Infomotions, Inc.Laddie; a true blue story / Stratton-Porter, Gene, 1863-1924



Author: Stratton-Porter, Gene, 1863-1924
Title: Laddie; a true blue story
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): laddie; leon; pryor; shelley; princess; miss amelia; mother
Contributor(s): Bright, Mynors, 1818-1883 [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 157,517 words (average) Grade range: 7-8 (grade school) Readability score: 78 (easy)
Identifier: etext286
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Laddie, A True Blue Story

by Gene Stratton Porter

June, 1995  [Etext #286]


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LADDIE
A TRUE BLUE STORY


To
LEANDER ELLIOT STRATTON
"The Way to Be Happy Is to Be Good"


Contents

CHAPTER                                         
I.      Little Sister
II.     Our Angel Boy
III.    Mr. Pryor's Door
IV.     The Last Day in Eden
V.      The First Day of School
VI.     The Wedding Gown
VII.    When Sally Married Peter
VIII.   The Shropshire and the Crusader
IX.     "Even So"
X.      Laddie Takes the Plunge
XI.     Keeping Christmas Our Way
XII.    The Horn of the Hunter
XIII.   The Garden of the Lord
XIV.    The Crest of Eastbrooke
XV.     Laddie, the Princess, and the Pie
XVI.    The Homing Pigeon
XVII.   In Faith Believing
XVIII.  The Pryor Mystery


LADDIE

CHARACTERS

LADDIE, Who Loved and Asked No Questions.
THE PRINCESS, From the House of Mystery.
LEON, Our Angel Child.
LITTLE SISTER, Who Tells What Happened.
MR. and MRS. STANTON, Who Faced Life Shoulder to Shoulder.
SALLY and PETER, Who Married Each Other.
ELIZABETH, SHELLEY, MAY and Other Stanton Children.
MR. and MRS. PRYOR, Father and Mother of the Princess.
ROBERT PAGET, a Chicago Lawyer.
MRS. FRESHETT, Who Offered Her Life for Her Friend.
CANDACE, the Cook.
MISS AMELIA, the School Mistress.
Interested Relatives, Friends, and Neighbours.






CHAPTER I

Little Sister


            "And could another child-world be my share,
             I'd be a Little Sister there."


Have I got a Little Sister anywhere in this house?" inquired
Laddie at the door, in his most coaxing voice.

"Yes sir," I answered, dropping the trousers I was making for
Hezekiah, my pet bluejay, and running as fast as I could.  There
was no telling what minute May might take it into her head that
she was a little sister and reach him first.  Maybe he wanted me
to do something for him, and I loved to wait on Laddie.

"Ask mother if you may go with me a while."

"Mother doesn't care where I am, if I come when the supper bell
rings."

"All right!" said Laddie.

He led the way around the house, sat on the front step and took
me between his knees.

"Oh, is it going to be a secret?" I cried.

Secrets with Laddie were the greatest joy in life.  He was so big
and so handsome.  He was so much nicer than any one else in our
family, or among our friends, that to share his secrets, run his
errands, and love him blindly was the greatest happiness. 
Sometimes I disobeyed father and mother; I minded Laddie like his
right hand.

"The biggest secret yet," he said gravely.

"Tell quick!" I begged, holding my ear to his lips.

"Not so fast!" said Laddie.  "Not so fast!  I have doubts about
this.  I don't know that I should send you.  Possibly you can't
find the way.  You may be afraid.  Above all, there is never to
be a whisper.  Not to any one!  Do you understand?"

"What's the matter?" I asked.

"Something serious," said Laddie.  "You see, I expected to have
an hour or two for myself this afternoon, so I made an engagement
to spend the time with a Fairy Princess in our Big Woods.  Father
and I broke the reaper taking it from the shed just now and you
know how he is about Fairies."

I did know how he was about Fairies.  He hadn't a particle of
patience with them.  A Princess would be the Queen's daughter. 
My father's people were English, and I had heard enough talk to
understand that.  I was almost wild with excitement.

"Tell me the secret, hurry!" I cried.

"It's just this," he said.  "It took me a long time to coax the
Princess into our Big Woods.  I had to fix a throne for her to
sit on; spread a Magic Carpet for her feet, and build a wall to
screen her.  Now, what is she going to think if I'm not there to
welcome her when she comes?  She promised to show me how to make
sunshine on dark days."

"Tell father and he can have Leon help him."

"But it is a secret with the Princess, and it's HERS as much as
mine.  If I tell, she may not like it, and then she won't make me
her Prince and send me on her errands."

"Then you don't dare tell a breath," I said.

"Will you go in my place, and carry her a letter to explain why
I'm not coming, Little Sister?"

"Of course!" I said stoutly, and then my heart turned right over;
for I never had been in our Big Woods alone, and neither mother
nor father wanted me to go.  Passing Gypsies sometimes laid down
the fence and went there to camp.  Father thought all the wolves
and wildcats were gone, he hadn't seen any in years, but every
once in a while some one said they had, and he was not quite sure
yet.  And that wasn't the beginning of it.  Paddy Ryan had come
back from the war wrong in his head.  He wore his old army
overcoat summer and winter, slept on the ground, and ate whatever
he could find.  Once Laddie and Leon, hunting squirrels to make
broth for mother on one of her bad days, saw him in our Big Woods
and he was eating SNAKES.  If I found Pat Ryan eating a snake, it

would frighten me so I would stand still and let him eat me, if
he wanted to, and perhaps he wasn't too crazy to see how plump I
was.  I seemed to see swarthy, dark faces, big, sleek cats
dropping from limbs, and Paddy Ryan's matted gray hair, the
flying rags of the old blue coat, and a snake in his hands. 
Laddie was slipping the letter into my apron pocket.  My knees
threatened to let me down.

"Must I lift the leaves and hunt for her, or will she come to
me?" I wavered.

"That's the biggest secret of all," said Laddie.  "Since the
Princess entered them, our woods are Enchanted, and there is no
telling what wonderful things may happen any minute.  One of them
is this: whenever the Princess comes there, she grows in size
until she is as big as, say our Sally, and she fills all the
place with glory, until you are so blinded you scarcely can see
her face."

"What is she like, Laddie?" I questioned, so filled with awe and
interest, that fear was forgotten.

"She is taller than Sally," said Laddie.  "Her face is oval, and
her cheeks are bright.  Her eyes are big moonlit pools of
darkness, and silken curls fall over her shoulders.  One hair is
strong enough for a lifeline that will draw a drowning man
ashore, or strangle an unhappy one.  But you will not see her. 
I'm purposely sending you early, so you can do what you are told
and come back to me before she even reaches the woods."

"What am I to do, Laddie?"

"You must put one hand in your apron pocket and take the letter
in it, and as long as you hold it tight, nothing in the world can
hurt you.   Go out our lane to the Big Woods, climb the gate and
walk straight back the wagon road to the water.  When you reach
that, you must turn to your right and go toward Hoods' until you
come to the pawpaw thicket.   Go around that, look ahead, and
you'll see the biggest beech tree you ever saw.  You know a
beech, don't you?"

"Of course I do," I said indignantly.  "Father taught me beech
with the other trees."

"Well then," said Laddie, "straight before you will be a purple
beech, and under it is the throne of the Princess, the Magic
Carpet, and the walls I made.  Among the beech roots there is a
stone hidden with moss.  Roll the stone back and there will be a
piece of bark.  Lift that, lay the letter in the box you'll find,
and scamper to me like flying.  I'll be at the barn with father."

"Is that all?"

"Not quite," said Laddie.  "It's possible that the Fairy Queen
may have set the Princess spinning silk for the caterpillars to
weave their little houses with this winter; and if she has, she
may have left a letter there to tell me.  If there is one, put it
in your pocket, hold it close every step of the way, and you'll
be safe coming home as you were going.  But you mustn't let a
soul see it; you must slip it into my pocket when I'm not
looking.  If you let any one see, then the Magic will be spoiled,
and the Fairy won't come again."

"No one shall see," I promised.

"I knew you could be trusted," said Laddie, kissing and hugging
me hard.  "Now go!  If anything gets after you that such a big
girl as you really wouldn't be ashamed to be afraid of, climb on
a fence and call.  I'll be listening, and I'll come flying.  Now
I must hurry.  Father will think it's going to take me the
remainder of the day to find the bolts he wants."

We went down the front walk between the rows of hollyhocks and
tasselled lady-slippers, out the gate, and followed the road. 
Laddie held one of my hands tight, and in the other I gripped the
letter in my pocket.  So long as Laddie could see me, and the
lane lay between open fields, I wasn't afraid.  I was thinking so
deeply about our woods being Enchanted, and a tiny Fairy growing
big as our Sally, because she was in them, that I stepped out
bravely.

Every few days I followed the lane as far back as the Big Gate. 
This stood where four fields cornered, and opened into the road
leading to the woods.  Beyond it, I had walked on Sunday
afternoons with father while he taught me all the flowers, vines,
and bushes he knew, only he didn't know some of the prettiest
ones; I had to have books for them, and I was studying to learn
enough that I could find out.  Or I had ridden on the wagon with
Laddie and Leon when they went to bring wood for the cookstove,
outoven, and big fireplace.  But to walk!  To go all alone!  Not
that I didn't walk by myself over every other foot of the acres
and acres of beautiful land my father owned; but plowed fields,
grassy meadows, wood pasture, and the orchard were different.  I
played in them without a thought of fear.

The only things to be careful about were a little, shiny, slender
snake, with a head as bright as mother's copper kettle, and a big
thick one with patterns on its back like those in Laddie's
geometry books, and a whole rattlebox on its tail; not to eat any
berry or fruit I didn't know without first asking father; and
always to be sure to measure how deep the water was before I
waded in alone.

But our Big Woods!  Leon said the wildcats would get me there.  I
sat in our catalpa and watched the Gypsies drive past every
summer.  Mother hated them as hard as ever she could hate any
one, because once they had stolen some fine shirts, with linen
bosoms, that she had made by hand for father, and was bleaching
on the grass.  If Gypsies should be in our west woods to-day and
steal me, she would hate them worse than ever; because my mother
loved me now, even if she didn't want me when I was born.

But you could excuse her for that.  She had already bathed,
spanked, sewed for, and reared eleven babies so big and strong
not one of them ever even threatened to die.  When you thought of
that, you could see she wouldn't be likely to implore the
Almighty to send her another, just to make her family even
numbers.  I never felt much hurt at her, but some of the others I
never have forgiven and maybe I never will.  As long as there had
been eleven babies, they should have been so accustomed to
children that they needn't all of them have objected to me, all
except Laddie, of course.  That was the reason I loved him so and
tried to do every single thing he wanted me to, just the way he
liked it done.  That was why I was facing the only spot on our
land where I was in the slightest afraid; because he asked me to.

If he had told me to dance a jig on the ridgepole of our barn, I
would have tried it.

So I clasped the note, set my teeth, and climbed over the gate. 
I walked fast and kept my eyes straight before me.  If I looked
on either side, sure as life I would see something I never had
before, and be down digging up a strange flower, chasing a
butterfly, or watching a bird.  Besides, if I didn't look in the
fence corners that I passed, maybe I wouldn't see anything to
scare me.  I was going along finely, and feeling better every
minute as I went down the bank of an old creek that had gone dry,
and started up the other side toward the sugar camp not far from
the Big Woods.  The bed was full of weeds and as I passed
through, away! went Something among them.

Beside the camp shed there was corded wood, and the first thing I
knew, I was on top of it.  The next, my hand was on the note in
my pocket.  My heart jumped until I could see my apron move, and
my throat went all stiff and dry.  I gripped the note and waited.

Father believed God would take care of him.  I was only a little
girl and needed help much more than a man; maybe God would take
care of me.  There was nothing wrong in carrying a letter to the
Fairy Princess.  I thought perhaps it would help if I should
kneel on the top of the woodpile and ask God to not let anything
get me.

The more I thought about it, the less I felt like doing it,
though, because really you have no business to ask God to take
care of you, unless you KNOW you are doing right.  This was
right, but in my heart I also knew that if Laddie had asked me, I
would be shivering on top of that cordwood on a hot August day,
when it was wrong.  On the whole, I thought it would be more
honest to leave God out of it, and take the risk myself.  That
made me think of the Crusaders, and the little gold trinket in
father's chest till.  There were four shells on it and each one
stood for a trip on foot or horseback to the Holy City when you
had to fight almost every step of the way.  Those shells meant
that my father's people had gone four times, so he said; that,
although it was away far back, still each of us had a tiny share
of the blood of the Crusaders in our veins, and that it would
make us brave and strong, and whenever we were afraid, if we
would think of them, we never could do a cowardly thing or let
any one else do one before us.  He said any one with Crusader
blood had to be brave as Richard the Lion-hearted.  Thinking
about that helped ever so much, so I gripped the note and turned
to take one last look at the house before I made a dash for the
gate that led into the Big Woods.

Beyond our land lay the farm of Jacob Hood, and Mrs. Hood always
teased me because Laddie had gone racing after her when I was
born.  She was in the middle of Monday's washing, and the bluing
settled in the rinse water and stained her white clothes in
streaks it took months to bleach out.  I always liked Sarah Hood
for coming and dressing me, though, because our Sally, who was
big enough to have done it, was upstairs crying and wouldn't come
down.  I liked Laddie too, because he was the only one of our
family who went to my mother and kissed her, said he was glad,
and offered to help her.  Maybe the reason he went was because he
had an awful scare, but anyway he WENT, and that was enough for
me.

You see it was this way: no one wanted me; as there had been
eleven of us, every one felt that was enough.  May was six years
old and in school, and my mother thought there never would be any
more babies.  She had given away the cradle and divided the baby
clothes among my big married sisters and brothers, and was having
a fine time and enjoying herself the most she ever had in her
life.  The land was paid for long ago; the house she had planned,
builded as she wanted it; she had a big team of matched grays and
a carriage with side lamps and patent leather trimmings; and
sometimes there was money in the bank.  I do not know that there
was very much, but any at all was a marvel, considering how many
of us there were to feed, clothe, and send to college.  Mother
was forty-six and father was fifty; so they felt young enough yet
to have a fine time and enjoy life, and just when things were
going best, I announced that I was halfway over my journey to
earth.

You can't blame my mother so much.  She must have been tired of
babies and disliked to go back and begin all over after resting
six years.  And you mustn't be too hard on my father if he was
not just overjoyed.  He felt sure the cook would leave, and she
did.  He knew Sally would object to a baby, when she wanted to
begin having beaus, so he and mother talked it over and sent her
away for a long visit to Ohio with father's people, and never
told her.  They intended to leave her there until I was over the
colic, at least.  They knew the big married brothers and sisters
would object, and they did.  They said it would be embarrassing
for their children to be the nieces and nephews of an aunt or
uncle younger than themselves.  They said it so often and so
emphatically that father was provoked and mother cried.  Shelley
didn't like it because she was going to school in Groveville,
where Lucy, one of our married sisters, lived, and she was afraid
I would make so much work she would have to give up her books and
friends and remain at home.  There never was a baby born who was
any less wanted than I was.  I knew as much about it as any one
else, because from the day I could understand, all of them,
father, mother, Shelley, Sarah Hood, every one who knew, took
turns telling me how badly I was not wanted, how much trouble I
made, and how Laddie was the only one who loved me at first. 
Because of that I was on the cordwood trying to find courage to
go farther.  Over and over Laddie had told me himself.  He had
been to visit our big sister Elizabeth over Sunday and about
eight o'clock Monday morning he came riding down the road, and
saw the most dreadful thing.  There was not a curl of smoke from
the chimneys, not a tablecloth or pillowslip on the line, not a
blind raised.  Laddie said his heart went--just like mine did
when the Something jumped in the creek bed, no doubt.  Then he
laid on the whip and rode.

He flung the rein over the hitching post, leaped the fence and
reached the back door.  The young green girl, who was all father
could get when the cook left, was crying.  So were Shelley and
little May, although she said afterward she had a boil on her
heel and there was no one to poultice it.  Laddie leaned against
the door casing, and it is easy enough to understand what he
thought.  He told me he had to try twice before he could speak,
and then he could only ask:  "What's the matter?"

