Chapter XIII. A Safe Proposition
 

When Mickey posted his letter, in deep thought he slowly walked home. That night his eyes closed with a feeling of relief. He was certain that when Peter and his wife and children talked over the plan he had suggested they would be anxious to have such a nice girl as Lily in their home for a week. He even went so far as the vague thought that if they kept her until fall, they never would be able to give her up, and possibly she could remain with them until he could learn whether her back could be cured, and make arrangements suitable for her. In his heart he felt sure that Mr. Bruce or Miss Leslie would help him take care of her, but he had strong objections to them. He thought the country with its clean air, birds, flowers and quiet the best place for her; if he allowed them to take her, she would be among luxuries which would make all he could do unappreciated.

"She wasn't born to things like that; what's the use to spoil her with them?" he argued. "Course they haven't spoiled Miss Leslie, but she wasn't a poor kid to start on, and she has a father to take care of her, and Mr. Bruce. Lily has only me and I'm going to manage my family myself. Pretty soon those nice folks will come, and if she likes them, maybe I'll let them take her 'til it's cooler."

Mickey had thought they would come soon, but he had not supposed it would be the following day. He went downtown early, spent some time drilling his protege in the paper business, and had the office ready when Douglas Bruce arrived an hour late. During that hour, Mickey's call came. He made an appointment to meet Mr. and Mrs. Peter Harding at Marsh & Jordan's at four o'clock.

"Peter must have wanted to see her so bad he quit plowing to come," commented Mickey, as he hung up the receiver. "He couldn't have finished that field last night! They're just crazy to see Lily, and when they do, they'll be worse yet; but of course they wouldn't want to take her from me, 'cause they got three of their own. I guess Peter is the safest proposition I know. Course he wouldn't ever put a little flowersy-girl in any old Orphings' Home. Sure he wouldn't! He wouldn't put his own there, course he wouldn't mine!"

"Mickey, what do you think?" asked Douglas as he entered. "I've moved to the country!"

Mickey stared. Then came his slow comment: "Gee! The cows an' the clover gets all of us!"

"I can beat that," said Douglas. "I'm going to live beside a lake where I can swim every night and morning, and catch big bass, and live on strawberries from the vines and cream straight from the cow----"

"I thought you'd get to the cow before long."

"And you are invited to go out with me as often as you want to, and you may arrange to have Lily out too! Won't that be fine?"

Mickey hesitated while his eyes grew speculative, before he answered with his ever ready: "Sure!"

"Miss Winton made a plan for her father and me," explained Douglas. "She knew we would lose our vacations this summer, so she took an old cabin on Atwater, and moved out. We are to go back and forth each morning and evening. I never was at the lake before, but it's not far from the club house and it's beautiful. I think most of all I shall enjoy the swimming and fishing."

"I haven't had experience with water enough to swim in," said Mickey. "A tub has been my limit. You'll have a fine time all right, and thank you for asking me. I think Miss Winton is great. Ain't it funny how many fine folks there are in the world? 'Most every one I meet is too nice for any use; but I don't know any Swell Dames, my people are just common folks."

"You wouldn't call Miss Winton a 'Swell Dame,' then?"

"Well I should say nix!" cried Mickey. "You wouldn't catch her motoring away to a party and leaving her baby to be slapped and shook out of its breath by a mad nurselady, 'cause she left it herself where the sun hurt its eyes. She wouldn't put a little girl that couldn't walk in any Orphings' Home where no telling what might happen to her! She'd fix her a Precious Child and take her for a ride in her car and be careful with her."

"Are you quite sure about that Mickey?"

"Surest thing you know," said Mickey emphatically. "Why look her straight in the eyes, and you can tell. I saw her coming away down the street, and the minute I got my peepers on her I picked her for a winner. I guess you did too."

"I certainly did," said Douglas. "But it is most important that I be perfectly sure, so I should like to have your approval of my choice."

