« PreviousContinue »
As the train passed through the familiar col- than a girl, and besides, Kathleen would be lege-town, Kathleen Munroe leaned forward needed at home. Her mother was far from in her seat, catching her breath sharply to strong, and a maid would be out of the queskeep back the tears. She watched the library tion until her father gained another start. flash by, with the old town clock capping its Kathleen's heart contracted at the thought. stone tower; the station, its platform piled Another start would not be easy for a man high with trunks, because spring vacation be- past fifty. Her mother wrote that he had promgan to-morrow; and at last the tall, stately ised solemnly never to sign another note. Well, buildings of the college itself, standing serenely thought the girl, grimly, it would be easy for a beautiful amid their setting of green woodland man who had lost almost everything, to keep and greener lawns.
that promise! A man with a family had no They were past now, and Kathleen sank back right to do such things! against the cushions and closed her eyes. She For a moment a little fare of anger poswould never see them again, she thought drear- sessed her, which melted suddenly as her ily. She had left a day before the other girls, father's face rose before her. She remembered because she could n't bear the thought of their those kindly, trusting eyes, which saw only the gay farewells, with promises of speedy meet- best in every one, and knew instantly that she ings. Besides, she wanted these hours on the would n't have her father different, though, as train free from companionship. She wanted to Ted once remarked : “Dad was too dead easy.” get her bearings; to be able to greet her family His office was a museum of articles purchased with a smile. They must n't know, most of all from wily peddlers. The family were always her father must never guess, how hard it was using poor grades of shoe-blacking or matches, for her to give up college.
because some hard-luck story had pierced his She drew her mother's letter from her heart. No tramp left the door unfed if Dad pocket and read the words again, although she happened to be at home. He had been known knew them almost by heart. It was the old to give his good overcoat to a poor wretch he story of her lovable, kind-hearted father sign- found shivering on a corner selling shoeing a note. This was the third time in Kath- strings. He had bought the shoe-strings, too, leen's memory that he had come to grief by thought the girl, with a choking laugh of remisuch an action, only this time the result was niscence. They were impossible shoe-strings. more serious. It meant leaving the home which Ted had donated them to a rummage sale! had been laboriously paid for, and seeking Suddenly Kathleen's heart lightened. smaller quarters. It meant also the loss of cer- did not know that she had inherited her tain advantages for the small brother and sis- father's optimistic nature. There were worse ter, and no college for Kathleen. Ted, her things than giving up college and doing houseolder brother, would manage somehow. A boy work! She believed she was hungry. Her could work his way through college more easily room-mate, Sally King, had insisted on giving
er a luncheon. She had put it up herself in he Agora kitchen. Sally was the only girl who new that Kathleen would not return after vaation, and had assured her jestingly that she ad salted the sandwiches with her tears.
It was a generous lunch, dainty and attracive, enough for two meals at least, which was houghtful of Sally, thought Kathleen, grateCully. She looked about and saw that the
leeper was almost empty. Everyone had down to the diner at first call for supper, save
little old lady directly across the way. As
make me comfortable. He was very attentive, followed me right aboard and everything, but just now, when I looked in my reticule before going to the, diner, I found my pocketbook was gone."
"Mercy!” exclaimed Kathleen, with ready sympathy. "Have you looked everywhere?"
“Everywhere. My ticket was in my bag, but I have n't a penny—not one penny !" she repeated soberly. "I 'm going to Evanston, but
Her. voice trembled, and Kathleen said quickly: "Don't worry. The first thing is to have supper. Luckily I 've enough for two. I will bring it over here, and we'll have a cosy time together. Then I'll take a look for your purse. Mother says I'm splendid about finding things.".
