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   Chapter 8 ELIZABETH AT HOME

The Three Midshipmen By William Henry Giles Kingston Characters: 30841

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02


In a tiny hall bedroom in one of the small brick houses that cover many blocks in certain sections of Washington, Elizabeth Page was standing a week later, trying to screw up her courage to a deed of daring; and because it was for herself it seemed almost impossible for her to do it. With her white face, her anxious eyes, and trembling hands, she seemed again the Poor Thing who had shrunk from every one those first days at the camp-every one but Olga.

Three times Elizabeth started to go downstairs and three times her courage failed and she drew back. So long as she waited there was a chance-a very faint one, but still a chance-that the thing she so desired might come true. But the minutes were slipping away, and finally, setting her lips desperately, she fairly ran down the stairs.

Her stepmother glanced up with a frown as the girl stood before her.

"Well, what now?" she demanded, in the sharp, fretful tone of one whose nerves are all a-jangle.

"I've done everything-all the supper work, and fixed everything in the kitchen ready for morning," Elizabeth said, her words tumbling over each other in her excitement, "and O, please may I go this evening-to Miss Laura's? It's the Camp Fire meeting, and one of the girls is going to stop here for me, and-and O, I'll do anything if only I may go!"

The frown on the woman's face deepened as Elizabeth stumbled on, and her answer was swift and sharp.

"You are not going one step out of this house to-night-you can make up your mind to that-not one step. I knew when I let you go off to that camp that it would be just this way. Girls like you are never satisfied. You want the earth. Here you've had a month-a whole month-off in the country while I stood in that hot kitchen and did your work for you, and now you are teasing to go stringing off again. You are not going."

"But," pleaded Elizabeth desperately, "I've worked so hard to-day-every minute since five o'clock-and I washed and ironed Sadie's white dress before supper. If there was any work I had to do it would be different. And-and even servant girls have an afternoon and evening off every week, and I never do. And I'm only asking now to go out one evening in a month-just one!"

"There it is again!" Mrs. Page flung out. "Not this one evening, but an evening every month; and if I agreed to that, next thing you'd be wanting to go every week. I tell you-no. Now let that end it."

The tears welled up in Elizabeth's eyes as she turned slowly away; and the sight of those tears awakened a tumult in another quarter. Four-year-old Molly had been rocking her Teddy Bear to sleep when Elizabeth came downstairs, and had listened, wide-eyed and wondering, to all that passed. But tears in Elizabeth's eyes were too much. The Teddy Bear tumbled unheeded to the floor as Molly rushed across to Elizabeth and, clinging to her skirts, turned a small flushed face to her mother.

"Naughty, naughty mamma-make 'Lizbet' ky!" she cried out, stamping her small foot angrily. "Molly love 'Lizbet' hard!"

Elizabeth caught up the child and turned to go, but a sharp command stopped her. "Put that child down. I won't have you setting her against her own mother!"

Elizabeth unclasped the little clinging arms and put the child down, but Molly still clutched her dress, sobbing now and hiding her face from her mother. The tinkle of the doorbell cut the tense silence that followed Mrs. Page's last command. Sadie, an older girl, ran to open it, flashing a triumphant glance at Elizabeth as she passed her.

As Sadie flung open the door, Elizabeth saw Olga on the step, and Olga's quick eyes took in the scene-the frowning woman, Elizabeth's wet eyes and drooping mouth, and little Molly clinging to her skirts as she looked over her shoulder to see who had come. Sadie stared pertly at Olga and waited for her to speak.

"I've come for Elizabeth. I'm Olga--"

"Elizabeth can't go. Mother won't let her," interrupted Sadie with ill-concealed satisfaction in her narrow eyes.

Elizabeth started towards the door. "O Olga, please tell Miss Laura--" she was beginning when Sadie unceremoniously slammed the door and marched back with a victorious air to her mother's side.

Olga was left staring at the outside of the door, and if a look could have demolished it and annihilated Miss Sadie, both these things might have happened then and there. But the door stood firm, and there was no reason to think that anything untoward had happened to Sadie; so after a moment Olga turned, flew down the steps, and hurrying over to the car-line, hailed the first car that appeared. Fifteen minutes later she was ringing the bell at the door of Judge Haven's big stone house on Wyoming Avenue. The servants in that house never turned away any girl asking for Miss Laura, so this one was promptly shown into the library. Laura rose to meet her with a cordial greeting, but Olga neither heard nor heeded.