"I guess you're kidding now," ventured Mickey.

"No, I'm in earnest," said Douglas Bruce. "You see Mickey, as I have said before, your education and mine have been different, but yours is equally valuable."

"What shall I do now? 'Scuse me, I mean--what do I mean?" asked Mickey.

"To wait until I'm ready for you," suggested Douglas.

"Sure!" conceded Mickey. "It's because I'm used to hopping so lively on the streets."

"Do you miss the streets?" inquired Douglas.

"Well not so much as I thought I would," said Mickey, "'sides in a way I'm still on the job, but I guess I'll get Henry's boy so he can go it all right. He seems to be doing fairly well; so does the old man."

"Have you got him in training too?" asked Douglas.

"Oh it's his mug," explained Mickey impatiently. "S'pose you do own a grouch, what's the use of displaying it in your show window? Those things are dangerous. They're contagious. Seeing a fellow on the street looking like he'd never smile again, makes other folks think of their woes, so pretty soon everybody gets sorry for themselves. I'd like to see the whole world happy."

"Mickey, what makes you so happy to-day?"

"I scent somepin' nice in the air," said Mickey. "I hear the rumble of the joy wagon coming my way."

"You surely look it," declared Douglas. "It's a mighty fine thing to be happy. I am especially thinking that, because it looks like this last batch you brought me has a bad dose in it for a man I know. He won't be happy when he sees his name in letters an inch high on the front page of the Herald."

"No, he won't," agreed Mickey, his face dulling. "That comes in my line. I've seen men forced to take it right on the cars. Open a paper, slide down, turn white, shiver, then take a brace and try to sit up and look like they didn't care, when you could see it was all up with them. Gee, it's tough! I wish we were in other business."

"But what about the men who work hard for their money, not to mince matters, that these men you are pitying steal?" asked Douglas.

"Yes, I know," said Mickey. "But there's a big bunch of taxpayers, so it doesn't hit any one so hard. It's tough on them, but honest, Mr. Bruce, it ain't as tough to lose your coin as it is to lose your glad face. You can earn more money or slide along without so much; but once you get the slick, shamed look on your show window, you can't ever wash it off. Since your face is what your friends know you by, it's an awful pity to spoil it."

"That's so too, Mickey," laughed Bruce, "but keep this clearly in your mind. I'm not spoiling any one's face. If any man loses his right to look his neighbour frankly in the eye, from the job we're on, it is his fault, not ours. If men have lived straight we can't find defalcations in their books, can we?"

"Nope," agreed Mickey. "Just the same I wish we were plowing corn, 'stead of looking for them. That plowing job is awful nice. I watched a man the other day, the grandest big bunch of bone and muscle, driving a team it took a gladiator to handle. First time I ever saw it done at close range and it got me. He looked like a man you'd want to tie to and stick 'til the war is over. If he ever has a case he is going to bring it to you. But where he'll get a case out there ten miles from anybody, with the bluest sky you ever saw over his head, and black fields under his feet, I can't see. Yes, I wish we were plowing for corn 'stead of trouble."

"You little dunce," laughed Douglas. "We'd make a fortune plowing corn."

"What's the difference how much you make if something black keeps ki-yi- ing at your heels 'bout how you make it?" asked Mickey.

"There's a good strong kick in my heels, and the 'ki-yi-ing' is for the feet of the man I'm after."

"Yes, I know," said Mickey, "but 'fore we get through with this I just got a hunch that you'll wish we had been plowing corn, too."

"What makes you so sure, Mickey?" said Douglas.

"Oh things I hear men say when I get the books keep me thinking," replied Mickey.

"What things?" queried Douglas.

"Oh about who's going to get the axe next!" said Mickey.

"But what of that?" asked Douglas.

"Why it might be somebody you know!" he cried. "When you find these wrong entries you can't tell who made them."

"I know that the man who made them deserves what he gets," said Douglas.

