Mary Catherine Crowley.

Apples, Ripe and Rosy, Sir online

. (page 8 of 13)
Online LibraryMary Catherine CrowleyApples, Ripe and Rosy, Sir → online text (page 8 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

sent a message back to the desolate home. Sometimes it was: "Keep up
your courage; we trust all will be well." Or, "Though we have not yet
found the child, please God we will soon restore her to you," and so
on. But, soften it as they could, the fact remained - their expedition
had been fruitless: Tilderee was still lost. They at length despaired
of gaining trace or tidings of her, and agreed that it was useless to
continue the search.

"She must have fallen over a precipice," maintained one of the men.

"If so, we should have met with some sign - " argued another, hesitating
at the thought of what that sign might be.

"It is probable that she has been stolen by the Indians," said
Lieutenant Miller, of the Fort; "and we must adopt other means to
recover her."

Once more dusk was approaching, and they were about to turn back,
when - hark! there was a shout from the borders of the canon beyond. A
few moments before, Abe, the old scout, had disappeared in that
direction. As he pressed onward he presently discovered that, in a
wavering line, the brambles seemed to have been recently trodden down.
A little farther on, almost hidden among the briers and dry leaves, lay
a withered wild flower, like those that grew in the plain below; and
farther still, caught upon a bush, was a bit of the fringe of a shawl,
so small that it might have escaped any but his "hunter's eye." As he
stood still, with senses alert, he heard a sound amid the brush; and,
turning quickly, saw that which made him send forth the ringing halloo
to his comrades. It was a little dog crawling down toward a hollow,
where a spring of water gushed from the ground.

"Fudge!" he called, softly. The dog started, fawned upon him with a
low whine; and, with many backward glances to make sure that he was
following, led the way to a high rock which shelved inward, forming a
sort of canopy above the bank. There, in the rude recess, as he felt
confident would be the case, was the lost child. At first he feared
she might be dead, so pale and motionless she lay; but when he
whispered gently, "Tilderee!" the white eyelids fluttered, then
unclosed; the dull eyes lighted up in recognition, and she smiled a
wan, weak little smile. Once more Abe's cheery voice rang out,
calling, "Found! found!" and the woods and cliffs made merry with the
echoes. His companions hastened toward the ravine; but he met them
half way, carrying the little one in his arms.

What a shout of joy greeted the sight! What a feeling of thankfulness
filled each heart! Mr. Prentiss, strong man though he was, at the
relaxing of the terrible tension, fainted like a woman. For a second
Peter felt his brain in a whirl, then he leaped upon Twinkling Hoofs,
whom he had been leading by the bridle, breathed a word in the ear of
the clever mustang, and sped away like the wind, "to tell them at
home." Who could describe the emotions of the fond mother when, half
an hour later, she clasped her darling to her breast?

What a happy stillness reigned in the house for hours, while Tilderee
was tenderly brought back from the verge of starvation! In the
beginning she was too feeble to speak; but after a while Mrs. Prentiss
noticed that she wanted to say something, and, bending over her, caught
the tremulous words: "Oh mother, I'll never be disobedient any more!"
It was then that the good woman, who, as the saying is, "had kept up"
wonderfully, was overcome, and wept unrestrainedly.

As for Joan, it seemed to her that there could never be any mourning or
sadness again. When she had done everything possible for Tilderee, she
lavished attentions upon Fudge, and announced to him that henceforth he
was to be called Fido (faithful); at which he wagged his tail, as if he
found the _role_ of hero quite to his liking. Joan's heart was so
light that she wished everyone in the world could share her happiness;
but whether she laughed or chattered, or hummed a little song to
herself, the refrain of all this gladness was "Oh, how good God is!
How good God is!"


"Only three weeks more, Constance. Aren't you glad?" said Lillie to
her little companion and neighbor as they hurried to school.

"Indeed I am. But it's so long in coming!" sighed Constance. "The
days never seemed to go so slowly before."

"I have made a calendar, and every morning I cross off a date; there
are already seven gone since the 1st of May," explained Lillie, with a
satisfied air, as if she had discovered the secret of adding "speed to
the wings of time." "We shall not have a great while to wait now."