Probably May never thought she would have the chance, but the
others were so busy crying harder, now that they had an audience,
that she was first to tell him:  "We have got a little sister."

"Great Day!" cried Laddie.  "You made me think we had a funeral! 
Where is mother, and where is my Little Sister?"

He went bolting right into mother's room and kissed her like the
gladdest boy alive; because he was only a boy then, and he told
her how happy he was that she was safe, and then he ASKED for me.

He said I was the only living creature in that house who was not
shedding tears, and I didn't begin for about six months
afterward.  In fact, not until Shelley taught me by pinching me
if she had to rock the cradle; then I would cry so hard mother
would have to take me.  He said he didn't believe I'd ever have
learned by myself.

He took a pillow from the bed, fixed it in the rocking chair and
laid me on it.  When he found that father was hitching the horses
to send Leon for Doctor Fenner, Laddie rode back after Sarah Hood
and spoiled her washing.  It may be that the interest he always
took in me had its beginning in all of them scaring him with
their weeping; even Sally, whom father had to telegraph to come
home, was upstairs crying, and she was almost a woman.  It may be
that all the tears they shed over not wanting me so scared Laddie
that he went farther in his welcome than he ever would have
thought of going if he hadn't done it for joy when he learned his
mother was safe.  I don't care about the reason.  It is enough
for me that from the hour of my birth Laddie named me Little
Sister, seldom called me anything else, and cared for me all he
possibly could to rest mother.  He took me to the fields with him
in the morning and brought me back on the horse before him at
noon.  He could plow with me riding the horse, drive a reaper
with me on his knees, and hoe corn while I slept on his coat in a
fence corner.  The winters he was away at college left me lonely,
and when he came back for a vacation I was too happy for words. 
Maybe it was wrong to love him most.  I knew my mother cared for
and wanted me now.  And all my secrets were not with Laddie.  I
had one with father that I was never to tell so long as he lived,
but it was about the one he loved best, next after mother. 
Perhaps I should never tell it, but I wouldn't be surprised if
the family knew.  I followed Laddie like a faithful dog, when I
was not gripping his waving hair and riding in triumph on his
shoulders.  He never had to go so fast he couldn't take me on his
back.  He never was in too big a hurry to be kind.  He always had
patience to explain every shell, leaf, bird, and flower I asked
about.  I was just as much his when pretty young girls were
around, and the house full of company, as when we were alone. 
That was the reason I was shivering on the cordwood, gripping his
letter and thinking of all these things in order to force myself
to go farther.

I was excited about the Fairies too.  I often had close chances
of seeing them, but I always just missed.  Now here was Laddie
writing letters and expecting answers; our Big Woods Enchanted, a
Magic Carpet and the Queen's daughter becoming our size so she
could speak with him.  No doubt the Queen had her grow big as
Shelley, when she sent her on an errand to tell Laddie about how
to make sunshine; because she was afraid if she went her real
size he would accidentally step on her, he was so dreadfully big.

Or maybe her voice was so fine he could not hear what she said. 
He had told me I was to hurry, and I had gone as fast as I could
until Something jumped; since, I had been settled on that
cordwood like Robinson Crusoe on his desert island.  I had to get
down some time; I might as well start.

I gripped the letter, slid to the ground, and ran toward the big
gate straight before me.  I climbed it, clutched the note again,
and ran blindly down the road through the forest toward the
creek.  I could hurry there.  On either side of it I could not
have run ten steps at a time.  The big trees reached so high
above me it seemed as if they would push through the floor of
Heaven.  I tried to shut my ears and run so fast I couldn't hear
a sound, and so going, I soon came to the creek bank.  There I
turned to my right and went slower, watching for the pawpaw
thicket.  On leaving the road I thought I would have to crawl
over logs and make my way; but there seemed to be kind of a path
not very plain, but travelled enough to follow.  It led straight
to the thicket.  At the edge I stopped to look for the beech.  It
could be reached in one breathless dash, but there seemed to be a
green enclosure, so I walked around until I found an entrance. 
Once there I was so amazed I stood and stared.  I was half
indignant too.

Laddie hadn't done a thing but make an exact copy of my playhouse
under the biggest maiden's-blush in our orchard.  He used the
immense beech for one corner, where I had the apple tree.  His
Magic Carpet was woolly-dog moss, and all the magic about it, was
that on the damp woods floor, in the deep shade, the moss had
taken root and was growing as if it always had been there.  He
had been able to cut and stick much larger willow sprouts for his
walls than I could, and in the wet black mould they didn't look
as if they ever had wilted.  They were so fresh and green, no
doubt they had taken root and were growing.  Where I had a low
bench under my tree, he had used a log; but he had hewed the top
flat, and made a moss cover.  In each corner he had set a fern as
high as my head.  On either side of the entrance he had planted a
cluster of cardinal flower that was in full bloom, and around the
walls in a few places thrifty bunches of Oswego tea and foxfire,
that I would have walked miles to secure for my wild garden under
the Bartlett pear tree.  It was so beautiful it took my breath
away.

"If the Queen's daughter doesn't like this," I said softly,
"she'll have to go to Heaven before she finds anything better,
for there can't be another place on earth so pretty."

It was wonderful how the sound of my own voice gave me courage,
even if it did seem a little strange.  So I hurried to the beech,
knelt and slipped the letter in the box, and put back the bark
and stone.  Laddie had said that nothing could hurt me while I
had the letter, so my protection was gone as soon as it left my
hands.

There was nothing but my feet to save me now.  I thanked goodness
I was a fine runner, and started for the pawpaw thicket.  Once
there, I paused only one minute to see whether the way to the
stream was clear, and while standing tense and gazing, I heard
something.  For an instant it was every bit as bad as at the dry
creek.  Then I realized that this was a soft voice singing, and I
forgot everything else in a glow of delight.  The Princess was
coming!

Never in all my life was I so surprised, and astonished, and
bewildered.  She was even larger than our Sally; her dress was
pale green, like I thought a Fairy's should be; her eyes were
deep and dark as Laddie had said, her hair hung from a part in
the middle of her forehead over her shoulders, and if she had
been in the sun, it would have gleamed like a blackbird's wing. 
She was just as Laddie said she would be; she was so much more
beautiful than you would suppose any woman could be, I stood
there dumbly staring.  I wouldn't have asked for any one more
perfectly beautiful or more like Laddie had said the Princess
would be; but she was no more the daughter of the Fairy Queen
than I was.  She was not any more of a Princess.  If father ever
would tell all about the little bauble he kept in the till of his
big chest, maybe she was not as near!  She was no one on earth
but one of those new English people who had moved on the land
that cornered with ours on the northwest.  She had ridden over
the roads, and been at our meeting house.  There could be no
mistake.

And neither father nor mother would want her on our place.  They
didn't like her family at all.  Mother called them the
neighbourhood mystery, and father spoke of them as the Infidels. 
They had dropped from nowhere, mother said, bought that splendid
big farm, moved on and shut out every one.  Before any one knew
people were shut out, mother, dressed in her finest, with Laddie
driving, went in the carriage, all shining, to make friends with
them.  This very girl opened the door and said that her mother
was "indisposed," and could not see callers.  "In-dis-posed!" 
That's a good word that fills your mouth, but our mother didn't
like having it used to her.  She said the "saucy chit" was
insulting.  Then the man came, and he said he was very sorry, but
his wife would see no one.  He did invite mother in, but she
wouldn't go.  She told us she could see past him into the house
and there was such finery as never in all her days had she laid
eyes on.  She said he was mannerly as could be, but he had the
coldest, severest face she ever saw.

They had two men and a woman servant, and no one could coax a
word from them, about why those people acted as they did.  They
said 'orse, and 'ouse, and Hengland.  They talked so funny you
couldn't have understood them anyway.  They never plowed or put
in a crop.  They made everything into a meadow and had more
horses, cattle, and sheep than a county fair, and everything you
ever knew with feathers, even peacocks.  We could hear them
scream whenever it was going to rain.  Father said they sounded
heathenish.  I rather liked them.  The man had stacks of money or
they couldn't have lived the way they did.  He came to our house
twice on business: once to see about road laws, and again about
tax rates.  Father was mightily pleased at first, because Mr.
Pryor seemed to have books, and to know everything, and father
thought it would be fine to be neighbours.  But the minute Mr.
Pryor finished business he began to argue that every single thing
father and mother believed was wrong.  He said right out in plain
English that God was a myth.  Father told him pretty quickly that
no man could say that in his house; so he left suddenly and had
not been back since, and father didn't want him ever to come
again.

Then their neighbours often saw the woman around the house and
garden.  She looked and acted quite as well as any one, so
probably she was not half so sick as my mother, who had nursed
three of us through typhoid fever, and then had it herself when
she was all tired out.  She wouldn't let a soul know she had a
pain until she dropped over and couldn't take another step, and
father or Laddie carried her to bed.  But she went everywhere,
saw all her friends, and did more good from her bed than any
other woman in our neighbourhood could on her feet.  So we
thought mighty little of those Pryor people.

Every one said the girl was pretty.  Then her clothes drove the
other women crazy.  Some of our neighbourhood came from far down
east, like my mother.  Our people back a little were from over
the sea, and they knew how things should be, to be right.  Many
of the others were from Kentucky and Virginia, and they were well
dressed, proud, handsome women; none better looking anywhere. 
They followed the fashions and spent much time and money on their
clothes.  When it was Quarterly Meeting or the Bishop dedicated
the church or they went to town on court days, you should have
seen them--until Pryors came.  Then something new happened, and
not a woman in our neighbourhood liked it.  Pamela Pryor didn't
follow the fashions.  She set them.  If every other woman made
long tight sleeves to their wrists, she let hers flow to the
elbow and filled them with silk lining, ruffled with lace.  If
they wore high neckbands, she had none, and used a flat lace
collar.  If they cut their waists straight around and gathered
their skirts on six yards full, she ran hers down to a little
point front and back, that made her look slenderer, and put only
half as much goods in her skirt.  Maybe Laddie rode as well as
she could; he couldn't manage a horse any better, and aside from
him there wasn't a man we knew who would have tried to ride some
of the animals she did.

If she ever worked a stroke, no one knew it.  All day long she
sat in the parlour, the very best one, every day; or on benches
under the trees with embroidery frames or books, some of them
fearful, big, difficult looking ones, or rode over the country. 
She rode in sunshine and she rode in storm, until you would think
she couldn't see her way through her tangled black hair.  She
rode through snow and in pouring rain, when she could have stayed
out of it, if she had wanted to.  She didn't seem to be afraid of
anything on earth or in Heaven.  Every one thought she was like
her father and didn't believe there was any God; so when she came
among us at church or any public gathering, as she sometimes did,
people were in no hurry to be friendly, while she looked straight
ahead and never spoke until she was spoken to, and then she was
precise and cold, I tell you.

Men took off their hats, got out of the road when she came
pounding along, and stared after her like "be-addled mummies," my
mother said.  But that was all she, or any one else, could say. 
The young fellows were wild about her, and if they tried to sidle
up to her in the hope that they might lead her horse or get to
hold her foot when she mounted, they always saw when they reached
her, that she wasn't there.

But she was here!  I had seen her only a few times, but this was
the Pryor girl, just as sure as I would have known if it had been
Sally.  What dazed me was that she answered in every particular
the description Laddie had given me of the Queen's daughter.  And
worst of all, from the day she first came among us, moving so
proud and cold, blabbing old Hannah Dover said she carried
herself like a Princess--as if Hannah Dover knew HOW a Princess
carried herself!--every living soul, my father even, had called
her the Princess.  At first it was because she was like they
thought a Princess would be, but later they did it in meanness,
to make fun.  After they knew her name, they were used to calling
her the Princess, so they kept it up, but some of them were
secretly proud of her; because she could look, and do, and be
what they would have given anything to, and knew they couldn't to
save them.

I was never in such a fix in all my life.  She looked more as
Laddie had said the Princess would than you would have thought
any woman could, but she was Pamela Pryor, nevertheless.  Every
one called her the Princess, but she couldn't make reality out of
that.  She just couldn't be the Fairy Queen's daughter; so the
letter couldn't possibly be for her.

She had no business in our woods; you could see that they had
plenty of their own.  She went straight to the door of the willow
room and walked in as if she belonged there.  What if she found
the hollow and took Laddie's letter!  Fast as I could slip over
the leaves, I went back.  She was on the moss carpet, on her
knees, and the letter was in her fingers.  It's a good thing to
have your manners soundly thrashed into you.  You've got to be
scared stiff before you forget them.  I wasn't so afraid of her
as I would have been if I had known she WAS the princess, and
have Laddies letter, she should not.  What had the kind of girl
she was, from a home like hers, to teach any one from our house
about making sunshine?  I was at the willow wall by that time
peering through, so I just parted it a little and said:  "Please
put back that letter where you got it.  It isn't for you."

She knelt on the mosses, the letter in her hand, and her face, as
she turned to me, was rather startled; but when she saw me she
laughed, and said in the sweetest voice I ever heard:  "Are you
so very sure of that?"

"Well I ought to be," I said.  "I put it there."

"Might I inquire for whom you put it there?"

"No ma'am!  That's a secret."

You should have seen the light flame in her eyes, the red deepen
on her cheeks, and the little curl of laughter that curved her
lips.

"How interesting!" she cried.  "I wonder now if you are not
Little Sister."

"I am to Laddie and our folks," I said.  "You are a stranger."

All the dancing lights went from her face.  She looked as if she
were going to cry unless she hurried up and swallowed it down
hard and fast.

"That is quite true," she said.  "I am a stranger.  Do you know
that being a stranger is the hardest thing that can happen to any
one in all this world?"

"Then why don't you open your doors, invite your neighbours in,
go to see them, and stop your father from saying such dreadful
things?"

"They are not my doors," she said, "and could you keep your
father from saying anything he chooses?"

I stood and blinked at her.  Of course I wouldn't even dare try
that.

"I'm so sorry," was all I could think to say.

I couldn't ask her to come to our house.  I knew no one wanted
her.  But if I couldn't speak for the others, surely I might for
myself.  I let go the willows and went to the door.  The Princess
arose and sat on the seat Laddie had made for the Queen's
daughter.  It was an awful pity to tell her she shouldn't sit
there, for I had my doubts if the real, true Princess would be
half as lovely when she came--if she ever did.  Some way the
Princess, who was not a Princess, appeared so real, I couldn't
keep from becoming confused and forgetting that she was only just
Pamela Pryor.  Already the lovely lights had gone from her face
until it made me so sad I wanted to cry, and I was no easy cry-
baby either.  If I couldn't offer friendship for my family I
would for myself.

"You may call me Little Sister, if you like," I said.  "I won't
be a stranger."

"Why how lovely!" cried the Princess.

You should have seen the dancing lights fly back to her eyes. 
Probably you won't believe this, but the first thing I knew I was
beside her on the throne, her arm was around me, and it's the
gospel truth that she hugged me tight.  I just had sense enough
to reach over and pick Laddie's letter from her fingers, and then
I was on her side.  I don't know what she did to me, but all at
once I knew that she was dreadfully lonely; that she hated being
a stranger; that she was sorry enough to cry because their house
was one of mystery, and that she would open the door if she
could.

"I like you," I said, reaching up to touch her curls.

I never had seen her that I did not want to.  They were like I
thought they would be.  Father and Laddie and some of us had wavy
hair, but hers was crisp--and it clung to your fingers, and
wrapped around them and seemed to tug at your heart like it does
when a baby grips you.  I drew away my hand, and the hair
stretched out until it was long as any of ours, and then curled
up again, and you could see that no tins had stabbed into her
head to make those curls.  I began trying to single out one hair.

"What are you doing?" she asked.

"I want to know if only one hair is strong enough to draw a
drowning man from the water or strangle an unhappy one," I said.

"Believe me, no!" cried the Princess.  "It would take all I have,
woven into a rope, to do that."

"Laddie knows curls that just one hair of them is strong enough,"
I boasted.

"I wonder now!" said the Princess.  "I think he must have been
making poetry or telling Fairy tales."

