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"I'm standing by Agnes first of all because I love her, and next because I believe her."

Karl's answer came clear came clear and sharp. "I'd like to see her convince Joe or any one else of it!"

"The fact that others condemn doesn't matter to me," said Lydia, adding, in a softer tone, "Joe will understand. And you feel as you do do because I'm to be your wife, and you want no shadow to fall on me, any more than does Mother-"

"Darling!" cried Karl. "You know me better than that. It's the ghastly trick played on Joe. He's so damned decent-"

"That's what I've been saying," answered Lydia. "That's just what I've been saying."

The words blurred for Mary Justine. Part of her exalted mood vanished. It was harder for her now to believe, harder to know that she was following the three pilgrims, to realize that this was the sacred faraway hill, and not the hill behind her home.

Why did they all keep talking and talking about Agnes? Mary Justine liked Agnes; she liked her in much the same way she had liked the wild deer they'd caught and tamed, and then let go. Of course once or twice, or maybe even more, she'd been jealous, when Sister had seemed to forget her with Agnes near. But she had always been sorry afterward, because each time she had discovered that Sister had been thinking of her all the time, and loving her more than even Mary Justine knew. It would be dreadful if Sister did not love Mary Justine as much as Mary Justine loved Sister.

She hadn't seen Agnes now for a

long time. The last time Agnes had looked queer-and misshapen. Mary Justine had asked Sister about it, and had got the answer, "Nature is re-shaping the clay, for her own uses," which had sounded so strange that Mary Justine had gasped, fearful that this time she would not understand. Then Lydia had taken her by the hand and led her to the shade under the cherry-tree draped in vines, and had said, "Now I will tell you a story, Little Goose."

And there upon Mary Justine had fallen a golden story about a lovely princess imprisoned in a hut in the forest with a squeaky old mother and a father whose voice was the squeal of a pig-a princess beautiful as morning, whose heart was open as the heart of a flower is open. A heart so pure that these two old ones could not teach her evil; she could not see it, nor could she learn the ways of the world. It chanced one day in spring that she had run out on a hillside to look for the first bud bursting through on the spot where the sun had warmed the snow away. As she looked up, with her hair tumbling and falling about her, as she looked up, there stood a prince, himself the color of evening, himself the color of dusk!

"You know, Little Goose," Sister had said, "how the sun storms over the hill in spring. You know how it comes, splitting the earth asunder, so that new life is brought forth. These two looked each upon the beauty of the other, and Nature had her way."

"But what happened?" gasped Mary Justine, quivering and breathless from her effort to understand.

"The prince walked back over the

hill, and the princess is held in the hut in the forest, waiting her day." "What day?" asked Mary Justine. "When she will be released. Do not look so sad, Little Pig, we will rescue her, you and I! And now I will race you to the river.”


Mary Justine remembered, clear as anything, the last time she had seen Agnes and Joe together. It had been a year ago, and they had come tearing down on skis, their cheeks red as sumach. Even while they laughed their faces held a sorrow too great for Mary Justine to look upon. Joe said he was leaving to go build a home for the two of them. He had had to force the words out. Agnes had cried quickly, "But think when you come back! Think of that, my Joe!" and Joe answered, "Well, don't I? How else d'you s'pose I could live? Take care of her for me, won't you, Lydia? Take care of her while I'm gone!"

Mary Justine did not like these memories crowding upon her right now, when her thoughts were fixed upon the night's unfolding, nor did she understand why they should all speak in such sharp tones about Agnes. She began to admit to herself that so far the night was a disappointment. Instead of walking hand in hand with Sister, she was separated from her as she had never been. There ahead of her was her beloved, quarreling with Karl, and being hurt, instead of being wildly happy, as Mary Justine knew Sister had expected to be; she had looked forward to Karl's arrival, even as Mary Justine had looked forward—was still looking forward, to this night.

Almost before she knew it, people

were all about her. Their lanterns glimmered from every side. Mary Justine was gathered into the church. She was seated beside Sister, and Karl, golden and tall like a figure out of a Norse fairy-tale, stood against the wall, looking as if he would hurl thunderbolts in every direction.

