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Title: A Pair of Them
Author: Raymond, Evelyn
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A Pair of Them



SUNSHINE LIBRARY.


  =Aunt Hannah and Seth.= By James Otis.
  =Blind Brother= (=The=). By Homer Greene.
  =Captain’s Dog= (=The=). By Louis Énault.
  =Cat and the Candle= (=The=). By Mary F. Leonard.
  =Christmas at Deacon Hackett’s.= By James Otis.
  =Christmas-Tree Scholar.= By Frances Bent Dillingham.
  =Dear Little Marchioness.= The Story of a Child’s Faith and Love.
  =Dick in the Desert.= By James Otis.
  =Divided Skates.= By Evelyn Raymond.
  =Gold Thread= (=The=). By Norman MacLeod, D.D.
  =Half a Dozen Thinking Caps.= By Mary Leonard.
  =How Tommy Saved the Barn.= By James Otis.
  =Ingleside.= By Barbara Yechton.
  =J. Cole.= By Emma Gellibrand.
  =Jessica’s First Prayer.= By Hesba Stretton.
  =Laddie.= By the author of “Miss Toosey’s Mission.”
  =Little Crusaders.= By Eva Madden.
  =Little Sunshine’s Holiday.= By Miss Mulock.
  =Little Peter.= By Lucas Malet.
  =Master Sunshine.= By Mrs. C. F. Fraser.
  =Miss Toosey’s Mission.= By the author of “Laddie.”
  =Musical Journey of Dorothy and Delia.= By Bradley Gilman.
  =Our Uncle, the Major.= A Story of 1765. By James Otis.
  =Pair of Them= (=A=). By Evelyn Raymond.
  =Playground Toni.= By Anna Chapin Ray.
  =Play Lady= (=The=). By Ella Farman Pratt.
  =Prince Prigio.= By Andrew Lang.
  =Short Cruise= (=A=). By James Otis.
  =Smoky Days.= By Edward W. Thomson.
  =Strawberry Hill.= By Mrs. C. F. Fraser.
  =Sunbeams and Moonbeams.= By Louise R. Baker.
  =Two and One.= By Charlotte M. Vaile.
  =Wreck of the Circus= (=The=). By James Otis.
  =Young Boss= (=The=). By Edward W. Thomson.


THOMAS Y. CROWELL & COMPANY, NEW YORK.


[Illustration: “WHY, YES, BONNY-GAY! I’VE COME.” See page 77.]



  [Illustration]

  A PAIR OF THEM

  BY EVELYN RAYMOND

  [Illustration]


  NEW YORK.
  Thomas Y. Crowell & Co.
  Publishers.



  COPYRIGHT, 1901,
  BY THOMAS Y. CROWELL & CO.



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                     PAGE

     I. Where the Houses are Big                 1

    II. Where the Houses are Small              15

   III. How the Pair Met                        29

    IV. Max Reappears                           44

     V. Mary Jane Goes Visiting                 59

    VI. The Flight and Fright of Mary Jane      78

   VII. On the Way Home                         95

  VIII. Confidences                            112

    IX. By the Strength of Love                132

        Afterward                              150



A PAIR OF THEM



CHAPTER I

WHERE THE HOUSES ARE BIG


“It’s a queer kind of a name, though it suits you,” observed the Gray
Gentleman, thoughtfully. “How came you by it?”

Bonny-Gay flashed the questioner a smile, hugged Max closer and replied:

“I was born on a Sunday morning. That’s how.”

“Ah, indeed? But I don’t quite understand.”

“Don’t you? Seems easy. Let’s sit down here by ‘Father George’ and I’ll
explain. If I can.”

The Gray Gentleman was very tall and dignified, yet he had a habit of
doing whatever Bonny-Gay asked him. So he now doubled himself up and
perched on the low curb surrounding the monument, while the little
girl and the big black dog dropped easily down beside him. Then he
leaned his head back against the iron railing and gazed reflectively
into the face of the big bronze lion, just opposite.

Both the child and the man were fond of the wonderful lion, which
seemed a mighty guardian of the beautiful Place, and he, at least, knew
it to be a world-famous work of art. Bonny-Gay loved it as she loved
all animals, alive or sculptured, and with much the same devotion she
gave to Max. The park without either of these four-footed creatures
would have seemed strange indeed to her, for they were her earliest
playmates and remained still her dearest.

“Now you can tell me,” again suggested the Gray Gentleman.

“It was Easter, too. All the people were going to the churches, the
bells were ringing, the organs playing, and everything just beautiful.
Nurse Nance began it, my mother says. ‘For the child that is born on
the Sabbath Day is lucky, and bonny, and wise, and gay.’ But my father
says there isn’t any ‘luck’ and a child like me isn’t ‘wise,’ so they
had to leave them out and I’m only Bonny-Gay. That’s all.”

“A very satisfactory explanation,” said the Gray Gentleman, with one of
his rare smiles, and laying his hand kindly upon the golden curls. “And
now, my dear, one question more. In which of these beautiful houses do
you live?”

As he spoke, the stranger’s glance wandered all about that aristocratic
neighborhood of Mt. Vernon Place, to which he had returned after many
years of absence to make his own home. Since he had gone away all
the small people whom he used to know and love had grown up, and he
had felt quite lost and lonely, even in that familiar scene, till he
had chanced to meet Bonny-Gay, just one week before. Since then, and
her ready adoption of himself as a comrade, he had had no time for
loneliness. She was always out in the charming Square, as much a part
of it as the Washington monument, which the little folks called “Father
George,” or the bronzes, and the smooth lawns. She seemed as bright as
the sunshine and almost as well-beloved, for the other children flocked
about her, the keeper consulted her and the keeper’s dog followed her
like a shadow.

With a toss of her yellow locks she pointed her forefinger westward.

“There, in that corner one, all covered by vines, with places for the
windows cut out, and the chimneys all green, and I think it’s the
prettiest one in the whole place, when it has its summer clothes on.
Don’t you?”

The Gray Gentleman’s glance followed the direction of the pointing
finger.

“Yes. It is a very lovely home and a very big one. I hope you are not
the only child who lives in it.”

“But I am. Why?”

“Why what?”

“Do you hope it?”

“You would be lonely, I should think.”

“Lonely? I? Why--why--I just never have a single minute to myself.
There’s my thirteen dolls, and the parrot, and the two canaries, and
the aquarium, and my pony, and--Oh! dear! you can’t guess. That’s why I
have to come out here--to rest myself.”

“Ah, so! Well, I should judge that you spend the most of your time in
‘resting,’” commented the other. “Whenever I come out you’re always
here.”

Bonny-Gay laughed; so merrily that Max lifted his head and licked her
cheek. That reminded her of something and she asked:

“Have you seen him get his second dinner?”

“Not even his first!”

“You haven’t? How odd!” Bonny-Gay shook out her skirts and proceeded
to enlighten her comrade’s ignorance. She took it for granted, or she
had done so, that he knew as much about things as she herself; but if
not, why, there was a deal to tell. Max’s history first. She began by
declaring:

“He’s the smartest dog in the world. Everybody knows that. He’s lived
in the Place nine years. That’s one year longer than I have. All the
children’s big brothers and sisters have played with him, same’s we do
now. He never lets a tramp come near. He never steps on a flower bed or
lets us. If we forget and go on the grass he barks us off. He gets his
first dinner at our house. When the clocks strike twelve he goes to the
gardener and gets his basket. Then he walks to our back entrance, puts
the basket down, stands up on his hind feet and pushes his nose against
the ’lectric bell. That rings up the cook and--she’s a man just
now--he--she takes the basket and puts in some food. Then Max walks
down that side street, about a square, and sits on the curb to eat it.
‘Just like a beggar,’ the gardener says, ‘’cause he likes to feed his
own dog his own self.’ I would, too, wouldn’t you?”

“If I owned the ‘smartest dog in the whole world’ I presume I should.”

“Max feels ashamed of it, too; don’t you, dear?”

The dog replied by dropping his black head from Bonny-Gay’s shoulder
to the ground and by blinking in a deprecating way from that lowly
position.

“Then, in a few minutes, he comes back to the gardener with the empty
basket and stands and wags his tail as if he were the hungriest dog
that ever was. Then the keeper says: ‘Yes. You may go, Max!’ And off he
trots, away down the other way, to some place where his master lives
and gets a second basket full. That he brings back here, and the man
puts a paper on the ground under the bushes and he eats again. Just
like folks to their own table, that time; don’t you, Max Doggie, smart
doggie!”

The handsome animal shook his wavy fleece and sprang up, ready for a
frolic and evidently aware that he had been the subject of discussion.

“No, not yet, sir. The best thing hasn’t been told. Listen, please,
Mr.----”

The stranger waited a moment, then inquired:

“Mr. what, Bonny-Gay? I wonder if you know my name.”

“Not your truly one, but that doesn’t matter.”

“What do you happen to call me, if you ever speak of me when I’m not
here?”

The little girl hesitated an instant, then frankly answered:

“Why, just the ‘Gray Gentleman.’ ’Cause you are all gray, you see. Your
hair, and your moustache, and your eyes, and your clothes, and your
hat, and your gloves, and--and--things.”

“Exactly. Trust a child to find an appropriate nickname. But I like it,
little one. Go on, about Max and the best thing yet.”

“That splendid dog has--saved--his--master’s life! As true as true!”
cried Bonny-Gay, impressively.

“Indeed! Wonderful! How was it?”

“It was pay-day night and Mr. Weems, that’s his name, had a lot of
money. And some bad men knew it. And they came, do you believe, right
in the middle of that night, and broke a window in Mr. Weems’s house;
and Max heard them and flew--and flew--”

The Gray Gentleman stooped and searched for the dog’s wings.

“Well, ran, then,” laughed Bonny-Gay, “and he drove them all off and
they had revolvers or something and one was shot and a policeman caught
him and Max was shot and the gardener would have been killed--”

“Only he wasn’t,” interrupted somebody, coming from behind them.

So the child paused in her breathless description of a scene she had
often pictured to herself and looked up into the face of the hero of
the affair, himself.

“Why, Mr. Weems! you almost frightened me! and you please tell the
rest.”

But though the gardener smiled upon her he nodded his head gravely.

“Guess it won’t do for me to think about that just now, or any other
of our good times, old Max! Good fellow, fine fellow! Poor old doggie!
It’s going to be as hard on you as on me, I’m afraid.”

By this time Bonny-Gay saw that something was amiss. She half fancied
that there were tears in the keeper’s eyes, and she always afterward
declared that there were tears in his voice. As for Max, that sagacious
animal sank suddenly upon his haunches, looked sternly into his
master’s face, and demanded by his earnest, startled expression to know
what was wrong. Something was. He knew that, even more positively than
did Bonny-Gay.

“It’s an outrageous law. There ought to be exceptions to it. All
dogs--Well, there’s no other dog like Max. Ah! hum. Old doggie!”

The Gray Gentleman was tempted to ask questions, but the little girl
was sure to do that; so he waited. In a few minutes she had gotten the
whole sad story from her old friend, the gardener, and her sunny head
had gone down upon the dog’s black one in a paroxysm of grief.

A moment later it was lifted defiantly.

“But he shan’t. He shall not! Nobody shall ever, ever take our Max
away! Why--why--it wouldn’t be the Place without him! Why--why--the
children--Oh! Nettie! oh! Tom!” and catching sight of a group of
playmates Bonny-Gay darted toward them, calling as she ran: “They’re
going to take him away! They’re going to take him away!”

Tom planted his feet wide apart upon the smooth path and obstructed her
advance.

“Take who away, Bonny-Gay? Where to? When?”

“Max! Our Max! He can never come here any more. This is his last day in
our park--his very last!” and the child flung herself headlong upon the
shaven grass, for once regardless of rules.

Not so regardless was Max, the trusty. It didn’t matter to him that
this was Bonny-Gay, his best-loved playmate, or that her frantic
sorrow was all on his account. What he saw was his duty and he did it,
instantly. From a distance the Gray Gentleman watched the dog race
toward the prostrate little girl and shake her short skirts vigorously,
loosing them now and then to bark at her with equal vigor.

Presently she sprang up and to the footpath, and again indulged in a
wild embrace of the faithful canine. Indeed, he was at once the center
of an ever-increasing company of small people, who seemed to vie with
each other in attempts to hug his breath away and to outdo everybody in
the way of fierce indignation. Finally, this assembly resolved itself
into an advancing army, and with Tom and Bonny-Gay as leaders--each
tightly holding to one of the dog’s soft ears, as they marched him
between them--they returned to the spot where the lion calmly awaited
them, and Tom announced their decision:

“We won’t ever let him go. There’s no need for you nor the law-men
nor nobody to interfere. This dog belongs to this park; and this
park belongs to us children; and if anybody tries to--tries
to--to--do--things--he won’t never be let! So there! And if he is,
we’ll--we’ll augernize; and we’ll get every boy and girl in all the
streets around to come, too; and we’ll all go march to where the
law-men live; and we won’t never, never leave go talking at them till
they take it all back. ’Cause Max isn’t going to be took. That’s the
fact, Mr. Weems, and you can just tell them so.”

“Yes,” cried Nettie, “and my big brother goes to the law school and
he’ll suesan them. And my big sister’s friends will help; and if he
does have to, I’ll never, never--NEVER--play in this hateful old park
ever again. I will not!”

“Whew!” whistled the Gray Gentleman, softly. “This looks serious. A
children’s crusade, indeed. Well, that should be irresistible.” And
this old lover of all little people looked admiringly over the group of
flushed and indignant faces; and at the noble animal which was the very
center of it, and whose silent protest was the most eloquent of all.
His own heart echoed their indignation and he quietly resolved to make
an effort on their and Max’s behalf.

But the dire, unspoken threats of the children, and the silent
resolution of the Gray Gentleman, were useless. For when upon the next
morning the sun rose over the pleasant Place, and the monument and the
lion began to cast their shadows earthward, there was no Max to gambol
at their feet, and over the heart of Bonny-Gay had fallen her first
real grief.

She was out early, to see if the dreadful thing were true; and the Gray
Gentleman met her and scarcely knew her--without the smiles.

When he did recognize her he said, hopefully:

“We’ll trust it’s all for the best, my dear. Besides, you will now have
more time for the thirteen dolls, and the parrot, and the two canaries,
and--”

“But they--they aren’t Max! He was the only! We loved him so and now
he’ll just be wasted on strangers! Oh! it’s too bad, too bad!”

The Gray Gentleman clasped the little hand in sympathy.

“I am very sorry for your sorrow, Bonny-Gay, and yet I can’t believe
that Max is ‘wasted.’ No good thing ever is. Besides that, I have a
plan in my head. With your parents’ permission, I am going to take you
this day to visit your twin sister.”

“My--twin--sister! Why there isn’t any. Don’t you remember? I told you.
I’m the only, only one. There never was any other.”

“Nevertheless, I am obliged to contradict you. Very rude, I know, and
I shouldn’t do so, if I were not so positive of what I claim. I hope
you’ll love her and I think you will. After breakfast I’ll see you
again. Good morning.”

With that he walked briskly away and Bonny-Gay saw him enter the big
gray house in the middle of the Place. The house where the wooden
shutters had always been up, ever since she could remember, until just
this spring, when a few of the windows had been uncovered to let the
sunlight in.

“My--twin--sister! How queer that is!” mused the watching child.



CHAPTER II

WHERE THE HOUSES ARE SMALL


Mary Jane dropped her crutches on the floor and readjusted the baby. He
had a most trying habit of not staying “put,” and sometimes the other
children slapped him. Mary Jane never did that. She merely set him up
again, gave his cheek a pat or a kiss, and went on about her business.

For, indeed, she was almost the very busiest small body in the world.
Besides her own mother’s five other children there were the neighbors’
broods, big and little, with never a soul to mind them save their
self-constituted nurse.

That very morning Mrs. Bump had paused in her washing to look up and
exclaim:

“I never did see how the little things do take to her! She can do just
wonders with them, that she can; and I reckon it was about the best
thing ever happened to her, that falling out the top window, like she
did. Seemed to knock all the selfishness out of her. Maybe it’s _that_
settled in her poor body. Yes, maybe it’s that, dear heart. Anyhow, her
inside’s all right. The rightest there ever was. If this world was just
full of Mary Janes, what a grand place it would be!”

Then, after a regretful sigh for this beatific state of things, the
mother thrust her strong arms again into the suds, with a splash and a
rub-a-dub-dub which told plainly enough from whom Mary Jane inherited
her energy.

Just then Mrs. Stebbins thrust her head out of the window, next door,
to remark:

“There was fifty-four of them gardens given out. My boy’s goin’ to
raise cabbages.”

“You don’t say! Now, ain’t that fine? I wish I had a son to get one,
but all my boys is girls, save the baby, and he don’t count. Though
he’ll grow, won’t he, mother’s lamb? He’ll grow just as fast as he
can and get a playground garden, good’s the next one, so he will, the
precious!” chirruped Mrs. Bump, to the year-old heir of the house.

“Gah, gah!” cooed the baby; and emphasized his reply by losing his
balance against the wall and rolling over on his face. He was too fat
and too phlegmatic to right himself, so Mary Jane hopped back across
the narrow room and set him up again, laughing as if this were the
funniest thing she had ever seen.

“Pshaw, daughter! If I was you and you was me, I’d leave him lie that
way a spell. He don’t ’pear to have the sense the rest of you had, no
he don’t, the sweet! Maybe that’s because he’s a boy. But even a boy
might learn something after a while, if he was let. Only you’re so
right on hand all the time he expects you to just about breathe for
him, seems.”

“Now, mother, now! And you know he’s the biggest, roundest--”

“Pudding-headedest!” growled a masculine voice, at the narrow doorway.

Mrs. Bump wheeled round so sharply that her rubbing-board fell out of
the tub and scared the baby, who promptly began to scream.

“Why father! You home? It can’t be dinner-time, yet. What’s happened?
Anything wrong?”

“Is anything ever right?” demanded the man, sulkily.

“Plenty of things,” answered the wife, cheerfully, though her heart
sank.

“One of the right things is my getting kicked out, I s’pose.”

