nan went on. "I think he needs a doctor, myself."

"Oh, Nan," said Jean reproachfully, "you're spoiling the play. We are just pretending everything. I don't think Mr. St. Nick looks like the pictures of Pharaoh, but he has to do, for there isn't any one else."

"He makes a very good king, I think," remarked Jack busying herself with her long train. "Carter has to be Aaron, you know."

"Do you think I resemble my brother, Nan?" inquired Carter in an anxious tone.

Nan laughed. "You're not so mumpy and dumpy and lumpy looking as Moses."

"Here's your rod that budded," said Jack bringing a branch of flowering almond to him.

"It's budding far too soon," said Nan, "that didn't happen till much later."

"I am afraid this play is rather too full of anachronisms for me," said Carter.

"What's nackrynisms?" Jack pricked up her ears at the new word.

"It is making things happen at the wrong time," Carter told her; "as if I should write a story and make you my grandmother."

"Oh!" Jack understood but dimly, and turned her attention to Mr. Pinckney. "Here's your sceptre," she said, handing him a stick, then, after informing him that he could be as wicked as he pleased, she went on with the play till the hour came for supper.



It was after supper when Carter had been in close conversation with Mrs. Roberts that he suddenly exclaimed, "Who wants to join me at the Tournament of Roses on New Year's day? Don't all speak at once."

"I do! I do!" clamored the twins, and the other girls were not far behind in echoing the cry.

"Tell us about it," said Jack leaving Mr. Pinckney and coming to Carter's side.

"Tell me," said Jean going over to Mrs. Roberts.

"It is the flower festival at Pasadena that always takes place on New Year's Day. Every go-cart and wheelbarrow in the place dresses up in flowers and parades the streets. I thought it would be rather fun to be in the parade with my motor car," Carter told Jack.

"Oh, wouldn't it?" said Jack. "Take me, Carter?"

"We'll see. The honor of being in it is to be accorded to the one who will suggest the most appropriate scheme of decorations for my car. That is what Mrs. Bobs and I decided on. Those who are not inlookers can be onlookers from some point of vantage. Notice my vocabulary, Miss Helen. We shall have high jinks, ending up with a swell dinner and fireworks when we get home."

"I speak to furnish the dinner," said Mr. Pinckney.

"Now, I say," began Carter, "you're trying to steal my thunder."

"I think you might give an old fellow a chance when there is one," returned Mr. Pinckney in an aggrieved tone.

"Do humor the child, Carter," said Mrs. Roberts. "You know he will pout and fret and spoil everything if you don't."

Mr. Pinckney threatened his daughter with his fist. "But I don't believe in boys having all the fun. Here he's going to dress up and take the youngsters in the parade, and then wants to furnish dinner and fireworks both; it's not fair."

"You can go in the parade if you are lucky enough to suggest a dazzlingly attractive form of decoration," said Carter; "that's the bill."

"Oh, don't let him go," shrilled out Jack; "he'll take up two seats."

"Now hear that," said Mr. Pinckney. "Every one's against me."

"Poor dear," said his daughter consolingly; "they shan't tease my dear old dad."

"I've a mind to get up a rival car," said Mr. Pinckney, "and outdo that boy."

"Boy yourself," retorted Carter, and Mr. Pinckney's "ha-ha!" roared out so infectiously that every one joined in.

New Year's day was so near at hand that it required some cudgeling of brains to bring forth ideas to suit the occasion.

"I think pink is prettiest," decided Jack. "All pink roses would be lovely."

"Oh, but that's so common," objected Jean. "I like blue better; there aren't near so many blue flowers as pink ones."

"How would it do to have flowers of every color?" remarked Carter.

"If it didn't look like a crazy quilt or a rag carpet," put in Nan.

"Nuf said," replied Carter; "we'll strike that out."

"Shades of violet might be lovely," remarked Mrs. Corner thoughtfully.

"Not original enough," Miss Helen decided, "though if it comes to that, I suppose everything from the stars and stripes in red white and blue, to a portrait of the president done in flesh color will be on exhibition. What we want is something not too conspicuous, yet refined and artistic."

"Chaste and elegant fills the bill," returned Carter.

"How would it do to dress up the four Corners as North, South, East and West?" suggested Mr. Pinckney. "Dress North in fur and cover her with snowballs; South could have magnolias; East could have,—could have——"

"Could have——" repeated Carter. "Go on, Mr. St. Nick."

"I'm stuck," he confessed. "I don't believe my ingenuity could devise sufficiently distinctive costumes. We shall have to give that up. Why haven't we heard from you, Mary Lee? I see the shadow of thought resting upon your brow."

"I'm just thinking that we might use the Spanish colors," she said, "and we could wear Spanish dresses." It was plain to be seen what influenced her suggestion.

"Oh, there'll be hosts of those," Mrs. Roberts told her. "The Spanish element will come out very strong, as you will see." And Mary Lee retired to the background.

"We might take the colors of the University of Virginia," said Nan. "Cart is a University man and he might fly the college colors, yellow and blue; we could each carry a little pennant."

"Not bad," said Carter, interested at once. "We'll think that over, Nan. I'd like right well to back up the old University and give her a chance. So far nothing better has been suggested. What is your scheme, Mrs. Bobs? We haven't heard from you yet."

"I was thinking of proposing white flowers with a very little green decoration. Green and white is always so fresh looking and is very effective if used right."

Carter looked dubious. "Very effective for a wedding, maybe, but it doesn't appeal to me as striking enough."

"Red and black, then."

"The devil's colors; oh, no, we are all too young and innocent," laughed Carter. "We'll let Nan's resolution lie on the table till to-morrow and in the meantime somebody else may come forward with a new suggestion." So time went on until at last Miss Helen proposed that the white car be decked in yellow to represent the golden west and that its occupants wear white and yellow. This suggestion was unanimously approved but Miss Helen waived her right to a seat in the car and handed it over to Nan who was ecstatic. Her own scheme of using the colors of the University of Virginia had come second in favor so that it was considered proper that she should take Miss Helen's place.

"Nan is so slim there is plenty of room for another," said Jack wistfully.

"So there is, kid," said Carter comfortingly. "There's plenty of room for you and the other trin on the back seat with Mary Lee, and Nan can sit by me on the front seat if she doesn't object."

Nobody objected, Nan least of all, so this beautiful arrangement was carried out, and yellow and gold filled their minds for the next few days. The car was not to be entirely massed in flowers, but was to be bordered by the yellow blossoms, these outlining the top, sides and wheels, while the front was to be a solid yellow shield. Each lassie was to carry a big bunch of yellow flowers and to wear white with a yellow sash. They were to have, too, crowns of yellow, and Carter in speckless white would have a yellow necktie and wear a yellow flower in his buttonhole.

"We ought certainly to take the prize," said Nan. "I don't believe there will be any prettier fix than ours."

"Oh, you country gal," cried Carter, "a fix, indeed. What a way to speak of my beautiful white car."

"Do we start from here, or do we go to Pasadena first and get things in order?" asked Mary Lee.

"You girls would better start from here," said Mrs. Roberts; "you will have a better chance to adorn yourselves, and Carter can meet you at the hotel."

But Carter would none of this; he would not consent to starting on ahead. "Nine miles is nothing for an automobile," he said, "and I'll let her go slow so the decorations will be in no danger of whizzing off. Besides, we'll have a much better chance to get the car looking all right and note the effect."

Mr. Pinckney threw himself heart and soul into the fun. He posted off to Pasadena early to engage the "place of vantage" where the onlooking elders could be posted to see the parade, and where he could engage a table for their dinner. It was all vastly exciting, the children thought. Jean rocked herself back and forth with delight as she sat on the veranda floor watching Nan and Mary Lee make the crowns. "Did you ever think we'd have such lovely story-book times," she said. "I could screal, I'm so happy."

"I wouldn't," returned Nan. "Screaling is for scralid scraws, and scrirming screaky pigs with crirky tails, and not for little girls of craulity."

"Oh, Nan," protested Jean, "you make such fun of me; do be criet."

"So I will, if you will promise not to criver so with excitement," Nan replied. "Hand me those scissors, please. 'She wore a wreath of roses,'" she sang, deftly tossing the crown of yellow flowers on Jean's head. "There, you look crite like a little creen."

In the pride of her coronet Jean forgot to notice the teasing and ran off to show herself to her mother.

The yellow crowns were vastly becoming, to Nan especially so, and Carter had nothing but approving looks to cast on his party of little girls as they mounted his flower-decked car, and they returned the compliment. "You certainly do look nice, Carter," said Jack.

"That white suit and yellow tie are very becoming to your style of beauty," said Nan, "but I wish you were a caballero."

"A caballero in an automobile? What an anachronism," said Carter. "I'd have to ride a horse and stow my car away in a garage, then where would you be?"

"Sure enough, where? Looking at you on your curvetting steed instead of being looked at with you. I take it all back, Carter; I don't wish you were a caballero at all."

"Well, my ladies, I'm perfectly satisfied with your appearance, individually and collectively. Those little yellow coronets are just too sweet," he added in a finicking voice.

"So is your tootsy-wootsy buttonhole bouquet," retorted Nan. "Come, let's get in. Dispose your sashes, children, so they will show a little bit. That's it. Now, I'll seat myself. See if I'm all right, Carter. Oh, I am so proud."

Indeed, so were they all. Never had there been a more excited set of children. To be part and parcel of a big parade, and such parade, was no common affair. It was a wonderful thing to share the plaudits of a great assemblage with gaily dressed ladies on coaches, with dashing caballeros and brilliantly bedecked wheelmen. Jack could scarcely sit still, and was constantly reprimanded by Mary Lee, who felt that the dignity of the party must be kept up by her.

Their elders had gone on ahead and were comfortably placed in the seats Mr. Pinckney had procured for them. The whole town was gay with flags and banners; festoons of flowers graced the fronts of the houses; arches of the same spanned the streets; all the shops and schools were closed; tiers of seats held expectant spectators; Spanish cavaliers, the descendants of the old residents of California, fell into line, their big sombreros garlanded with poppies or roses, their velvet jackets showing brass buttons, silken cords and white puffs at elbows, their white trousers displaying bright color beneath the slashes. They were the observed of all observers. Many of them wore sashes of flowers and the bridles of their horses were entwined with ribbons of the same shade. A caballero mounted on a high-stepping black horse whose decorations were yellow, made a fine showing, while the glossy white steed which followed contrasted well with the brilliant red geraniums which adorned his master, and the horse himself seemed proud of his scarlet ribbons as he tossed his flowing mane and arched his neck.

Those at the windows and balconies noticed the happy faced party of little girls in their yellow and white, but in that mass of gorgeousness their car was not specially unique, but they did not care, and scarcely one of them thought of the prize offered for the most attractive decoration. Then there were automobiles a mass of roses, coaches of violets, whose occupants wore gowns of the same hue, victorias of lilies, every conceivable conceit wrought into the moving pageant. Bicyclists in satin costumes of the picturesque period of Louis XV rode in solid line, their wheels adorned in harmony with their dress. Every sort of thing on wheels was pressed into service. Dignity, grotesqueness, grace, beauty, all were represented.

"There they are!" cried Jack as their car passed the hotel windows at which sat their party. "See, there's mother waving her handkerchief. She knows us and Mr. St. Nick has a flag. See him, he is getting red in the face with waving it so hard."

"I feel as if I were part of a triumphal procession," said Nan to Carter, "as if ahead of us might be some great king whom we are escorting to his palace, and that we girls were the ladies in waiting to attend his queen. This might be the bridal procession and we might be going from the church after the ceremony. He is a Spanish king, of course, because those are his courtiers on horseback."

Just at this juncture the band struck up Dixie. Carter was on his feet in an instant waving his hat and shouting, "Three cheers for the old Dominion!" The girls shrilled out their cheers and bystanders smiled at the enthusiastic four whose example was followed by so many as to prove that the land of Dixie had many representatives in that crowd.

Up and down the parade passed in review, but at last it came to an end and the girls sought their friends at the hotel. "Wasn't it the grandest thing you ever saw?" cried Jack throwing herself on Mr. Pinckney, thus knocking to one side her coronet which was already awry.

"Yes," he assured her, "it was about as fine as anything I ever saw."

"Aren't you sorry you weren't in it?" asked Jean.

"Well, no, to tell you the truth I am not, for I think we all saw much more than you did."

"It wasn't so much the seeing as the being," remarked Nan.

"And did you hear us cheer when they played Dixie?" asked Jack.

"Hear you?" said Mr. Pinckney laughing. "I heard a mighty shout but I didn't know it was you making all the noise."

"Pasadena is such a beautiful place I don't know why we didn't come here to live," said Jean.

"Sh!" reproved Mary Lee. "You know we stayed in Los Angeles because we wanted to be near Mrs. Roberts and Mr. St. Nick, and I am sure it couldn't be lovelier anywhere than where we live."

"Who is ready for the New Year's dinner?" asked Mr. Pinckney. "Aren't you all nearly starved?"

"Oh, I forgot about its being New Year," said Nan. "It certainly isn't a bit like any New Year we ever knew, but it is one I shall never forget."

"Shall we wear our crowns to dinner?" asked Jack.

"If you like," Mr. Pinckney told her.

But the coronets being rather limp from wear, were taken off and the party went down to the dining-room in the rest of their festal array. While a delicious dinner was served them they made merry over the favors provided by Mr. Pinckney whose ingenuity in this direction brought a great clapping of hands. For Carter there was a tiny automobile, for Nan a little piano, for the señorita a guitar, for Mary Lee a glass box of great California prunes, the many sided box top showing the prismatic colors. Jack received a little toy kid, Jean an astronomical globe with the sign of the Gemini prominent. Before Mrs. Corner's place was a five-sided box of candy to represent the five Corners. Miss Helen had a book called "A Little Corner in the World"; for Mrs. Roberts was a bobbing Chinese figure and for Mr. Roberts a toy bob-sled.

"Father has had the best sort of time getting these, I know," said Mrs. Roberts. "I can just see him prowling around the shops. It is the way he used to about our Christmas gifts when we were children."

"I came near getting a nanny-goat for Miss Zeph," said Mr. Pinckney, "but I didn't want to destroy the effect of the kid."

"But you ought to have had a Santa Claus," said Jack regretfully. "What are you doing, Carter?"

"Just wait a minute," he said, keeping busily on with the manipulation of an orange. Every one's eyes were upon him as he deftly cut away the skin, made eyes of raisins, a nose of a candied cherry, daubed the cheeks with currant jelly, and smeared the chin with the same, then leaning over he took the jeweler's cotton from the box containing Mrs. Roberts' Chinese figure, made a beard and hair of it, stuck the orange on top of a larger one by means of matches, made arms of flower stalks, and legs of orange twigs, a tiny pipe was improvised and stuck in the mouth of the figure, then with a flourish Carter presented it to Mr. Pinckney who received it amid shouts of laughter.

"Such a clever, clever boy," said Miss Helen approvingly.

"A second Michael Angelo," laughed Mrs. Roberts.

"But," cried Jack, "Mr. St. Nick's nose isn't a bit red."

"But it says 'nose like a cherry,' in the Night before Christmas," Jean reminded her.

"Yes, but there are white cherries," objected Jack. She felt that perhaps Carter might be making fun of her dear old friend and she eyed the latter gentleman closely to see if his feelings were hurt by this effigy. On the contrary he chuckled each time he looked at the figure which he declared he would treasure as long as it lasted.

Through the arched and flower-decked streets they took their way home to finish the day by setting off the fireworks Carter had provided. Then they sang songs; so sandwiching songs with fireworks they passed the evening and when the odor of gunpowder had died away came the scent of orange-blossoms and roses to gladden their senses as they strolled home.



The Chinaman with his one horse cart had just been making his daily round. Nan had been watching Li Hung chaffering with his countryman for some of the fresh fruits and vegetables, and now that the bargain was closed and the cart had bobbed off down the street she had gone to their own little orange grove and was standing contemplatively regarding some white orange-blossoms above her head. She was still dreaming of a husband for the señorita. "It would be so handy to get orange blossoms for a bride," she told herself, "easier," she continued with a little chuckle, "than to get a husband. It is a great pity that Carter is so young and Mr. Pinckney is so old," she thought. She looked down between the rows of trees to the mountains rising in solemn dignity beyond. "I wonder how the people who used to live here feel about it," she went on to herself. "I should have hated to give it up. I shall feel sorry when we have to." Then her thoughts flew to another garden in old Virginia, mountain girt, too, but now lying white under winter snows and showing no sign of life except when a Molly Cottontail leaped to cover leaving small footprints behind her. Place o' Pines, her favorite haunt, seemed childish and small. All of her previous life was dwarfed beside the larger experience of her present. There was much to miss yet she missed nothing. California had cast its spell upon her. To her youth's eagerness for the new it unfolded a constantly expanding growth. Even the crowds in the streets seemed larger each day than the day before. To her romantic love of the old the ancient missions, the remains of the Spanish settlements appealed strongly. They filled her with a delight such as the old countries alone can afford the lover of poetry, history and art. She sighed because the days were passing all too quickly, because but a little time remained of their stay in Los Angeles. "We must move on like the Indians," said Nan regretfully, "and I don't half like it."

In the midst of her reveries, she suddenly remembered that she had not seen Jack for some time. She wondered where the child was. She had an indistinct recollection of hearing Jack announce that she meant to go find the tomale man. They had discovered him the last time they had been down town with Carter, and they had enjoyed the hot Mexican preparation so much that Jack declared she meant to go buy some herself some day. Could she have chosen to-day for the expedition into the town?

Nan made for the house. "Where is Jack?" she asked. No one knew. Mary Lee had seen her talking to Li Hung. Jean had heard her say she was going somewhere and did not want any company. She would not tell where she was going. The señorita had seen her counting over her store of nickels. Taking her clues from all this Nan started forth. "It would never do to let her go down town by herself," she said. "She might get lost, but don't worry mother about it; I'll find her."

"Suppose you telephone over to Mrs. Roberts," suggested Miss Helen; "she may have gone there."

Nan called up, but no Jack had been there that morning. Garden, orchard and the surrounding streets were searched and all finally arrived at Nan's conclusion, so she started for the centre of the town where they had come across the tomale man. There he was with his corn husk packages neatly tied and filled with the delectable preparation so dear to the hearts of the Mexican. There was no Jack in sight as Nan came up. She wandered up and down trying to discover her sister and suddenly found herself in the midst of a queer street where she seemed to be transported to the other side of the globe. Here were shops innumerable displaying such strange wares that Nan stood still to wonder before she turned to flee. She was not timid, but to be surrounded by plodding Chinamen stubbing along in their queer shoes made her feel uncomfortable. One or two turned slanting eyes upon her but most passed her unconcernedly. Before a shop gay with banners and painted signs Nan paused, but in the masses of unknown objects which she could see by peering inside there was nothing that she recognized, and she went on passing all sorts of establishments, before which were set forth such wares as platters of fish, bunches of herbs and tubs of vegetables the like of which she had never seen before.

She would like to have penetrated further, to have stopped to look in at the Chinamen eating with chop sticks, and the Chinese women with such curiously arranged hair, but she scarcely dared, and satisfied that Jack had not strayed this way she retraced her steps and was once again out of China and in America. The tomale man still hawked his wares and the crowds were still hurrying to and fro, an interesting crowd, Nan thought, for so many nationalities were represented, but among them was no little bright-eyed girl answering to the name of Jack Corner.

"I might as well hunt for a needle in a hay-stack," thought Nan. "I'd better go back home for probably she is there by this time. Some day I shall get Carter or Mr. St. Nick to bring us to Chinatown where we can nose around and see everything we want."

She was so busy thinking of what she had seen that she reached the corner nearest home before she realized it, and was obliged to turn back a little. In doing this she caught sight of two figures down the street a little way; one was a small girl standing at bay before a boy about her own age who danced and pranced and flourished his fists shouting: "Ya! ya! ya! I've got you now."

Nan set out on a quick run. Surely this was Jack. She came up just in time to see the boy tweak off Jack's hat and throw it on the ground, but she also saw why he did not advance further, for whichever way he turned the steely point of a long sharp hat pin confronted him. Jack had chosen her own weapon and never had ventured from home without it since the day of her battle with the boy. The Boy she called him in her own mind. She had felt that this hour might come some day, but it never kept her within the limits of security. One might think that it would have been a small thing for a little boy to worst a girl of his own size, and so it might if fists were all that were to be considered; hat pins put a different face upon the affair. So though Jack was merely on the defensive, defend herself she could, and very ably.

"Jack Corner," cried Nan, "what are you up to?"

Jack was off her guard for a second, but the boy seeing that reinforcements had arrived, did not dare to make further attack. "Pick up my hat, won't you, Nan?" said Jack coolly, "and won't you get the tomales from behind me? I'm afraid I'll step on them. You'd better go home, boy," she remarked with a mocking laugh.

"Yes, you'd better go," said Nan. "What do you mean by teasing my little sister?"

"Ain't she done enough to make me tease her?" said the boy sullenly. "Ain't she nearly beat the life out of me?"