The old lady brightened visibly, and Kathleen saw with pleasure that she thoroughly enjoyed the sandwiches, though she protested at first about accepting them. Meanwhile, the girl was making calculations. She had only enough money to see her through; but of course she must look out for the old lady, who was, Kathleen noticed, dressed very simply. The loss of her money might mean much to her. The taxi driver may have stolen it, or she might have dropped it in the cab. It was plain to see that she was easily upset. Now if the purse remained lost
Well, it did. Their supper over, Kathleen moved the old lady across the aisle and made a thorough search, in which the porter helped, but all in vain, and the old lady's distress grew more apparent. It was then that Kathleen remembered her “lucky-piece." It was a tendollar gold-piece her father had given her on her eighteenth birthday, which she had never spent. She had kept it in her purse, carefully wrapped in tissue-paper, much against the advice of her small and cautious brother David, who declared she would lose it before she had a chance to spend it. Kathleen had replied that she was keeping it for luck, and, as the months passed, she went without many things rather than use it. It must be confessed that she felt a twinge of regret at the thought of parting with it, but there was no other way.
produced the gold-piece, which her old friend thankfully accepted along with Kathleen's card.
"I 'll mail a.check as soon as I reach home, my dear," she promised gratefully. "You 're sure you can spare it?"
"Quițe sure. I was n't counting on it at all," answered Kathleen, honestly. "Do you want to rest now, or shall we talk a while?”
Kathleen lifted one of Sally's delicious sandviches from the box, she glanced across the isle to find the old lady regarding her in real listress, and, laying her lunch-box down, she crossed the aisle.
"Is there anything I can do for you?" she sked courteously.
"I don't know what to do," answered the old ady, nervously. “I 'm not used to traveling lone. My son Tom expected to come as far s Buffalo, but at the last minute things came ap to change his plans. He went to New York Festerday. Then Pliæbe—she 's Tom's wifeexpected to see me aboard the train, but she was taken with an awful headache, and the girls were both off for over Sunday, so she sent for a taxi and arranged with the driver to
The old lady smiled brightly. "I'd love to business would have to go unless a miracle octalk; but you must n't feel obliged to bother curred to clear the skies. Kathleen did n't realwith an old woman, though goodness knows ize that she was making light of her own part what I'd have done without you! I told Tom of the trouble, but, as she finished speaking, the that the next time he wanted to see his mother old lady said gently: he'd have to come to her. I 'm too old to "So you 're not going back to college?" travel, I guess I've proved it—and once I get
"No," answered the girl, gravely. “I 'll be home I'm going to stay there. After all, there needed at home. Mother can't manage everyis no place like home.”
thing alone, and perhaps I 'll find time for Her words brought a warm thrill to Kath- some outside work. I want to earn something, leen's heart. "I'm going home, too,” she said so the younger ones won't have to go without gently. “I can hardly wait to see them all, and things. I have n't had time for any plans, but
I 'm sure there's a way, if only I can find it; and I would n't for worlds have Father know how much I really care about college. I 'm hoping that somehow he 'll save the business. It does seem as if a man as good and honest as Father ought not to fail just because he did a kindness to someone. Well, you must get to bed and so must I. I—I hope I have n't bored you. Somehow, it 's made me happier to talk."
"Indeed you have n't bored me!” responded the old lady, quickly. "You 've made me feel like a real grandma. Tom's girls were all so busy they did n't have much time for me. Not that I blame them, child! It 's natural for young folks to flock together. Good night, my dear. Sweet dreams !"
She looked up so wistfully that the girl stopped impulsively for a good-night kiss.
Kathleen was right. Her talk had eased her heart and she slept well. The train was leaving Buffalo as she awoke. Her first thought was of her old friend, and that she must be ready to escort her to the dining-car for breakfast. When she was dressed, however, she was surprised to find the section opposite ready for the day—and vacant.
“Is my old lady in the dining-car?" she asked the porter.
"You mean that old lady what lost the pockI think I 'll stay there for some time to come.” etbook ?" queried the darkey. “She done leave
The old lady had bright, shrewd eyes, which the train at Buffalo, Miss." somehow reminded the girl.of an English spar- "What!" gasped Kathleen. “She was on her row. She turned them on Kathleen now as she
way to Evanston !" replied, "I sort of thought you were from col- “No, ma'am. She done get off at Buffalo. lege, and going home for Easter.”