“Father! you don’t mean it! No.”

“I’m not much of a joker, am I?”

“No. That you’re not. But tell me, man.”

With a quiver in the usually cheerful voice, Mrs. Bump wiped the suds
from her arms and went to her husband. Laying her hand kindly upon
his shoulder she demanded, as was her right, to know the facts of the
disaster that had befallen them.

“’Twon’t take long to tell, woman. The company’s cuttin’ down expenses
and I was one of the expenses lopped off. That’s all.”

“Is that all--_all_, William Bump?”

The question was sternly put and the man cowered before it.

“It’s the truth, any way. No matter how it happened, here I am and no
work.” With that he dropped his arms upon the window sill and his face
upon his arms, and lapsed into a sullen silence.

Mrs. Bump caught her breath, whisked away a tear that had crept into
her eye, and returned to her tub. Mary Jane ceased staring at her
parents, tipped the baby’s home-made go-cart on end, rolled him into
it, righted the awkward vehicle, threw its leather strap over her
shoulders, called to the children: “Come!” and hopped away upon her
crutches.

Though she paused, for just one second, beside her father and imprinted
a hasty kiss upon the back of his bent head. A kiss so light it seemed
he could scarcely have felt it, though it was quite sufficient to
thrill the man’s soul with an added sense of regret and degradation.

“We’re off to the park, mother, and I’ve taken a loaf with me!” she
called backward, as she clicked out of sight.

Again the woman idled for a moment, looking through the open doorway
toward the small, misshapen figure of her eldest child as it swung
swiftly forward upon its “wooden feet.” The baby’s soap-box wagon
rattled and bumped along behind, bouncing his plump body about, and
drawn by Mary Jane in the only manner possible to her--with a strap
across her chest. She needed both her hands just then to support
herself upon her crutches; for her lower limbs were useless and swung
heavily between these crutches--a leaden weight from which she never
could be free.

Even so, there were few who could travel as rapidly as Mary Jane and
this morning she was especially eager to get on. Because down at the
pretty park upon which her own dingy street terminated, the children’s
“Playgrounds” had been opened for the summer and the small gardens
given out. She was anxious to see the planting and seed-sowing, by the
tiny farmers of this free kindergarten, and down in her heart was a
faint hope that even to her, a girl, might a bit of land be assigned;
where she, too, could raise some of the wonderful vegetables which
would be her very own when the autumn came and the small crops were
harvested.

The hope was so deep and so intense, that she had to stop, turn about,
shake up the baby and tell him about it.

“You see, Baby Bump, they don’t give ’em out to just girls. Only I’m
not a regular plain kind of girl, I’m a crippley sort. That might make
a difference. Though there’s Hattie Moran, she’s lame, too. Not very
lame, Baby, only a little lame. She doesn’t have to have crutches, she
just goes hoppety-pat, hoppety-pat, easy like. Sophia Guttmacher,
she’s a hunchback, same’s me, course, but she can walk. Besides that
she doesn’t want a garden and I do. As for Ernest Knabe, his foot’s
just twisted and that’s all. Then, too, he’s a boy. He could have one
if he wanted. He’d have to dig one, I guess, if it wasn’t for his foot.
Oh! Baby dear. Do you s’pose I might--I might, maybe, get one?”

“Goo, goo,” murmured the infant, encouragingly, and vainly trying to
bring his own foot within reach of his mouth.

“Oh! you sweet! You can’t do that, you know. You’re far too fat. And I
declare, all the other children have gone on while I’ve stood here just
talking to you. That won’t do, sir, much as I love you. Sit up, now,
there’s sister’s little man, and I’ll hurry up.”

But just then, Baby made a final, desperate effort to taste his toes,
lost his balance, and rolled forward out of his box, as a ball might
have done.

Mary Jane, burst into a peal of laughter which recalled the other
children to the spot and she explained between breaths:

“The cute little fellow was trying to make ‘huckleberry-bread’; I do
believe he was, the darling! Well, he’s so round it doesn’t matter
which way he tumbles, and he’s so soft nothing ever hurts him. Does it,
precious?”

They all lent a hand in setting the infant right again. Several holding
the soap-box level, a couple supporting Mary Jane without her crutches
which left her arms free to lift and replace the dislodged baby. When
things were once more in order the caravan started onward afresh.

By this time the small, dingy houses bordering the narrow unpaved
street had given place to open lots and weedy patches, where the sun
lay warmly and a fresh breeze blew. To the right of the open space was
a railway embankment, and on the left there was the cling-clanging of
a mighty steel structure, in process of building. The railway and the
monster “sheds” belonged to the same company for which William Bump had
toiled--when he felt inclined--and by which he had just been discharged.

Mary Jane had been accustomed to look for him, either along the rails,
with the gang that seemed always to be replacing old “ties” by new
ones; or else serving the skilled workmen, who hammered, hammered, all
day long upon the great metal girders. As she now caught the echo of
these strokes a pang shot through her loving heart and for a moment her
sunny face clouded. She need look no more, to either right or left, for
the blue-shirted figure, which had been wont to wave a salutation to
her as she passed with her brood of nurselings.

Fortunately, the baby was on hand to banish the cloud, which he
promptly did in his accustomed manner--with a slight variation. For
his small charioteer had not observed a big stone in the path, though
the loose ricketty wheel of the wagon found and struck it squarely.
This raised the soap-box in front and its occupant performed a backward
somersault.

“Oh! my sake! Mary Jane--Mary Jane!” shrieked several small voices in
wild reproach.

Mary Jane picked up the little one, who smiled, unhurt; and the others
helped her shake him back to a normal condition and pose. After which,
the park lying just before them, between the railway and the buildings,
they scurried into it, and over the slope, and around to a sunny spot
where scores of other little people were hard at work or play.

“Hi! Mary Jane! Oh, Mary Jane!” shouted one and another; and the
kind-faced “teachers” who guided the wee ones, also nodded their
friendly welcome. For well they knew that there was no “assistant”
in the whole city who could be as useful to them as this same humble
little girl from Dingy street.

“Thirteen, Mary Jane! I’m thirteen! Come see. Cucumbers!” cried
Bobby Saunders, dragging her forward so eagerly that the soap-box
strap slipped up across her throat and choked her. But she quickly
released herself now from her burden, certain that in the midst of so
many friends no harm could befall her darling; and once freed from
this incubus, she outstripped Bobby in reaching the long rows of
well-prepared garden plots, wherein as yet was never a sign of any
growing thing.

But oh! how soft and rich and brown the earth did look! How sweet
the fragrance of it in Mary Jane’s nature-loving nostrils! And how,
for once, she longed to be a boy! As straight-limbed, as strong,
as unhindered at her toil, as any of these happy little lads who
clustered about, each interrupting his neighbor in his eagerness for
her sympathy and interest.

“Fifty-one, Mary Jane!” cried Joe Stebbins, pointing proudly to the
numbered stick at the foot of his plot. “Cabbages--cabbages! The
gardener’s bringing a box of plants this minute. I’ll give you one to
bile when they get growed. Like that?”

“Prime!” answered the girl, her own face aglow.

“But I’m limas, Mary Jane. I’m Seven. Away over here. I’ve sowed ’em
and to-morrer I’ll hoe ’em, I guess.”

“And I guess I wouldn’t till they sprout,” laughed she hopping along,
at perilous speed, to inspect number seven.

“Don’t go so fast, Mary Jane! I can’t keep up with you. See. I’m right
up front--number Three. I’m tomatuses, I am. Like ’em?” demanded Ned
Smith, a seven-year-old farmer.

“I’m potatoes. They’re the best for your money,” observed Jimmy
O’Brien. “We’ll roast some in the ashes, bime-by. Does the baby like
’tatoes?”

“Don’t he? You just ought to see him eat them--when we have them,” she
added, cautiously.

“Oh! you’ll have ’em, plenty. When I dig my crop. Why, I s’pose
there’ll be enough in my ‘farm’ to keep your folks and mine all winter;
and I might have some to sell on the street,” observed Jimmy, casting a
speculative glance upon the diminutive plot of ground over which he was
now master.

“Might you; ain’t that splendid!” commented Mary Jane, delightedly.
“Why, if you could give us all our potatoes, mother could easy wash for
the rent and the bread and things. My sake! I ’most forgot the baby.
Where’s he at? Can you see him?”

“He’s right in the middle of the sand-heap and the teacher has give
him a little shovel. Say, what you bring him for? this ain’t no
day-nursery, this ain’t. It’s a playground farm and one-year-olds don’t
belong.”

“Maybe they don’t, but the baby belongs. That is if I do,” said the
sister stoutly; “maybe you’ll say next I don’t.”

“No, I shan’t say that. Why, what could we do without you? And say,
Mary Jane.”

“Well, say it quick. The girls are calling me to swing on the Maypole.
’Cause that’s one thing I can do without my crutches.”

“Well, in a minute. But, say. Sometimes I used to let you hoe in my
garden, last summer. Remember?”

“Course. I helped you a lot.”

“Don’t know about that. But you might this year. That is, maybe. If we
went partners, you see; and if the teacher didn’t get on to it; and if
there was a medal give and you let me have it, ’cause I’m the one has
the farm, course. What you say?”

“I say we couldn’t do such a thing without the teacher knowing and I
wouldn’t if we could. And you’ll never get a medal, you’re too lazy.
But you’re real gen’rous, too, and I’ll be so glad to help. Oh! I love
it! I just feel’s if I could put my face right down on that crumbly
ground and go to sleep. It’s so dear.”

“Huh! If you did I s’pose you’d get earwigs in your ears and--and
angleworms, and--things. Maybe snakes. But I’ll let you,” concluded
Jimmy, graciously.

Then they turned around and there was--what seemed to the beholders, a
veritable small angel!

Mary Jane was so startled she dropped her crutches and, for an instant,
quite forgot all about the baby. The apparition was clothed in white,
so soft and fine and transparent that it seemed to enwrap her as a
cloud; and above the cloud rose a face so lovely and so winning that it
made Mary Jane’s heart almost stand still in ecstasy.



CHAPTER III

HOW THE PAIR MET


But when things cleared a little, it was only Bonny-Gay! and the Gray
Gentleman was supporting Mary Jane without her crutches--though she
didn’t realize that, at first. Afterward she was able to look up into
his face and smile a welcome, because he and she were already quite
close friends.

What had happened was this: the Gray Gentleman had sent his elderly
black “boy” with a note to the vine-covered house in Mt. Vernon Place
and had requested “the favor of Miss Beulah’s company upon a drive,
that morning. He intended to visit one of the ‘Playgrounds’ in the
south-western part of the city, and he felt that the little girl whose
society he so greatly enjoyed would find much to interest her, if she
might be with him.”

To this he had signed a name which was quite powerful enough to secure
Mrs. McClure’s instant and delighted assent; and she had at once
returned a very graceful note of acceptance by the “boy.”

Then at ten o’clock precisely, the Gray Gentleman’s carriage had
gone around for “Miss McClure,” and she had been lifted into it and
to a seat beside her friend. A half-hour’s drive followed; through
streets and avenues which Bonny-Gay had never seen before, and which
continually grew narrower and more crowded. Even the houses seemed to
shrink in size, and the little girl had finally exclaimed:

“Why, it’s like the buildings were so little that they just squeeze the
folks out of them, upon the steps and through the windows. I never,
never saw! Will they get to be just playhouses, by-and-by?”

“No, Bonny-Gay, I’m sure you never did. Yet it’s the same city in which
is your own big home, and they are just the same sort of human beings
as you and I.”

“Are they? It doesn’t--doesn’t just seem so, does it? And why do they
all stare at us like that?”

“Because we do at them, maybe; and it’s not a common thing to see
carriages with liveried attendants pass this way. I suppose you, in
your dainty clothes, are as much a ‘show’ to them as they to you in
their coarse attire, or rags.”

Bonny-Gay looked thoughtfully at her frock. She would have preferred to
wear a simpler one; and a comfortable “Tam” instead of the feathered
hat which adorned her sunny head. But her mother had decided otherwise;
since the Gray Gentleman had done her the honor of that morning it was
but courtesy to show appreciation of it by a good appearance.

After a moment she looked up and observed:

“It’s the queerest thing! I feel as if I ought to get out and walk; and
as if I should give this hat to that little girl who hasn’t any.”

The Gray Gentleman smiled.

“That would be going to the other extreme, my dear, and would help
neither you nor them. Besides, this is not all we came to see, and here
we are!”

Then the street had suddenly ended and the carriage had turned in at
a big gate, to roll almost silently onward till it stopped before a
“Mansion,” with ancient wooden shutters and a clematis-draped porch.
This was natural and quite suggestive to Bonny-Gay of her own beloved
Druid Hill, wherein she was accustomed to take her stately drives in
her father’s own carriage; and when she heard the shouts and laughter
of children from the tree-hidden “Playgrounds,” her spirits rose to the
normal again and she laughed in return.

Dancing along beside him, with her hand in his, she had demanded
eagerly:

“Is it here I am to see my ‘twin sister?’ Oh! I want to find
her--quick, quick!”

“Yes, it is here, and this is--she;” answered her guide, as they paused
behind Jimmy and Mary Jane, toward whom he silently nodded.

This was how the pair met; and while Mary Jane saw what she fancied was
an “angel” that which Bonny-Gay saw was a girl of her own age, with
short, limp legs, very long arms, and a crooked back. But the dark head
above the poor humped shoulders was as shapely as the “angel’s” own;
the dark eyes as beautiful as the blue ones; and from the wide, merry
mouth flashed a smile quite as radiant and winning.

As soon as she saw the smile Bonny-Gay began to understand what the
Gray Gentleman had meant, and she telegraphed him a glance that said
she did. Then she laughed and held out her two hands to Mary Jane.

“I guess you’re the girl I’ve come to see: my ‘twin sister!’ How-de-do?”

“How-de-do?” echoed Mary Jane, too astonished to say more.

The Gray Gentleman quietly slipped her crutches under the cripple’s
arms, and seizing Jimmy’s hand walked swiftly away.

Both girls looked after him with regret but he neither glanced back nor
expected them to follow. Then they regarded each other with curiosity,
till Mary Jane remembered she was the hostess.

“Let’s sit down,” she said pointing to the grass.

Bonny-Gay hesitated, and, seeing this, the other whisked off her apron
and spread it for her guest. “You might spoil your dress, that’s so.
Salt and lemon juice’ll take out grass-stain. My mother uses that when
there’s spots on the ‘wash.’”

“Does she? I wasn’t thinking of my frock, though, but of _that_;”
answered the visitor, pointing to a “Keep Off” sign behind them.

“Oh! that? Nobody minds that. You see, this is _our_ park now. We play
where we choose, only on the terraces and slopey places. You’d better
use my apron though, it’s such a splendid dress. Your mother would feel
bad if you smirched it.”

“I suppose she would. She’s very particular.”

“So’s mine. They say she’s the very neatest woman in Dingy street. The
neighbors say it.”

“And our cook says mine is the ‘fussiest’ one in the Place. That might
be some of the ‘sister’ part, mightn’t it?”

“It might. Only, course, he’s just fooling.”

“I don’t believe the Gray Gentleman ever fools. He means things. He’s
made us children think a lot. More’n we ever did before. And he says
things mean things, too, every single one. Even ‘Father George,’ and
the lion, and Max, and--and everything.”

After this exhausting speech Bonny-Gay removed her hat and laid it upon
the grass, where Mary Jane regarded it admiringly. It was so pretty
she would have liked to touch it, just once. The hat’s owner saw the
admiration, and remarked:

“Put it on, Mary Jane. See if it will fit you.”

“Oh! I daren’t!” gasped the other. “I might hurt it.”

Bonny-Gay lifted the hat and placed it upon the cripple’s dark head,
which was held perfectly motionless, while the face beneath the brim
took on an expression of bewildered happiness.

“My! ain’t it lovely! I should think you’d want to wear it all the
time!”

“I don’t, then. I like my ‘Tam’ better, and nothing best of all. You
can wear it as long as I stay, if you wish.”

“That’s good of you. Some of the other girls wouldn’t even let me touch
their best hats, they wouldn’t.”

“Must be selfish things, then. How old are you, Mary Jane?”

“How’d you know my name? and what’s yours?”

Bonny-Gay stated it and explained:

“I heard that Jimmy boy call you. How old did you say?”

“I didn’t say, but I’m eight, going on nine.”

“Why, so am I. I’m a ‘Sunday’s bairn’.”

“And I!” cried Mary Jane, breathlessly.

After that confidences were swift; and, presently, each little girl
knew all about the other; till, in one pause for breath, the cripple
suddenly remembered the baby. Then she caught up her crutches, swung
herself upon them, and started off in pursuit of him.

Bonny-Gay watched her disappear in the midst of the crowd of children,
who had all shyly held aloof from herself, saw how they clung about her
and how some of the tiniest ones held up their faces to be kissed. She
saw her stoop to tie the ragged shoe of one and button the frock of
another; saw her pause to listen to the complaint of a sobbing lad and
smartly box the ears of his tormentor. Then another glimmering of the
Gray Gentleman’s meaning, when he called these two “sisters,” came into
Bonny-Gay’s mind.

“She has to take care of the children down here just as I do in our
park. I suppose we two are the only ones have time to bother, but how
can she do it! Her face is so pretty--prettier, even, than Nettie’s,
but I dare not look at the rest of her. I just dare not. Poor little
girl, how she must ache! Supposing I was that way. My arms stretched
way down there, and my feet shortened way up here, and my back all
scrouged up so! Oh! poor, poor Mary Jane! It hurts me just to make
believe and she has it all the time. But here she comes back and I
mustn’t let her see I notice her looks. I mustn’t, for anything. It’s
bad enough to have her body hurt, I mustn’t hurt her feelings, too.”

However, there was no sign of suffering about the little cripple as
she returned to the side of her guest, dragging the soap-box wagon
behind her and recklessly rolling the baby about in it, so eager was
her advance. There were tears in Bonny-Gay’s eyes for a moment, though,
till she caught sight of the baby and heard Mary Jane exclaim:

“Did you ever see such a sight? What do you s’pose mother will say?
The teacher set him in the sand-box and somebody gave him a stick of
’lasses candy, and he’s messed from head to foot. But isn’t he a dear?”
and dropping to the ground she caught the little one to her breast and
covered his sandy, bedaubed countenance with adoring kisses.