"So you're the boy, are you?" Nan looked at him interestedly. "Well, I can tell you that it won't be good for you to stay around here. There are too many of us to look after this little girl. Our Chinaman keeps a tub of scalding water ready for you if he catches you, and if you try to run away Mr. Barnwell has his automobile always on hand, and if that isn't enough I can easily call up a policeman. I won't answer for what the Chinaman will do if he once gets hold of you. They can do horrible things, you know. He may be on the lookout now." Nan peeped over the hedge as if to discover the lurking Li Hung. Her threats and suggestions of dark things had their effect, for the boy backed off, keeping his eye on the hat pin which Jack still pointed at him, and when at a safe distance he turned and fled.

"The next time, Jack," said Nan, "he'll not come alone, I can promise you that. Now, young lady, why did you abscond this way without leave? You know mother doesn't allow it."

"That's why I went," said Jack. "I was afraid she wouldn't let me go if I asked her, and I wasn't disobeying if she didn't say I couldn't, was I?"

"Well, in a way you weren't. Give an account of yourself. Where have you been?"

"To get some tomales from the Chili wagon. I brought you one, Nan, and one to the señorita."

"How do you know we'll like them?"

"Oh, you're sure to. If you don't care for yours you can give it to Mary Lee; she'll eat it whether she likes it or not because it is Spanish and because the señorita likes it. They have all sorts of things in them, funny things, the man told me; chicken and olives, and ever so many queer names I can't remember. He could speak English, and he was very nice and polite."

"That may be, but you ought to have been at home playing quietly like a nice well-behaved little girl. I went all the way down town to look for you. I thought you might have gone off somewhere by yourself."

"What made you think so?"

"I heard you say you were going after tomales some day. I should think you would have been scared, Jack, to wander off by yourself."

"I didn't wander; I went straight down to where we saw the Chili wagon. I wasn't scared, because it is easy to ask the way, and the cars take you right where you want to go. I don't see why people get so fussy over a little thing like that when everybody goes back and forth on the cars all day long. I must have come back just ahead of you, and it is a wonder I didn't see you."

"Probably I was just behind you all the way along. I went all around and I even got into Chinatown. It was tremendously interesting and I should like to have prowled around there longer, but I had you on my mind. We must get Carter or Mr. St. Nick to take us there some day. You feel as if you were really in a foreign country. I saw lots of beautiful things I wanted to buy, and lots of awful, queer-looking eatables I wanted to get away from. I don't see how they can eat such messes."

"Maybe they think that way about the things we eat."

"Probably they do, though I shouldn't think they would, for it is because there are such swarms of them in their own country that they can't get enough decent food and have to fall back on anything they can get whether it is good or not."

"I'm glad I'm not a Chinaman," said Jack reflectively.

"So am I," said Nan. "Tell me, where did you meet that boy?"

"Right here where I got off the car. I believe he saw me go in town by myself and waited around till I came back."

"I think it is very likely, and I shouldn't wonder if he tried again to do something mean."

"I'm not afraid."

"I don't suppose you are, but there may be no Carter or Nan next time and you may come off worse than you have these two times. You may thank your stars that I came along when I did."

"Oh, I don't know," returned Jack nonchalantly; "I had my hat pin, you know. I bought the longest, sharpest one I could find."

"Do you always carry it?"

"I do ever since that first day. I would have jabbed him good if he had come too near."

"But he might have kept you there for hours."

"Oh, no, for I would have called the first person that came along and would have made whoever it was send him off. I think next time I go out of the garden I'll carry a bottle of ammonia, and if he comes I'll throw it all over him."

"You might put his eyes out, and that would be horrible. No, don't do any such desperate thing. Make up your mind to stay where you belong and don't go off on these wild excursions by yourself."

"But I like to go. It's more fun to go by yourself, for then you can stop and look in at all the shop windows you want to, and if you want to ask questions of any one, there's nobody by to hurry you along and say you mustn't."

"Oh, Jack, Jack," said Nan, "there's no doing anything with you. Come along now and tell mother where you have been; you know that is what you will have to do."

There was no use in trying to squirm out of this duty as Jack well knew, so she went in and made her confession, received her lecture placidly and took her punishment stolidly. She was to stay at home from the next outing, wherever that might be. She was a nervous excitable child under some circumstances, but the expected never ruffled her; it was only the unexpected which did.

The expedition from which she was excluded was one which Jean was not allowed to undertake, either, as Mrs. Corner decided that they were too young for so hard a trip. Miss Helen, Mary Lee, and Nan were the only ones who would go in company of Carter and a guide. The girls could both sit a horse well and were fearless riders, so the journey to the mountains was not an enterprise which they dreaded in the least. Their own mountains might be less formidable but they were wild enough and had been the scene of more than one hardy experience. The trip would be extended to San Bernardino, although the mountain ride would begin from some point along the route.

"I am just wild to get on one of those little burros," announced Mary Lee.

Carter laughed. "Don't be too wild; you may regret it before your journey is over," and sure enough his prophecy came true, for not long after the mountain climb began around huge boulders, up the trail with great trees towering above them, Mary Lee began to feel uneasy, and to lose confidence in her mount. The leaping river, singing, surging, roaring, a hundred toned stream, had to be forded many times, the guide told them, and it was during one of these fordings that Mary Lee realized that she was right in not trusting her burro.

"I believe he is going to lie down," she cried out.

Carter turned his head. "Oh, no, not the dear little burro that you were so wild to ride."

"Stop teasing her," said Nan; "it is bad enough as it is."

"That was mean," Carter acknowledged; "I'll turn back and encourage her." This he did, but Mary Lee would have none of him when she had safely reached dry land, and dismissed him so curtly that he rode on without a word.

When at last a precipitous trail lay before them Mary Lee had lost all faith in the dear little burro, for he had displayed too many peculiarities along the way, and she declared she would not go a step further.

Mary Lee Had Lost all Faith in the Burro.

"But you must, Mary Lee," said Nan. "We aren't near the end yet. We all want to go to the top."

"Well go," said Mary Lee. "I'll wait here."

"By yourself?"

"Why not?"

"Oh, you mustn't; it wouldn't be safe."

"Nothing will hurt me, will it, Mr. O'Neill?" She appealed to the guide.

"Less'n you're skeered of Jack-rabbits and squirls and sich varmints," he replied.

"I'm not scared," maintained Mary Lee stoutly, "not in daylight."

"But you should not stay alone," warned her aunt. "I should not be satisfied to have you."

"I'll have the burro with me," answered Mary Lee half smiling.

"Great company, indeed," scoffed Nan. "You might see a rattlesnake or a tarantula."

"I might just the same if I were not by myself. I'd rather see them than ride another mile up the mountain on that stubborn little beast. I don't know what minute his heels might fly up and I be pitched clean over his head, or suppose he should take a notion to sit down on that fearsome trail, I'd die of fright. I'd as soon be bitten by a rattlesnake as to be tossed to eternity down the side of a cañon. No, sirree, I don't go up that mountain with Mars Burro. It will be as much as I can do to make the journey home from here. You all travel as far as you want to go and I'll wait for you. I'd much rather than not."

Miss Helen turned to the guide. "Do you think it is safe?"

"I don't see why not," he answered. "There ain't no creeturs likely to come around in daylight, nothin' that ought to skeer her, and we won't be gone more'n an hour or so."

"I'll change burros with you," said Carter, but to this Mary Lee would not listen. She was determined to go no further and further she would not go, so at last, after much parleying and the offer of one after another to stay with her, all departed and she was left sitting on a fallen log to feast her eyes upon the wonders of the forest. Here were great white-trunked sycamores draped with mistletoe, glossy-leaved live oaks, great alders and willows by the brawling stream and a flowery wilderness of blossoms in the open, alfiliria, bluish pink; golden poppies, lavender lilies, violets, tulips, a paradise for the wandering bees.

It was when the voices of her friends came only faintly from afar and she was watching the brown bees booming among the blossoms that Mary Lee first detected the monotonous strokes of an axe cleaving some huge tree. She was not the only human being in the wilderness then. At first she decided not to venture from her place, but after half an hour had passed she became a little lonely and the idea of human companionship seemed rather pleasant to contemplate. The bees, in their busy gathering of honey, droned so sleepily that they offered no excitement, although at first it had been interesting to watch them. Mary Lee loved all animals and would have tried to make friends with any who might have appeared, but beyond the friskings of an agile squirrel once in a while she had not seen any.

After some hesitation, as the steady chopping kept on, she arose from her seat and cautiously made her way toward the spot from whence the noise came. After a time she saw a man who was bringing his axe down with mighty strokes and who was too intent upon his work to notice the little figure so near till a voice by his side said: "That's a mighty big tree you're cutting down."

"Great fathers!" cried the man dropping his axe and looking at the little girl. "Where under the sun did you come from?"

"From just over yonder," replied Mary Lee. "The others have gone further up the mountain, but I wanted to rest and so I am waiting for them to come back. They will be here presently. I hoped I would see a Douglas squirrel, but I didn't. Did you ever see a water ousel? I have read about them and I would give anything to see one."

The man smiled. "Well, yes," he answered, "they're plenty around the streams and as to Douglas squirrels they've been capering about here all morning. They're about the liveliest creeturs ever I did see. You keep still a minute and maybe you'll get to see one. Aha, I thought so," for presently to Mary Lee's delight she saw the quick motions that indicated a presence in a tree just beyond where she was standing.

"Most folks out here call him a Pine squirrel," said the man. "This one's been a barkin' at me on and off all the morning. Hear him now: Pee-ah! Pee-ah! that's him."

Mary Lee listened and presently the little creature came nearer and nearer, this time angry at seeing a new intruder whose language he did not know, and as he made a sudden dash at the two humans, Mary Lee could see him distinctly.

"He is a lively one," the man remarked again. "Now, if you want to see one of them water thrushes I guess we can find one if you don't mind a rough little walk."

Mary Lee had no misgivings as she followed her guide and he, in return for her confidence, entertained her to the best of his ability. "How did you happen to know about these critturs?" he asked. "You ain't from these mountain parts, I know."

"No," returned Mary Lee, "I am from the East, from Virginia, but my aunt has been reading to us about the birds and beasts of California and those two I have been very anxious to see. We have been looking for them, and I am glad I shall have seen them first."

"Them squirrels is the out-beatingest critturs for not scaring," the man told her, "and they cut up more didos. I've spent many an hour watching 'em, and their tricks would make a horse laugh. As for your water thrush, he's a good fellow, too. Don't mind how cold the water is, nor how lonely the place, just give him a waterfall and he's happy. He'll sing, too, winter or summer, just as pleasant as can be; you just can't freeze him out."

"Have you always lived in the mountains?" asked Mary Lee as she followed along the rough way.

"No, I ain't, though I come mighty near to being a mountaineer. I was brought up on the coast and I figgered around this region up and down since I was a boy. Sometimes it ain't been healthy for me to stay in one place and I've lit out to another."

"Why, doesn't the climate of California agree with everybody?" asked Mary Lee guilelessly.

The man laughed and shook his head. "Depends on what your complaint is. Now my complaint always happened to be somebody else's complaint and that's what made it bad for my health at times."

Mary Lee pondered some time upon this unintelligible speech, indeed until the waterfall was reached where the glad presence of the water ousel put all else out of her thoughts. There he was to be sure, flitting, diving, whirling in the eddying pools, poising like a humming-bird above the cascade, and singing, ever singing. Oh, the joy of it! Mary Lee stood enraptured. Once she turned a beamingly appreciative face upon the rough man at her side.

"Like him, do ye?" he said.

"I love him; I adore him," returned Mary Lee bending a little forward to see the better. Only a small bluish-gray bird with a touch of brown upon him, but he was the very spirit of the waterfall, a sprite—a water-baby. "Do you suppose he will still be here when the others get back?" asked Mary Lee. "I'd so love them to see him."

"He may be," returned the man, then in an undertone, "but I won't."

"I certainly am obliged to you for showing me the two things I wanted most to see," said Mary Lee as they wended their way back to the wood-chopper's tree. "I should think your children would be very glad to have a father who could show them so many woodsy creatures. Have you any little girls?"

The man was silent for a moment. "I don't know whether I have or not," he said presently.

"Oh!" Mary Lee looked surprised. "Why not?"

"Well, you see the way of it was this. It's twenty-odd year since I married my wife. She was a Mexican girl, pretty as a picture. Her folks didn't cotton to me and circumstances was against me so I lit out not long after we was married, and next thing I hear my girl is dead, and the message I got from her father didn't make it look wise for me to go back and claim the baby. Besides, what would I do with a youngster, living wild like I had to? She was better off, I figgered it out, than she would be with her father, so I left her be, and though I ain't forgot her, I don't ever mean she shall know she has a daddy. I ain't nothin' to be proud of, missy, though once I was a right likely sort of buck. Well, so long. I guess we must part here. I hear your folks hollerin' to you. There's your road right straight ahead." And before Mary Lee could say a word he plunged into the woods and was lost to sight.



"Mary Lee! Mary Lee! Where are you?" came the calls from one and another as the riders arrived at the spot where they had left the little girl.

At the same moment she appeared running along the path which led into the deeper woods. "Here I am all right," she assured them.

"We were so scared when we didn't see anything of you," said Nan. "Were you very lonely, Mary Lee? Did the time seem long?"

"Lonely? I should think not. I have had the loveliest time you can imagine. I have seen a Douglas squirrel and a water ousel and I don't know what all."

"Why, Mary Lee!" Miss Helen and Nan both looked astonished. "You have done more than we," said Miss Helen.

"It's like the old adage that says he who stays at home sees more than he who goes to Rome," said Nan. "We had an awful ride. Such precipices, such narrow, narrow paths! I didn't dare to look down and in some places I felt just as if I couldn't stand it. I wanted to scream but all I could do was to shut my eyes and trust to my burro to get me back all right. I don't want to do it again."

"Do tell us how you came to see the Douglas squirrel and the water ousel," said Miss Helen. "Perhaps we can find them in the same place."

"Well," said Mary Lee, "I heard somebody chopping and I went to see who it was, for I was getting tired of sitting still, and there was a man. He was very kind and took me to see the dearest little waterfall where there was that darling bird. He showed me the squirrel, too, and told me the names of lots of trees and things, he was such a nice man. I wish he had stayed till you all came back, but he wouldn't."

O'Neill, the guide, was listening attentively. "Tall man, was he, with a scar over his left eye, lightish hair, warm-colored, not red exactly, but light colored? I reckon it was Jo Poker."

"Jo Poker? What a funny name," said Nan.

"That isn't his real name and I reckon nobody does know just what that is. He's a kind of shady character. There's several stories about him; some say he cheated at cards and that's why he goes by the name of poker, a sort of jeer at him, you see. Some says he killed a man and that he's an escaped convict. Others says it's only because he's always poking about and looking around at wild critturs and things that makes folks call him Jo Poker. Nobody knows just the right of it. He's a peaceable sort of chap, and is a right good worker when he wants to be. Sometimes he hires out for a while but most of the time he lives in a little hut here in these mountains. He don't seem to care much for humans and always lights out if he sees anybody coming. You must 'a' come on him suddent, sissy." He turned to Mary Lee.

"I did," she told him. "He looked so surprised when he saw me, but he certainly was good and kind."

"You struck him all right," said O'Neill. "There ain't nobody could tell you more about beastes than him, and when he knew you liked 'em, you got on the right side of him at oncet."

"He must be rather an interesting character," said Miss Helen. "How does he make his living?"

"Oh, he cuts a few shingles now and then and sells 'em, and sometimes he'll hire out for a while, but he's particular who he works for. He don't require much and it's easy to get."

"I wish we could see him," said Nan reflectively. "He seems like some sort of hermit. I don't believe he ever killed any one. He wouldn't be so kind to animals if he was wicked."

O'Neill gave a little amused laugh. "Bless you, miss, there's lots of men do things in a fit of rage. That don't prevent 'em from bein' soft-hearted as a woman when things goes easy."

"Could we go to the waterfall?" asked Miss Helen. "Is it too far?"

"It's about half a mile I should judge," said the guide, "but I wouldn't advise your starting now, late as it is, for it's a rough path. I wouldn't wonder if we couldn't see one of them birds on our way back. There's sure to be one 'round a mountain stream, specially if it's falling water. We'll look out for him as we go along. I guess, sissy, you'd better mount now. This here young man wants to swop burros with you and I guess you'd better let him," he turned to Mary Lee.

Carter had already mounted Mary Lee's self-willed little burro, protesting that he wanted the fun of managing him, so Mary Lee, seated on a surer animal, joined the cavalcade which started down the homeward way.

The water ousel was discovered where a dancing stream cascaded down to meet a singing rill, but, disturbed in his feeding ground, he did not stop to gladden his discoverers but flew off down stream to a more sequestered place, though notes of his joyous song came back to the listeners.

"We did see him," said Nan in a satisfied manner, "but I would like to have heard more of his song."

The Douglas squirrel, for some reason, kept out of sight, so that all the glory of meeting him that day was Mary Lee's own.

She was very thoughtful during the homeward ride, and indeed in the presence of the mighty trees which towered above them, and in the company of the myriad flowers which carpeted the wayside one felt that the solemnity of a sanctuary forbade too much levity.

However their spirits were gay enough when they stopped on the roadside for supper. O'Neill built a rousing fire, produced his stores, made coffee and set forth a very fair meal for which their ride gave them a keen appetite.

"Talk about being hungry as a hunter," remarked Carter; "I am as hungry as two hunters."

"That sounds like the conundrum: What makes more noise than a pig under a gate?" said Nan.

"Are you casting any insinuations?" asked Carter.

"Well, no," laughed Nan.

"I don't like to have pigs mentioned when I am eating my sixth biscuit," said Carter. "Just leave them out of the conversation, will you? till to-morrow."

"I promise," said Nan, "because when you put it that way I have a fellow feeling myself. Oh, but I was hungry."

"I am still," said Carter, reaching for a sandwich. "I believe I was hollow all the way down to my boots. Are you shocked, Miss Helen?"

"Not a bit of it. Don't you suppose I know how young things eat?"

"Young things!" scoffed Carter. "Is thy servant a colt or a calf?"

"I must be a robin," declared Nan, "I forget how many times its own weight a young robin can eat in the course of twenty-four hours."

"Let's just eat and not talk about it," said Mary Lee.

"Good!" cried Carter. "That's the most sensible remark yet. I second the motion. Tell us some more about Jo Poker, Mary Lee."

"I've told you everything, I believe. He doesn't seem to be an ignorant man, for he knows about all sorts of things and tells you of them in such an interesting way."

"No, he ain't no common man," said O'Neill. "I reckon he's got a history, like a good many out this way. I never had much speech with him myself, but they say he'll talk about most anything but his own affairs, when he takes a fancy to any one. I reckon missy here got more outen him than most. Now then if you're all filled up we'll move on. I want to make the Three Brothers before night."

"What is Three Brothers? a town?" asked Nan.

"A little sort of hotel, kep' first by three men name o' Stallings. There ain't but one now, but he keeps the name just the same. It's a decent sort of place for ladies, right quiet and middlin' clean."

"Middling clean will have to suffice, I suppose," said Miss Helen in an aside to Nan. "We shall be tired enough not to care much, I fancy, by the time we get there."

"We shall sleep like tops," replied Nan, "after this mountain ride. I'll not quarrel with the place so long as it gives us beds we can sleep in, and I'll not ask for electric lights nor a private bath either."

The shadows fell around them before they reached their destination a weary, but cheerful party who made no complaints of the lodgings assigned them.

It was that night at the modest hotel which was their stopping place that Mary Lee unfolded to her sister the thoughts which had been hers on the way back. "Do you know, Nan," she said, "I have been thinking that Jo Poker might possibly be Miss Dolores' father."

Nan stared. "You are crazy," she replied. "Her father is dead."

"She doesn't know for certain. They made her think so, I know, but maybe that was because they didn't want him to get hold of her. Don't you see how it might be? He told me that he married a Mexican whose family didn't like him and that he had never seen his little baby. It was a girl, too."

Nan became more interested. "That's so. It might really be, Mary Lee, but who would want her to have such a father?"

"I don't think he is so dreadful."

"He must be or his wife's family wouldn't have objected to him. I am afraid, Mary Lee, he really must have been very bad."

"But that was so long ago. Maybe he isn't now."

"That wouldn't help it any. You wouldn't like the señorita to go up there and live in a little hut on the mountains away off from everybody."

"No, of course not. He said he should never make himself known to his daughter even if he knew where she was."

"Then that proves he isn't a decent somebody, and that he is ashamed of what he is. He knows he wouldn't be any credit to her."

Mary Lee felt the force of this argument and was silent before it for a moment, but she soon returned to battle for her theory. "Well, suppose he wasn't very nice once, maybe he has a nice family who would be glad to take Miss Dolores."

"It seems to me you're mighty eager to get rid of her," said Nan slyly.

"Oh, Nan!" There was indignant protest in Mary Lee's tones. "You know I'm not anxious to do that. It is only for her sake I want to find some real blood kin for her."

