Ruth Ogden.

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A LITTLE QUEEN OF HEARTS ***




Produced by David Widger from page images generously
provided by the Internet Archive









A LITTLE QUEEN OF HEARTS

An International Story

By Ruth Ogden

Illustrated by H. A. Ogden

New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company

1893

[Illustration: 0001]

[Illustration: 0004]

[Illustration: 0005]


A CONFIDENTIAL WORD.

A few years ago, when my first story saw the light, a little fellow,
a stranger to me then, but who has since proved himself the truest of
friends, wrote me a most welcome letter. He said, among other things:
“I have read the book five times through. My nurse, Lily Jones, read the
book to me twice, my mamma read the book to me once, and my Aunt Lizzie
read the book to me twice, for I can only read in my reading-book.” Now
you can understand, I think, how I have wanted to keep that boy for
a friend, together with the other children who have proved themselves
friendly; and so realizing they were all growing older each year, I have
tried in the books I have written since then to keep pace with them,
that they might not perhaps outgrow me for a little while yet.

At the same time, my heart, in a way, is still with the little people
who count their years by a single numeral; and so, if you please, I want
to take them aside for a moment, and just whisper in their ears that,
although “A Little Oueen of Hearts” may seem a trifle too old for them
at first, I have an idea they will not find that fault later on.

Ruth Ogden.




A LITTLE QUEEN OF HEARTS




CHAPTER I. - HAROLD AND TED HAVE IT OUT.

[Illustration: 9011]

He was a thoroughly manly little fellow - nobody questioned that for
a moment, not even Ted; and yet there he sat, his head bowed upon his
folded arms, while now and then something very like a sob seemed to
shake the well-knit figure and give the boyish head an undignified
little bob.

When at last he looked up, behold proof positive. There were tears not
only in his eyes, but on the sleeve of his Eton jacket; and there was no
longer any question but that Harold Harris, sturdy little Englishman
though he was, had been having what is known on both sides of the water
as a good, hard cry.

“How old was he?” asks Young America, a little mistrustful as to the
right sort of stuff; but what does it matter how old he was, since
this is certain, that he was not the boy to cry under any circumstances
without abundant reason. It was evident now, however, that he was fast
getting the better of himself. He sat up, and resting his head on one
hand, reached with the other for the paper-knife, and began cutting
queer little geometrical figures on the big silver-cornered blotter that
half covered the table. It was evident too that his thoughts were not at
all on what he was doing, and that the hard cry was being followed by a
good, hard think. But this did not last long; Harold was simply trying
to make up his mind, as the phrase goes, and that soon accomplished, he
drew pen, paper and ink toward him and commenced writing a letter, with
his head on one side and his lips tightly pursed together. Indeed, he
never unpursed them until that same letter was sealed and directed and
the stamp affixed with a very determined little air, as though firmly
resolved that the thing he had done should brook no undoing. Then he
slipped into his coat and hurried out to post it, and a few yards from
the door he met Ted, who was just coming home.

“Hello, there!” cried Ted, coming to a halt with his hands in his
pockets; “where are you going this time of night?”