"She can't come. Elizabeth can't come!" she cried out. "They wouldn't even let me speak to her, though she was right there in the hall-nor let her give me a message for you. Her sister slammed the door in my face. Miss Laura, I'd like to kill that girl and her mother!"

"Hush, hush, my dear!" Laura said gently. "Sit down and tell me quietly just what happened."

Olga flung herself into a chair and told her story, but she could not tell it quietly. She told it with eyes flashing under frowning brows and her words were full of bitterness.

"Elizabeth's just a slave to them-worse than a servant!" she stormed. "She never goes anywhere-never! They wouldn't have let her go to the camp if she hadn't been sick and the doctor said she'd die if she didn't have a rest and change, and so Miss Grandis got her off. O Miss Laura, can't you do something about it? Elizabeth wanted so to come-she was crying. I know how she was counting on it before we left the camp."

Laura shook her head sorrowfully. "I don't know what I can do. You see she is not yet of age, and her father has a right-a legal right, I mean-to keep her at home."

"But it isn't her father, it's that woman-his wife," Olga declared. "She won't even let Elizabeth call her mother-not that I should think she'd want to-but when I asked Elizabeth why she called her Mrs. Page she said her stepmother told her when she first came there that she didn't want a great girl that didn't belong to her calling her mother."

"Elizabeth is seventeen?" Laura questioned.

Olga nodded. "She won't be eighteen till next April. I wouldn't stay there till I was eighteen. I'd clear out. She could earn her own living and not work half as hard somewhere else, and go out when she liked, too." She was silent for a moment, then half aloud she added, "I'll find a way to fix that woman yet!"

"Olga," Laura looked straight into the sombre angry eyes, "you must not interfere in this matter. Two wrongs will never make a right. If there is anything that can be done for Elizabeth, be sure that I will do it. And if not-it is only seven months to April."

"Seven months!" echoed Olga passionately. "Miss Laura, how would you live through seven months without ever getting out anywhere?"

Laura shook her head. "We will hope that Elizabeth will not have to do that," she said gently. "But I hear some of the girls. Come."

In the wide hall were half a dozen girls who had just arrived, and Laura led the way to a large room on the third floor. At the door of this room, the girls broke into cries and exclamations of pleasure.

"It's like a bit of the camp," Mary Hastings cried, and Rose Anderson exclaimed,

"It's just the sweetest room I ever saw!" and she sniffed delightedly the spicy fragrance of the pines and balsam firs that stood in great green tubs about the walls. On the floor was a grass rug of green and wood-colour, and against the walls stood several long low settees of brown rattan, backs and seats cushioned in cretonne of soft greens and cream-colour, and a few chairs of like pattern were scattered about. Curtains of cream-coloured cheesecloth, with a stencilled design of pine cones in shaded browns, draped the windows, and in the wide fireplace a fire was laid ready for lighting. The low mantelpiece above it held only three brass candlesticks with bayberry candles, and above it, beautifully lettered in sepia, were the words,

"'Whoso shall stand by this hearthstone,

Flame-fanned,

Shall never, never stand alone:

Whose house is dark and bare and cold,

Whose house is cold,

This is his own.'"

And below this

"'Love is the joy of service so deep that self is forgotten.'"

Bessie Carroll drew a long breath as she looked about, and said earnestly, "Miss Laura, I never, never saw any place so dear! I didn't think there could be such a pretty room."

Laura bent and kissed the earnest little face. "I am glad you like it so much, dear," she said. "I like it too. You remember the very first words of our Camp Fire law-'Seek beauty'? I thought of that when I was furnishing this. It is our Camp Fire room, girls, and I hope we shall have many happy times together here."

"I guess they couldn't help being happy times in a room like this-and with you," returned Bessie with her shy smile, which remark was promptly approved by the other girls-except Olga, who said nothing.

"You look as glum as that old barn owl at the camp, Olga," Louise Johnson told her under cover of the gay clamour of talk that followed. "For heaven's sake, do cheer up a bit. That face of yours is enough to curdle the milk of human kindness."

Olga's only response was a black scowl and a savage glance, at which Louise retreated with a shrug of her shoulders and an exasperating wink and giggle.

Within half an hour all the girls were there except Elizabeth. Olga, glooming in a corner, thought of Elizabeth crawling off alone to her room to cry. Torture would not have wrung tears from Olga's great black eyes, and she would have seen them unmoved in the eyes of any other girl; but Elizabeth-that was another thing. She glanced scornfully at the others laughing and chattering around Miss Laura, and vowed that she would never come to another of the meetings unless Elizabeth could come too. If Miss Laura, after all her talk, couldn't do something to help Elizabeth--But Miss Laura was standing before her now with a box of matches in her hand.