"Yes, I guess he does," agreed Mickey. "Well go on! But when I grow up I'm going to plow corn."

"What about the poetry?" queried Douglas.

"They go together fine," explained Mickey. "When the book is finished, I'd like clover on the cover better than the cow; but if Lily wants the live stock it goes!"

"Of course," assented Douglas. "But when she sees a real cow she may change her mind."

"Right in style! Ladies do it often," conceded Mickey. "I've seen them so changeful they couldn't tell when they called a taxi where they wanted to be taken." "Mickey, your observations on human nature would make a better book than your poetry."

"Oh I don't know," said Mickey. "You see I ain't really got at the poetry job yet. I have to be educated a lot to do it right. What I do now I wouldn't show to anybody else, it's just fooling for Lily. But I got an address that gives me a look-in on the paper business if I ever want it. I ain't got at the poetry yet, but I been on the human-nature job from the start. When you go cold and hungry if you don't know human nature--why you know it, that's all!"

"You surely do," said Douglas. "Now let's hustle this forenoon, and then you may have the remainder of the day. I am going fishing."

"Thank you," said Mickey, "I hope you get a bass as long as your arm, and I hope the man you are chasing breaks his neck before you get him."

Mickey grinned at Douglas' laugh, and went racing about his work, then he helped on his paper route until four, when he hurried to his meeting with Nancy and Peter.

"When everybody is so nice if you give them any show at all, I can't understand where the grouchers get their grouch," muttered Mickey, as he hopped from one toe to the other and tried to select the car at the curb which would be Peter's.

"Hey you!" presently called a voice from one of them. Mickey sent a keen glance over a boy who had come up and entered the car.

"Straw you!" retorted Mickey, landing on the curb in a flying leap.

"Is your name Mickey?" inquired the boy.

"Yep. Is your father's name Peter?" asked Mickey.

"Yep. And mine is Peter too. So to avoid two Peters I am Junior. Come on in 'til the folks come."

Formalities were over. Mickey laughed as he entered the car and straightway began an investigation of its machinery. Now any boy is proud to teach another something he wants to know and does not, so by the time the car was thoroughly explained any listener would have thought them acquaintances from birth.

"Hurry!" cried Junior when his parents came. "I want to get home with Mickey. I want him to show me----"

"Don't you hurry your folks, Junior," said Mickey, "I'll show you all right!"

"Well it's about time I was seeing something."

"Sure it is," agreed Mickey. "Come on with me here, and I'll show you what real boys are!"

"Say father, I'm coming you know," cried Junior. "I'm tired poking in the country. Just look what being in the city has made of Mickey."

"Yes, just look!" cried Mickey, waving both hands and bracing on feet wide apart. "Do look! Your age or more, and about half your beefsteak and bone."

"But you got muscle. I bet I couldn't throw you!"

"I bet you couldn't either," retorted Mickey, "'cause I survived Multiopolis by being Johnny not on the spot! I've dodged for my life and my living since I can remember. I'm champeen on that. But you come on with me, and I'll get you a job and let you try yourself."

"I'm coming," said Junior. Then remembering he was not independent he turned to his mother. "Can't I take a job and work here?"

Mrs. Harding braced herself and succumbed to habit. "That will be as your father says."

Junior turned toward his father, doubt in his eye, to receive a shock. There was not a trace of surprise or disapproval on the face of Peter.

"Now maybe that would be the best way in the world for you to help me out," he said. "You see me through planting and harvest and then I'll arrange to spare you, and you can see how you like it till fall. But you are too young to give up school and I don't agree to interrupting your education."

Mrs. Harding entered the car. "Now Mickey," she said as she distributed parcels, "you sit up there with Peter and show him the way, and we will go see if we want to undertake the care of your little girl for a week."