“He’s the funniest thing I ever saw!” laughed Bonny-Gay, so merrily
that the Gray Gentleman drew near to join in the fun. After him trailed
an army of young “farmers” and in another moment the visitor had ceased
to be a stranger to anybody there.

“Let’s see-saw!” cried Joe Stebbins, seizing her hand and drawing her
to the playground. Then somebody swung Mary Jane and the baby upon the
beam beside her, some other girls took the opposite end, and they all
went tilting up and down, up and down, in the most exciting manner
possible. Then there was the Maypole, furnished with ropes instead of
ribbons, from the ends of which they hung and swung, around and around,
till they dropped off for sheer weariness. And here Bonny-Gay was proud
to see that Mary Jane could beat the whole company. Her arms were so
long and so strong, they could cling and outswing all the others; and
when she had held to her rope until she was the very last one left her
laughter rang out in a way that was good to hear.

“Seems to me I never heard so much laughing in all my life!” exclaimed
Bonny-Gay to the Gray Gentleman when, tired out with fun, she nestled
beside him as he rested on a bench.

“Yes, it’s a fine thing, a fine thing. And you see that it doesn’t take
big houses or rich clothes to make happiness. All these new friends of
yours belong to those tiny homes we passed on our way down.”

“They do! Even Mary Jane, my sister?”

“Even in an humbler. Dingy street is just what its name implies. But
we’ll drive that way back and what do you say to giving Mary Jane a
ride thus far?”

“Oh! I’d love it! She’s so jolly and friendly and seems never to think
of her--her poor back and--things.”

“You’ll like her better and better--if you should ever meet again.
She won my heart the first time I saw her, over a month ago. I met
her dragging home a basket of her mother’s laundry work, in that same
soap-box wagon she utilizes for the baby. The family chariot it seems
to be. I was taking a stroll this way, quite by myself, and thinking of
other things than where I was walking when I stumbled and my hat flew
off. Then I heard a rattle and squeak of rusty small wheels, and there
was Mary Jane hopping up to me on her ‘wooden feet’ and holding out my
hat, with the most sympathetic smile in the world. ‘Here it is, Mister,
and I do hope it isn’t hurt; nor you either,’ said she; and in just
that one glimpse I had of her I saw how sweet and brave and helpful she
was. So I’ve been proud to call her my friend ever since.”

Just then arose a cry so sudden and boisterous it could have been
uttered by no lips except the baby’s. For a teacher had tapped a bell,
and somebody had cried ‘Luncheon!’ and he knew what that meant as well
as anyone.

So Mary Jane swung round to where he lay upon his back in the sunshine
and set him up against a rock, and thrust a piece of the loaf she had
brought into his chubby fists, and cocked her head admiringly while she
cried out:

“Did anybody ever see so cute a child as he!”

Then she remembered the visitors and with the truest hospitality
proffered them the broken loaf.

“I ought to have given it to you the first, I know that, but he’d have
yelled constant if I hadn’t tended him. It’s wonderful, I think, how
he knows that bell!”

“Wonderful!” echoed the Gray Gentleman, as he bowed and gravely broke a
tiny portion from the small stale loaf.

Bonny-Gay was going to decline, but when she saw the Gray Gentleman’s
action, she checked her “No, I thank you” unspoken and also accepted
a crumbly crust. After which Mary Jane distributed several other bits
among some clamorous charges and finally sat down with the last morsel
to enjoy that herself in their presence.

“I think dinner never tastes so good as it does out-doors here, in our
park,” she remarked with a sigh of satisfaction.

“Dinner!” cried Bonny-Gay and looked into the Gray Gentleman’s face.
But from something she saw there she was warned to say no more; and
she made a brave effort to swallow her own crust without letting her
entertainer see how distasteful a matter it was.

After this the Gray Gentleman saw a cloud arising and though he did not
fear a shower for himself he was anxious that Bonny-Gay should take no
harm from her unusual outing. So he called the coachman to bring up
the carriage and had Mary Jane and the baby lifted in. Then Bonny-Gay
sprang after them, and the master himself made his adieux to the
teachers and followed, watched by the admiring, maybe envious, glances
of many bright eyes.

However, one carriage, no matter how capacious, cannot hold a whole
kindergarten, and neither could it carry the pleasant “Playgrounds”
away; so if there was any envy it did not last long. Which was a good
thing, too, seeing what happened so soon afterward.

The landau had not progressed far toward Dingy street and Mary Jane
was still wearing the feather-trimmed hat, which her new friend had
persuaded her to put on just to surprise Mrs. Bump, when there came a
rush, a bark, a series of shrieks, and the high-spirited horses were
off at a mad gallop; which grew wilder and wilder, and soon passed
quite beyond control of coachman or even the Gray Gentleman, who had
promptly seized the reins as they fell from the driver’s hands, but
had been powerless to do more than retain them in his tightly clutched
fingers.

It seemed an age that the frantic beasts sped onward, following their
own will, before the crash came and they tore themselves free, leaving
the hindering vehicle to go to ruin against the great post, where
it struck. But it was, in reality, not more than half a moment, and
when the reins were wrenched from his grasp the Gray Gentleman looked
anxiously about him to learn if anyone was hurt.

Mary Jane and the baby were on the floor of the carriage, safe and
sound. The terrified footman was clinging to his seat behind; the
coachman had either leaped or been thrown out, but had landed upon his
feet; but where was Bonny-Gay?

A white, motionless little figure lay face downward in the dust, a rod
away, and over this bent a black, shaggy dog, whining and moaning in a
way that was almost human.

“Max! Max! Was it you, was it you! Oh! wretched animal, what have you
done!”

Max it was. But, at the sight of his silent playmate and the altered
sound of a familiar voice, a cowed, unhappy Max; who crouched and slunk
away as the Gray Gentleman lifted from the roadway the limp figure of
his own beloved Bonny-Gay.



CHAPTER IV

MAX REAPPEARS


There was neither drug store nor doctor’s office near, and the Gray
Gentleman’s instant decision was to carry Bonny-Gay to Mrs. Bump’s
house. Strong man though he was he felt almost faint with anxiety as he
sprang from the carriage and without losing an instant of time lifted
out Mary Jane and the baby. Then he dropped her crutches beside her and
ran to the child in the roadway.

Five minutes later, Bonny-Gay was lying on Mrs. Bump’s bed, and
the Gray Gentleman had gone away in pursuit of aid, leaving a last
injunction behind him as he disappeared:

“Do everything you can for her, I beg, but keep useless people out.”

Thus it was that, though curious faces peered in at the window, no
person save Mrs. Stebbins crossed the threshold of their neighbor’s
house, and the two women were left unhindered to minister to the
injured child as best they knew how. They were not able, indeed, to
restore the little girl to consciousness; but they had cleared the
soil of the street from her face and clothing and had placed the inert
figure in an easy posture, long before there was heard the rattle and
dash of another approaching vehicle, and a doctor’s phaeton drew up at
the door.

The surgeon’s examination showed that one of the child’s legs was
broken but this did not trouble him half so much as her continued
unconsciousness. But he worked diligently to restore her and to prepare
the injured limb for removal to her own home.

From a low seat in the corner and hugging the baby tight, to keep him
quiet, Mary Jane watched the little sufferer upon her mother’s bed,
with wide, dry eyes and heaving breast.

“Oh! if I could only take it for her!” she thought, helplessly. “It
wouldn’t have mattered to anybody like me, ’cause I’m all crooked
anyhow; but her! She was that straight and beautiful--my sake! It
mustn’t be--it mustn’t! And she didn’t mind. She let me wear her hat,
me. Well, that didn’t get hurt, any way. It just tumbled off all safe.
I had to wear it home, else I couldn’t have dragged the baby, and I
don’t know not a thing whatever became of his wagon. Never mind that,
though. If she only would open her eyes, just once, just once!”

But they had not opened even when, a half-hour later, another carriage
paused before the Bumps’ tenement, and a tall, pale lady descended,
trembling so that she had almost to be carried by the Gray Gentleman
who supported her.

This was Mrs. McClure and she had just been stepping into her own
vehicle for a morning’s shopping when he reached her door, bringing
his unhappy message. So there was no time lost in securing a vehicle
and the mother was soon at her child’s bedside. At any other hour she
might have shrunk from entering so poor a place but at that moment she
had, for once, forgotten her own high station and thought only of her
darling.

One glimpse of the lovely face, so still and unresponsive, banished the
mother’s last vestige of strength and she would have fallen where she
stood, had not Mrs. Bump slipped an arm about her and motioned Mrs.
Stebbins to bring the one sound chair the room could boast. The doctor
held a glass of water to her lips and the faintness passed.

“Is--she--alive?”

“Yes. She is still alive,” answered the physician, gravely, and Mrs.
McClure turned faint again.

“Of course, she’s alive, lady; and what’s more it won’t be long, I
reckon, before she’ll be asking a lot of questions all about what’s
happened her. Oh! yes indeed. I’ve seen ’em a sight worst than she is,
and up and around again as lively as crickets. Why, there’s my Mary
Jane--”

But the cripple held up a warning finger and Mrs. Bump ceased speaking.
Though not her helpful ministrations; for with a whisk to the stove she
had seized a coarse brown teapot and poured from it a hot draught into
a cup that had no handle, indeed, yet could serve as well as another to
refresh an exhausted creature.

“Here, honey, just sip this. Strong, I know, and not the finest, but
’twill set you up, quick. I know. There, there.”

Moved by the same instinct which had made Bonny-Gay accept her crust
dinner, Mrs. McClure drank the scalding liquid and did, indeed, revive
under it. Then the doctor and the Gray Gentleman lifted the injured
child and placed her gently upon the carriage seat.

Seeing which, the mother hastily rose and followed, supported still,
though unnoticed on her part, by the strong arms of the other mother
whose sympathetic tears were now silently flowing; even while her
cheery voice reiterated, much to the surgeon’s disgust:

“Never you fear, dear lady. She’ll be as right as a trivet. Aye,
indeed; she’ll be talking to you before you get to your own house. Yes,
indeed. We poor folks see many an accident and mostly they don’t amount
to much; even my Mary Jane--”

But there was Mary Jane herself just as the carriage door was closing,
thrusting something white and feather-trimmed into the pale lady’s lap.

“Her hat, lady. Bonny-Gay’s best hat!”

Mrs. McClure was as kind hearted as most, yet at that moment she was
already unstrung, and the glimpse she caught of poor Mary Jane’s
deformity shocked her afresh. Without intending it she did shrink
away from contact with so “repulsive” a child and Mrs. Bump saw
the movement. Her own face hardened and she withdrew her arm from
supporting the stranger to clasp it about her own child.

But Mary Jane saw nothing, save that Bonny-Gay was being carried away
without her beautiful headgear, and again she thrust it eagerly forward.

“Her hat! Her lovely hat! She mustn’t go without her Sunday hat!”

It was the sweetest, most sympathetic of voices and almost startling to
the rich woman, coming as it did from such a source. It made her take
a second look at the cripple and this time, fortunately, the glance
rested upon the child’s fine, spiritual face. An instant regret for
the repugnance she had first felt shot through Mrs. McClure’s mind and
leaning from the carriage window she dropped the hat upon Mary Jane’s
dark head.

“Keep it, little girl, as a gift from Bonny-Gay. It will delight her
that you should have it. Quick now, coachman. Swift and careful!”

Then they were all gone and Mary Jane, bedecked in her unusual finery,
stood leaning upon her crutches, crying as if her heart would break.
Her mother glanced at her hastily but thought it best to let “her
have her cry out. She cries so seldom it ought to do her good,” she
reflected. Besides, there was the baby rolling on the floor, in
imminent danger from a wash-boiler full of steaming water; and a whole
hour wasted from her own exacting labors.

Presently, the hunchback felt something cold and wet touch her
down-hanging hand and dashed the tears from her eyes to see what it
might be. There sat a great black dog beside her, so close that he
almost forced her crutch away. His eyes were fixed upon her face in a
mute appeal for sympathy, and his whole bearing showed as much sorrow
as her tears had done. Her first impulse was to shrink away from him,
even to strike at him with the crutch, as she indignantly exclaimed:

“You’re the very dog did it! You jumped into the wagon and scared the
horses. If it hadn’t been for you she wouldn’t have been hurt. Go ’way!
Go away off out of sight! You horrid, ugly, mean old dog!”

Mary Jane’s vehemence surprised even herself and she shook her head so
vigorously that the feather-trimmed hat fell off into the dust.

Then was a transformation. Max--it was, indeed he!--had already
dropped flat upon his stomach and crouched thus, whining and moaning
in a manner that betokened such suffering that it quickly conquered
the cripple’s anger; and now, as the hat fell right before his nose,
he began to smell of it and lick it with the most extravagant joy. A
moment later he had sprung up, caught the hat in his teeth, and was
gambolling all around and around Mary Jane, as if he were the very
happiest dog in the world.

“My sake! How you act! And oh--oh--oh! I know you, I know you! You must
be that Max-dog that she told me about. That she’d known all her life
and wouldn’t be let come any more to her park! I guess I can see the
whole thing. I guess you run away from that man the gardener gave you
to. Maybe you went right back to where ‘Father George’ and the lion
are; and maybe you saw Bonny-Gay and the Gray Gentleman come away; and
maybe you followed them. Maybe it was because you were so glad, and not
bad, that you jumped into the carriage and scared the horses. Oh! you
poor doggie, if that is how it is!”

Which was, in fact, exactly what had happened; and it seemed that the
intelligent animal, who had loved Bonny-Gay ever since she was first
wheeled about the beautiful Place in her baby-carriage, had now a
comprehension of the damage his delight at finding her again had done.

So Mary Jane hopped back into the house and called Max by that name to
follow her. He did so, readily, and sat down very near to the foot of
the bed on which she carefully placed his little mistress’ hat.

“Well, daughter, this has been a morning, hasn’t it? Now, these
handkerchiefs are ready to iron and I’ve fixed your high seat right
close to my tub, so whilst I wash you can iron away and tell me the
whole story and all about it. Here comes father, too, and it’ll pass
the time for him to hear it. And, oh! William! you never could guess
whatever has happened right here in this very kitchen, this very
morning that ever was! But, I must work now, and Mary Jane’ll talk.”

Talk she did and fast; and under her eloquence Bonny-Gay became quite
the most wonderful child in the world:

“The beautifullest, the kindest, the friendliest that ever lived. It
didn’t ’pear to make a mite of difference that she was all so fixed up
in her clothes; she played games as lively as the next one. She hung on
to the Maypole ropes near as long as I did, and if I’d known what was
coming I’d have dropped off quick and let her win the count. And my!
how she did enjoy her dinner off my loaf! To see her little white hands
hold it up to her lips and see her just nibble, nibble--Why, mother
Bump! ’Twould have done your heart good!”

“Eat your dinner, did she? Wish to goodness it had choked her!” growled
William Bump, from the doorstep.

“Why, father! W-h-y!” gasped Mary Jane, amazed.

The man replied only by whistling Max to him, and by stroking the dog’s
head when the whistle had been obeyed.

But when the cripple had reached that part of her story descriptive of
the final accident, the father spoke again and this time with even a
more vindictive earnestness than before.

“Broke her leg, did it? Glad of it. Never was gladder of anything in
all my life. Hope she’ll suffer a lot. Hope--What better is she, his
little girl, than you, my Mary Jane? Glad there is something that evens
matters up. I hope his heart’ll ache till it comes as near breakin’
as mine--every time I look at your poor crooked shoulders, you poor
miserable child! So I do!”

Both Mrs. Bump and Mary Jane were aghast at the awfulness of this
desire. Even the baby had paused open-mouthed and silent, as if he,
too, could comprehend the dreadful words and be shocked by them. Only
Max remained undisturbed, even nestled the closer to the blue-shirted
man, who in some manner reminded him of his old master, Mr. Weems.

Then Mrs. Bump found her voice, and though she was a loyal wife she did
not hesitate in this emergency to give her husband a very indignant
reproof. So indignant, in fact, that she forgot the caution of many
years, and with her hand on William’s shoulder, demanded fiercely:

“You say that, you? You! You dare to rejoice in the misfortunes
of others when it was by your own fault--your own fault, William
Bump!--that our poor lass sits yonder a cripple for life. When I
left her in your care that I might go and intercede for you to be
given a fresh trial at the works, what was it but that you loved the
drink better than the child? and left her on the high ledge while you
slept--a human log! Yet you were sorry enough afterwards and you should
take shame to yourself for your wickedness. It’s the drink again that’s
in you, this day; and that has lost you another job and turned your
once good heart into a cruel beast’s! So that is what I think of you,
and my--”

Then she turned and there sat Mary Jane, listening, horror-struck and
broken-hearted!

Regret was useless. The secret, guarded so jealously for years, was now
disclosed. Till then the hunchback had believed her affliction was hers
from birth, and had never dreamed that it was the result of a terrible
fall, due to her own father’s carelessness. He had always seemed to
love her so, with a sort of remorseful tenderness quite different from
the attention he gave to his other, healthier children. But if it had
all been by his fault!

Poor Mary Jane! Alas, alas! Far worse for her was the anger and
hatred that at that moment sprang to life in her tortured heart. As
in a picture she saw other little maids, her playmates, even this
recent vision of Bonny-Gay, straight-limbed, strong, active, enjoying
everything without aid of those hindering crutches or the heavy
dragging limbs.

“Oh! father! you did it? you! And I ought to have been like them--I
ought--I ought!”

Nobody spoke after that. Mary Jane’s head sank down upon the high table
where stood her little flatiron, fast cooling. Mrs. Bump felt a new and
deadly faintness seize her own vigorous body and sat weakly down. How
could she undo the mischief she had wrought? Until now there had been
between the father and the child such a wonderful affection that it
had been a matter of constant comment among all the neighbors, and the
mother had been proud that this was so. Now--what had she done, what
had she done!