"I want you to light our fire to-night, Olga," she said gently. Ungraciously enough, Olga touched a match to the splinters of resinous pine on the hearth, and as the fire flashed into brightness, Miss Laura, turning out the electric lights, said, "I love the fire, but I love the candles almost as much; so at our meetings here, we will have both." The girls were standing now in a circle broken only by the fire. Miss Laura set the three candlesticks with the bayberry candles on the floor in the centre of the circle and motioned the girls to sit down. Lightly they dropped to the floor, and Laura, touching a splinter to the fire, handed it to Frances Chapin, a grave studious High School girl who had not been at the camp. Rising on one knee, Frances repeated slowly,

"'I light the light of Work, for Wohelo means work,'" and lighting the candle, she added,

"'Wohelo means work.

We glorify work, because through work we are free.

We work to win, to conquer, to be masters. We work

for the joy of the working and because we are free.

Wohelo means work.'"

As Frances stepped back into the circle, Laura beckoned to Mary Hastings, the strongest, healthiest girl of them all, who, coming forward, chanted slowly in her deep rich voice,

"'I light the light of Health, for Wohelo means health!'"

Lighting the candle, she went on,

"'Wohelo means health.

We hold on to health, because through health we

serve and are happy.

In caring for the health and beauty of our persons we

are caring for the very shrine of the Great Spirit.

Wohelo means health.'"

As Mary went back to her place Laura laid her hand on the shoulder of Bessie Carroll, who was next her. With a glance of pleased surprise Bessie took the third taper and in her low gentle voice repeated,

"'I light the light of Love, for Wohelo means love.'"

The room was very still as she lighted the third candle, saying,

"'Wohelo means love.

We love love, for love is life, and light and joy and sweetness.

And love is comradeship and motherhood, and fatherhood and all dear kinship.

Love is the joy of service so deep that self is forgotten.

Wohelo means love.'"

As she spoke the last words a strain of music, so low that it was barely audible, breathed through the room, then deepened into one clear note, and instantly the wohelo cheer rose in a joyful chorus.

After the roll-call and reports of the last meeting there was no more ceremony. Miss Laura had set the three candles back on the mantelpiece, where they burned steadily, sending out a faint spicy odor that mingled with the pleasant fragrance of the firs. The fire snapped and sang and blazed merrily, and Laura dropped down on the floor in front of it, gathering the girls closer about her.

"To-night," she began, "I want to hear about your good times-the 'fun' that every girl wants and needs. Tell me, what do you enjoy most?"

"Moving pictures," shouted Eva Bicknell, a little bundle-wrapper of fifteen.

"Dances," cried another girl.

"O yes, dances," echoed pretty Annie Pearson, her eyes shining.

"I like the roller skating at the Arcade," another declared.

"The gym and swimming pool and tennis." That was Mary Hastings.

"Hear her, will ye?" Eva Bicknell muttered. "Great chance we have for tennis and gym.!"

"You could have them at the Y.W.C.A. That's where I go for them when you go to your dances and picture shows," retorted Mary.

"But the picture shows is great fun, 'specially when the boys take ye in," the other flung back.

There was a laugh at that, and the little bundle-wrapper added, "an' finish up with a promenade on the avenue in the 'lectric lights."

Laura's heart sank at these frank expressions of opinion. What had she to offer that would offset picture shows, dances and "the boys" for such girls as these? But now one of the High School girls was speaking. "We have most of our good times at the school. There is always something going on-lunches or concerts or socials or dances-and once a year we get up a play. Some girl in the class generally writes the play. It's great fun."

Laura brightened at that. Here were three at least who cared for something besides picture shows. For half an hour longer she let the talk run on, and that half-hour gave her sidelights on many of the girls. Except Olga-she had not opened her lips during the discussion.

When there came a little pause, Laura spoke in a carefully careless way. "I told you, girls, that this is our Camp Fire room and I want you to feel that it belongs to you-every one of you owns a share in it. We shall have the Council meetings here every Saturday, but this room is not to be shut up all the other evenings. We may have no moving pictures, but you can come here and dance if you wish, or play games, or sing-I'm going to have a piano here soon-or if you like you can bring your sewing-your Christmas presents to make. What I want you to understand is that this room is yours, to be used for your ple

asure. You haven't seen all yet."