"Drop the anchor, furl the sail, right here," directed Mickey when they reached Sunrise Alley. "You know I told you dearest lady, about how scared my little girl is, having seen so few folks and not expecting you; so I'll have to ask you to wait a few minutes 'til I go up and get her used to your being here and then I'll have to sort of work her up to you one at a time. I 'spect you can't hardly believe that there's anything in all the world so small, and so white, that's lived to have the brains she has, and yet hasn't seen the streets of this city but for a short ride on a street- car twice in her life, and hasn't talked to half a dozen people. She may take you for a bear, Peter; you will be quiet and easy, won't you?"

"Why Mickey," said Peter, "why of course, son!"

Mickey bounded up the stairs and swung wide his door. Again the awful heat hit him in the face. He swallowed a mouthful, hastily shutting the door. "It's hard on Lily," was his mental comment, "but I guess I'll just save that for Mr. and Mrs. Peter. I think a few gulps of it will do them good; it will show them better than talking why, once she's out of it, she shouldn't come back 'til cold weather at least, if at all. Yes I guess!"

"Most baked honey?" he asked, taking her hot hands.

"Mickey, 'tain't near six," she panted.

"No it's two hours early," said Mickey. "But you know Flowersy-girl, I'm going to take care of you. It's getting too hot for you. Don't you remember what I told you last night?"

"'Bout laying on the grass an' the clover flowers?"

"Exactly yes!" said Mickey. "'Fore we melt let's roll up in this sheet and go, Lily! What do you say?"

"Has--has the red-berry folks come?" she cried.

"They're downstairs, Lily. They're waiting."

Peaches began climbing into his arms.

"Mickey, Mickey-lovest, hold me tight," she panted. "Mickey, I'm scairt just God-damned!"

"Wope! Wope lady! None of that!" cried Mickey aghast. "The place where you're going there's a nice little girl that never said such a word in all her life, and if she did her mammy would wash the badness out of her mouth with soap, just like I'll have to wash out yours, if you don't watch. You can't go in the big car, being held tight by me, else you promise cross your heart never, not never to say that again."

"Mickey, will soapin' take it out?" wailed Peaches.

"Well my mammy took it out of me that way!"

"Mickey get the soap, an' wash, an' scour it all out now, so's I can't ever. Mickey, quick before the nice lady comes that has flower fields, an' red berries, an' honey 'lasses. Mickey, hurry!"

"Oh you fool little sweet kid," he half laughed, half sobbed. "You fool little precious child-kid--I can't! There's a better way. I'll just put on a kiss so tight that no bad swearin's will ever pop out past it. There, like that! Now you won't ever say one 'fore the nice little girl, and when I want you not to so bad, will you?"

"Not never Mickey! Not never, never, never!"

"The folks can't wait any longer," said Mickey. "Here quick, I'll wash your face and comb you, and get a clean nightie on you, and your sweetest ribbon."

"Then it's pink," declared Peaches, "an' Mickey, make me a pretty girl, so's the nice lady will like me to drink her milk."

"Greedy!" said Mickey. "How can I make you pretty when the Lord didn't!"

"Ain't I pretty any at all?" queried Peaches.

"Mebby you would be if you'd fatten up a little," said Mickey judicially. "Can't anybody be pretty that's got bones sticking out all over them."

"Mickey, is the girl where we are going pretty?"

"I don't know," said Mickey. "I haven't seen her. She's a fine little girl, for she's at home taking care of her baby brother so's that her mammy can come and see if you are nice enough to go to her house and not spoil her children. See?"

Peaches nodded comprehendingly.

"Mickey, I won't again!" she insisted. "I said not never, never, never. Didn't you hear me?"

"Yes I heard you," said Mickey, applying the washcloth, slipping on a fresh nightdress, brushing curls, and tying the ribbon with fingers shaking with excitement and haste. "Yes I heard you, but that stuff seems to come awful easy, Miss. You got to be careful no end. Now, I'm going to bring them. You just smile at them, and when they ask you, tell them the right answer nice. Will you honey? Will you sure?"

"Surest thing you know," quoted Peaches promptly.