Presently, William Bump rose, put on his hat, whistled to Max, and
walked out. At the door he paused, cast one miserable glance over the
little room and his face was very white beneath its stains of toil
and weather. His eyes seemed mutely to seek for one ray of pity, of
forgiveness; but Mary Jane’s head was still upon the table and her
mother’s face was hidden in her own labor-hardened palms.

Only the baby began to coo and gurgle in a way which, under ordinary
circumstances, would have elicited admiring exclamations, but which now
secured no response. So, then he rolled over and closed his eyes; and
not even he saw when the man and the dog passed clear out of sight,
across the open lots, and toward the marshy places which led to the
water and the unknown country beyond.

By-and-by, the other children came home from the “Playgrounds,” full of
chatter about the day’s delights and eager with questions concerning
the wonderful happening of Mary Jane’s ride. Then the mother roused and
kept them from troubling their sister, and dispatched them to examine
the wrecked carriage, away down the street.

By the time they returned Mary Jane’s eyes were no longer red and there
was nothing out of common in her manner. Mrs. Bump was ironing away
as if her life depended on it, and even humming the first strains of
a hymn, “Lord, in the morning, Thou shalt, Thou shalt--Lord, in the
morning Thou shalt hear.” This always denoted an extra cheerfulness
on the singer’s part, and the children became boisterously happy in
proportion.

When supper time came they “set a place for father,” just as always;
and though even by the end of the meal he had not appeared his unused
plate was still left, as if he might come in at any moment.

Yet it was quite midnight when Mary Jane, for once unable to sleep,
crept down to her mother’s room and called, softly:

“Has he come, mother?”

“No dearie, not yet. But it’s not late, you know for--him!” replied
the wife, so cheerfully, that even her quick-witted daughter did not
suspect the heartache beneath the cheerfulness, nor the tear-stained
face upon the pillow.

“When he does, I wish you’d call me. I must tell him it’s--it’s all
just right.”

“Yes, darling. Trust mother and go to sleep now. I’ll call you sure.”

And neither guessed how long that call would be delayed.



CHAPTER V

MARY JANE GOES VISITING


But Mary Jane Bump was not the girl to be gloomy over anything for
very long; least of all over anything so trifling as her own personal
afflictions; and the morning saw her hopping about in her narrow home,
as merry, as loving, and as helpful as ever. Even more helpful, it
seemed to the conscience-stricken mother, than before she had felt the
fierce anger of the previous day.

“Appears like she’d try to make even me forget she ever heard what
I said, poor lamb! Well, I still think, what I’ve so often thought,
that the Lord did bring sweet out of that bitter, when He made her so
beautiful inside, even if she is crooked without. And more’n that, to
me she don’t seem so misshaped. I almost forget she ain’t just like the
rest. Aye, honey? What’s that you say?”

“If you can spare me, mother, after all the work is done, I’d like to
go to Bonny-Gay’s house and find out about her. Oh! do you s’pose she
will get well?”

“Sure, child.”

“I guess she will, too. Can I, mother? When the work’s all done?”

“Bless you, my lass, and that will never be. So there’s no use tarrying
for such a time. And I don’t blame you for wanting to go. I’d admire to
hear myself. But I guess it’s a long step from here and I don’t know
the way, even I don’t. You’d have to ride in a street car and that
costs money--which is one of the things I can least spare.”

At mention of the car, Mary Jane’s eyes sparkled.

On rare occasions--once when she went to market with her mother,
at holiday time, and once when the wash had been too large and the
patron’s home too distant for even her nimble crutches--she had enjoyed
the luxury of travel by electricity. In imagination, she could still
feel the swift rush of air against her cheek, could see the houses
hurrying past, and hear the delightful ting-a-ling of the bell, as the
motorman stopped to let the passengers on or off. She had not dreamed
that it would be necessary for her to ride, in order to pay the visit
she desired; but if it were--Oh! felicity!

The light in the eyes she loved decided the mother upon the indulgence.
A car-ride meant a nickel, or part of one, at least, for even little
Mary Jane; and a nickel would buy a loaf, and many loaves were needful
where there were seven mouths to fill, and every mouth a hungry one.
More than that, if William were out of work--

Mrs. Bump considered no further. Mary Jane should have the pleasure--no
matter what happened afterward.

“Of course, you’ll ride! Why not? Don’t suppose I’d let you start off
a-foot for such a length, do you? I’ve a notion that this Mt. Vernon
Place is away at the other end the city. Leastwise, it must be a good
bit from Dingy street, ’cause I never heard of it before, and I’ve been
around the neighborhood considerable, with the wash, you know. Yes, you
may go. Fly round right smart and get your clothes changed. What a fine
thing it is that your other frock is clean, and I must say I did have
good luck ironing it, last week.”

“You always do have good luck, mother Bump! You’re the very loveliest
ironer in the world!” and the wooden feet clicked across the room that
their owner might hug this famous laundress.

“And you’re a partial little girl, honey.”

“But, mother, dear, the work isn’t done--yet. There’s the steps to be
scrubbed and that other pile of hank’chiefs, and--”

“Well, I reckon we’ll live just as long if our steps ain’t done for one
day in the year. Besides, I might let one the younger ones do them and
see. They’re always teasing to, you know. Strange, how human nature
loves to mess in a pail of soap and water.”

“Who’ll mind the baby, if I go?”

“I will, Mary Jane Bump! Seem to think the precious youngster ain’t
hardly safe in his own mother’s hands, do you? Run along, run along,
girlie, and fix yourself fine.”

Away up the narrow stair swung happy Mary Jane; and in a very few
moments down she swung again. She had exchanged her blue gingham for
her pink print, had dusted off the shoes which, alas! were so useless
that they rarely wore out! and had brushed her dark wavy hair till
it floated about her sweet face, as fine and fleece-like as it was
possible for hair to be. In her hands she carried two hats; her own
little plain “sailor,” and the gift of Bonny-Gay.

“Oh! I wouldn’t wear--” began Mrs. Bump, answering the question in Mary
Jane’s eyes; then seeing the disappointment which crept into them,
hastily altered her original judgment to fit the case. “I wouldn’t
wear that old ‘sailor’ if I was a little girl that owned feathers like
those. Indeedy, that I wouldn’t.”

Mary Jane’s face rippled with smiles and for almost the first time in
her life she did a coquettish thing. Standing upon her crutches before
the tiny looking-glass, hung at an angle above the mantel, she adjusted
and readjusted the pretty leghorn, until she had placed it as nearly in
the position it had occupied on Bonny-Gay’s yellow curls as she could.
Then she wheeled about and asked:

“Does it look right, mother? Just as right as she would like to have
it, when she sees me?”

“Perfect, honey! And though I maybe oughtn’t to say it before you,
you’re the very sweetest little girl in Baltimore city!”

“Ah! but, mother Bump, you haven’t seen all the others!” laughed the
child.

“Now, here’s your money. Two nickels, dear. I’ve just given them a bit
of a polish in the suds while you were up-stairs. One is to go with,
and one to come home. I’ve been puzzling it out, and the best thing is
for you to go to the nearest car-line you find; then ask the conductor
how nigh it will take you to the Place. He’ll be kind to you, I know.
They’re always obliging, the conductors are, and when it’s anybody
like you, why they just seem to tear themselves to pieces to be nice.
You’ll have no trouble, honey, not a mite. And when you get there,
don’t forget to make your manners, pretty, like I’ve taught you. Say
everything to cheer the lady up, if she seems down-hearted a bit, and
good-by, good-by. Bless you, Mary Jane!”

Mrs. Bump stood at her doorway and Mrs. Stebbins at hers, to watch
the little figure hop away, and when it turned at the corner and they
caught a glimpse of the radiant face beneath the picture-hat, they
smiled upon each other well satisfied.

“No harm’ll happen to her!” said Mrs. Stebbins, confidently. “She’s one
of the Lord’s own.”

“I’m not fearing! though I’m going to miss her powerful,” answered the
mother, and retired to her tub.

Mary Jane’s heart beat so with excitement that she could hardly
breathe. Here she was, going alone on an unknown journey, to ride in
a car quite by herself, and to pay her own fare exactly as if she
were a grown-up. She had to tightly clutch that corner of her little
handkerchief wherein the nickles were tied, to make herself realize the
delightful fact; and already, in her dutiful heart, she was planning
how she could save, by not eating quite so much of her portion of food,
and so, in time, make up to her mother for this unwonted extravagance.

Indeed, she thought so fast and deeply, that she stood on the corner
and let the first car go by without signalling it. Then she brought her
wits to the present and when the next one whizzed up she was ready for
it, raising her hand and motioning it to stop, as she had seen other
people do.

It did stop, of course, and to such a little passenger, also, of
course, the conductor was quite as kind as Mrs. Bump had prophesied he
would be. He lifted Mary Jane into the very front seat of all and he
would have been glad not to take a fare from her. But this his duty
compelled him to do, and when he had received it he paused a moment
beside her to inquire:

“Taking a ride, are you? Well, it’s a nice morning.”

“Isn’t it! Just beautiful. Yes, I’m going to Mt. Vernon Place.”

“Whew! you are? Well, this is the wrong car--Never mind. You can
transfer. Mt. Vernon Place is a long way from here and quite the
swellest part of the town; you know that, I suppose.”

“It’s where Bonny-Gay lives.”

“Oh! indeed. Well, don’t you worry. I’ll look out for you and pass you
along. Company allows only one transfer, now, but I’ll fix it. It’ll be
all right. Don’t worry.”

Mary Jane had not the slightest intention of worrying. That was
something she had never done until the night before, and then about
her missing father. But in this brilliant sunshine, with the world all
her own, so to speak, even that anxiety had disappeared. He would be
sure to return and very soon. He loved them all so dearly, and even
for herself, if there were none others, he would come. He couldn’t
live without her; he had often told her so. Therefore she merely hoped
he was having as good a time, at that moment, as she was; and settled
herself serenely in her place to enjoy everything.

She never forgot the first part of that day’s ride. There were few
passengers in the car and these were all men, quite able to look out
for themselves; so the conductor remained near her and talked of the
places they passed, pointing out this building and that, for Mary
Jane’s enlightenment. She bestowed upon each an attention that was
quite flattering to her entertainer, till the car turned another corner
and he had to move away. People came more frequently now and at every
block of their advance, the men and women seemed to Mary Jane to crowd
and hurry more and more. They almost crushed her own small person,
climbing past her, but she still clung sturdily to the outer corner of
her seat, as her friend, the conductor, had bidden her.

“No need for you to move up, little girl. You’ll be changing after a
bit, and it’ll be easier for them than you.”

Right in the very business part of the city the car stopped and he came
back to her, thrusting a pale green slip of paper into her hand, and
hurriedly lifting her out.

“That’s your transfer. Yonder’s your car. Give that paper to the
other conductor. He’ll help you on. Say, Snyder!” he called to his
co-laborer. “This kid’s for Vernon Place. Put her off at Charles
street, will you? and pass her along. I’ll make it right with the
company.”

Then he was gone and Mary Jane stood bewildered in the midst of a
throng of vehicles, and street cars, and busy, rushing people. For
an instant her head whirled, then she saw the impatient beckoning of
conductor Snyder, and swung herself toward the waiting car. A man,
into whose path she had hopped, caught her up and placed her on the
platform, and again she was off.

But this time she was merely one of a crowd and the ticket collecting
kept Mr. Snyder too busy to bother with any single passenger. Indeed,
some slight hindrance just as they reached Charles street put Mary Jane
and her destination quite out of mind, and it was not until they had
gone some blocks beyond and he had chanced to come near her again that
she ventured to ask:

“Are we almost there?”

“Where’s there?”

“He--he said--Charles street,” she answered abashed by his brusque
manner.

“Charles street! Why, that’s long back. Did you want to get off there?
Oh! I forgot. You’re the child--Well, such as you ought not to be
traveling alone. Here. I’ll put you off now, you can walk back. Ask
anybody you meet, and they’ll direct you. Wait. I’ll give you another
transfer. It’s against rules, but the other fellow’s responsible.”

This time it was a yellow slip Mary Jane received and again she was
set down in the midst of a confusing crowd. She was in imminent
danger of being run over, and saw that; so promptly retreated to the
curbstone and from thence watched the unending procession of cars,
which followed one another without a moment’s break. For just there it
happened that many railway lines used the same tracks and it would have
puzzled a much more experienced person than Mary Jane to distinguish
between them.

Finally, she grew so tired and confused with the watching and the
racket that she resolved to walk; and set out boldly in the direction
from which she had come, scanning the street name-signs upon the
corners. It seemed to her she would never come to that she sought, but
she did, at last; and here a new difficulty presented.

“Which way shall I go? this--or that? Oh! dear! The time is going so
fast and I don’t get there. I’ll have to ask somebody the way.”

But though she made several shy little efforts to attract attention,
not a passer-by paused to answer her low question. Almost all fancied
her an unfortunate, petitioning alms; and some thought her a street
merchant with something to sell. Many and many an one had gone by, till
in the midst of all these men she saw a woman.

Only a scrub-woman, to be sure, on her way to some office to her daily
labor; but she paused when the cripple spoke to her and looked with
feminine curiosity at the plainly clothed child in her expensive hat.

“Mt. Vernon Place! Why, child alive, it’s miles from here! Away up
yonder. This is Charles and it does run straight enough, that’s so, to
where you want to go. But it’s so far, little girl. And you a cripple.
You’d much best go back home and let some older person do your errand.
Whatever was your ma thinkin’ of, to send you such a bout?”

“She didn’t send me, I came because I wished. Can you tell me which car
is right? and will this yellow ticket pay my way?”

The woman examined the transfer-slip, glanced at a clock on a near-by
building, and shook her head.

“That’s the car, all right, but that transfer’s no good. After fifteen
minutes they won’t take ’em, and it’s half an hour or more. No. You’ll
have to pay a second fare. I’ll help you on, if you like. Where do you
live?”

“Ninety-seven, Dingy street.”

“The land! That’s almost the jumping off place of the city. Did they
give you only money enough to ride twice.”

“My mother gave me ten cents,” answered Mary Jane, proudly, yet
somehow, the fortune which had seemed so big, a little while before,
now appeared very small and inadequate.

“Pshaw! If I had a cent I’d give it to you. I don’t know what you’d
better do.”

“I know. I’ll walk. And thank you for telling me the way. If I keep
right on this street, and go up and up, will I surely, surely get
there.”

“Sure. I know, ’cause I used to clean up in that neighborhood. I hope
you’ll have luck. Good-by.”

“Good-by,” answered Mary Jane, smilingly.

The momentary pause and conversation had rested her and she now felt
wholly equal to any demands upon her strength. If she had merely to
follow this one avenue till she came in sight of the monument and the
lion, why! that was as easy as A, B, C! So she set out with fresh
courage and full enjoyment of every novel sight or sound by the way;
though, all the while, watchfully reading the street sign at every
corner she reached.

It was almost two hours later that she came in sight of the Place.
She knew it in a moment, even though she had had but the one brief
description of it from Bonny-Gay’s lips, and she felt as if she had
come into a new and wonderful world.

“How big and still and--and--finished it looks! And, oh! how tired I
am. My arms ache like they never did before, and I can hardly hold my
crutches. I’ll get to that low stone round the monument--that’s where
she sits with the Gray Gentleman--and I’ll get rested. Then I’ll look
all around and pick out her house. I shall know it because she said it
was all covered with vines and there was a big yard behind, with trees
and things. Oh! how good it is to sit down.”

So good, indeed, that before she knew it the exhausted little maid had
dropped her head upon the curbing and fallen fast asleep.

There Mr. Weems discovered her and would have roused her to send her
home. But a second glance at her convinced him that this was no child
of that locality, and that she seemed a very weary little girl, indeed.
So he simply folded his own jacket and placed it under her head and
left her to recover herself.

She awoke after a little time and sat up, confused and rather
frightened. Till she suddenly remembered where she was and, seeing a
gardener at work upon a grass-plot near, decided at once that he must
be the owner of Max. She saw, too, the coat which had formed her pillow
and knew that he must have placed it there. With a glad cry she caught
up her crutches and swung herself toward the keeper:

“Oh! sir, I thank you. I was so tired and the coat was lovely soft. And
I know you. You’re Mr. Weems, the gardener, and I’ve seen Max. He’s at
our house, I mean he was--last night. And he will be again, ’cause he’s
with father, who’ll fetch him back. Father just loves dogs and animals.
And say, please, which is Bonny-Gay’s house?”

“Bless my soul! You don’t say? Then you must belong around here, though
I didn’t think it. You’ve seen Max, and you ask for our Bonny-Gay!
Well, you’ve struck trouble both times. He’s in trouble enough, but she
in worse. That’s her home, yonder, on the west corner. The green house
I call it; with those doctors’ carriages in front of it.”

“It is? Why, how funny. What’s all that straw for?”

The gardener shook his head, sadly, and hastily flicked away at his
eyes.

“That’s to deaden all the noise. Bonny-Gay is a very, very sick little
girl and there’s about one chance in a thousand, folks think, for
her to get well. She was in an accident, yesterday. Got thrown out a
carriage. The gentleman that took her driving is almost crazy with
grief about it and--What’s that? What’s that you say? You was with her?
You? And that’s her hat--Upon my word, it is. She showed it to me, the
very first day she had it, while she was out here waiting to go driving
with her folks. And she’s the only one they’ve got. I reckon her poor
father would give all his millions of dollars and not stop a minute to
think about it, if he could make her well by doing it. Poor man, I pity
him!”

“It was Max did it, you know. I’ve come to see her, and you mustn’t
tell me she’s so sick as that. Why, she was that beautiful to
me--I--I--”

Waiting not an instant longer, and despite the gardener’s warning, Mary
Jane clicked across the smooth path, over the street, and up to the
very front door of the mansion, wherein lay a precious little form,
incessantly watched by a crowd of nurses and friends.

The outer door was ajar, a footman standing just within, keeping guard
and ready to answer in a whisper the constant string of inquiries which
neighbors sent to make. Past him, while he was talking to another,
slipped Mary Jane, her crutches making no sound upon the thick carpet.
One thought possessed her, one only; and made her almost unconscious
of the novel scenes about her. Bonny-Gay was ill. Bonny-Gay might die.
Well, she would have one more glimpse of that beloved face, no matter
who tried to stop her.