"He was telling the truth," I assured her.  "Father doesn't
believe in Fairies, and mother laughs, but Laddie and I know.  Do
you believe in Fairies?"

"Of course I do!" she said.

"Then you know that this COULD be an Enchanted Wood?"

"I have found it so," said the Princess.

"And MAYBE this is a Magic Carpet?"

"It surely is a Magic Carpet."

"And you might be the daughter of the Queen?  Your eyes are
`moonlit pools of darkness.'  If only your hair were stronger,
and you knew about making sunshine!"

"Maybe it is stronger than I think.  It never has been tested. 
Perhaps I do know about making sunshine.  Possibly I am as true
as the wood and the carpet."

I drew away and stared at her.  The longer I looked the more
uncertain I became.  Maybe her mother was the Queen.  Perhaps
that was the mystery.  It might be the reason she didn't want the
people to see her.  Maybe she was so busy making sunshine for the
Princess to bring to Laddie that she had no time to sew carpet
rags, and to go to quiltings, and funerals, and make visits.  It
was hard to know what to think.

"I wish you'd tell me plain out if you are the Queen's daughter,"
I said.  "It's most important.  You can't have this letter unless
I KNOW.  It's the very first time Laddie ever trusted me with a
letter, and I just can't give it to the wrong person."

"Then why don't you leave it where he told you?"

"But you have gone and found the place.  You started to take it
once; you would again, soon as I left."

"Look me straight in the eyes, Little Sister," said the Princess
softly.  "Am I like a person who would take anything that didn't
belong to her?"

"No!" I said instantly.

"How do you think I happened to come to this place?"

"Maybe our woods are prettier than yours."

"How do you think I knew where the letter was?"

I shook my head.

"If I show you some others exactly like the one you have there,
then will you believe that is for me?"

"Yes," I answered.

I believed it anyway.  It just SEEMED so, the better you knew
her.  The Princess slipped her hand among the folds of the
trailing pale green skirt, and from a hidden pocket drew other
letters exactly like the one I held.  She opened one and ran her
finger along the top line and I read, "To the Princess," and then
she pointed to the ending and it was merely signed, "Laddie," but
all the words written between were his writing.  Slowly I handed
her the letter.

"You don't want me to have it?" she asked.

"Yes," I said.  "I want you to have it if Laddie wrote it for
you--but mother and father won't, not at all."

"What makes you think so?" she asked gently.

"Don't you know what people say about you?"

"Some of it, perhaps."

"Well?"

"Do you think it is true?"

"Not that you're stuck up, and hateful and proud, not that you
don't want to be neighbourly with other people, no, I don't think
that.  But your father said in our home that there was no God,
and you wouldn't let my mother in when she put on her best dress
and went in the carriage, and wanted to be friends.  I have to
believe that."

"Yes, you can't help believing that," said the Princess.

"Then can't you see why you'll be likely to show Laddie the way
to find trouble, instead of sunshine?"

"I can see," said the Princess.

"Oh Princess, you won't do it, will you?" I cried.

"Don't you think such a big man as Laddie can take care of
himself?" she asked, and the dancing lights that had begun to
fade came back.  "Over there," she pointed through our woods
toward the southwest, "lives a man you know.  What do his
neighbours call him?"

"Stiff-necked Johnny," I answered promptly.

"And the man who lives next him?"

"Pinch-fist Williams."

Her finger veered to another neighbour's.

"The girls of that house?"

"Giggle-head Smithsons."

"What about the man who lives over there?"

"He beats his wife."

"And the house beyond?"

"Mother whispers about them.  I don't know."

"And the woman on the hill?"

"She doesn't do anything but gussip and make every one trouble."

"Exactly!" said the Princess.  "Yet most of these people come to
your house, and your family goes to theirs.  Do you suppose
people they know nothing about are so much worse than these
others?"

"If your father will take it back about God, and your mother will
let people in--my mother and father both wanted to be friends,
you know."

"That I can't possibly do," she said, "but maybe I could change
their feelings toward me."

"Do it!" I cried.  "Oh, I'd just love you to do it!  I wish you
would come to our house and be friends.  Sally is pretty as you
are, only a different way, and I know she'd like you, and so
would Shelley.  If Laddie writes you letters and comes here about
sunshine, of course he'd be delighted if mother knew you; because
she loves him best of any of us.  She depends on him most as much
as father."

"Then will you keep the secret until I have time to try--say
until this time next year?"

"I'll keep it just as long as Laddie wants me to."

"Good!" said the Princess.  "No wonder Laddie thinks you the
finest Little Sister any one ever had."

"Does Laddie think that?" I asked

"He does indeed!" said the Princess.

"Then I'm not afraid to go home," I said.  "And I'll bring his
letter the next time he can't come."

"Were you scared this time?"

I told her about that Something in the dry bed, the wolves,
wildcats, Paddy Ryan, and the Gypsies.

"You little goosie," said the Princess.  "I am afraid that
brother Leon of yours is the biggest rogue loose in this part of
the country.  Didn't it ever occur to you that people named Wolfe
live over there, and they call that crowd next us `wildcats,'
because they just went on some land and took it, and began living
there without any more permission than real wildcats ask to enter
the woods?  Do you suppose I would be here, and everywhere else I
want to go, if there were any danger?  Did anything really harm
you coming?"

"You're harmed when you're scared until you can't breathe," I
said.  "Anyway, nothing could get me coming, because I held the
letter tight in my hand, like Laddie said.  If you'd write me one
to take back, I'd be safe going home."

"I see," said the Princess.  "But I've no pencil, and no paper,
unless I use the back of one of Laddie's letters, and that
wouldn't be polite."

"You can make new fashions," I said, "but you don't know much
about the woods, do you?  I could fix fifty ways to send a
message to Laddie."

"How would you?" asked the Princess.

Running to the pawpaw bushes I pulled some big tender leaves. 
Then I took the bark from the box and laid a leaf on it.

"Press with one of your rings," I said, "and print what you want
to say.  I write to the Fairies every day that way, only I use an
old knife handle."

She tried.  She spoiled two or three by bearing down so hard she
cut the leaves.  She didn't even know enough to write on the
frosty side, until she was told.  But pretty soon she got along
so well she printed all over two big ones.  Then I took a stick
and punched little holes and stuck a piece of foxfire bloom
through.

"What makes you do that?" she asked.

"That's the stamp," I explained.

"But it's my letter, and I didn't put it there."

"Has to be there or the Fairies won't like it," I said.

"Well then, let it go," said the Princess.

I put back the bark and replaced the stone, gathered up the
scattered leaves, and put the two with writing on between fresh
ones.

"Now I must run," I said, "or Laddie will think the Gypsies have
got me sure."

"I'll go with you past the dry creek," she offered.

"You better not," I said.  "I'd love to have you, but it would be
best for you to change their opinion, before father or mother
sees you on their land."

"Perhaps it would," said the Princess.  "I'll wait here until you
reach the fence and then you call and I'll know you are in the
open and feel comfortable."

"I am most all over being afraid now," I told her.

Just to show her, I walked to the creek, climbed the gate and
went down the lane.  Almost to the road I began wondering what I
could do with the letter, when looking ahead I saw Laddie coming.

"I was just starting to find you.  You've been an age, child," he
said.

I held up the letter.

"No one is looking," I said, "and this won't go in your pocket."

You should have seen his face.

"Where did you get it?" he asked.

I told him all about it.  I told him everything--about the hair
that maybe was stronger than she thought, and that she was going
to change father's and mother's opinions, and that I put the red
flower on, but she left it; and when I was done Laddie almost
hugged the life out of me.  I never did see him so happy.

"If you be very, very careful never to breathe a whisper, I'll
take you with me some day," he promised.



CHAPTER II

Our Angel Boy

            "I had a brother once--a gracious boy,
             Full of all gentleness, of calmest hope,
             Of sweet and quiet joy,--there was the look
             Of heaven upon his face."

It was supper time when we reached home, and Bobby was at the
front gate to meet me.  He always hunted me all over the place
when the big bell in the yard rang at meal time, because if he
crowed nicely when he was told, he was allowed to stand on the
back of my chair and every little while I held up my plate and
shared bites with him.  I have seen many white bantams, but never
another like Bobby.  My big brothers bought him for me in Fort
Wayne, and sent him in a box, alone on the cars.  Father and I
drove to Groveville to meet him.  The minute father pried off the
lid, Bobby hopped on the edge of the box and crowed--the biggest
crow you ever heard from such a mite of a body; he wasn't in the
least afraid of us and we were pleased about it.  You scarcely
could see his beady black eyes for his bushy topknot, his wing
tips touched the ground, his tail had two beautiful plumy
feathers much longer than the others, his feet were covered with
feathers, and his knee tufts dragged.  He was the sauciest,
spunkiest little fellow, and white as muslin.  We went to supper
together, but no one asked where I had been, and because I was so
bursting full of importance, I talked only to Bobby, in order to
be safe.

After supper I finished Hezekiah's trousers, and May cut his coat
for me.  School would begin in September and our clothes were
being made, so I used the scraps to dress him.  His suit was done
by the next forenoon, and father never laughed harder than when
Hezekiah hopped down the walk to meet him dressed in pink
trousers and coat.  The coat had flowing sleeves like the
Princess wore, so Hezekiah could fly, and he seemed to like them.

His suit was such a success I began a sunbonnet, and when that
was tied on him, the folks almost had spasms.  They said he
wouldn't like being dressed; that he would fly away to punish me,
but he did no such thing.  He stayed around the house and was
tame as ever.

When I became tired sewing that afternoon, I went down the lane
leading to our meadow, where Leon was killing thistles with a
grubbing hoe.  I thought he would be glad to see me, and he was. 
Every one had been busy in the house, so I went to the cellar the
outside way and ate all I wanted from the cupboard.  Then I
spread two big slices of bread the best I could with my fingers,
putting apple butter on one, and mashed potatoes on the other. 
Leon leaned on the hoe and watched me coming.  He was a hungry
boy, and lonesome too, but he couldn't be forced to say so.

"Laddie is at work in the barn," he said.

"I'm going to play in the creek," I answered.

Crossing our meadow there was a stream that had grassy banks, big
trees, willows, bushes and vines for shade, a solid pebbly bed;
it was all turns and bends so that the water hurried until it
bubbled and sang as it went; in it lived tiny fish coloured
brightly as flowers, beside it ran killdeer, plover and solemn
blue herons almost as tall as I was came from the river to fish;
for a place to play on an August afternoon, it couldn't be
beaten.  The sheep had been put in the lower pasture; so the
cross old Shropshire ram was not there to bother us.

"Come to the shade," I said to Leon, and when we were comfortably
seated under a big maple weighted down with trailing grapevines,
I offered the bread.  Leon took a piece in each hand and began to
eat as if he were starving.  Laddie would have kissed me and
said:  "What a fine treat!  Thank you, Little Sister."

Leon was different.  He ate so greedily you had to know he was
glad to get it, but he wouldn't say so, not if he never got any
more.  When you knew him, you understood he wouldn't forget it,
and he'd be certain to do something nice for you before the day
was over to pay back.  We sat there talking about everything we
saw, and at last Leon said with a grin:  "Shelley isn't getting
much grape sap is she?"

"I didn't know she wanted grape sap."

"She read about it in a paper.  It said to cut the vine of a wild
grape, catch the drippings and moisten your hair.  This would
make it glossy and grow faster."

"What on earth does Shelley want with more hair than she has?"

"Oh, she has heard it bragged on so much she thinks people would
say more if she could improve it."

I looked and there was the vine, dry as could be, and a milk
crock beneath it.

"Didn't the silly know she had to cut the vine in the spring when
the sap was running?"

"Bear witness, O vine! that she did not," said Leon, "and speak,
ye voiceless pottery, and testify that she expected to find you
overflowing."

"Too bad that she's going to be disappointed."

"She isn't!  She's going to find ample liquid to bathe her
streaming tresses.  Keep quiet and watch me."

He picked up the crock, carried it to the creek and dipped it
full of water.

"That's too much," I objected.  "She'll know she never got a
crock full from a dry vine."

"She'll think the vine bled itself dry for her sake."

"She isn't that silly."

"Well then, how silly is she?" asked Leon, spilling out half. 
"About so?"

"Not so bad as that.  Less yet!"

"Anything to please the ladies," said Leon, pouring out more.
Then we sat and giggled a while.

"What are you going to do now?" asked Leon.

"Play in the creek," I answered.

"All right!  I'll work near you." 

He rolled his trousers above his knees and took the hoe, but he
was in the water most of the time.  We had to climb on the bank
when we came to the deep curve, under the stump of the old oak
that father cut because Pete Billings would climb it and yowl
like a wildcat on cold winter nights.  Pete was wrong in his head
like Paddy Ryan, only worse.  As we passed we heard the faintest
sounds, so we lay and looked, and there in the dark place under
the roots, where the water was deepest, huddled some of the
cunningest little downy wild ducks you ever saw.  We looked at
each other and never said a word.  Leon chased them out with the
hoe and they swam down stream faster than old ones.  I stood in
the shallow water behind them and kept them from going back to
the deep place, while Leon worked to catch them.  Every time he
got one he brought it to me, and I made a bag of my apron front
to put them in.  The supper bell rang before we caught all of
them.  We were dripping wet with creek water and perspiration,
but we had the ducks, every one of them, and proudly started
home.  I'll wager Leon was sorry he didn't wear aprons so he
could carry them.  He did keep the last one in his hands, and
held its little fluffy body against his cheeks every few minutes.

"Couldn't anything be prettier than a young duck."

"Except a little guinea," I said.

"That's so!" said Leon.  "They are most as pretty as quail.  I
guess all young things that have down are about as cunning as
they can be.  I don't believe I know which I like best, myself."

"Baby killdeers."

"I mean tame.  Things we raise."

"I'll take guineas."

"I'll say white turkeys.  They seem so innocent.  Nothing of ours
is pretty as these."

"But these are wild."

"So they are," said Leon.  "Twelve of them.  Won't mother be
pleased?"

She was not in the least.  She said we were a sight to behold;
that she was ashamed to be the mother of two children who didn't
know tame ducks from wild ones.  She remembered instantly that
Amanda Deam had set a speckled Dorking hen on Mallard duck
eggs, where she got the eggs, and what she paid for them.  She
said the ducks had found the creek that flowed beside Deams'
barnyard before it entered our land, and they had swum away from
the hen, and both the hen and Amanda would be frantic.  She put
the ducks into a basket and said to take them back soon as ever
we got our suppers, and we must hurry because we had to bathe and
learn our texts for Sunday-school in the morning.

We went through the orchard, down the hill and across the meadow
until we came to the creek.  By that time we were tired of the
basket.  It was one father had woven himself of shaved and soaked
hickory strips, and it was heavy.  The sight of water suggested
the proper place for ducks, anyway.  We talked it over and
decided that they would be much more comfortable swimming than in
the basket, and it was more fun to wade than to walk, so we went
above the deep place, I stood in the creek to keep them from
going down, and Leon poured them on the water.  Pigs couldn't
have acted more contrary.  Those ducks LIKED us.  They wouldn't
go to Deams'.  They just fought to swim back to us.  Anyway, we
had the worst time you ever saw.  Leon cut long switches to herd
them with, and both of us waded and tried to drive them, but they
would dart under embankments and roots, and dive and hide.

Before we reached the Deams' I wished that we had carried them as
mother told us, for we had lost three, and if we stopped to hunt
them, more would hide.  By the time we drove them under the
floodgate crossing the creek between our land and the Deams' four
were gone.  Leon left me on the gate with both switches to keep
them from going back and he ran to call Mrs. Deam.  She had red
hair and a hot temper, and we were not very anxious to see her,
but we had to do it.  While Leon was gone I was thinking pretty
fast and I knew exactly how things would happen.  First time
mother saw Mrs. Deam she would ask her if the ducks were all
right, and she would tell that four were gone.  Mother would ask
how many she had, and she would say twelve, then mother would
remember that she started us with twelve in the basket--Oh what's
the use!  Something had to be done.  It had to be done quickly
too, for I could hear Amanda Deam, her boy Sammy and Leon coming
across the barnyard.  I looked around in despair, but when things
are the very worst, there is almost always some way out.