"They might turn out to be people she would loathe," said Nan.

"Oh, but we wouldn't tell her unless they were very nice."

"You couldn't help her knowing if they knew first. I don't think I'd like to have Jo Poker for my father, no matter what his family happened to be. Did he talk like a gentleman, Mary Lee?"

Mary Lee was obliged to confess that he did not, though she insisted that he spoke much better than O'Neill. "He may have been a gentleman once," she said, "for he was very polite and helped me over the hard places. He has lived so long among rough people perhaps he has forgotten how to speak correctly."

"Well," returned Nan, "I don't see what we can do about it anyway. We can't go off alone and search him out and put the question to him point blank."

"All we can do is to tell Mr. St. Nick."

"Yes, we can do that, and he will advise us. Come, do let's get in bed. I am tired all over. Our mountain rides at home are nothing to the one we have had to-day." And though Mary Lee tried to resume the subject after they were in bed Nan was sound asleep almost as soon as her head touched the pillow, and was dreaming of a water ousel which insisted upon talking about the señorita's father.

Yet, while she pretended to laugh at Mary Lee's idea of claiming Jo Poker's possible relationship for the señorita she was not at all sure that he might not prove to be that undesirable parent, and it worried her not a little, so that she was anxious to take the matter to Mr. Pinckney as soon as they should reach home.

Therefore they had scarcely unburdened themselves of their first enthusiasm over the trip before they left Miss Helen to tell their mother the details and were off to Mrs. Roberts'. They found Mr. Pinckney in his favorite chair on the veranda. "Don't get up," they cried as he attempted to rise. "We came over to tell you about our trip. It was perfectly glorious. We saw acres and acres of flowers, such great thistles you never saw. Carter measured one that was two feet around and an alder bush was a real tree. We saw a water ousel, too."

"And a Douglas squirrel," Mary Lee put in, "at least I did."

"And the mountains are wonderful, the cañons so dark and deep sometimes, but I was afraid I would fall when we came down those narrow, narrow mountain paths," Nan was the speaker.

"And once," Mary Lee added, "I got off and waited for the rest, because my burro behaved so badly I was afraid he would do something dreadful. Carter rode him home and I took his, which was not near so mean."

"Oh, there was lots to see," Nan went on, "so much besides the mountains and the towns and the orange groves. There are ever so many springs up that way, all kinds; some one told us there were a thousand hot springs in that part of California. We went to one of them. Aunt Helen would like to have gone to the Pala Mission where there are so many Indians but she thought she'd make another trip there in a less roundabout way. I hope she'll take us."

"Well, it was a great experience, wasn't it?" said Mr. Pinckney. "But I'm glad to see your cheerful countenances again, although the twinnies have kept us from being too lonely. Bless me! what shall we do when you are gone altogether? It isn't so hard to do without a thing when you haven't had it, you see."

The girls looked at each other. "We would like so much to get a granddaughter for you," said Nan, "and if we were not all so fond of one another you could have one of us, but we would be wicked to leave mother."

"I don't see anything but to keep you out here," replied Mr. Pinckney. "If the climate helps your mother why shouldn't you stay?"

"Oh, we'd like it," said Nan, "but I don't believe mother and Aunt Helen would want to stay forever."

"It's hard to suit everybody, isn't it?" said Mr. Pinckney. "I suppose the day will come when I shall want to go East again myself. Well, we won't bother about it yet awhile."

"We could keep the señorita if we stayed here," said Mary Lee thoughtfully. "She would rather not go East if she can get a good position out here."

"So there's a heavy balance on that side," said Mr. Pinckney. "I know which way you would vote."

"Speaking of the señorita, we want to tell you something," said Nan. "Mary Lee met a queer man up in the mountains and we think he may possibly be the señorita's father."

"Why, I thought her father was not living."

"So did we, but I'll tell you why we think maybe he is alive." And Nan disclosed the theory which she and Mary Lee had worked up, Mr. Pinckney an interested listener. "Now what do you think of it?" asked Nan in conclusion.

"It is possible, of course, but we must be sure first that her father is really dead. I've been meaning to take a trip to Mexico, but you all are so fascinating that I can't make up my mind to leave such charming society. When I do go I shall see Mr. Garcia and get what information I can. In the meantime, however, I can make some inquiries about this Jo Poker, as you call him, and we'll see if there is any use in following out that clue."

"I knew it was just the right thing to tell you at once," said Nan. "You always know just what to do."

"Better than two youngsters like you, I should hope. However, you are a big help in unwinding the snarl. Now, run in and hear what Mrs. Roberts has to tell you. I know young folks like the kind of frolic she is planning."

Thus advised, the girls ran indoors to hunt up their friend. "Where are you, Mrs. Bobs?" they called.

"Up here," came the answer.

"She's in the morning room," said Mary Lee. "I'm glad of that. I always like to go in there." No wonder she did, for it was the prettiest room in the house, all rose-embowered and bright where the sun shone in at the broad windows.

"So my girlies are back," said Mrs. Roberts as she greeted them. "It made a big hole in our circle when you all went. Did you have a good time?"

"The finest sort of time; wild and woodsy," returned Nan. "I'm glad you missed us, Mrs. Bobs. What is it you have to tell us? We are crazy to hear it. Mr. St. Nick said you were planning something."

"So I am. I want your mother and aunt to meet some of my friends, and so I am going to give a tea. I want my four little lasses to help in the dining-room if they will, and I hope I can persuade the señorita to pour the tea."

"Oh, lovely!" Nan clasped her hands. "To think, Mary Lee, that we are going to a real grown-up tea, and be one of it, too. I never did go to one, even a little one. Some of the schoolgirls have little afternoon somethings, but they are not really dress-up affairs. Won't the twinnies be delighted? I hope Jack will keep her hair ribbon tied and that she won't spill anything. Don't give her anything wet to pass around, Mrs. Bobs, she'll be sure to waste it on some one's best gown."

Mrs. Roberts laughed. "I will tell her she is to take charge of the salted nuts only; they can't hurt anything if they happen to be overturned. I am glad you like my plan."

"And when is it to be?" asked Mary Lee.

"Not for a couple of weeks."

"Oh, then there will be plenty of time," remarked Mary Lee.

"Time for what?" asked Nan.

"Oh," Mary Lee looked confused. "I was just thinking of frocks."

Nan gave her an inquiring look. "We shall not need new ones," she said. "We have those lovely embroidered ones grandmother gave us for Betty Wise's party. We haven't outgrown them, and there are our white China silks we had for Christmas, too."

"Yes, I know," said Mary Lee weakly.

"Then I don't know what you are talking about," said Nan. "Mrs. Bobs, you are a dear to want us to have such good times, and to put us into those you have for the grown folks. I just wish we could always have you this near to us. But dear me, Mary Lee, we must go. We told mother we wouldn't stay long, and it is most dinner time. No, Mrs. Bobs, we really can't stay this time, thank you. Does mother know about the tea?"

"Yes, but I asked her to let me have the pleasure of telling you about it. You accept my invitation, don't you?"

Nan laughed gleefully. "Accept! I should think so. We'll be the faithfullest waitresses you ever saw."

"I don't want you to be too energetic, for I want you to have a good time as well as the rest of us. Must you go? Well, good-bye for a while."

"What did you mean about the frocks, Mary Lee?" asked Nan, as soon as the two were out the gate.

"I didn't mean ours; I was thinking of the señorita. I don't believe she has a blessed thing to wear."

"She must have had some nice things before her aunt died and they lost all their money," said Nan. "I wonder if everything is worn out."

"I am afraid so, all except some laces. Her aunt dressed very plainly, she told me, and she herself never had real frisky clothes, because she was at a convent school and wore plain things."

"Well, she's got to go," said Nan decidedly. "We'll have to do something about it, at least mother and Aunt Helen will have to. We'll talk to them when we get a chance. Aren't you excited at being asked to a real grown-up thing like that? Won't it be lovely to see mother dressed up, too? You know she would never go to anything dressy because she couldn't afford it. I hope she'll have that gray crêpe made up; she promised that she would some day. We've never seen her in anything but black and white, and I know she'll look too sweet for words in gray."

"There's been so much else to think about out here that I've hardly thought of clothes, but it is rather fun to put our minds on them when we can have nice ones," said Mary Lee.

Nan agreed with this, and with their thoughts on pleasure bent they returned home.



It was necessary to use the utmost delicacy in order that the señorita should be provided with a proper costume for the tea. She was very proud and very dignified, so that the subject had to be approached gingerly. Mrs. Corner made the first advance by asking if she meant to accept Mrs. Roberts' invitation.

"I shall decline, madame," replied the señorita gravely.

"Oh, but——" Mary Lee began, then stopped. "Can't you go, Miss Dolores? I shan't enjoy it half so much if you don't."

Miss Dolores smiled at her half sadly. "I think I best not go," she said. "I am not used to such societies as teas and merry-makes. I have lived very quietly, you know."

"Yes, but you are too young to keep on living very quietly," said Miss Helen. "You should be young and happy while you may. Mrs. Roberts wants you very much, and so do all of us."

"You are most kind," returned the señorita. "I will be frank as you are kind. I cannot go for I have not the costume."

"Ah, but"—Miss Helen paused. She would wait her opportunity of trying to overcome this obstacle. "Never mind," she said, "perhaps we can persuade you before the time comes."

"I wonder why the señorita feels that she cannot afford a new gown," she said to Mrs. Corner after the young lady had left the room. "I am sure we do not pay her a meagre salary and I imagine she has only herself to provide for."

"I have no doubt Mary Lee could tell you why," returned Mrs. Corner with a smile. "She seems to know all the señorita's secrets."

True enough, Mary Lee had learned the reason of her teacher's poverty. "I can tell you what I think," she said; "she is trying to pay back her uncle for the money spent on her education. He was very kind and generous to her while her aunt lived and she feels that she had no claim on him even then, and now that he needs the money she is trying to pay it. I don't know for sure, but that is what I think because she said once that her uncle had been very generous while he could be, and another time she said that her education had cost more than her aunt could afford, but that she was reaping the benefit of her uncle's kindness while he was very poor."

"Love makes us wise," said Mrs. Corner smiling as she turned to her sister. "I think probably Mary Lee has arrived at the truth."

Miss Helen slipped away to find the señorita who had just given Nan her music-lesson and was on her way to her room. "Come out on the veranda, my dear," said Miss Helen. "You need plenty of sunshine after those monotonous scales. How is Nan getting along, by the way?"

"She is a marvel, Miss Corner. She has a true ear and is much in love with her music. She should make fine musician some day."

"I hope she will," returned Miss Helen. "It is a great thing, señorita, to have you at hand to help her. We feel that we owe you much."

"Not so much as I owe you," said the señorita shaking her head. "I am grateful, believe me, Miss Corner."

Miss Helen waved away the statement. "We are your friends, my dear girl, and I wish that you would feel that we are. I wish you would consent to join us at Mrs. Roberts' tea. You say that you have not the proper costume. I wish—now please do not be offended;—consider me your aunt and let me supply what you may need. You don't know what a pleasure it would be to me, and it shall be our secret."

The color flashed into the señorita's cheeks. "No, no," she said, "I am not offended, Miss Corner, but please say no more of it. I could not accept. No, no."

She was so decided in her refusal and was evidently so distressed at the suggestion that Miss Helen did not press it. "I am sorry," was all that she said. "I should like to have had you with us."

"I believe you, and I should like to go," returned the señorita, "but I am not prepared. I cannot. I will make my excuses myself to Mrs. Roberts."

This she did with much dignity, but Mrs. Roberts would not take the decision as final. "You shall be allowed to change your mind," she said. "I shall look for you even at the eleventh hour, my dear Miss Dolores, but if you really find that you cannot come I shall know it is because something has detained you, though I shall be none the less disappointed."

The señorita gave a little sigh as she walked slowly down the pleasant street. She was young and she had at one time looked forward to having the good times which all girls enjoy when the opportunity comes to them. Now life seemed rather gray, a level stretch of workaday life before her. "I will go and see my good padre," she at last checked her thoughts by saying. "I will tell him I am a discontent and he will show me how to be thankful for what I have. Ah, these good friends, what should I do without them?"

"And won't she go at all?" said Mary Lee quite aghast when she was told of the señorita's decision.

"No," Nan told her. "Aunt Helen says she absolutely refuses and I know she wouldn't hear of Aunt Helen's helping her in any way."

"Oh, dear, then I don't want to go either," declared Mary Lee. "I shall stay at home and keep her company."

"That would be treating Mrs. Bobs rather shabbily," returned Nan, "for she is getting up all this for our pleasure as much as for the grown-ups, and I think it would be doing her pretty mean to stay away unless we were ill. You will just have to go, Mary Lee, whether you want to or not."

"I'll think about it," returned Mary Lee not willing to commit herself. "Maybe we can think of some plan ourselves. You think and I'll think, Nan. I know the reason she won't go is on account of having no proper frock. It seems perfectly dreadful, doesn't it?"

"Yes, when I think of how awfully we felt when we thought we couldn't go to Betty Wise's party because we had no frocks, I can sympathize with her."

"So can I. But that came out all right and perhaps this will."

"We'll try to make it, if there is any ingenuity in us. You don't think we'd better consult any one, Mary Lee?"

"No, I think whatever we do we'd better keep it to ourselves, for it might leak out if we tell and perhaps spoil everything. It is that way often. Whenever you have an idea you tell me and whenever I have one I'll tell you and we'll meet here to talk it all over."

"All right," agreed Nan.

And therefore it happened that where Miss Helen failed, two younger persons succeeded, and a few days after Miss Dolores had refused to accept the proffered gown, a dark head and a fair one were close together in a sequestered corner of the garden and a conversation which began in whispers ended in words loud enough for the little birds to hear.

"We could do it perfectly well," said Nan. "How much have you, Mary Lee?"

"I have all my Christmas money; ten dollars, I think."

"And I have nearly as much. Of course that will be enough, for we needn't get anything very expensive. Listen, I'll tell you what we can do; we can go to the Chinese shops where they have lovely things. I think a white China crêpe would be perfectly lovely, don't you?"

"Perfectly lovely," echoed Mary Lee.

"Well, now I'll tell you how we'll manage; we'll go down town by ourselves; we can do some other shopping, buy postal cards or something, and then we'll slip around the corner to the shops. I saw the very place the other day when we went with Carter."

"But how shall we get it to her without her knowing?"

"We'll get a messenger boy to take it," said Nan after some thought. "Then we'll go to Mrs. Roberts' on our way home and not let any one know we've been down town at all."

"Perfect!" cried Mary Lee clasping her hands. "Oh, Nan, you can contrive things so well. I should never have thought of the messenger boy. Of course she couldn't send it back because she will not have an idea where it comes from. But how about the making, Nan?"

"Oh, that can be managed some way. Mother is so clever about cutting and fitting and the señorita sews beautifully, then she has lovely lace so it will not need much trimming. I am sure it can be made here at home. We'll risk it anyway."

It did not take them long to carry out their plan. They started out in great excitement that same afternoon. "We may not be back to supper," they called as they left the veranda. "If Mrs. Roberts asks us to stay we shall, if you don't mind, mother. You'll know where we are."

"Very well," she returned, "but don't stay too late."

"That was managed beautifully," said Mary Lee, giving Nan's arm a squeeze. "Miss Dolores will never suspect. Now we must go down street and take the car at the next corner; in that way we can put them off the track."

"Not the cars, I hope," returned Nan flippantly.

"No, silly, the family. Nan, a dreadful thought has taken possession of me. Mother will wonder what we have done with our money. Shall we tell her?"

"Not till after the tea; we can then. Our Christmas money is ours to do exactly what we please with and she will not care. Mother can keep a secret better than anybody in the world and of course she will have to know. I should want her to."

"So should I, but it will be better not at first."

There was much picking and choosing of the proper fabric, much smothered laughter at the Chinese shopkeeper's pigeon English, much satisfaction as the parcel was borne away. It was first carried to another shop where a sheet of clean white paper was purchased; in this it was wrapped, and the address written by the accommodating clerk, so that not the slightest clue should be given to the place where it was originally bought. Then it was given into the hands of a messenger and the two girls in a happy frame of mind took their way to Mrs. Roberts'.

"I'd give anything to see her when she gets it," said Nan. "I wonder if she will be mad, Mary Lee?"

"I hope not. She will be mystified allee samee."

"She will that. She won't know whom to suspect and I'll bet she will pounce on Aunt Helen."

This was precisely what the señorita did. She was not in the house when the package was delivered and Li Hung laid it on the hall table where it was discovered by Miss Dolores later on. As the soft crêpy folds slipped through her fingers she had a girl's natural longing for the silken stuff, but this was but momentary, and was swept away by her stronger feeling of indignant pride. She marched into Miss Helen's presence, her head held high, the package in her hand.

"I will not accept," she said passionately. "I have said this to you and you still have disregard my wish. I am——" She flung the parcel on a chair and sat down bursting into a flood of tears.

"Why, my dear child!" Miss Helen looked amazed. "What is the matter? You will not accept what? I do not understand."

"You did not send me thees?" Miss Dolores pointed tragically to the offending bundle.

"I sent nothing. Please explain."

"Some one has sent me mater-rial—stoff—which I cannot buy. It is an insult." The señorita grew more and more excited.

"But it was not I, Miss Garcia," said Miss Helen.

"It was then Mrs. Corner?"

"I am sure it was not. She is aware of your wishes and would not have done this."

"Then who? Who? I beg your pardon, Señorita Helen. I am sorree. I should not have suspected and charged you."

"Oh, never mind, so long as I am not the guilty one," said Miss Helen smiling. "How did it come?"

"I know not. I found it upon the table addressed in a strange writing, no card, no name of shop, no anything."

"Then it is a mystery. I don't see anything for you to do but to keep it. You can't send it back when you don't know where it came from."

"I cannot, but I will find the giver and I will spur-r-n it!"

Miss Helen smiled, though the señorita did not see. Her pride was so touched that she could not understand that any one should think her heroics a little exaggerated. "It could not be Mrs. R-R-ob-erts," she presently rolled out. "She would not dar-r-e."

"No, indeed, I am sure it was not."

"Nor—Mr. Pinckney?"

"It is more like the kind of thing he likes to do, but still I do not think we can suspect him in this case, for you know, my dear, no one but your own family, here in the house, knows the reason you had for declining Mrs. Roberts' invitation. She does not even know yet that you think of positively declining it. There would be absolutely no excuse for Mr. Pinckney to send it, you see."

The señorita sighed. Her little rage was passing away since there was no one to accuse. She shook her head. "Then I know not who. Could it be my uncle?" she said suddenly, her face lighting up. "Perhaps he has thought to do this knowing I am sending his family more——" She paused, startled at her speech. "What have I said?" she murmured.

"Never mind," said Miss Helen soothingly. "I shall not remember."

The señorita seized her hands and kissed them. "You are so good, so patient. I am a heedless, an ungrateful. I can do nothing then, can I?"

"Nothing but take the gifts the gods send you, make up the stuff and wear it. Let us look at it. What a pretty frock it will make. You have that lovely lace, you were showing us the other day, to wear with it, and that pretty topaz necklace of your mother's. So shall you go to the tea, and I am very glad. Now, don't worry any more about the giver. Whoever it was, I can assure you it was none of us nor the Robertses. Now, be happy about it like any other girl." She stooped and kissed the señorita's bright hair.

"I will be happy," said the girl springing up. "You do not know how I have desired to be, how I have wished to have life like other girls, and so I shall, once, once be like them. I thank you, Miss Corner, for being so patient, and for showing me what to do."

"Mrs. Corner will help you to make it, I know," said Miss Helen, "and I will do all I can, though I am not the clever seamstress she is. Let us go show it to her."

Gathering the stuff up in her arms the señorita followed Miss Helen to Mrs. Corner's room where the how and what of making and trimming was at length discussed, and as the señorita became more and more convinced that her uncle was the giver she grew better and better satisfied, so that when the girls came home they found her happy and radiant.

"I am going after all," she told them girlishly. "My uncle has sent me so pretty goods for a frock and your good kind mother will help me to make it. Am I not lucky?"

The girls looked at each other and Nan giggled outright, for Mary Lee's face wore such an amazed expression. It was all very well not to let your right hand know what your left one was doing but Mary Lee was not sure that she liked Mr. Arnaldo Garcia to have the credit of her sacrifice. If the giver had simply remained an indefinite, intangible somebody it would have been all right, but to have her money and Nan's placed in Señor Garcia's pocketbook, so to speak, was a little too much. Still she could say nothing and was really happy over the delight of her beloved Miss Dolores.

"And it comes something so mysterious," said the señorita. "I think it is your aunt, your mother, who send, and I am in a rage, fury, but your so sensible aunt shows me my error and now I am content."

"She would have been in just as much of a rage and fury if she had known we sent it," said Nan as the señorita left them. "It is kind of hard on us, Mary Lee, to have Señor Garcia spending our Christmas money, but I reckon we'll have to grin and bear it, for if she had an inkling of the truth there would be no white crêpe gown made up for that tea, I can promise you. Mother will tell us that it was a good discipline for our characters."