Was it a grand holiday that our young friends were anticipating so
eagerly, or the summer vacation, now drawing near? One might suppose
something of the kind. But not at all. On the approaching Feast of
the Ascension they were to make their First Communion; and, being
convent-bred little girls, every thought and act had been directed to
preparation for this great event, to which they looked forward with the
artless fervor natural to innocent childhood. No one must imagine,
however, that they were diminutive prudes, with long faces. Is not a
girl or boy gayest when his or her heart has no burden upon it? In
fact, it would have been hard to find two merrier folk, even upon this
bright spring morning.

Lillie was a sprightly creature, who, somehow, always reminded Sister
Agnes of one of the angels in Murillo's picture, "The Immaculate
Conception," - a lively, happy-go-lucky, rollicking angel, who plays
hide-and-seek among the folds of Our Lady's mantle, and appears almost
beside himself with the gladness of heaven's sunlight. Yet Lillie was
by no means an angel. She had her faults of course, and these often
sadly tried the patience of the good Sister. She was quick-tempered,
volatile, inclined to be a trifle vain. Alas that it is so hard to
keep a child's heart like a garden enclosed as with a fragrant hedge,
laden with the blossoms of sweet thoughts, - safely shut in from the
chilling winds of worldliness! She was lovable withal, generous,
affectionate, and would make a fine woman if properly trained.

Constance, a year older, was more sedate, though with plenty of quiet
fun about her. But, as a general thing, she knew when to be serious
and when to play, - a bit of wisdom which Sister Agnes frequently wished
she could manage to impart to the others of the band of aspirants, of
whom the gentle nun had special charge.

Constance and Lillie were nearly always together. Now, as they
tripped, onward, they were as happy as the birds in the trees above
them, and their voices as pleasant to hear. Having turned the corner,
they began to meet a company of children, who came along, sometimes in
groups, again in detachments of twos and threes, all clad in white,
with white veils upon their heads and floating about them as they
passed joyously on, as if keeping time to the music of their own happy
hearts. Poor children they were, most of them, with plain, ordinary
faces, but upon which now shone a light that made one think of old
sweet stories, - of St. Ursula and her throng of spotless maidens; of
Genevieve, the child-shepherdess of Nanterre. Who that has ever
witnessed such a scene can forget it! - this flock of fair, spotless
doves amid the dust or mire of the city streets, that by their very
passing bring even to the indifferent spectator a thought above gain or
traffic, - a memory perhaps of guileless days and noble aspirations, as,
looking up at the blue, calm sky, perchance he likens them to the snowy
cloudlets that gather nearest to the sun and are irradiated by its

"Why," exclaimed Constance, "here come the first communicants of St.
Joseph's parish! They must be just going home from Mass. How happy
they all are, and how pretty in their white dresses!"

"They do look lovely," assented Lillie, readily. "How could they help
it? And some of the dresses are nice, but surely you see, Connie, that
others are made of dreadfully common material, and the veils are coarse
cotton stuff."

"Well, I suppose they couldn't afford any better," returned Constance,

"I declare there's Annie Brogan, whose mother works for us! - don't you
know?" cried Lillie, darting toward a girl who had parted with several
others at a cross-street and was walking on alone.

As Constance did know, she hastened to greet her, and to vie with
Lillie in congratulating her. "O Annie, what a happy day for
you!" - "What a favored girl you are!" - "I almost envy you!" - "We have
three whole weeks to wait yet!" This is about what they said, again and
again, within the next few minutes; while Annie turned from one to the
other, with an added gentleness of manner, a smile upon her lips, and a
more thoughtful expression in her grey eyes.

Yes, she was happy; she felt that this was indeed the most beautiful
day of her life. To be almost envied, too, by such girls as Lillie
Davis and Constance Hammond! This was almost incredible; and so she
continued to smile at them, putting in a word now and then, while they
chattered on like a pair of magpies, and all three were in perfect

Presently Lillie chanced to glance at the little communicant's white
gown, which, though fresh and dainty as loving hands could make it, was
unmistakably well worn, and in some places had evidently been carefully
darned; indeed, her sharp eyes discovered even a tiny tear in the
skirt, as if Annie had unwittingly put her fingers through it when
searching for the pocket.

"Why, Annie Brogan," she exclaimed, thoughtlessly, "you did not wear
that dress to make your First Communion!"

