REMORSEFUL ROMANS

SOMEHOW, the days managed to follow each other much at their usual rate
of speed. Life held a great variety of interests for the little
Maynards, and though at times they greatly missed their parents, yet at
other times they were gaily absorbed in their work or play, and were
happy and bright as usual. Miss Larkin proved to be rather an uncertain
quantity. Sometimes she ruled the household with a rod of iron, laying
down laws and issuing commands with great austerity. And then, again,
she would seem to forget all about the Maynards and become absorbed in
her own affairs, even neglecting to give orders for dinner!

But the children didn’t care. So long as she left them free to pursue
their own important occupations, she was welcome to amuse herself in any
way she chose. And with good-natured, large-hearted Ellen in charge of
the kitchen, there was no danger of any one going hungry for long.

Instead of going to school, as King and Kitty did, Marjorie went every
day across the street to Delight Spencer’s, where Miss Hart, Delight’s
governess, taught both girls. Miss Hart’s methods of teaching were
unusual, but exceedingly pleasant.

Often the girls had no idea as to what lessons would be taught until
they came to the schoolroom.

And so, as Marjorie and Delight, with their arms about each other, came
into Miss Hart’s presence one morning, they saw on the schoolroom wall a
placard bearing this legend:

“The Ides of March are come.”

“What does that mean, Miss Hart?” asked Marjorie, always interested by
something she did not understand.

“That’s our subject for to-day,” said Miss Hart, smiling. “Have you no
idea what it means?”

“Not the leastest bit,” replied Marjorie. “Have you, Delight?”

“No,” said Delight, shaking her golden head very positively. “Unless you
meant _ideas_, Miss Hart, and spelled it wrong on purpose.”

“No,” said Miss Hart, smiling; “that’s not the idea at all. Well,
girlies, to begin with, here’s a little present for each of you.”

Then Miss Hart handed them each a thin, flat volume, which proved to be
a pretty edition of Shakespeare’s “Julius Cæsar.”

Opening it, Marjorie was glad to see it contained many pictures, besides
a lot of rather grown-up looking reading.

“To begin with,” said Miss Hart, “the Ides of March are really come.
To-day is the fifteenth, which, as I will explain to you, is what was
called in the Roman Calendar, the Ides.”

Then Miss Hart went on to explain how the Roman Calendar was originally
made up, and how it has been modified for our present use, all of which,
described in her interesting way, proved a pleasant lesson, and one
which the girls always remembered.

“Now,” Miss Hart went on, “we come to the consideration of our little
book, which is one of Shakespeare’s greatest and most famous plays. In
the very beginning of it, as you may see, on this page, a soothsayer
bids Cæsar ‘Beware the Ides of March.’ Cæsar paid little attention to
him at the time, but, as we will learn from our study of the play, the
Ides of March was indeed a dread day for Cæsar, for on that day he was
cruelly stabbed and killed.”

“Oh!” cried Marjorie, who loved tragic tales, “may we read about it
now?”

“Yes; but first I will tell you a little of Julius Cæsar, himself.”

Miss Hart then gave a short description of Cæsar and his time, and then
they again turned to their books.

“Before we begin to read,” she said, “note these lines in the first
scene of Act II. You see, Brutus says, ‘Is not to-morrow the Ides of
March?’ And he sends a boy to look in the Calendar and find out. What
does the boy say when he returns?”

Quick-sighted Marjorie had already looked up this, and read the boy’s
answer, “Sir, March is wasted fifteen days.”

“So you see,” went on Miss Hart, “it was the eve of the fatal day. And
now turn to the first line of Act III.”

Delight read this aloud: “The Ides of March are come.”

“Yes, Cæsar said that himself, remembering the soothsayer’s warning.”

“Did he really say it, Miss Hart?”

“Well, you see, Delight, Shakespeare’s plays, though founded on
historical facts, are not really history. And, then, we must remember
that this play was written sixteen hundred years after the death of
Cæsar, and though true, in part, to history and tradition, much of it is
Shakespeare’s own fancy and imagination. As we study it we must try to
appreciate his wonderful command of thought and language.”

“What is a soothsayer, Miss Hart?” asked Marjorie, who was already
devouring the first pages with her eager eyes.

Then Miss Hart explained all about the soothsayers and fortune-tellers
of ancient times; and how, at that time, people put faith in the
prognostications of witches and astrologers, which facts were utilized
by Shakespeare to lend picturesqueness and mystery to his plays. So
enthralled were the two girls with the descriptions of wizardry and
soothsaying, and so many questions did they ask of Miss Hart, that the
morning was gone before they had time to begin the actual reading of the
play.

“But I didn’t expect to read it to-day,” said Miss Hart, smiling at
Marjorie’s dismay when she found it was half-past twelve. “This is our
literature class, and if we devote about one day a week to it, we’ll get
through the play by vacation time, and next term we’ll take up another.”

“But I can read it at home, can’t I?” asked Midget.

“Yes, if you like. But there will be much that you can’t understand. Our
study of it will branch out into Roman history in general, and the
manners and customs of ancient Rome, as well as the art and
architecture.”

“Oh, Miss Hart,” exclaimed Marjorie, “it is such fun to come to school
to you. It’s so different from regular school-work.”

