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LITTLE MISS
MELODY

JWARIAN KEITH




* 3 4 D



LITTLE MISS MELODY
MARIAN KEITH



LITTLE
MISS MELODY



BY

MARIAN KEITH

AUTHOR OF "IN ORCHARD GLEN," "THE SILVER MAPLE,"
"TREASURE VALLEY," ETC.




NEW XS^ YORK
GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY



COPYRIGHT, 1921,
BY GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY



PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



CONTENTS

PAGE
CHAPTER

I "AND SEW A FINE SEAM" 9

II GOES A-SlNGING J 9

III MEETS A NEW FRIEND .. . ., K 30

IV THE WATER BABY : 37

V PROMOTED TO THE TOP SHELF 5 2

VI THE SILENT SINGER 61

VII THE WASP CHORUS / r

VIII A MAKER OF Music ^4

IX THE ANNIVERSARY IO2

X A LESSON IN HARMONY . . . 109

XI RUSHED THE DISCORD IN I2 7

XII BLACKIE JOINS THE CHOIR INVISIBLE . . . . 137

XIII OLD WATTY MAKES A DISCORD 152

XIV JANET SOLVES A RIDDLE T 7i

XV A SECOND RIDDLE SOLVED 181

XVI MR. WATTY TAKES A Music LESSON . . . . 194

XVII ON A SINGING TOUR 2 7

XVIII JACK-IN-THE-PULPIT 22 4

XIX A JARRING NOTE 2 35

XX A DIFFICULT PIECE OF Music 245

XXI MIDSUMMER Music 2 SS

v



2136574



vi CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

XXII LENNIE STARTS A CHORUS 263

XXIII THE LOST SONG 270

XXIV A SONGLESS NIGHT 281

XXV NEW Music 290

XXVI A CLEARER CAROL 296



LITTLE MISS MELODY



LITTLE
MISS MELODY

CHAPTER I

"AND SEW A FINE SEAM"

village that stood on Cherry Hill was half a mile
-1. in length and some twenty rods wide. It consisted of
a single street, stretching in a straight, white, tree-shaded
line, from the Presbyterian Church on the West to the old
Bradley Hotel, which marked the extreme East End. It
was quite the prettiest village in Ontario; a little garden
community set in the centre of a wide garden valley. An
ambitious and progressive spirit in the inhabitants had added
much to nature's gifts. If you lived in Cherry Hill, and your
neighbour bought a new pump or an up-to-date lightning-rod
for his barn, or a fashionable style of wire fencing for his
lot, then it became necessary that you get a larger and
redder pump, several newer lightning-rods, and a more
ornamental fencing for your frontage. So when old Well-
ington Caldwell, who used to be gardener to a Duke or
something of that sort in the Old Country, planted moun-
tain ash trees along the front of his lot, and laid out a
smooth lawn, and trained climbing roses all over his
veranda, and took to raising an acre or so of flowers im-
mediately all Cherry Hill burst out into a glory of mountain
ash trees, lawns, climbing roses and flower gardens.

Every family in the village, except the Kellys, who had too
many children, and the Murphys, who had too many pigs,
lived in a riot of flowers from the first crocus of April to the

9



10 LITTLE MISS MELODY

last aster of October. And in fact the only kind of blos-
soms you were not likely to see during summer's gay rota-
tion, was cherry blossoms, for there were no cherry trees
on Cherry Hill.

On this warm September morning the white dusty line
of the village street, between its drooping fringes of moun-
tain ash, lay asleep in the sunshine. The far-off shouts of
the Kelly children, hieing forth on their Saturday expedition,
the rhythmic bell of Archie McDuff's anvil, and a slight
difference of opinion between Mrs. Murphy's pig and the
storekeeper's dog as to the privilege of the King's Highway
were the only sounds that disturbed the Sabbath-like peace.

