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maid—and so's Florence-I have nothin' to say against either of them. Oh, I don't mind the work, Mr. Candy-I've allus been fond of work, and 'tis but right arter all as I should do summat to pay for my keep. I'm sure I dunno where I should be if I didn't live with my sister. She do give me the very clothes on my back.'

You mid easy find work somewhere else, and not such hard work either,' retorted Candy. “Don't you get set on the notion as you're beholden to Mrs. Inkpen— tis t'other way round, I do think. Well, I must be getting on. Maybe I'll be bringing you a letter one of these days for a surprise, Miss Boyt,' he added waggishly.

It ’ud be a surprise, jist about,' rejoined Susan, with the same good-humoured, if somewhat rueful, laugh with which she had formerly made the same statement. “I'd be set up-above a little bit,' she added, as he backed laughingly down the flagged path, swinging his bag under his arm as he went.

Poor soul! I d' 'low she would,' said Postman Candy to himself, when, having passed through the gate, he resumed his tramp along the muddy road, still reflecting on the recent conversation.

"To think she's never had so much as Christmas card th the post office! Well, well! Never a letter wi' a stamp on it! It jist about beats me to think of a creatur: being downtrodden same as that. “That'll do for aunty" indeed and they im

— pudent little hussies sarting out the Christmas cards what's too bad to give anybody else. ... I could wish somebody 'ud send

’ Susan Boyt a proper letter for once. I've half a mind to do it myself-only the poor body ’ud think shame of me writing to her arter what she told me. No, the thing 'ud be to send her a letter wi’out a name to it, and set her guessing. Ho, ho-that 'ud be the thing to do.'

He stood still in the middle of the slushy road to laugh at bis ease, and the unusual sound startled a yellow-hammer which had hitherto watched his approach, without alarm, from its perch on a gate-post. It now flew shrieking across the road, followed by another bird of the same species.

That's a pair,' commented Candy; "they've started early, them two. Let's see, Monday was the 9th-not so early arter all, 'tis the 13th to-day-gettin' on for Valentine's Day. Valentine's Day! That's a notion !

He swung his bag round again in order that he might emphasise

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his delight by slapping something more resonant than his thigh. A brilliant idea had struck him. He would send to neglected Susan Boyt a valentine. No need for any signature, nor indeed any writing ; he would just put it into an envelope and address it in printed letters —a somewhat unnecessary precaution since Susan was totally unacquainted with his hand o’write '--and post it at the market-town.

* I'll buy her a real pretty one,' he resolved. “A posy of flowers, or some sich thing, and the poor soul'll be kept happy for days wonderin' who sent it. She'll be able to crow over them two nieces of hers for once.'

On that very afternoon he carried out his resolution. Having duly deposited at the post office the letters collected at sundry rural ' boxes' on his second round, he made his way to a stationer's shop, and boldly asked to see 'some valentines.'

We have hardly any sale for these things now,' remarked the superior young lady behind the counter. 'We have a few funny ones, of course, but we don't really care to do much in that line.'

She spread out before Candy’s dissatisfied eyes a few brilliantly coloured atrocities : red-nosed policemen, tipsy soldiers, babies falling out of perambulators, and the like-each trophy bearing an appropriate legend.

“No, I want nothin' o' that kind,' said the postman. 'I want summat real nice-flowers or something o' that kind.'

We have got birthday cards, of course,' rejoined the superior young person. She was about to turn aside when Candy stopped her.

No, no, miss, I didn't ask for birthday cards; I want a valentine, a real old-fayshioned valentine, same as folks did use to send about when I were a young chap.'

'There's a box with a few oddments of the kind on the top shelf

, I believe, Miss Frisby,' remarked the proprietor of the shop, with a somewhat amused air. “I came across them the other day. Perhaps Mr. Candy may find something to his liking among them.'

The box was brought and laid before Mr. Candy; it contained all manner of curious trifles ; odd sheets of antiquated notepaper, terrible funereal mementoes of the departed, and among them a few soiled and crumpled valentines of the old school, such as Candy remembered seeing in the hands of his pretty young sister Lizzie, who had died so long ago. After some hesitation he selected the most presentable of these, a lace-bordered object, to which a bunch of roses was affixed, with narrow blue ribbong-real


blue ribbons-meandering round it, and terminating in tags of uneven length.

The postman surveyed it contentedly; roses and ribbons-surely nothing could be prettier or more appropriate for a friendly offering. Moreover he was pleased to observe that there was no foolish motto printed beneath.

"That's it!' he remarked. 'I reckon I'll fix on that one. 'Tis a handsome thing. Could you oblige me with an envelope, miss ?'

Having been provided with one of a suitable size, and further accommodated with a pen and ink, he laboriously inscribed it with Miss Boyt's name and address, the young person in waiting relaxing sufficiently to take note of the same. Producing a stamp from the store which he kept handy in case of emergencies, Candy affixed it, paid his sixpence, and went out of the shop. Having posted the letter, he made his way home, chuckling to himself.

"Sixpence,' he muttered. “'Tisn't so dear after all, and I do ’low it'll give the poor soul as much pleasure as if it had cost a thousand pound.'