Her brain worked fast. Sick people were generally up-stairs; up-stairs
she sped. Sick folks had to be quiet. She paused an instant and peered
down the dim corridor. She saw that as the people passing along
this hall approached a distant door they moved even more gently and
cautiously. In that room, then, lay her darling!

It seemed like the passage of some bird, so swift she was and so
unerring, for before even the most watchful of the nurses could
intervene she had entered the darkened chamber and crossed to a white
cot in the middle of it. By that time it was too late to stop her. Any
noise, any excitement, however trivial, might prove fatal, the doctors
thought.

Bonny-Gay lay, shorn of her beautiful curls, almost as white as her
pillows. But the small head moved restlessly, incessantly, and the
silence of the night had given place to a delirious, rambling talk. All
her troubled fancies seemed to be of the last scenes she had witnessed:
the “Playgrounds,” with the eager children crowding them. She was
see-sawing with Jimmy O’Brien, and hoeing cabbages with the baby. She
laughed at some inner picture of his absurd accidents, and finally, as
some peril menaced him, raised her shoulders slightly and shrieked:

“Mary Jane! Oh! Mary Jane--come quick!”

All the watchers caught their breath--startled, fearful of the worst.
Yet upon the silence that followed the cry, there rose the sweetest,
the gladdest of voices:

“Why, yes, Bonny-Gay! I’ve come!”



CHAPTER VI

THE FLIGHT AND FRIGHT OF MARY JANE


Again Mary Jane’s thoughts had been swift. She recalled the fact that
“when Joe Stebbins had the fever and talked crazy-like, the doctor said
we must answer just as if ’twas the way he said. ’Twould have made
him worse to argue him different,” and with this reflection made her
instant response.

Now Bonny-Gay had either been less ill than they fancied, or the crisis
had been reached; for at that cheerful reply she opened her blue eyes
and looked into the eager face so near them. For a brief time she said
no more, seeming to seek for some explanation of those troubled dreams
from the steadfast smile of her new friend; then she stretched out her
hand and Mary Jane caught it rapturously between her own palms.

“You--you look nice in my hat. But I thought--I thought--I was at your
park. Yet it’s home, isn’t it, after all. How dark it is, and how tired
I am. I guess I’ll go to sleep a few minutes. Though I’m very pleased
to see you, Mary Jane.”

Through the hearts of all in the room shot a thrill of thankfulness,
yet nobody moved as the injured child dropped at once into a quiet
sleep which meant, the doctors knew, the saving of her life and reason.

Mrs. McClure had kept up bravely, till that moment, but now her
strength was leaving her in the shock of her sudden relief and joy.

“Tell the girl not to move nor draw her hand away--till Bonny herself
releases it;” she whispered, as an attendant led her noiselessly out of
the chamber.

She did not know how long and difficult a task she had set the
unwelcome visitor; for while she herself sank into a much needed rest
the sick child still slept that deep, refreshing slumber which was to
restore her to health.

The hours passed. The doctors went silently away. One nurse took up a
watchful position near the bed and remained almost as motionless as the
chair she occupied. A gray-haired man appeared at the doorway, took
one long, delighted look at the small figure on the cot, barely seeing
the other child beside it, and went away again. This was the anxious
father and he moved with the lightness of one from whom an intolerable
burden has been removed.

Meanwhile, a second nurse took observation now and then of Mary Jane.
The position into which the cripple had sprung, in her eager clasp of
Bonny-Gay’s hand, was a trying one. Half-bent forward, with no support
for any portion of her body save that sidewise seat upon the foot
of the cot, it was inevitable that muscles should stiffen and limbs
ache, even in a stronger frame than Mary Jane’s. Besides that, she was
very hungry, almost faint. Her slight breakfast had been taken very
early, and since then she had not tasted any food, though it was now
midafternoon. Presently, she felt her head grow dizzy. Bonny-Gay’s face
upon the pillow appeared to be strangely contorted and the clasp of
the small hand within her own to become vise-like and icy in its grip.
She began to suffer tortures, all over, everywhere. Even her useless
legs were prickling and “going to sleep,” like any overtaxed limb. She
feared she would fall forward, in spite of all her will, and that
might mean--death to Bonny-Gay! She knew, of her own intuition, that
she must not move, even without the whispered command of Mrs. McClure,
and in her heart she began to say a little prayer for strength to hold
herself steady till her task was at an end.

Then, all at once, she felt that the crutches resting against her side
were being noiselessly lifted away. Somebody, who moved as if on air,
was putting a rolled up pillow under her own tired chest; another at
her side--her back; and beneath the heavy feet a great soft cushion
that was like her own mother’s lap, for restfulness.

She turned her head and looked up into the kind face of the trained
nurse and smiled her most grateful smile, for she dared not speak.
The white-capped woman smiled back and silently held forward a plate
on which was some carefully cut up food. Then she forked a morsel and
held it to Mary Jane’s lips, which opened and closed upon it with an
eagerness that was almost greedy, so famished was she.

“How queer it is!” thought the little girl, “that anybody should bother
that way about just me!” then swallowed another mouthful of the
delicious chicken. A bit of roll followed the chicken, and after that a
glass of milk. With every portion so administered, Mary Jane’s fatigue
and dizziness disappeared till, by the time the nurse had fed her all
that the plate contained, she felt so rested and refreshed she fancied
that she could have sat on thus forever, if Bonny-Gay had so needed.

“Oh! how good I feel!”

Bonny-Gay was awake at last, and, of her own accord, withdrew her hand
from Mary Jane’s clasp.

“Why--why, is that you, Mary Jane? Why doesn’t somebody make it light
in here? How came you--Oh! I remember. You came to see me and I went to
sleep. I don’t know what made me do that. Wasn’t very polite, was it?
Now, I’ll get up and be dressed and then we’ll play something.”

But as she tried to rise she sank back in surprise.

“That’s queer. There’s something the matter with me. One of my legs
feels--it doesn’t feel at all. Seems as if it was a marble leg, like
‘Father George’s.’ Whatever ails me?”

Mary Jane’s answer was prompt enough, though the nurses would have
suppressed it if they had had time.

“I guess it’s broken. That’s all.”

“Broken! My leg? What do you mean?”

“Oh! I forgot. You haven’t been real awake since it happened. Max--”

“Child!” interposed the nurse who had fed her.

“Oh! mustn’t I tell?”

The two white-capped women exchanged glances. After all, their patient
would have to learn about her own condition; and children had often
ways of their own which proved wiser than grown folks thought.

“Ye-s, you may tell.”

“You were thrown out the carriage. Don’t you remember? Max had run
away to find you, and when he did, he didn’t stop to think of anything
else. He just jumped right into the carriage, where you and the Gray
Gentleman and the baby and I were all riding splendid. That made the
horses afraid and they acted bad. You got tumbled out and broke your
leg. That’s all.”

“That’s--all! Why, Mary Jane! You say it as if--as if--you didn’t care!”

Bonny-Gay began to cry, softly.

“Yes I did say that’s all, because that isn’t much. It’s a good job
it wasn’t your head. A broken leg gets well quick; quicker’n ever if
it’s only a little leg like yours. If it was your mother’s now, or
your father’s, you might worry. But, my sake! I wouldn’t mind a little
thing like that if I were you. To lie in this heavenly room, with all
the pictures and pretty things, and folks to wait on you every minute,
why--I’d think I was the best off little girl in the world if I were
you.”

“But I can’t walk on it, nobody knows when. Nor go out-doors,
nor--nor--I think you’re a mean girl, Mary Jane Bump!”

The cripple was too astonished to reply. She had pushed herself from
her hard position upon the cot’s foot to a chair which the nurse had
placed for her, and was leaning back in it with supreme content. In
all her little life she had never sat upon anything so luxurious and
restful. How could any child mind anything, who was as fortunate as
the daughter of such a home? Astonishment, also, at finding that her
new friend was not wholly the “angel” she had hitherto supposed her to
be, kept her silent. But she was rather glad to find this out. It made
the other girl seem nearer to her own level of imperfection, and she
speedily reflected that sick people were often cross, yet didn’t mean
to be so.

Bonny-Gay herself swiftly repented her hard speech and looking around
the room, inquired:

“Did I sleep very long?”

“Yes, dear, a long time. We are all so glad of that,” answered the
nurse, holding a spoon to the patient’s lips, just as she had done to
Mary Jane’s, who laughed outright exclaiming:

“That was the funniest thing! When I was holding your hand, Bonny-Gay,
she fed me just that way, too! Me! Mary Jane Bump! Chicken, and biscuit
and milk! ’Twas prime, I tell you!”

“Fed you? Why?”

“’Cause I was holding your hand and couldn’t feed myself. I s’pose she
thought, maybe, I was hungry. I was, too.”

“Did you hold it all the time I was asleep, Mary Jane?”

“Yes. Course. You wasn’t to be waked up till you did it yourself.”

A moment’s silence; then said Bonny-Gay:

“I am too ashamed of myself to look at you. What must you think of me,
Mary Jane?”

“I think I love you, dearly.”

“I don’t see how you can, but I’m glad of it. Where is my mother,
nurse?”

Mrs. McClure bent over the cot and kissed her daughter, murmuring
tender words of love and delight; and for a space neither remembered
Mary Jane.

However, she had just remembered her own mother and the fact that she
had been long from home. Also, that that home lay at the end of a long,
strange and distracting journey, for one so ignorant of travel as she,
and that through the window she could see that it was already twilight.
She waited a bit, for a chance to bid good-night to Bonny-Gay and to
say how glad she was that she was better, and to thank the nurse for
being so kind to herself. But nobody seemed to have any thought for her
just then.

The gray-haired father had come into the room and bent beside his wife
over the cot where lay their one darling child; and, seeing the parents
thus occupied with their own feelings, both nurses had considerately
turned their backs upon the scene and were busying themselves in
arranging the chamber for the night’s watch.

“I dare not wait a minute longer! I should be afraid, I think, to get
in the car alone at night. I was hardly ever out after dark. I’d like
to make my manners pretty, as mother said, but I can’t wait.”

Moved by the same delicacy which had made the nurses turn their
backs upon the group at the bedside, Mary Jane silently picked up
her crutches and hopped away. Finding the way out was easier, even,
than finding it in. The halls were now all lighted by wonderful lamps
overhead and the same stately footman stood just within the outer
entrance.

“However did such a creature as this get in and I not see her?” he
wondered, as the little hunchback came swiftly toward him. “Well,
better out than in, that’s sure. No knowing what harm it would do the
little missy if she caught sight of an object like that!”

Which shows how little the people who live in one house may understand
of each other’s ideas; and explains the rapidity with which he showed
Mary Jane through the door and closed it upon her.

After the lighted hallway the outside world seemed darker than ever,
even though the days were yet long and twilight lingered. But to-night
the sky was clouded and a storm impending. Already in the west there
were flashes of lightning, and though, in ordinary, Mary Jane delighted
in an electric storm, just then it made her think the more longingly of
home and its security.

“Besides, if I should get my fresh clean dress all wet, that would make
work for mother. I’m glad I forgot that hat, though. That’ll have to be
dry, anyway, now; and maybe after all, when Bonny-Gay gets well she may
want it herself. It was her mother gave it to me, not her. Now which
way--I guess this. Oh! I know! I’ll find that gardener, Mr. Weems, and
he’s so nice and kind he’ll show me the way to go. Maybe, after all,
there is another car goes nearer to Dingy street than that one I took
first and--There’s a man. It might be him. I’ll run and see.”

But when she had clicked across the path to where the man stood he had
already begun to move away, and she saw that he was not at all like the
gardener. So she paused, irresolute, trying to recall by which of the
several avenues leading from it she had entered the Place.

There were people hurrying homeward in each direction, and a few smart
equipages were whirling past; but nobody paused to glance at her, save
with that half-shudder of repugnance to which she was quite accustomed
when she met strangers, and that had rarely wounded her feelings as it
did just then and there.

“Well, I can’t help that. And I don’t mind it for myself, not now at
all, since I know about poor father. He’s the one feels worst for it.
And that I shall tell him the very minute I see him. So let them look
and turn away, if they wish. Looks don’t hurt, really, and oh! dear! if
I only could remember the street I ought to take. Charles, of course. I
know that and there it is; but whether to go to that side or this--”

In the midst of her perplexity the electric current was turned on and
the Place was suddenly and noiselessly flooded with a light as of day.
Courage came back and after another hasty scrutiny of the streets, to
discover some landmark that she could recall, she saw the monument and
the lion, and ran toward them as if they had been old friends.

“Bonny-Gay loves them, and so does the Gray Gentleman, and they do look
as quiet and peaceful as can be. I stopped there, I know, and maybe
I’ll think it out better there.”

Yet even in that reposeful place Mary Jane could gain no new ideas as
to her course, nor was anybody near to whom she could apply.

The gardener had long since gone home for the night, and in
desperation, Mary Jane determined to appeal to the very first person
who came by. This proved to be a young man, with a cane and eyeglasses;
and he appeared to be extremely busy. The little girl thought he
must also be one of the “aristocratics” of whom her father spoke so
contemptuously, because when she had asked him to “please tell me the
way to Dingy street?” he had scarcely glanced at her but had haughtily
replied: “Never heard of such a place.”

“Hmm. Too bad. Father says they don’t any of them know very much, and
I’m sorry. Don’t know where Dingy street is, indeed! when I know it
myself, even a little girl like me and have lived there always. I mean
ever since I was a baby and we left the country. That, mother says,
was the mistake we made. In the country father didn’t drink and lose
his work. Well, we’ll go again, some day, when I get big and strong,
and can help more with the wash. We could earn a lot, mother and me
together, if I was big.”

She lost herself in her day dreams for a little and awoke from them
with a start, to find the twilight altered to real night, while the
electric gleams from the lamps overhead were brighter than ever and
their shadows more like ink upon the pavement. Mary Jane had never seen
such brilliancy as this, and again she forgot herself in studying her
surroundings and enjoying the vivid green of the grass and shrubs.

A certain clump of flowers, glowing in the radiance, attracted her
especially and she felt that she must put her face down on them, to
smell them, before she lost sight of them forever.

“For I don’t s’pose I’ll ever come this way again. I couldn’t expect
it. Mother couldn’t spare the money even if she could me and--even if
I ever get back to her again!” she concluded, with a frightened sigh.
But the beautiful blossoms enticed her, and in her own down town park,
which had been thrown open to whoever of the poor would enjoy them,
there were few “Keep off” signs and the few quite disregarded. This she
had explained to Bonny-Gay; and what was true of one park in the city
should be true of all.

So she hopped nimbly over the velvet lawn to where the flowers gleamed
scarlet and white and wonderful, and bending above them thrust her face
deep down into their loveliness. Oh! how sweet they were! and so crisp
and almost caressing in their touch upon her cheek.

“Dear flowers! I wouldn’t hurt you, you know that, don’t you! I
wouldn’t break a single one of you, no, not for anything. Seems like
you’d feel it if your stems were broken, poor things. But I’ll not harm
you. No, indeedy. Only I wish--I wish I could just take one tiny, tiny
piece home to mother. But I wouldn’t break you, even for her!”

“Well, I guess you’d better not! What are you doing here? How dare you
come on this grass? Can’t you read the signs?”

Mary Jane looked up, and was immediately terrified. It was a policeman
who held her arm, and all the wild stories she had heard of arrests and
imprisonment flashed into her mind.

In Dingy street there was, also, a policeman; but a friendly soul whom
all the children loved, and whose own home was close to theirs. It was
he who had saved many a baby’s life, from careless passing vehicles,
when busy mothers had not the time to watch them as they should; and
his blue uniform represented to Mary Jane’s mind an all-powerful
guardian, to whom appeal was never made in vain.

But this six-foot officer, with his glitter and dignity, his harsh
voice and vise-like clutch--this was the majesty of law outraged.

“Oh! what have I done! I didn’t mean it--I didn’t--” gasped the
frightened child, and wrenching herself loose swung away upon her
crutches, faster even than the officer could have pursued her, even if
he had been so minded.

He did not even attempt to follow her, but watched her flight, with a
chuckle of amusement.

“Scared her well, that time, the little vagrant. Well, it’s right a
lesson was given ’em. If every child who wanted to smell the bushes was
let, what would our parks look like!”

“Like bits of Paradise, as they should;” answered a voice behind him,
so suddenly that the policeman wheeled about to find himself face to
face with a resident of the Place himself.

As for Mary Jane she neither saw whither she fled nor scarcely breathed
before she had collided with a swiftly advancing figure, and found both
herself and it thrown down. Captured after all! Her eyes closed with
a snap, as there seemed to rise before them the vision of a station
house, filled with frowning policemen, and herself in the midst, a
helpless prisoner.



CHAPTER VII

ON THE WAY HOME


“Well, upon my word!”

Mary Jane opened her eyes. Then she rubbed them to see more clearly.
Indeed, she rubbed them twice before she made out her mistake and was
able to say:

“Oh! I am so sorry! I--I didn’t mean--but I can’t be arrested! I
can’t--my mother--I--.”

She scrambled up somehow, picked her crutches from the ground and set
off again. She dared not look behind her but was quite sure that the
hard-faced policeman was in full pursuit. Off she was, indeed, only to
be brought to a sudden stop, while a shiver of fear ran through her.
But she made no further outcry and rested quietly upon her wooden feet,
to hear her doom.

“Why, you poor little girl! You look scared. You haven’t done any harm,
not a bit. In fact, you’ve saved me quite a chase. I’m not so swift as
you are, hard as I tried to catch you.”

Mary Jane shivered and still said nothing, nor could she lift her eyes
from the ground. Their gaze rested idly upon the man’s feet and she
fancied that the gloss upon his shoes equalled the radiance of the
electric light.

“And now that I have caught you, I want to thank you, with all my
heart, for your kindness to my precious child. I believe the good Lord
sent you, just in the nick of time, with your ready answer and your
readier sympathy. Yet to think that, after all this, you should run
away, at night and alone. You poor, brave little child.”