On the dry straw worked between and pushing against the panels of
the floodgate, not far from me, I saw a big black water snake.  I
took one good look at it: no coppery head, no geometry patterns,
no rattlebox, so I knew it wasn't poisonous and wouldn't bite
until it was hurt, and if it did, all you had to do was to suck
the place, and it wouldn't amount to more than two little pricks
as if pins had stuck you; but a big snake was a good excuse.  I
rolled from the floodgate among the ducks, and cried, "Snake!" 
They scattered everywhere.  The snake lazily uncoiled and slid
across the straw so slowly that--thank goodness! Amanda Deam got
a fair look at it.  She immediately began to jump up and down and
scream.  Leon grabbed a stick and came running to the water.  I
cried so he had to help me out first.

"Don't let her count them!" I whispered.

Leon gave me one swift look and all the mischief in his blue eyes
peeped out.  He was the funniest boy you ever knew, anyway. 
Mostly he looked scowly and abused.  He had a grievance against
everybody and everything.  He said none of us liked him, and we
imposed on him.  Father said that if he tanned Leon's jacket for
anything, and set him down to think it over, he would pout a
while, then he would look thoughtful, suddenly his face would
light up and he would go away sparkling; and you could depend
upon it he would do the same thing over, or something worse,
inside an hour.  When he wanted to, he could smile the most
winning smile, and he could coax you into anything.  Mother said
she dreaded to have to borrow a dime from him, if a peddler
caught her without change, because she knew she'd be kept paying
it back for the next six months.  Right now he was the busiest
kind of a boy.

"Where is it?  Let me get a good lick at it!  Don't scare the
ducks!" he would cry, and chase them from one bank to the other,
while Amanda danced and fought imaginary snakes.  For a woman who
had seen as many as she must have in her life, it was too funny. 
I don't think I could laugh harder, or Leon and Sammy.  We
enjoyed ourselves so much that at last she began to be angry. 
She quit dancing, and commenced hunting ducks, for sure.  She
held her skirts high, poked along the banks, jumped the creek and
didn't always get clear across.  Her hair shook down, she lost a
sidecomb, and she couldn't find half the ducks.

"You younguns pack right out of here," she said.  "Me and Sammy
can get them better ourselves, and if we don't find all of them,
we'll know where they are."

"We haven't got any of your ducks," I said angrily, but Leon
smiled his most angelic smile, and it seemed as if he were going
to cry.

"Of course, if you want to accuse mother of stealing your ducks,
you can," he said plaintively, "but I should think you'd be
ashamed to do it, after all the trouble we took to catch them
before they swam to the river, where you never would have found
one of them.  Come on, Little Sister, let's go home."

He started and I followed.  As soon as we got around the bend we
sat on the bank, hung our feet in the water, leaned against each
other and laughed.  We just laughed ourselves almost sick.  When
Amanda's face got fire red, and her hair came down, and she
jumped and didn't go quite over, she looked a perfect fright.

"Will she ever find all of them?" I asked at last.

"Of course," said Leon.  "She will comb the grass and strain the
water until she gets every one."

"Hoo-hoo!"

I looked at Leon.  He was so intently watching an old turkey
buzzard hanging in the air, he never heard the call that meant it
was time for us to be home and cleaning up for Sunday.  It was
difficult to hurry, for after we had been soaped and scoured, we
had to sit on the back steps and commit to memory verses from the
Bible.  At last we waded toward home.  Two of the ducks we had
lost swam before us all the way, so we knew they were alive, and
all they needed was finding.

"If she hadn't accused mother of stealing her old ducks, I'd
catch those and carry them back to her," said Leon.  "But since
she thinks we are so mean, I'll just let her and little Sammy
find them."

Then we heard their voices as they came down the creek, so Leon
reached me his hand and we scampered across the water and meadow,
never stopping until we sat on the top rail of our back orchard
fence.  There we heard another call, but that was only two.  We
sat there, rested and looked at the green apples above our heads,
wishing they were ripe, and talking about the ducks.  We could
see Mrs. Deam and Sammy coming down the creek, one on each side. 
We slid from the fence and ran into a queer hollow that was cut
into the hill between the never-fail and the Baldwin apple trees.

That hollow was overgrown with weeds, and full of trimmings from
trees, stumps, everything that no one wanted any place else in
the orchard.  It was the only unkept spot on our land, and I
always wondered why father didn't clean it out and make it look
respectable.  I said so to Leon as we crouched there watching
down the hill where Mrs. Deam and Sammy hunted ducks with not
such very grand success.  They seemed to have so many they
couldn't decide whether to go back or go on, so they must have
found most of them.

"You know I've always had my suspicions about this place," said
Leon.  "There is somewhere on our land that people can be hidden
for a long time.  I can remember well enough before the war ever
so long, and while it was going worst, we would find the wagon
covered with more mud in the morning than had been on it at
night; and the horses would be splashed and tired.  Once I was
awake in the night and heard voices.  It made me want a drink, so
I went downstairs for it, and ran right into the biggest,
blackest man who ever grew.  If father and mother hadn't been
there I'd have been scared into fits.  Next morning he was gone
and there wasn't a whisper.  Father said I'd had bad dreams. 
That night the horses made another mysterious trip.  Now where
did they keep the black man all that day?"

"What did they have a black man for?"

"They were helping him run away from slavery to be free in
Canada.  It was all right.  I'd have done the same thing.  They
helped a lot.  Father was a friend of the Governor.  There were
letters from him, and there was some good reason why father
stayed at home, when he was crazy about the war.  I think this
farm was what they called an Underground Station.  What I want to
know is where the station was."

"Maybe it's here.  Let's hunt," I said.  "If the black men were
here some time, they would have to be fed, and this is not far
from the house."

So we took long sticks and began poking into the weeds.  Then we
moved the brush, and sure as you live, we found an old door with
a big stone against it.  I looked at Leon and he looked at me.

"Hoo-hoo!" came mother's voice, and that was the third call.

"Hum!  Must be for us," said Leon.  "We better go as soon as we
get a little dryer."

He slid down the bank on one side, and I on the other, and we
pushed at the stone.  I thought we never would get it rolled away
so we could open the door a crack, but when we did what we saw
was most surprising.  There was a little room, dreadfully small. 
but a room.  There was straw scattered over the floor, very deep
on one side, where an old blanket showed that it had been a bed. 
Across the end there was a shelf.  On it was a candlestick, with
a half-burned candle in it, a pie pan with some mouldy crumbs,
crusts, bones in it, and a tin can.  Leon picked up the can and
looked in.  I could see too.

It had been used for water or coffee, as the plate had for food,
once, but now it was stuffed full of money.  I saw Leon pull some
out and then shove it back, and he came to the door white as
could be, shut it behind him and began to push at the stone. 
When we got it in place we put the brush over it, and fixed
everything like it had been.

At last Leon said:  "That's the time we got into something not
intended for us, and if father finds it out, we are in for a good
thrashing.  Are you just a blubbering baby, or are you big enough
to keep still?"

"I am old enough that I could have gone to school two years ago,
and I won't tell!" I said stoutly.

"All right!  Come on then," said Leon.  "I don't know but mother
has been calling us."

We started up the orchard path at the fourth call.

"Hoo-hoo!" answered Leon in a sick little voice to make it sound
far away.  Must have made mother think we were on Deams' hill. 
Then we went on side by side.

"Say Leon, you found the Station, didn't you?"

"Don't talk about it!" snapped Leon.

I changed the subject

"Whose money do you suppose that is?"

"Oh crackey!  You can depend on a girl to see everything,"
groaned Leon.  "Do you think you'll be able to stand the
switching that job will bring you, without getting sick in bed?"

Now I never had been sick in bed, and from what I had seen of
other people who were, I never wanted to be.  The idea of being
switched until it made me sick was too much for me.  I shut my
mouth tight and I never opened it about the Station place.  As we
reached the maiden's-blush apple tree came another call, and it
sounded pretty cross, I can tell you.  Leon reached his hand.

"Now, it's time to run.  Let me do the talking."

We were out of breath when we reached the back door.  There stood
the tub on the kitchen floor, the boiler on the stove, soap,
towels, and clean clothing on chairs.  Leon had his turn at
having his ears washed first, because he could bathe himself
while mother did my hair.

"Was Mrs. Deam glad to get her ducks back?" she asked as she
fine-combed Leon.

"Aw, you never can tell whether she's glad about anything or
not," growled Leon.  "You'd have thought from the way she acted,
that we'd been trying to steal her ducks.  She said if she missed
any she'd know where to find them."

"Well as I live!" cried mother.  "Why I wouldn't have believed
that of Amanda Deam.  You told her you thought they were wild, of
course."

"I didn't have a chance to tell her anything.  The minute the
ducks struck the water they started right back down stream, and
there was a big snake, and we had an awful time.  We got wet
trying to head them back, and then we didn't find all of them."

"They are like little eels.  You should have helped Amanda."

"Well, you called so cross we thought you would come after us, so
we had to run."

"One never knows," sighed mother.  "I thought you were loitering.

Of course if I had known you were having trouble with the ducks! 
I think you had better go back and help them."

"Didn't I do enough to take them home?  Can't Sammy Deam catch
ducks as fast as I can?"

"I suppose so," said mother.  "And I must get your bathing out of
the way of supper.  You use the tub while I do Little Sister's
hair."

I almost hated Sunday, because of what had to be done to my hair
on Saturday, to get ready for it.  All week it hung in two long
braids that were brushed and arranged each morning.  But on
Saturday it had to be combed with a fine comb, oiled and rolled
around strips of tin until Sunday morning.  Mother did everything
thoroughly.  She raked that fine comb over our scalps until she
almost raised the blood.  She hadn't time to fool with tangles,
and we had so much hair she didn't know what to do with all of
it, anyway.  When she was busy talking she reached around too far
and combed across our foreheads or raked the tip of an ear.

But on Sunday morning we forgot all that, when we walked down the
aisle with shining curls hanging below our waists.  Mother was
using the fine comb, when she looked up, and there stood Mrs.
Freshett.  We could see at a glance that she was out of breath.

"Have I beat them?" she cried.

"Whom are you trying to beat?" asked mother as she told May to
set a chair for Mrs. Freshett and bring her a drink.  

"The grave-kiver men," she said.  "I wanted to get to you first."

"Well, you have," said mother.  "Rest a while and then tell me."

But Mrs. Freshett was so excited she couldn't rest.

"I thought they were coming straight on down," she said, "but
they must have turned off at the cross roads.  I want to do
what's right by my children here or there," panted Mrs. Freshett,
"and these men seemed to think the contrivance they was sellin'
perfectly grand, an' like to be an aid to the soul's salvation. 
Nice as it seemed, an' convincin' as they talked, I couldn't get
the consent of my mind to order, until I knowed if you was goin'
to kiver your dead with the contraption.  None of the rest of the
neighbours seem over friendly to me, an' I've told Josiah many's
the time, that I didn't care a rap if they wa'n't, so long as I
had you.  Says I, `Josiah, to my way of thinkin', she is top
crust in this neighbourhood, and I'm on the safe side apin' her
ways clost as possible.'"

"I'll gladly help you all I can," said my mother.

"Thanky!" said Mrs. Freshett.  "I knowed you would.  Josiah he
says to me, `Don't you be apin' nobody.'  `Josiah,' says I, `it
takes a pretty smart woman in this world to realize what she
doesn't know.  Now I know what I know, well enough, but all I
know is like to keep me an' my children in a log cabin an' on log
cabin ways to the end of our time.  You ain't even got the
remains of the cabin you started in for a cow shed.'  Says I,
`Josiah, Miss Stanton knows how to get out of a cabin an' into a
grand big palace, fit fur a queen woman.  She's a ridin' in a
shinin' kerridge, 'stid of a spring wagon.  She goes abroad
dressed so's you men all stand starin' like cabbage heads.  All
hern go to church, an' Sunday-school, an' college, an' come out
on the top of the heap.  She does jest what I'd like to if I
knowed how.  An' she ain't come-uppety one morsel.'  If I was to
strike acrost fields to them stuck-up Pryors, I'd get the door
slammed in my face if 'twas the missus, a sneer if 'twas the man,
an' at best a nod cold as an iceberg if 'twas the girl.  Them as
want to call her kind `Princess,' and encourage her in being more
stuck up 'an she was born to be, can, but to my mind a Princess
is a person who thinks of some one besides herself once in a
while."

"I don't find the Pryors easy to become acquainted with," said
mother.  "I have never met the woman; I know the man very
slightly; he has been here on business once or twice, but the
girl seems as if she would be nice, if one knew her."

"Well, I wouldn't have s'posed she was your kind," said Mrs.
Freshett.  "If she is, I won't open my head against her any more.

Anyway, it was the grave-kivers I come about."

"Just what is it, Mrs. Freshett?" asked mother.

"It's two men sellin' a patent iron kiver for to protect the
graves of your dead from the sun an' the rain."

"Who wants the graves of their dead protected from the sun and
the rain?" demanded my mother sharply.

"I said to Josiah, `I don't know how she'll feel about it, but I
can't do more than ask.'"

"Do they carry a sample?  What is it like?"

"Jest the len'th an' width of a grave.  They got from baby to
six-footer sizes.  They are cast iron like the bottom of a cook
stove on the under side, but atop they are polished so they shine
somethin' beautiful.  You can get them in a solid piece, or with
a hole in the centre about the size of a milk crock to set
flowers through.  They come ten to the grave, an' they are mighty
stylish lookin' things.  I have been savin' all I could skimp
from butter, an' eggs, to get Samantha a organ; but says I to
her:  `You are gettin' all I can do for you every day; there lays
your poor brother 'at ain't had a finger lifted for him since he
was took so sudden he was gone before I knowed he was goin'.'  I
never can get over Henry bein' took the way he was, so I says: 
`If this would be a nice thing to have for Henry's grave, and the
neighbours are goin' to have them for theirn, looks to me like
some of the organ money will have to go, an' we'll make it up
later.'  I don't 'low for Henry to be slighted bekase he rid
himself to death trying to make a president out of his pa's
gin'ral."

"You never told me how you lost your son," said mother, feeling
so badly she wiped one of my eyes full of oil.

"Law now, didn't I?" inquired Mrs. Freshett.  "Well mebby that is
bekase I ain't had a chance to tell you much of anythin', your
bein' always so busy like, an' me not wantin' to wear out my
welcome.  It was like this:  All endurin' the war Henry an' me
did the best we could without pa at home, but by the time it was
over, Henry was most a man.  Seemed as if when he got home, his
pa was all tired out and glad to set down an' rest, but Henry was
afire to be up an' goin'.  His pa filled him so full o' Grant, it
was runnin' out of his ears.  Come the second run the Gin'ral
made, peered like Henry set out to 'lect him all by hisself.  He
wore every horse on the place out, ridin' to rallies.  Sometimes
he was gone three days at a stretch.  He'd git one place an' hear
of a rally on ten miles or so furder, an' blest if he didn't ride
plum acrost the state 'fore he got through with one trip.  He set
out in July, and he rid right straight through to November, nigh
onto every day of his life.  He got white, an' thin, an' narvous,
from loss of sleep an' lack of food, an' his pa got restless,
said Henry was takin' the 'lection more serious 'an he ever took
the war.  Last few days before votin' was cold an' raw an' Henry
rid constant.  'Lection day he couldn't vote, for he lacked a
year of bein' o' age, an' he rid in with a hard chill, an' white
as a ghost, an' he says:  `Ma,' says he, `I've 'lected Grant, but
I'm all tuckered out.  Put me to bed an' kiver me warm.'"