“Out,” replied Harold, starting off at a run, for it was wet and damp,
and, to use England’s English, “quite nasty.” Ted gave a low whistle of
surprise, Harold as a rule was such a civil fellow. But no matter. What
did he care where he was going, and entering the house with a latch-key,
he tossed his hat on to a hook and started upstairs, his thoughts
already far afield from all that concerned his younger brother. Back
they came again, however, as he reached the landing, and the old clock
struck twelve. “So late as that?” he said to himself, and deciding to
wait for Harold, he turned and went down again to the library. He hoped
he should not have to wait long, for, since he was rather counting on
a good night’s rest, nothing more exciting seemed to offer. In the mean
time, he would make himself as comfortable as possible on the library
lounge. Indeed, to make himself as comfortable as possible had gradually
grown to be the one thing worth striving for in the estimation of
this young gentleman. A beautiful portrait of his mother hung over the
library mantel, but it belonged to a closed chapter of his life, and he
had almost forgotten its existence. He had never dreamed this would be
so; he had never meant it should be; but that did not alter the fact
that, flattered and made much of ever since he went up to Oxford, he had
somehow had little time to think of his mother, and, sorrier than
that, little inclination. Death was such a desperately gloomy thing to
contemplate! Besides, to keep thinking about it did not bring any one
back. And yet, as much as in him lay, Ted had loved his mother, and been
very proud of her too. It seemed hard that she should not have lived
a great while longer. But then she had been so very sad sometimes, and
life of course wasn’t worth very much under those conditions. When it
ceased to be awfully jolly, perhaps it was just as well to have done
with it. For him, thank his stars! that unhappy period had not yet
arrived. To be a Christ Church Senior, with plenty of money and plenty
of friends and a head that easily mastered enough learning to make a
good showing, left little to be desired, especially when already endowed
with a handsome face and a physique that every man envied - at least, so
thought Theodore Harris, and so thought and affirmed the half score
of intimate friends who enjoyed many of the good things of this life
through his bounty. It was a pity that there was not one among them with
insight enough to gauge the complacent fellow aright, and at the same
time with honesty enough to take him to task for the profitless life
he was leading. But nobody did, and so on he fared, thoughtless and
selfish, and so wholly absorbed in the present that even alone and at
midnight, with his eyes resting full upon his mother’s portrait, he had
no thought to give it nor the worthier past that it stood for. Indeed,
to judge from the discontented look on his face, his mind did not rise
for a moment above the level of his annoyance at being kept waiting.

“Why don’t the fellow come back?” he muttered angrily, realizing, as
he heard the clock strike half-past twelve, that he had been actually
inconvenienced for a whole half hour; and shortly after “the fellow did
come back,” the dearest little fellow in the world too, by the way,
and shut to the big front door and locked it as he had done night after
night during the last two years, while Ted was up at Oxford, and he had
been living alone with the servants in the pretty little home there at
Windsor.

“Harold!” rang out an impatient voice.

“What, you there, Ted?” with unconcealed gladness; it seemed so cheery
to have some one awake in the house.

“Yes; of course I’m here. You didn’t suppose I’d go to bed, did you,
with you prowling the streets this time of night?”

That is exactly what Harold had supposed, but he had the grace not to
say so as he threw himself into a great easy-chair opposite Ted and
clasped his hands behind his head in comfortable stay-awhile fashion,
and as though quite ready to be agreeable if Ted would only let him.

“I went out for a walk and to post a letter,” he said, after a moment,
and with a perceptible little note of apology in his tone for his
uncivil answer of the half hour before.

“It must have been important,” said Ted, apparently amused at the
thought of anything relating to that younger brother being in reality of
any importance: “I should think though it possibly could have waited for
the morning post.”

“Yes, it could, but I couldn’t.” Surprised at this, Ted elevated his
eyebrows.

“It was a letter to Uncle Fritz,” Harold added.

“To Uncle Fritz!” with evident annoyance. “What in creation have you
been writing to him about?”

“I have asked him to come over with Aunt Louise and Marie-Celeste and
make us a visit this summer.” It took Ted a moment to recover from his
astonishment; then he answered curtly, “Well, you can just write him
another letter and take it all back. Did it occur to you I might have
other plans for this house for this summer?”

“I thought you might perhaps propose to have some of your friends down
here, same as last year,” Harold answered frankly.

[Illustration: 0014]

“Well, that’s exactly what I do propose to do, and here you’ve gone
ahead in this absurd fashion. What did you do it for, anyway?” and Ted
in his impatience got on to his feet and glared down at Harold as though
he would like to have eaten him up.

Not a bit intimidated, Harold looked him straight in the face. “If you
want to know what I did it for I’ll tell you - I did it because I’m tired
of the lonely life here. You haven’t any more interest in me, Ted, than
in a stick of wood; so I’m going to take things into my own hands now
and begin to enjoy life in my own way. This little house is as much mine
as yours, and I mean to have my turn this summer. I didn’t like your
friends last year, and took myself off. If you don’t like mine this year
you can do the same thing.” The role was such a new one for Harold to
play that Ted stood utterly nonplussed. That Harold should deliberately
assert himself in this way was such an unprecedented performance that he
knew not what to say.