He was disappointed on the following morning to find Mrs. Inkpen's doorstep already scrubbed, and Susan nowhere in sight. The gate had no sooner swung on its hinges, however, before the house door was flung open, and Miss Florence appeared on the threshold. She was not looking her best, her face being evidently still unwashed, and the black hair, which, at a later hour, was so delightfully wavy, being still encased in hair-curlers. As Candy approached, at a somewhat slackened pace, he mentally contrasted her appearance with that of her aunt, whose good-humoured face shone with cleanliness at the earliest hour, and whose old-fashioned ringlets were always divested of their papers before Susan left her tiny attic.

"A letter for me!'exclaimed Florrie, as the postman, with an air of affected carelessness, produced the large envelope with its printed address. “A valentine !' she added, for indeed the missive betrayed its nature at the first glance.

* Not for you to-day, I think,' responded Candy, pretending to spell out the endorsement. “Nay, 'tis for Miss Susan Boyt. Where is your aunt? I can't call to mind as I've ever brought her a letter before.'

' A letter for Aunt Susan,' cried Florrie, gaping with amazement.

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An upper sash was lifted, and the younger niece's unkempt head was thrust forth.

* Lard !' she ejaculated, 'ye don't never mean to say there's a letter for auntie this marnin'!'

Candy glanced up with a grin, and then, being a discreet man, averted his eyes, for Miss Mabel was still in what may be termed demi-toilette.

* There is, though. Hadn't one o' ye best fetch her ? Where is Miss Boyt ? '

'She's just sarvin' o' the pig,' rejoined Florrie. “I'll take the letter, postman. The idea of anybody writin' to auntie!'

“No, I don't give up the letter to anyone except them 'tis meant for,' said Candy, firmly. 'Run along and fetch her, maidie. I d' 'low I'd better give this 'ere into her own hand. Ye can't expect to get all the letters,' he added, with a twinkle in his eye. 'I'm sure I don't see why ye need be put out about it neither. I'd put a good face on it if I was you, even if 'tis auntie what's got the valentine an' not you. I'm sure the card I brought ’ee

I yesterday did ought to keep ’ee satisfied for a bit, wi' all the kisses what was set out in a row.

'Go on wi’ ye,' cried Florrie, recovering some measure good humour, as she slowly turned to obey his behest.

But meanwhile the back door had opened and Susan's plump little figure appeared at the farther end of the narrow passage. Setting down her pail she hastened forward at her niece's summons, but paused midway at the impressive vision of Postman Candy, who stood waving the large letter in an authoritative manner.

' I've a-brought ye summat to-day, Miss Boyt,' he announced solemnly, and as 'tis a thing what have never happened afore to my knowledge, I'm a-goin' to deliver this 'ere into your own hand.'

He was half amused and half remorseful on seeing Susan turn pale at his words.

“A letter for me! Dear to be sure! I hope it don't mean nothin' bad.'

Florrie uttered a'derisive laugh, which Mabel echoed more goodnaturedly from the upper window.

' Lard, auntie,' cried the former, 'what bad news could come to you? You haven't got no friends. Postman and me do think 'tis a valentine.'

'A valentine !' gasped Susan, falling sideways against the

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door-post. “Why, whoever could send me a valentine ? 'Tis true what you do say, maidie, I haven't got no friends.'

. “ 'Tis maybe somebody makin' fun of ye,' suggested Florrie with a delighted giggle. “Them curls o' yours--they are enough to make a cat laugh. Somebody mid ha' seed 'em and sent ye a valentine wi' a corkscrew on it.'

' Don't ye believe any such thing,' cried Candy angrily. “'Tis much more likely to come from a real friend-somebody what do know how to value ye,' he added emphatically.

Then, fearing he had been guilty of injudicious warmth, he turned away, quickening his steps as he heard both nieces urging Susan to open the letter and see what was in it, anyhow; but before he had reached the end of the little path Susan's voice, loud, almost passionate, fell upon his ear:

' I'll do nothin' o' the kind. I d' 'low 'tis mine and I'll keep it to myself. For once in my life I've a-got summat o' my own.'

*Well done,' said Postman Candy to himself, jerking his head approvingly as he walked away. He was glad that Susan had asserted herself, but he could not help hoping that she would presently alter her mind and show the lace-edged trophy to the envious girls. He thought of its beauties with supreme satisfaction; the roses so natural as anything ; the blue satin ribbons which artfully appeared to hold them in place, the ends dangling just as they might have dangled from a real posy! It had certainly been a bargain for sixpence. He thought of Susan's joy and triumph, of her nieces' unwilling admiration, of their futile attempt to identify the sender. None of them would ever guess. They would fancy, perhaps, that Susan had some real admirer in the neighbourhood, and her social status would be much exalted thereby. And to think it had all been brought about by the expenditure of sixpence—the price of half a dozen stamps or a couple of bottles of beer! Candy hugged himself at the thought, and vowed that he had never laid out money to better advantage.

He remained all day in the jubilant and self-congratulatory condition which results from the consciousness of having performed a good action at slight outlay; and was still thinking of Susan Boyt when, tired after his second round, he approached home in the evening.

To his surprise a bright light shone through the kitchen window, and, as he opened the door, he observed that a fire was leaping on the hearth. Now, more often than not his fire went out during his

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