I forgot the sting in my eyes watching Mrs. Freshett.  She was
the largest woman I knew, and strong as most men.  Her hair was
black and glisteny, her eyes black, her cheeks red, her skin a
clear, even dark tint.  She was handsome, she was honest, and she
was in earnest over everything.  There was something about her,
or her family, that had to be told in whispers, and some of the
neighbours would have nothing to do with her.  But mother said
Mrs. Freshett was doing the very best she knew, and for the sake
of that, and of her children, anyone who wouldn't help her was
not a Christian, and not to be a Christian was the very worst
thing that could happen to you.  I stared at her steadily.  She
talked straight along, so rapidly you scarcely could keep up with
the words; you couldn't if you wanted to think about them any
between.  There was not a quiver in her voice, but from her eyes
there rolled, steadily, the biggest, roundest tears I ever saw. 
They ran down her cheeks, formed a stream in the first groove of
her double chin, overflowed it, and dripped drop, drop, a drop at
a time, on the breast of her stiffly starched calico dress, and
from there shot to her knees.

"'Twa'n't no time at all 'til he was chokin' an' burnin' red with
fever, an' his pa and me, stout as we be, couldn't hold him down
nor keep him kivered.  He was speechifyin' to beat anythin' you
ever heard.  His pa said he was repeatin' what he'd heard said by
every big stump speaker from Greeley to Logan.  When he got so
hoarse we couldn't tell what he said any more, he jest mouthed
it, an' at last he dropped back and laid like he was pinned to
the sheets, an' I thought he was restin', but 'twa'n't an hour
'til he was gone."

Suddenly Mrs. Freshett lifted her apron, covered her face and
sobbed until her broad shoulders shook.

"Oh you poor soul!" said my mother.  "I'm so sorry for you!"

"I never knowed he was a-goin' until he was gone," she said.  "He
was the only one of mine I ever lost, an' I thought it would jest
lay me out.  I couldn't 'a' stood it at all if I hadn't 'a'
knowed he was saved.  I well know my Henry went straight to
Heaven.  Why Miss Stanton, he riz right up in bed at the last,
and clear and strong he jest yelled it:  `Hurrah fur Grant!'"

My mother's fingers tightened in my hair until I thought she
would pull out a lot, and I could feel her knees stiffen.  Leon
just whooped.  Mother sprang up and ran to the door.

"Leon!" she cried.  Then there was a slam.  "What in the world is
the matter?" she asked.

"Stepped out of the tub right on the soap, and it threw me down,"
explained Leon.

"For mercy sake, be careful!" said my mother, and shut the door.

It wasn't a minute before the knob turned and it opened again a
little.

I never saw mother's face look so queer, but at last she said
softly:  "You were thinking of the grave cover for him?"

"Yes, but I wanted to ask you before I bound myself.  I heard you
lost two when the scarlet fever was ragin' an' I'm goin' to do
jest what you do.  If you have kivers, I will.  If you don't like
them when you see how bright and shiny they are, I won't get any
either."

"I can tell you without seeing them, Mrs. Freshett," said my
mother, wrapping a strand of hair around the tin so tight I
slipped up my fingers to feel whether my neck wasn't like a buck-
eye hull looks, and it was.  "I don't want any cover for the
graves of my dead but grass and flowers, and sky and clouds.  I
like the rain to fall on them, and the sun to shine, so that the
grass and flowers will grow.  If you are satisfied that the soul
of Henry is safe in Heaven, that is all that is necessary. 
Laying a slab of iron on top of earth six feet above his body
will make no difference to him.  If he is singing with the
angels, by all means save your money for the organ."

"I don't know about the singin', but I'd stake my last red cent
he's still hollerin' fur Grant.  I was kind o' took with the
idea; the things was so shiny and scilloped at the edges, peered
like it was payin' considerable respect to the dead to kiver them
that-a-way."

"What good would it do?" asked mother.  "The sun shining on the
iron would make it so hot it would burn any flower you tried to
plant in the opening; the water couldn't reach the roots, and all
that fell on the slab would run off and make it that much wetter
at the edges.  The iron would soon rust and grow dreadfully ugly
lying under winter snow.  There is nothing at all in it, save a
method to work on the feelings of the living, and get them to pay
their money for something that wouldn't affect their dead a
particle."

"'Twould be a poor idea for me," said Mrs. Freshett.  "I said to
the men that I wanted to honour Henry all I could, but with my
bulk, I'd hev all I could do, come Jedgment Day, to bust my box,
an' heave up the clods, without havin' to hist up a piece of iron
an' klim from under it."

Mother stiffened and Leon slipped again.  He could have more
accidents than any boy I ever knew.  But it was only a few
minutes until he came to mother and gave her a Bible to mark the
verses he had to learn to recite at Sunday-school next day. 
Mother couldn't take the time when she had company, so she asked
if he weren't big enough to pick out ten proper verses and learn
them by himself, and he said of course he was.  He took his Bible
and he and May and I sat on the back steps and studied our
verses.  He and May were so big they had ten; but I had only two,
and mine were not very long.  Leon giggled half the time he was
studying.  I haven't found anything so very funny in the Bible. 
Every few minutes he would whisper to himself:  "THAT'S A GOOD
ONE!"

He took the book and heard May do hers until she had them
perfectly, then he went and sat on the back fence with his book
and studied as I never before had seen him.  Mrs. Freshett stayed
so long mother had no time to hear him, but he told her he had
them all learned so he could repeat them without a mistake.

Next morning mother was busy, so she had no time then.  Father,
Shelley, and I rode on the front seat, mother, May, and Sally on
the back, while the boys started early and walked.

When we reached the top of the hill, the road was lined with
carriages, wagons, spring wagons, and saddle horses.  Father
found a place for our team and we went down the walk between the
hitching rack and the cemetery fence.  Mother opened the gate and
knelt beside two small graves covered with grass, shaded by
yellow rose bushes, and marked with little white stones.  She
laid some flowers on each and wiped the dust from the carved
letters with her handkerchief.  The little sisters who had
scarlet fever and whooping cough lay there.  Mother was still a
minute and then she said softly:  "`The Lord has given and the
Lord has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.'"

She was very pale when she came to us, but her eyes were bright
and she smiled as she put her arms around as many of us as she
could reach.

"What a beautiful horse!" said Sally.  "Look at that saddle and
bridle!  The Pryor girl is here."

"Why should she come?" asked Shelley.

"To show her fine clothes and queen it over us!"

"Children, children!" said mother.  "`Judge not!'  This is a
house of worship.  The Lord may be drawing her in His own way. 
It is for us to help Him by being kind and making her welcome."

At the church door we parted and sat with our teachers, but for
the first time as I went down the aisle I was not thinking of my
linen dress, my patent leather slippers, and my pretty curls.  It
suddenly seemed cheap to me to twist my hair when it was straight
as a shingle, and cut my head on tin.  If the Lord had wanted me
to have curls, my hair would have been like Sally's.  Seemed to
me hers tried to see into what big soft curls it could roll.  May
said ours was so straight it bent back the other way.  Anyway, I
made up my mind to talk it over with father and always wear
braids after that, if I could get him to coax mother to let me.

Our church was quite new and it was beautiful.  All the casings
were oiled wood, and the walls had just a little yellow in the
last skin coating used to make them smooth, so they were a creamy
colour, and the blinds were yellow.  The windows were wide open
and the wind drifted through, while the birds sang as much as
they ever do in August, among the trees and bushes of the
cemetery.  Every one had planted so many flowers of all kinds on
the graves you could scent sweet odours.  Often a big, black-
striped, brown butterfly came sailing in through one of the
windows, followed the draft across the room, and out of another. 
I was thinking something funny: it was about what the Princess
had said of other people, and whether hers were worse.  I looked
at my father sitting in calm dignity in his Sunday suit and
thought him quite as fine and handsome as mother did.  Every
Sabbath he wore the same suit, he sat in the same spot, he
worshipped the Lord in his calm, earnest way.  The ministers
changed, but father was as much a part of the service as the
Bible on the desk or the communion table.  I wondered if people
said things about him, and if they did, what they were.  I never
had heard.  Twisting in my seat, one by one I studied the faces
on the men's side, and then the women.  It was a mighty good-
looking crowd.  Some had finer clothes than others--that is
always the way--but as a rule every one was clean, neat, and good
to see.  From some you scarcely could turn away.  There was Widow
Fall.  She was French, from Virginia, and she talked like little
tinkly notes of music.  I just loved to hear her, and she walked
like high-up royalty.  Her dress was always black, with white
bands at the neck and sleeves, black rustly silk, and her eyes
and hair were like the dress.  There was a little red on her
cheeks and lips, and her face was always grave until she saw you
directly before her, and then she smiled the sweetest smile.

Maybe Sarah Hood was not pretty, but there was something about
her lean face and shining eyes that made you look twice before
you were sure of it, and by that time you had got so used to her,
you liked her better as she was, and wouldn't have changed her
for anything.  Mrs. Fritz had a pretty face and dresses and
manners, and so did Hannah Dover, only she talked too much.  So I
studied them and remembered what the Princess had said, and I
wondered if she heard some one say that Peter Justice beat his
wife, or if she showed it in her face and manner.  She reminded
me of a scared cowslip that had been cut and laid in the sun an
hour.  I don't know as that expresses it.  Perhaps a flower
couldn't look scared, but it could be wilted and faded.  I
wondered if she ever had bright hair, laughing eyes, and red in
her lips and cheeks.  She must have been pretty if she had.

At last I reached my mother.  There was nothing scared or faded
about her, and she was dreadfully sick too, once in a while since
she had the fever.  She was a little bit of a woman, coloured
like a wild rose petal, face and body--a piece of pink porcelain
Dutch, father said.  She had brown eyes, hair like silk, and she
always had three best dresses.  There was one of alpaca or
woollen, of black, gray or brown, and two silks.  Always there
was a fine rustly black one with a bonnet and mantle to match,
and then a softer, finer one of either gold brown, like her hair,
or dainty gray, like a dove's wing.  When these grew too old for
fine use, she wore them to Sunday-school and had a fresh one for
best.  There was a new gray in her closet at home, so she put on
the old brown to-day, and she was lovely in it.

Usually the minister didn't come for church services until
Sunday-school was half over, so the superintendent read a
chapter, Daddy Debs prayed, and all of us stood up and sang: 
"Ring Out the Joy Bells."  Then the superintendent read the
lesson over as impressively as he could.  The secretary made his
report, we sang another song, gathered the pennies, and each
teacher took a class and talked over the lesson a few minutes. 
Then we repeated the verses we had committed to memory to our
teachers; the member of each class who had learned the nicest
texts, and knew them best, was selected to recite before the
school.  Beginning with the littlest people, we came to the big
folks.  Each one recited two texts until they reached the class
above mine.  We walked to the front, stood inside the altar, made
a little bow, and the superintendent kept score.  I could see
that mother appeared worried when Leon's name was called for his
class, for she hadn't heard him, and she was afraid he would
forget.

Among the funny things about Leon was this: while you had to
drive other boys of his age to recite, you almost had to hold him
to keep him from it.  Father said he was born for a politician or
a preacher, if he would be good, and grow into the right kind of
a man to do such responsible work.

"I forgot several last Sabbath, so I have thirteen to-day," he
said politely.

Of course no one expected anything like that.  You never knew
what might happen when Leon did anything.  He must have been
about sixteen.  He was a slender lad, having almost sandy hair,
like his English grandfather.  He wore a white ruffled shirt with
a broad collar, and cuffs turning back over his black jacket, and
his trousers fitted his slight legs closely.  The wind whipped
his soft black tie a little and ruffled the light hair where it
was longest and wavy above his forehead.  Such a perfect picture
of innocence you never saw.  There was one part of him that
couldn't be described any better than the way Mr. Rienzi told
about his brother in his "Address to the Romans," in McGuffey's
Sixth.  "The look of heaven on his face" stayed most of the time;
again, there was a dealish twinkle that sparkled and flashed
while he was thinking up something mischievous to do.  When he
was fighting angry, and going to thrash Absalom Saunders or die
trying, he was plain white and his eyes were like steel.  Mother
called him "Weiscope," half the time.  I can only spell the way
that sounds, but it means "white-head," and she always used that
name when she loved him most.  "The look of heaven" was strong on
his face now.

"One," said the recording secretary.

"Jesus wept," answered Leon promptly.

There was not a sound in the church.  You could almost hear the
butterflies pass.  Father looked down and laid his lower lip in
folds with his fingers, like he did sometimes when it wouldn't
behave to suit him.

"Two," said the secretary after just a breath of pause.

Leon looked over the congregation easily and then fastened his
eyes on Abram Saunders, the father of Absalom, and said
reprovingly:  "Give not sleep to thine eyes nor slumber to thine
eyelids."

Abram straightened up suddenly and blinked in astonishment, while
father held fast to his lip.

"Three," called the secretary hurriedly.

Leon shifted his gaze to Betsy Alton, who hadn't spoken to her
next door neighbour in five years.

"Hatred stirreth up strife," he told her softly, "but love
covereth all sins."

Things were so quiet it seemed as if the air would snap.

"Four."

The mild blue eyes travelled back to the men's side and settled
on Isaac Thomas, a man too lazy to plow and sow land his father
had left him.  They were not so mild, and the voice was touched
with command:  "Go to the ant, thou sluggard, consider her ways
and be wise."

Still that silence.

"Five," said the secretary hurriedly, as if he wished it were
over.  Back came the eyes to the women's side and past all
question looked straight at Hannah Dover.

"As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman
without discretion."

"Six," said the secretary and looked appealingly at father, whose
face was filled with dismay.

Again Leon's eyes crossed the aisle and he looked directly at the
man whom everybody in the community called "Stiff-necked Johnny."

I think he was rather proud of it, he worked so hard to keep them
doing it.

"Lift not up your horn on high: speak not with a stiff neck,"
Leon commanded him.

Toward the door some one tittered.

"Seven," called the secretary hastily.

Leon glanced around the room.

"But how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell
together in unity," he announced in delighted tones as if he had
found it out by himself.

"Eight," called the secretary with something like a breath of
relief.

Our angel boy never had looked so angelic, and he was beaming on
the Princess.

"Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee," he told
her.

Laddie would thrash him for that.

Instantly after, "Nine," he recited straight at Laddie:  "I made
a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?"

More than one giggled that time.

"Ten!" came almost sharply.

Leon looked scared for the first time.  He actually seemed to
shiver.  Maybe he realized at last that it was a pretty serious
thing he was doing.  When he spoke he said these words in the
most surprised voice you ever heard:  "I was almost in all evil
in the midst of the congregation and assembly."

"Eleven."

Perhaps these words are in the Bible.  They are not there to read
the way Leon repeated them, for he put a short pause after the
first name, and he glanced toward our father:  "Jesus Christ, the
SAME, yesterday, and to-day, and forever!"

Sure as you live my mother's shoulders shook.

"Twelve."

Suddenly Leon seemed to be forsaken.  He surely shrank in size
and appeared abused.

"When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take
me up," he announced, and looked as happy over the ending as he
had seemed forlorn at the beginning.

"Thirteen."

"The Lord is on my side; I will not fear; what can man do unto
me?" inquired Leon of every one in the church.  Then he soberly
made a bow and walked to his seat.

Father's voice broke that silence.  "Let us kneel in prayer," he
said.

He took a step forward, knelt, laid his hands on the altar,
closed his eyes and turned his face upward.

"Our Heavenly Father, we come before Thee in a trying situation,"
he said.  "Thy word of truth has been spoken to us by a
thoughtless boy, whether in a spirit of helpfulness or of jest,
Thou knowest.  Since we are reasoning creatures, it little
matters in what form Thy truth comes to us; the essential thing
is that we soften our hearts for its entrance, and grow in grace
by its application.  Tears of compassion such as our dear Saviour
wept are in our eyes this morning as we plead with Thee to help
us to apply these words to the betterment of this community."

Then father began to pray.  If the Lord had been standing six
feet in front of him, and his life had depended on what he said,
he could have prayed no harder.  Goodness knows how fathers
remember.  He began at "Jesus wept" and told about this sinful
world and why He wept over it; then one at a time he took those
other twelve verses and hammered them down where they belonged
much harder than Leon ever could by merely looking at people. 
After that he prayed all around each one so fervently that those
who had been hit the very worst cried aloud and said:  "Amen!" 
You wouldn't think any one could do a thing like that; but I
heard and saw my father do it.

When he arose the tears were running down his cheeks, and before
him stood Leon.  He was white as could be, but he spoke out
loudly and clearly.