But there was one house in the village where there were
life and stir and prodigious amount of work going on.
Away at the west end of the street, where the village church
lifted its slim grey tower above the tree tops, stood the
Manse. It was an old, grey, brick house with green shutters
and a sagging veranda; and like all the other houses it
was surrounded by a wide, green lawn and a gay, flower
garden.

On the veranda, under the heavy Virginia creepers, sat
the busiest person in the village ; a very small girl, strain-
ing every nerve to accomplish the hemming of a very large
towel.

To say that Janet Meldrum sat is scarcely correct; ex-
cept as a robin may be said to sit on a twig, on a warm
April morning when the rain has just ceased.

Her shining eyes, her restless little brown hands, her
small thin body, even the long, heavy braid of brown hair,
that hung almost to the hem of her pink gingham dress, were
all alive and eager and in constant motion.

Beside her low chair lay a little fox-terrier, dividing his
time between taking very short naps and watching his mis-
tress to see what fun was coming next.

Janet had been sent to the veranda, and commanded to
finish this towel, which had stretched its serpent trail over
many a Paradise of a Saturday morning; and this was the
manner of her sewing:



"AND SEW A FINE SEAM" 11

She took one laborious stitch, emitting a tremendous sigh,
jerked her thread through and tangled it. Then she sud-
denly became aware that she had no thimble, and made a
leap for her mother's work basket, that lay on the table near.
The leap was longer than necessary and landed her on top
of the basket. Its contents of spools, needles, pins, bodkins
and a hundred other small articles went spinning over the
sloping veranda floor, and all hurried outward towards the
tangle of shrubs beneath. Janet dropped her towel and
made a dismayed leap after the runaways. The little fox-
terrier woke up, and gaily joined the chase, under the mis-
taken notion that it was a new kind of game his little
comrade had invented for his amusement. In the midst of
a great deal of noise and running and laughter there came a
pained and reproving voice from the open window.

"Janet, child; what can you be doing?"

Janet snatched a spool from the little dog's jaws. "Pep-
per! You bad boy! It's the things from your basket,
Mother dear, they won't stay still. But I've got them all
back again ; every one of them jumped out !" She threw the
last truant thimble back into its home; and sank into her
chair again. The little dog came and stood before her, his
tongue, his tail, and his bright eager eyes all coaxing for
more fun.

Janet took her second stitch, with a reproving air. "Now,
Pepper, don't you see I've got this towel to hem?" she asked
in a prim voice which was an exact, if unconscious, imita-
tion of the one inside the window.

This time the thimble was in place but being one of her
mother's it was much too big and caused the next diversion.
It slipped off, and Janet jabbed the needle into her finger.
She dropped the towel and leaped to her feet.

"Oh, Mother !" she called, trying hard not to look pleased.
"My finger's going to bleed in a minute, something awful.
May I get a rag to put on it?"

"That's the result of your jumping about so, Janet," re-
plied the pained voice. "Why can't you sit quietly when
you sew? Run upstairs and you will find a piece of old



12 LITTLE MISS MELODY

linen in the right hand corner of the second drawer, and
leave Pepper "

But Janet was half way up the stairs long before the di-
rections had been finished, the little dog leaping ahead. She
had not heard where her mother told her to look for the
old linen; so there was a great deal of rumaging and run-
ning from one room to another. At last a bandage was
found and adjusted. When this elaborate piece of work
was done, and Janet and her frisky companion had danced
back to the veranda, the pricked finger was as large as the
whole hand and considerably in the way. This necessitated
a new bandage of more moderate proportions. But still no
thimble would go on a finger that was almost as big as a
fist. So it became necessary to sew without a thimble ; and
Janet was ready for the third stitch on her towel.