And so she did, for though she laughed at Mary Lee's lugubrious expression when she told of how her Christmas money had been spent, she said: "Well, my dear, it is your own doing. You wanted it a secret and a secret it must be. I'll never tell, you may be sure, and after all, I think it is well for us to perform an act merely for the good that it does and not for any recognition we may get for it. That is true generosity, simon-pure variety. Never mind if Mr. Garcia did seem to give the gown you will enjoy the señorita's pleasure in it, and she will enjoy it twice as much, while I shall take delight in helping her to make it up, a double delight, since I know my darling girls gave it."

"We meant not to tell you till after the tea," said Nan, "but we just couldn't keep it, for we were so taken aback when we found out that Señor Garcia had been spending our pocket money."

Mrs. Corner laughed. "I am glad you didn't wait to tell me. It is a joke on you as well as on the señorita, yet it is a mighty good kind of joke."

A pretty gown it turned out to be, and the señorita never looked lovelier than when adorned for the tea. The soft white, clinging folds heightened her slender figure and gave it a grace which her ordinary plain black frocks did not reveal. Around her round white throat she wore the topaz necklace and in her bright hair were yellow blossoms.

"You just look like a creen," said Jean admiringly.

"I think she looks more like an angel," remarked Jack.

"That's what I think," said Mary Lee. "She needs only wings."

"I'd rather she didn't have them," returned Jack, "for then she might fly away from us."

"Such flattery," laughed the señorita. "I am getting spoiled among you all." But she looked well content to be admired and her face wore a gladder look than any of them had ever seen upon it.

Mrs. Corner in her gray gown and Miss Helen in filmy black had their share of compliments while the girls themselves were well satisfied to wear the pretty frocks their grandmother had brought from Europe and had given them for Betty Wise's party, and although Mary Lee declared the señorita outshone them all, Nan would not admit that for a moment, but maintained that her mother was the first and Aunt Helen next.



"Flowers, flowers everywhere. It looks like fairyland," said Nan as she stepped into the house the afternoon of the tea. From behind a screen of roses issued soft music played by an unseen orchestra. All up the stairway stood pots of graceful palms, the balustrades were garlanded, the dining-room was a bower, the veranda a place beautiful. Mr. Pinckney was the presiding genius of the occasion, his beaming face appearing as a welcome as soon as the Corners arrived.

"My! What angels are these?" he said.

"They are the ones who belong to this Paradise," said Nan quickly.

"Do we look nice, Mr. St. Nick?" asked Jean. "Do you think my frock is pretty? I have worn it only once before and I have on silk stockings. Do you want to see them?" She held out a silken clad foot. "We are all wearing our very nicest things that came from Europe. We think mother is perfectly lovely, but Mary Lee won't say she looks prettier than the señorita."

"What are we to do, Mrs. Bobs?" Jack asked eagerly. This opportunity to help was dear to her heart.

"You are to hand around the salted nuts," she said, "and Jean can see that every one has some of those chocolates. Mary Lee can pass the tea as the señorita pours it and Nan can look after the café frappé, or she can see that the candles don't burn down so low as to set fire to the shades."

"I think those yellow shades are lovely," said Nan. "I am glad you decided on them, for this is the land of sunshine and it makes everything look sunshiny. I even feel so inside of me. I don't think any one could express California in anything but yellow."

"Oh, Nan, Nan," said Mrs. Roberts, "you are always ready to say such nice things. She will never have 'pale pink thoughts,' will she, Miss Helen? They will have to glow a rich red or a golden yellow."

"Now, who is saying nice things?" said Nan kissing her. "I'd like to stay right here, but I must keep an eye on Jack or she will be up a tree or over a fence before we know it." And she went too to seek the twins.

Jack, however, was quite conscious of the importance of keeping her festal garments in good order, and so far, had done nothing to soil them. She and Jean were walking around and around the table when Nan found them. They were making note of all the decorations, and were casting anticipatory glances upon the dishes of bon-bons and fancy cakes.

"In the sweet by and by you shall have some," said Nan coming upon them.

"Are you sure the company won't eat them all up?" asked Jean anxiously.

"Yes, piggy-wiggy, I am sure they will not, and even if they should eat all these there are plenty more where these came from. I saw the boxes myself."

"Is there going to be ice-cream?" inquired Jack.

"Of course. Pretty little ices of different shapes; Mrs. Bobs told me about them the other day."

"Oh, my, I wish the company had come and gone," exclaimed Jack fervently.

"You inhospitable child. They haven't even begun to come yet, so you will have to restrain your appetite for some time longer."

"I believe I'll go into the kitchen and see if they have opened the ice-cream yet," said Jack suddenly. "Come on, Jean."

"You will do no such thing. That would be perfectly disgraceful at a party. For pity's sake, don't let any one think you are so greedy. You make me ashamed of you," said Nan severely. And the twins, feeling that they must uphold the family name by appearing not to think of such things, took their eyes from the array of goodies and stationed themselves at the window to watch for arrivals.

"There's Carter," Jack presently announced.

"Anything I can do," said Carter putting his head in at the dining-room where all were assembled. "I say, how swell you girls are. My, you look stunning, Mrs. Corner; I like you in that rig."

Mrs. Corner laughed at the blunt compliment. "I'm glad I please you, sir," she said. "If you want to make yourself useful you may go up-stairs and ask the maid for my fan. I left it on the dressing-table, I think; it is the one of gray ostrich feathers."

Carter bounded up the stairs and came back in a twinkling with the pretty fan, a gift from Miss Helen to her sister. "Are you going to keep these girls busy all the time, Mrs. Bobs?" he said. "Mayn't I have one to talk to once in a while?"

"You certainly may," she told him. "I only want to make them useful so as to give an excuse for their presence at a grown-up function. If you see signs of weariness on any of their faces you may instantly drag off the tired one and give her your restful society."

Carter looked at her gravely. "Was there a subtle suggestion in that last clause? Did it hint of my being something of a sleep inducer, a Mrs. Winslow's soothing syrup?"

"Take it as you please," said Mrs. Roberts teasingly.

"Mr. Pinckney and I will flock together," said Carter, "if things get too desperate. There comes the first instalment of guests now. Get to your places, you befrocked people and let me escape while I can, or I shall be taken for the head waiter." He stepped through the long window leading upon the veranda as Miss Dolores took her place before the tea urn, Mary Lee her willing satellite.

Soon the murmur of voices filled the rooms and the girls were kept busy in their various tasks. At last there was a lull and Nan slipped out upon the veranda. Carter beckoned to her. "I want you to come here," he said. "I observe a tired expression upon your expressive countenance. I want to show you something." He took her to the edge of the veranda. "Look over there under that little clump of trees," he directed.

Nan did as he suggested. "Why, it's Jack," she said. "Who is that with her?"

"You'll never guess," said Carter. Jack was sitting flat on the ground in front of a spick and span little lad. Both were engrossed in a game of mommely-peg which Jack played with as much dexterity as her companion.

"Who is the boy?" queried Nan.

"He came with his mother," said Carter. "I understand he was invited to meet the young ladies Corner, though he and Jack have met before under quite different circumstances."

The boy's back was toward Nan. She went around to the other side the better to see his face. "It can't be," she exclaimed turning to Carter.

"It is," he returned.

"Not The Boy, Jack's ancient enemy."

"The same."

"I can't believe it."

"Neither could I, at first, but I have been interviewing him and I find I am not mistaken. He and Jack are getting as thick as thieves. I think she has descanted upon her locket and chain, her frock, her sash, her silk stockings and slippers, and I am not sure but she has taken off her hair ribbon to show him the 'crawlity' as Jean says. They have been my sole entertainment for the past half hour, for Mr. Pinckney is engaged in making love to an old lady with white curls."

"Nonsense!" said Nan. "Old people like that don't make love."

"Don't they?" returned Carter. "I mean to when I'm that old."

"You silly," returned Nan contemptuously.

"Returning to the subject of Jack," said Carter, "she seems to have made a profound impression. I am sure Master Clarence Opdyke is greatly struck."

"That's what he was the first time he met Jack," said Nan laughing.

"Oh, Nan, what a pun," groaned Carter. "It is unworthy of a girl of your brilliant intellect. Say, have you had any of those delectable eatings in there, or have you been so busy feeding the animals that you didn't get a chance to slide anything into your own mouth?"

"Oh, I'm waiting till every one goes when we are to have our fill. You'd better wait till then, too."

"So I intend to do; I shall get much more thereby."

"Greedy. Doesn't the señorita look lovely?"

"Yes, but your mother beats the bunch; she's a daisy in that frock."

"That's what I think," said Nan emphatically with a fond look toward the open door through which could be seen the receiving party.

"Miss Helen is a close second," said Carter with a glance at the little figure with white hair.

"Yes, she is a darling, too," returned Nan.

Carter laughed. "That's one of the things I like about you all; you're so awfully fond of one another and aren't ashamed to show it."

"Why should we be?" Nan's eyes had wandered to where Jack sat. "She is a little rapscallion to go off and leave the salted almonds to take care of themselves. That's just like Jack; she is so eager to help always, but she doesn't stick to things. I'm afraid," continued the girl, "I am a little that way myself, though I am trying to get more stickable. Aunt Helen says that is where girls so often fail. She says they need concentration and that is why she thinks college is good for them. I hate mathematics yet Aunt Helen says I ought to study them particularly just because I don't like to."

"For my part I never find them much of a grind," said Carter. "Look at those youngsters now; you would suppose they were little turtle doves," for the two children, hand in hand, were wandering down the garden walk.

"I don't know that I approve of the new friendship," said Nan. "I thought he was a perfectly horrid little boy when I saw him."

"So did I. He's a spoiled one, I fancy, none too well brought up, full of mischief and allowed to run wild."

"I wonder what sort of looking woman his mother is," remarked Nan. "I think I'll try to find out. Most of the people have gone, but she must still be here or Clarence—what a name—would be gone, too." She stepped down into the garden and came up to Jack who was showing off the beauties of the place with an air of proprietorship.

"I've been here before," said Clarence sturdily.

"Yes, but I come 'most every day," returned Jack, "and I know where everything grows. I'll show you the paisano, too. We have one Mr. Roberts gave us; he's getting awfully tame."

"Who's your friend, Jack?" said Nan, "and why aren't you in the dining-room?"

"Why aren't you?" returned Jack.

Nan smiled. "I'm not needed there now, for almost every one has gone."

"Then I'm not needed either," said Jack. "Mrs. Bobs said we could come away when we got tired, and I got tired."

"Evidently that is just what happened," said Nan. "Why, I've seen this boy before, haven't I?" she continued.

Jack looked down consciously at the bows on her slippers, and Clarence regarded the toes of his pumps with an abashed expression.

"His name is Clarence," said Jack. "You didn't know that, did you, Nan? And we're friends now, aren't we, Clarence? He's going to give me an ostrich egg; he's got two."

"Is that because you wanted to stick a hat pin in him?" asked Nan with a laugh.

"I don't want to any more; we're friends," said Jack as if that accounted for everything.

"Where's your mother, Clarence?" asked Nan.

"She's in there with the rest of the women," he replied.

"What does she look like? Is she tall or short, fat or thin?"

"Why I don't know; she's just a woman, you know." Clarence's ideas were rather hazy in matters of description.

"Oh, I see," returned Nan. "Well, I will leave you now. Jack, don't tear your frock and don't go too far from the house; we are going to have our tea directly."

"I got a man to give Clarence some cake and ice-cream and things," said Jack, "and then we came out here, but I haven't had any. Come on, Clarence, let's go in; maybe you can have some more if there is enough."

Clarence thus cajoled, followed willingly. "Show me which is your mother," said Nan to him.

"She's over there," Clarence told her; "the one with a feather in her hat talking to the old lady."

Nan nodded. "I see. All right, you stay here so she'll know where to find you."

Mrs. Opdyke, over-dressed, voluble, and full of theories was just the kind of woman whose affairs abroad compelled neglect at home. Clarence ran wild while she went from club to meeting, from meeting to tea, from tea to club again. Her voice was always ready to argue, to set forth opinions, to state conditions. She was a star member of the many organizations to which she belonged, but the less said about the fulfilment of her duties as mother the better. It was because of this that Mrs. Roberts thought it would be a good thing to throw Clarence into the society of four nice little girls. Of his passage at arms with Jack she knew nothing, and it was Carter who finally told her of it. This was after all had departed and the tired ladies were enjoying a peaceful hour. The girls were being served with their share of the dainties at a small table at which Mr. Pinckney jovially presided and they were having a royal time.

"Mrs. Opdyke is a most interesting woman," said Mrs. Roberts, "and Clarence is a bright boy, but full of mischief. His spirits must have some outlet and as his mother has not the time to direct his amusements he does all manner of things he should not. This chance meeting to-day is certainly a funny sequel to that first conflict."

"I didn't like the little rat when I first saw him," said Carter, "and I'm not sure now that I wouldn't like to take him out and give him a good thrashing. He needs a healthy system of discipline."

"Poor little chap," said Miss Helen commiseratingly. "What we ought to do, Carter, is to teach him how he ought to behave. You could gain a great influence over him, for there is nothing a small boy so much admires and so much wants to imitate as a young person who has not forgotten what it is to be a boy and yet is what he considers a young man. Give a youngster like Clarence plenty of good healthy interests and he will not get into mischief."

"I'm not so sure that he is a subject for reform," said Carter with the intolerance of youth. "He will have to improve his views of how a girl should be treated before he gets any consideration from me."

"What could you expect," said Mrs. Corner, "when Jack did not act like a girl? She did not command courtly attention, I am sure."

Carter laughed. "Well, perhaps not, but he will have his eyes opened before I am through with him."

But indeed Jack, in the character of a dainty, fairylike creature, all fluffy frock, silkened sash and slippered feet, was quite a different person from the little scratch-cat who had flown at Clarence as Li Hung's avenger, and after being borne away with reluctant feet from the tea, he could not be persuaded to remain, but was back again at the Roberts' gate, a wistful figure, as soon as his mother's absence from home gave him an excuse to escape, and when Jack graciously invited him in he was her shadow until the time came for her departure.

Thereafter every afternoon saw him hanging around the entrance to the Corners' garden waiting for Jack to appear. Nan called him the tame bear and nicknamed him Teddy. Carter pretended to be jealous and said that Clarence had cut him out, while Mrs. Corner watched carefully to see whether the benefit to Clarence outweighed the possible disadvantage to her own children. But since there were four girls to the one boy and each was a self-appointed mentor the advantage to Clarence at last began to tell.

"We're making a real nice boy of him," Jean said complacently. "He doesn't say Gol darn any more and he doesn't pull off the flies' legs and wings like he used to, 'cause Jack and I showed him how it felt. We were going to tie his hair to the hedge like he did Li Hung's but it wasn't long enough. He said we were screamish when we began to crarrel with him about the flies."

"Do you mean you screamed?" said Carter, to whom the remark was addressed.

"No of course not," said Jack; "she means squeamish. Aren't you used to her way of talking yet? You ought to be by this time."

"I am very stupid," said Carter meekly.

"I told him if he didn't say Gol darn or Gosh gorm for a week, I'd ask you to take him next time we go out in the automobile," said Jack following up her advantage.

"Now," said Carter, "that's a straw too much. When you have deserted me for a little unlicked cub like that and I get you away from him only by inviting you to ride you want him to go along, too. I protest."

"Oh, but it will only be once," said Jack.

"Yes, I know how much it will. Give him an inch and he'll take an ell. Next thing you will be refusing to go with me at all unless he is invited, too, you're getting so thick with him."

"No, I'll not," persisted Jack. "I'll never ask but once. He has never been in an automobile and you see it's the only way to keep him from saying those horrid words. He says he'll have to say something, so I told him he could say, Dog it all; that doesn't sound so bad as the others. You can't really dog anything, can you?"

"He dogs your footsteps," returned Carter.

Jack looked at him speculatively, and thought over this statement. "Well," she said finally, "it isn't a very bad thing even if you can do it, so I reckon it is the best thing he can say after all. Will you let him go, Carter?"

"I will upon one condition."


"That you will sign a paper which promises that you will never ask for him but once. I'll prepare it now." He gravely wrote out a formal document which he read impressively to Jack who signed her name to it in very black uneven letters, and Carter professed himself satisfied.

The very next day Clarence had the bliss of taking his first ride in a motor car during which time he proved himself so entertaining that the following afternoon Jack and Jean were amazed to see Carter's car whiz by with Clarence again as passenger. He waved his cap exultantly and Jack experienced a real feeling of jealousy. If Clarence had been usurping Carter's place in her affections now the tables were turned and the little boy was now superseding her in Carter's affections. Jack did not like it a bit and Carter could have taken no surer way of sending Clarence into the background, for never again did Jack so much as hint that Clarence would like a ride.

For two whole days she turned her back on the pair of them, and occupied herself with playing dolls with Jean in a sequestered corner of the garden never appearing in spite of Carter's whistle or Clarence's call.



Jean was laid up with a sprained ankle which she twisted in trying to follow where Jack and Clarence led to the upper branches of a tree in the garden. It was hard enough to keep still, but it was harder yet to give up a visit to the Sanders ranch, for just at this time Mr. Sanders appeared and insisted upon bearing at least one of the girls away with him. The invitation was originally intended for the twins, but since Jean could not go and it would never do to let Jack go unattended by one of the family, Mrs. Corner decided that Mary Lee should accompany her sister. At first Mary Lee was not enthusiastic, but later on she came to her mother and reported that she would as lief go as not.

"I hate to leave the señorita," she said, "but maybe I can do her more good by going than by staying;" which mysterious speech her mother did not ask to have explained.

"I think," she said, "you can do better for everybody by going, for I should not want Jack to be among strangers with no one to watch her, and you are rather more sedate than Nan, or rather you are more matter-of-fact, and will be more liable to keep her steady. Nan can get her out of scrapes, but what I want you to do is to keep her from getting into them."

And so Mary Lee and Jack started off, leaving Jean with a forlorn but resigned countenance watching them. She had been promised all sorts of treats at home to make up for her disappointment, so she was not entirely unhappy. Mrs. Roberts had promised to send a carriage for her to come and spend the day, Carter had said he would take her upon a special ride in his automobile when they would stop for soda water, Nan had already begun some lovely paper dolls with wonderful costumes, and Li Hung was going to make some little cakes of which she was specially fond. Yet it was hard to see her twin drive off for a week's stay and to feel that she was out of it in the matter of seeing Bessie Sanders. Jean and Jack had talked so much about this visit and now Jack was going without her twin. Tears actually began to roll down from her eyes as she watched Mr. Sanders' carriage out of sight.

But just then Nan came over to comfort her, seeing the forlorn little figure with foot propped upon a pillow. "Poor itty sing," she said, "they've gone and left us both, haven't they? Never mind, we'll do something pleasant right away. Here is a magic flower," she leaned over and gathered a rose from the vine clambering up the veranda; "make three wishes out loud and I will summon the genii. Shut your eyes and make the wishes."

"Oh, Nan," exclaimed Jean, half inclined to believe in the magic flower. "Do you mean truly?"

"Of course I do. Hurry up and make your three wishes. Take the flower in your hand. Abracadabra! Go ahead. Close your eyes first."

Jean's eyelids fell and she began: "I wish for a little pony——"


"And a—a—box of candy."


"And—and—oh, dear, what do I want most? I wish I had a whole dollar to do as I choose with, to spend just as I please, without any one's saying, 'Oh, what did you get that for?'"

"Keep your eyes shut till you are told to open them," was the next command, and Jean obeyed.

After what seemed long waiting she heard Nan say: "Open thine eyes, fair maid, and behold what the genii have brought."

Jean's eyes popped open. Upon a chair before her was the picture of a pony cut from a magazine.

"Now, Nan," began Jean, half disappointed.

"You didn't say a live pony," Nan explained; "you should have said that, you know. Shut your eyes again and wait for your second wish."

Jean's eyes fell and at the second bidding she opened them to see a bona fide box of candy which Nan had mysteriously produced. The third wish was as realistic, for the actual dollar was hers, so that by the time Jack was well on her way, Jean was entirely comforted.

It was a pleasant trip, and most did they enjoy the last three miles which took them from the railway station. They drove into the gate with a dash. A man came forward to take the horses as Mr. Sanders jumped out of the carriage.

"Why, it's Jo Poker," exclaimed Mary Lee. "How did you get here?" she asked.

The man frowned, but immediately upon seeing who it was he smiled. "Why, it's the little gal that wanted to see the pine squirrel," he said. "How did you get here? I might ask."

"I came on a visit," Mary Lee told him.

"And I came to turn an honest penny," he said.

As he drove away Mary Lee turned to Mr. Sanders. "How did you get hold of him? I saw him 'way down toward San Bernardino."

"Oh, he travels around, works when he feels like it, loafs when he pleases. He's a good worker when he takes hold of a job, and I'm always glad to get him. It isn't every one he'll work for."

"Have you known him long?" Mary Lee kept up her questions.