“What did you tell Uncle Fritz about me?” he asked presently. “I suppose
you painted me as black as the ace of spades.”

“I didn’t say a word about you. I wrote him it was awfully lonely here
the last two years, and that it seemed to grow worse instead of better,
and that if they’d only come over for the summer, we’d do all in our
power to make them have a pleasant time of it.”

“Well, that is cool. Did you really say _we’d_ do all in our power?”

“Of course 1 did. You like Uncle Fritz, don’t you?”

“Of course I like him, but the cheek of it all,” and Theodore strode
over to the window to think matters over. It was a fine thing anyway in
Harold, he admitted to himself, not to have run him down to Uncle Fritz.
If he was angry enough to take matters into his own hands in this
way, it was a wonder he stopped short of telling him the truth about
himself - not that Ted for a moment faced that truth in any honest
fashion; for he was a very good fellow still in his own estimation. He
had simply not taken Harold into account - no one could have expected
that he should; but now it seemed the boy was beginning to resent that
state of affairs. There was some show of reason in it, too, and he
rather admired his spirit. It was rather natural, perhaps, that he
should want to have “his turn,” as he said; very well, he should have
it. For that matter, he would be rather glad himself to see something
of Uncle Fritz. He had not really decided to ask any of the fellows down
for the summer, though he had angrily made a declaration to that effect.
Indeed, there was some talk of their going over the Continent together
instead, which would be a deal more fun. All this while Harold sat
motionless and silent.

“The mean part of it is, that you didn’t tell me beforehand what you
wanted to do,” said Ted, as the upshot of the thinking.

“What I wanted to do has not made any difference to you this long time.
Besides, you would have told me I couldn’t do it.”

“Of course I would” (for, as it often happens, it is easier to be
reasonable in thinking than in speaking); “and I can tell you one thing,
Harold, you’ll be sick enough of your own bargain before it is over.
What do you know about Marie-Celeste? Ten to one she’s a spoiled,
forward sort of youngster. American children are a handful always.”

“I’ll risk it,” answered Harold; “and I only ask one thing of you, Ted,
and that is that you’ll be decent to them when they come.”

“Like as not I won’t be here.”

Harold’s face fell. It would seem such a breach of hospitality for Ted
not to be at home, at least to welcome them. But, never mind, he could
explain to Uncle Fritz, if he must, what an independent life Ted had led
these last few years. He would hurt himself more than any one else by
acting so ungraciously.

“Who’s going to pay for things here at home, I’d like to know?” said
Ted, after another few minutes of meditation. “There isn’t enough of my
allowance left now to tide me over to the first of the year, let alone
running the house in fine style all summer.”

“You need not bother about that - there’s enough of mine, and I can look
after my own guests, which is more than you did for yours last year.”
It was a mean little thrust, perhaps, on Harold’s part, but Ted deserved
it, for Harold had paid his half of the heavy expenses of the previous
summer without a murmur.

Be it said to Ted’s honor that he appreciated the situation, and colored
up to the roots of his hair.

“You know how to rub a thing in,” he said, which was as wide of the
truth as could be, for Harold had never alluded to the fact before, and
made up his mind on the spot that he never would be mean enough to do it
again. A little later the boys had said goodnight to each other, and not
in an altogether unkindly spirit either. Ted had not been as angry
as Harold had expected, and Harold, sorry for his thrust about money
matters, had wound up by being rather conciliatory, and he was happier,
on the whole, than he had been any time for a twelvemonth. And so it
happens with the children, as with grown folk, that sometimes when there
is a climax in the heart the head rises to the emergency, and is able to
think a possible way out from besetting difficulties.




CHAPTER II - GOOD-MORNING, MR. HARTLEY.

[Illustration: 9018]

It is one thing to extend an invitation. It is quite another to have it
accepted. Harold realized this with a sigh as he woke the next morning.
Still, hope was in the wind, where it had not been for a long time, and,
what was more, the first suggestion of spring was in it too, and every
one knows what a tonic that is; so the sigh, on the whole, did not
have much of a show, and Harold set off for school with a heart that he
hardly knew for lightness.