Just then the wire door leading into the hall swung open,
and Janet's mother came out. She moved slowly, absorbed
in reading a paper which she had spent the morning writing.
Mrs. Meldrum was a tall handsome woman of commanding
appearance. Moreover, she was the most capable woman in
all the wide reaches of Cherry Valley. She could write a
paper on any subject, and read it with equal excellence; she
was a good housekeeper, displaying a supernatural ability in
managing domestic finances which made it possible for her
family to live in comfort on a country minister's salary;
she was a perfect general as an organiser; was the leader
in the many activities of the Church and community; and
was a better public speaker than her husband.

And yet, notwithstanding all this excellence and effi-
ciency, Mrs. Meldrum was always in a state of bewildered
helplessness before the problem of her restless, busy, frolic-
some little girl. Janet was not the sort of thing one could
catalogue or pigeon-hole. The Meldrums had married late
in life, and their little daughter was more like a beloved
grandchild than their own; and was a constant source of
joy and alarm and startling surprises.

Her mother came out with a vague idea that she ought to
keep Janet still, but her mind was on the paper which she



"AND SEW A FINE SEAM" 13

was to read on "Home Ideas and Ideals" at the next meet-
ing of the Women's Institute. She sat down, unseeing, in
her rocking-chair ; and Janet made a dab at her fourth
stitch ; but stopped in the middle of it as her mother folded
her paper.

"Mother, shall I run to the gate and see if they are
coming?"

"Janet," her mother was picking her own sewing out of a
very untidy basket, "why can you not sit at your hemming
for a few minutes ? Just see the state you have left my bas-
ket in, child !"

"But, Mother, they might be coming up the hill right now ;
and I ought to open the gate."

"You've been to the gate half-a-dozen times this morning
already; and you know very well Daddy can't get home till
after dinner. Mr. Balfour's train won't be in until one
o'clock. Besides, you would be sure to hear the car long
before you could see it. Do try to sit still like a good girl."

Janet struggled with her thread in silence for the space of
five seconds.

"Mother, what do you think he'll look like?" she asked.

"Who ?" asked her mother absorbed in fitting a triangular
patch upon an octagonal rent in Janet's school dress.

"Why, Mr. Balfour," Janet wondered how her mother
could be thinking of anything else. "He'll have to be our
father when Daddy's away, won't he?"

Her mother laughed. It was always a source of wonder
to Janet why her mother and father so often laughed at her
most serious remarks ; but as laughter was always easy and
pleasant, she laughed too.

"I'm afraid not. He's very young, not through College
yet ; and he'll be more like a big brother. But you must re-
member, Janet, when he is here you mustn't run in and out
of the study as you do with Father. You must keep away
from him, and not be too noisy ; and you must not ask him
questions about anything whatever."

Janet sighed a loud, windy sigh that was almost a groan.
This strange man, who was to take Daddy's pulpit and his



14 LITTLE MISS MELODY

study and all his work in the next few montns, while poor
Daddy was away trying to get his health back, promised to
make even breathing very difficult. She had had so many
rules laid down regarding her conduct towards him that life
was going to be too complicated to live.

She took another stitch and her thread became tangled
again, a very dreadful tangle ; but right in the midst of it
came a sound that turned her rigid. She sat perfectly still,
her ears strained ; yes, there it was Bud's yell ! It came
from behind the church. The Kellys were back and had
started their ball game!

Janet loved the noisy, untidy Kelly family with all her
heart and all her mind and all her strength; and she loved
her neighbour, Bud Kelly, as herself. She was possessed of
a longing that was a positive pain to dash back through
the orchard and over the fence and pitch herself into that
game.

She looked up with despairing eyes, but her mother fore-
stalled her pleading.

"There are those noisy, idle children," she declared. "It
is really shocking to think that Mrs. Kelly does not keep
them at home. Molly and Rosie ought to be learning to
sew."

Janet knew this was a sermon for her. She heaved an-
other sigh, a loud, despairing expulsion of breath ; and drew
her thread through the fourth stitch with a jerk.

"Would it be very bad if I never learned to sew, Mother?"
she asked, rocking violently in her little chair. "I think I'll
be 'most near a hundred years old before I get this towel
hemmed; and then there -von't be time for anything else.
I'll be older than Mrs. Gibbie Gibson."