"Yes, to be sure. Did not mother do it up nicely?" answered Annie,
with naive appreciation of the patient, painstaking skill which had
laid the small tucks so neatly, and fluted the thin ruffles without
putting a hole through them. "And mother was saying, when she was at
work on it, how thankful we ought to be to have it; since, much as she
wished to buy a dress for me, she would not have been able to do so,
with the rent and everything to pay; and how good your mamma was to
give it to me."

"Pshaw!" rejoined Lillie. "I could have given you a dress ten times
better than that if I had only remembered. Mamma just happened to put
that in with a bundle of some of my last summer's clothes, which she
hoped Mrs. Brogan might find useful. But she never dreamed you would
wear it to-day."

"I thought it was so nice!" said Annie, coloring, while a few tears of
chagrin and disappointment sprang to her eyes; somehow, a shadow seemed
to have unaccountably arisen to dim the brightness of this fairest of
days, - a wee bit of a shadow, felt rather than defined.

"So it is nice!" declared Constance, frowning at impulsive Lillie, to
warn her that she had blundered. "It is ironed perfectly; your mother
has made it look beautiful. And what a pretty veil you have!"

"Yes, I did buy that," replied Annie, in a more cheerful tone.

"Oh, it's all right! And Our Lord must have welcomed you gladly,
Annie, you are so good and sweet," added Lillie. "I didn't mean any
harm in noticing your dress; it was only one of my stupid speeches."

Lillie looked so sorry and vexed with herself that Annie laughed. The
shadow was lifted; the children wished one another good-bye; Annie went
homeward, while the others quickened their pace, fearing that they
would be late for school.

But the circumstance had made an impression, especially upon Lillie;
and at the noon recreation, which the first communicants spent
together, she hastened to tell her companions about it.

"Just imagine!" she cried; "Annie Brogan made her First Communion this
morning, and she wore an old dress of mine, - an old dress, all mended
up, that mamma gave her!"

"The idea!" - "What was she thinking of?" etc., etc.; such were the
exclamations with which this announcement was greeted. Most of the
girls did not know in the least of whom Lillie was speaking, but it was
the fact which created such a sensation.

"Why didn't she get a new one?" inquired Eugenia Dillon, a girl of a
haughty disposition, who attached a great deal of importance to costly

"Hadn't any money," responded Lillie, nibbling at a delicious pickled
lime which she had produced from a corner of her lunch basket.

"Then I'd wait till I had - "

"Oh, not put off your First Communion!" protested one of the group.

"Why, yes," returned Eugenia, conscious that she had scandalized them a
little and trying to excuse herself. "It is not respectful or proper
not to be fitly dressed for such a great occasion."

"But Annie was as neat as could be," said Constance; "and looked as
pretty as a picture, too. I'm sure Our Lord was as pleased with her as
if she were dressed like a princess, because she is such a good little

"Come, Connie, don't preach!" objected Eugenia, impatiently. "Besides,
how could she have looked pretty in a mended dress? I wish you could
see the one I'm going to have! It's to be of white silk, - the best
that can be got at Brown's."

"It won't be any more beautiful than mine. I'm to have tulle," said

"And I - " continued Constance.

"Mine is to be trimmed with point-lace," broke in another.

"And I'm to wear mamma's diamonds," boasted somebody else.

"You can't," demurred a quiet girl, who had not spoken before. "Sister
Agnes said that we are not to be allowed to wear jewelry or silk
either; and that, though the material for the dresses may be of as fine
a quality as we choose, they ought not be showy or elaborate."

"That is all very well to say," answered Eugenia. "The nuns can
enforce these rules in their boarding-schools, but hardly in a
day-school like this. We'll wear what we please, or what our mothers
select. Mamma has decided to get the white silk for me, because so
many of our friends will be present, and she wants my dress to be the
handsomest of any."

