The man had turned a violently sur take them to 'er, if you desire. Is your prised face to her. "A-poor little girl name hand address in the bag, Miss?" and something in the way of toys did I He had one hand on the suit-case, hunderstand you to mention, Miss?” “Hi'll take care that it is returned to It was evident her words had aroused you the first thing in the morning.' some very extraordinary interest in him. Dorothy kept her hand on the bag.

"Yes, I have some toys—but the ones It was not through distrust, although it I expected to give them to already— I does seem extraordinary that she should couldn't give them. And it's almost have been so confiding. It was rather midnight, and I can't bear to have because she was bitterly disappointed.

[graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][merged small]

she went.

Penelope” Dorothy was nearer tears The evening had been so woefully disthan she had realized.

appointing-although it was nice, of “Penelope'? I thought I heard the course, for the others. It seemed that word 'toys,' Miss, if I may make so she, alone of all the world, was to free?" The man's tone was ingratiating. be solitary on Christmas Eve. Even

"Oh, she's a doll-a lovely doll with Penelope—if Penelope was to be taken clothes, lots of them, that can be taken from her she must see the home to which off and put on—buttons, you know, and hooks-snappers, too

If—if I could


with A gleam of sheer covetousness lit up

she faltered. the respectable man's eyes. But covet The man drew back with a haughty ousness struggled with caution. With a stare of astonishment. But the trouble furtive glance around he said, hurriedly; in Dorothy's face was disarming. He

“I think I might know of a little girl surveyed her dubiously. such as you speak of. There-there “Oh, Hi don't believe that could be happen to be no toys for 'er, Miss, al- arranged at hall, Miss,” he scolded her. though” He checked himself. "Hi'll “I'm sorry, but,” Dorothy got pos

VOL. CXXXVI.—No. 811.-12

you and




session of her suit - case and turned apparently empty house? He might be away.

-anything. All of the tales of crime “Oh, Hi say, Miss, Hi'll do hanythink and violence of the disappearance of you say. Hi'll take you to 'er 'ome young girls—horrors untold-streamed the little girl's. But you must come through her mind. She ran to the door, right away now. Hit's very late - Hi tried it, shook it. She couldn't it don't know what they'll think. This and she could see no latch. She searched never ’appened before”

He groaned frantically, her breath coming faster and as he led the way.

faster. A slight noise behind her made Surprisingly near the business hurly

her turn. The man stood there. burly, after the manner in which little “Oh, did Hi leave the door hopen, islands and promontories of dignified Miss? There is a bad current there," family life in our great cities resist the he murmured, deferentially. “Are you devouring tide of labor, the man stopped quite sure you are hentirely comfortable before a rather grim stone building.

now, Miss?” Respectability enveloped “I didn't know anything but private him as a garment. What was he doing houses were on this block,” Dorothy in this place—knowing it intimately? commented to herself. “One of the con Was he a burglar? But why should a verted flat buildings, I suppose. It burglar bring a witness to his burglary must be the janitor's child."

along? And what could he want with The man produced a latch-key and let Penelope? The expression on his face them in. 'The hushed and tranquil a queer one-hesitation mingled splendor of the place immediately with relief. warned Dorothy that this was no Alat “1-I think I'd better-” she had building, but a gentleman's house and begun, her hand still on the knob, when, the house of a gentleman of great wealth all at once, the hall was filled with peoand exquisite taste.

ple. They must have followed him For a moment this soothed her inex- through the door behind the portière. pressibly. Her nerves, worn a little raw Five figures she counted, all women, by the events of the night, relaxed pleas- and all with the same expression of antly under the spell of beauty so con indecision and relief. It was all so sidered and so restrained. The soft pile strange and dream-like that she could of the Persian rugs was soothing to her hardly believe it true. tired feet, the pleasant warmth sent a "Mais - Monsieur Weelyam, what returning glow through all her chilled weel they say? I 'ave fear, oraiment I body.