"You need patience, Janet. Of course all little girls must
learn to sew."

"Well, Miss Mitchell can't sew, and she's a school-teacher ;
and she told Marjorie Gillespie she couldn't learn if she lived
as old as Methuselah. Miss Lena told us about him in Sun-
day School last Sunday. Mother, didn't everybody live
awfully old in those days? Why, you must have had so



"AND SEW A FINE SEAM" 15

many grandmas and grandpas you'd never be able to visit
them all. I'm glad I didn't live then if I'd have to hem
a towel every Saturday," she added mournfully.

"I can't understand why you don't like hemming, Janet,"
said her mother, regarding her with puzzled eyes. "I had
to learn to sew when I was a little girl ; and yet Grandpa
Fraser was well off and gave us all many advantages. When
your Auntie Flora and Auntie Jean and I were little
girls "

Janet stopped rocking and listened in humble patience to
the oft heard recital of the perfect deeds Mother and Aunt
Flora and Aunt Jean had performed in their youth.

"I wish Grandpa Fraser hadn't gone and got poor," de-
clared Janet practically. "But I suppose I'd have had to
sew anyhow," she added with another sigh.

She leaned back and began rocking again to drown the
joyous sounds from the back pasture field. Janet was of an
argumentative turn and did not readily give up her side of
the question.

"I don't see why I'll need to sew, Mother, if I'm going
to be a singer," she suggested.

Her mother looked up from her sewing, a twinkle of
amusement in her fine eyes.

"So you've decided to be a singer, have you?"

"Yes, Nellie's uncle says she's got a lovely voice, and
she must be a singer some day. And we both always said
we'd be the same thing. So I'm going to be a singer, too.
I'm going to be a great singer and make a lot of money.
Miss Lena says that her cousin Sylvia gets heaps of money
for singing. And she can't sew I know, 'cause Miss
Sarah Kennedy was making her a dress yesterday, and she
said to Mrs. Murphy, I heard her, 'Sylvia Ward wouldn't
have a rag to her back if it wasn't for me !' "

"Well, well, dear," her mother said vaguely, not having
heard half the chatter.

"I suppose it's awfully wicked to wish you were rich,
like you used to be, Mother," said Janet, gazing dreamily



16 LITTLE MISS MELODY

down the dazzling rows of gladioli that bordered the little
path to the gate, "but if we were rich we could go to Cali-
fornia with Father, couldn't we? But old Mr. Gibbie
Gibson said at prayer-meeting that money was awfully bad
for young people. What'll he do with all the money he has,
Mother ? Won't he give any of it to Jimmie and the children
for fear it'll hurt them?"

Her mother smiled. There was no doubt that old Gibbie
Gibson meant other people's children when he spoke of the
evil effects of money. But she did not voice her thoughts.
She had already learned that discretion was the only safe
part of daily conduct. Her little girl had an uncanny mem-
ory and an embarrassing truthfulness that was often in
danger of bringing discredit upon the minister's household.

"If I could make a lot of money singing," declared Janet,
poking her needle into her stocking, "I'd buy stacks and
stacks of things. I'd buy Mrs. Kelly a new shawl ; and I'd
buy Bud a cabinet for his bugs ; and I'd buy two tickets to
take us both to California with Daddy; and I'd buy a new
collar for Pepper ; and a ribbon, a pink satin one, for Blackie ;
and I'd buy a new Bible for Kirsty; and a new piano for
Miss Lena; and I'd buy a plain gold ring for Martha
Beckett. Miss Mitchell told Marjorie, and Nellie heard her,
and Nellie told me, that Martha Beckett wanted a plain
gold ring worse than anything else in the world, and I'd
buy her a great big one, I'd buy her two," she added gen-
erously.