Besides, Ted had taken quite civil leave of him before going back to
Oxford, and had said he fancied would be down again next Sunday, and
that he would be on hand, like as not, if Uncle Fritz decided to come
over - all of which, for any one who knew Ted as Harold knew him, was
graciousness itself, and made Harold wish he had not waited so long
before taking matters into his own hands. And in addition to all this,
the morning was fine enough to brace anybody up, no matter what their
troubles. The Eton boys in their tall hats (atoning, as it were, for the
extreme briefness of their jackets) and wide-rolling linen collars were
skurrying through the streets as though they had the right of way,
as indeed they have in dear old royal Windsor; and here and there the
flowing gown of a colleger spread itself to the April wind and floated
out behind, to all appearances as glad as any peacock to show what it
could do in that direction. Indeed, who knows of a more inspiriting
sight anywhere than Eton College on an April morning? The quaint old
buildings seem to bask in the broad spring sunshine; the trees that dot
the grass-bare turf where the Upper School fronts the street are already
casting tiny leaf-shadows, and on the other side, where the garden
slopes down to the Thames, many a little branch and bush begins to
glow with color. Even the old bronze statue of Henry VI. in the outer
quadrangle, with all its panoply of robes of state and globe and
sceptre, appears to look a little more chipper than ever and a trifle
more conscious of the distinction of being the “munificent founder” of
so glorious an institution. No wonder the boys love the old place, and
even the dingy recitation rooms, whose quaint, high desks and slippery
benches are notched with the penknives of many a boy, whose name, as a
man, has come to be known through the length and breadth of England.
To Harold it was a matter of no small pride, I assure you, that his
particular seat on the form during that spring term was the same that
had once been Gladstone’s - “the prettiest little boy,” by the way, in
the mind of his partial teacher, that ever went up to Eton. But all
this, as you can plainly see, has nothing whatever to do with the title
of this chapter, so it “behooves us,” as the preachers used to say, to
turn our back on Harold and the charms of the renowned old college, and
our faces toward the ocean and a far-off land - far off, that is, as far
as Windsor and the English are concerned, but very near and dear to the
hearts of some of the rest of us. Of course it is the letter that is
turning our thoughts that way at this particular moment. It is tied
firmly in a packet within a great leather bag, and, having been just
in time to catch the mail-train, is being spirited down to Queenstown,
where one of the great White Star steamers has been waiting full four
long hours, so important are these reams upon reams of letters we and
our English cousins keep sending one to the other across the water. Wind
and tide favor the huge, swift ship, and early in the morning, the sixth
day out, Fire Island light is sighted. It is a cloudless morning,
the white sands of the South-shore beaches shine like silver in the
sunlight, and the fresh sea breeze that is stirring holds its own the
whole length of Long Island, and blows its purifying way into every
street and alley of the vast city that lies at its farther end. A most
uninteresting city, this city of Brooklyn, some people affirm; even
those of us who love it best cannot claim that it is great in anything
but “bigness” but there are homes there we will match against homes the
world over, not for show or for luxury, but for pure and transcendent
comfort. It is only a corner of the wide-spreading city of which we are
speaking, and a little corner at that, but the charm of it lies in the
fact that many of the streets open right to the harbor, and that many of
the houses, as well, command the same glorious view. To be sure, one
has need to overlook, in quite too literal fashion, the warehouses
that front the water below the bluff, and here and there an unsightly
elevator, but why let the eye rest on these, with the dancing blue water
beneath you, and the Jersey hills beyond, and beyond that again, like as
not, a glorious sunset. To be sure, the houses that line these streets
stand most of them shoulder to shoulder, in barbarous, city-like
fashion, and with far too much sameness in their general make-up and
plan. But that is neither here nor there; we simply are claiming - we who
love it - that it is a region of ideal homes. And more than this, there
is a rare kindliness of spirit and an open-handed hospitality prevalent
among the people. They are friends and neighbors in the best sense of
the word; too high-minded and preoccupied to be gossipy or prying, they
are interested in each other’s affairs with the interest that means a
sharing of each other’s joys and sorrows.

