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seat at table with the boys, with her back to the rest of the company.
"Oh, yes, at the gate," thought Roger, laughing to himself at her tell-tale cheeks as he went back to his seat between Susie and her father.
Mr. North, a fatherly looking old gentleman,—always urbane, was never more so than when in the depths of an arm-chair, sipping tea. It was to him what smoking is to other men, mildly exciting and soothing at the same time. Under the influence of his tea and a new listener, he expanded into eloquence, and entertained Roger with his well-matured views on political economy. Susie would put in a word from time to time, in a vain attempt to turn the conversation into shallower channels.
Roger tried to be interested, but his attention would often wander to the table where Alice and the boys were indulging in a great deal of mirth. She was evidently not shy with her brothers, and her flow of talk was as incessant and musical as the tinkling of rills.
"Papa," said wise and careful Susie, after a while, don't you think that three cups are almost too many? You know you complained of not sleeping last night.""
"There goes Susie, the Great American Regulator," mumbled Teddy, his mouth full of bread and butter. "I wonder if she will allow the Bird of Freedom to have another cup. He wouldn't dream of all things free,' if he had Susie to look after him."
"Hush! he might hear you," whispered Alice, in a panic.
"Who-the Bird? What if he did? He wouldn't know himself by that name. It isn't the one he was christened by."
"You are such a boy for names," said Alice.
"What do you think of him?" asked Teddy. "Horrid. He smiles in such an abominably supercilious way. They are all hateful. It makes me sigh to think that you and Arty will have to be young men some day."
"You will change your opinion by that time, judging by Susie," said Arthur, in his grave way.
"Hear the parson!" said Alice. "Parson, indeed!" exclaimed Teddy. "I know everybody calls him that, but preacher would be a better name."
The table at which Alice and the boys sat was between two windows that opened to the floor, and through which the night air, fresh from meadow and garden, floated into the room. More objectionable things, such as gnats and mosquitoes, floated in, too, and after a while a big beetle bobbed about the lights, and beat itself against the wall, in frantic efforts to get out again.
Alice gave a little scream, and spread her fan over her head.
"Oh, boys, it's as big as a cow! Do, one of you, put it out. If it gets in my hair I shall faint."
"Yes, Teddy, put it out," said Arthur.
Teddy needed no prompting. No game was too large or too small for his adventurous hand. He jumped up, overturning his chair and brushing a book from the table in his heedless spring at the winged beast that hovered over Alice's head.
"Come, Teddy, don't make such a noise," cried his father, impatiently.
"You will have to go to bed, young gentleman, if you don't behave," said Susie, with authority, serenely unconscious of the grimace Teddy made in reply.
Roger slipped forward to right the table, which seemed in danger of being upset. He picked up Alice's fan and the book which had fallen on the floor. The latter lay open at a pictured page, and he glanced involuntarily at the wood-cut as he was about to return the book to its place. His attention became riveted when he discovered that it represented Gulliver asleep, being bound by the Lilliputians. He looked up and caught Teddy's eye.
The boy threw back his head and began searching the upper air intently for the beetle which he held in his hand.
"This is an interesting picture," said Roger. "Do you know what it represents?"
Teddy, thus pointedly addressed and brought to bay, recalled his eyes from the ceiling and said, with crimson face but stolid air, unconsciously imitating Roger's deliberate manner:
"Yes, it is the Bird of Freedom."
Roger stared. Was the boy stupid, or only impudent?
Teddy took advantage of this mental debate to dash through the open window to the portico beyond. When Roger looked round, Alice had slipped away through the other window, and Arthur was leaning on the table, his pale, serious face bending over a book.
"So Dean Swift was the remote cause of
my adventure," thought the young man. "But I will have it out with those young people yet. What are you reading?" he asked, in a gentle tone, of Arthur, whose frail appearance and lovely countenance interested him. Everybody's voice softened in speaking to the lad.
Arthur glanced hastily at the head of the page over which he was bending, and then, raising his beautiful eyes to Roger's, said slowly and with a faint color:
"Emerson on 'The Oversoul.""
"Good gracious! And how old are you?" "Twelve."
"You had much better throw your books in the fire," said Roger, warmly.
"Come, Arthur," said Mr. North, "it is bed-time. Call in the others and let us have some hymns before we go."
Alice and Teddy were called in. Alice took her seat partly behind her father's big chair, above which only her brown hair and eyes were occasionally visible. Teddy brought the books. Mr. North read a chapter from the Bible, and when it was finished, Susie seated herself at the piano and played the accompaniments while Arthur sang "The day is past and gone," and other old-fashioned evening hymns.
