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- Bessie Bradford's Prize - 1/31 -


BESSIE BRADFORD'S PRIZE

The third of a series of sequels to "the Bessie books"

By Joanna H. Mathews

Illustrated by W. St. John Harper

Dedicated to my dear little friend and fellow author Elizabeth Leiper Martin ("Elsie")

With the wish that the path of authorship may have for her as many flowers and as few thorns as it has had for her friend and well wisher

J. H. M.

CONTENTS.

I. AT THE POLICEMAN'S,

II. LETTERS,

III. LENA'S SECRET,

IV. PERCY,

V. ROBBING THE MAIL,

VI. A CONFIDENCE,

VII. A BOX OF BONBONS,

VIII. "INNOCENTS ABROAD,"

IX. AN UNEXPECTED MEETING,

X. FRANKIE TO THE FRONT AGAIN,

XL A TRUST,

XII. DISCOVERY,

XIII. ACCUSATION,

XIV. WHO WINS?

CHAPTER I.

AT THE POLICEMAN'S.

"Here comes Mrs. Fleming," said Jennie Richards, in a tone indicative of anything but pleasure in the coming of Mrs. Fleming.

Mrs. Granby responded with an exclamation which savored of a like sentiment, and rising, she tossed aside the little frock she was working on, as she added:

"I don't see what she's comin' for! I didn't want her a comin' here, bringin' her mournin' an' frettin' an' lookin' out for troubles to pester you, Mary Richards, an' I told her I would be over to her place this evenin'. I did tell her, you know, I'd fit that dress for her Mrs. Bradford give her to Christmas, but she just needn't a come here when I told her I'd go there; an' a kill-joy she is an' no comfort to nobody. You go into the kitchen, Mary, an' stay there till she's gone, which I won't be long fittin' her, an' I'll get rid of her soon's I can,"

Mrs. Richards was about to comply with the suggestion, when Jennie, who was still gazing out of the window, exclaimed with a total change of tone:

"And here come the little Miss Bradfords, with Jane, and Miss Belle Powers and Miss Lily Norris along with them."

The little sister whom she was diverting by holding her up to the window, began to clap her hands, and Mrs. Richards settled herself back into her chair again, saying:

"I ain't going into the kitchen to miss _them_, and I'll set the sunshine they'll bring against the clouds Mrs. Fleming drags."

Mrs. Granby beamed upon her.

"Well, I declare, Mary Richards, you ain't no great hand to talk, but when you do, you just do it beautiful; now don't she, Jennie? That's the po'tryest talkin' I've heard this long while, real live po'try, if there ain't no jingle about it. I allers did think you might a writ a book if you'd set about it, an' if you'd put such readin' as that kind of talk into it, I'll be boun' it would bring a lot of money, an' I'm right glad the little young ladies is comin', on'y I wish Amandy Flemin' hadn't hit the same time."

It was plain to be seen that the visit of the young party who were on the way to the door was a source of gratification to the policeman's family, whatever that of Mrs. Fleming might be. Their quicker footsteps brought them in before Mrs. Fleming, and they received a warm welcome. It is to be feared that the younger girl had an eye to the loaves and fishes with which they usually came laden on their visits to the Richards' household, as she ran to them on their entrance, saying,

"What did oo b'ing me?"

"Augh! Shame!" said the scandalized Mrs. Granby, snatching her up; and, "You'll excuse her, young ladies," said Mrs. Richards, mortified also; "but she's only a little thing, and you spoil her, always bringing her something when you come."

That they were not offended or hurt was soon evidenced by the fact that Lily presently had the little one on her lap, while Belle was showing her a linen scrap-book which had been brought for her.

Mrs. Granby was a seamstress, and Jane had brought some work which her mistress, Mrs. Bradford, had sent; and Maggie and Bessie, with Belle and Lily, who were spending the day with them, had chosen to accompany her, the first three because they were generally ready for a visit to the family of the policeman, who had befriended Bessie when she was lost, the latter because she thought Mrs. Granby "such fun." To have Mrs. Fleming come in, as she presently did, was bliss indeed to Lily, who delighted in pitting the cheery, lively little Mrs. Granby against the melancholy, depressing Mrs. Fleming. Nor was the entertainment long in beginning.

Jane was to carry home some work which Mrs. Granby had finished, and as the latter was putting it up Mrs. Fleming came in and was bidden by her to take a seat till she was ready to attend to her.

"And how's little Miss Neville, Miss Maggie?" asked Mrs. Richards. "I think that's the name of the young lady who was so brave in saving her little sister, and was so burned."

"Yes, that's her name," answered Maggie. "She is a great deal better, Mrs. Richards. The doctor has said she is out of danger, and her mother has been able to leave her and to go back to the son who is ill."

"I'm very glad to hear it," said Mrs. Richards, cordially. "My husband was telling me how wonderful and brave she was, and how she never thought of herself trying to save the other children; and how the gentleman Miss Staunton is to marry was burned very bad saving her."

"Yes; it was a terrible time," said Maggie; "but Mr. Howard is much better now, too; so we are all very happy."

All this time Mrs. Fleming had sat nodding her head mournfully, as if she would say, "Don't be encouraged; there is no ground for hope."

"Look! Look at her!" Lily whispered to Bessie. "She's like an insane Chinese mandarin, rolling round her old head that way."

"Hush!" whispered Bessie, "she'll hear you."

"Don't care if she does," answered Lily.

And now Mrs. Fleming broke forth in just such a lackadaisical, tearful tone as one would have expected to issue from her lips.

"Oh, Miss Maggie," she whined, "if the dear lady, your ma, 'ad but listened to me. I told her no good wouldn't come of 'avin' that number of children to her Christmas tree--twice thirteen; an' I said if thirteen was hunlucky, twice thirteen was twice worse; an' your ma just laughed at me; an' the next day came the burnin'."

Bessie looked gravely at her.

"My mother says that is wrong and foolish, too," she said, in an admonitory tone, "and that thirteen is no worse than any other number."

"You nor your ma can't gainsay that there come the burnin', Miss," persisted the woman.

"I know that Colonel Rush's house was on fire, and that Miss Lena was burned, and Mr. Howard, too," answered Bessie, equally determined to maintain her side of the case. "But they are both a great deal better, and it ought to show you that such things don't make any difference to God, and that He can take just as good care of one number as another."

The other children were rather surprised to hear Bessie speak so decidedly to one older than herself; but this was a subject on which she felt strongly; her own faith and trust and reliance on the goodness and power of God were very strong; and more than one occurrence in her little life had tended to foster these, and she always rather resented the want of them in others. And now Mrs. Fleming, in her turn, resented being chidden by this mite who appeared even younger than she really was. But it pleased her, as


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