"Oh, yes, I've known him for years. Saw him first down in Mexico, and I've run across him on and off ever since. Sometimes not for two or three years and then suddenly he'd turn up in some entirely different place. He's a born rover."

"Do you suppose all those stories they tell about him are true?"

"Well, it's hard telling. He's no saint, but I guess he's not as black as he's painted. He's always acted white with me. There's mother waiting for you. I'll set your grip right inside and then I'll jog down to the barn."

Jack had already been welcomed heartily by Bessie and they were now plotting all sorts of amusements. "We were so sorry Jean couldn't come," Mary Lee explained to Mrs. Sanders, "but she has sprained her ankle, and mother didn't want to trust Jack alone, so I came to look after her."

"I don't reckon she'll need much looking after," said Mrs. Sanders, "but I'm mortal glad to see you, for you'll be more company for me. We'll have a real good time hobnobbing together. I've got a Mexican woman in the kitchen, but she doesn't cook my way, so I'm going to see about supper. Want to go 'long?"

Mary Lee willingly followed into the large neat kitchen where she watched Mrs. Sanders stir up biscuits for supper and prepare chickens for frying.

"That's just the way we do them at home," said Mary Lee. "Are you from Virginia, Mrs. Sanders?"

"No, but I'm next door to it; I'm from Maryland. I always maintain there's no better cooks in the universe than Marylanders, and that nobody knows so well how to eat good. I've been away from there right smart of a while, but I never saw any place where the eatings suited me so well. Mr. Sanders says that's what first made him take notice to me. He'd eat such an awful good supper at our house, and he kept thinking he'd certainly like it to last, then when he found out I'd made the biscuits and fried the chicken he just set up to me right off. My, I never expected to come to California then or I mightn't have been so particular about my cooking. It's a good bit of a way from home out here."

"Was it at your home in Maryland that you first met him?" asked Mary Lee, interested in Mr. Sanders' courtship.

"Yes, at my father's house. He'd come east for the first time since he left home, and he was down our way. My brother invited him to the house; they'd been to school together when they were boys, and he'd been hunting up his old friends, you see. Well, when he went back he took me along to Texas, and from there we come to California. He's a good bit older than me, but I reckon we get along as well as most. I get to thinking about home once in a while, but I've never regretted marrying."

"You like it out here, don't you?"

"Yes, I like it. At first I pined for the old Eastern Sho', and I yet think it is the best spot on earth, but I'm satisfied. He's a good husband and father and we're better off every year."

Mary Lee watched the deft tossing together of the biscuits, and her own thoughts wandered back to her Virginia home, to Aunt Sarah, with Mitty in the kitchen, and Unc' Landy plodding about doing his chores.

The biscuits done, Mrs. Sanders left the baking of them to the Mexican woman, and returned to the house. "I'll go slick up a bit before supper," she said. "You go make yourself at home anywhere you feel inclined."

It occurred to Mary Lee that it was time to discover Jack's whereabouts and she ran out of doors to find her happily playing with Bessie under the trees and in no need of sisterly attention. Therefore she went indoors for her work-bag and established herself on the veranda where she could watch the children and at the same time could occupy herself with her drawn work. She sat, a neat, sedate little figure at which Jo Poker cast more than one glance as he passed by.

On his way back he paused. "You got back all right that day?" he said inquiringly.

"What day? Oh, yes, thank you. I have not forgotten what a nice time we had there in the woods." Then following out the train of thought which had been taking up her mind she said: "Did you ever know any people by the name of Mendez or Garcia?"

He did not answer for a moment but fixed his eyes upon her searchingly, then, evidently with an effort, "Yes, I did. They're not unusual names. Where did those you speak of hail from?"

"I don't know exactly; somewhere in Mexico. I knew you had a Mexican wife, and I thought maybe you could tell me something I want to find out."

"Well, I reckon I can't," said the man shortly. "It's been years since I saw any of them; before you were born." And without stopping to continue the conversation he walked away.

"Well," said Mary Lee, "he's not very polite, but maybe he thought I was inquisitive. I'll ask Mr. Sanders what he knows." This she did that same evening. "You knew our señorita when she was a little girl, didn't you?" she began.

"You mean Dolores Mendez, do you? The one who was here with you all?"

"Yes, but we call her Miss Garcia."

"To be sure; her aunt did adopt her, I remember. She was a quiet little kitten, pretty in a way, but she kept to herself. I used to see her around. Her mother was dead then, but her grandfather set great store by her."

"Did you know her father?" asked Mary Lee.

"No, I didn't, and funny, they never used to speak of him. I believe his daughter's marriage was a great disappointment to the old man, who hadn't much use for Americans, at least that is what I heard. I believe there was a cousin he wanted her to marry, but I don't know. They said her husband was a very decent sort of fellow, but I never met him, not to know him."

Then said Mary Lee to herself, "if it was Jo Poker, Mr. Sanders doesn't know it." She thought over this for awhile and then she remarked: "Isn't Jo Poker a queer name?"

"He is a queer Dick," returned Mr. Sanders. "All the years I have known him I don't know much more about him than I did at first. You never know when or where he is going to turn up. When he leaves me like as not he'll go as far as 'Frisco, or maybe Seattle, there's no telling. I may not see him again for a year. He'll take his run then go back to his cabin and stay there as if he wanted to get shet of the whole world, that is, the human part of it. I think he's above the common run, he talks so sensible. If he takes a shine to any one he's decent enough, but if he don't, then look out. I was able to do him a good turn once and he ain't forgot it, that's why he's ready to work on my ranch when he comes this way."

"Do you suppose his name is really Jo Poker?"

"No, it isn't, but he'll not tell what it is, and one name is as good as another for his purpose. He gets Jo everywhere, anyway."

"When he dies will they just put Jo Poker on his tombstone, I wonder," said Mary Lee reflectively.

Mr. Sanders smiled. "I can't prophesy as to that. No doubt when that time comes somebody will come forward and give his pedigree, or maybe he'll leave papers."

The mysterious Jo Poker continued to interest Mary Lee and she always smiled on him when he appeared. One day he stopped suddenly at the veranda. "Want to go to the woods and see one of those pine squirrels?" he said.

"Oh, I'd love to," returned Mary Lee, jumping up. "May I bring my little sister and Bess?"

"Why, yes, I reckon. That's a wide awake little gal, your sister. She can ask more questions to the square inch than anybody I know. Yes, fetch her along; I'll be out there by the first windmill."

Mary Lee ran to find Jack and presently the three children, joined by Jo, were on their way to the nearest stretch of woods. Here the saucy little Douglas squirrel had his home. As soon as his visitors appeared he rushed down the tree where he was lodged, uttered his peculiar cry and made a sudden dash at them as if he would eat them up.

Jack laughed with glee. "Do it again, do it again," she called to him. But seeing that these beings kept their ground Mars' Squirrel began a series of antics, ran up and down the trunk of the tree, cutting all sorts of queer figures, and coming so near that they could look into his large bright eyes. It was evident that he was very curious about his callers.

Presently Jo Poker took a flute from his pocket, fitted it together and began to play softly. Instantly the squirrel was all attention. He flattened himself out upon the limb of the tree, fixed his eyes on the player and listened with evident pleasure. After awhile he crept slowly along and leaped on Jo's shoulder, nosing the flute while he played.

The children clapped their hands over their mouths lest some sound should disturb him. Presently Jo changed the tune to a slow lugubrious measure, and at once the squirrel leaped back into the tree, sat upon his haunches and scolded vigorously. This was not the kind of music he preferred. Jo took the flute from his lips, wiped it off and looked up at the little creature. "Don't like that, hey? Well, how's this?" and he played a little Scotch air which brought bunny down again to his shoulder, and also enticed from the tree-tops several birds which fluttered nearer and nearer, but they, too, flew off when the mournful tune was repeated.

A Little Scotch Air Brought Bunny to His Shoulder.

After a time Jo declared the concert was over, and put his flute back into his pocket. "It's queer," he said, "how wild things have a taste in music. I've been out here every day for a week, and they've got to know me, but they act just the same every time I play that old psalm tune. Ain't it funny? I thought you'd like to see how they behave as long as you like the woods' creeturs."

"I love them," said Mary Lee, fervently. "I wish I knew as much about them as you do."

"I could tell you a good bit," said Jo, "and I could show you some queer corners of the earth where things go on you wouldn't suspect. Any time you want to go 'long, I'll be glad of your company. I get off about this time every evening." So almost every day after this the two could be seen trudging off together, talking earnestly, and as the secrets of the woods were revealed to her, Mary Lee became very confidential with Jo Poker.

"If I had a gal," he told her one day, "I'd like her to be just like you. I'd like her to want to go traipsing through the bogs and over rough ground, to be fond of the beasts and birds, to like the smell of the earth and the dry leaves, and not to mind camping out in the open."

"Maybe your daughter would be like that if you should find her," said Mary Lee.

He shook his head. "I've give her up, you know."

"But why should you? I am sure you could take care of her?"

"In a way, but she mightn't like my way. She might want store clothes and fancy hats. She might mope if she hadn't company, and she mightn't want to turn her hand to making a home. I've thought it all out, and I reckon it's better to let well enough alone."

"Maybe you are right about it," said Mary Lee slowly, and thinking of the señorita. She could not imagine Miss Dolores tramping the silent woods, cooking a meal over a camp-fire or sleeping in a mountain hut. No, she agreed with Jo, it was better to let well enough alone. Yet during one of their tramps and in a burst of confidence she told him the señorita's story.

He listened silently, poking the rich leaf mould beneath him as he sat on a fallen log.

"What did you say her name was?" he asked.

Mary Lee gave it in full.

He repeated it slowly. "The Mendez was her mother's name, and Garcia her aunt's. Yes, that was it."

"You said once——" Mary Lee hesitated. She did not want to lose what she seemed already to have gained. "You said once, you knew some people of that name."

"So I did. I used to once," was all he vouchsafed and was silent a long time. "See here," he said suddenly, "how long are you going to be in these parts?"

"In California, do you mean? Till summer. We are going to Santa Barbara pretty soon and then to San Francisco. From there we go home by the Canadian Pacific."

"That so? Hm, hm. Well, I reckon it might be a good thing if that gal found her father's folks. Maybe she will. There's no telling. Queerer things than that have happened. You going to-morrow, are you?"

"Yes, we must. Mother would not like us to overstay our time. I can't tell you how much I have enjoyed our trips to the woods. You have told me so much and I do thank you for being so kind to me. I wish you could find your daughter and that she would be the kind of girl you like."

"'Tain't likely. Well, Miss Mary, I've enjoyed your company and maybe we'll meet again some time. I'm going to say good-bye now, for I'm off myself to-morrow early."

The next day Mr. Sanders announced that Jo had gone. "Lit out at daylight," he said. "Just like him. I paid him off last night, and he said he'd have to be moving. There's no telling when he'll turn up again."

"I like him," said Mary Lee, "and I don't believe one word about his being a bad man."

"He's a good worker," said Mr. Sanders, as he always asserted, "but I reckon he ain't no church member."

Jack had carried herself well through her visit and had no worse mishaps than a fall or two, a tumble into an irrigating ditch, and an attack of indigestion from eating too many raisins and too much honey, therefore Mary Lee considered that the visit had been unusually successful, and that in a week one could not expect much less to happen to Jack.

Bessie looked mournful as she waved good-bye and the tears stood in her eyes. Never before in her life had she been through so many exciting adventures as Jack had devised, and never had she had such an entertaining and lively companion.

"Never mind," said Mrs. Sanders as the carriage disappeared from sight, "some of these days you will be going to school and will have little girls with you all day long."

"There won't any of them be like Jack," returned Bessie, and it is safe to say that she spoke truthfully. But with no Jack to turn to she possessed herself of her favorite cat, and found solace in a quiet corner where she could suck her finger and mourn unobserved.



The telephone bell rang just after breakfast on the morning following the departure of Mary Lee and Jack for the Sanders ranch. Nan answered it. "Who is it?" she asked. "Oh, yes, Mrs. Roberts. It's Nan. You want to speak to me? Well, here I am. Lovely. I'm so glad. How old is she? That's nice. How long is she going to stay? Why, yes. I'll ask mother. Just hold the line, please." She rushed off to Mrs. Corner. "Mother, mother," she cried, "Mrs. Roberts wants me to come over there to spend the day. Mr. Roberts' niece from Boston is there. She came last night to stay a week while her mother and father go somewhere else. She's just my age, Mrs. Roberts says. May I go?"

"What about your practicing and your lessons?"

"I'll practice this evening, and I'll do double lessons to-morrow, if you say so. Mary Lee and Jack aren't having lessons this week and I don't see why I should."

"Very well, then you may be excused for to-day from lessons, but you must make up your practicing."

"All right," and Nan danced off to tell the señorita that there was to be a holiday. "I don't suppose you mind in the least," she said. "I should think you would hate to teach stupid me."

"I do not hate, no, but I shall then be able to make a visit to an old friend of my aunt's."

"Then that just suits all around," and she whirled out. "What shall I wear, mother?" she asked, putting her head in at the living-room.

"Shall you always be a baby, Nan?" said her mother, with a smile. "Wear that little blue and white check frock. Is Jean going?"

"Mrs. Roberts didn't say so, and you know Jean can't walk; she can only hobble."

"Then we shall have to try to do something to entertain her. We can take her to drive and get her some postal cards to send to Jack and Mary Lee."

Having donned her blue and white check, Nan set forth, pleased at the prospect of a new acquaintance. At the door of Mrs. Roberts's morning room she met a slim, angular girl, with very blue eyes, rather a long nose and neutral brown hair, of the tint described as mouse color.

"Ah, here you are, Nan," said Mrs. Roberts kissing her. "This is our niece Charlotte Loring. I hope you will be friends."

Nan shook hands warmly. "I'm awfully glad you've come," she said cordially. "My sister, Mary Lee, is away for a week, and I don't know any girls of my age here. Don't you think California is great?"

"It seems rather interesting," returned Charlotte, "though I haven't been here long enough to judge."

Nan turned to Mrs. Roberts. "What shall I show her? Has she seen everything?"

"I believe Mr. Roberts made the rounds with Charlotte this morning," replied Mrs. Roberts. "Suppose you just go down on the veranda and talk till after I have looked after my housekeeping. This afternoon I thought we would have a drive and show Charlotte some of the beauties of Los Angeles, our City of the Angels. Its real name, you know, Charlotte, is Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Angeles, Our Lady, the Queen of the Angels. You wouldn't believe what a little place it was thirty years ago."

"I like the Spanish names they give to the California places; it makes it seem much more foreign," said Nan. "I brought my work, Mrs. Bobs," she swung the little bag on her arm. "I'm trying to do callado, but I make a poor fist of it beside Mary Lee."

"May I ask what is callado?" said Charlotte.

"It is the name our governess gives to drawn work. She does the most intricate things; they are perfectly lovely, but I can't begin to do as well as my sister. Mine isn't worth looking at. Fancy work isn't my forte. What's yours?"

"Oh, really, I don't know," returned Charlotte. "I prefer music to any other accomplishment."

"Oh, do you? Good! That's my best love, too. I am trying to play duets with the señorita and it is such fun, though I am not an advanced student. I've not been taking lessons very long. We are doing some fascinating Spanish dances now, and it is such good practice, for you have to skurry around to keep the right tempo. Do you think you have a voice? I am wild to sing as well as to play, but I don't know what sort of pipe I shall develop. The señorita says if I sing anything it will be contralto, but I have my doubts of having any voice at all. Come on down. If you love music we'll be friends at once."

This common bond did unloosen their tongues and did away with Charlotte's apparent reserve, therefore in a few minutes they were chatting pleasantly on the veranda. Nan was a good talker and Charlotte a good listener. The contrast between Nan's drawl and Charlotte's quick crisp Northern mode of speech amused Mrs. Roberts as she heard their chatter.

"I am studying at the Boston Conservatory," Charlotte told Nan.

"That is where my Aunt Helen wants me to go, and perhaps I shall. Mother is a little doubtful, but Aunt Helen believes in a very broad education and thinks it will do us good to go up north for a year. I believe I'd rather stay out here, though."

"Oh, but surely you would prefer Boston," said Charlotte.

"But why? Of course you like it because it is your home, but I don't believe I should care to go there so very much."

Charlotte looked as if she had uttered a heresy. "I presume you have never been there," she replied as if that were sufficient reason for such an extraordinary statement.

"No, I have not, and perhaps you haven't been to Virginia and wonder why I prefer that to any place on earth," said Nan laughing and then she returned to music as a safer subject than local preferences. "Do you like the Spanish music?" she asked. "Just now I am wild about it."

"I prefer the German," Charlotte made answer.

"I like the German, too. Aunt Helen says that after a while I shall like it the best of all. She says when we get through school she wants us to go abroad and that then I shall just get soaked in music."

"Perhaps you will study in Berlin."

"Maybe. I don't know yet. I haven't got so far ahead as that."

"Of course you have heard opera. Which one do you like best?"

"Never have heard one. I am wild to."

"Oh, then you have a great deal ahead of you."

"Have you heard many?" asked Nan, quite envious.

"Oh, dear, yes. I go several times a season, and always to the Boston Symphony. I have not heard all the Wagner operas, but I shall."

At once Charlotte appeared much more grown up than Nan's self. It was very young ladyish to go to operas and to Symphony concerts. "Tell me all about where you live," Nan went on. "I like to know about people's homes; I can get them into my mind better when I know."

"We live just out of Boston, at Brookline; it is a lovely place with many handsome residences. We have quite a lot of ground and a pretty garden. You know the suburbs of Boston are very beautiful."

"So I have heard," said Nan applying herself to her work.

"Father wanted we should go into Boston about two years ago but mother wouldn't hear of leaving Brookline."

"I shouldn't think she would. I can't see how any one could like rows of houses with tiny yards and no gardens. We don't live near any large city; ours is just a college town. Our house is old and we have a lot of ground, too, and a garden. Dear me, to think of the muddy roads and the cold and all that while here we are sitting out of doors under vines in full bloom. Aren't the flowers in this part of the country wonderful?"

"Very. Where do you go to school, Nan? Is your name Anna, by the way?"

"No, it's Nancy, just Nancy, with Nan for short. I used to like Nannette till Aunt Helen told me about a maid she had in Paris who was very dishonest; her name was Nannette, so now I'm plain Nancy, very plain," she added laughing.

"Oh!" Charlotte looked at her, surprised that she should allude to her appearance in such a light manner. She didn't think Nan at all plain with her starlike eyes and glowing color, but if Nan herself thought so, it was a very outspoken thing for her to mention it. Charlotte was used to taking such things more seriously. Yet under Nan's graciousness and readiness to make friends Charlotte quite thawed out, and before the day was over was laughing and talking as naturally as in her own home while Mr. Roberts nodded to his wife approvingly.

"I knew Nan would be the very one to bring Charlotte out," he said. "Once you get underneath that rigid exterior there's a good sweet kernel to find. I hope they'll see a lot of each other."

This Mrs. Roberts determined they should do, and not a day passed but the two girls were together during some part of it. In the morning they played duets, in the afternoon they read or walked or drove, and more than one night Nan stayed with Charlotte. One afternoon Nan proposed that they should take their books and go to a spot she called the Fairy Dell. "You don't know how lovely it is there," she said. "It's not far, and there are all sorts of things growing; mosses for fairy couches and tiny rose-colored toad-stools for seats, then there are lots of fairy flowers and little gnome-like corners."

Charlotte laughed. "You are so imaginative," she said.

"I get ever so much fun out of it," returned Nan. "I'm glad I am not matter-of-fact. What books shall we take? I have a lovely illustrated edition of 'An Old-fashioned Girl,' that was given me at Christmas; we might take that. Do you like the Jungle books and the 'Just So Stories'? Jean and Jack have those."

Charlotte decided on the "Just So Stories" which she had not read and Nan went to get the book from Jean who was very ready to lend it.

"Where are you going, Nan?" she asked.

"To the Fairy Dell with Charlotte," responded Nan.

"Oh, mayn't I go?" begged Jean.

"With that weak little ankle? Better not. You might fall over some of the fairy snares or into the holes of the gnomes," said Nan as she ran out with the book.

Jean looked after her wistfully. This was not the first time Nan had mentioned the Fairy Dell and Jean had long been consumed with a desire to see it. Nan was always so mysterious about it and always made some excuse not to take her little sister with her when she went there. It must be a wonderful place, Jean thought, and even if one did not see fairies it would be something to see where fairies lived. So regardless of her lame ankle, Jean resolved to follow, and when Nan started forth with Charlotte she limped at a safe distance behind. But before the little ravine was reached one came to a house set by itself with a large garden around it. By the time the two older girls reached it Jean was far behind and her lame ankle began to pain her. Yet she kept on as she saw the others descend the hill at the side of the house and gathered up new strength to press on. It would never do to give up now when she had come this far. But just as she reached the gateway of the big house a large dog stalked out and stood barring the way. If there was one thing above another that Jean was afraid of it was a strange dog, and she stood stock still gazing fearfully at this guardian of the mysterious dell.