"Aw-w-w-ah!" groaned Mickey. "That ain't right! Miss Leslie wouldn't ever said that! You got that from me, too! I guess I better soap out my mouth 'fore I begin on you. 'Yes ma'am,' is the answer. Now you remember! I'll just bring in the lady first."

"I want to see Peter first!" announced Peaches.

"Well if I ever!" cried Mickey. "Peter is a great big man, 'bout twice as big as Mr. Bruce. You don't either! You want to see the nice lady first, 'cause it's up to her to say if she'll take care of you. She may get mad and not let you go at all, if you ask to see Peter first. You want to see the nice lady first, don't you Lily?"

"Yes, if I got to, to see the cow. But I don't!" said Lily. "I want to see Peter. I like Peter the best."

"Now you look here Miss Chicken, don't you start a tantrum!" cried Mickey. "If you don't see this nice lady first and be pretty to her, I'll just go down and tell them you like lying here roasting, and they can go back to their flower-fields and berries. See?"

Peaches drew a deep breath but her eyes were wilful. A wave of heat seemed to envelop them.

"Sweat it out right now!" ordered Mickey. "When people do things for you 'cause they are sorry for you, it's up to you to be polite, to pay back with manners at least. See?"

Peaches' smile was irresistible: "Mickey, I feel so p'lite! I'll see the nice lady first."

"Now there's a real, sure-enough lady!"

Mickey stooped to kiss Peaches again, take a last look at the hair ribbon, and straighten the sheet, then he ran; but he closed in the heat quickly as he slipped through the doorway. A few seconds later with the Harding family at his heels he again approached it. There he made his second speech. He addressed it to Peter and Junior.

"'Cause she's so little and so scared, I guess the nice lady better go in first, and make up with her. Then one at a time you can come, so so many strangers won't upset her."

Peter assented heartily, but with a suffocating gesture removed his coat, so Junior followed his example. Mickey cut short something about "extreme heat" on the lips of Mrs. Harding by indicating the door, and opening it. He quickly closed it after her, advancing to Peaches.

"Lily, this is the nice lady I was telling you of who has got the bird singing and the flower-fields----" he began. Peaches drew back, her eyes wide with wonder and excitement, but her mind followed Mickey's lead, for she shocked his sense of propriety by adding: "and the good red berries."

But Mrs. Harding came from an environment where to have "good red berries," spicy smoked ham, fat chickens and golden loaves constituted a first test of efficiency. To have her red berries appreciated did not offend her. If Peaches had said "the sweetest, biggest red berries in Noble Country," the woman would have been delighted, because that was her private opinion, but she was not so certain that corroboration was unpleasant. She advanced, gazing at the child unconsciously gasping the stifling air. She took one hurried glance at the room in its scrupulous bareness, with waves of heat pouring in the open window, and bent over Peaches.

"Won't you come out of this awful heat quickly, and let us carry you away to a cool, shady place? Dear little girl, don't you want to come?" she questioned.

"Is Mickey coming too?" asked Peaches.

"Of course Mickey is coming too!" said the lady.

"Will he hold me?"

"He will if you want him to," said Mrs. Harding, "but Peter is so much bigger, it wouldn't tire him a mite."

Mickey shifted on his feet and gazed at Peaches; as her eyes sought his, the message he telegraphed her was so plain that she caught it right.

"Mickey is just awful strong," she said. "I'll go if he'll hold me. But I want to see Peter! I like Peter!"

"Why you darling!" cried the nice lady.

"And I like Junior, that Mickey told me about, and your nice little girl that I mustn't ever say no sw----"

Mickey promptly applied the flat of his hand to the lips of the astonished child.

"And you like the little girl and the fat toddly baby----" he prompted.

"Yes," agreed Peaches enthusiastically, twisting away her head, "and I like the milk and the meat--gee, I like the meat, only Mickey wouldn't give me but a tiny speck 'til he asked the Sunshine Nurse Lady."