This information was received without comment, but it aroused in some
foolish little hearts a feeling of envy, and in others a desire of

Eugenia Dillon was the richest girl in the school. Her father, a
plain, sensible man, who had lacked early advantages, had within a few
years amassed a considerable fortune, which he would gladly have
enjoyed in an unostentatious, unpretending manner. This, however, did
not suit his wife at all. Mrs. Dillon, though a kind-hearted,
charitable woman, was excessively fond of style, lavishly extravagant,
and inclined to parade her wealth upon all occasions. She did not
realize that the very efforts she made to attain the position in
society which would have come to her naturally if she had but the
patience to wait, caused her to be sneered at as a _parvenu_ by those
whose acquaintance she most desired. Unconscious of all this, she
pursued her way in serene self-satisfaction, - a complacency shared by
Eugenia, who delighted in the good fortune and bad taste which
permitted her to wear dresses of silk or velvet to school every day in
the week, and caused her to be as much admired as a little figure in a
fashion-plate by those of her companions who were too unsophisticated
to know that vain display is a mark of vulgarity.

"Oh children, children!" exclaimed Sister Agnes, who caught the drift
of the conversation as she came into the room. "Do not be troubling
your precious little heads about the fashions. We must all trust
something to the good sense of your mammas that you will be suitably
gowned. Certainly it is eminently fitting that one should be
beautifully attired to honor the visit of the King of kings.
Considered in this light, no robe could be too rich, no ornament too
splendid. But, lest a small thought of vanity should creep in to spoil
the exalted motive, the custom is to adopt a lovely simplicity. If you
notice, we never think of the angels as weighed down with jewels.
Bestow some of this anxiety upon the preparation of your hearts; see
that you are clothed in the royal robes of grace; deck yourself with
the jewels of virtue, - rubies for love, emeralds for hope, pearls for
contrition, diamonds for faith, and purity. It was with gems like
these that the holy maidens, Saints Agnes, Philomena, and Lucy, chose
to adorn themselves, rather than with the contents of their trinket

Thus the nun continued to speak to the band of little girls, who had
eagerly gathered around her; thus was she wont to teach them lessons of
wisdom in a sprightly, gay, happy-hearted way, as if generosity,
unselfishness and self-denial were the most natural traits imaginable,
and the whole world fair because it is God's world, and we are all His
children. Was it this spirit of joyousness which attracted young
people especially to her, and gave her such an influence with them?

"Somehow, when Sister Agnes talks to me," even so flighty a little
personage as Lillie Davis said one day, "I feel as if I could make any
sacrifice quite as a matter of course, and without a speck of fuss
about it."

"Yes," agreed Connie. "She seems to take your hand in her strong one
and to lead you up a stony, hilly path; and then, when you come to the
roughest, steepest places, she almost carries you onward; and you are
ashamed to complain that you are tired, because, though she is so
gentle with you, she does not mind such trifles at all herself - "

"She makes me think," interrupted Lillie, "of the pleasant, sunshiny
breeze that comes up sometimes on a cloudy morning, and chases away the
mists through which everything looks so queerly, and lets us see things
as they really are."

Lillie's quaint comparison was an apt one, as was proved in the present

When Sister Agnes had gone the subject which the girls had been
discussing presented a different aspect, and the keynote of her
character which always impressed them - "Do noble deeds, not dream them
all day long," - caused them now to feel dissatisfied with themselves
and to cast about for something to do. This reminded Constance again
of Annie Brogan and the white dress that Lillie had regarded with so
much scorn.

"Girls," said she, "wouldn't it be nice if we could give a dress and
veil, and whatever is necessary, to some poor child who is to make her
First Communion on the same day as ourselves? Perhaps, too, we could
arrange to have her make it with us. Don't you think this would make
us happy, and be a good way to prepare?"

"It's a grand idea, Connie!" proclaimed Lillie, with ready enthusiasm.

"How could we do it?" asked the quiet girl, coming to the practical
question at once.

"By giving up some of our ribbons and candies and knickknacks during
the next few weeks, maybe," continued Constance earnestly, thinking it
out as she went along. "Suppose we all agree to get the pretty dresses
the nuns wish us to wear on that day, instead of the showy ones we
want? They would not cost as much, and our mothers would, I am sure,
let us use the extra money in this way."

"What! give up the white silk! Oh, I couldn't!" objected Eugenia,
disconcerted. "Anyhow, I don't believe mamma would like to have me do

"Tulle is so lovely!" sighed Lillie. "And I never did like plain mull."

On the whole, the proposal was not received with favor. It was
discussed with much animation, but the bell rang before any decision
had been arrived at. Later, however, after a consultation with Sister
Agnes, who promised her cordial co-operation, the children concluded to
adopt Connie's suggestion, if their mothers would consent.