At last, plucking up her courage, she dashed past him and at once he followed barking loudly. Jean turned her head to see him loping after her and her terror increased. Stumbling, hobbling, crying, she rushed on, the dog barking and gaining upon her. It was horrible, she thought. Would she never reach the spot where Nan was? "Nan! Nan!" she cried wildly. "Oh, Nan, come help me. Drive him away! Drive him away!"

At last Nan heard. She was just looking around for a comfortable spot in which to settle down, that she and Charlotte might read undisturbed, when Jean's cries reached her. "I believe that's some one calling me," she exclaimed running back to the point at which they had entered the dell. Then she saw Jean crying with fear and almost falling as she ran, the big dog close upon her heels. "Why, Jean, Jean," called Nan, "what is the matter?"

"The dog! the dog!" gasped Jean. "Oh, drive him away!"

"Why, he won't hurt you," said Nan. "Nice doggie, come here."

Jean shrieked with terror. "Send him away! Send him away!" she cried.

"Go home, Don," ordered Nan, pretending to pick up a stone to fling at him, and the dog turned tail and started off. Once he stopped and looked back as if wondering why this acquaintance, who had always been friendly, should suddenly turn against him and show a distaste for his company. Nan gathered up Jean in her arms. "Why, you poor little hop-pity-go-kick, what did you come all this way for? Is anything wrong at home? Did mother send you?"

"No," sobbed Jean. "I wanted so much to see the Fairy Dell. I never did see it, you know, and I was there at home all by myself, with nobody to play with, and I just thought I would come."

"You ought to have told me you were coming," said Nan, "and I could have advised you how to pass the Guardian Dog. I could have told you the charm. You saw how quickly he went when I told him; that was because he knew I'd tell the fairies if he didn't."

"Oh, Nan," said Charlotte, "how can you?"

"How can I what? Charlotte doesn't know about the fairies as we do," she whispered to Jean, "and she doesn't believe in the Guardian Dog. Don't you know all fairy dells have some sort of guardian? Sometimes it's an owl; sometimes another kind of bird or beast. This one has a dog, but he wouldn't hurt you unless you came to steal the fairy treasures. He had to find out why you were coming to his fairies' dell without being invited."

Jean looked so troubled that Charlotte said, "What nonsense, Nan. How can you make her believe such stuff?"

"We like to believe it," said Nan, comfortably. "Now let me set you down here, Jean," she said, as she picked up her little sister in her arms. "I am afraid you're giving your lame ankle a set-back. Rest it on that mossy cushion and we'll read to you about 'The Cat that walks by herself.' I'll go over to that tree and whisper a charm first, so the fairies won't be offended at your coming." She gravely took her way to the tree and whispered loud enough for Jean to hear:

"Fairies bright, fairies light,
Hiding from us out of sight,
She who seeks your fairy dell
Is a friend who loves you well."

"There," she said, "that is all right. Now let us read."

Charlotte looked at her with a tolerant smile. "How babyish," she said. "I really think you half believe it all yourself."

"Of course I do," said Nan, coolly, as she opened the book before her and began to read.

"I want to see the fairy beds and cushions and things," whispered Jean.

"Hush-sh," returned Nan. "You must be quiet so they'll get used to your being here. After a while I will show you."

She was as good as her word and when the story was finished she took Jean mysteriously to little holes in the ground, to crevices in the rocks, to overshadowed corners, till the child's fancy was filled with imaginary beings who peopled the fairy dell.

But when they started home the little girl lagged painfully. "This will never do," said Nan. "You've overtaxed your ankle, Jean, and you'll have to get home some other way than by walking all the distance. She's too heavy for us to carry, don't you think, Charlotte? I'm afraid our wrists would give out if we tried to take her lady-to-London. I'll tell you what; Suppose you go on ahead and ask Carter Barnwell to come around with his automobile for us, and I will stay with Jean. You can come back with him to show him where to find us."

"Oh, but I don't know him," said Charlotte, shrinking back. "I have met him only once."

"Never mind that," said Nan. "He knows all about you and he will be right ready to come."

But Charlotte would not be persuaded. It was more than she could stand to be required to ask a favor of a strange young man.

"Then," said Nan, "if you don't mind staying with Jean I'll go for Cart. He's pretty sure to be at the house at this time of day." Charlotte much preferred this arrangement and Nan set off for Jean's relief.

But for once Carter was not on hand and Nan was perplexed. She did not want to tell her mother lest the blame be laid on Jean for following her and upon Nan herself for leaving her little sister out of her afternoon's plans. "She'll say I ought to have stayed at home and entertained her," she told herself, "but I forgot she would be all alone. I thought maybe Clarence would come over, but now Jack isn't here he doesn't seem to care to." She stood in the garden trying to decide what to do when she espied Li Hung hanging out his dish towels. She would confide in him. "Jean's down in the woods and can't get home," she said. "She's walked so far that her ankle won't stand any more."

Li Hung didn't understand sufficiently well and Nan began again. "Little galee, Jean. Ankle hurt in woods. Can't get home. How carry her, Li Hung?"

He nodded. "Me callee lil galee," he said, nodding. "Allee lite. Come 'long."

He went into the house and brought out a strong bamboo basket which could be carried hamper-wise upon his back. He displayed it triumphantly. "Babee," he said, grinning. "Lil galee babee."

Nan laughed. It pleased her mightily to use this odd method of carrying Jean home and she sallied forth with Li Hung to the spot where Jean and Charlotte waited. Here she explained the plan.

"You'll not allow her to be carried through the streets that way?" said Charlotte quite shocked. "She is not a baby."

"She is our baby," returned Nan, "and I think it is a fine way."

"But I shouldn't like any one to see us going through the street. Such a queer procession."

"You don't have to," said Nan tossing up her chin. "You can go by yourself. I'm not ashamed to be seen with my sister when she is not able to walk."

"Oh, but can't you go with me some other way home, and let the Chinaman carry Jean?"

"No, I can't," returned Nan shortly.

"But I don't know the way."

"It's quite direct, but, if you like, you can follow on half a square behind us and nobody will suspect that you belong to our disreputable company," returned Nan, and she marched ahead without another word, keeping close by Jean while Charlotte followed at a respectable distance. Nan never once turned her head and having reached her own gate did not stop to say good-bye.

"That was fine, good, very good, Li Hung," she told the Chinaman, "Little galee get home allee lite. Li Hung good boy." And Li Hung beamed.

Jean was swung lightly down from her queer carriage, and was ready with her thanks to her carrier.

"It was just like being in China," said Nan to her, "wasn't it? I wish we had a jinrikisha, though this is next best. I should never have thought of it and I think Li Hung was very clever. It was a real coolie way of doing, but I had to laugh to see how people stared."

If Jean had any feeling of embarrassment Nan's approval of the matter did away with it, and the child declared it was fun. "I liked being carried along on Li Hung's back that way," she said. "I wouldn't mind doing it again. Where's Charlotte, Nan?"

"I don't know nor care," was Nan's curt rejoinder.



There was no time to make friends with Charlotte the next day, for Mary Lee and Jack returned home and there was so much for the sisters to talk about that they did not care to go afield for entertainment.

Jean was the first to spy her twin. "There they come," she sang out.

"Who?" said Nan.

"My trin, my dear trin, and Mary Lee," and Jean started on a run down the walk to meet them as soon as they should come in the gate.

Nan was not far behind her. "Hallo!" she called. "I am glad you are back again. We've missed you terribly." She hugged Jack up to her and bestowed a hearty kiss upon Mary Lee. "Did you have a good time?" she asked.

"Fine," replied Mary Lee. "Where's mother?"

"She and the señorita have gone to ride with Carter."

"Where's Aunt Helen?"

"Over at Mrs. Bobs'. Mr. Pinckney has gone to Mexico and Mrs. Bobs asked Aunt Helen to come over and keep her company this afternoon because she was so lonely."

"There's a girl visiting there," put in Jean. "Nan and she have been awfully thick, but she hasn't been over to-day."

Nan made a little contemptuous mouth. "I'm mad with her," she told Mary Lee. "She's such a prudy, prudy prude and always is saying: 'Do you think we ought to do this and do you think we ought to do that;' I get so tired of so much oughting."

"I thought you liked her so much, Nan," said Jean in surprise.

"Oh, I did; I do, I suppose, but——Oh, well, don't let's talk about her. Tell us what you did at the Sanders', Mary Lee."

"Oh, we did everything; rode and walked and ate raisins and honey and all sorts of good things, and oh, Nan, Jo Poker was there."

"Jo Poker? Well, did you ever! Do tell me about him."

"We saw him every day, and he used to take me to the woods and tell me about all the queer things we saw. I like him so much. We used to have long talks and I told him all about the señorita, but he didn't seem to know anything or if he did he wouldn't tell me. I certainly had a fine time, Nan, but I am glad to get home again. I do hope mother and Miss Dolores won't stay out long; I am just aching to see them."

Just then Miss Helen came in. "Why," she said, "my girlies are back again. We certainly did miss you, and it is good to have you again. Nan, before I forget it, Mrs. Roberts wants you to come over and take supper. Charlotte is going to-morrow or next day."

"Oh, dear, and the girls have just come," returned Nan discontentedly.

"I never expected to see the time when you wouldn't jump at an invitation from Mrs. Roberts," said Miss Helen.

"But then there was never a time before when Mary Lee and Jack had been away for a whole week," said Nan by way of excuse.

"That is true," said Miss Helen smiling. "Well, you must manage it for yourself."

"I won't go till nearly supper time," Nan concluded, "and I will come back as soon after as it is decent. To tell you the truth," she whispered to Mary Lee as they went out of the room with their arms around each other, "Charlotte and I had a little spat. Mrs. Bobs doesn't know anything about it unless Charlotte has told her, and it will make it sort of awkward, you see."

"What was it about?" asked Mary Lee. Nan told her.

"Well," decided the impartial Mary Lee, "I think it was as much your fault as hers. In the first place you had no right to ask her to run your errands."

"She didn't run any."

"Well, you asked her to, and in the second place you invited her to go to the Fairy Dell with you, and you ought to have seen to it that she got home all right. She is a stranger here and she was your company."

"She is not so very much more of a stranger than we are, and Jean had to be looked after."

"Suppose she did; it wouldn't have hurt you to have walked home with her and let Li Hung go home with Jean. He would have taken the best of care of her, you know."

Nan sighed. "Oh, I suppose I was thinking of my side of the question and not hers at all, but it made me mad when she was so deathly afraid of doing anything unusual or of being seen with any one who did."

"You see," said Mary Lee bringing forward a most forceful argument, "you wouldn't like her to think we Virginians could be rude. We would hate her to go back to Boston and say we hadn't been properly polite."

That decided Nan. "I suppose I'd better go and make up. I reckon some of it was my fault. She is really a very nice girl, but her ways aren't ours and she doesn't take to being free and easy. She thinks so much of what people will say and she is always talking about whether we are doing our 'dooty.' I have no doubt she thinks it was my 'dooty' to stick with her when I brought her out with me, and I reckon it really was. I know perfectly well she wouldn't have done me that mean way, and I reckon that is half the reason why I am mad. I wish you would go over with me, Mary Lee; it would take off the edge."

"Oh, but I am not asked."

"You would be if Mrs. Bobs knew you had come back. I'll 'phone over and tell her," and before Mary Lee could say a word Nan had flown to the telephone. She came back in a few minutes. "Mrs. Bobs is delighted," she reported. "She wants you to meet Charlotte. I know Charlotte will like you for you are just the proper kind to suit her. I am such a fly-away, I am afraid, and she doesn't understand me, when I talk up in the clouds, any more than you do." She hurried herself into a proper frock and rebraided her hair with hasty fingers. "Button my middle button, please, Mary Lee," she said. "Oh, but it is good to have you back. I don't like half of four Corners; it makes us seem on the bias. There, I am ready. Come along."

They started forth, taking the back way, which was nearer, passing the tall geranium which grew to the kitchen roof, the orange trees and the grape-vine trellis, and were soon out on the street. "I shall miss it all," remarked Nan. "We shall be going pretty soon, Mary Lee. Aren't you sorry?"

"For some reasons I am, but for others I am not. I like to see new things and new places."

"So do I, but I get attached to the old ones. I think there is something very catty about me, for I cling to my old haunts."

"You are more kittenish, I should say," returned Mary Lee slyly.

Nan laughed, and did not resent the charge.

Charlotte met them rather stiffly but thawed out under Nan's graciousness, and her frank avowal that she had been in the wrong the day before. It is quite true that Charlotte would not have acted as Nan did, but it is equally true that she would never have been willing to apologize so readily for any misdeed of her own.

"I want you and Mary Lee to know each other," Nan told her. "You are just of a piece, you two. I am going to speak to Mrs. Bobs and leave you to get acquainted." Charlotte looked after her as she danced off. She would have given anything to possess such an easy manner, to have been so unconsciously gracious and affable as Nan. She began her conversation in a little studied way which contrasted strangely with Nan's ready flow of speech, and as Mary Lee was herself dignified, they had not progressed very far when they were summoned to supper. It was then that Nan's high spirits again saved the situation, for having once passed the Rubicon, she gave herself no further concern about her former attitude toward Charlotte, but was so funny when she described the procession home from the Fairy Dell that Charlotte laughed in spite of herself, and all at once her own behavior on that occasion seemed silly and unnecessarily stiff. Mary Lee she might like and would probably always easily get along with, but to Nan she would continue to give a warmer affection from the very fact that she was the opposite of herself.

Mr. Roberts insisted upon seeing the girls home, although Carter appeared on the scene, saying he had been sent as an escort. Mr. Roberts was rather a quiet, grave man, but Nan never failed to unloosen his tongue and his face always brightened when she came around.

"I don't like to say good-bye," said Nan to Charlotte, "and I don't mean to to-night, for I'll come around first thing in the morning so as to see you off. I will send you some picture postal cards, Charlotte, and you must do the same to me. I have enjoyed our music so much, and some day I hope I will play as well as you do. We have had a real good time together, even if we have had some squabbles. I was generally wrong and you were right," which admission Charlotte felt was truly noble.

"If you ever come to Boston," she said with more warmth than usual, "you must be sure to let me know."

"Indeed I will. Very likely I shall come some day. I mean to get in a lot of traveling during my life, and you may expect to see me most anywhere you go. Wouldn't it be fine if we were to meet in Germany some day? Perhaps both of us will go there to study music."

"That would be delightful," returned Charlotte.

"Well, who knows?" continued Nan. "Let's pretend we shall. Auf wiedersehn, Miss Loring, I shall expect to see you one of these days at Herr Pumpernickel's studio in Berlin," and, kissing her hand, Nan ran down the step to join Mr. Roberts, who was waiting for her. Carter and Mary Lee had gone on ahead.

Charlotte turned to Mrs. Roberts and made the confession: "I would give anything to be as delightfully easy as Nan is. She is never embarrassed and always knows just what to say. She is the brightest girl I ever saw. I don't mean that she is so very, very intellectual, for there are a great many things she has not read, things that most of my girl friends know all about, but she is so originally bright. She never says things for effect or as if she were conscious of herself."

"That is just Nan's charm," returned Mrs. Roberts. "She is naturally very quick-witted, and she has a ready vocabulary; when she can't think of a word to suit the occasion she coins one that is somehow better than those made to order. Jack is something like her; she is an original, too, but in quite a different way. I wish you were going to stay long enough to see Jack; she is such a comical youngster. My father makes her his special pet. They are a delightful family, take them one and all, from Mrs. Corner down to the twins. I am sorry they are going to leave us so soon. I wish we could persuade them to settle in California."

Carter lingered after Mr. Roberts left his charges safe in their mother's hands. Mary Lee sought the señorita and begged for a Spanish song, so while she softly sang to the accompaniment of her guitar, Mary Lee sat close beside her, in a dusky corner of the veranda, holding closely a fold of her gown. The electric lights from the street made a delicate design of the leafy vines; the mingled scent of roses, orange-blossoms and heliotrope was wafted to them. Jack, tired out, fell asleep with her head on Nan's shoulder. Jean sat in her mother's lap drowsily listening to the soft twanging of the guitar. It suited well the balmy, semi-tropical night. As Miss Dolores finished her song Carter turned to Miss Helen.

"I'm not going to stay, so there. Whether or not you want me to go along, I'm going. I reckon if Mrs. Corner can stand a change I can."

"Who said nobody wanted you?" asked Miss Helen.

"You've never said you did," returned Carter in an aggrieved tone.

"We were afraid you might think we wanted to make use of you and your automobile," said Miss Helen, laughing. "You have been so generous and have been a perfect slave to this family; you ought to have a rest after we have gone."

"I don't want a rest."

"We'd love to have you go," said Miss Helen. "I'll confess to you that, independent as I seem, capable as I may be to conduct the entire party from Dan to Beersheba, in my inmost heart I secretly delight in your manly presence when trunks are to be checked, tickets are to be bought and a stentorian voice is needed to protest at imposition or delay. So you see how I am baring my secrets to you and you may imagine how I shall be delighted to have you at hand whenever I want you. Do go with us, dear Carter."

"Now that's something like," he replied. "Now I feel better. I'll go, oh, yes, I surely will. How would it do to arrange this way? It's nothing of a run from here to Santa Barbara. I can get my friend Oliver's car, which is a little larger than mine, and take five of you; then I can come back here, get my car and take the other two. Then we can see the country as we like without the discomfort of railway travel."

"But it will give you a double trip."

"I don't mind that in the least. I go somewhere nearly every day, and why not there? What do you think of my plan, Mrs. Corner?"

"It is a lovely one and quite worthy of you," was the reply. "You are always thinking of something to save us trouble or to give us pleasure, Carter. Isn't it a lovely plan, children?"

"What's the lovely plan?" said Jean raising her sleepy head.

"Oh, Jean, you were asleep," said Jack. "I heard."

"I don't believe it," retorted Jean. "I wasn't asleep at all; I was only thinking. What did they say? Tell me and I'll believe you heard."

"Carter said he was going to take us somewhere every day," returned Jack triumphantly.

A shout of laughter went up at this. "It is high time my babies were in bed," said Mrs. Corner. "Run along now, and I will come directly."

"But just tell us first what is the plan," said Jack. "Wasn't it what I said?"

"Carter is going to take us all to Santa Barbara in his automobile," whispered Nan. "He'll take us in two goes. How shall we divide up, mother?"

The twins tarried to hear this settled. "I'd better go on ahead and engage rooms," said Miss Helen. "I think, Mary, we'd better leave you and Jack till the last, then you can see to the closing of the house here. How will that suit?"

"All right," agreed Carter.

"I want to go with the first batch," complained Jack.

"But you will be going in my car and it's much the nicer," Carter told her.

"Don't you want to stay and take care of mumsey?" asked Mrs. Corner.

That settled it. If she were to be left behind as a guardian for her mother there was nothing more to be said, and, in the proud consciousness of being selected from the four for this superior office, Jack went to bed perfectly satisfied.

True to her word Nan ran around early the next morning to say good-bye to Charlotte and the two parted most affectionately. Nan returned home to find that the preparations for their own departure had already begun, and she busied herself in packing up the treasure she had collected during her stay in Los Angeles.

Li Hung's childlike smile had fled. He made every excuse from this time out to follow Jack around and to make her frequent offerings of Chinese nuts, queer, bright yellow cakes, strange confections and little boxes of paper flowers which blossomed out when put in water. Clarence hung about the front gate half the time. In a common sorrow he and Li Hung were no longer enemies. "I believe I'll run away," announced Clarence to Jack. "I think I'll go first to San Francisco and then to Virginia."

"You no want velly nice Chinaman go long Santa Babala?" Li Hung asked Mrs. Corner.

It was with some difficulty that she explained to him that they would not need the services of any "velly nice Chinaman," since they would not be keeping house, but she added, as a balm to his feelings: "If we were to keep house, Li Hung, we should certainly want you, and if we ever come back here we shall try to find you."

Li Hung nodded in his mandarin-like way, but he seemed disappointed and did many strange things which he evidently thought would delay their going. Various articles of clothing would be found hidden in out-of-the-way places, books would mysteriously disappear one day to be replaced the next when others would be gone, until finally these crafty performances were discovered to mean no ill will but quite the contrary.

From the tall geranium over the kitchen Nan picked a leaf of remembrance; from the scattered rose-leaves she made a little cushion; orange-blossoms and heliotrope were pressed in her diary. "I'll keep them always," she said, "for I want to take something real away with me, something more than memories."

The twins parted weepingly from the paisano which was bestowed upon Clarence with solemn charges to treat him kindly. "If you don't," said Jack, "I'll tell Li Hung. I'll write to him and then you see what will happen." From this it may be registered that the paisano's future was assured, so far as Clarence was concerned. This youngster put on a very don't care expression as he said good-bye, but his eyes were suspiciously red when he reached home, and that same afternoon he had a desperate fight with the next-door boy because he said girls were no good. With such a cause as that for which he fought Clarence easily came off victor.