“I’m glad you like it, dear, and I’m quite sure you’re learning as much
and as useful knowledge as is taught in the average school.”

“I know we are,” said Midget, with conviction. “I’ve been to regular
school, and I know all about it.”

With her precious Shakespeare book clasped tightly in her arm, Marjorie
ran home to luncheon.

“Oh, Miss Larkin,” she exclaimed, as they all sat at table, “did you
ever read Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Cæsar’?”

“Not all of it,” said Miss Larkin. “I don’t care much for his historical
plays. I think they’re heavy and uninteresting.”

“Oh, do you? Why, I don’t see how anything could be more interesting
than ‘Julius Cæsar.’ I’m going to read it right straight through this
afternoon.”

“Me, too,” said King. “Let me read with you, Midgie, won’t you?”

“Me, too,” said Rosy Posy; “me wead wiv Middy, too.”

“Count me out,” said Kitty. “I’m going over to Dorothy’s this
afternoon.”

And so, as baby Rosamond’s request was not taken seriously, King and
Marjorie settled themselves comfortably on the big divan in the
living-room, to enjoy their new-found treasure.

“Whew! it’s great stuff, isn’t it, Midget?” cried King, as they read
rapidly on, skipping what they couldn’t understand, but getting the gist
of the plot.

“Fine!” agreed Marjorie, as, with shining eyes and tumbled hair, she
galloped through the printed pages. “But what a shame to stab poor old
Cæsar just because it was the fifteenth of March!”

“Pooh! that wasn’t the only reason. And, anyway, if they hadn’t stabbed
him there wouldn’t have been any play at all!”

“That’s so. Unless they had stabbed somebody else. I say, King, let’s
play it ourselves.”

“’Course we will. It’s good to have a new play—I’m tired of Indians
every time. Shall we play it now?”

“Yep; Kitty’ll be home at five o’clock, and it’s ’most five now. See the
pictures; they all wear sheets.”

“They’re not really sheets, they’re tunics or togars, or whatever you
call ’em.”

“Toggas, I guess you say.”

“Yes; just like toggery. Well, you get some sheets, and I’ll make paper
soldier caps for helmets.”

“That will do for to-day; but we’ll play it better some other day, and
make good helmets with gilt paper or something.”

“All right; skip for the sheets.”

Marjorie flew for the sheets, and came back from the linen closet with
several. She brought also her Roman sash, which, she felt sure, would
add a fine touch of local color.

Kitty had arrived in the meantime, and though she had not read the play,
she was quite ready to take her part, and skimming over the book
hastily, announced:

“I’ll be Brutus; I think he’s the gayest one.”

“All right,” said King; “who’ll be Cæsar?”

“Let Rosy Posy be Cæsar,” said Marjorie. “He doesn’t do anything but get
killed. So that will be easy for her.”

The baby was called down from the nursery, and expressed great
willingness to be killed in the great cause.

As most of the Maynards’ games included a killing of some sort, they
were all used to it, and it held no horrors for them.

King was to be Antony, and Marjorie, Cassius, but they were also to
assume other parts when necessity arose.

It was, of course, only an initial performance, for the Maynards, when
they liked a new game, kept it up day after day, until they tired of it.
Much time was spent in adjusting their togas, and though all looked well
in the flowing white drapery, they agreed that Rosy Posy, bundled up in
a crib sheet, and with a gilt paper crown on her curly head, was easily
the noblest Roman of them all.

The first part of the play went well, the actors snatching a glance now
and then at the book, to get a high-sounding phrase to declaim.

Marjorie’s favorite was, “Help! ho! They murder Cæsar!” which she called
out at intervals, long before it was time for the fatal thrust.

Kitty liked the line, “The clock hath stricken three!” and used it
frequently, changing the time to suit the moment.

King thundered out, “Yond Cassius hath a lean and hungry look!” which,
when spoken at plump Marjorie, savored of the humorous.

However, the play went blithely on, each speaking in turn their own
words or Shakespeare’s, as the impulse moved them.

“Hey, Casca,” said Kitty, “what hath chanced to-day, that Cæsar looks so
sad?”

As Rosy Posy was at that moment rolling about in shouts of laughter, the
remark missed its point, but nobody cared.

“Beware the Ides of March!” roared Marjorie to the giggling Cæsar, and
Kitty chimed in:

“Ay; the clock hath stricken twenty minutes to six! Speak! strike!
redress!”

“Does that mean to dress over again?” asked King. “’Cause we haven’t
time now. We’ve just about time to kill Cæsar before dinner.”

“Come on, then,” said Marjorie; “we’ll have the killing scene now. King,
bring in the umbrella-stand for Pompey’s pillar.”

“Yes,” said King, “and we’ll put a sofa-pillar down here by it for Cæsar
to tumble onto, when he’s stabbed enough. Catch on, Rosy Posy? We’ll all
jab at you, you know, and then you must groan like sixty, and tumble all
in a heap right here.”

“Ess,” said the baby, eagerly; “me knows how. Me die booful.”

“Yes, Rosy Posy is an awful good dier,” said Kitty. “She tumbles
ker-flop and just lies still.”

