At last the papers were all pulled away, and there stood revealed, in all its beauty of structure and finish, a little gem of a cabinet organ. To one of its handles was tied a card, on which was printed in big letters:
“A Christmas Present, with wishes for a very merry Christmas, from Uncle ‘Christmas’ to his grandniece Ruth Elmer.”
“Oh! oh! oh! ain’t it lovely?” cried Ruth. “Dear old ’Uncle Christmas!’ And I thought he had forgotten me, and only remembered Mark, too.”
The organ was placed in the parlor, and from that day forth was a source of great pleasure, not only to Ruth and the Elmer family, but to their neighbors across the river, who frequently came over in the evening to hear Ruth play.
Among the events of that week were two that impressed Mark deeply, as they seemed to be connected in some way with the face he had seen at the window. One of these was the mysterious disappearance, on that same night, of a loaf of bread and a cold roast duck from the kitchen. The other was the appearance, two days later, at the kitchen door, of a poor wounded dog, who dragged himself out from the woods back of the house, and lay down on the step, evidently in great pain.
Ruth saw him as he lay there, panting and moaning, and ran to tell Mark, and her father and mother, of their visitor and his wretched plight. They all went to see him, and after a careful examination of the suffering animal, Mr. Elmer said he had been cruelly treated and badly wounded; but that, with proper treatment and care, he could be cured. “He is a cross between a pointer and a hound,” continued Mr. Elmer, “and looks like a valuable dog. The wounds from which he is suffering are those caused by a charge of small shot, that must have been fired into him quite recently. I will do what I can for him, and then I shall turn him over to you and Ruth, Mark, and if he recovers he shall belong to you both. His present owner has forfeited all claim to him by cruel treatment, for without our care now the poor beast would certainly die. The first thing to do is to give him water, for he is very feverish.”
The dog seemed to know, as well as his human friends, that the pain he suffered, while most of the shot were extracted on the point of a pen-knife, was for his good; for while he moaned and whined during the operation, he lay perfectly still, and did not offer the slightest resistance. After his wounds had been dressed, he was carefully removed to a bed of soft moss on the back porch, and here he lay quietly, only feebly wagging his tail whenever any of his new friends came to see him.
“Who could have shot this dog?” and “Why did the animal drag himself to our kitchen door?” were questions that puzzled Mark considerably during the rest of that day and for some days afterwards.