The early dusk of a December day was fast changing into darkness as three of the young people with whose adventures this story is concerned trudged briskly homeward. The day was a bright one, and Aleck, the oldest, who was a skilled workman in the brass foundry, although scarcely eighteen years of age, had given himself a half-holiday in order to take Kate and The Youngster on a long skating expedition down to the lighthouse. Kate was his sister, two years younger than he, and The Youngster was a brother whose twelfth birthday this was. The little fellow never had had so much fun in one afternoon, he thought, and maintained stoutly that he scarcely felt tired at all. The ice had been in splendid condition, the day calm, but cloudy, so that their eyes had not ached, and they had been able to go far out upon the solidly frozen surface of the lake. "How far do you think we have skated to-day, Aleck?" asked The Youngster. "It's four miles from the lower bridge to the lighthouse," spoke up Kate, before Aleck could reply, "and four back. That makes eight miles, to begin with." "Yes," said Aleck, "and on top of that you must putlet me seeI should think, counting all our twists and turns, fully ten miles more. We were almost abreast of Stony Point when we were farthest out, and they say that's five miles long." "Altogether, then, we skated about eighteen miles." "Right, my boy; your arithmetic is your strong point." "Well, I should say his feet were his strong point to-day," Kate exclaimed, in admiration of her brother's hardihood. "It wasn't a bad day's work for a girl I know of, either," remarked Aleck, as he took the key from his pocket and opened the door of their house, which was soon bright with lamplight and a crackling fire of oak and hickory. The house these three dwelt in was a small cottage in an obscure street of the village, but it was warm and tight. Kate was housekeeper, and The Youngsterwhose real name was James, contracted first into Jim, and then into Jimkinwas man-of-all-work, and maid-of-all-work too, sometimes, when Kate needed his help. While these two are getting tea, and Aleck is carefully wiping the skates and putting them away where no rust can have a chance at the blades, or mice gnaw the straps, let me tell you a few things about the family. Jim could remember his father only vaguely, but Kate and Aleck could tell us all about him. His name was Kincaid, and he was a master-builder of houses. He had bought and fitted up the cottage, and had put savings in the bank, though Mrs. Kincaid was sick much of the time, so that money was spent that would have been laid by "for a rainy day" if she had been strong and well.