This was high praise, for with the Maynards’ games of shooting Indians,
wild beasts, or captured victims, it was often difficult for the
martyred one to lie still without laughing.

“What’ll we use for daggers?” said Kitty.

“Here are two ivory paper-knives,” said King. “They can’t hurt the baby.
I don’t see any other, except this steel one, and that’s most too
sharp.”

“I’ll take that one,” said Kitty. “You and Mopsy are so crazy, you might
really jab her with it, but I won’t.”

This was true enough. King and Marjorie were too impetuous in their fun
to be trusted with the sharp-pointed paper-knife, but gentle little
Kitty never lost her head, and would carefully guard Rosy Posy from any
real harm, while seemingly as cruel and belligerent as the others.

“All right, then, here goes!” cried King. “Now, you march to the
umbrella-stand and stand there, Baby.”

Rosamond obediently toddled on her way, dragging her white draperies,
and taking her place as indicated, by the umbrella-stand.

King made the first charge, and, ignoring the text, he lunged at the
luckless Cæsar with his ivory dagger, while he gave voice to dire
maledictions.

Rosy Posy fell, though the weapon hadn’t touched her, and then Marjorie
came on to add her make-believe stabs to the wounds already given to the
valiant Cæsar. That martyred Roman lay with her eyes closed, ably
representing a stabbed Emperor, and Midget poked at her with the
paper-knife, without causing even a giggle on the part of the very
youthful actress.

“Now, Kit—Brutus, I mean—it’s your turn. Keep still, Baby, till Kitty
stabs you.”

“Ess,” said Rosy Posy, snuggling into the sofa pillows, and awaiting her
final dispatchment.

“Wait a minute,” said Kitty, who was poring over the book; “it says,
‘Doth not Brutus bootless kneel?’ I must take off my shoes.”

Kitty was nothing if not literal, so hastily unbuttoning her boots, she
flung them off, and a truly bootless Brutus knelt to add more stabs to
the defunct Cæsar. The sight of Kitty’s black-stockinged feet sticking
out from beneath the white draperies, as she knelt, was too much for
King, and silently moving toward her, he tickled the soles so temptingly
exposed. Kitty, though soulfully declaiming,

“Fly not; stand still; ambition’s debt is paid!”

was carefully guarding the point of her steel dagger from Rosy Posy’s
fat body, but when King tickled her feet, she gave an involuntary kick
and fell forward. The sharp steel plunged into the baby’s forearm, and
was followed by a spurt of blood and a piercing shriek from the child.
Kitty, at sight of the blood, gave a short groan and fainted dead away.

King sprang to pick up Rosy Posy, fairly rolling Kitty away to do so,
while Marjorie, with a scared, white face, screamed for Nannie, the
nurse.

In a moment every one in the house had rushed to them.

Nannie took the shrieking child from King’s arms, while Miss Larkin and
Marjorie bent over the unconscious Kitty.

Everything was bustle and confusion, but as Sarah brought warm water and
a sponge, and Nannie washed the little wounded arm, they found it was
only a deep, jagged scratch—bad enough, to be sure—but not a dangerous
hurt.

King had already telephoned for the doctor, and in the meantime they all
tried to restore Kitty to consciousness.

“She’s dead, I’m sure,” wailed Miss Larkin, wringing her hands, as she
looked at the still little figure lying on the floor. They had put a
pillow beneath her head, but Nannie advised them not to move her.

“Oh, no, Miss Larkin; don’t say that,” pleaded Marjorie; “I’m sure her
eye-winkers are fluttering. Wake up, wake up, Kitty dear; Baby’s all
right. Please wake up.”

But Kitty made no response, and Marjorie turned to throw her arms round
King’s neck, who stood by, looking the picture of hopeless woe.

“I DID it,” groaned King; “it was all my fault. Kitty was so careful
with that sharp dagger, and then I tickled her feet, and it made her
wiggle, and she upset right on the baby. Oh, I’ve killed dear little
Kitty!”

“Maybe you haven’t,” said Marjorie, hopefully. “Maybe she’ll wake up in
a minute. And it wasn’t your fault anyway, King. You didn’t mean to
upset her, and anybody’s got a right to tickle people’s feet.”

“No; I ought to have remembered that she had that sharp paper-cutter,
and that she might tumble over. It’s all my fault.”

“It isn’t your fault,” repeated Marjorie, stoutly. “If it’s anybody’s
fault, it’s old Brutus’s, for insisting on taking off his boots before
he stabbed Cæsar.”

Marjorie was sobbing all the while she was talking, and as she stammered
out these remarks between her choking sobs, Miss Larkin was not a little
perplexed to understand her.

“Brutus? Cæsar? what do you mean?” she asked.

“Oh, we were playing Shakespeare,” began Marjorie, “and now I come to
think of it, it was all _my_ fault for getting up the game.”

Just then, Doctor Mendel arrived, and came briskly into the living-room.

“Well, well!” he exclaimed, in his hearty way; “what’s the matter now?
Have you young barbarians been breaking each other’s bones?”

Then, as he saw Kitty, white and still, upon the floor, he stooped down
silently, and bent over the little girl.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said, as, after a moment, he looked up and saw
the scared and anxious faces watching him; “she’ll be all right, soon;
have you any smelling salts?”