"I must acknowledge that I am disappointed," remarked Mrs. Davis to her
husband that evening. "To-day I ordered the material for Lillie's
First Communion dress, - an exquisite tulle. But she came home from
school with a story about furnishing an outfit for a poor child, and
she assures me that her companions are to wear plain dresses for the
occasion." Thereupon the lady proceeded to give the details of the plan
as she had understood it.

"A very creditable determination," said Lillie's papa, approvingly. "I
endorse it heartily. If attired simply, the children will not be
distracted by the thought of their gowns, while at the same time some
deserving little girl will be provided with an appropriate costume. I
advise you to send back the tulle by all means, my dear, and apply the
difference in price between it and the fabric agreed upon to the fund
the children are trying to make up."

"Well, I suppose it will be best to do so," decided his wife. "Anyhow,
tulle is so delicate a tissue, and Lillie is such a heedless little
creature, that it would probably be badly torn before the end of the

"I am sorry," soliloquized Connie's mother when she heard of the
project. "Connie's First Communion will be so important an event for
her that I feel as if I could not do enough in preparation for it. I
should like to dress her more beautifully than on any day in her life.
If she were grown and about to enter society, or if I were buying her
wedding-dress, I would select the handsomest material procurable, - why
not now, for an occasion so great that I ought hardly mention it in
comparison? But, after all," mused she, later, "the children's
arrangement is the best. I am happy that Constance is so free from
frivolity, and has shown so edifying a spirit."

For Eugenia Dillon, the giving up of the white silk was, as the girls
generously agreed, "the biggest act of all." At first Mrs. Dillon
would not hear of it; "though," said she, "I am quite willing to buy
the dress for the poor child myself, if you wish, Eugenia." But
Eugenia explained that this would not do, unless she carried out the
plan like the others. In fact, she found that one of the hardest
things in the world is to argue against what we want very much
ourselves. At last, however, her mother good-naturedly yielded the
point, saying, with a laugh, "Oh, very well, child! But I never before
knew you to object to having a pretty dress." And Eugenia was very
sure she never had.

The great day finally arrived. To picture it, or to describe the joy
which filled the soul of each of our first communicants, is not the
purpose of this story. But as the white-robed band entered the convent
chapel, to the incongruous throng of fashionable people there assembled
their appearance was the strongest possible sermon against vanity.
Their soft white gowns were as simple as the most refined taste could
make them, and as beautiful; their fleecy veils enfolded them as with
holy thoughts; their wreaths of spotless blossoms signified a fairer
crown. They numbered seven originally, but now among them walked
another. Which little girl was the stranger, however, only one mother
knew, - a humble woman, who, as she knelt amid the congregation,
silently invoked a blessing upon the children who by their
thoughtfulness had made possible her pious desire that her child might
be appropriately and respectfully attired to welcome the coming of Our

The first communicants remained at the convent till dusk. During the
afternoon somebody noticed, indeed, that Eugenia's dress, though of
mull like the rest, was more fanciful, and her satin sash twice as wide
as that of any one else. But the discovery only caused a smile of
good-humored amusement; for it was hardly to be expected that Eugenia
would conform absolutely to the rule they had laid down for themselves.

After Benediction, as they prepared to go home, they said to one
another: "What a truly happy day this has been! How often we shall
think of it during our lives!"



"Never mind, mother! Don't fret. We'll get on all right. This little
house is much more comfortable than the miserable flat we have been
living in. The air is good, and the health of the children will be
better. It is quite like having a home of our own again. Now that
Crosswell & Wright have raised my wages, we shall be able to make both
ends meet this winter, - you'll see!"

"Yes, dear, I'm sure we shall," Mrs. Farrell forced herself to respond,
though her tone did not express the absolute conviction which the words
implied. But Bernard was in great spirits, and for his sake she assumed
a cheerfulness which she was far from feeling, as she bade him good-bye,
and from the window watched him hasten away to his work.

"God bless his brave heart!" she murmured. "He is a good boy and
deserves to succeed. It worries me that he has such a burden upon his
young shoulders; but Father Hamill says this will only keep him steady,
and will do him no harm if he does not overtax his strength. What a

1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryMary Catherine CrowleyApples, Ripe and Rosy, Sir → online text (page 8 of 13)