Rising, she touched a button, and as the room was flooded with light, threw open a door. The girls, crowding after her, broke into cries of delight and admiration; for here was a white-tiled kitchen complete in all its appointments, even to a small white-enamelled gas range and a tiny refrigerator. On brass hooks hung blue and white saucepans and kettles and spoons, and a triangular corner closet with leaded doors revealed blue and white china and glass.

"All for the Camp Fire Girls," Laura said, "and it means fudge, and popcorn, and toasted marshmallows and bacon-bats and anything else you like. You can come here yourselves every Wednesday evening, and if you wish, you can bring a friend with you to share your good times."

"Boy or girl friend?" Lena Barton's shrewd eyes twinkled as she asked the question, with a saucy tilt to her little freckled nose.

"Either," returned Laura instantly, though until that moment she had thought only of girls.

"Gee, but you're some Guardian, Miss Laura!" Lena replied.

As the girls reluctantly tore themselves away from the fascinating kitchen, two maids entered with trays of sandwiches and nutcakes, olives and candy.

"It is the first time I have had the pleasure of having you all here in my own home," Miss Laura said, "so we must break bread together."

"Gee! This beats the picture shows," Lena Barton declared. "Three cheers for our Guardian-give 'em with claps!" and both cheers and clapping were given in generous measure.

When finally there was a movement to depart, Laura gathered the girls once more about her before the fire. "I hope," she began, "you have all enjoyed this evening as much as I have--"

"We have! We have!" half a dozen voices broke in, and Lena Barton shrilled enthusiastically, "More!"

Laura smiled at them; then she glanced up at the words above the mantelpiece. "The joy of service," she said. "That, to me, is the heart-the very essence-of the Camp Fire idea. And while I am planning good times and many of them for ourselves in these coming months, I wish that together we might do some of this loving service for some one beside ourselves. Think it over-think hard-and at our next Council meeting, if you are willing, we will consider what we can do, and for whom."

"You mean mish'nary work?" questioned Eva Bicknell doubtfully.

"No-at least not what you probably mean by missionary work," Laura answered.

"Christmas trees for alley folks, and that sort of thing?" ventured another.

"I mean, something for somebody else," Laura explained. "It may be an old man or woman, a child or-or anything," she ended hastily, intercepting an exchange of glances between Lena and Eva. "I just want you to think over it and have an idea to suggest at our next meeting."

"Huh! Thought the'd be nickels wanted fer somethin'," Eva Bicknell grumbled as she linked her bony little arm through Lena's when they were outside in the starlight.

"Come now-you shut up!" retorted Lena. "Miss Laura's given us a dandy time to-night, an' I ain't goin' back on her the minute I'm out of her house. An' I didn't think it of you, Eva Bicknell."

"Who's goin' back on her?" Eva's hot temper took fire at once. "Shut up yourself, Lena Barton!" she flared. "I ain't goin' back on Miss Laura any more than you are. Mebbe you're so flush that you can drop pennies an' nickels 'round promiscuous, but me-well, I ain't-that's all," and she marched on in sulky silence.

On the next Wednesday evening, some of the girls came to the Camp Fire room, and played games, which some enjoyed and others yawned over, and made fudge which all seemed to enjoy. On the next Wednesday they sang for a while, Laura accompanying them on the piano, and Rose Anderson played for them on her violin. After that they sat on the floor before the fire and talked; but Laura was a little doubtful about these evenings. She feared that these quiet pleasures would not hold some of the girls against the alluring delights of dances and moving pictures and boys.

Meantime she did not forget Elizabeth, and on the first opportunity she went to see Mrs. Page. Sadie opened the door, and was present at the interview. She was evidently very conscious of the fact that her braids were now wound about her head and adorned with a stiff white bow that stuck out several inches on either side.

Mrs. Page received her visitor coldly, understanding that she came to intercede for Elizabeth. She said that Elizabeth's father did not want his daughter to go out evenings; that she had a good home and must be contented to stay in it "as my own children do," she ended with a glance at Sadie, who sat on the edge of a chair with much the aspect of a terrier watching a rat-hole. When Miss Laura asked if she might see Elizabeth, Sadie tossed her head and coughed behind her handkerchief, as her mother answered that Elizabeth was busy and could not leave her work.

"But wouldn't she do her work all the better if she had a little change now and then, and the companionship of other girls?" Laura urged gently.

"She has the companionship of her sister-she must be satisfied with that," was the uncompromising reply.