Mary Justine reached out to get hold of Sister's hand. For the first time Sister drew hers away. A pain, so great it frightened her, smote Mary Justine. She looked up, saw the dear face beside her was transfixed with sorrow. She was unable to speak one word of comfort; it would not be heard if she did. Sister was not looking at Karl, and Karl was not looking at Sister, which was in itself beyond belief.

The woman on the other side of Mary Justine snuffled with cold, and bent down to wring out the wet ends of her shawl. She heard, all round her, the murmured Christmas greetings. Nobody spoke to her; nobody greeted Sister. From behind, "My, everybody's here, even those proud Ekengren girls. They say she actually goes to see that fallen Agnes! Wouldn't you think her mother-?" The whisper died down. Sister had not moved a muscle, but she must have heard; her face had a fixed stare.

Mary Justine looked about. Perhaps, over there, in the dark corner under the tree, he would be lying

The tree reached almost to the ceiling, and standing on top of it was a chocolate Santa Claus, brown like the chocolate pig Mary Justine had seen at the store and longed for. Festoons of paper flowers bloomed among the branches. Apples the

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Now, surely, surely in that dark corner under the shadowed branches, he would be revealed.

And never again in all the world, nor all the worlds to come, could any one be lonely who had looked upon his face. Mary Justine reached again for Sister's hand; not finding it, she clutched at Sister's dress. She wanted Sister to see at the same moment that she herself saw. For never again in all the world, nor all the worlds to come, after he had so been adored, would he lie lonely in a dark corner, his song of love and compassion and forgiveness forgottenMary Justine's heart stood still, waiting to adore.

The song died down.

The preacher said the gifts would now be distributed. Some one dived down into the dark corner and brought out packages tied with gay ribbons.

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knew that Sister must have gone down to purchase them for her, so that she would not be left out of the festivities in the church, so that she would not be hurt! Her heart pounded with happiness, and yet, and yet she was curiously ashamed in her possession of these gifts, for she felt she had abandoned something more sacred and precious. The glory, deep down, had been washed


The going was harder now, for the snow had drifted more unevenly on the path. Again she got the impression that she had slipped from Sister's mind. She hurried behind them, stumbling, her eyes stinging and half-blinded with the cold. The voices ahead, still arguing, changed in tone, rather abruptly. Karl's voice took on a note of laughter.

"You'll not go there, d'you see? Here I've been thinking for weeks of nothing but that I'd see you during the holidays. Counting each day off! Marked on the calendar. All the fellows laughing at me, and me not caring. And now you go spoiling it all. I'll protect you from yourself, sweet! Here's how I'll do it!"

To Mary Justine's utter astonishment he picked Sister up, and strode. with mighty steps forward. Why, he must be wearing seven league boots! Sister's laughter trailed back over his shoulder, a merry peal like the chime of bells.

Mary Justine rubbed her eyes, to see if she could have been mistaken. What she saw was only a lonely void of white white mounds gleaming. She could not see the winking lantern. Even their voices were lost. She glanced back, to see if any neighbors were in sight. But which way

would they be coming from? In a sudden panic she called aloud to Sister, and plunged desperately ahead. No, this could not be the path -which direction was ahead?

Perhaps she ought to sit down, and just be still, until Sister came for her. She would come very soon. Mary Justine sat down. The bottom of her woolen dress was frozen and stuck straight out in a brittle line from her knitted white stockings. Why, Sister had forgotten to put on her leggings or her overshoes! She mustn't tell Mother. She must be sure not to tell how cold her feet were, when she got home.

No one had noticed her new linseywoolsey dress that she had been so proud of. It was such a pretty plaid. She wanted to cry, but her face felt too stiff. And anyway, Father had said to her once when she had screamed loudly, "We don't cry, people like you and me. We take our troubles with head up, standing square!" She had felt very proud and grown-up, for he had spoken as if she were his own age, and just as grand as he. The thought helped her, but nevertheless she was crying, inside, right now. Nobody had spoken to her all evening.