Roger thought he had never heard anything so sweet as the boy's voice. Fresh, clear, and strong, it seemed to lift the hearer's spirit into a pure region where thought and praise are one. After the first thrill of surprise and pleasure, he discovered that it had also the remarkable effect of keeping Alice still. Ordinarily it was as impossible to get a satisfactory look at her as to examine an apple-blossom whirled about one breezy day in spring. But she forgot her shyness and the existence of supercilious young men in the pleasure of listening to Arthur. For the first time Roger had an opportunity of studying her face, as she emerged from behind her father's chair, in order to see the boy, whose appearance while singing was as seraphic as his voice. She had an oval face, with wide-awake brown eyes, soft, waving hair of the same color, an insignificant little nose, and a full, tender, crimson mouth. She wore a white dress sprinkled over with little blue stars, a blue sash, and a blue bow at her throat.
"What a pretty creature! If she would only look at me!" thought Roger.
His eyes wandered from the charming face to the slim, white fingers, so obviously incapable of any force but the mighty force of tenderness. His pulse quickened His pulse quickened
as he thought of the velvet touch of her hand as it rested on one of Teddy's scrubby little fists.
When the singing was over, Mr. North read prayers, and the company bade each other good-night.
Before leaving the room, Roger went to the table where Alice and the boys were putting the books in order.
Good-night, young people," he said, with the smile that Alice called abominably supercilious. "Putting up your books, I see. I know that you make good use of them. I congratulate you, Master Teddy, on your practical application of your reading: you have taken a lesson from 'Gulliver's Travels.' And you, Miss Alice, remind me of the story we read in English history of the Countess of Salisbury. Good-night!" and with a profound bow he went away.
Alice and Teddy looked at each other. "Who is the Countess of Salisbury, Teddy?" asked Alice.
"Blessed if I know."
"Teddy, how could you and Alice be so mean as to run away and leave, me, after telling him Gulliver's picture was the Bird of Freedom?" asked Arthur.
"I should have burst if I had staid a minute longer," said Teddy.
"So should I," said Alice.
"And what did you think I was going to do? I wanted to laugh as much as either of you."
"What did you do, Arty?"
"Why, I picked up the first book I came to, and pretended to be deep in it. I thought he would let me alone, but bless you, he asked me what I was reading. had to look at the top of the page to find out, and when I told him it was about overshoes, or oversoles, or something of the kind, he thought I was killing myself studying, and then I nearly burst."
"What a jolly old bird! He will be the death of us before he goes away," cried Teddy.
"You had better not play any pranks on him. You know Dad is very particular about company, hospitality, and all that kind of thing," said Arthur.
"You are a great fellow to talk," said Teddy, significantly. "But I wish I had known that he was the fellow papa was expecting when I saw him flapping down the mountain, singing the battle-cry of freedom. How was I to know that the bird was Mr. Dent? Decent people generally come in a carriage, or at least on horseback."
Alice, flushed from her race, and radiant with victory, came in to breakfast looking like a dewy rose; but she only lifted her eyelashes when she bade Roger goodmorning. He found the meal a very pleasant one, notwithstanding, for he had the pretty madcap to look at, which was a good thing, although she would not so much as glance at him. He had Susie to talk to him; Mr. North did not get in until late, and the young hostess had an opportunity to discuss other things besides political economy. Roger was not long in deciding that Susie was a nice, sensible girl, and her breakfast was so excellently well cooked and served that, if he had been a little older, he might also have decided that she would make a good wife. present the road to his heart was through the
sang Alice, as she danced away upstairs to imagination.
THE family at Northwood were early risers. When Roger looked out of his window next morning, across the dewspangled lawn, he saw, at the gate in front of the house, Alice and the boys, who had been up and out for hours. While he was leisurely contemplating the group, two men, who had come to see Mr. North on business, rode up and, dismounting, tied their horses to the rack near by. As soon as the men had disappeared into the house, and were presumably deep in conference with Mr. North, Alice sprang upon one of the horses and Teddy on the other, while Arthur was left to be umpire of a race. In a moment, Teddy and his sister were galloping at full speed along the avenue to the outer gate, which was a quarter of a mile beyond. Roger held his breath in terror as he watched the mad ride. A woman's seat on horseback, always insecure, is doubly so on a man's saddle, and he expected every moment to see her dashed to the ground. He heaved a great sigh of relief when they came tearing back on the home stretch, Alice poised as lightly, and apparently as safely, as a butterfly.