With a sigh, Laura rose to leave, but as she glanced at Sadie's triumphant face, she had an inspiration. The child was certainly unattractive, but perhaps all the more for that reason she ought to have a chance-a chance which might possibly mean a chance for Elizabeth too. She smiled at the girl and Laura's smile was winning enough to disarm a worse child than Sadie.

"If you do not think it best for Elizabeth to attend our Council meetings regularly, perhaps you would be willing to let her come this next Saturday and bring her sister. After the business is over, we are going to have a fudge party. I have a little upstairs kitchen just for the girls to use whenever they like. I think your daughter might enjoy it-if she cared to come-with Elizabeth."

Marvellous was the effect of those few words on Sadie. Seeing a refusal on her mother's lips, she burst out eagerly, "O mother, I want to go-I want to go! You must let me."

Taken entirely by surprise, Mrs. Page hesitated-and was lost. What Sadie wanted, her mother wanted for her, and she saw that Sadie's heart was set on accepting this invitation. "I suppose they might go, just for this once," she yielded reluctantly.

Laura allowed no time for reconsideration. "I shall expect both of them then, on Saturday," she said and turned to go. She longed to look back towards the kitchen where she felt sure that Elizabeth must have been wistfully listening, but Mrs. Page and Sadie following her to the door, gave her no chance for even a backward glance.

"Good-bye," Sadie called after her as she went down the steps, and the child's small foxy face was alight with anticipation.

Slamming the door after the caller, Sadie flew to the kitchen.

"There now, Elizabeth," she cried, "I'm going to her house next Saturday and you're going-you can just thank me for that too. Mother wouldn't have let you go if it hadn't been for me."

Elizabeth's face brightened, but there was a little shadow on it too. Of course it was better to go with Sadie than not to go at all-O, much better-but still--

When Saturday came Sadie was in a whirl of excitement. She even offered-an unheard-of concession-to wipe the supper dishes so that Elizabeth might get through her work the sooner, and she plastered a huge white bow across the back of her head, and pulled down the skirt of her dress to make it as long as possible. Sadie would gladly have thrown away three years of her life so that she might be sixteen, and really grown up that very night.

Olga was waiting at the corner for them, Miss Laura having told her that Elizabeth was to go. Her scathing glance would have had a subduing effect on most girls, but not on Sadie! Sadie did most of the talking as the three walked on together, but the other two did not care. It was enough for Elizabeth to be with Olga again, and as for Olga, she was half frightened and half glad to find a little glow of happiness deep down in her heart. She was afraid to let herself be even a little happy.

When the three entered the Camp Fire room Laura met them with an exclamation of pleasure. "We've missed you so at the Councils, Elizabeth," she said, "but it's good to have you here to-night, isn't it, Olga? And Miss Sadie is very welcome too."

Sadie smiled and executed her best bow, then drew herself up to look as tall as "Miss" Sadie should be; but the rest of the evening her eyes and ears were so busy that for once her tongue was silent. She vowed to herself that she would give her mother no peace until she-Sadie-was a really truly Camp Fire Girl like these.

When in the last hour they were all gathered on the floor before the fire, Mary Hastings asked, "Miss Laura, have you decided yet what our special work is to be-the 'service for somebody else'?" she added with a glance at the words over the mantelpiece.

"That is for you girls to decide," Laura returned. "Have you any suggestion, Mary?"

"I've been wondering if we couldn't help support some little child-maybe a sick child in a hospital, or an orphan."

"Gracious! That would take a pile of money," objected Louise Johnson, "and I'm always dead broke a week after payday."

"There are fifteen of us-it wouldn't be so much, divided up," Mary returned.

"Sixteen, Mary-you aren't going to leave me out, are you?" Miss Laura said.

"I think it would be lovely," cried Bessie Carroll, "if we could find a dear little girl baby and adopt her-make her a Camp Fire baby."

"Huh!" sniffed Lena Barton. "If you had half a dozen kids at home I reckon you wouldn't be wanting to adopt any more."

"Right you are!" added Eva Bicknell, who was the oldest of eight.

"We might 'adopt' an old lady in some Home, and visit her and do things for her," suggested Frances Chapin. "There are some lonely ones in the Old Ladies' Home where I go sometimes."

But the idea of a pretty baby appealed more to the majority of the girls.

"O, I'd rather take a baby. We could make cute little dresses for her," Rose Anderson put in, "all lacey, you know."

"Say-where's the money comin' from for the lacey dresses and things you're talkin' about?" demanded Lena Barton abruptly.