It was impossible to put off the next stitch any longer,
but just as Janet was about to take it, there came a pleasant
interruption. Over in the lilac bush at the end of the
veranda a little grey song sparrow seated himself upon a
twig, and with his wee head on one s ; de and his bright eye
on Janet, he called to her :

"Chip, chip, chip, chip, chip, che-e-e-e-e!
Can't you sit and sew?
Sew a straighter seam-some-soon !"



"AND SEW A FINE SEAM" 17

Janet jumped out of her chair with a little squeal of
delight.

"Oh, Mother, did you hear what he's saying?" She
burst into a delighted peal of laughter, and the litttle singer
shot to the other end of the garden. "Wasn't he a dear
darling? Did you hear what he said?"

Her mother glanced at her with indulgent, smiling eyes,
but eyes that did not comprehend.

"No, dear, I didn't hear ; what did he say ?"

Janet sang over the little ditty. "Wasn't he cute? Isn't
that just what he said ?"

"I suppose it is like it, but you haven't imitated his little
tune very well. I wish your ear were truer, Janet."

"Bud must have true ears, because he knows every word
all the birds say. He tells me all their songs. Oh, listen!
There he goes again ! He's over in Caldwell's grove !"

She tip-toed to the end of the veranda.

"Oh, Mother!" she whispered. "There's a humming-
bird ! Look ! Over there above the cosmos !"

Her mother looked up, just awakened to the fact that
Janet was not at her task.

"Janet !" she called in a voice a little sterner. "There is
your work thrown upon the floor, and you are idling. Re-
member what the little bird said."

Janet came slowly back and again took up the dreadful
burden of her sewing.

"I guess he never hemmed a towel or he wouldn't talk
like that," she declared rather resentfully. "Oh, Mother,
don't you think towels you buy in the store are ever so much
nicer. They're already hemmed."

Her thoughts still occupied with the "Ideals of Home,"
Mrs. Meldrum was giving little heed. She had learned long
ago that if she gave her attention to all Janet said and did
she would have time for nothing else.

Janet jabbed in her needle for her sixth stitch, and with
it her morning's sewing came to a welcome end.

Across the street the gate of the Caldwell's beautiful gar-
den opened and a boy, a little bigger than Janet, emerged



18 LITTLE MISS MELODY

sedately. He wore a very clean collar, his blue suit was
brushed, his hair was smooth and he stepped across the
street carefully so that no dust should obscure the lustre
of his boots.

Janet gave a leap from her seat, waving the towel in the
air.

"Hello, Len!" she cried. 'There's Lennie, Mother!
There's Lennie! It's time for practice. May I go now?
Hello, Lennie ! I'm coming !" and she dashed indoors for
her hat.



CHAPTER II
GOES A-SINGING

JANET could never understand why she was always com-
pelled to take a hat wherever she went; for it was al-
ways hanging down her back by its elastic, or blowing away
over the fields. But the placing of it upon her head before
she left home was a ceremony upon which her mother
insisted, and had to be performed.

But Janet's hat was always astray. She made a frantic
survey of the big bare parlour; under the old square piano
behind the faded upholstered sofa. Pepper also circled rap-
idly around the room but neither of them discovered the
truant. Neither was it in the big bare dining-room through
which they dashed. It must have been left in the kitchen.
Janet cautiously approached the door leading thereto. This
was Kirsty's domain and not to be intruded upon lightly.

Kirsty McLeod had been a member of the household
longer than Janet had, and the little daughter of the Manse
had a profound respect for her. Every Saturday morning
she put the kitchen through a special pre-Sabbath cleaning,
and in view of the advent of the new minister Kirsty had
scrubbed and rubbed and scoured to-day until the place
fairly glittered. The stove had taken on such a high polish
that the shining tea-kettle was reflected in its surface as in
a pool of water. The glass doors of the high old cupboard
and the plates and cups behind them shone in the morning
sunlight. The crisp white curtains swayed gently in the
breeze. The floor was as white as the ceiling and the walls
were as clean as the floor.