"You blessed child!" cried Nancy Harding. "Call Peter quickly!"

Mickey opened the door and signalled Peter and Junior.

"She likes you. She asked for you. You can both come at once," he announced, holding the door at a narrow crack until they reached it, both red faced, dripping, and fanning with their hats. Peter gasped for air.

"My God! Has any living child been cooped in this all day?" he roared. "Get her out! Get her out quick! Get her out first and talk afterward. This will give her scarlet fever!"

A shrill shout came from behind the intervening lady who arose and stepped back as Peaches raised to her elbow, and stretched a shaking hand toward Peter.

"Gee, Peter! You get your mouth soaped out first!" she cried. "Gee, Peter! I like you, Peter!"

Peter bent over her and then stooping to her level he explored her with astonished eyes, as he cried: "Why child, you ain't big enough for an exclamation point!" Peaches didn't know what an exclamation point was, but Mickey did. His laugh brought him again into her thought.

"Mickey, let's beat it! Take me quick!" she panted. "Take me first and talk afterward. Mickey, we just love these nice people, let's go drink their milk, and eat their red berries."

"Well Miss Chicken!" said Mickey turning a dull red.

The Harding family were laughing.

"All right, everybody move," said Peter. "What do you want to take with you Mickey?"

"That basket there," he said. "And that box, you take that Junior, and you take the Precious Child, and the slate and the books dearest lady--and I'll take my family; but I ain't so sure about this, lady. She's sweaty now, and riding is the coolingest thing you can do. We mustn't make her sick. She must be well wrapped."

"Why she couldn't take cold to-day----" began Peter.

"You and Junior shoulder your loads and go right down to the car," said Mrs. Harding. "Mickey and I will manage this. He is exactly right about it. To be taken from such heat to the conditions of motoring might----"

"Sure!" interposed Mickey, dreading the next word for the memories it would awaken in the child's heart. "Sure! You two go ahead! We'll come in no time!"

"But I'm not going to lug a basket and have a little chap carrying a child. You take this and I'll take the baby!"

Mickey's wireless went into instant action so Peaches promptly rebelled.

"I ain't no baby!" she said. "Miss Leslie Moonshine Lady sent me her hair ribbons and I 'spect she's been crying for them back every day; and my name what granny named me is Peaches, so there!"

"Corrected! Beg pardon!" said Peter. "Miss Peaches, may I have the honour of carrying you to the car?"

"Nope," said Peaches with finality. "Nobody, not nobody whatever, not the biggest, millyingairest nobody alive can't ever carry me, nelse Mickey says they can, and he is away off on the cars. I like you Peter! I just like you heaps; but I'm Mickey's, so I got to do what he says 'cause he makes me, jes like he ort, and nobody can't ever tend me like Mickey."

"So that's the ticket!" mused Peter.

"Yes, that's the ticket," repeated Peaches. "I ain't heavy. Mickey carried me up, down is easier."

"Sure!" said Mickey. "I take my own family. You take yours. We'll be there in a minute."

Peter and Junior disappeared with thankfulness and speed. Mrs. Harding and Mickey wrapped Peaches in the sheet and took along a comfort for shelter from the air stirred by motion. Steadying his arm, which he wished she would not, they descended. Did she think he wanted Peaches to suppose he couldn't carry her? He ran down the last flight to show her, frightening her into protest, and had the reward of a giggle against his neck and the tightening of small arms clinging to him. He settled in the car and wrapped Lily in the comfort until she had only a small peep of daylight.

Mickey knew from Peaches' laboured breathing and the grip of her hands how agitated she was; but as the car glided smoothly along, driven skilfully by mentality, guided by the controlling thought of a tiny lame back, she became easier and clutched less frantically. He kept the comfort over her head. She had enough to make the change, to see so many strangers all at once, without being excited by unfamiliar things that would bewilder and positively frighten her.