There was an instant of silence. Then Mary threw back a counter question. "How much did you spend for moving pictures and candy last week, Lena Barton?"

"I d'know-mebbe a quarter, mebbe two. What of it?" Lena retorted, her red head lifted defiantly.

"Well now-couldn't you give up two picture shows a week, for the Camp Fire baby?" Mary demanded. "If sixteen of us give ten cents a week we shall have a dollar sixty. That would be more than six dollars a month."

"Gracious! Money talks!" put in Louise. "Think of this crowd dropping over six dollars a month for picture shows and such. No wonder they're two in a block on the avenue."

"You see," Laura said, "we could easily provide for some little child, at least in part. Girls, I'd like to tell you about one I saw at the Children's Hospital yesterday. Would you care to hear about him?"

"Yes, yes, do tell us," the girls begged.

"He is no blue-eyed baby, but a very plain ordinary-looking little chap, nine years old, whose mother died a few weeks ago, leaving him entirely alone in the world. Think of it, girls, a nine-year-old boy without any one to care for him! He's lame too-but he is the bravest little soul! The nurse told me that they thought it was because he was so homesick-or rather I suppose mother-sick-that he is not getting on as well as he should."

"O, the poor little fellow!" Frances Chapin said softly, thinking of her nine-year-old brother.

"Tell us more about him, Miss Laura," Rose Anderson begged. "Did you talk with him?"

"Yes, I stayed with him for half an hour, and I promised to see him again to-morrow. He wanted a book-about soldiers. I wonder if any of you would care to go with me. You might possibly find your blue-eyed baby there; and anyhow, the children there love to have visitors-especially young ones."

Two of the High School girls spoke together. "I'd like to go."

"And I too," added Alice Reynolds, the third.

"I guess I'd like to, maybe-if there isn't anything catching there." It was pretty little Annie Pearson who said that.

"I'd love to go, but I can't," Elizabeth whispered to Olga, who frowned at her and demanded,

"What do you want to go for?"

"I'd so love to do something for that little fellow," Elizabeth answered. "I've been lonesome too-always-till now."

"Humph!" grunted Olga, the hardness melting out of her black eyes as she looked into Elizabeth's wistful blue ones.

It was finally agreed that the three High School girls, Frances Chapin, Elsie Harding, and Alice Reynolds, with Mary Hastings, Annie Pearson, and Rose, should go with Miss Laura to the hospital.

"I c'n see kids enough at home any time," Lena Barton declared airily. "I'd rather walk down the avenue on Sunday than go to any hospital."

"I guess I'll be excused too," said Louise Johnson. "Hospital visiting isn't exactly in my line. I've a hunch that I'd be out of place amongst a lot of sick kiddies. But I'll agree to be satisfied with any blue-eyed baby girl you and Miss Laura pick out for our Camp Fire Kid. Say, girlies"-she looked around the group-"I move we make those seven our choosing committee-Miss Laura, chairman, of course."

"But, Johnny," one girl objected, "maybe they won't find any girl to fit our pattern over at the hospital."

"It is not at all likely that we shall," Laura hastened to add, "and if we did, it would probably be one with parents or relatives to care for it after it leaves the hospital."

"Blue-eyed angel babies, with dimples, don't come in every package. I s'pose you'd want one with dimples too?" Eva Bicknell scoffed.

"O, of course, dimples. Might as well have all the ear-marks of a beauty to begin with, anyhow," giggled Louise. "She'll probably develop into a homely little freckle-faced imp by the time she's six, anyhow."

"There's worse things in the world than freckles," snapped Lena Barton, whose perky little nose was well spattered with them.

"So there are, Lena-so there are," Louise teased. "Yours will probably fade out by the time you're forty."

A cuckoo clock called the hour, and the girls reluctantly agreed that it was time to go. But first Laura, her arms around as many as she could gather into them, with a few gentle tender words brought their thoughts back to the deep meaning of the thing they were planning to do-trying to make them realize their opportunity for service, and the far-reaching results that must follow if a little life should come under their care and influence.

For once Louise was silent and thoughtful as she went away, and even Lena Barton was more subdued than usual until, at last, with a shrug of her shoulders, she flung out the vague remark,

"After all, what's the use?" and thereupon rebounded to her usual gay slangy self.

But Elizabeth went home with Miss Laura's words echoing in her heart. "I don't suppose I can do much for our Camp Fire baby," she told herself, "but there's Molly. Maybe I can do more for her and-and for Sadie and the boys-perhaps."

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