Marjorie’s thoughts flew uncertainly toward the saltcellars in the
dining-room, but Miss Larkin answered, “Yes, I have,” and running up to
her own room, she returned with a vial of Crown Salts.

“That’s the ticket!” said the doctor, and carefully holding the
dark-green bottle beneath Kitty’s nose, he watched her face closely, for
he was more afraid of the after-consequences than of her present state.

And, sure enough, as the closed lids fluttered open, and the color came
slowly back to the white cheeks, Kitty gave a convulsive shudder, caught
sight of Rosy Posy’s bandaged arm, and fell into a hysterical
crying-fit.

“Take the baby out of the room,” commanded the doctor; “and now, Kitty,
girl, listen to me. Your little sister is not seriously hurt, but I want
to go to her and properly bandage her arm. I can’t leave you until you
stop this crying—or, at least, partly stop it. So, as long as you keep
it up, you are keeping me away from little Rosamond who needs me more
than you do.”

This was severe talk, but it had the effect, as the doctor intended, of
bracing Kitty up to the emergency.

Doctor Mendel knew the little Maynards pretty well. He had attended them
through all their childish illnesses, and he knew Kitty’s practical,
common-sense nature. Had it been Marjorie he was dealing with, he would
have chosen another line of argument.

“All right, Doctor,” said Kitty, still shaking nervously, but trying
hard to stop. “And, anyway, you go to Rosy; there are enough people here
to take care of me.”

And indeed there seemed to be. Nannie and Sarah had gone off with the
baby, but King, Marjorie, and Miss Larkin surrounded the sobbing Kitty,
while Ellen and Thomas looked in from the hall doorway, and even James,
the coachman, hovered in the background. Kitty’s wan smile as she spoke,
brought cheer to the watchers, and Doctor Mendel said quietly: “All
right, Kitty. I’ll take you at your word. I’ll go and attend to
Rosamond, if you’ll promise to try your best not to cry any more. If I
hear you screaming again, I shall come right back to you, and that would
be the worst harm you could do to Rosy Posy.”

“I promise, Doctor,” said Kitty, so solemnly that the good old man felt
a suspicion of moisture in his own eyes, and Miss Larkin sat bolt
up-right, with big tears falling into her brown silk lap.

Doctor Mendel went to the nursery, and unwrapping the little arm that
Nurse Nannie had bandaged, carefully examined the wound, which, though
only a jagged cut, was a deep one, and had narrowly escaped being a
serious affair.

It was necessary to cleanse it thoroughly, and this process was
accompanied by piercing shrieks from the suffering child.

These, of course, were unavoidable, for five-year-old Rosy Posy could
not be reasoned with like ten-year-old Kitty. So the doctor had to let
the child scream, while Nannie held the tiny arm firm for his
ministrations. Sarah tried to divert the baby with picture-books and
dolls, but all in vain; the heart-rending cries could be heard all over
the house.

And here is where Kitty’s fine, sensible nature showed itself strongly.

As she heard Rosy Posy’s shrieks of pain, it very nearly made her scream
in sympathy. But she bravely put her fingers in her ears, and said, with
a most pathetic look:

“Don’t let me hear her, Mopsy. If I do, I’ll cry, and then the doctor
will leave her and come down here, and then she’ll die—oh, Marjorie!”

Kitty buried her head in her sister’s lap, and Marjorie, silently crying
herself, held her hands helpfully over Kitty’s ears.

Miss Larkin fluttered around like a bewildered hen. She knew she was at
the Maynard house for the purpose of taking care of the children in
their parents’ absence, and here was an emergency—the very first
one—and she hadn’t the slightest idea of how she could possibly make
herself helpful in any way. The doctor and the servants were doing all
that could be done for the baby, and Marjorie was comforting Kitty,
which was all that could be done for that little girl. Then Miss
Larkin’s eye fell on Kingdon, who, with hands in his pockets, stood
looking out of the window. He was evidently trying hard not to cry, and
apparently he, like Miss Larkin, could think of no way to be of any
help. Rising, she made her way softly to the boy, and, putting her hand
on his shoulder, said:

“Doctor Mendel’s fine, isn’t he? He’ll soon have the baby all right, I’m
sure. Suppose you and I pick up those sheets, and put the room to rights
a little; Sarah is busy in the nursery.”

How often occupation is a help in time of trouble!

Giving Miss Larkin a grateful glance, King turned to look at the room.

The sheets which had waved so gaily as Roman togas, now lay in
dejected-looking heaps, the little one, alas! stained by the accident to
the baby Cæsar.

Miss Larkin hastily picked up that one, and soon she and King had all
the Roman toggery picked up and carried away. They put the furniture
back in place, restored “Pompey’s Pillar” to its accustomed use as an
umbrella-holder, and put all the daggers away in a desk drawer, that
they might not unnerve anybody by their sad reminders.

Marjorie, with her loving little ways, had succeeded in quieting Kitty,
and as the baby’s cries could no longer be heard, things began to look
brighter all round.

“Well, well, this is something like!” declared Doctor Mendel, as he
returned from the nursery. “You’re a trump, Kitty. I know how hard it
was for you to brace up to the occasion, but you did it, and you deserve
great credit. Now, listen to me, my girl. In the first place, Rosamond
is all right. I shall come to see her every day for awhile, to make sure
that she keeps all right, but the hurt to her arm is simply a flesh
wound, and will heal with only a very slight scar, if any.”