Mickey stoutly clung to a load that soon grew noticeably heavy; while over and over he repeated in his heart with fortifying intent: "She is my family, I'll take care of her. I'll let them keep her a while because it is too hot for her there, but they shan't boss her, and they got to know it first off, and they shan't take her from me, and they got to understand it."

Right at that point Mickey's grip tightened until the child in his arms shivered with delight of being so enfolded in her old and only security. She turned her head to work her face level with the comfort and whisper in glee: "Mickey, we are going just stylish like millyingaire folks, ain't we?"

"You just bet we are!" he whispered back.

"Mickey, you wouldn't let them 'get' me, would you?"

"Not on your life!" said Mickey, gripping her closer.

"And Peter wouldn't let them 'get' me?"

"No, Peter would just wipe them clear off the slate if they tried to get you," comforted Mickey. "We're in the country now Lily. Nobody will even think of you away out here."

"Mickey, I want to see the country!" said Peaches.

"No Miss! I'm scared now," replied Mickey. "It was awful hot there and it's lots cooler here, even slow and careful as Peter is driving. If you get all excitement, and rearing around, and take a chill, and your back gets worse, just when we have such a grand good chance to make it better-- you duck and lay low, and if you're good, and going out doesn't make you sick, after supper when you rest up, maybe I'll let you have a little peepy yellow chicken in your hand to hold a minute, and maybe I'll let you see a cow. You'd give a good deal to see the cow that's going on your book, wouldn't you?"

Peaches snuggled down in pure content and proved her femininity as she did every day. "Yes. But when I see them, maybe I'll like a chicken better, and put it on."

"All right with me," agreed Mickey. "You just hold still so this doesn't make you sick, and to-morrow you can see things when you are all nice and rested."

"Mickey," she whispered.

Mickey bent and what he heard buried his face against Peaches' a second and when lifted it radiated a shining glory-light, for she had whispered: "Mickey, I'm going to always mind you and love you best of anybody."

Because she had expected the trip to result in the bringing home of the child, Mrs. Harding had made ready a low folding davenport in her first- floor bedroom, beside a window where grass, birds and trees were almost in touch, and where it would be convenient to watch and care for her visitor. There in the light, pretty room, Mickey gently laid Peaches down and said: "Now if you'll just give me time to get her rested and settled a little, you can see her a peep; but there ain't going to be much seeing or talking to-night. If she has such a lot she ain't used to and gets sick, it will be a bad thing for her, and all of us, so we better just go slow and easy."

"Right you are, young man," said Peter. "Come out of here you kids! Come to the back yard and play quietly. When Little White Butterfly gets rested and fed, we'll come one at a time and kiss her hand, and wish her pleasant dreams with us, and then we'll every one of us get down on our knees and ask God to help us take such good care of her that she will get well at our house."

Mickey suddenly turned his back on them and tried to swallow the lump in his throat. Then he arranged his family so it was not in a draft, sponged and fed it, and failed in the remainder of his promise, because it went to sleep with the last bite and lay in deep exhaustion. So Mickey smoothed the sheet, slipped off the ribbon, brushed back the curls, shaded the light, marshalled them in on tiptoe, and with anxious heart studied their compassionate faces.

Then he telephoned Douglas Bruce to ask permission to be away from the office the following day, and ventured as far from the house as he felt he dared with Junior; but so anxious was he that he kept in sight of the window. And so manly and tender was his scrupulous care, so tiny and delicate his small charge as she lay waxen, lightly breathing to show she really lived, that in the hearts of the Harding family grew a deep respect for Mickey, and such was their trust in him, that when he folded his comfort and stretched it on the floor beside the child, not even to each other did they think of uttering an objection. So Peaches spent her first night in the country breathing clover air, watched constantly by her staunch protector, and carried to the foot of the Throne on the lips of one entire family; for even Bobbie was told to add to his prayer: "God bless the little sick girl, and make her well at our house."