The señorita had promised to stay with the family as long as they should remain in California; what she would next do was to be decided later. Mr. Pinckney was expected any day to return from his trip to Mexico when Mary Lee and Nan expected great things. Mary Lee had told Nan of her conference with Jo Poker, but they could come to no conclusion about him nor about his possible relationship to their señorita, and in the excitement of their preparations to leave this subject was dropped. It was only the day before they were to leave their pretty winter home that Mr. Pinckney did come back, and in the fluster of packing and of making adieux there was little chance to do more than ask him: "Did you find out anything about the señorita's father?"

Mr. Pinckney shook his head. "Nothing positive," he returned. "I did see Señor Garcia, but he was mum as an oyster and would give me no satisfaction. An oath to the dead was sacred, he said, and he had promised his wife never to divulge the secret. I discovered her mother's grave but the headstone set forth in Spanish merely that she was the daughter of Antonio and Dolores Mendez. There was a pious inscription, the year of her birth and death, and that was all. No mention of her having been the wife of any one."

Mary Lee sighed. "Well, that is all we can do, I suppose. It looks kind of hopeless, doesn't it? I believe Jo Poker knows something that he won't tell," she added.

"Then I'll try to hunt up Jo Poker when I get a chance," Mr. Pinckney promised.

"He's like a wullerwusp, as Unc' Landy calls them," said Mary Lee, "but maybe you will run across him some time. You won't forget, Mr. St. Nick."

"Not a bit of it."

"And you'll not forget that you're to be in 'Frisco while we are there."

"I'm not likely to. I feel as if the bottom had dropped out of Los Angeles now you youngsters are going."

There were actual tears in Mrs. Roberts's eyes as she bade them good-bye and Mr. Roberts said over and over: "We must get you back here somehow." Mr. Pinckney kept repeating: "Well, I'll see you in 'Frisco, and Virginia isn't a thousand miles from New York. When we all get back we'll see each other often." And so they parted.

"We've had such a good time here," said Nan to her aunt as they started on their journey. "I've never had such a good time in all my life. I wonder if it will have to stop when I leave California."

"I hope not," returned Miss Helen. "You certainly are too young to have your good times stop yet awhile. I prophesy many more; when you go to Europe, for instance."

"Oh, yes, of course; that is at the very tip-top of good times. Shall I really love Italy as much as I do California?"

"I think so because of the precious pictures, the dear old buildings, the savor of romance which you will find there. Every stone seems to have a history, and the very bells peal out some bygone story. One misses that here. There is so much that is startlingly new; it is the oldness, the worn stones, the delightful subdued color which pleases the eye over there. If it were not for the old missions I should find even California garish and crude, I am afraid."

This sounded like rank heresy to Nan, but she was satisfied that Aunt Helen believed what she said.

"It suits many persons better than Italy," Miss Helen went on, "but it doesn't happen to suit me so well. 'Better twenty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay.' I agree with Tennyson. I am afraid, Nan dear, that I have acquired the European habit and shall never be rid of it. I suppose it is because I have lived there so long, and because my old home is mine no more."

This determined the fact that there would never be any prospect of a permanent settlement in California, for the Corners, and therefore the girl was glad that she had borne away from the cottage those mementoes which should bring to her lips a wistful smile in after days.

She and Mary Lee cast a lingering look at the rose-hung house as the automobile bore them away. "Good-bye, good-bye, dear little place," said Nan tragically. "Farewell, roses and orange trees! Good-bye, grape-vines! Adieu, my lonely fig tree! No more under our own vine and fig tree, Aunt Helen."

"Perhaps, in Italy," was the response, and Nan fell to dreaming of gondolas and Italian villas while the moments bore them toward Santa Barbara.



To children brought up in sight of mountains and far from the sea, Santa Barbara offered new pleasures, for here the sea stretched before them, "the sun-kissed sea," and though they regretted the little home which had been theirs for three months, they were eager for fresh scenes. Here Carter's car came in for daily service, over the mountain drive for twelve miles, to Montecito valley, to Carpinteria to see the largest grape-vine in the world, and where the motor car could not go Carter was ready to lead as escort on horseback over some of the numerous trails which gave them many a happy day's outing.

"Carter is a great institution," said Miss Helen returning one day from a particularly delightful expedition. "I shall have to write to his mother a special letter of thanks. How well you are looking, Mary. Surely this winter has done you good."

"Surely it has," returned Mrs. Corner. "I feel as if I were almost safe. I hope Carter may be."

"I hope so. He thinks seriously of settling in this sunny land, he tells me, and I think he would be wise to do it. To be on the safe side is much better than to take any risks. The doctors tell him that he will be likely to live as long as any one if he settles here, but with that incipient tendency he will not feel quite sure at home. He is so young I believe in a few years he may entirely outgrow his trouble."

"His poor mother," said Mrs. Corner, "how will she stand the separation?"

"Better than if he were removed altogether," said Miss Helen gravely. "Mollie Carter is no weakling; she will not dissuade him from what is for his best good. Moreover her other children will soon be old enough to be left at home and she can then come to Carter at least once a year. Dear me, Mary, how many mothers must be separated from their children. Their daughters marry and follow their husbands to any part of the world; their sons accept positions which take them across the ocean; it is one of the trials of motherhood, I admit, but it is not a rare one. Now, you, my dear, will soon have to settle what is to be done in your own case for next year. Shall it be California again or shall we go to Southern France and Italy? I do so want you to see Europe."

"Can't I wait till my girls are ready to go, too?" said Mrs. Corner helplessly. "I cannot bear to put the ocean between us."

"But you don't want to risk a winter in the east and run the danger of leaving them altogether?"

"Oh, no, not that."

"Then suppose you let me tell you what I propose and you can think it over. Mrs. Roberts and I have had a talk about the girlies. She knows of an excellent school near Boston where only a few girls are admitted as boarders. I think a little New England experience will not hurt our lassies. Nan could go to the Boston Conservatory and could have the musical advantages which I should like for her. You know our old friend, Mr. Harmer is there and would take a personal interest in her. The Lorings, too, would make a special effort to be nice on Mrs. Roberts's account. Miss Sarah seems so content with the present arrangement at home that she would be glad to continue it for another year, I know. You and I would then be free to go abroad for the winter, or, if you found you could not stand being away so long, you could come back when you pleased and go to the Adirondacks or North Carolina. Now, there is something for you to think about. Don't decide now, but let it soak in and tell me any time you may make up your mind."

Mrs. Corner sat with a very thoughtful look on her face after her sister left the room. Nan, coming in, found her so. "Sweetest and loveliest," she said, "what are you thinking about? You didn't hear me and I called you twice." She stooped over and kissed her mother's cheek.

"I was thinking of my bairns and was wondering what would be best for us all next winter." She drew Nan very close to her. "I can't bear to be parted from you, darling. This has been such a happy winter compared to last."

"Hasn't it been?" said Nan. "It has been wonderful. I never dreamed of anything like it, and I hate to think of its being over, of our leaving California and the friends we have made here. Mrs. Roberts writes that her father is quite broken up by our going and goes around as if he didn't know what to do with himself. She says the Corner family have bewitched him and that she will not be able to keep him with her much longer. Of course he didn't intend to stay as long as he has done, but she likes to put it that way. Then there is the señorita, I know she feels very badly at the idea of parting from us. Well, muzzy, dear, have you made any plans?"

"Nothing is determined yet. I shall have some time in which to decide, but your Aunt Helen has made a proposition which I am thinking over."

"Tell me if it is tellable; I'll not mention it if it is a secret."

"I wouldn't speak of it yet because the little girls could not understand the whys and wherefores," and then she told what Miss Helen had proposed.

"I don't wonder you were so thoughtful and serious," said Nan gravely, when her mother had finished speaking. "Gracious, but that is a problem to solve."

"Should you like your part of the plan, Nan?"

"I should, and I shouldn't. It is delightful in some respects, all but the separation from you," she added with a little catch in her voice, and bending to lay her cheek against her mother's hand. "Oh, if we could only have this winter all over again. Why couldn't we?"

"For two or three reasons. I think your Aunt Helen pines for Europe. She has lived so long abroad that she misses the art, the music, the older civilization, and I cannot bear to have her sacrifice herself for us. To be sure she could go alone, but we are all she has and she clings to us so. I cannot forget that she has been willing to give us half of what was legally hers."

"It was what her mother and father both wanted her to do, and she couldn't have done differently, it seems to me."

"Some persons would have. She has been more than generous, with her half, too."

"And you have never been to Europe," said Nan slowly. "I think, mother, you'd better go."

"Oh, Nan!"

The girl's eyes were full of tears which her mother did not see. "Yes, I do," she answered bravely, "but you don't have to decide yet, do you? There is plenty of time."


"Then don't let us cross that bridge till we come to it. Who knows what may turn up before we leave this Sunset Land? I, for one, am not going to think about it yet. Isn't this Santa Barbara the dearest place? I loved San Diego; I was perfectly happy at Los Angeles; I thought no spot could be lovelier than Pasadena, and I'd like to stay here years; that is the way it goes all along the King's highway. I like that name; the Camino Real, for it is so much more than an every-day road. I think of those old mission fathers traveling it and I hope that it will be opened up and kept in good order."

"You love the missions, don't you, daughter?"

"Yes, I do; they seem so much a part of the old life. Aunt Helen says they are this country's saving grace, that beside them all the big pumpkins and giant grape-vines are as vulgar nothings, and that the country would be painfully new if it were not for what the Spaniards left behind. Yes, I do love the missions. Weren't you pleased with the one here, the one H. H. describes when she tells of the christening of one of its towers?"

"It is certainly most interesting."

"But, oh, dear, I was disappointed when I found that no woman was allowed to enter the garden. For once I wanted to be the wife of a king or of the president, so as to have the privilege. There is Jack calling me. I wonder what now; that is a voice of trouble, I am afraid," and she ran out to see what was wrong with her little sister.

There was nothing worse than a cut finger and that was soon tied up to Jack's satisfaction, and she went off again to her play, while Nan hunted up Mary Lee.

If Nan had regrets at leaving California Mary Lee had pangs, for did it not also mean parting with her beloved Miss Dolores? She spent all the time she could in her idol's company, clung to her side when they were out walking and had a nightly weep when she calculated that there was one less day to be spent in the dear presence.

"You make me tired, Mary Lee," Nan would say. "I do wish you would stop that sniffling; I just know you are crying about the señorita."

"You're so heartless, Nan," Mary Lee would reply. "I don't believe you care one bit that after another week you will never see her again."

"I'm not going to think that, besides it doesn't make it any better to cry about it," and Nan would unsympathetically turn over and go to sleep.

"Shall you miss me one little bit?" Mary Lee asked Miss Dolores one day when it was near the time for them to leave Santa Barbara.

"Certainly," she replied. "More than I can say. Except my aunt no one has ever been so good and kind to me as your mother and aunt, and to you, my pupils, I give much affection. It will be a sad parting, but I hope to earn my living somewhere. Your aunt thinks in San Francisco I shall have much opportunity to get a situation and she will help me. She says my experience of the past three months will help me."

"If you only had some relatives," said Mary Lee, "cousins, or something, it would be much better. Cousins are a great help; we have some that we are very fond of and when mother was away last winter I don't know what we should have done without them."

"I had a little cousin to whom I gave much love," said the señorita. "She died when she was fifteen. Like myself she lived with an aunt and we were great friends."

"What was her name?" asked Mary Lee.

"Pepita we called her. It is the Spanish for Josephine, or rather it is the diminutive, as you would say, Josie."

"It is a very pretty name; I like it much better than Josie. Did she have no mother?"

"No, her mother died when she was born, but she had a good home and a happy little life. Like myself she was of the Spanish, the old Spanish, for her mother and mine were cousins, and neither remembered that she had had such parent. Yes, we were happy little girls. All that is passed now." The señorita sighed.

"I don't like to have you sad," said Mary Lee, "and you always are when you talk of those old times."

"It is all so different now; I belong to no one and no one belongs to me; that is why I sigh. But never let us speak so much of it. I have not been to San Francisco; it must be a fine city, so large, so gay, something like Paris. I think we shall like that city, and when I have a fine position with wealthy family I shall save my money and some day when you are in Virginia you will look from the window and say: 'Who is that stranger who comes to our house?' Then the others will look and will say, 'She is rather old, but the face has familiar look.' Another will say, 'Perhaps she comes to the wrong house.' Then when your servant brings you the name of Dolores Garcia you will look puzzled and say, 'Who is this?'"

"Oh, Miss Dolores," expostulated Mary Lee, "how could you think we would ever forget you?"

The señorita laughed. "Ah, will you not? You should not say that; you do not know how easy it is to forget sometimes, and when one is young."

"But not you; I couldn't forget you," Mary Lee said, earnestly. "If I forgot every one else I should still remember you, for you do not know how dear you are to me, Miss Dolores."

Here Nan came running to find them. "Mr. Pinckney has come," she announced. "He said he couldn't stand it any longer without seeing us. Jack is jumping all over the place with delight, and Jean is eating chocolates as fast as she can pop them into her mouth; he has brought a great big box of them; you'd better come if you want any."

The double attraction was too enticing and Mary Lee followed her sister to where Mr. Pinckney sat surrounded by a smiling company.

"Doesn't it seem good to see the dear old fat thing sitting there?" said Nan. "I declare I didn't know how fond I was of him till I saw him coming puffing and blowing up the steps."

"I wonder if he has seen Jo Poker," said Mary Lee.

"Of course you would think of that first thing," returned Nan.

"Wouldn't you have thought of it?"

"I would have after while, but not yet."

They took occasion to make their inquiries later. "Couldn't find him," Mr. Pinckney told them. "They told me he had come up in this direction somewhere, so I'll try to look him up, if it is to be done."

"He may be in San Francisco by this time," said Mary Lee. "Mr. Sanders thought he would probably go there from his place."

"Humph!" said Mr. Pinckney; "I am afraid it will be a tough job to find him. Well, how do you like the idea of leaving California?"

"Don't like it at all," said Nan, "but I do want to see some of the other places we are going to. It is lovely here, don't you think?"

"Pretty fine, but I sometimes pine for old Broadway and our own vile climate. If I were a youngster I should think it rather monotonous if I couldn't switch around from flying kites to coasting and skating once a year. There are people who can live on climate, but I am not one of them. I enjoy California, bless you, yes, but I enjoy New York, too. Now, let us see, when do you leave here?"

"Aunt Helen thinks day after to-morrow. Carter wants some of us to go on his car with him, but I don't think we shall."

"The señorita is going, of course."

"Yes, of course."

"Mrs. Roberts thinks she has heard of a position which may suit the young lady, and asked me to tell her about it. I fancy she would rather be with some one we know all about than to go among entire strangers."

"Is it in Los Angeles?" asked Mary Lee, eagerly.

"In Pasadena, I believe."

"Oh, if she takes it, I do hope Mrs. Bobs will think of her sometimes and ask her to come to see her."

"Trust her for that. It was for that very reason she was anxious that Miss Garcia should apply for this position. No, young lady, you needn't have any fear but that Jennie will have an eye on her, and if she is lonely it will not be my daughter's fault."

"Shall I go tell her that you want to see her?" asked Mary Lee.

"Suppose you do, then we'll settle it right here." So Mary Lee went off to seek Miss Dolores and presently left her in close conversation with Mr. Pinckney.



It was the morning after they arrived at San Francisco that Mrs. Corner came to Mary Lee's door. "Daughter," she said, "Mr. Sanders is down-stairs; he says he has something important to say to you. I saw him for a moment only when he asked to speak to you. Go down and see him and I'll be there directly."

Wondering what Mr. Sanders could have to say to her especially, and how he happened to be in San Francisco, Mary Lee went down to find her friend waiting for her. "Well, Miss Mary," he said, "you didn't expect to see me here, did you? I've come with a message for you; I have it here." He produced an envelope which he held in his hand.

"I'm glad to see you whatever brings you," returned Mary Lee.

"Well, it is rather a sad business that brings me. It's queer you should happen to be in this city just now and queerer still that I should." He paused a moment. "You remember Jo Poker, don't you?" he then asked.

"Indeed I do," answered Mary Lee.

"Poor Jo! Well, miss, you'll never see him again."

"Why, Mr. Sanders, what has happened?"

"He's paid his last debt, poor old Jo. He got hurt in a runaway awhile ago and though at first they thought he would get over it, for he was well enough to be about, he suddenly got worse and when he found his last hour was nigh he sent for me. There's a long story. Here's your mother, I reckon she'd better have it, too. I was just saying, Mrs. Corner, that we've buried a friend of your daughter's. I reckon you've heard her speak of Jo Poker."

"The man who was so good to her when she was visiting at your house? Yes, indeed. Both the girls have spoken of him often. Did you say that he was dead, Mr. Sanders?"

"Yes, ma'am. He fell ill a couple of weeks ago after being in an accident, took a bad turn of a sudden and sent for me, said that there wasn't any one nearer. He handed me over his papers and I learned from them that his name was Joseph Middleton. His father was a well off man at one time but I fancy he wasn't always just straight in business affairs. Jo was pretty wild in his young days and got into some scrapes. Fought with his brother-in-law, a sort of duel, I should judge, cut him up pretty badly and had to get out and leave his wife at her father's."

"I knew his right name couldn't be Poker," said Mary Lee listening eagerly to the story. "What did they fight about, Mr. Sanders?"

"Well, it seems that old Middleton bought a piece of property from a Mexican, or Spaniard, Jo calls him, who thought afterward that there hadn't been fair dealing and was bitter against the whole Middleton family. Jo fell in love with the daughter and she with him then, as he wasn't one to give up a thing, he wanted, he ran off with her and married her secretly. The brother caught him coming to the house two or three times after he had been forbidden the place, and they had it hot and heavy. The brother charged Jo with all sorts of things and went for him. Jo didn't stand still and the up-shot was that the brother got the worst of it, so while he was lying between life and death Jo had to skip. The father was fiercer than ever against Jo and the young wife was kept close as a nun. She lived only a short time and left a little girl that she called Pepita."

"Pepita," exclaimed Mary Lee. "That was the name of Miss Dolores' cousin."

"It's quite a name among the Spanish, I believe," Mr. Sanders told her. "It's the same as our Josephine."

"Oh, that's why she gave her baby the name; it is the nearest she could get to calling it after her husband, poor thing."

"I haven't a doubt of it. She probably called him Pepé; that's the Spanish for Jo. Well, old Middleton took to drinking, went through his money and Jo got reckless, too, after he heard that his wife was dead, so he never settled down anywhere. Lived just like you know, Miss Mary, as I was telling you there at home. Never went back to claim his little girl it seems, because he felt he couldn't be any benefit to her, and she had a good home with her mother's people. Now he's gone, and I am sorry, for I liked the man, though folks did say hard things of him. He is about the last link to those old days when I was a youngster and first came out to this country. Most of the old crowd are dead or scattered; I don't know which. I couldn't put my finger on another if I tried."

"You say this Joseph Middleton was talked about," said Mrs. Corner. "Was he then a bad man?"

"Well, ma'am, I shouldn't call him bad exactly. He was his own worst enemy: I never knew him to harm any one but that brother of his wife's and he wouldn't have touched him if he'd been let alone. He was always good to animals and children and was always a gentleman to the women. I've seen worse men that had a better name, so I say he was more sinned against than sinning. This here envelope he asked me to hand you," Mr. Sanders went on turning to Mary Lee. "He said it had his good-bye message to you in it."

"I don't think I will read it now," said Mary Lee trembling a little as she took the note. It seemed so strange that the kindly man who played to the birds and beasts, who was so alive to things of this earth, should no longer be of this world. Mary Lee held the note closely. "It was very kind of him to want to bid me good-bye," she said, "and kind of you to bring me the message. He used to say that if he should ever find his daughter and if he were able to claim her he would like her to be like me, fond of animals and woodsy things. I think that is why he wrote to me."

"The daughter is dead, too, you know," said Mr. Sanders. "He had found that out, he told me."

Mary Lee turned to her mother. "I think I am glad of that," she said. "Now, maybe, they are all three together."

"Well, I must be going," said Mr. Sanders. "I am glad to have seen you again."

"The others will like to see you, Mr. Sanders," said Mrs. Corner. "I know Jack will want to hear about your little girl. Go find your sisters, Mary Lee, and tell them Mr. Sanders is here."

Mary Lee laid the envelope in her mother's lap and went to seek the others who came rushing in to ask about Bessie and to hear all the news of the ranch.

"I am so sorry Jo Poker is dead," said Jack; "now he can never play on the flute for us any more."

"Never mind, Jack," said Jean, "perhaps he's playing on a harp now."

"But I can't hear him," returned Jack nothing comforted.

After answering Jack's hundred questions and being made the bearer of as many messages, Mr. Sanders took his leave saying that he must make a train soon if he wanted to get home that night. "I'm glad I had your address," he said as he was about to go, "or I mightn't have been able to get that message delivered for some time."

Mary Lee gathered the note again into her own keeping. "Come, mother," she said, "let's go somewhere by ourselves. I want you to be with me when I read this. I feel so very solemn about it."

"We'll go to my room," said her mother leading the way.