’ave fear, moi!” the youngest and prettiThis was only a momentary respite, est of the women was saying, with a however. Almost instantly the peculiar strong French accent that was very conduct of the man who had brought her pretty. The hands that she was clasping there alarmed her. He motioned her to and unclasping nervously were smooth seat herself in one of the tall old cathe and slender. dral chairs near the door, opened a rear “But if we don't—what will ’appen door and listened, pushed a portière when they come 'ome? Hi ask you that, cautiously aside and listened; stole, Mademoiselle? What will Master do cat-like, up the deeply cushioned stair then?” demanded the man who had treads to a landing and—judging by his brought Dorothy there. immobility-listened there. Down he Apparently this was unanswerable. crept again—his feet seemed velvet- Dorothy heard murmurs where the other shod-opened a door behind a heavy women huddled together: portière on the left, and, with a warn “Fer sure—what will they do when ing gesture to Dorothy, vanished.

they find out? — But 'twas niver my Alone in this strange place, all the place, I'll say if 'twas my last hour. It folly of her impulsive act overwhelmed Mr. William or Maddym'selle the girl in a flood of regret and fear. should have attended to it. That don't Why had she been so rash, so inconceiv- make no difference, we'll all lose our ably rash? What did she know of this places,” All this mingled so Dorothy man whom she had accompanied into an couldn't indentify the various voices.




This was

“And probably what this person has suit - case?" Mademoiselle's anxious may be some common cheap things that courtesy could not drive the suspicion we never could explain. They would out of her voice. never forgive us—never!"

Without question Dorothy opened the from an elegant, rustling, elderly person bag. In this extraordinary situation in black taffeta.

there seemed to be nothing but to do as Then a stout, red-faced woman spoke: she was told. She had the same drugged “An' how can ye tell that she's not passivity that one has in dreams. “Mr. one of thim femayle reporters that's

William and the women crowded used this chance to get into the house? around her. As soon as Penelope was The Sunday papers had a story wanst freed of her paper wrappings and smiled about how they'd do annythin' to get rosily at them Mademoiselle emotionally in.”

clasped her hands. “And do you think she placed 'erself Qu'elle est mignonne!" she cried. at that store just on the chance Hid “What a beautiful of a leettle poupée!" be there at that hour? Think another “She'll do,” sighed Mr. William, with time, Mrs. Mulligan." The respectable an intonation of profound relief. person disposed of the other's suspi When the trunk was opened the elecions in an authoritative manner. gant elderly person said, "The highest in “Might I see what is there in your the land would think that outfit a credit



to them;" and, “Ye couldn't foind a journeyed, over dim, luxurious spaces, foiner trussoo if ye hunted the stores until they came to a little intimate room, over,” said the red-faced one, heartily. book-lined, warm-curtained, smelling of

Dorothy still waited, wide-eyed, to fragrant leather and of the dying wood catch some clue to the mystery. Mr. fire beyond question a room where peoWilliam cleared his throat.

ple really lived, shut safely away from "Hit's this way, Miss-if Hi tell you, the rest of the world by heavy doors as you must promise you'll never breathe well as by draperies. Here he turned a word. Mr. and Mrs. Wainwright”– the light higher. he spoke the name augustly-"are not “This is where the Wainwright Christ'ome.

Directions were sent-al mas celebration has always been," he though there seems to have been a mis announced, his voice pompous now that understanding—for Miss 'Elen's Christ he was again on the familiar ground of mas presents.

Ні supposed, of course, established things. that Mademoiselle-Miss ’Elen's gover Dorothy looked around speculatively. ness-would hattend to it-'


you some greens-someMais non, Monsieur Weelyam,” Ma- thing that we can use for a Christmas demoiselle interrupted, shrilly. “It was assurément for you to make all the ar They were again a prey to consternarangements. Is it not the work of the tion. While they were still huddled tobutlaire?

gether, exchanging disheartened glances Mr. William turned very red. “Hi or looking accusingly at Mr. William and always 'old to such-like matters being Mademoiselle, Dorothy's eyes lighted attended to by women,” he announced, on an orange-tree growing in a big green with true British doggedness.

pot by a window. She pounced on it. In an instant there was babel again, "The very thing!" she cried, joyously. voices shriller and louder. Dorothy was "Surely you have some Christmas-tree becoming more and more indignant. ornaments left from last year?”

“You mean to say,” she said, hotly, This was the occasion for the stately “that a child was left all alone by her housekeeper. “Indeed we have, Miss. parents at Christmas-time, and that It won't take a minute to get them. I every one of you in this great rich house always make a point of having everyforgot her? How cruel! How terribly thing where I could put my hand on it cruel! I've been in the homes of dread in the dark.” She sailed out of the room. fully poor people this evening, and no Half an hour afterward the scene was matter how poor they were for that one very different. Mr. William had put day they tried to make the children fresh logs on the fire and prodded it and happy. That's why I'm here, because I puffed at it with the bellows until it couldn't find any forgotten child. Oh, blazed royally. “Better keep it up the poor little lonely child! Poor child"

rest of the night so the room will be Her voice trembled. Her eyes were

warm when the little dear comes in big and bright with the quick tears. The here,” the housekeeper had suggested. contending group stirred uneasily. A long white-silk stocking had been hung

“She has right," said Mademoiselle, from the wonderfully carved Italiancontritely. “And it is I who am to walnut mantelpiece. In a big arm-chair blame." She made a dramatic gesture sat Penelope, dangling her note and the of contempt of herself.

key to her finery from a chubby hand, “Hi ’ave been with them ever since chubby pink knees straight before her, little Miss ’Elen was born.” Evidently queening it in the seat of honor that was Mr. William had suffered a change of hers by right. heart. “Hit was worse for me.”