So much for the corner - let who will gainsay it - and more for a little
maid who lives there, and who is none other, as you may have
imagined, than Marie-Celeste, the little Queen-Pin of this story. And
Marie-Celeste she is always. For some reason or other neither she nor
the friend of her mother for whom she is called is ever known by any
shorter title. Indeed, the two names have even become to be written
with a hyphen, and seemingly to belong to each other, and to be quite as
inseparable as the three syllables of Dorothy or the four of Dorothea.
At the time of our introduction to the little maid in question she has
donned the prettiest of white embroidered dresses and a broad white sash
(which she first tied in a great bow in front and then pulled round to
where it belongs in the back), and has come down to the front steps to
watch for somebody. She knows almost to a minute how long she will
have to wait, for she heard the signal - three little, short, sharp
whistles - about five minutes ago. She decides it is worth while to
make herself comfortable, and also worth while, looking askance at the
doubtful doormat, to bring a well-swept rug from within. Then she seats
herself, and, clasping two fair little hands round one knee, just waits,
letting eyes rove where they will and thoughts follow. That is a very
pretty cage in the window across the way, but she feels sorry for the
bird. People oughtn’t to leave a canary hanging full in the sunshine on
a warm day like this; and then she meditates awhile on the advantages of
living on the side of the street that is shady in the afternoon. And
now two or three gentlemen are coming by from the ferry, all of whom she
knows by sight, for the short terrace where she lives is by no means
a general thoroughfare, and just behind them is Mr. Eversley, May
Eversley’s father. She wishes he would look up, for she has a bow
ready for him; but he doesn’t, and she must needs defer her social
proclivities yet a little while longer. And here comes a great yellow
delivery wagon, with horses fine enough for a carriage and two men in
livery. What a deafening noise it makes on the Belgian pavement! There!
for a comfort it is going to stop for a minute at the next house. My!
what a lot of bundles! And now the street is quite empty again, not a
person on either side of the one, short block; but the whistle that has
been ringing out more and more clearly at quite regular, three-minute
intervals sounds very near indeed, and in another second a gray-suited
individual, with soldier-like cap to match and a glitter of shining
brass buttons, swings round the opposite corner, and makes a bee-line
across the street. Our little friend is instantly on her feet, with one
hand extended, and a “Good-afternoon, Mr. Hartley.”

“The same to you, Marie-Celeste,” replies the gray-coated newcomer,
clasping the little, friendly hand in his.

“And how did it come out?” she asks in the next breath.

“It came out all right,” and Mr. Hartley leaned back and rested both
elbows on the rail behind him.

“I knew you would win,” said Marie-Celeste complacently; “I felt
perfectly sure of it, Chris.”

“And what is more, Bradford came in second.”

“You don’t mean it!” for Bradford was assistant postman on the route
that included the Terrace, and Marie-Celeste was naturally quite
overwhelmed at the thought that both their men should have won. The
winning in question had occurred at a foot-race the night before, an
accomplishment somewhat in the line of the daily training of the average
postman, and for which Christopher Hartley in particular had long shown
a special aptitude.

[Illustration: 0023]

“It was quite a big prize, wasn’t it?” questioned Marie-Celeste, really
longing to know the exact amount; but Mr. Hartley, not divining that,
simply answered, his kind face radiant as a boy’s, “The largest yet,
Marie-Celeste - enough to take me home for two months this summer, and
pay Bradford, besides, for doing double work while I’m gone. He can
manage the route easily; the mails fall off more than half in the
summer, you know.”

“Well, isn’t that splendid!” with a world of meaning in her inflection
and a face every whit as radiant as Mr. Hartley’s own. “And now won’t
you please tell me everything about the race, from the _start_ to the
_finish_,” proud to show that she remembered the terms she had heard
him use; and only too glad of the opportunity, Chris proceeded to give a
graphic narrative of all the details of the exciting contest. Wide-eyed
and interested, Marie-Celeste sat and listened, furtively scanning the
street now and then for fear of interruption by some of the children of
the neighborhood.

“Have you told any of the others?” she asked eagerly, when the story’s
end had been reached, and hoping in her heart of hearts that she was to


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