"Please forgive me, sir; I didn't intend to hurt your feelings.
Please every one forgive me.  I didn't mean to offend any one. 
It happened through hunting short verses.  All the short ones
seemed to be like that, and they made me think----"

He got no farther.  Father must have been afraid of what he might
say next.  He threw his arms around Leon's shoulders, drew him to
the seat, and with the tears still rolling, he laughed as happily
as you ever heard, and he cried:  "`Sweeping through the Gates!' 
All join in!"

You never heard such singing in your life.  That was another
wonderful thing.  My father didn't know the notes.  He couldn't
sing; he said so himself.  Neither could half the people there,
yet all of them were singing at the tops of their voices, and I
don't believe the angels in Heaven could make grander music.  My
father was leading:

"These, these are they, who in the conflict dire----"


You could tell Emanuel Ripley had been in the war from the way he
roared:


"Boldly have stood amidst the hottest fire----"


The Widow Fall soared above all of them on the next line; her man
was there, and maybe she was lonely and would have been glad to
go to him:


"Jesus now says, `Come up higher----'"


Then my little mother:


"Washed in the blood of the Lamb----"


Like thunder all of them rolled into the chorus:


"Sweepin, through the gates to the New Jerusalem----"


You wouldn't have been left out of that company for anything in
all this world, and nothing else ever could make you want to go
so badly as to hear every one sing, straight from the heart, a
grand old song like that.  It is no right way to have to sit and
keep still, and pay other people money to sing about Heaven to
you.  No matter if you can't sing by note, if your heart and soul
are full, until they are running over, so that you are forced to
sing as those people did, whether you can or not, you are sure to
be straight on the way to the Gates.

Before three lines were finished my father was keeping time like
a choirmaster, his face all beaming with shining light; mother
was rocking on her toes like a wood robin on a twig at twilight,
and at the end of the chorus she cried "Glory!" right out loud,
and turned and started down the aisle, shaking hands with every
one, singing as she went.  When she reached Betsy Alton she held
her hand and led her down the aisle straight toward Rachel Brown.

When Rachel saw them coming she hurried to meet them, and they
shook hands and were glad to make up as any two people you ever
saw.  It must have been perfectly dreadful to see a woman every
day for five years, and not to give her a pie, when you felt sure
yours were better than she could make, or loan her a new pattern,
or tell her first who had a baby, or was married, or dead, or
anything like that.  It was no wonder they felt glad.  Mother
came on, and as she passed me the verses were all finished and
every one began talking and moving.  Johnny Dover forgot his neck
and shook hands too, and father pronounced the benediction.  He
always had to when the minister wasn't there, because he was
ordained himself, and you didn't dare pronounce the benediction
unless you were.

Every one began talking again, and wondering if the minister
wouldn't come soon, and some one went out to see.  There was
mother standing only a few feet from the Princess, and I thought
of something.  I had seen it done often enough, but I never had
tried it myself, yet I wanted to so badly, there was no time to
think how scared I would be.  I took mother's hand and led her a
few steps farther and said:  "Mother, this is my friend, Pamela
Pryor."

I believe I did it fairly well.  Mother must have been surprised,
but she put out her hand.

"I didn't know Miss Pryor and you were acquainted."

"It's only been a little while," I told her.  "I met her when I
was on some business with the Fairies.  They know everything and
they told me her father was busy"--I thought she wouldn't want me
to tell that he was plain CROSS, where every one could hear, so I
said "busy" for politeness--"and her mother not very strong, and
that she was a good girl, and dreadfully lonesome.  Can't you do
something, mother?"

"Well, I should think so!" said mother, for her heart was soft as
rose leaves.  Maybe you won't believe this, but it's quite true. 
My mother took the Princess' arm and led her to Sally and
Shelley, and introduced her to all the girls.  By the time the
minister came and mother went back to her seat, she had forgotten
all about the "indisposed" word she disliked, and as you live!
she invited the Princess to go home with us to dinner.  She stood
tall and straight, her eyes very bright, and her cheeks a little
redder than usual, as she shook hands and said a few pleasant
words that were like from a book, they fitted and were so right. 
When mother asked her to dinner she said:  "Thank you kindly.  I
should be glad to go, but my people expect me at home and they
would be uneasy.  Perhaps you would allow me to ride over some
week day and become acquainted?"

Mother said she would be happy to have her, and Shelley said so
too, but Sally was none too cordial.  She had dark curls and pink
cheeks herself, and every one had said she was the prettiest girl
in the county before Shelley began to blossom out and show what
she was going to be.  Sally never minded that, but when the
Princess came she was a little taller, and her hair was a trifle
longer, and heavier, and blacker, and her eyes were a little
larger and darker, and where Sally had pink skin and red lips,
the Princess was dark as olive, and her lips and cheeks were like
red velvet.  Anyway, the Princess had said she would come over;
mother and Shelley had been decent to her, and Sally hadn't been
exactly insulting.  It would be a little more than you could
expect for her to be wild about the Princess.  I believe she was
pleased over having been invited to dinner, and as she was a
stranger she couldn't know that mother had what we called the
"invitation habit."

I have seen her ask from fifteen to twenty in one trip down the
aisle on Sunday morning.  She wanted them to come too; the more
who came, the better she liked it.  If the hitching rack and
barnyard were full on Sunday she just beamed.  If the sermon
pleased her, she invited more.  That morning she was feeling so
good she asked seventeen; and as she only had dressed six
chickens--third table, backs and ham, for me as usual; but when
the prospects were as now, I always managed to coax a few
gizzards from Candace; she didn't dare give me livers--they were
counted.  Almost everyone in the church was the happiest that
morning they had been in years.  When the preacher came, he
breathed it from the air, and it worked on him so he preached the
best sermon he ever had, and never knew that Leon made him do it.

Maybe after all it's a good thing to tell people about their
meanness and give them a stirring up once in a while.



CHAPTER III

Mr. Pryor's Door

            "Grief will be joy if on its edge
             Fall soft that holiest ray,
             Joy will be grief if no faint pledge
             Be there of heavenly day."

Have Sally and Peter said anything about getting married yet?"
asked my big sister Lucy of mother.  Lucy was home on a visit. 
She was bathing her baby and mother was sewing.

"Not a word!"

"Are they engaged?"

"Sally hasn't mentioned it."

"Well, can't you find out?"

"How could I?" asked mother.

"Why, watch them a little and see how they act when they are
together.  If he kisses her when he leaves, of course they are
engaged."

"It would be best to wait until Sally tells me," laughed mother.

I heard this from the back steps.  Neither mother nor Lucy knew I
was there.  I went in to see if they would let me take the baby. 
Of course they wouldn't!  Mother took it herself.  She was
rocking, and softly singing my Dutch song that I loved best; I
can't spell it, but it sounds like this:

            "Trus, trus, trill;
             Der power rid der fill,
             Fill sphring aveck,
             Plodschlicter power in der dreck."


Once I asked mother to sing it in English, and she couldn't
because it didn't rhyme that way and the words wouldn't fit the
notes; it was just, "Trot, trot, trot, a boy rode a colt.  The
colt sprang aside; down went the boy in the dirt."

"Aw, don't sing my song to that little red, pug-nosed bald-head!"
I said.

Really, it was a very nice baby; I only said that because I
wanted to hold it, and mother wouldn't give it up.  I tried to
coax May to the dam snake hunting, but she couldn't go, so I had
to amuse myself.  I had a doll, but I never played with it except
when I was dressed up on Sunday.  Anyway, what's the use of a
doll when there's a live baby in the house?  I didn't care much
for my playhouse since I had seen one so much finer that Laddie
had made for the Princess.  Of course I knew moss wouldn't take
root in our orchard as it did in the woods, neither would willow
cuttings or the red flowers.  Finally, I decided to go hunting. 
I went into the garden and gathered every ripe touch-me-not pod I
could find, and all the portulaca.  Then I stripped the tiger
lilies of each little black ball at the bases of the leaves, and
took all the four o'clock seed there was.  Then I got my biggest
alder popgun and started up the road toward Sarah Hood's.

I was going along singing a little verse; it wasn't Dutch either;
the old baby could have that if it wanted it.  Soon as I got from
sight of the house I made a powderhorn of a curled leaf, loaded
my gun with portulaca powder, rammed in a tiger lily bullet, laid
the weapon across my shoulder, and stepped high and lightly as
Laddie does when he's in the Big Woods hunting for squirrel.  It
must have been my own singing--I am rather good at hearing
things, but I never noticed a sound that time, until a voice like
a rusty saw said:  "Good morning, Nimrod!"

I sprang from the soft dust and landed among the dog fennel of a
fence corner, in a flying leap.  Then I looked.  It was the
Princess' father, tall, and gray, and grim, riding a big black
horse that seemed as if it had been curried with the fine comb
and brushed with the grease rag.

"Good morning!" I said when I could speak.

"Am I correct in the surmise that you are on the chase with a
popgun?" he asked politely.

"Yes sir," I answered, getting my breath the best I could.

It came easier after I noticed he didn't seem to be angry about
anything.

"Where is your hunting ground, and what game are you after?" he
asked gravely.

"You can see the great African jungle over there.  I am going to
hunt for lions and tigers."

You always must answer politely any one who speaks to you; and
you get soundly thrashed, at least at our house, if you don't be
politest of all to an older person especially with white hair. 
Father is extremely particular about white hair.  It is a "crown
of glory," when it is found in the way of the Lord.  Mahlon Pryor
had enough crown of glory for three men, but maybe his wasn't
exactly glory, because he wasn't in the way of the Lord.  He was
in a way of his own.  He must have had much confidence in
himself.  At our house we would rather trust in the Lord.  I only
told him about the lions and tigers because he asked me, and that
was the way I played.  But you should have heard him laugh.  You
wouldn't have supposed to see him that he could.

"Umph!" he said at last.  "I am a little curious about your
ammunition.  Just how to you bring down your prey?"

"I use portulaca powder and tiger lily bullets on the tigers, and
four o'clocks on the lions," I said.

You could have heard him a mile, dried up as he was.

"I used to wear a red coat and ride to the hounds fox hunting,"
he said.  "It's great sport.  Won't you take me with you to the
jungle?"

I didn't want him in the least, but if any one older asks right
out to go with you, what can you do?  I am going to tell several
things you won't believe, and this is one of them:  He got off
his horse, tied it to the fence, and climbed over after me.  He
went on asking questions and of course I had to tell him.  Most
of what he wanted to know, his people should have taught him
before he was ten years old, but father says they do things
differently in England.

"There doesn't seem to be many trees in the jungle."

"Well, there's one, and it's about the most important on our
land," I told him.  "Father wouldn't cut it down for a farm.  You
see that little dark bag nearly as big as your fist, swinging out
there on that limb?  Well, every spring one of these birds,
yellow as orange peel, with velvet black wings, weaves a nest
like that, and over on that big branch, high up, one just as
bright red as the other is yellow, and the same black wings,
builds a cradle for his babies.  Father says a red bird and a
yellow one keeping house in the same tree is the biggest thing
that ever happened in our family.  They come every year and that
is their tree.  I believe father would shoot any one who drove
them away."

"Your father is a gunner also?" he asked, and I thought he was
laughing to himself.

"He's enough of a gunner to bring mother in a wagon from
Pennsylvania all the way here, and he kept wolves, bears,
Indians, and Gypsies from her, and shot things for food.  Yes
sir, my father can shoot if he wants to, better than any of our
family except Laddie."

"And does Laddie shoot well?"

"Laddie does everything well," I answered proudly.  "He won't try
to do anything at all, until he practises so he can do it well."

"Score one for Laddie," he said in a queer voice.

"Are you in a hurry about the lions and tigers?"

"Not at all," he answered.

"Well, here I always stop and let Governor Oglesby go swimming,"
I said.

Mr. Mahlon Pryor sat on the bank of our Little Creek, took off
his hat and shook back his hair as if the wind felt good on his
forehead.  I fished Dick Oglesby from the ammunition in my apron
pocket, and held him toward the cross old man, and he wasn't
cross at all.  It's funny how you come to get such wrong ideas
about people.

"My big married sister who lives in Westchester sent him to me
last Christmas," I explained.  "I have another doll, great big,
with a Scotch plaid dress made from pieces of mine, but I only
play with her on Sunday when I dare not do much else.  I like
Dick the best because he fits my apron pocket.  Father wanted me
to change his name and call him Oliver P. Morton, after a friend
of his, but I told him this doll had to be called by the name he
came with, and if he wanted me to have one named for his friend,
to get it, and I'd play with it."

"What did he do?"

"He didn't want one named Morton that much."

Mr. Pryor took Dick Oglesby in his fingers and looked at his
curly black hair and blue eyes, his chubby outstretched arms,
like a baby when it wants you to take it, and his plump little
feet and the white shirt with red stripes all a piece of him as
he was made, and said:  "The honourable governor of our sister
state seems a little weighty; I am at a loss to understand how he
swims."

"It's a new way," I said.  "He just stands still and the water
swims around him.  It's very easy for him."

Then I carried Dick to the water, waded in and stood him against
a stone.  Something funny happened instantly.  It always did.  I
found it out one day when I got some apple butter on the governor
giving him a bite of my bread, and put him in the wash bowl to
soak.  He was two and a half inches tall; but the minute you
stood him in water he went down to about half that height and
spread out to twice his size around.  You should have heard Mr.
Pryor.

"If you will lie on the bank and watch you'll have more to laugh
at than that," I promised.

He lay down and never paid the least attention to his clothes. 
Pretty soon a little chub fish came swimming around to make
friends with Governor Oglesby, and then a shiner and some more
chub.  They nibbled at his hands and toes, and then went flashing
away, and from under the stone came backing a big crayfish and
seized the governor by the leg and started dragging him, so I had
to jump in and stop it.  I took a shot at the crayfish with the
tiger ammunition and then loaded for lions.

We went on until the marsh became a thicket of cattails,
bulrushes, willow bushes, and blue flags; then I found a path
where the lions left the jungle, hid Mr. Pryor and told him he
must be very still or they wouldn't come.  At last I heard one. 
I touched Mr. Pryor's sleeve to warn him to keep his eyes on the
trail.  Pretty soon the lion came in sight.  Really it was only a
little gray rabbit hopping along, but when it was opposite us, I
pinged it in the side, it jumped up and turned a somersault with
surprise, and squealed a funny little squeal,--well, I wondered
if Mr. Pryor's people didn't hear him, and think he had gone
crazy as Paddy Ryan.  I never did hear any one laugh so.  I
thought if he enjoyed it like that, I'd let him shoot one.  I do
May sometimes; so we went to another place I knew where there was
a tiger's den, and I loaded with tiger lily bullets, gave him the
gun and showed him where to aim.  After we had waited a long time
out came a muskrat, and started for the river.  I looked to see
why Mr. Pryor didn't shoot, and there he was gazing at it as if a
snake had charmed him; his hands shaking a little, his cheeks
almost red, his eyes very bright.

"Shoot!" I whispered.  "It won't stay all day!"

He forgot how to push the ramrod like I showed him, so he reached
out and tried to hit it with the gun.

"Don't do that!" I said.

"But it's getting away!  It's getting away!" he cried.

"Well, what if it is?" I asked, half provoked.  "Do you suppose I
really would hurt a poor little muskrat?  Maybe it has six hungry
babies in its home."

"Oh THAT way," he said, but he kept looking at it, so he made me
think if I hadn't been there, he would have thrown a stone or hit
it with a stick.  It is perfectly wonderful about how some men
can't get along without killing things, such little bits of
helpless creatures too.  I thought he'd better be got from the
jungle, so I invited him to see the place at the foot of the hill
below our orchard where some men thought they had discovered gold
before the war.  They had been to California in '49, and although
they didn't come home with millions, or anything else except sick
and tired, they thought they had learned enough about gold to
know it when they saw it.

I told him about it and he was interested and anxious to see the
place.  If there had been a shovel, I am quite sure he would have
gone to digging.  He kept poking around with his boot toe, and he
said maybe the yokels didn't look good.