“Oh, Doctor!” cried Kitty, shuddering, “will her arm be scarred?”

“Probably not. She is so young, it will doubtless heal without a trace.
But even should there be a tiny white mark it will amount to nothing.
And, children, listen to this. I attach no blame either to King or
Kitty. For children always have tickled each other’s toes, and probably
always will. The whole affair was an accident, of course. But—I blame
all three of you, individually and collectively, for playing with that
sharp dagger.”

“But Kit is always so careful,” broke in Marjorie.

“I know it, and what good did it do? Carefulness cannot always guard
against accidents. So promise me that you will never again play any game
that includes the use of any dangerous instrument: dagger, knife,
scissors, chisel, anything, in fact, that might do physical harm in case
of accident.”

“Of course we promise,” said Marjorie, tearfully. “And we don’t have to
_promise_. For we _couldn’t_ play with such things after to-day. But,
Doctor Mendel, it was all my fault, ’cause I got up the whole game.”

“Don’t say another word about whose fault it was,” interrupted the blunt
doctor. “You all agree, I suppose, that it wasn’t Rosamond’s fault?”

Three astonished and indignant glances answered this question.

“Well, then, I hold that you three older children are equally to blame
for playing with what is really a dangerous weapon. Each of you is old
enough to know that you ought not to have done so—therefore you are all
blameworthy to exactly the same degree. Am I clear?”

“Yes, indeed,” said Kitty, sighing. “It _seems_ as if I was the worst.
But if you put it that way, I s’pose we all ought to have known better.”

“Of course we ought,” said King. “And I’ll never tickle the soles of
Kit’s feet again, dagger or no dagger.”

“I’m glad of that!” said Kitty, fervently, “for, oh, King, I _do_ hate
it!”

“All right, old girl. You can play bootless Brutus whenever you like,
and I won’t tickle you a speck. But your black feet looked so funny
coming out from under your white togga.”

“White what?” said Doctor Mendel, curiously.

“Her togga. We were all being Romans, you know.”

“Oh, I see. Well, you must pronounce that with a long o, my boy; it’s
toga.”

“All right, sir; toga, then. But I don’t believe we’ll ever play ‘Julius
Cæsar’ again.”

“Not with Rosy Posy, anyhow,” said Kitty, decidedly.

“But she made a lovely Cæsar,” said Midget, reminiscently.

“She must have!” said the doctor, chuckling. “A five-year-old baby girl
seems just right for the part!”

Even Kitty laughed at this.

“Well,” she said, “she may not have looked just as Cæsar really did, but
she looked awful cunning and sweet.”

“Here she is!” cried King, and Nurse Nannie came in with the smiling
baby in her arms.

In a clean frock, and her lovely hair freshly tied up with a blue
ribbon, the little one was quite her usual self. Only the
pathetic-looking bandage around the tiny bare arm gave any evidence of
the late disaster.

Doctor Mendel carefully watched Kitty as her eyes fell on the bandage.
She turned a fiery red, and then went perfectly pale. She choked a
little, but by a determined effort of will, she held on to herself, and
controlled her agitation.

“Brave little girl!” said Doctor Mendel, patting her shoulder. “You’re
doing nobly, Kitty, and I have no fears for you now. Remember, if you
want to help the baby bear her misfortune, you must do it by unselfishly
being bright and cheery, and helping to amuse her, and not by sorrowful
regrets that can do no one any good.”

“Yes, sir,” said Kitty, meekly, but with a note of strong determination
in her voice. “But I wish Mother was home. Shall I write her about it
all, Doctor?”

Doctor Mendel was such an old and tried friend of the Maynard family,
that the children consulted him on any subject, with full confidence in
his sympathy and wisdom.

“Well, I don’t know, Kitty. I hate to have you go all over the matter in
a letter, when really it is now a thing of the past. And yet I suppose
you wouldn’t sleep quietly in your little bed, if you didn’t tell Mother
about it at once. Well—how’s this plan? Suppose I write and tell her
about it, and then she’ll write to you, and then you can keep it up as
long as you choose after that.”

“Oh, that will be fine, Doctor!” cried Kitty, her heart full of
thankfulness for his kindness. She had dreaded to write the awful story,
and yet she wanted her mother to know about it, and this plan was a
relief to her burdened little heart.

And Doctor Mendel’s fine insight told him all this. He knew that
emotional, sensitive little Kitty would live over the scene as she wrote
about it, and her remorse and self-censure would work cruelly upon her
already overwrought nerves. So he determined to write himself, and tell
the story in its true light, knowing that Mr. and Mrs. Maynard pretty
thoroughly understood their own children, and would at once appreciate
the situation. Then the doctor went away, and without his cheery
presence, the children’s spirits lagged again.

Then it was that Miss Larkin came to the rescue.

“Now, children,” she said, and though her bright gaiety of manner always
seemed a little forced and unreal, they listened politely to what she
was about to say.

“Now, dear children,” she repeated, “after a dreadful scene, such as
we’ve just passed through, I don’t think there’s anything so cheering
and comforting as an extra good dinner.”