She give me half a dollar when she left, so she Kathleen smiled. "I am, but
must ha' found her pocketbook all right. I 'll Afterward, Kathleen could n't have told just fix your section, Miss, while you's in the how it happened. As a rule she was rather ret- diner.” icent about her own affairs, but there was "I-I guess I won't go into the diner," said something very appealing in the old lady's Kathleen weakly. “I have some sandwiches, face, and before bedtime she knew all Kath- and leen's troubles: how Dad had signed the note She did n't finish the sentence. She sat just because he was the most trusting, easily- down on the seat she had occupied the night imposed-on, dearest father in the world; how before with the old lady and stared at the landTed must work his way through college; how scape with unseeing eyes. Could it be possible the home must be given up; and how Dad's that her sweet old lady was an impostor? Yet
she had said distinctly that she was going to Evanston, and she would n't have needed ten dollars had Buffalo been her destination. Suddenly Kathleen smiled. If she had been taken in, she was only following in her father's footsteps. How quickly Dad would have come to the rescue of the old dear! Then at thought of
ily. She received a joyous welcome, all the more joyous because of the dark days that had preceded it. She wondered, as she looked round on the adoring faces lifted to her that night at supper, how she could have thought anything a hardship when she belonged to such a family. She was questioned about every minute of her
trip, and before she knew it she had told all about the old lady and the lucky-piece. "Perhaps I was foolish," she explained hurriedly, "but she was all alone. It would have been dreadful not to help her."
"I said you 'd lose that goldpiece," proclaimed small David.
“She has n't lost it, sonny,' said her father, quietly; "she 's passed it on. I 'm glad you did, Kathleen. I'd have been ashamed of you if you had n't. The prospects don't look very bright, but if you never hear from that old lady, I 'll see that you have another lucky-piece, though you may have to wait some time for it. You would n't have been our daughter if you had n't helped the poor old soul, would she, Mother?”
"Not your daughter, surely," said Mother, smiling.
Yet as the days passed and no word came from the old lady, Kathleen began to blame herself for her sudden generosity. Her father was subtly aged by this last blow. He was working early and late in an attempt to save his business, and when the girl saw how many things her mother had gone without, she realized that even her ten dollars would have helped.
She had been at home two weeks when her father burst in upon them as they sat down to supper. They all realized at once that something unusual had occurred, because, though
he was evidently trying to be calm, Dad was the sort who could n't possibly keep any good news to himself. It took great self-control for him to hand Kathleen a letter and ask her to read it to the family. She took it wonderingly, but when she saw the cramped writing she exclaimed: "Is it from my old lady? I knew I'd hear from her! It 's ad
the old lady's face, her own brightened. Of course she was all right! It was all very strange, but somehow Kathleen believed in her. It was fortunate that it was her own lucky-piece she had parted with. She need n't tell the family a word about it.
But Kathleen was counting without the fam
“My dear little friend :
"I wonder what you 're thinking of me for taking French leave of you! You may be calling me all sorts of disgraceful names, but I'm hoping that, although appearances are certainly against me, you've kept just a grain of faith in the old woman you befriended so generously.
"I saw you unwrap that gold-piece from its tissue-paper, child, and I knew it was something precious—a lucky-piece, most likely; and after you left me for the night I got to wondering if I could n't make it a real lucky-piece- one you'd never forget.
"For you see, your story sounded very natural. There was a time when I went through just such ups and downs, because my husband, like your
father, would always believe the best of folks, even when there was n't much 'best' to believe. So I saw it all very clearly. I knew just what you were going through, you and your mother, and your father, too. I don't know but what his part was the hardest.
"First, I thought that, if I could afford it, I'd send you back to college; and then I knew that would n't do, because you said they needed you at home. Then I thought of a lot of other things which did n't suit me; and then, just as I was getting disgusted with myself as a fairy godmother, I had a wonderful idea. You see, my son Tom is in the same line of business as your father. He's been branching out lately, and, only a few days before, I had heard him say he wished he knew of the right man for his western office, one he could trust absolutely. Well, I knew from what you'd said that your father was one to be trusted; and I knew also that Tom would be in Buffalo that night. Do you see now what I was up to?
“Of course, my dear, a letter to Tom would n't have done at all. I had to see him, and explain how you d helped me and what I'd gleaned from you about your father. I wanted to remind him of how his own father was always doing just such