The girl gave a merry shout of triumph as she beat Teddy by a neck, and Roger could scarcely refrain from shouting "Brava !"
"What an exciting creature she is!" he thought, as he went down-stairs in answer to the breakfast-bell," and how unexpected! To think of her screaming at a beetle, and then trusting her neck to a hard-mouthed brute like that!"
Susie was a pleasant fact; but
Alice was a delightful possibility. However, he did not seem to get better acquainted with her; and though days passed and his pedestrian tour seemed to have come to an end at Northwood, he had not succeeded at the end of a fortnight in solving the mystery of the blue silken band, the children very astutely eluding the subject.
Indeed, Roger's interest in the matter had considerably abated, in his desire to overcome Alice's disfavor. He even began to regret the adventure in the church-yard, in the belief that it had something to do with her avoidance of him, and yet he could not conceal from himself that it was the adventure which first attracted his attention favorably toward her. She was as enticing, but as difficult of access, as the moon for which he had cried in infancy. At times, when the beauty and freshness of the evening tempted the inmates of Northwood to long rambles in the woods and fields, he would try to make himself useful to her as a protector; but he found that she was quite able to take care of herself. She seemed to be afraid of nothing but beetles, which only appeared when the candles were lit; besides, she was always dashing off on mysterious expeditions with Teddy and Arthur.
Once he had three minutes' consecutive conversation with her, and, although he knew it was owing to the fact that there was a hedge between them, it made him quite happy.
"Miss Alice," he said, peering on tiptoe over the tall brambles into the meadow, where she stood ankle-deep in the luxuriant, wind-swept grass, hunting for mushrooms"Miss Alice, you are an interesting study."
"How so?" she asked, feeling safe be
hind her hedge, and looking out of her | wide-open brown eyes directly at him, for the first time.
"Why, you seem to be afraid of amiably disposed young men, and yet you have no fear of the most vicious brute of a horse."
"You see, I like horses."
"There is a great deal in that; but why have you such an antipathy to young men ?" "I never know what to say to them." "You find a great deal to say to Teddy and Arthur."
"They are only boys. I am devoted to boys."
"I am glad to hear that, for it has not by a turn in the path was advancing so been so very long since I was a boy."
"Were you a nice boy?"
rapidly as to bring him to a stand-still: there was not room for two swiftly moving bodies in the narrow footway. A moment later
"I don't know; but I can write home, brought him face to face with Alice, who was and inquire."
hurrying down as fast as her little feet could
"Because if you were, it is such a pity carry her. Her hat had fallen off, and was you ever grew up, you know."
This was not encouraging. "Better to have been drowned, like a superfluous puppy, I suppose ?"
"That would have been a pity, too," she said, contemplatively, as if deciding upon
the less of two evils.
Such as it was, it was the kindest thing she had ever said to him, and he felt like vaulting over the hedge and thanking her on the spot. She, probably, saw the purpose in his eye, for she nodded a friendly good-bye and hurried away.
There was one thing besides a beetle of which Alice was afraid, but Roger did not know of it; he found out one afternoon when he was taking a solitary scramble up the mountain.
It looked a little cloudy when he started on his walk, but after scanning the heavens in the most weather-wise way, he decided that the rain, if there should be any, would not come before night. The mountain-the same that he had descended the evening of his arrival-was steep and thickly wooded. The single, little-frequented path that wound up toward its summit was narrow, shelving, and sometimes lost itself in a thicket. It required familiarity with the way and a sure footing to be able to get along at all. A heedless step would break off the crumbling edge of the path, and a shower of earth and stones would rattle down the mountain, indicating the distance to its base. Eyes, not on the alert, were in danger from undergrowth and overhanging dead-wood.
Roger, singing his song of "all things
hanging by its ribbons behind her. Her hair, brown as a nut and fine as cobweb, was blown in wild disorder about her richly glowing face. Her brilliant color and quickened breath gave evidence of her excitement and rapid pace. She frowned at the sight of Roger as at any other impediment to her haste.
"We are going to have a storm," she said, breathlessly, as she went by him, while he squeezed himself against a bowlder of rock to let her pass. He watched her with anxiety as she ran fearlessly down the perilous path, sure-footed and agile as an Alpine kid.
