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The Tide-Marsh
by [?]

“What are you going to wear to-night in case you CAN go, Mary Bell?” said Ellen Brewster in her lowest tones.

“Come upstairs and I’ll show you,” said Mary Bell Barber, glancing, as they tiptoed out of the room, toward the kitchen’s sunny big west window, where the invalid mother lay in uneasy slumber.

“My new white looks grand,” said Ellen on the stairs. “I made it empire.”

Mary Bell said nothing. She opened the door of her spacious bare bedroom, where tree shadows lay like a pattern on the faded carpet, and the sinking sun found worn places in the clean white curtains. On the bed lay a little ruffled pink gown, a petticoat foamy with lace, white stockings, and white slippers. Mary Bell caught up the gown and held the shoulders against her own, regarding the older girl meanwhile with innocent, exultant eyes. Ellen was impressed.

“Well, for pity’s sake–if you haven’t done wonders with that dress!” she ejaculated admiringly. “What on earth did you do to it?”

“Well–first I thought it was too far gone,” confessed Mary Bell, laying it down tenderly, “and I wished I hadn’t been in such a hurry to get my new hat. But I ripped it all up and washed it, and I took these little roses off my year-before-last hat, and got a new pattern,–and I tell you I WORKED! Wait until you see it on! I just finished pressing it this afternoon.”

“Oh, say–I hope you can go now, after all this!” said Ellen, earnestly.

The other girl’s face clouded.

“I’ll never get over it if I don’t!” she said. “It seems to me I never wanted to go anywhere so much in all my life! But some one’s got to stay with mama.”

“I’d go crazy,–not KNOWING!” said Ellen. “Who are you going to ask?”

“There it is!” said Mary Bell. “Until yesterday I thought, of course, Gran’ma Scott would come. Then Mary died, and she went up to Dayne. So I went over and asked Bernie; her baby isn’t but three weeks old, you know, and I thought she might bring it over here. Mama would love to have it! But late last night Tom came over, and he said Bernie was so crazy to go, they were going to take the baby along!”

“You poor thing!” said the sympathetic listener.

“I was nearly crazy!” said Mary Bell, crimping a pink ruffle with careful finger-tips. “I was working on this when he came, and after he’d gone I crumpled it all up and cried all over it! Well, I guess I didn’t sleep much, and finally, I got up early, and wrote a letter to Aunt Matty, in Sacramento, and I ran over to Dinwoodie’s with it this morning, and asked Lew if he was going up there to-day. He said he was, and he took the note for Aunt Mat. I told her about the dance, and that every one was going, and asked her to come back with Lew. He said he’d see her first thing!”

“Oh, she will!” said Ellen, confidently. “But, say, Mary Bell, why don’t you walk over to the hotel with me now and ask Johnnie if she’ll stay if your aunt doesn’t come? I don’t believe she and Walt are going.”

“They mightn’t want to leave the hotel on account of drummers on the night train,” said Mary Bell, dubiously. “And that’s the very time mama gets most scared. She’s always afraid there are boes on the train.”

“Boes!” said Ellen, scornfully, “what could a bo do!”

“Well, I WILL go over and talk to Johnnie,” said Mary Bell, with sudden hope. “I’m going to get all ready except my dress, in case Aunt Mat comes,” she confided eagerly, when she had kissed the drowsy mother, and they were on their way.

“Say, did you know that Jim Carr is going to-night with Carrie Parmalee?” said Ellen, significantly, as the girls crossed the clean, bare dooryard, under the blossoming locust trees.