He said our meadow was a beautiful place, and when he praised the
creek I told him about the wild ducks, and he laughed again.  He
didn't seem to be the same man when we went back to the road.  I
pulled some sweet marsh grass and gave his horse bites, so Mr.
Pryor asked if I liked animals.  I said I loved horses, Laddie's
best of all.  He asked about it and I told him.

"Hasn't your father but one thoroughbred?"

"Father hasn't any," I said.  "Flos really belongs to Laddie, and
we are mighty glad he has her."

"You should have one soon, yourself," he said.

"Well, if the rest of them will hurry up and marry off, so the
expenses won't be so heavy, maybe I can."

"How many of you are there?" he asked.

"Only twelve," I said.

He looked down the road at our house.

"Do you mean to tell me you have twelve children there?" he
inquired.

"Oh no!" I answered.  "Some of the big boys have gone into
business in the cities around, and some of the girls are married.

Mother says she has only to show her girls in the cities to have
them snapped up like hot cakes."

"I fancy that is the truth," he said.  "I've passed the one who
rides the little black pony and she is a picture.  A fine,
healthy, sensible-appearing young woman!"

"I don't think she's as pretty as your girl," I said.

"Perhaps I don't either," he replied, smiling at me.

Then he mounted his horse.

"I don't remember that I ever have passed that house," he said,
"without hearing some one singing.  Does it go on all the time?"

"Yes, unless mother is sick."

"And what is it all about?"

"Oh just joy!  Gladness that we are alive, that we have things to
do that we like, and praising the Lord."

"Umph!" said Mr. Pryor.

"It's just letting out what our hearts are full of," I told him. 
"Don't you know that song:

            "`Tis the old time religion
              And you cannot keep it still?'"


He shook his head.

"It's an awful nice song," I explained.  "After it sings about
all the other things religion is good for, there is one line that
says:  `IT'S GOOD FOR THOSE IN TROUBLE.'"

I looked at him straight and hard, but he only turned white and
seemed sick.

"So?" said Mr. Pryor.  "Well, thank you for the most interesting
morning I've had this side England.  I should be delighted if you
would come and hunt lions in my woods with me some time."

"Oh, do you open the door to children?"

"Certainly we open the door to children," he said, and as I live,
he looked so sad I couldn't help thinking he was sorry to close
it against any one.  A mystery is the dreadfulest thing.

"Then if children don't matter, maybe I can come lion-hunting
some time with the Princess, after she has made the visit at our
house she said she would."

"Indeed!  I hadn't been informed that my daughter contemplated
visiting your house," he said.  "When was it arranged?"

"My mother invited her last Sunday."

I didn't like the way he said:  "O-o-o-h!"  Some way it seemed
insulting to my mother.

"She did it to please me," I said.  "There was a Fairy Princess
told me the other day that your girl felt like a stranger, and
that to be a stranger was the hardest thing in all the world. 
She sat a little way from the others, and she looked so lonely. 
I pulled my mother's sleeve and led her to your girl and made
them shake hands, and then mother HAD to ask her to come to
dinner with us.  She always invites every one she meets coming
down the aisle; she couldn't help asking your girl, too.  She
said she was expected at home, but she'd come some day and get
acquainted.  She needn't if you object.  My mother only asked her
because she thought she was lonely, and maybe she wanted to
come."

He sat there staring straight ahead and he seemed to grow whiter,
and older, and colder every minute.

"Possibly she is lonely," he said at last.  "This isn't much like
the life she left.  Perhaps she does feel herself a stranger.  It
was very kind of your mother to invite her.  If she wants to
come, I shall make no objections."

"No, but my father will," I said.

He straightened up as if something had hit him.
"Why will he object?"

"On account of what you said about God at our house," I told him.
"And then, too, father's people were from England, and he says
real Englishmen have their doors wide open, and welcome people
who offer friendliness."

Mr. Pryor hit his horse an awful blow.  It reared and went racing
up the road until I thought it was running away.  I could see I
had made him angry enough to burst.  Mother always tells me not
to repeat things; but I'm not smart enough to know what to say,
so I don't see what is left but to tell what mother, or father,
or Laddie says when grown people ask me questions.

I went home, but every one was too busy even to look at me, so I
took Bobby under my arm, hunted father, and told him all about
the morning.  I wondered what he would think.  I never found out.

He wouldn't say anything, so Bobby and I went across the lane,
and climbed the gate into the orchard to see if Hezekiah were
there and wanted to fight.  He hadn't time to fight Bobby because
he was busy chasing every wild jay from our orchard.  By the time
he got that done, he was tired, so he came hopping along on
branches above us as Bobby and I went down the west fence beside
the lane.

If I had been compelled to choose the side of our orchard I liked
best, I don't know which I would have selected.  The west side--
that is, the one behind the dooryard--was running over with
interesting things.  Two gates opened into it, one from near each
corner of the yard.  Between these there was quite a wide level
space, where mother fed the big chickens and kept the hens in
coops with little ones.  She had to have them close enough that
the big hawks were afraid to come to earth, or they would take
more chickens than they could pay for, by cleaning rabbits,
snakes, and mice from the fields.  Then came a double row of
prize peach trees; rare fruit that mother canned to take to
county fairs.  One bore big, white freestones, and around the
seed they were pink as a rose.  One was a white cling, and one
was yellow.  There was a yellow freestone as big as a young sun,
and as golden, and the queerest of all was a cling purple as a
beet.

Sometimes father read about the hairs of the head being numbered,
because we were so precious in the sight of the Almighty.  Mother
was just as particular with her purple tree; every peach on it
was counted, and if we found one on the ground, we had to carry
it to her, because it MIGHT be sound enough to can or spice for a
fair, or she had promised the seed to some one halfway across the
state.  At each end of the peach row was an enormous big pear
tree; not far from one the chicken house stood on the path to the
barn, and beside the other the smoke house with the dog kennel a
yard away.  Father said there was a distinct relationship between
a smoke house and a dog kennel, and bulldogs were best.  Just at
present we were out of bulldogs, but Jones, Jenkins and Co. could
make as much noise as any dog you ever heard.  On the left grew
the plum trees all the way to the south fence, and I think there
was one of every kind in the fruit catalogues.  Father spent
hours pruning, grafting, and fertilizing them.  He said they
required twice as much work as peaches.

Around the other sides of the orchard were two rows of peach
trees of every variety; but one cling on the north was just a
little the best of any, and we might eat all we wanted from any
tree we liked, after father tested them and said: "Peaches are
ripe!"  In the middle were the apple; selected trees, planted,
trimmed, and cultivated like human beings.  The apples were so
big and fine they were picked by hand, wrapped in paper, packed
in barrels, and all we could not use at home went to J. B. White
in Fort Wayne for the biggest fruit house in the state.  My! but
father was proud!  He always packed especially fine ones for Mr.
White's family.  He said he liked him, because he was a real
sandy Scotchman, who knew when an apple was right, and wasn't
afraid to say so.

On the south side of the orchard there was the earliest June
apple tree.  The apples were small, bright red with yellow
stripes, crisp, juicy and sweet enough to be just right.  The
tree was very large, and so heavy it leaned far to the northeast.

This sounds like make-believe, but it's gospel truth.  Almost two
feet from the ground there was a big round growth, the size of a
hash bowl.  The tree must have been hurt when very small and the
place enlarged with the trunk.  Now it made a grand step.  If you
understood that no one could keep from running the last few rods
from the tree, then figured on the help to be had from this step,
you could see how we went up it like squirrels.  All the bark on
the south side was worn away and the trunk was smooth and shiny. 
The birds loved to nest among the branches, and under the peach
tree in the fence corner opposite was a big bed of my mother's
favourite wild flowers, blue-eyed Marys.  They had dainty stems
from six to eight inches high and delicate heads of bloom made up
of little flowers, two petals up, blue, two turning down, white. 
Perhaps you don't know about anything prettier than that.  There
were maiden-hair ferns among them too! and the biggest lichens
you ever saw on the fence, while in the hollow of a rotten rail a
little chippy bird always built a hair nest.  She got the hairs
at our barn, for most of them were gray from our carriage horses,
Ned and Jo.  All down that side of the orchard the fence corners
were filled with long grass and wild flowers, a few alder bushes
left to furnish berries for the birds, and wild roses for us, to
keep their beauty impressed on us, father said.

The east end ran along the brow of a hill so steep we coasted
down it on the big meat board all winter.  The board was six
inches thick, two and a half feet wide, and six long.  Father
said slipping over ice and snow gave it the good scouring it
needed, and it was thick enough to last all our lives, so we
might play with it as we pleased.  At least seven of us could go
skimming down that hill and halfway across the meadow on it.  In
the very place we slid across, in summer lay the cowslip bed. 
The world is full of beautiful spots, but I doubt if any of them
ever were prettier than that.  Father called it swale.  We didn't
sink deep, but all summer there was water standing there.  The
grass was long and very sweet, there were ferns and a few calamus
flowers, and there must have been an acre of cowslips--cowslips
with big-veined, heartshaped, green leaves, and large pale gold
flowers.  I used to sit on the top rail of that orchard fence and
look down at them, and try to figure out what God was thinking
when He created them, and I wished that I might have been where I
could watch His face as He worked.

Halfway across the east side was a gully where Leon and I found
the Underground Station, and from any place along the north you
looked, you saw the Little Creek and the marsh.  At the same time
the cowslips were most golden, the marsh was blue with flags,
pink with smart weed, white and yellow with dodder, yellow with
marsh buttercups having ragged frosty leaves, while the yellow
and the red birds flashed above it, the red crying, "Chip,"
"Chip," in short, sharp notes, the yellow spilling music all over
the marsh while on wing.

It would take a whole book to describe the butterflies; once in a
while you scared up a big, wonderful moth, large as a sparrow;
and the orchard was alive with doves, thrushes, catbirds,
bluebirds, vireos, and orioles.  When you climbed the fence, or a
tree, and kept quiet, and heard the music and studied the
pictures, it made you feel as if you had to put it into words.  I
often had meeting all by myself, unless Bobby and Hezekiah were
along, and I tried to tell God what I thought about things. 
Probably He was so busy making more birds and flowers for other
worlds, He never heard me; but I didn't say anything
disrespectful at all, so it made no difference if He did listen. 
It just seemed as if I must tell what I thought, and I felt
better, not so full and restless after I had finished.

All of us were alike about that.  At that minute I knew mother
was humming, as she did a dozen times a day:

            "I think when I read that sweet story of old,
                 When Jesus was here among men
             How He called little children as lambs to His fold,
                 I should like to have been with Him then."


Lucy would be rocking her baby and singing, "Hush, my dear, lie
still and slumber."  Candace's favourite she made up about her
man who had been killed in the war, when they had been married
only six weeks, which hadn't given her time to grow tired of him
if he hadn't been "all her fancy painted."  She arranged the
words like "Ben Battle was a soldier bold," and she sang them to
suit herself, and cried every single minute:

            "They wrapped him in his uniform,
                 They laid him in the tomb,
             My aching heart I thought 'twould break,
                 But such was my sad doom."


Candace just loved that song.  She sang it all the time.  Leon
said our pie always tasted salty from her tears, and he'd take a
bite and smile at her sweetly and say:  "How UNIFORM you get your
pie, Candace!"

May's favourite was "Joy Bells."  Father would be whispering over
to himself the speech he was preparing to make at the next
prayer-meeting.  We never could learn his speeches, because he
read and studied so much it kept his head so full, he made a new
one every time.  You could hear Laddie's deep bass booming the
"Bedouin Love Song" for a mile; this minute it came rolling
across the corn:

            "Open the door of thy heart,
                 And open thy chamber door,
         And my kisses shall teach thy lips
                 The love that shall fade no more
                     Till the sun grows cold,
                     And the Stars are old,
                     And the leaves of the Judgment
                             Book unfold!"


I don't know how the Princess stood it.  If he had been singing
that song where I could hear it and I had known it was about me,
as she must have known he meant her, I couldn't have kept my arms
from around his neck.  Over in the barn Leon was singing:

            "A life on the ocean wave,
             A home on the rolling deep,
             Where codfish waggle their tails
             'Mid tadpoles two feet deep."


The minute he finished, he would begin reciting "Marco Bozzaris,"
and you could be sure that he would reach the last line only to
commence on the speech of "Logan, Chief of the Mingoes," or any
one of the fifty others.  He could make your hair stand a little
straighter than any one else; the best teachers we ever had, or
even Laddie, couldn't make you shivery and creepy as he could. 
Because all of us kept going like that every day, people couldn't
pass without hearing, so THAT was what Mr. Pryor meant.

I had a pulpit in the southeast corner of the orchard.  I liked
that place best of all because from it you could see two sides at
once.  The very first little, old log cabin that had been on our
land, the one my father and mother moved into, had stood in that
corner.  It was all gone now; but a flowerbed of tiny, purple
iris, not so tall as the grass, spread there, and some striped
grass in the shadiest places, and among the flowers a lark
brooded every spring.  In the fence corner mother's big white
turkey hen always nested.  To protect her from rain and too hot
sun, father had slipped some boards between the rails about three
feet from the ground.  After the turkey left, that was my pulpit.

I stood there and used the top of the fence for my railing.

The little flags and all the orchard and birds were behind me; on
one hand was the broad, grassy meadow with the creek running so
swiftly, I could hear it, and the breath of the cowslips came up
the hill.  Straight in front was the lane running down from the
barn, crossing the creek and spreading into the woods pasture,
where the water ran wider and yet swifter, big forest trees grew,
and bushes of berries, pawpaws, willow, everything ever found in
an Indiana thicket; grass under foot, and many wild flowers and
ferns wherever the cattle and horses didn't trample them, and
bigger, wilder birds, many having names I didn't know.  On the
left, across the lane, was a large cornfield, with trees here and
there, and down the valley I could see the Big Creek coming from
the west, the Big Hill with the church on top, and always the
white gravestones around it.  Always too there was the sky
overhead, often with clouds banked until you felt if you only
could reach them, you could climb straight to the gates that
father was so fond of singing about sweeping through.  Mostly
there was a big hawk or a turkey buzzard hanging among them, just
to show us that we were not so much, and that we couldn't shoot
them, unless they chose to come down and give us a chance.

I set Bobby and Hezekiah on the fence and stood between them. 
"We will open service this morning by singing the thirty-fifth
hymn," I said.  "Sister Dover, will you pitch the tune?"

Then I made my voice high and squeally like hers and sang:

            "Come ye that love the Lord,
             And let your joys be known,
             Join in a song of sweet accord,
             And thus surround the throne."


I sang all of it and then said:  "Brother Hastings, will you lead
us in prayer?"

Then I knelt down, and prayed Brother Hastings' prayer.  I could
have repeated any one of a dozen of the prayers the men of our
church prayed, but I liked Brother Hastings' best, because it had
the biggest words in it.  I loved words that filled your mouth,
and sounded as if you were used to books.  It began sort of sing-
songy and measured in stops, like a poetry piece:

        "Our Heavenly Father:  We come before Thee this morning,
         Humble worms of the dust, imploring thy blessing.
         We beseech Thee to forgive our transgressions,
         Heal our backsliding, and love us freely."


Sometimes from there on it changed a little, but it always began
and ended exactly the same way.  Father said Brother Hastings was
powerful in prayer, but he did wish he'd leave out the "worms of
the dust."  He said we were not "worms of the dust"; we were
reasoning, progressive, inventive men and women.  He said a worm
would never be anything except a worm, but we could study and
improve ourselves, help others, make great machines, paint
pictures, write books, and go to an extent that must almost amaze
the Almighty Himself.  He said that if Brother Hastings had done
more plowing in his time, and had a little closer acquaintance
with worms, he wouldn't be so ready to call himself and every one
else a worm.  Now if you are talking about cutworms or fishworms,
father is right.  But there is that place where--"Charles his
heel had raised, upon the humble worm to tread," and the worm
lifted up its voice and spake thus to Charles:

            "I know I'm now among the things
                 Uncomely to your sight,
             But, by and by, on splendid wings,
                 You'll see me high and bright."