The top and the ball and the books “Oh, what's the difference?” Doro and other toys were piled around her, thy was a little impatient. “Where and the trunk was at her feet. Moreshall we put the things?"

over, the servants, scurrying to their Solemnly, at the head of the motley rooms, had hunted among their own procession, the dignified butler led the things, and not one of them but had way. Through heavy curtains they found something pretty or grotesque to

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

tuck in the stocking and give just the But Mademoiselle's heart made her dear, delightful knobbiness that should wiser. “You will come with me, Magreet every child on Christmas morning. demoiselle,” she said, softly. “It is I The orange-tree, shapely and glossy that assume the—what you call heem?green, was a mass of glint and color, with the responsibility.” And Dorothy folthe

array of tiny jewel-like colored elec- lowed silently. tric-light bulbs all alight to test the con No room, it seemed, that had had the nection. Nuts and raisins and apples whole love of a real father and mother and oranges had been found on the side lavished on it could have been a more board in the dining-room, of course, and tender nest for a well-beloved. SomeDorothy's boxes of candy filled in every how this thought of the neglect of these vacant chink in the stocking and cornu extravagantly rich people would not let copias and little gilt baskets on the tree Dorothy alone; the thought of it rankled as well. When all was ready the place in her. The light from the street made was transformed.

It was

not only a faint, silvery radiance as it filtered Christmasy-it was Christmas.

through delicate hangings to a bed that And the place wasn't half as much was as exquisitely decked as if it had changed as the people. Under that been a shrine. The radiance revealed radiant spell of Dorothy's, their selfish plainly, and yet with the transforming fears for their positions, their selfish in touch of poetry, the child who lay there, difference of class to those who paid cheek and hand cuddling the soft pillow, them wages—antagonism, perhaps—had the tumbled dark hair pushed away from gone away before real love for a lonely the placid forehead, dark lashes resting little girl who, now that they had for- lightly against flushed, soft cheeks. gotten how great an heiress she was, Something was clutched tight in the crept every minute more tenderly into other little hand, clutched tight under their thoughts. Their talk was full of her chin. With an irresistible impulse her-how sweet she was, how gentle; Dorothy bent forward and straightened how she hated to give trouble; how cour the little fingers. Relaxed in sleep they teously she always spoke of them. They let their treasure fall from them. Both were not a bit like a household of ser- girls bent forward eagerly. To see what vants tardily performing a neglected it was that the child cherished had beduty. They were much more like a come the most important research in the group of fatuous uncles and aunts, with world. It was a little battered image of one stately and one red-faced grand some factory's idea of Santa Claus, such mother. And it seemed as if no little as flourishes during the holiday season mother could have glowed with a more in every humble home of the nationtender passion than did Dorothy.

a little red-faced Santa, cuddling his At last everything was finished. With hands inside his cotton-batting-bordered a happy sigh Dorothy stretched out her sleeves and hugging a tiny tree in his arms and realized that she was tired. arms. There was a pause for a moment while Mademoiselle suddenly began to sob. she adored the tree.

Then she said, "Oh, merci, merci! dear Mees. I cannot eagerly:

bear to think what it would have been "Oh-could I - Would it be possible to-morrow if you had not come. Thank --for me to see her just one minute you that you save me from seeing

that!” She raised Dorothy's hand to “See Miss 'Elen?" Nothing could

her lips. have exceeded the horror in Mr. Will Roused slightly by the sound of a iam's voice. He had become again the voice, the child stirred, drowsily slipped conservative superior menial, oppressed a lax arm around the neck of Dorothy with the weight of maintaining the dig- bending over her, murmured, “Manity of his household. Awful suspicions ma,” and drifted off into a sounder sleep. assailed him. There were those kidnap

“See how she herself have thank you; ping cases--you never could tell to what she think it is her mother." lengths those people might go. He hesi Dorothy cringed a little at the facile tated.

Gallic expression of emotion. The touch

before I go?”


« VorigeDoorgaan »