“Hooray!” cried King, who had expected a lecture or, at best, a talk of
a consolatory nature; “I say, Larky, you’re a brick!”

He stopped, suddenly overcome with discomfiture at having all
unintentionally used the nickname that he had promised never to say
again.

But, to his great surprise, Miss Larkin laughed gaily. “Good for you,
King!” she said; “I used to have a chum who called me ‘Larky,’ but I
haven’t heard the name for years. I’d like it if you’d use it often.”

“But—but,” stammered King, “I promised Mother I wouldn’t. She said it
was disrespectful.”

Miss Larkin laughed again. “So it would be if you meant it
disrespectfully. But if you and I can be chums, and I ask you to use it,
then I know Mother would have no objections.”

“I know it, too,” said Marjorie; “can’t we all be chums—Larky?”

She said the name so sweetly, and after a momentary hesitation, that
Miss Larkin promptly kissed her.

“Yes,” she declared. “We’ll all be chums together, and you shall all
call me Larky, and I’ll call you by your nicknames. Now, for this
cheering dinner of ours. It is belated anyway, but I think by a
judicious use of the telephone we can add enough to it to make it a
special feast. Kitty, what would you like better than anything else?”

“Ice cream,” said Kitty, so promptly, that one would almost think she
had been expecting the question.

“You’ll get it,” said Miss Larkin, with a decided wag of her head. “Now,
Mopsy, what will you choose?”

“Little iced cakes,” said Marjorie; “green ones, and yellow ones, and
pink and white and choclit ones.”

“King next,” went on the questioner. “Of course, you must choose
something that can be bought, not made.”

“Nuts and raisins,” said King, after a moment’s thought.

Then Rosy Posy announced her desire for “fig-crackers,” and the menu was
made up.

Miss Larkin bustled away to the telephone, and after a colloquy with the
caterer, arranged to have the order sent up at once.

As the dainties desired were all of the nature of dessert, there was no
need to delay dinner, and when Sarah announced it, the children realized
that they were decidedly hungrier than usual—which was saying a great
deal!

By virtue of her position as heroine of the day, Rosy Posy was allowed
to sit up to dinner, and though she fell asleep at the table, with a
“fig-cracker” in her hand, she was carried away to bed without
interrupting the festivities.

And festivities they were. For a sort of reaction from the late tragic
events, and the fact that ice cream always made a “party,” so enlivened
their drooping spirits that the little Maynards were their own gay
selves once more, and “Larky” proved that upon occasion she could be as
merry as her nickname sounded.

“IT’S awful to have Father and Mother away so long, but it’s lovely to
get their letters,” said Marjorie, as Sarah brought in a big budget of
mail that the postman had just brought. The Maynards were at breakfast,
and as King distributed the various letters, postcards, and parcels,
there proved to be something for everybody at the table.

Mr. and Mrs. Maynard were now in Florida, and they sent many souvenirs
of their trip.

Marjorie had a silver teaspoon, King a book-mark, Kitty a pin-tray, and
Rosy Posy a queer little doll, all of which were marked with the name of
the beautiful hotel where the travellers were then staying.

Miss Larkin received a lovely lace handkerchief, which was a more
elaborate gift than the others, though not so specially a souvenir.

Then each had two or three postcards of the Florida scenery, and, best
of all, each had a letter addressed separately and individually.

As they eagerly opened and read them, Rosy Posy, only slightly assisted
by Sarah, also opened her letter and pretended to read it, nodding her
curly head and smiling as if she could really make out the written
pages.

And then, each in turn, they read their letters aloud.

“Is yours in poetry, Miss Larkin?” asked Marjorie. “Ours are.”

“Partly,” said Miss Larkin, smiling. “Your father is quite a poet, isn’t
he?”

“He says he isn’t,” said Kitty; “but I think his verses are lovely. You
read yours out first, Miss Larkin, and then we’ll read ours.”

So Miss Larkin began:

“Dear Miss Larkin, here we are
Seeming near, though really far.
Wondering how you get along
With those children, so headstrong.
Are your dark locks turning gray
With their worry day by day?
Are they jumping at the chance
To be leading you a dance?
Or has your devoted care
Tamed them into angels fair?
Well, whate’er may be the case,
We are glad you’re in our place.
So forgive their naughty pranks,
And accept our love and thanks—
Blessings be upon your head:
Always yours,
HELEN and ED.”

“Oh, isn’t that lovely!” sighed Kitty. “I ’spect they made that up
together. They can both make rhymes, you know.”

“You next, King,” said Marjorie. “We always go by ages, you know.”

“All right,” said King. “Mine isn’t very long. I guess Father wrote it
all himself.

“Dear old King,
Everything
Is going fine,
So here’s a line
To let you know
That, as we go,
Our thoughts turn back
Along the track
Until, in our mind’s eye, we see
Our King Cole and his Sisters Three.
So to the girls and to the brother
We send much love,
FATHER and MOTHER.”

“That’s a nice one,” said Kitty, who loved the jingles. “Now I’ll read
mine. Oh, no, it’s your turn first, Mops.”