Suddenly she paused, as a vivid flash of lightning shot across the sky, accompanied by a peal of thunder that reverberated among the hills with awful distinctness, like the prolonged roar of artillery around a beleaguered city. The storm was breaking just above their heads.
Alice screamed and covered her face with her hands; then she turned and ran back to Roger with outstretched arms, crying, in an agony of terror:
"Save me! save me!"
Her bright cheeks had become deathly pale, and her hands, as he caught them, were as cold as ice. She was nearly beside herself with the unreasoning dread of lightning that possesses many persons. Unacquainted with this mental trait, Roger was afraid that she would faint.
He drew her hand through his arm and tried to lead her down the path, which every moment became more difficult to follow, as the darkness of the tempest increased. She trembled so violently that her firm, eager footing lost its cunning, and she
stumbled at every step, so that he was obliged almost to carry her down. She seemed unconscious of the rain that began to fall heavily, but would shudder and cower piteously with every clap of thunder or gust of wind, and Roger could hear her heart beating violently as she leaned on him for support. The way down the mountain was long, slow, and difficult. When they reached the house they were drenched with rain, and Alice seemed more dead than alive. They found Susie, who had dispatched servants and friends in every direction, watching and waiting in the greatest anxiety for her sister's return. It seemed that Alice, through some mistake, had been led to believe that her brothers were on the mountain, and had gone to meet them. When the storm came up, nobody knew where she was. Susie dosed her with hot drinks and put her to bed. Roger did not see her again until next evening at tea.
"Goody!" said Teddy; "to think of Alice having to be brought home by the Bird! Wont she hate him worse than ever?" "I wish we had been there to see," said Arthur.
When Roger met Alice again, on the following evening, she was quite as independent as ever and a little more shy. Perceiving this, he took a sudden resolve, and after tea went upstairs and packed his portmanteau. When he came down, the family had disposed themselves for the evening. Mr. North had his paper, and Susie her workbasket. Teddy was following the fortunes of "The Headless Horseman." Arthur, at the piano, was playing softly his repertoire of easy pieces that Susie had taught him. Through the open window, Roger caught a glimpse of a white dress fluttering in the moonlight. He went directly out on the portico, and found Alice, sitting on the low, broad balustrade, gazing dreamily at the full moon, that in return shed some of its own mysterious beauty on her upturned face.
"Miss Alice," he said, quickly, without giving her time to be either shy or frightened, "I have come to bid you good-bye." Good-bye?" she repeated, in genuine astonishment. Why, where are you going at this time of night?'
"Night is the best time for summer traveling, especially for pedestrians; and this is such a rare night," he said, glancing carelessly at the moon.
"But you have not spoken of going at this time until now," stammered Alice, wholly unprepared for this sudden move.
"I have not had the pleasure of speaking to you often on any subject. You seem to prefer not to hear what I have to say. But I was determined not to be deprived of the pleasure of saying good-bye to you."
"Is it a pleasure to say good-bye to me?" she asked, a little nettled by his manner. "It is better than nothing." "Oh!" she said, softly. "Wont you shake hands?"
"But you are not going this minute?" "As soon as you bid me good-bye." "Then I will not be so inhospitable as to hurry you," she said, sweetly, her native courtesy, or coquetry, getting the better of her timidity, now that the ice was broken. They did not hurry.
Roger had cut the Gordian knot. He had staked everything on a single chance, and had won. If she had taken him at his word and had bade him good-bye without remonstrance, he would have gone; and they would, probably, have never met again. As it was, he did not go away.
Two or three days afterward, Teddy and Arthur, who had been waiting an hour for Alice to keep an appointment to go fishing, saw her coming down the avenue with Roger, creeping at a snail's pace.
"That beats cock-fighting!" cried Teddy, viciously digging his heel in the gravel. "What?" asked Arthur. "Those two."
"What about them?"
"Don't you see? Spoons!'
"Yes; she will never go a-fishing for fish again."
"The bear came out of the mountain and gobbled up the naughty little girl. Let's go without her," said Arthur, shouldering his fishing-rod.
Teddy seemed to have prophesied rightly. At any rate, when Alice came up she had forgotten the appointment, and said, between smiles and blushes, that it was too warm to go fishing to-day.
ROGER remained at Northwood several weeks, and before he resumed his pedestrian tour he made several attempts to unravel the mystery of the blue band. He was really very curious about the matter; and he thought, moreover, that it would be well to punish Alice a little for her childish prank, and for the persistent coldness with which