And in the midst of this perfection a tall angular woman
in a dark blue apron, her grey hair pulled straight back in

19



20 LITTLE MISS MELODY

a tight little knot from her thin wrinkled face, stood at the
white oil-cloth covered table preparing dinner.

Janet's bright eyes, peeping through a very narrow open-
ing in the door, took this all in apprehensively. Kirsty had
to be approached; it was never safe to burst into the
kitchen as one would into Father's study.

"Please, Kirsty," she asked through the narrow crack,
"is my hat here?"

Kirsty turned. "Keep yon pup out," she commanded,
spying Pepper's black nose between Janet's feet. "An' watch
where ye step, if ye must come in !"

Janet slammed the door in Pepper's face, leaving him
whining indignantly in the hall. She took a leaping stride
to the rag mat in front of the table.

"Lennie's waiting for me to go to practice, and I can't
find my hat," she declared, hopping up and down on one
foot as was her habit when she was in a hurry. "Do you
know what I did with it, Kirsty?"

"What-like kind o' way is that ye've got yer hair?" de-
manded Kirsty. "Come here! Ye're no goin' out o' the
house that fashion. Ye look like a tinker's bairn, instead
o' the minister's !"

To Janet's dismay Kirsty took down a comb and brush
from a little shelf beneath the kitchen mirror, and proceeded
to undo the little girl's long heavy braid. She submitted to
the dreadful ordeal as a wild creature does to the trap that
has caught it. She had made a great mistake in coming to
the kitchen. She might have known Kirsty would comb
her hair.

But there was no use arguing the matter ; and she stood
first on one foot and then on the other sighing furiously.

"I wonder what Mr. Balfour will be like, Kirsty," she
said, in a desperate attempt to lighten the heavy moments
with conversation. "Mother says he has nice brown eyes."

"It matters little what kinda eyes he has," remarked
Kirsty, "as long's he has the root o' the matter in him. The
Lord looketh not upon the outward man. Stand still !"

Janet was always impressed when Kirsty quoted Scrip-



GOES A-SINGING 21

ture, which was quite often, for Kirsty knew her Bible.
She knew when a sermon was all it ought to be, too ; and
woe betide the preacher who delivered anything but the plain
gospel in Knox pulpit. Kirsty would catch him, no matter
how he might have the downward path concealed in flowers
of rhetoric.

"Oh, Kirsty," cried Janet suddenly, forgetting her hair.
"What will become of us all when Father goes away?"

Kirsty shook her head dolefully.

"The Lord preserve us," she said. "We'll be havin' sic
a like time as niver was, with all the lasses runnin' after the
young minister. Mark my words, things'll go jist tapsal-
teerie !"

Janet listened in alarm. "Running after him, Kirsty?
Why? Will he be running away?"

Kirsty gave a queer smile that went over to one side of
her face and vanished quickly in wrinkles.

"Stand still," she commanded again, "I can't comb yer
hair when ye're dancin' an' cuttin' capers."

Janet wondered about Mr. Balfour. Perhaps he was a
great runner like Pat Murphy and took prizes. Daddy said
he was a wonderful football player.

"Will he be running races, Kirsty?" she asked, but Kirsty
did not trouble to answer. The longed for end of the ordeal
had come. Her hair was combed. "Yer hat's hangin' in
the back hall," Kirsty informed her. "Now run away, and
don't be jumpin' an' kickin' up yer heels, but act like a
wise bairn."

Janet left Kirsty's hands as the arrow leaves the bent
bow. She tore her hat from its nail, and dashed out to the
veranda. Lennie was waiting impatiently at the gate.

"Hurry up, Jenny," he wailed, "they've started!"

But Janet had one more ordeal to pass through before
she was free. She had to parade for inspection before her
mother's eye.

"But, Janet ! You surely don't think you're ready ?" cried
her mother, as a flurry of pink gingham whirled round on
one toe in front of her. "Just look at your dress !"


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