“Mine’s from Mother. I guess she thinks I’m up to some mischief. She
says:

“Marjorie, dear, dearie, derious,
I think I’ll write you a line that’s serious—
Only to say, Be good, sweet child,
And don’t do anything wrong or wild.
If mischievous pranks you want to play,
Put them off till a future day.
For I would rather at home be found
When Marjorie Mischief comes around.
But I feel quite sure I need feel no fears,
For my bonnie lassie of twelve sweet years
Is trying, I know, to be good as gold.
So here’s all the love that a heart can hold
To my darling Daughter, far away
From your ownest, lovingest
MOTHERY MAY.”

“May is short for Maynard,” Marjorie explained to Miss Larkin. “We often
call her Mothery May. It’s such a pretty name.”

“Yes, it is,” said Miss Larkin. “I didn’t know Helen could rhyme as well
as that.”

“She learned it from Father,” said Kitty. “She told me so once. She says
it isn’t poetry, it’s just jingle. But I love it all. We’re going to
save all these letters and cards and things, and make a big scrap-book.”

“That will be fine,” said Miss Larkin. “Let’s begin it at once. I’ll
help you.”

“All right; thank you,” said Kitty. “Now I’ll read mine.

“Kitty, Kitty, Kitty,
What an awful pity
That we couldn’t have you here
To enjoy this country, dear.
You would love the sky and sun
And the blossoms, every one.
And the waves upon the shore,
Rolling, tumbling, o’er and o’er.
Never mind, Miss Kittiwinks,
Sometime it will chance, methinks,
That we’ll come down here again
And we’ll bring you with us then.
You and King and Mops, and maybe
That small Rosy Posy baby!
Now, good-bye, for I’ve no time
To waste on further foolish rhyme.
I don’t like to work my brain hard.
From your fond old
FATHER MAYNARD.”

“Oh,” cried Kitty, “don’t you just love that! Brain hard and Maynard is
a grand rhyme!”

“Great!” agreed King, “though it joggles a little, I think.”

“Well, of course, it isn’t a real rhyme,” said Kitty, looking
thoughtful; “it’s just a sort of a joke rhyme. That’s why I like it so
much. Now, Rosy Posy, I’ll read yours.”

“Ess, Kitty; wead it out loud to me.”

“I want my Rosy Posy,
Yes, I do!
I want to cuddle cosy
Just with you.
I want my little girlie,
Pink and white;
Hair so soft and curly,
Eyes so bright.
There are but a few, love,
Sweet as you.
Rosy Posy, Truelove,
I love you.”

“Oh,” exclaimed Kitty, enraptured, “what a sweet little love-poem! Why,
it’s a valentine!”

“Ess,” said the happy recipient; “it’s my ballytine. Muvver sended it
all to me.”

“So she did, Baby,” said Midget. “And it’s a lovely one. We’ll put it in
the big scrap-book. Now, Miss Larkin, I must skip to school.”

“So say we all of us,” said King, rising from the table. “Let’s put all
these letters and gifts and things away together, and get them out again
to-night. Can we begin the scrap-book to-night, Miss Larkin?”

“Yes, King, I’ll get the book to-day. I’d like to make you a present of
it.”

“Oh, thank you, Miss Larkin. You’re a trump! You’ll sure get it, won’t
you?”

“Yes, indeed. I have to go downtown this afternoon, and I’ll get a real
nice one.”

“Mayn’t I take all the postcards over to Delight’s with me?” said
Marjorie. “I want to show them to her and to Miss Hart.”

“Sure, take mine,” said King, heartily; and Kitty, too, was willing.

“I’ll be awful careful of ’em,” said Midget. “And I know Miss Hart will
be so interested to see them.”

Miss Hart was, indeed, interested. She changed her mind about the
lessons she had planned for the day, and took Florida for the theme
instead. She had been there herself, so she recognized the places
pictured on the postcards, and described them in a most interesting way.
The map of Florida was found in the Geography, and Miss Hart told her
pupils all about its wonderful fruits and flowers. Then, taking down a
United States History, she read to them of the settlement of the state,
of its growth and present condition, and many other interesting details.
The other Southern states were touched on, and when the lesson was over
Delight and Marjorie felt quite well informed about that section of our
country.

Then Miss Hart asked them each to write a short composition about
Florida. These she corrected, and explained her corrections so clearly
that, almost without knowing it, the girls had had a lesson in English
composition.

“Oh,” sighed Marjorie, as she put on her hat to go home; “it has been a
lovely morning. Isn’t it strange, Miss Hart, how I used to hate to go to
school, and now I just love it.”

Miss Hart smiled.

“You hate routine work, Marjorie,” she said; “and you disliked the
confinement and discipline of the regular schoolroom. Our lessons are so
varied and unsystematic, they don’t tire you in the same way.”

“They don’t tire me at all, Miss Hart; but it is you who make them so
pleasant. Nobody else ever could teach things as you do. You make
lessons seem play.”

“They are play, if you enjoy them. Anything we enjoy is a recreation,
and, therefore, pleasant.”

“You’re coming over this afternoon, you know, Mops; the Jinks Club meets
here.”

“’Course I am, Delight. We’re all coming. What are we going to do?”

“I don’t know. Miss Hart said she’d help us. You know, my mother won’t
let us rampage all over the house, as your mother does.”