Then she heard, through her puzzled understanding, another voice
speaking in jesting surprise.

“Turn your back on an old friend, would you, Miss Bump! Well, we will
have to see about that, indeed!”

Those were tones to banish fear! and now, in truth, Mary Jane’s eyes
were raised and she saw standing there and smiling down upon her none
other than the Gray Gentleman.

The revulsion of feeling was too much for her self-control, and
dropping her face against his hand she began to cry, with all the
abandon of those who seldom weep.

“Why, little girl! What is it? Were you so badly frightened as all
that? There, there. You’re with friends now, child, who love you and
will take care of you.”

With that she felt herself lifted in the Gray Gentleman’s arms, and
her head forced gently down upon his shoulder, while her crutches fell
noisily to the stones. However, they were promptly picked up again by
the other gentleman, who was also gray--as to hair and beard--and who
made almost as much noise as the crutches, because he kept blowing
his nose so vigorously. Then she heard him softly slap her own Gray
Gentleman’s free shoulder and exclaim, in a husky voice:

“It’s all right, neighbor! The Lord has been good to us. Bonny-Gay
is almost herself again and was laughing--actually laughing--to see
me, her dignified daddy, run out of her room to try a race with Miss
Mary Jane here. Oh! it’s too good to be true!” and again there was a
tremendous flourish of handkerchief, and a sound like a small fog horn.

“Thank God!” murmured the Gray Gentleman, and Mary Jane felt him
tremble. Instinctively she raised her head to comfort him and touched
his thin cheek timidly with her lips.

But there was no timidity in the kiss he returned her as he set her
upon the ground, and with all his usual cheerfulness, demanded:

“Well, little traveler, how do you propose to get home again?”

“I don’t know!” The tone was a happy one and seemed to mean: “And I
don’t care! You are to find the way for me!”

“You don’t, eh? But I’m thinking that good mother of yours will be
hungry for a sight of your face, and it’s time we remembered her.
Mothers are queer bodies. They like to have their youngsters around
them, be they never so bothersome. Yet, since she’s waited so long,
I think it will do no harm for her to wait a while longer. I’d like
to have you pay me a little visit, as well as Bonny-Gay, and I’ll
invite you to my house to take supper with a lonely old fellow who’ll
entertain you as well as he can.”

It was hard to refuse, she would so much have liked to see the home of
her friend, of the friend of all the children whom she knew. But the
vision of her mother, waiting and anxious, was too much for her loyal
heart, so she declined as prettily as she knew how, only requesting:

“Now, please, you are to tell me the quickest way home to Dingy street
and I’ll go. You must know it, for you’ve been there so often.”

“Yes, I know it, and I’ll take you at once. I’ll do more. I’ll invite
myself to supper with you after I get there, since you can’t stop with
me.”

“Very well,” said Mary Jane, though not with much enthusiasm. She was
afraid he would think her mother’s supper a poor one. However, he was
quite welcome to what they had, and she added more cordially: “I know
mother’d think it an honor, only I’d have to stop at the baker’s on the
way.”

She didn’t quite understand why both gentlemen laughed so heartily.
They now seemed in a mood, each one of them, to laugh at any and
everything which happened, and Bonny-Gay’s father teased the other
a little about his great appetite, which required the contents of a
bake-shop to satisfy. Then he added, with a manner that admitted of no
denial:

“But you’ll have to defer your visit, neighbor, till another time. I
claim the privilege of conveying this young lady to her destination,
and my man has already summoned a cab. Here it comes, now; for I’d
rather trust a city cabby to find out odd places than my own coachman.”

Here came the cab, indeed, and from the vine-clad mansion on the corner
also came a liveried servant bearing a big basket tightly covered.

“With the mistress’ compliments, and Miss Bonny-Gay is sending this to
the baby.”

“Good enough!” answered the happy father, and took Mary Jane from
the Gray Gentleman’s arms; who handed her crutches in after her, and
himself closed the door of the cab with a cheerful snap.

“Some other time, then, Mary Jane, I’ll expect a visit from you. My
regards to your mother and I will be down your way before long.
Good-by.”

Mary Jane’s head whirled with the strangeness of it all. What a day
it had been! And how simple and kind was this gray-haired father, who
didn’t look half so strong as her own absent one, but who talked so
fast and asked so many questions that, before she at all realized what
she was doing, the cripple had given him their whole family history.
Save and excepting, of course, anything which related to her own
affliction and its cause, or any possible fault of her beloved father.

“He works--I mean, he did work--for the B. & B. railroad folks.
He--he--isn’t working just now. He went away, for a little while, but
I guess he’s back again. Won’t he be surprised to hear all that’s
happened to me? He’ll be glad, after all, that she didn’t--Oh! my sake!
what am I saying!”

At mention of the Company, the gentleman beside her had given a little
start of surprise, but Mary Jane fancied that the jolting of the cab
had moved him. She expressed her regret for the accident and added:

“But I like it. I never rode in a carriage but once before. That was
yesterday when Bonny-Gay was hurt. But she’ll soon be well, now, I
think. Don’t you?”

“So I trust. So I trust and believe. But, tell me a little further of
your father. What sort of work did he do? I happen to know something
about that company and am interested in the details of all its
concerns.”

“Sometimes he was helping along the tracks; straightening them,
changing the ties, and such things. Sometimes he was over at the great
sheds they’re building--monstrous ones, they are, almost all of steel.
You ought just to see them by daylight. Though I guess I can show them
to you even to-night, ’cause they’re not so very far from our house.”

“Indeed! Did you say what street it was? I heard my neighbor give some
directions to the driver for us, but paid little attention.”

“Dingy street, number 97.”

“Dingy street! You don’t say! Why, I know that locality well. Very
well, indeed. A great many of--of the Company’s employees live around
there.”

“Most all of them do, I guess.”

“So your father’s out of work, just now?”

“Yes. But he’ll soon be ‘on’ again, I think. When he does work he gets
real good wages. That is, if he isn’t ‘docked.’ I reckon the Company is
pretty strict. My mother says they don’t allow for anything. A man must
do his task or leave it, and that’s the end.”

“But that is quite right and just, is it not?”

“I--suppose--it is. Though poor men can’t always--I mean, they get
discouraged sometimes. That makes them do and say things they wouldn’t
else. It’s queer and unjust, my father says, for the Company to have so
much money and their men so little. That’s what made him glad--I mean
not so sorry--when--when--things happen.”

Mary Jane paused, confused. Twice she had nearly told this other father
that her own father had been glad when Bonny-Gay had been hurt. She
knew William Bump would not have said anything so cruel if he had not
been drinking; she was sure of that, for he was generally so kind of
heart. But even yet she did not imagine that her companion was himself
the president and head of that Company whose wages her father gladly
accepted even when he talked against it most fiercely.

However, Mr. McClure greatly enjoyed listening to this frank story
of the underworkings of his vast enterprises. He was not only a very
wealthy and powerful man, he was also a wise and just one. He felt the
responsibilities of his position, and made it his business to know all
employees by name and character, so far as that was possible. Over this
particular portion of his affairs, right in his own city, he had an
almost daily supervision, and he knew William Bump, in some respects,
much better than this loyal little daughter did. His opinion of the
father was very poor, and he had himself given orders, on the previous
day, that the said William was never again to be taken on by his
managers, “not in any capacity whatsoever.”

For some distance the gentleman made no response to Mary Jane’s last
remark, and the silence was broken only by the roll of their own
wheels, the ordinary sounds of the streets through which they passed,
and the increasing rumble of the thunder. The storm was drawing nearer
and he wished to escape it, if possible. He signalled the driver, after
a while, and seeming to rouse himself from some deep thought, to: “Make
haste!”

The cabman lashed his horses into a gallop, and remembering the
accident of her one other ride, Mary Jane began to grow afraid. She was
afraid now, also, of this silent gentleman beside her and longed for
her journey to end. To pass the time she tried to count the lamps on
the street corners as they flew past her in the gloom, and to watch for
the illuminating flashes of lightning, which came faster and faster.

Suddenly, into this silence, Mr. McClure hurled a stern question, that
compelled a truthful reply, whether she liked to give it or no.

“Mary Jane, of what was your father glad when that accident occurred?”

She caught her breath in alarm; then answered, frankly:

“He was glad because--because Bonny-Gay was hurt.”

“Why?”

“Oh! I don’t know. I mean--I guess he was so sorry about me--being like
I am--and he thought it wasn’t fair. She was as beautiful and perfect
as I was--was ugly; and her father had all the money and he had none.
But it wasn’t right and it wasn’t him. Indeed, indeed, it wasn’t. He
didn’t know you, of course, and he didn’t dream that you could love
her same as he loves me. But he’d be the first--the very first--to be
sorry, after he came to himself.”

“Hmm. No man, rich or poor, has a right ever to be other than himself.”

“I suppose not. But things haven’t gone right with father since we came
from the country.”

“Humph!” was the contemptuous comment, and the little girl said no more.

Oh! if they would only ever get to 97 Dingy street! Twice, now, she had
been allowed the luxury of a carriage ride and each time how wretched
she had been. At first she had liked Bonny-Gay’s father almost as much
as she had the Gray Gentleman, when she first knew that good friend.
She had chattered away to him almost as freely; yet after awhile he had
allowed her to keep up the chatter rather for his own information than
because he had seemed interested in her affairs. He was now become so
stern and indifferent that she realized she had deeply offended him.
To her relief, the cab turned sharply around the next corner and there
she was, at last, in dear, familiar Dingy street, with its tiny houses
that were yet homes; in one of which was mother Bump, her four sisters,
and the wonderful baby! Possibly, also, her father; though of him she
thought less, just then, than of the motherly face which was, to her,
the comeliest in all the world.

The cab stopped with a jerk. The cabman leaped down and opened the
door. Then he lifted out the covered basket, and afterward swung Mary
Jane to the ground and supported her till the gentleman who remained
inside the vehicle handed out her crutches.

The house door flew open, also, at the sound of wheels, and Mrs. Bump
peered out into the night.

“What is it?” she called, her voice trembling with anxiety. That a
carriage should stop before her humble home foreboded harm to some of
her loved ones, and her first thought was of her crippled daughter.

“Here am I, Mother! Home at last;” answered that daughter’s voice,
cheerily.

Then she turned to thank Mr. McClure for his kindness to her, but he
did not hear her, apparently. The cab was already being whirled around,
and the driver lashing his horses. A brilliant gleam of lightning,
followed instantly by a terrific clap of thunder, startled them into a
thought of shelter only. Mrs. Bump saw through the cab window that the
gentleman raised his hat, then she seized the basket from the ground,
and hurried Mary Jane indoors, just as the first great drops of a heavy
shower came dashing down.

“Oh! mother Bump! I never saw such a lovely place as this dear old
home! How glad I am to be here. Has father come yet?”

“Not yet, dearie. But he will soon, no doubt.”

“I hope he isn’t anywhere out in this storm; poor father.”

“Bless you, child! The man has sense, hasn’t he? Even dumb creatures
know enough to go in when it rains. But tell me fast, darling, all
that’s happened to you since you went away. My heart! this has been the
longest day I ever knew! have you had anything to eat? What made you
so late? How came you to be riding home in such grand style? and where
got you this basket?”

“It’s the baby’s, mother. Bonny-Gay sent it to him;” cried the happy
girl, running to seize that crowing infant from his trundle-bed and to
cover his face with kisses. Then she dropped her crutches and herself
upon the floor, drew the baby to her lap, and from that lowly position
began a swift, but rather mixed history of events since she had said
good-by and hopped away in the morning.

The mother listened, losing never a word, and deftly simplifying
matters now and then by a leading question, while at the same time she
explored the big basket. It had evidently been filled in haste, and by
the direction of Bonny-Gay, herself.

“This is for the _baby_, is it?” laughingly demanded Mrs. Bump, lifting
out a great loaf of rich cake, carefully wrapped in waxed paper. “Fine
food for a year-old, that is. And this? and this? My heart, but whoever
filled this basket had a generous streak!”

A fine roasted chicken, mate to that of which Mary Jane had already
partaken, it might be, followed the cake. Then came a picture-book,
a jumble of toys, a box of candy, and an odd mixture of the things
nearest at hand, and of which the sick child could think.

But crowning all these gifts, and the only one packed with any attempt
at care, was the beautiful leghorn hat, with its nodding ostrich plumes
and its general air of elegance.

“The darling, the darling! She did mean me to keep it, then!” cried
Mary Jane, so delightedly that the baby immediately pat-a-caked with
noisy vigor.

Of course, even though they had long since enjoyed their ordinary
supper, the watchful children were not to be put off without at least
a taste of the baby’s good things; so the mother cut and divided with
exact equality; and after a feast so hilarious that it brought Joe
Stebbins in from next door to see what was the matter, everybody was
sent to bed; even the tired Mary Jane, whose heart seemed brim full of
both joy and anxiety.

She had explained to her mother how she had chattered to Mr. McClure,
hiding nothing, even her unwise statement of William Bump’s animosity
toward the other, happier father.

Mrs. Bump had listened quietly, and she had pooh-poohed the little
girl’s regrets! but her heart sank. Mr. McClure was the name of the
head of the Company. She knew that, though Mary Jane did not; and
she realized that her husband’s last chance of reinstatement in the
Company’s employ had been ruined by the very one who would have
sacrificed her very self to do him good.

“Poor little daughter! But she must never know. Never. It would break
her loving heart! And it matters little now whether William comes home
or not!” sighed the troubled wife and mother, as she laid her own weary
head on her pillow for the night.



CHAPTER VIII

CONFIDENCES


“Oh! I am so tired! If I could only just get up once!” sighed Bonny-Gay.

“Sick folks always have to stay in bed. How’d they look, sitting up,
I’d like to know?” answered Mary Jane.

“But I’m not sick. I’m not sick one bit. I’m just as well as--as that
parrot, yonder.”

“Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth!” shrieked Polly.

Mary Jane laid down the thirteenth doll and clapped her hands to her
sides. “That bird is the absurdest thing. He makes me laugh till I
ache.”

“That’s a story, that’s a story!” corrected Poll.

“No, it isn’t! No, it isn’t! No, it isn’t!” mocked Mary Jane, gaily.

Bonny-Gay laughed, too, and cried out:

“Mary Jane, you’re the very nicest girl I know!”

“Thank you. That’s a dear thing for you to say. But you’re partial,
like mother. Besides, there isn’t any other girl here, just now.”

“But I mean it. There isn’t another girl in the world would come here
and be shut up in the house, day after day, just to amuse me, ’cause my
leg’s broken, except you.”

“Yes, there is,” said Mary Jane, confidently.

“Who?”

“You!”

“Oh! you funny child!”

“Wouldn’t you? If you and I were each other--I mean changed places and
I was the sick one, wouldn’t you?”

“Maybe. I don’t know. I never did like indoors and would never stay in
if I could help it. Do you s’pose it will be very long now?”

“No, I guess not. Not if you’re good and lie still. Wait. I’ll bring
all the playthings around to that other side the bed and that will rest
you. You’ve been looking out this way a good while now.”

So Mary Jane industriously hopped around and transported the thirteen
dolls, the bird cages, and the parrot stand to a new position, and
leaning on her crutches gently helped the sick child to turn about as
far as she was permitted to do. A trained nurse was still always in the
room, and Mrs. McClure herself passed in and out very frequently; but
it was Mary Jane who did most for her friend; Bonny-Gay declaring that,
“Next to Mamma” there was nobody who understood her whims and desires
without being told them, as the little cripple did.

“That’s because we’re just an age, I guess. Queer, wasn’t it? That you,
up in this big house, and me down in my dear little one, should both
be sent to our folks the very same day that ever was? ‘Sunday bairns’
should be the best ones in the world, my mother says. Only, I wasn’t in
my Dingy street house when I came. I was in the country;” and for some
unexplained reason Mary Jane’s sunny face clouded suddenly.

For weeks now, and because Bonny-Gay had “taken such an extreme fancy
to her”--as Mrs. McClure had herself explained to Mrs. Bump, when she
herself went to ask the favor of Mary Jane’s attendance in the sick
room--the helpful child had spent the greater portion of each day
there. It had become quite a matter of habit in Dingy street that a
carriage should roll up to the door of 97 and that Mary Jane should
go away in it; to be returned at six o’clock precisely, of the same
afternoon. Dingy street felt itself proud of this state of things, and
every householder held her head a bit higher because of it. Who’d ever
have dreamed that their own small hunchback would get to be “carriage
folks?” Well, there was no telling when such glory might not fall to
their own lot, and she’d do them all credit wherever she went, she had
such pretty, loving ways with her. That she had.

Now, it was sometimes an inconvenience to the McClure household that
this trip must be made twice a day; and that very morning Mrs. McClure
entered the chamber to speak with Mary Jane about it. She had now
overcome her first repugnance at sight of the deformed little body and
saw only the sweet face and helpfulness. She had, also, offered Mrs.
Bump some compensation for her daughter’s “services; just the same as
any other nurse’s;” but the poorer mother gently declined.

“If the dear Lord has given her a chance to do something for your girl,
whom she so loves, I guess He means it as a sort of compensation to her
for her own afflictions. No, indeed, Mrs. McClure, I wouldn’t like to
taint the sympathy between those two by any thought of money.”

To this there could be no answer, and so the matter rested.

“Mary Jane, we begin to feel almost as if you belonged with us, you
have been so kind and good to Bonny-Gay; and what do you say to staying
up here at night, now? At least for a few nights together, with then
one at home?” asked the lady, as she sat down beside the cot and
watched the undressing of the china seventh doll, preparatory to its
bath.

Mary Jane looked up quickly, with a sort of fear coming into her
telltale face.

“Oh! I shouldn’t like that. I mean--of course, you’re very kind--but
I’d have to go home. I would, indeed.”

“It’s not kindness on my part, especially. I thought it might save
trouble to both sides; but, never mind. We’ll go on as usual, for the
present; though I wish you would speak to your mother about it, when
you see her, this evening. Now, Bonny-Gay, I have to go out. Is there
anything you fancy, that I can bring you? I shall be at market and do
some shopping. Think and see, darling.”