How silent the whole world was! How silent, and how stern, and how white! Even the sky was like a sheet of ice, bending down to cloak her.

A numbness stole over her, insinuating its sleepy way up and down her arms, and spreading pleasantly over her body. Her head sank forward. She fitted herself into the snow. She felt as if she could sleep forever, for now the world had become a world of shining white warmth. No, she wasn't at all cold any longer. It was

so nice to be warm again, as in her bed at home, only warmer, only sleepier.

Suddenly, way down, a message rang through her. There were no words, but the meaning was clear. It was a memory of something Father had said. She knew she had to obey that voice, not because of Father's command, but because it was a part of herself. She knew that she had to move. She got painfully to her feet, and stumbled on in the path which offered least resistance.

Here was a fence-she hadn't remembered a fence. But perhaps it would be their close neighbor's? Perhaps, all at once, she would be home! Father would pull her on to the ornamented bed, and his beautiful white head would be laid on hers, and he would call her "Little Goose" in a voice as tender as the fall of rain. There they'd all be, laughing together, as they always laughed together. She would show him her chocolate pig and her pretty beadsher hands closed convulsively; why, she couldn't feel them! She couldn't feel them at all, either hands or beads! This brought her to a sharp realization. The fence she had just climbed over could not be their neighbor's fence, for she had not yet crossed the big hill. She was nowhere near home!

She found herself no longer in the open space, but in a forest of bare trees. How indifferent the whole world looked! Anything might happen to her, and it would not reach out hands to help. The trees were bare black stone trees. On glancing up she saw that they were not so bare but that here and there were patches of snow upon them, and icicles hung down, formed by a warmer morning. Above

all this they stretched bare arms upward, surely in prayer-? Nothing but prayer could be so lonely. All the world held a longing, even though it looked frozen and white and cold, all the world a cry toward some deliverance, some hope, some love.

It was love.

It was Love the whole world hungered for, to wake and warm it into life.

She staggered and fell against a tree. Oh, Christ Child, dear Christ Child, where are you? Was the dream born of you too big for the world to clasp to its heart, too warm and friendly and glowing to become reality, so that now and forever and ever there must be terror and loneliness and death?


"Here, youngster," said a man's deep voice. "You better come along with me." A strong hand grasped hers, pulling her forward. "Or I'll carry you if you like, poor kid?"

"No," her stiff lips said. "No. Why, I can walk, just fine. I-I guess I just felt-lost."

"Bless my soul, if it isn't little Mary Justine! How on earth did you get lost, Little Pig?"

"It was my fault," she answered. "I couldn't keep up. My legs were too short. And I don't know you, I guess," she added, politely, "unless maybe you're some one who's come to Father for help?"

The voice that was really too sad to laugh did laugh suddenly, right on the door-step. "I s'pose it's my beard," he said, and rapped at the door.

Once inside, Mary Justine staggered over to the fireplace and sat down. Her hands and feet and face began stinging with many needles. She did not seem able to remember her manners. She should have shaken hands all round. She knew there were people in the room, and that she had been in this room before.

Then, sharper than the needles pricking her so cruelly, she was struck with the pain surrounding her. A woman over on the low bed was speaking haltingly to the man with the beard.

"You see how it was," the woman said. "It-it was the first day in "I am lost, too," said the deep spring. I had run out, up where we voice. used to go, on the hill? To look for "Oh! Maybe maybe we could flowers. He he came up—from the find the way together?" other side. He stood right there, before me."

"Not much chance for me," said the man sadly. "But I'll find the way for you all right, kid. Don't you worry about that!"

Mary Justine liked him. She said, "No, we we can find the way together."

They reached a plane of light which came from the window of a cottage.

The man looked down at her. "Why, bless my soul!" he cried.

"What happened?" asked the man. "He laughed. He said, 'Are you a dryad, or a sleeping princess?' I laughed, too, and he came closer. 'Yes, I might have known it, you are a sleeping princess!' He-he put his arms around me. He kissed me. I-I was no longer myself—”

"You hadn't seen him before?" asked the man's grave voice.

"No. He went back-over the

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