Mary Lee held the letter a few moments before breaking it open, then she said suddenly: "Suppose you read it to me, mother."

Mrs. Corner settled herself by the window and Mary Lee leaned on the back of her chair.

"Dear Miss Mary," the letter began, "this is my farewell to you. I'm not going to live long, the doctor says, so I'll write this while I can, and I'll get Jim Sanders to give it to you after I'm gone, then I'll not be breaking the word I gave to one over twenty years ago. You asked me about that Miss Garcia, and now that all are dead and gone who would care, in my judgment it isn't fair to keep some things secret. Her Aunt Dolores Garcia was a good friend to me. She was my wife's cousin and helped me in a time of great trouble. I promised her then that while I lived I'd not tell all I knew about the family affairs. Dolores Garcia's sister married a young American. Her father hated all Americans, because he was a proud Spaniard and because he thought one of them had cheated him and his brother out of their property. When his daughter married a young fellow whose people wouldn't acknowledge her——"

"Mother!" cried Mary Lee.

"What is it, daughter?"

"Never mind, go on," said Mary Lee breathlessly. "Go on, quick, please."

"Where was I? Oh yes: whose people wouldn't acknowledge her the old don was cut to the quick and vowed they should never know his daughter's child to teach her to despise her family. He was very proud of his Spanish blood and he made every member of his family swear not to tell the child's name, or to let her father's family know of her. The baby's father died before she was born and its mother soon after. It nearly broke the old man's heart, but he loved that baby as much as he hated her father's people who were not to have the chance to acknowledge her because they refused to accept the mother."

"Oh, oh," whispered Mary Lee, "doesn't it tell the father's name? Oh, mother!"

"So now I am keeping my word," Mrs. Corner went on, "and while I live the secret will not be told, but I think Elvira would want it known and I am sure John Pinckney would want his daughter to have people of her own and not have to be making her living when she needn't to. So there, Miss Mary, I've told you. John Pinckney was from New York, Jack they called him. He and Elvira were married in Mexico but he is buried at Santa Barbara where he died. Good-bye, Miss Mary, and thank you for coming into my life. I hope the good Master will let me see my wife and baby in another world.

"Your old friend,
"Jo Poker,
("Joseph T. Middleton.")

"Mother! Mother!" cried Mary Lee. "Oh, it's wonderful! Only a fairy tale could turn out so beautifully. How shall we tell them?"


"Why yes. Oh, don't you see? The señorita is Mr. St. Nick's granddaughter."

"Why Mary Lee. Of course. I didn't take it in at first. It is wonderful."

"I am so excited I can scarcely breathe. Where are Nan and Aunt Helen? we must tell them first. Nan will be simply wild. Oh, you dear Jo Poker, I hope you're in heaven with your little Pepita." She ran from the room to find Nan and Miss Helen to whom the marvelous news must be told. Then all four gathered in Mrs. Corner's room where the letter was re-read and discussed.

"It has been Mary Lee's theory all along," said Nan. "I pooh-poohed it, but she has said a dozen times that it might be so. One time we thought Jo Poker himself might be Miss Dolores' father, but I am glad enough he was not. Mary Lee has just dinged and dinged at this for weeks and I think she ought to have the honor of telling the señorita."

"I think so, too," agreed Miss Helen, and Mrs. Corner echoed her.

"Oh, how shall I begin?" said Mary Lee.

"Ask her what her cousin's last name was, and then tell her Jo Poker's story; after that it will be easy to work around to her own," suggested Nan.

"Would that be all right?" Mary Lee appealed to her mother.

"I think so. It seems a very good plan, and in the meantime we can be telling Mr. Pinckney."

Therefore Mary Lee went to seek Miss Dolores. She found her in the garden pacing up and down, a thoughtful look upon her face.

"What are you thinking about, dear Miss Dolores?" asked the girl.

"I was thinking of that position in Pasadena and was wondering if I would be less lonely there than in some spot further from home."

"I don't think you will ever be lonely again," said Mary Lee. "May I walk with you, Miss Dolores? I have something to tell you."

"I shall be very glad of your company, my dear. I, too, wish to tell you something, and it is that you can never know how my sad heart has been cheered by your love to me. I many times hide what I feel, and perhaps you do not think I appreciate and return it, but I do."

"I am so very glad," replied Mary Lee, slipping her hand in that of the señorita. "I have been wondering, Miss Dolores, what was the last name of your little cousin, your Cousin Pepita that you were telling me about the other day."

"She was named Pepita Middleton, for she, too, was half American. If she had lived we should be as sisters."

Mary Lee was silent while she formed the next question. "Did you know her father has just died?"

"Her father? He was supposed dead some years ago."

"No, and Miss Dolores, isn't it strange that he should be that Jo Poker of whom you have heard me tell?"

"Impossible, my dear."

"No, it is quite true. I have a letter here, a letter of farewell from him. Mr. Sanders has just left it for me. Miss Dolores, did you know that Jo Poker was a friend of your aunt's when he was young, and that he knew your father?"

The señorita dropped Mary Lee's hand, turned and gazed with startled eyes at her. "You have heard more," she said. "I see it in your face. Tell me, tell me quickly."

Mary Lee threw her arms around her. "I do know more. Oh, Miss Dolores, all these months I have been trying to find out for you who your father was. We did not want to tell you of our trying, Nan and I, for fear we should fail. Mr. Pinckney has been helping us all he could, too, and now, oh, dear Miss Dolores, we have found out, and you will be so glad."

"Tell me! Tell me!"

"His name was John Pinckney."

"Pinckney? Pinckney? The same as our good friend?"

"Yes, yes, and oh, to think your father was his own son. You are dear Mr. St. Nick's granddaughter, and Mrs. Bobs is your aunt."

"No, no! I dream! I am asleep!" cried the señorita, putting her hands on Mary Lee's shoulders and gazing into her eyes.

"You are wide awake. Oh, isn't it too good to be true? But it is true."

"And he, Mr. Pinckney, does he know?"

"I think he must by now. Mother and Aunt Helen are telling him."

"Will he be—will he——?"

"Will he be glad? I should think so. I can just imagine how overjoyed he will be. Come, let us find them. No, there they come now."

The señorita stood still with bowed head waiting. Down the path came Mr. Pinckney on as fast a trot as his weight would allow. "My little girl—Jack's little girl," he said tremblingly as he came up to the señorita. He held out his arms. "Aren't you going to forgive your old grandfather?" he faltered.

The señorita looked up. The tears were rolling down the dear man's face. She made a step forward. "Oh, how I shall love you," she murmured as she put her arms around his neck and began to sob.

"There, there, darling, don't cry," said the old gentleman patting her on the back while her own eyes ran. "My Jack's little girl! Thank God I've found her.

"It's all due to these blessed children," he said when he had led her to a seat. "Where are the darlings? You won't be jealous, Dolores, if I keep on loving them, will you? I can't help it."

"Jealous? Of the best, the most loving little friends a girl ever had? Ah, no, my grandfather, I too shall love them more than ever."

"Call them every one and let us share this joy with them."

"My dears, my dears," cried the señorita, running up the path and calling to the retreating figures who had delicately withdrawn, "we want you."

"Us, too," called Jack from the garden gate.

"You, too."

"My friends," said the señorita as they all came up, "such a wonderful thing has happened as some of you know. I am no longer alone. I have here what you have not, a grandfather."

Jack and Jean hand in hand stood looking with grave curiosity as they saw Mr. Pinckney gather their señorita close to him. "I don't believe it," said Jack; "you're just fooling us."

"Are you her grandfather, Mr. St. Nick?" asked Jean.

"I am, my child, I am, and proud enough of it."

"Then why didn't you tell us before?" asked Jack.

"We have just found it out. Mary Lee was really the discoverer. I have been trying for many years to learn what she has found out to-day."

"Wouldn't you ever have found out if it hadn't been for Mary Lee?" asked Jack eagerly.

"I am afraid not."

Jack stood looking him up and down. "Then aren't you glad I bumped into you that day in the candy shop?" she said.

At this every one burst into a laugh which was a relief to the overstrained feelings, and, after many congratulations and much hugging and kissing, the four Corners left the two Pinckneys to themselves.



As happy a party as ever gathered around a table sat down to dinner that night. Mr. Pinckney had telegraphed to his daughter and had received an answering telegram which brought the promise of her speedy arrival with her husband. Although overshadowed utterly by the señorita, whose importance to their beloved Mr. St. Nick was such an evident fact, none of the children felt anything but pleasure in her discovery of this new relative. To be sure once during the evening Jack climbed wistfully to her old friend's knee, but though he put his arm around her, he did not take his eyes from his granddaughter's face and did not cease to make her the subject of his talk.

Carter received the news with as much surprise as the girls expected and to him they now turned for entertainment since their older friend was so engrossed in his own affairs.

With his inclination to give pleasure, Mr. Pinckney could not rest till he had taken Miss Dolores forth on a shopping expedition, and was ready to buy her such an array of things as would have quite burdened her down, but Miss Helen came to her rescue.

"I think New York still has some good shops," she reminded him, "and what will be the use of taking such a lot of extra luggage east?"

Mr. Pinckney looked a little abashed at first reminder. "I am an old idiot," he said laughing; "I never thought of that. I'll open up the old house in New York and set her at the head of it. We'll get a good housekeeper so Dolores won't have too many cares," he patted his granddaughter's hand. "We'll come this way every year to see your Aunt Jennie," he went on, "and you'll make friends there at home who won't mind going shopping with you. In fact I'd like to show you the shops, myself," and Miss Helen knew that he was only putting off the pleasure which she had nipped in the bud.

The news that Mr. Pinckney meant to take his granddaughter to his New York home made Mary Lee very happy. She would not be so far from the señorita after all, and could hope to see her sometimes.

"We'll all go back together," said Mr. Pinckney. "What do you say, good people? Shall we? I'd like my little girl, here, to see something of the country and you won't mind having a man along, will you?"

"We shall be only too glad," Miss Helen told him. "I have just been telling Carter that we shall miss our masculine element very much."

Mr. Pinckney rubbed his hands and looked around with a pleased smile upon the group. His face was beaming all the time now, for Jo Poker's letter was considered conclusive proof and Miss Dolores was accepted without a question. She insisted, however, upon writing to her uncle to corroborate facts and was now waiting for a reply.

Mr. and Mrs. Roberts appeared shortly and gave a loving welcome to the newly discovered niece. Every one thought it was adding better to good to have these two friends with them, since they had all enjoyed such happy days together during the winter.

"There's one thing I've set my heart on," said Mr. Pinckney one day; "I want you all to spend Christmas with us next year. Will you?"

Mrs. Corner looked at Miss Helen. "I'm afraid I can't promise that," she said. "My sister and I will probably be too far away, but I shall be happy to accept for my girls."

"Why, mother!" Mary Lee looked up surprised. "Where are you going to be next winter?"

"In the south of France or in Italy, dear. Aunt Helen and I have made our plans for that. I must be in some mild climate, you know."

"Then are we to stay at home with Aunt Sarah?"


"Where then? Where?" clamored the twins. "Oh, mother, are you going to take us with you?"

She put an arm around each. "No, darlings, not this time, but some day I hope to. My four girlies are going to school." She turned to Mrs. Roberts. "I have had very satisfactory letters from Mrs. Morrison and if, after we have visited the place, it seems as attractive as it promises, we shall send the girls there."

"Oh, mother, where is it? I don't want to go to boarding-school," said Jack rebelliously. "It will be horrid."

"This one will not be, I hope. It is near Boston and it is not a big school; there are only twelve boarders admitted and there are pretty grounds and I should think it must be a very homelike place from the description. Charlotte Loring will be one of your schoolmates during the week, though she goes home from Friday till Monday, and I am sure you will meet other very nice little girls. If you are not happy there after one year's trial, you shall not stay, and we will make some other arrangement."

"How long shall you be away, mother?" asked Jean wistfully.

"Until May or June, I think."

"That's very long," sighed Jean.

Mary Lee cuddled her to her side. "But you will have your two big sisters," she said, "and we are to spend Christmas in New York, think of that, with Miss Dolores and Mr. St. Nick."

This was something to look forward to and Jean brightened up.

All this time Nan had not said a word. She had heard all these plans before, but though she had approved them at the time her mother confided in her, she had hoped against hope, and now that she faced the actual fact she felt a lump in her throat and despair in her heart. No mother, no Aunt Helen for all those long months. Even the exciting present could not shut out this picture of a motherless winter. She sat with hands tightly clasped and looked out the window with a set face. Jack stole up and put an arm around her neck. "Oh, Nan," she whispered, "you feel just as I do. Don't let's go to that horrid school; let's run away."

Nan smiled. "What a goosey thing to do that would be. Where could we run to?"

"To Mrs. Roberts; she would take us in and make us have an awfully good time."

The idea of running all the way from Boston to California was too much for Nan, and she laughed outright. Then suddenly she faced the future bravely; it was her part to bolster up these younger sisters of hers, and she would do it if possible. "Oh, we'll make the best of it," she said. "No doubt we shall have awfully good times even if they do feed us on baked-beans and cod-fish. We shall have lots of snow so we can go coasting, and skating and perhaps we shall have some sleigh-rides. Then there'll be Saturdays, you know, when we can go to see Charlotte. Who can tell what good times are ahead, anyway? Sometimes the very meanest prospects turn out finely. Look at your being stuck in the elevator, for instance; see what it has brought about."

"What are you talking about over there?" said Mr. Pinckney from the other side of the room.

"I was just telling Jack that nobody knows what good a day may bring forth," said Nan in unconscious imitation of her Aunt Sarah Dent. "Just think of it, a year ago we didn't even know you all. We all were snoozing away in Virginia and you never dreamed of there being four Corners in the world. Then because Jack stuck in the elevator we stayed over in New Orleans, and because we stayed over we went to the candy shop and there we got acquainted with you, Mr. St. Nick. Then, because Aunt Helen dropped her handkerchief she found the señorita—I beg your pardon, I mustn't say that any more; she's always to be Miss Dolores to us. So things just happen all the time without our planning and who knows what lovely things are ahead of us."

"That's my little philosopher," said Mr. Pinckney approvingly. "It was a happy accident that threw you all in my way, indeed; but for that I should probably never have known my granddaughter."

"Mail for Miss Dolores Garcia," said Carter coming in with a letter in his hand.

"Pinckney, sir, not Garcia," corrected Mr. Pinckney.

"Of course. I beg pardon, Miss G-Pinckney. Oh, bother, I'll say Miss Dolores and then I'll make no mistake."

"It is from my uncle," remarked Miss Dolores. "I will read it if you all will excuse."

She took the letter to the window and ran over its contents. "It is just as you already know," she said at last. "I am truly Dolores Pinckney. My uncle acknowledges that it is my right name and he is very glad that I have found out without his having broken his oath. He is pleased that I have found so kind and good a relative as this dear grandfather. He sends greetings to, you, sir." She bowed slightly to Mr. Pinckney, "and to all the friends who have been so kind to me," again that little foreign manner of bowing. "He is a good man, that poor uncle," she went on, "and he is happy for me. Now, my dear grandfather, I belong to you and to my dear aunt. Beso a ustedes la mono, señor y señora," she said with a little laugh and dropping a pretty curtsey.

"I never doubted for one moment that you belonged to us," returned Mr. Pinckney, "but I am glad, for your sake, that you have this further testimony. Now, then, good people, all, when do we start? Ho, for the Yellowstone! Will you go with us, Jennie?" he asked his daughter.

"No, thank you, father," she replied. "I've seen the Yellowstone, you remember, and I think I'll stay at home with my old man." She turned with a smile to her husband.

"But you'll come to us at Christmas."

"Perhaps. I will not promise, but I will try to come."

"You'd better," remarked Mr. Pinckney. "We must have a family party, and it wouldn't be complete without my daughter. And you, Mr. Carter Barnwell, how about you?"

"I'm not in it, sir. You know I'm an exile and shouldn't dare to risk a New York blizzard." He spoke lightly, but he looked grave. "I can tell you," he added, "it breaks a fellow up to have all this cutting out of the best part of the crowd. Can't you adopt me as a sort of nephew, Mrs. Roberts? I don't know what I shall do when all the others leave. Couldn't you give me a horse stall in your stable or somehow let me hang on to you?"

"Oh, Mrs. Bobs," cried Jack, possessing herself of Carter's hand, "you don't know how nice and jolly and kind Carter is. Won't you let him come live with you when we are gone? He'll be so awfully lonely away from his mother and all of us." Jack was really concerned for the welfare of this comrade of hers.

Mrs. Roberts's kind eyes rested compassionately upon the lad. "Would you really like to come to us?" she said.

"Would you take in a 'no-count' boarder like myself?" he asked, eagerly. "I'll take you out in my car, if you like, and when Mr. Roberts must be away I'll play protector, and I'll even go down town and match worsteds for you. Now that you have a niece, don't you want a nephew?"

"What do you say, Ben?" said Mrs. Roberts, turning to her husband.

"It's just as you say, my dear. For my own part I should like nothing better than young life about the house."

"Then, Carter, your Aunt Jennie will take you in and mother you to the best of her ability," Mrs. Roberts told the boy.

For answer Carter bent and kissed her hand with an old-fashioned gallantry. There were actual tears in his eyes when he lifted his head and it seemed that he could not speak his thanks except to say: "You don't know what that means to me." Then he walked away to the window and no one followed.

Miss Helen drew her chair closer to Mrs. Roberts. "My dear," she said, "you've done a real deed of charity for which his mother will bless you. That is a real mother boy, and no one knows better than I how he misses his home. I don't believe you will ever regret befriending him." And Mrs. Roberts never did.

In another day the trunks were all packed, the boxes to be sent home direct had been started on their way, and California would soon be a place only of remembrance to the Corners. Falling in with Mr. Pinckney's plans they had decided to return east by Yellowstone Park and the Great Lakes rather than to take a route carrying them further north. "Let the young folks see the Yellowstone and Niagara," said Mr. Pinckney; "they will be worth more to them than any other places we could strike on our way back, for then they will have seen two of the greatest wonders of their own country and will be ready for Europe when you want to take them. Now that we have in the family such a linguist as my granddaughter, I shall feel like crossing the ocean again myself. I've never been to Spain and some day she shall go there with me."

It was good to see the dear man's happiness. It was my granddaughter this and my granddaughter that, all the time. As for Miss Dolores herself, the worried lines were leaving her face and a sunny expression was coming in place of the sad, pained look she often wore. The future held home, love, protection, and freedom from galling poverty, a doting grandfather to lavish gifts upon her and to turn to in difficulties. What more could she ask? On her part she was all woman, and had begun already to exercise a pretty solicitude for him which pleased him mightily and which promised well for the days when he should need a ministering hand.

Nan looking at her one day as she was hovering over her grandfather said: "And so the princess came into her own and lived in great state ever after at the castle."

Miss Helen nodded understandingly. "Until——" she suggested a continuation.

Nan took up the tale: "Until a prince came that way and asked her hand in marriage. This would not the old king bestow until the prince had promised three things; one was that he should become as his own son and live in the castle; the second was that he should prove his manhood by some knightly deed; the third one—what was the third, Aunt Helen?"

"The third was that he should show himself able to support a wife without aid of the treasure in the king's coffers and that he must be a knight par excellence, of good name, stainless reputation, and educated in those things which do make a gentle knight ready to hold his own in kings' courts."

"Lovely," said Nan; then after a pause, "I hope the prince will not come too soon for the sake of our dear old St. Nick. Aunt Helen, I wonder if the next year will be as full as this. If it is and exciting things pile up this way year after year, I shall not be able to stand it at all by the time I am thirty or forty."

"Don't give yourself any uneasiness," replied Miss Helen; "the quiet days will come and you will be glad that memory holds so much in store for you to live on in days of famine."

Nan nodded. She and her Aunt Helen often had this sort of talk and it was dear to Nan's heart. "What shall I do without you next winter?" she sighed. "That will be a time of famine, for I shall be starving for you and mother."

"You will have new influences, my dear, that will fill your life and give you new inspiration. The bees do not feed on one kind of flower alone, and so must you, my honey, and my honey-seeker, stick your proboscis into every flower you find. You must seek your sweets all along the way of life."

"You're my sweet," said Nan, kissing her; "you and mother are my very sweetest sweets. Now I must go, for I hear the clock striking that tells me to get ready for dinner, our last dinner here, Aunt Helen."

And the last breakfast was the next morning when all appeared in traveling dress, for before the morning was over they had turned their backs upon the Sunset Land and were facing the east where the hopes of youth were still rising for them.

Mr. and Mrs. Roberts and Carter stood on the platform to see the last of them. Jack and Jean waved handkerchiefs from the window. "Good-bye, Mrs. Bobs! Good-bye, Mr. Bobs! Good-bye, Carter!" they shouted; "we're coming back some day." Miss Dolores, very pale, bent forward, her eyes fixed on the vanishing city. Mary Lee leaned over the back of the seat and reached down a sympathizing hand to clasp the señorita's. From her place in front, Nan smiled over her shoulder. "The sun rises where we are going," she said.