Bonny-Gay’s eyes had rested searchingly upon Mary Jane’s face. She
would have been delighted herself if her playmate could have remained
all the time in the Place, but she saw the sudden fear and was puzzled
by it. Yet she did not urge the matter, and the only request she made
of her indulgent mother was:

“Just bring something new for the baby.”

Again Mary Jane’s face was troubled and she exclaimed:

“Please, Bonny-Gay don’t! He has too many things already, that you have
sent him. I’d rather not, please.”

“Very well,” said Mrs. McClure, as she kissed her little girl and went
away. But she was considerably annoyed. She felt that she did not
exactly “know how to deal with that class of people,” to which Mary
Jane belonged. She wished that Bonny-Gay had not taken this absurd
fancy of hers. She wished that the Gray Gentleman had never done that
unwise thing of carrying her daughter into the region and knowledge of
Dingy street. It was all very well for him to devote his time still,
as he had all his life and fortune, toward making the lives of poor
children brighter. Everybody must have a hobby, and that was his, she
supposed. Of course, he was a noble man, and his name was known far
and wide as that of a philanthropist. Still--Hmm. It would soon end,
anyway. Bonny-Gay was improving rapidly, and was so perfectly healthy
that there was nothing to fear. And if she needed her own carriage that
evening, and Mary Jane remained still obstinate, she must be sent home
in a cab. That was all.

With these thoughts she departed, but she had in some way left an
altered atmosphere behind her. Her difficulty in understanding “that
class of people” arose from the simple fact that she had, as yet, no
real sympathy with them. It seemed to her that they were altogether
different from herself; that they were duller, less capable of any true
nobility. But she was, in reality, kind and good at heart, with many
social cares to tax her nerves, and she was one day to have her present
ignorance enlightened.

In the silence that followed her exit, Bonny-Gay’s hand stole softly
out and touched Mary Jane’s cheek, down which a tear was rolling. And
in the child’s touch was that perfect sympathy which the mother’s tone
had lacked.

“Don’t cry, Mary Jane. He’ll come back.”

Mary Jane’s head lifted instantly and her face brightened.

“How’d you know ’twas that I was thinking about?”

“Oh! I knew. After a minute. Not just at first. Mother didn’t
understand. I don’t s’pose she’s heard yet that he was gone. Move up
nearer. Fix yourself comf’table. Let’s talk, instead of play dolls,
now.”

Mary Jane pushed her low chair to the side of the cot, so close now
that she could rest her head against Bonny-Gay’s own pillow.

“Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth!” admonished Polly,
and in their laughter at his opportune command they failed to hear
that somebody had entered the room and sat down quite near them. This
was Bonny-Gay’s father, and he liked sometimes to surprise her by an
unexpected visit of this sort, as well as to listen to the innocent
chatter of this pair of “Sunday bairns.”

“How long is it, Mary Jane?”

“It was the very day you were hurt. Two whole weeks.”

“Well. That’s all right. Max is with him, isn’t he?”

“I don’t know. He went away with him. They both felt bad, I guess. That
made them like to be together. Father’s powerful fond of dogs, any way.”

“And of the country, you said, too. I s’pose he’s in the country
somewheres.”

“But where! I do want to see him so much. There is something I must
tell him. Something he thinks is wrong, something that made him feel
bad but should not. Something--Oh! I’ve seen all through things so
clear, since he went. Every time he saw me I s’pose he was reminded
that--My sake! What am I saying. But I’m so sorry about your mother not
liking to send for me. I must have bothered her no end. I wouldn’t have
come only--”

“You wouldn’t have come? Why, it was I who wanted you, who must have
you. Don’t you know, you are my ‘twin sister?’ It’s all right. Mother
would give me anything to have me pleased. Don’t think a thing about
that. Let’s talk about the rest. Say, Mary Jane, say!” Excitedly.

“There you are. Off you go! Have a care!” warned Polly.

“Oh! keep still, you bird. Listen, Mary Jane. You know I’m going to the
country, don’t you? We all are, just as soon as I get well.”

“Yes. I think it will be just lovely for you.”

“For you, too, you go with me and--find him!” almost shouted Bonny-Gay.

“Oh! you darling! Might I?”

“Course. Why shouldn’t you? My father owns a lot of country. Ever and
ever so much. He has so much he says it’s a sin and shame it isn’t
doing anybody any good. But he’s too busy to tend to it himself and he
can’t trust many folks. They would waste his money, dreadful. There’s
our big house and park, and all the gardens and things; and then there
are fields and fields and fields. Miles of them, I guess. Just as like
as not he’s gone around there some place. Just supposing! If he has,
why, pooh! You could find him in a minute. Oh! you must go with me and
look. It won’t be so long, maybe. If this old leg would only get itself
well. I love the country. It’s all out-doors there.”

Mary Jane said nothing, but her face was rapturous with anticipation.
Finally, Bonny-Gay announced:

“I guess that’s all settled, then. There’s nothing to do about it only
ask our folks. Let’s make believe things. Let’s pretend we had all the
money in the world and could do just what we wanted to with it; what
would you do, first?”

“Why, I wouldn’t dare think. ’Cause it couldn’t ever come true, you
know.”

“Supposing it couldn’t? The things that don’t come true are the
sweetest things there are, I think. You begin.”

Mary Jane drew a deep breath. Under the inspiration of this other more
imaginative child, she was fast forgetting the hard, dry facts of life;
and whether this were best or no, it was, at least, delightful.

“Well, I’d go to your father and I’d pay him money, and I’d get all
those miles and miles of country to do with exactly as I pleased. Then
I’d take some more of the money and I’d get the men that build houses
to make a house, right in the very prettiest spot there ever was. Where
there was water if I could, ’cause my father, he’s so fond of fishing.
He’s quit work, lots of times, to go fishing down the bay. I’d buy him
a fish-pole and lines and hooks. I’d buy him and mother a cow and a
horse and a market-wagon. They had a market-wagon once, but a man came
along and told him he could make more money in the city; and he sold
their things and lost the little farm and came. He’d be all right if he
was back in that country, I guess. I’d like to see it, myself.”

The eager speaker stopped short. Again she had almost revealed what
no loyal daughter should,--a parent’s fault. But Bonny-Gay was so
interested, she seemed so to know beforehand what was in a body’s mind
that words slipped out of themselves.

“Have a care. Tell the truth!” adjured Polly.

“Of course I will,” answered the cripple. “Now, Bonny-Gay, it’s your
turn. What would you do if you had all the money and could?”

The unseen father leaned forward a little. He was profoundly interested
in any possible desires his darling might express, and, for the matter
of that, she rarely did ask for anything. Maybe, because almost all
desirable things came to her without the asking.

“I hardly know. Yes, I do, too. I’d buy all the parks in this city and
in every other one. I’d hunt up all the little children in the cities.
I’d make free ‘Playgrounds’ for them, every one. Even the little girls
should have their little cunning ‘farms,’ just the same. I guess they’d
want to plant flowers, though, wouldn’t they? instead of cabbages
and limas. Then I’d take all the grown-ups who wanted to go into the
country and couldn’t, and I’d send them. And I’d let them stay a whole
week, I guess. If I could. If there was room enough. And when Christmas
came I’d have everybody that was poor come to my house, just like the
Gray Gentleman does to the halls he hires, and I’d make them as happy
as--I am. I wouldn’t let anybody in the whole wide world be sick nor
sorry; I wouldn’t let anybody hurt nice dogs or turn them out of their
own parks; and--Oh! Mary Jane, do you s’pose we’ll ever see dear old
Max again?”

“Why, Bonny-Gay? Didn’t you just make me feel ’t he was right with
father? Course, then, when father comes he’ll come; and if you aren’t
well by that time I’ll coax father to lead him up here to see you. If
he’ll be coaxed;” she added gravely.

The child on the cot glanced through the window. “There goes the Gray
Gentleman, to see ‘Father George’ and the lion. I wish he’d come to
see me; but he’s afraid my mother blames him for taking me that day, I
think, though nobody ever said so.”

“I’ll go ask him!”

Before she could be stopped, Mary Jane hopped across the room and down
to the door. Mr. McClure rose with considerable noise and approached
the cot. He had been deeply touched by the fact that neither of the
two innocently dreaming “Sunday bairns” had planned anything for her
own especial gratification. The witness of such unselfishness was
refreshing in a world such as that wherein most of his waking hours
were passed.

“Well, little woman, how goes it? Getting well, fast?”

Bonny-Gay held up her arms to be loved.

“Fine, father dear. It won’t be long before I’m out in the park again,
watching for you to come home from business.”

They found so much to say to each other that they quite forgot Mary
Jane; who had, indeed, swung across the square to intercept the path of
her friend. She had something of her own to say to the Gray Gentleman
besides delivering her playmate’s message. She was in trouble and knew
that he would help her in some way too wise for her to think of.

“Well, upon my word! If here isn’t Mary Jane! I thought I heard a
cheerful little clicke-e-ty-click, such as only one small energetic
body could make. What’s it now, Miss Bump?”

“I’d like to talk to you, please.”

“Don’t doubt I need it. Yet if the ‘talking to’ is to be very severe,
I’d like to have the support of the lion. Let’s rest against him.
That’s comfortable. Now, my child--talk!”

“First off, Bonny-Gay wants you to come and see her.”

“Shall be delighted, I’m sure. Please make my regards to Miss McClure
and I will wait upon her at any hour she designates.” Which dignified
yet whimsical remark set Mary Jane to smiling.

“I’m glad that’s fixed before I forgot. Because I’m in dreadful
trouble, myself.”

“You look it!” he exclaimed, smiling into her confiding face; then
dropped his playful manner as he saw that she was really in earnest.

Whereupon she promptly told him about Mrs. McClure and why, in
anticipation of her father’s possible return, she must, she must go
home every night. “And how can I? I mustn’t put them out--they are so
good to me. I mustn’t stay away, if Bonny-Gay needs me. There’s all the
dolls to be dressed, you see; and the canaries must be fed, or they’d
die; and Polly is about as much care as the baby. She’s always dropping
things and squawking till she gets them picked up for her--though she
throws them right straight down again. I don’t see how Bonny-Gay can be
so patient with that bird, do you?”

“I’m sure I shouldn’t be.”

“So, I couldn’t not come, course. And what I want you to tell me,
please, is there a shorter way I could come? So I could walk here?
’Cause I couldn’t ride in the car. We couldn’t afford that.”

“If you would ride in the car I know, without asking, that Mrs. McClure
would be more than glad to bear the expense.”

“But father wouldn’t like that. He never likes me to have rich folks
do things for me. He--he seems to about hate them. He wouldn’t let me
go to the Empty Stocking Trees, ’cause he does. You’re the only one
he doesn’t mind. And he likes the ‘Playgrounds’ ’cause they’re not
charity. They belong to the city and we do, same’s the rich ones. They
teach the children to work and learn farming, too. He likes that. But I
couldn’t take the money from her. I wouldn’t so displease him, even if
I had to stay away.”

The Gray Gentleman pondered deeply. He would not offend the confiding
child by offering himself to pay her car fare. He too greatly respected
her honest pride and her loyalty to her father to do that. But, after a
moment, he looked up.

“Miss Mary Jane Bump, once before I invited you to call at my house
and you declined. Now, I invite you again. I think I have something
there that will solve your difficulties--and my own. May I have the
pleasure? I’ll detain you from the Poll parrot but a few moments.”

“Oh! I’d love it!”

It was a very cheerful click the crutches gave now. The mere telling
of her perplexities had half-banished them, and Mary Jane had implicit
faith in the wisdom of this simple, true-hearted gentleman, who was,
as Mrs. McClure had reflected, “the friend of all poor children
everywhere.”

The Gray Gentleman’s big, empty, plainly furnished house, seemed very
lonely to the little girl, whose own small home was so crowded; and
she wondered at the slowness of the one colored “boy”--as gray as his
master--who answered that master’s ring.

“Boy, go up-stairs, please, to my bedroom. Open the top drawer of the
chiffonier and bring me all the socks you find there. You’d better use
a basket--they are many in number.”

The “Boy” half fancied that his master had lost his common sense, then
leaped to the conclusion that this was probably one of their many
pensioners upon whom the articles demanded were to be bestowed. He
obeyed without comment, however, save by a respectful bow; and soon
returned. Meanwhile Mary Jane had been shown the few pictures upon the
walls and told their stories, and the place had begun to seem more
cheerful to her.

The “Boy” was dismissed; the basket heaped with fine hosiery placed on
the table beside the visitor, and herself bidden to look the contents
over.

“What do you think of them, Mary Jane?”

“I never knew one person have so many stockings; and, my sake, there
isn’t a single pair but has a hole in it--not one single sock, even. I
know. I guess you want me to mend them for you, don’t you? I often help
mother with the darning. She thinks I can do it quite well.”

“I’m sure you can, and that is just what I do want. I cannot put on a
ragged garment, poor old fellow though I am. They always come from the
laundry, broken somewhere, and I am always buying new. That’s how I
have so many. If you want to save my money for me you can do it.”

“I’d love to! I’ll take them home and fix them nights, after Bonny-Gay
is through with me.”

“Let’s be business like, Miss Bump. What would be your charges, per
pair?”

“My--charges? Nothing. I’d be so _glad_ to do something for you, who
have always been doing things for me.”

“I’ve known you a few weeks, little girl, and I’ve done very little.
Will five cents a pair be satisfactory?”

“I couldn’t take so much. I couldn’t take anything.”

“That or nothing. I’m business. That would make you quite independent
of all help except your own, and be a great benefit to me.”

“Of course, then. And oh! thank you!”

“Now, pack up your work, little bread-winner, and let’s back to
Bonny-Gay.”



CHAPTER IX

BY THE STRENGTH OF LOVE


The days sped by. The summer heat deepened and there were thankful
hearts in the vine-covered mansion in Mt. Vernon Place. For Bonny-Gay
was well again; able to run about her beloved park, and to play in the
shadow of the lion with the few children left still in that part of the
city.

Nearly all the big houses were now closed, however, and their owners
departed to seashore or mountain. The McClures themselves were making
preparations for their own summer flitting to the great country house
of which the little girls had talked. They would have still enjoyed
being together, but that could no longer be.

A very few days after Mary Jane had made her business contract with
the Gray Gentleman, and he had himself spoken to the conductors of
the cars upon which she would have to take her daily ride--so that
everything was made easy and safe for her--those rides had ceased.
William Bump returned as suddenly as he had departed, and, with all his
old enmity against more fortunate folk, had immediately forbidden them.

But Mrs. Bump had herself gone to Mrs. McClure and explained enough of
matters to prove that Mary Jane was neither ungrateful nor forgetful;
and Mrs. McClure had accepted the explanation with great cheerfulness.
It was a much easier way out of a difficult position than she had
anticipated; because Bonny-Gay still talked about inviting Mary Jane
with them to the country, and this her mother did not at all desire.

However, a compromise was effected. Mary Jane was to be asked to care
for the thirteen dolls, the two canaries, the aquarium, and Polly; only
the pony being allowed to accompany his little mistress on her summer
outing. So, one morning, the carriage came around again and all these
creatures were stowed in it, along with Bonny-Gay and a maid. They had
been taken straight to Dingy street, where they were left with many
injunctions and much sage advice, as to their proper care. Then the two
little “Sunday bairns” had kissed each other many times, and had torn
themselves weeping from each other’s embrace, while the dignified maid
looked coldly on, urging:

“If you please, Miss McClure, you would much better be going. The train
goes at two o’clock and there’s much to pack, still.”

“Very well, Hawkins. I’m coming. Good-bye, Mary Jane, dear, dear Mary
Jane! I’ll write you as soon as I get there and maybe, maybe, your
father and my mother will let you come out to our house and make me a
beautiful long visit. I’d teach you to ride on the pony just the same
as if your legs were good, or in the goat cart or--”

“Come, come, Miss Bonny-Gay!” called Hawkins.

The coachman cracked his whip, there was a last glimpse of a bare sunny
head thrust from the carriage window, the tossing of ecstatic kisses,
and Bonny-Gay had passed out of Mary Jane’s life, probably forever.
That is, if the intentions of her parents could be carried out. When
they returned, in the autumn, a man could be dispatched for the dolls
and things, if their owner still desired them. If not, they might
remain the property of the small Bumps, and so well rid of them. The
parrot had been misbehaving of late, and using expressions not wholly
suited to the proprieties of Mt. Vernon Place. Originally owned and
trained by a man of the “slums,” she was returning to the rude speech
of earlier years.

But she was well received in the Bump household, save by William,
its head. He had frowned upon the coming into it of Bonny-Gay’s
treasures and only consented to the arrangement because of Mary Jane’s
disappointment. For ever since his return the father and daughter had
been always together and each seemed doubly anxious to do nothing that
would give the other pain. And after a time, even he became interested
in the queer bird and joined his children in inciting it to talk;
though his interest was not fully won until there sounded along the
street a familiar cry, to which nobody paid much heed except Polly.

She was suddenly transformed. She fluttered her feathers, stretched
her neck, cocked her head on one side, and in a tone that was almost
human in its mimicry burst forth:

“Crab-crab-crab-crab--crab-crab-crab! Devil-devilled-devil-devilled-crabs!
Heah’s-de-crab-man! Is yo’ hongry? Crab-man-goin’-to-baid-now! Dis yo’
las’ chance for yo’ nice-fried-hot-fried-devil-devilled-crabs! C-R-A-B-S!
OU-OU-OUCH!”

After which remarkable exploit mistress Polly became the idol of Dingy
street and even of William Bump.

The disposition of her new charges, so that they should not take up
too much space in her little home, and the careful packing away in the
top-cupboard of the food Bonny-Gay had provided for her pets, kept Mary
Jane busy all morning; and her mother had dinner on the table before
she observed how the time had flown. But when she heard the cheerful
summons:

“Come, father. Come children!” and smelled the freshly cooked fish, she
realized that she had given more attention than she meant to her new
cares.

