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II BETTY DREAMS BY THE FIRE BETTY, lying back in the deep old carriage as it rolled through the storm, felt a glow at her heart as if a lamp were burning there, shut in from the night. Above the wind and the groaning of the wheels, she heard Hosea calling to the horses, but the sound reached her through muffled ears. " Git along dar! " cried Hosea, with sudden spirit, "dar ain' no oats dis side er home, en dar ain' no co'n, nurr. Git along dar! 'Tain' no use a-mincin'. Git along dar! " The snow beat softly on the windows, and the Governor's profile was relieved, fine and straight, against the frosted glass. "Are you asleep, daughter?" he asked, turning to where the girl lay in her dark corner. " Asleep!" She came back with a start, and caught his hand above the robe in her demonstrative way. "Why, who can sleep on Christmas Eve? there's too much to do, isn't there, mamma? Twenty stockings to fill and I don't know how many bundles to tie up. Oh, no, I shan't sleep tonight ." "We might get up early to-morrow and do them," suggested Virginia, nodding in her pink hood. 114 Betty Dreams by the Fire I I 5 "You, at least, must go to bed, dear," insisted Mrs. Ambler. "Betty and I will fix the things." " Indeed, you shall go to bed, mamma," said Betty, sternly. "Papa and I shall make Christmas this year. You'll help me, won't you, papa?" " Well, my dear, I don't see how I can help myself ," returned the Governor; "I wasn't born to be the father of a Betty for nothing." " Get along dar! " sang out Hosea again. "'Tain' no use a-mincin', gemmun. Dar ain' no fiddlin' roun'. Git along dar!" Miss Lydia had fallen asleep, with her head on her breast, but the sound aroused her, and she opened her eyes and sat up very straight. "Why, I declare I'd almost dropped off," she said. "Are we nearly there, Peyton?" "I think so," replied the Governor, "but the snow's so thick I can't see; " he opened the window and put out his head. "Are we nearly there, Hosea? " " We des done pas' de clump er cedars, suh," yelled Hosea through the storm. "I'ud a knowd 'em ef dey'd come a-struttin' down de road - dey cyarn fool me. Den we got ter pas' de wil' cher'y and de gap in de fence, en dar we are." " Yes, we're nearly there," said the Governor, as he drew in his head, and Miss Lydia slept again until the carriage turned into the drive and stopped before the portico. Uncle Shadrach, in the open doorway, was grinning with delight. "Ef'n de snow had er kep' you, dar 'ouldn't a been no Christmas for de res' er us," he declared. 116 The Battle-Ground "Oh, the snow couldn't keep us, Shadrach," returned the Governor, as he gave him his overcoat , and set himself to unfastening his wife'.s wraps. " We were too anxious to get home. There, Julia, you go to bed, and leave Betty and myself to manage things. Don't say I can't do it. I tell you I've been Governor of Virginia, and I'll not be daunted by an empty stocking. Now go away, and you, too, Virginia - you're as sleepy as a kitten. Miss Lydia, shall I take Mrs. Lightfoot's mixture to Miss Pussy, or will you? " Miss Lydia took the pitcher, and Betty put her arm about her mother and led her upstairs, holding her hand and kissing it as she went. She was always lavish with little ways of love, but to-night she felt tenderer than ever - she felt that she should like to take the world in her arms and hold it to her bosom. "Dearest, sweetest," she said, and her voice was full and tremulous, though still with its crisp brightness of tone. It was as if she caressed with her whole being, with those hidden possibilities of passion which troubled her yet, only as the vibration of strong music, making her joy pensive and her sadness sweet. She felt that she was walking in a pleasant and vivid dream; she was happy, she could not tell why; nor could she tell why she was sorrowful. In Mrs. Ambler's room...


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