When Miss Allison kept her promise she did not go to her mother with the children’s story of Jonesy, to move her to pity. She told her simply what they wanted, and then said, “Mother, you know I have begun to teach the children the ‘Vision of Sir Launfal.’ Virginia has learned every word of it, and the boys will soon know all but the preludes. There will never be a better chance than this for them to learn the lesson:
we give, but what we share,
For the gift without the giver is bare.’
“This would be a real sharing of themselves, all their time and best energies, for they will have to work hard to get up such an entertainment as this. It isn’t for Jonesy’s sake I ask it, but for the children’s own good.”
The old lady looked thoughtfully into the fire a moment, and then said, “Maybe you are right, Allison. I do want to keep them unspotted from a knowledge of the world’s evils, but I do not want to make them selfish. If this little beggar at the gate can teach them where to find the Holy Grail, through unselfish service to him, I do not want to stand in the way. Bless their little hearts, they may play Sir Launfal if they want to, and may they have as beautiful a vision as his!”
The Jonesy Benefit grew like Jack’s bean-stalk after Miss Allison took charge of it. There was less than a week in which to get ready, as the boys insisted on having it on the twenty-second of February, in honour of Washington’s birthday; but in that short time the childish show which Ginger had proposed grew into an entertainment so beautiful and elaborate that the neighbourhood talked of it for weeks after.
Miss Allison spent one sleepless night, planning her campaign like a general, and next morning had an army of helpers at work. Before the day was over she sent a letter to an old school friend of hers in the city, Miss Eleanor Bond, who had been her most intimate companion all through her school-days, and who still spent a part of every summer with her.
“Dearest Nell,” the letter said, “come out to-morrow on the first afternoon train, if you love me. The children are getting up an entertainment for charity, which shall be duly explained on your arrival. No time now. I am superintending a force of carpenters in the college hall, where the entertainment is to take place, have two seamstresses in the house hurrying up costumes, and am helping mother scour the country for pretty children to put in the tableaux.
“The house is like an ant-hill in commotion, there is so much scurrying around; but I know that is what you thoroughly enjoy. You shall have a finger in every pie if you will come out and help me to make this a never-to-be-forgotten occasion.
“I want to make the old days of chivalry live again for Virginia and Malcolm and Keith. I am going back to King Arthur’s Court for the flower of knighthood at his round table. Come and read for us between tableaux as only you can do. Be the interpreter of ‘Sir Launfal’s Vision’ and the ‘Idylls of the King,’ Give us the benefit of your talent for sweet charity’s sake, if not for the sake of ‘auld lang syne’ and your devoted ALLISON.”