“Oh! mother, I didn’t think I was so long! And I wanted to get my part
of the ironing done; because I promised Bonny-Gay that I’d go to the
park, if you could spare me, and watch her train go by. It’s that fast
express, that whizzes so; but she’s to sit on the park side the parlor
car, she called it, and she’s to watch for me and I for her. She’ll
wave and I’ll wave and that will be our really last good-by. Till she
comes home again.”

“That would be how-de-do? Wouldn’t it, child? And the ironing’s all
right. I’ve done that so, if father wants to go watch the men this
afternoon, you can go with him. Now eat your dinner and be thankful for
all your blessings.”

Everybody was always hungry at that table and the dinner was soon over.
Then William Bump arose, put on his hat, whistled to a big black dog
who lay on the doorstep and started off for his afternoon of loafing.

Mary Jane watched the pair with a pitying love.

“Those two seem just alike, some ways, don’t they mother? Father lost
his home and his work and so did Max. Dearly as Bonny-Gay loves that
dog, ever since he got her hurt, he doesn’t want to be with her like
he used. Didn’t you notice, this morning? When she hugged him and bade
him good-by, he was just a little pleased; yet he kept one eye on
father and soon’s he could walked back and lay down beside him. Father
is dreadful good to Max, isn’t he? He often says he’d never have come
back if it hadn’t been for--for us--”

“For you, daughter. Mostly for you, it was, dear.”

“Well, Max helped. He staid right close and coaxing like. Oh! I do wish
the Company would give father another try.”

“It won’t. But I’m in hopes, after awhile, he’ll find something else
to do. Meanwhile you stay close to him. Don’t give him a chance to get
down-hearted again and--you know. Didn’t you say your Gray Gentleman
was coming to the park to look at the ‘farms’ this very day? Why,
maybe, child, maybe he’d know of a job somewhere. You might ask him.”

“Yes, I might. I will. What’s father going to do now? he’s taken to the
track.”

“He says that, though he has no work there, there isn’t any law forbids
him sitting round, watching his old friends who have. He likes to talk
with men, you know; and if you’re handy by he’s quite satisfied. Father
doesn’t like to go wrong any better than we like to have him. He trusts
you to watch out for him, honey. So, if I were you, instead of taking
the baby and going along the street to the gate I’d go to the park by
the railroad. You can climb up the embankment at an easy place, and
stay near father. Then you’d be able to see everything. The children
in the ‘Playgrounds,’ and the Gray Gentleman if he goes to them, and
Bonny-Gay’s train when it comes, and all. Only--only, Mary Jane--take
care to give the cars plenty of room.”

“Course I will. ‘Look out for the cars when the bell rings!’”
laughingly quoted the child. “And you look out for the parrot when the
crab-man comes! I guess you’re right. I’d better not take the baby. If
I climb up the bank I might let him slip. Good-by. I’ll make father all
right and happy, don’t you fear.”

The mother watched her darling out of sight, thinking how sunshiny and
helpful she was, then settled the baby safely among his new playthings
and resumed her endless toil. But she was wholly happy and contented
now. They were poor, indeed, but they were not suffering, and her
hopeful heart was sure that in some way a task would be found for her
husband which would keep him out of idleness and evil company. She
began her one hymn of cheerfulness: “Lord, in the morning Thou shalt,
Thou shalt, Lord, in the morning Thou shalt hear, my voice ascending
high.”

Meanwhile, Mary Jane had hopped along the road till she came to a part
of the railway embankment which she could climb, then scrambled to its
top. Just before her the rails were laid over a long trestle above the
deep bed of a stream, now almost dry. A little water still ran among
the stones below but Mary Jane did not look down upon that. She made
her way swiftly, yet cautiously, beside the track, pushed rapidly along
the trestle, and reached her father’s side, at the further end of it.

“Here am I, father. I’m going to watch for the train from here.”

“All right, daughter.”

A fellow workman looked up and remonstrated:

“You oughtn’t to let that girl walk that trestle, Bump. If her crutches
slipped it--the bottom’s rough and deep down.”

“Oh! I’m not afraid. I don’t often, either, though I’ve played about
this railroad ever since I was born. All the Dingy street children play
there. How pretty the park looks, down yonder;” interrupted Mary Jane,
anxious that her father should not be blamed, especially for what was
not his doing.

“That’s right. You oughtn’t, daughter,” he said.

“I won’t again, then, father, if you don’t like. But I was safe enough.
What’s that team for, that’s coming?”

“They’re going to haul off that pile of ties that have been taken up.
Company gives ’em for the hauling. Only things it ever does give, too.”

“They ought to work faster. See. They keep dropping them on the track.
If a train should come by it would get thrown off. Don’t they know
that?”

“Oh, they know it all right, but they’ll be in time. They’re used to
it.”

It was in this very hardihood of custom that the danger lay. A beginner
at such a task would have watched constantly for the approach of a
train, but this “gang” did not. For the greater ease of handling they
rolled the heap of heavy ties over upon the track, as the anxious
girl had observed, and two men lifting leisurely placed the weighty,
worn out timber upon the wagon. The mule team before the wagon stood
half-over the edge of the embankment, heads dropped, themselves
enjoying the rest regardless of position.

The men laughed and talked. William Bump joined in the chatter and
forgot Mary Jane. The talk grew more interesting, to the speakers, and
became a torture to the listening girl, though she paid no attention to
the words. She realized, merely, that they were growing more and more
indolent; the pile of ties upon the rails lessened very, very slowly.
It was already long past noon, she knew that. She was familiar enough
with the running of trains to know, also, that the through express
was the next one due. It was upon this through express that Bonny-Gay
would travel. She began to feel cold with her anxiety. She must speak
to those men, even if it should displease her father, who hated
interference of that sort.

So she moved forward a little way and touched the arm of the foreman.

“Will you tell me the time, please?”

“Ten minutes to two, little girl. Pretty hot up here, isn’t it?” he
answered, good naturedly.

“Mary Jane, don’t meddle. Children should be seen not heard.”

“Yes, father. Only ten minutes! Why, you’ve been ever and ever so long
taking off less than half the ties. Can you finish in ten minutes? Can
you?” she demanded, eagerly.

“Why, kid, what’s the hurry? Got another job for us, eh?”

“The hurry? The train. The two o’clock express. It’s almost due.”

The foreman’s face paled a trifle. Then he whistled.

“Whew, sis, you’re right! Jim, lead that team off the bank. We’ll just
roll the rest down to the bottom and drive round there to load up. Now,
with a will! there ain’t no time to spare! here she goes!”

The mules were led away by one man while the others exerted themselves
to clear the tracks in any and every manner possible. There was no
longer any talking. There were no false movements. They knew that
there was no way of signalling the express, just there, even if there
should be need. But there must be no need, the tracks must be cleared.
Must be!

William Bump moved down upon the bank and watching from an apparently
safe place called upon Mary Jane to follow him.

She did not hear him. She stood, resting upon her crutches, anxiously
watching the toilers, straining forward, as if in that attitude she
could help them, and listening--listening--with every nerve at tension.
She did not see the Gray Gentleman, who had come into the park awhile
before and having caught sight of his favorite’s pink frock, crossed
the level space from the “Playgrounds” to the embankment to see what so
interested her. As he reached the spot below the end of the trestle he,
also, began to comprehend what was passing in Mary Jane’s mind and his
own cheek whitened.

“Hark! It’s coming--it’s coming!” cried the girl. “Work--work!”

They did work with a will. There was no need for anybody to urge them.
They, also, heard the low rumble of wheels along the distant track, the
shiver and tremble of the rails. The heavy ties rolled down--fast and
faster. The way was almost clear. There was only one tie left and that--

A man turned to look over his shoulder. “The train! The train! It’s on
us!”

The whole gang leaped to safety and waited. The one big timber still
lay crosswise above the trestle. It meant destruction. They knew it,
Mary Jane knew it. They could not move; but she could. That menacing
log should not destroy!

Ah! but those long, strong, useful arms of hers stood her in good stead
just then. All the strength of her body was in them. The crutches went,
she knew not where. She was lying flat, forcing, pushing, compelling
that last tie down, over the edge. The train was almost there. She knew
that, also, but she felt no fear. She must do her task--she must--she
could!

The men on the bank watched breathless, but not one went to her aid.
Even William Bump seemed stricken to stone.

There came a crash. The log was over--the track was clear!

But where was Mary Jane?

As he rounded the curve just before the trestle the engineer had seen
the child upon the track, but though he instantly reversed his engine
the train could not be brought to a stand-still till it had quite
crossed the openwork space, and he stepped down from it with horror in
his heart.

A horror which quickly changed to a shout of joy, though the peril was
yet not over.

Again these long, strong arms had done their owner good service. As the
train came upon the trestle she slipped down and dropped between the
ties, clinging to one for her life. She scarcely heard now that rumble
and roar above her; all her consciousness was fixed in the clutch of
her fingers upon that cross-beam.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the Gray Gentleman who first reached the spot and prostrating
himself upon the roadbed reached down to clasp her arms and draw her up
to safety.

“You precious child! You heroine!”

She opened her eyes at that, gave him one radiant smile, and promptly
fainted away. Which, she afterward declared, was a very foolish thing
for a sensible girl to do.

She as promptly revived, however, and there was Bonny-Gay hugging
and thanking her, but not saying good-by, at all! And there was Mrs.
McClure, that proud and dignified lady, snatching the crooked little
figure from the Gray Gentleman’s arms, to enfold it in her own and to
weep and cry over it in the most astonishing fashion.

“Oh! you darling, darling child! You’ve saved our lives, saved
Bonny-Gay, who’s more than life to us. Little did I guess how noble you
are. Nobler, Mary Jane, than anybody I ever knew.”

It was like a dream. The people, all the passengers and trainmen,
crowding round to thank and bless the little hunchback, who now rested
in her own father’s arms, while he beamed upon her, proud and happy,
but with soul-cleansing tears streaming down his softened face. And
there was Mr. McClure, laying his hand kindly upon William Bump’s
shoulder and begging:

“For any injustice I’ve done you, for any injustice you’ve done me, let
this hour make amends. As man to man--trust me, William Bump.”

“Aye, Boss. I will, I will and the poor man looked into the face of the
rich man and behold! it was as that of a brother.”

“What’s all this to-do?” cried Mrs. Stebbins, to Mrs. Bump. “The
express has stopped and there’s a crowd of people coming this way.”

“I don’t know, I’m sure. I just heard the train go by. I hope nothing’s
wrong.”

“Not wrong, sure. The men are tossing their hats and cheering and the
women--they’re laughing and talking like they’d struck a gold mine.
They’re headed this way.”

But Mrs. Bump was too busy to look. She had a lot of clear-starching to
do and she was engaged in a new, therefore interesting, task; she was
teaching Polly to sing a hymn!

“Yes, you smart bird. If you can talk crab-man’s talk, that always
sounds sort of wicked, though, of course, it isn’t, you can learn
better things just as easy.”

“So I can, so I can. Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth,”
answered Polly.

“Oh! I’m telling it, never fear. Learn it you shall. Now begin--”

But the lesson was interrupted. The voices of the crowd were near
at hand; were at the door; were in the very room! What did it mean?
William was placing Mary Jane in her mother’s arms, as if she had been
the baby himself--helpful Mary Jane! And Mrs. McClure was clasping Mrs.
Bump’s neck, and sobbing and laughing on her shoulder.

Everybody was talking at once, but suddenly somebody cleared a space
and placed a chair behind the startled mistress of the house. She sank
into it gratefully, her knees now trembling too much to support her.
But the facts had penetrated to her consciousness, at last, and with
a cry that hushed all speech of others, she held her precious “Sunday
bairn” to her heart with a thankfulness beyond words.

Suddenly, upon this sacred silence, there fell a voice which seemed
neither bird nor human, yet strangely reverent and opportune:

  “Lord, in the morning Thou shalt, Thou shalt,
  Lord, in the morning Thou shalt hear
  My voice ascending high.”

At this interruption there were some who wept--but none who smiled.



CONCLUSION

AFTERWARD


Of course there was an afterward. There always is.

The fallow fields of the McClure estate no longer lie idle under the
blue sky, a reproach to their owner. The property was not quite of the
“miles and miles” in extent which Bonny-Gay had imagined, but it was
still sufficient to set apart a goodly number of acres as a home for
Mary Jane, who had never known how beautiful the country was until she
was driven one day, along a smooth road, under over-hanging trees, and
over bridges crossing here and there the prettiest trout stream in the
world. The drive was interrupted, “to let the horses rest,” where there
was a fine view of a cottage, freshly painted in cream and white, and
with the most inviting of piazzas extending from its sides.

Mary Jane had been allowed to make a little visit at the home of
Bonny-Gay, and had been absent from Dingy street for one whole week.
This day her absence was to end, even with this day; and she thought it
a little odd that Bonny-Gay should seem so extravagantly happy, as if
she were glad that the visit were over. Though, of course, the guest
knew better than that. There was not the slightest doubt in the heart
of either “Sunday bairn” concerning their mutual love.

“Oh! what a pretty house! We haven’t come this way before, have we? Is
it on the road to the station, Bonny-Gay? How happy the folks must be
who live there. But I’m happy, too. Dingy street will seem perfectly
lovely to me when I get there. Do you suppose the baby has grown much?
I wonder if Polly has learned any new things. Mother’s a master hand to
teach, mother is. She taught me my letters while she was working round.
She thinks I can, maybe, be spared to go to school--sometime. How I
want to see her. Seems as if I could hardly wait.”

“Oh! I’m so glad, so glad!” laughed Bonny-Gay, and even the old
coachman’s face beamed with smiles, though in ordinary he felt that it
was his business, when on duty, to conduct himself like an automaton.

“I s’pose you’ll write to me, won’t you? You promised, that other time,
before you started, you know.”

“No. I shall do no such thing.”

“Bonny-Gay!” There was a volume of reproach in the tones.

“No. Not a line.”

“Whose house is this, do you suppose?”

“I don’t ‘suppose’ when I know things.”

“Whose, then?”

“Let’s go ask.”

“Why Beulah Standish McClure! What would your mother say? If there’s
anything she wants you to be it’s a lady. So I’ve heard her say, time
and again.”

“So have I. I’m tired of hearing it. I mean, I’m trying to be one. She
wouldn’t care. She’d do it herself, if she were here.”

“Never! She never, never would be so rude.”

Bonny-Gay made a funny little grimace, then leaned sidewise and hugged
her friend.

“Do the Dingy street folks know better how to behave than the Place
folks, missy?”

“Yes, Bonny-Gay, I think they do”; answered Mary Jane with dignity. For
she had now been associated with the McClure household long enough to
get a fair idea of the proprieties; and she was sure that driving up
to the doors of strange houses and inquiring their owners’ names, was
not one. However, she could do nothing further, for it was Bonny-Gay’s
carriage and not hers.

“Drive in, please.”

So the phaeton turned into the pretty driveway, bordered with shrubs,
and around the lawn by a freshly prepared curve to the very front door
itself. Mary Jane had turned her head away and utterly refused to look.
She was amazed at Bonny-Gay, her hitherto model, but she’d be a party
to no such impertinence; not she.

Then her head was suddenly seized by her mate’s hands and her face
forced about toward that unknown doorway.

“Look, Mary Jane Bump! You shall look! You shall. If you don’t, you’ll
break my heart. Look quick!”

Mary Jane’s lids flew open. Then she nearly tumbled off the seat. The
Gray Gentleman was coming down the steps, smiling and holding out his
hand. Smiling and calling, too:

“They’ve come, Mrs. Bump! They’ve come!” Mary Jane, in her newly
acquired ideas of etiquette, wondered to hear such a quiet person speak
so loudly or jest upon such themes. She had instantly decided that this
was some friend’s country house, where he, too, was visiting. Odd that
his hostess’ name should be like her own.

But all her primness vanished when out from that charming cottage
flew a woman with a baby in her arms. A woman in a print gown,
clear-starched as only one laundress could do it, and a baby so big and
round and rosy he had to be spelled with a capital letter.

“Mother! My mother and the Baby!”

“Welcome home, my child! Welcome home!”

And the Baby cooed and gurgled something that sounded very like “Ome,”
without an H.

“Has everybody gone crazy?”

“Not quite!” answered William Bump, appearing from another corner.
He was as washed and starched as his wife, and had done for himself
even something more, in honor of this great occasion--he was smoothly
shaved. He looked years younger than his child had ever seen him and
oh! how much happier and more self-respectful. He had found his right
place again. He was once more a tiller of the soil; and there is
nothing so conducive to true manliness as finding one’s congenial task
and feeling the ability to accomplish it.

Mary Jane’s head buzzed with the strangeness and wonder and delight of
it all. Yet the explanation was very simple and sensible.

It was impossible but that the McClures should do something to evince
their gratitude to the little saver of their child’s and their own
lives and they did that which they knew would be most acceptable to
her; they gave her this home in the country.

For the house, with its deed was made to Mary Jane Bump, herself; but
over the wide fields surrounding it her father was made overseer and
farmer, for his old “Boss,” at good but not extravagant wages. The
house had long stood empty, ever since the railroad magnate had dropped
his former scheme of agriculture on a big scale, but it was in good
repair and quite large enough to accommodate even the household of
Bump. A coat of paint made it like new and during the cripple’s absence
from Dingy street the flitting was accomplished.

Bonny-Gay’s own summer home was near at hand, though she had driven
Mary Jane to the cottage by such a roundabout way; and her delight had
lain in her knowledge of the happiness that was coming to her friend.

This was a year ago. As yet no cloud has marred the perfect sunshine
of Mary Jane’s new life. She now rides to school in a smart little
cart, drawn by the sedatest of piebald ponies. She is apt and ambitious
and is learning fast. Indeed, she is confidently looking forward to a
day in the future when, being both old and wise enough, she shall be
matriculated at a certain famous woman’s college; to don the cap and
gown whose ample folds shall hide, at last, her physical deformity. God
speed you, Mary Jane! and all your happy sisterhood!


THE END



TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES:


  Italicized text is surrounded by underscores: _italics_.

  Emboldened text is surrounded by equals signs: =bold=.

  Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

  Inconsistencies in hyphenation have been standardized.




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