“I know it,” said Marjorie, smiling to think of Mrs. Spencer’s carefully
placed furniture and immaculately kept rooms, subjected to such
invasions as frequently turned the Maynard house topsy-turvy.

“In fact,” Delight went on, “Mother says I can’t have the Jinks Club
meet here, unless we promise to stay in just the two rooms—the library
and dining-room.”

“All right,” assented Midget, cheerfully. “We can have plenty of fun in
two rooms. Can’t we, Miss Hart?”

“Yes, I’m sure you can. Quiet fun, you know. And perhaps you’ll enjoy
that—for a change, you know.”

“I know we’ll enjoy it, if you’re with us, Miss Hart,” and with a loving
good-bye to the governess and to Delight, Midget scampered home.

“Oh, fiddlesticks!” said King, as, at the luncheon table, Marjorie told
of the meeting of the Club that afternoon. “I don’t see any fun cooped
up in two rooms. Why can’t we play outdoors?”

“Oh, Mrs. Spencer hardly ever lets Delight go out to play in March. She
says it’s a dangerous month.”

“Huh! We play outdoors any day in the year.”

“I know we do, King. ’Cause Mother wants us to. But Mrs. Spencer is
different.”

“Different! I should say she was! She’s about as much like our mother as
chalk’s like cheese. Let’s have the Club over here, Mops.”

“No,” said Marjorie, looking thoughtful. “I think we’d better not have
it here while Mother’s away. For you know we always break things, or
’most kill ourselves, and after ‘Julius Cæsar’ I think we want to beware
of our sort of games.”

“My! but you’re getting cautious! Well, all right; I’ll go to Delight’s
this time, but if it’s poky, I won’t go again. Anyway, it’ll be at Flip
Henderson’s next time, and I guess we’ll have fun there.”

“I’d just as lieve play quiet games, anyway,” put in Kitty. “I’ve had
enough of accidents.”

She glanced at Rosy Posy’s bandaged arm, which, though it didn’t
incommode the baby in the least, was a silent reminder to the others.

So, at three o’clock, the three Maynards went across the street to
Delight’s house.

Dorothy Adams and Flip Henderson came at the same time, and they all
went in together.

It is strange how the atmosphere of a home will affect its guests.

Mrs. Spencer was a kind and pleasant lady enough, and yet no sooner were
the members of the Jinks Club inside her house, than they suddenly
became silent and a little self-conscious. They had an undefined feeling
that they must “behave,” and it made them a little stiff and unnatural.

The Maynard house, on the other hand, was like a playground. Once inside
those hospitable doors, they felt an unspoken welcome that was homelike
and cordial to the last degree.

So they decorously laid off their hats and coats, taking pains to place
them neatly on the hatrack or hall table, and then primly seated
themselves around the library. King began to fidget; he was always
impatient under restraint of any sort. But Marjorie felt more at home in
the Spencer house, and, too, she had faith in Miss Hart’s plans,
whatever they might be.

Kitty was of an adaptable nature, and didn’t care much what they played.
Dorothy was with her, and that was fun of itself.

Soon Miss Hart came in, and her smiling face, and cordial manner, did
much to cheer the hearts of the Jinks Club.

“I was so interested in Marjorie’s postcards,” she began, “that I
thought you might like to play a postcard game this afternoon. So I’ve
arranged it for you. As you see, in this room, and the dining-room, are
many postcards pinned to the walls and window-frames, and on tables and
mantels. Some are partly hidden, others in plain sight. In every case
the printed title is cut off, and each card is numbered. Now, we will go
travelling.”

This began to look promising. King glanced around at the postcards, and
noticed some attractive-looking parcels tied with ribbons, and decided
it was to be a sort of a party. Now, a party was about as much fun as a
regular Jinks Club meeting, so his spirits rose to the occasion.

“Here is your luggage,” Miss Hart went on, giving each a pencil and
blank card. “Write down the number of any postcard, and write against it
what you think it represents. Don’t look at each other’s lists, and the
one who has most correct answers will receive a prize. Good-bye, my
tourist friends; start now on your travels.”

It was fun. Some of the pictures were impossible to mistake. The Eiffel
Tower, the Pyramids of Egypt, and the Bunker Hill Monument were easily
recognized. But others were not so well known, and sometimes the
tourists had to think hard to remember where some of the buildings or
monuments were situated. The scenes were from all over the world; from
the Coliseum in Rome to the Flatiron Building in New York; and the Jinks
members giggled when they came across a picture of their own town
library and the Rockwell Railway Station. It was an absorbing game, and
the tourists went about from picture to picture, and then back on their
tracks again to try once more to recall some half-forgotten arch or
statue.

At last, the allotted time was up, and the tourists all returned to the
library, while Miss Hart looked over the cards. To her surprise, King
had the greatest number of correct answers, for though he was the oldest
one present, he had not studied ancient history as much as Marjorie and
Delight had.

“How do you happen to be so well-informed?” asked Miss Hart, as she
handed him the first prize.

“I don’t know,” said King. “I think I see pictures in the illustrated
papers, and somehow I remember them.”

“That’s what we call a ‘photographic memory,’” said Miss Hart, smiling,
“and it’s a very good thing to have.”

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