Now I'll bet a cent THAT is the kind of worm Brother Hastings
said we were.  I must speak to father about it.  I don't want him
to be mistaken; and I really think he is about worms.  Of course
he knows the kind that have wings and fly.  Brother Hastings
mixed him up by saying "worms of the dust" when he should have
said worms of the leaves.  Those that go into little round cases
in earth or spin cocoons on trees always live on leaves, and many
of them rear the head, having large horns, and wave it in a
manner far from humble.  So father and Brother Hastings were both
partly right, and partly wrong.

When the prayer came to a close, where every one always said
"Amen," I punched Bobby and whispered, "Crow, Bobby, crow!" and
he stood up and brought it out strong, like he always did when I
told him.  I had to stop the service to feed him a little wheat,
to pay him for crowing; but as no one was there except us, that
didn't matter.  Then Hezekiah crowded over for some, so I had to
pretend I was Mrs. Daniels feeding her children caraway cake,
like she always did in meeting.  If I had been the mother of
children who couldn't have gone without things to eat in church
I'd have kept them at home.  Mrs. Daniels always had the carpet
greasy with cake crumbs wherever she sat, and mother didn't think
the Lord liked a dirty church any more than we would have wanted
a mussy house.  When I had Bobby and Hezekiah settled I took my
text from my head, because I didn't know the meeting feeling was
coming on me when I started, and I had brought no Bible along.

"Blessed are all men, but most blessed are they who hold their
tempers."  I had to stroke Bobby a little and pat Hezekiah once
in a while, to keep them from flying down and fighting, but
mostly I could give my attention to my sermon.

"We have only to look around us this morning to see that all men
are blessed," I said.  "The sky is big enough to cover every one.

If the sun gets too hot, there are trees for shade or the clouds
come up for a while.  If the earth becomes too dry, it always
rains before it is everlastingly too late.  There are birds
enough to sing for every one, butterflies enough to go around,
and so many flowers we can't always keep the cattle and horses
from tramping down and even devouring beautiful ones, like Daniel
thought the lions would devour him--but they didn't.  Wouldn't it
be a good idea, O Lord, for You to shut the cows' mouths and save
the cowslips also; they may not be worth as much as a man, but
they are lots better looking, and they make fine greens.  It
doesn't seem right for cows to eat flowers; but maybe it is as
right for them as it is for us.  The best way would be for our
cattle to do like that piece about the cow in the meadow exactly
the same as ours:

            "`And through it ran a little brook,
                 Where oft the cows would drink,
             And then lie down among the flowers,
                 That grew upon the brink.'


"You notice, O Lord, the cows did not eat the flowers in this
instance; they merely rested among them, and goodness knows,
that's enough for any cow.  They had better done like the next
verse, where it says:
            "`They like to lie beneath the trees,
                 All shaded by the boughs,
             Whene'er the noontide heat came on:
                 Sure, they were happy cows!'


"Now, O Lord, this plainly teaches that if cows are happy, men
should be much more so, for like the cows, they have all Thou
canst do for them, and all they can do for themselves, besides. 
So every man is blessed, because Thy bounty has provided all
these things for him, without money and without price.  If some
men are not so blessed as others, it is their own fault, and not
Yours.  You made the earth, and all that is therein, and You made
the men.  Of course You had to make men different, so each woman
can tell which one belongs to her; but I believe it would have
been a good idea while You were at it, if You would have made all
of them enough alike that they would all work.  Perhaps it isn't
polite of me to ask more of You than You saw fit to do; and then,
again, it may be that there are some things impossible, even to
You.  If there is anything at all, seems as if making Isaac
Thomas work would be it.  Father says that man would rather
starve and see his wife and children hungry than to take off his
coat, roll up his sleeves, and plow corn; so it was good enough
for him when Leon said, `Go to the ant, thou sluggard,' right at
him.  So, of course, Isaac is not so blessed as some men, because
he won't work, and thus he never knows whether he's going to have
a big dinner on Sunday, until after some one asks him, because he
looks so empty.  Mother thinks it isn't fair to feed Isaac and
send him home with his stomach full, while Mandy and the babies
are sick and hungry.  But Isaac is some blessed, because he has
religion and gets real happy, and sings, and shouts, and he's
going to Heaven when he dies.  He must wish he'd go soon,
especially in winter.

"There are men who do not have even this blessing, and to make
things worse, O Lord, they get mad as fire and hit their
horses, and look like all possessed.  The words of my text this
morning apply especially to a man who has all the blessings Thou
hast showered and flowered upon men who work, or whose people
worked and left them so much money they don't need to, and yet a
sadder face I never saw, or a crosser one.  He looks like he was
going to hit people, and he does hit his horse an awful crack. 
It's no way to hit a horse, not even if it balks, because it
can't hit back, and it's a cowardly thing to do.  If you rub
their ears and talk to them, they come quicker, O our Heavenly
Father, and if you hit them just because you are mad, it's a
bigger sin yet.

"No man is nearly so blessed as he might be who goes around
looking killed with grief when he should cheer up, no matter what
ails him; and who shuts up his door and says his wife is sick
when she isn't, and who scowls at every one, when he can be real
pleasant if he likes, as some in Divine Presence can testify.  So
we are going to beseech Thee, O Lord, to lay Thy mighty hand upon
the man who got mad this beautiful morning and make him feel Thy
might, until he will know for himself and not another, that You
are not a myth.  Teach him to have a pleasant countenance, an
open door, and to hold his temper.  Help him to come over to our
house and be friendly with all his neighbours, and get all the
blessings You have provided for every one; but please don't make
him have any more trouble than he has now, for if You do, You'll
surely kill him.  Have patience with him, and have mercy on him,
O Lord!  Let us pray."

That time I prayed myself.  I looked into the sky just as
straight and as far as I could see, and if I had any influence at
all, I used it then.  Right out loud, I just begged the Lord to
get after Mr. Pryor and make him behave like other people, and
let the Princess come to our house, and for him to come too;
because I liked him heaps when he was lion hunting, and I wanted
to go with him again the worst way.  I had seen him sail right
over the fences on his big black horse, and when he did it in
England, wearing a red coat, and the dogs flew over thick around
him, it must have looked grand, but it was mighty hard on the
fox.  I do hope it got away.  Anyway, I prayed as hard as I
could, and every time I said the strongest thing I knew, I
punched Bobby to crow, and he never came out stronger.  Then I
was Sister Dover and started:  "Oh come let us gather at the
fountain, the fountain that never goes dry."

Just as I was going to pronounce the benediction like father, I
heard something, so I looked around, and there went he and Dr.
Fenner.  They were going toward the house, and yet, they hadn't
passed me.  I was not scared, because I knew no one was sick. 
Dr. Fenner always stopped when he passed, if he had a minute, and
if he hadn't, mother sent some one to the gate with buttermilk
and slices of bread and butter, and jelly an inch thick.  When a
meal was almost cooked she heaped some on a plate and he ate as
he drove and left the plate next time he passed.  Often he was so
dead tired, he was asleep in his buggy, and his old gray horse
always stopped at our gate.

I ended with "Amen," because I wanted to know if they had been
listening; so I climbed the fence, ran down the lane behind the
bushes, and hid a minute.  Sure enough they had!  I suppose I had
been so in earnest I hadn't heard a sound, but it's a wonder
Hezekiah hadn't told me.  He was always seeing something to make
danger signals about.  He never let me run on a snake, or a hawk
get one of the chickens, or Paddy Ryan come too close.  I only
wanted to know if they had gone and listened, and then I intended
to run straight back to Bobby and Hezekiah; but they stopped
under the greening apple tree, and what they said was so
interesting I waited longer than I should, because it's about the
worst thing you can do to listen when older people don't know. 
They were talking about me.

"I can't account for her," said father.

"I can!" said Dr. Fenner.  "She is the only child I ever have had
in my practice who managed to reach earth as all children should.
During the impressionable stage, no one expected her, so there
was no time spent in worrying, fretting, and discontent.  I don't
mean that these things were customary with Ruth.  No woman ever
accepted motherhood in a more beautiful spirit; but if she would
have protested at any time, it would have been then.  Instead,
she lived happily, naturally, and enjoyed herself as she never
had before.  She was in the fields, the woods, and the garden
constantly, which accounts for this child's outdoor tendencies. 
Then you must remember that both of you were at top notch
intellectually, and physically, fully matured.  She had the
benefit of ripened minds, and at a time when every faculty
recently had been stirred by the excitement and suffering of the
war.  Oh, you can account for her easily enough, but I don't know
what on earth you are going to do with her.  You'll have to go
careful, Paul.  I warn you she will not be like the others."

"We realize that.  Mother says she doubts if she can ever teach
her to sew and become a housewife."

"She isn't cut out for a seamstress or a housewife, Paul.  Tell
Ruth not to try to force those things on her.  Turn her loose out
of doors; give her good books, and leave her alone.  You won't be
disappointed in the woman who evolves."

Right there I realized what I was doing, and I turned and ran for
the pulpit with all my might.  I could always repeat things, but
I couldn't see much sense to the first part of that; the last was
as plain as the nose on your face.  Dr. Fenner said they mustn't
force me to sew, and do housework; and mother didn't mind the
Almighty any better than she did the doctor.  There was nothing
in this world I disliked so much as being kept indoors, and made
to hem cap and apron strings so particularly that I had to count
the number of threads between every stitch, and in each stitch,
so that I got all of them just exactly even.  I liked carpet rags
a little better, because I didn't have to be so particular about
stitches, and I always picked out all the bright, pretty colours.

Mother said she could follow my work all over the floor by the
bright spots.  Perhaps if I were not to be kept in the house I
wouldn't have to sew any more.  That made me so happy I wondered
if I couldn't stretch out my arms and wave them and fly.  I sat
on the pulpit wishing I had feathers.  It made me pretty blue to
have to stay on the ground all the time, when I wanted to be
sailing up among the clouds with the turkey buzzards.  It called
to my mind that place in McGuffey's Fifth where it says:

            "Sweet bird, thy bower is ever green,
             Thy sky is ever clear;
             Thou hast no sorrow in thy song,
             No winter in thy year."


Of course, I never heard a turkey buzzard sing.  Laddie said they
couldn't; but that didn't prove it.  He said half the members of
our church couldn't sing, but they DID; and when all of them were
going at the tops of their voices, it was just grand.  So maybe
the turkey buzzard could sing if it wanted to; seemed as if it
should, if Isaac Thomas could; and anyway, it was the next verse
I was thinking most about:

            "Oh, could I fly, I'd fly with thee!
             We'd make with joyful wing,
             Our annual visit o'er the globe,
             Companions of the spring."


That was so exciting I thought I'd just try it, so I stood on the
top rail, spread my arms, waved them, and started.  I was bumped
in fifty places when I rolled into the cowslip bed at the foot of
the steep hill, for stones stuck out all over the side of it, and
I felt pretty mean as I climbed back to the pulpit.

The only consolation I had was what Dr. Fenner had said.  That
would be the greatest possible help in managing father or mother.

I was undecided about whether I would go to school, or not.  Must
be perfectly dreadful to dress like for church, and sit still in
a stuffy little room, and do your "abs," and "bes," and "bis,"
and "bos," all day long.  I could spell quite well without
looking at a schoolhouse, and read too.  I was wondering if I
ever would go at all, when I thought of something else.  Dr.
Fenner had said to give me plenty of good books.  I was wild for
some that were already promised me.  Well, what would they amount
to if I couldn't understand them when I got them?  THAT seemed to
make it sure I would be compelled to go to school until I learned
enough to understand what the books contained about birds,
flowers, and moths, anyway; and perhaps there would be some
having Fairies in them.  Of course those would be interesting.

I never hated doing anything so badly, in all my life, but I
could see, with no one to tell me, that I had put it off as long
as I dared.  I would just have to start school when Leon and May
went in September.  Tilly Baher, who lived across the swamp near
Sarah Hood, had gone two winters already, and she was only a year
older, and not half my size.  I stood on the pulpit and looked a
long time in every direction, into the sky the longest of all. 
It was settled.  I must go; I might as well start and have it
over.  I couldn't look anywhere, right there at home, and not see
more things I didn't know about than I did.  When mother showed
me in the city, I wouldn't be snapped up like hot cakes; I'd be a
blockhead no one would have.  It made me so vexed to think I had
to go, I set Hezekiah on my shoulder, took Bobby under my arm,
and went to the house.  On the way, I made up my mind that I
would ask again, very politely, to hold the little baby, and if
the rest of them went and pigged it up straight along, I'd pinch
it, if I got a chance.



CHAPTER IV

The Last Day in Eden

            "'Tis the sunset of life gives me mystical lore,
              And coming events cast their shadows before."

Of course the baby was asleep and couldn't be touched; but there
was some excitement, anyway.  Father had come from town with a
letter from the new school teacher, that said she would expect
him to meet her at the station next Saturday.  Mother thought she
might as well get the room ready and let her stay at our house,
because we were most convenient, and it would be the best place
for her.  She said that every time, and the teacher always stayed
with us.  Really it was because father and mother wanted the
teacher where they could know as much as possible about what was
going on.  Sally didn't like having her at all; she said with the
wedding coming, the teacher would be a nuisance.  Shelley had
finished our school, and the Groveville high school, and instead
of attending college she was going to Chicago to study music. 
She was so anxious over her dresses and getting started, she
didn't seem to think much about what was going to happen to us at
home; so she didn't care if Miss Amelia stayed at our house.  May
said it would be best to have the teacher with us, because she
could help us with our lessons at home, and we could get ahead of
the others.  May already had decided that she would be at the
head of her class when she finished school, and every time you
wanted her and couldn't find her, if you would look across the
foot of mother's bed, May would be there with a spelling book. 
Once she had spelled down our school, when Laddie was not there.


Father had met Peter Dover in town, and he had said that he was
coming to see Sally, because he had something of especial
importance to tell her.

"Did he say what it was?" asked Sally.

"Only what I have told you," replied father.

Sally wanted to take the broom and sweep the parlour.

"It's clean as a ribbon," said mother.

"If you go in there, you'll wake the baby," said Lucy.

"Will it kill it if I do?" asked Sally.

"No, but it will make it cross as fire, so it will cry all the
time Peter is here," said Lucy.

"I'll be surprised if it doesn't scream every minute anyway,"
said Sally.

"I hope it will," said Lucy.  "That will make Peter think a while
before he comes so often."

That made Sally so angry she couldn't speak, so she went out and
began killing chickens.  I helped her catch them.  They were so
used to me they would come right to my feet when I shelled corn.

"I'm going to kill three," said Sally.  "I'm going to be sure we
have enough, but don't you tell until their heads are off."

While she was working on them mother came out and asked how many
she had, so Sally said three.  Mother counted us and said that
wasn't enough; there would have to be four at least.

After she was gone Sally looked at me and said:  "Well, for
land's sake!"

It was so funny she had to laugh, and by the time I caught the
fourth one, and began helping pick them, she was over being
provoked and we had lots of fun.

The minute I saw Peter Dover he made me think of something.  I
rode his horse to the barn with Leon leading it.  There we saw
Laddie.

"Guess what!" I cried.

"Never could!" laughed Laddie, giving Peter Dover's horse a slap
as it passed him on the way to a stall.

"Four chickens, ham, biscuit, and cake!" I announced.

"Is it a barbecue?" asked Laddie.

"No, the extra one is for the baby," said Leon.  "Squally little
runt, I call it."

"It's a nice baby!" said Laddie.

"What do you know about it?" demanded Leon.

"Well, considering that I started with you, and have brought up
two others since, I am schooled in all there is to know," said
Laddie.

"Guess what else!" I cried.

"More?" said Laddie.  "Out with it!  Don't kill me with
suspense."

"Father is going to town Saturday to meet the new teacher and she
will stay at our house as usual."

Leon yelled and fell back in a manger, while Laddie held harness
oil to his nose.

"More!" cried Leon, grabbing the bottle.

"Are you sure?" asked Laddie of me earnestly.

"It's decided.  Mother said so," I told him.

"Name of a black cat, why?" demanded Laddie.

"Mother said we were most convenient for the teacher."

"Aren't there enough of us?" asked Leon, straightening up
sniffing harness oil as if his life depended on it.

"Any unprejudiced person would probably say so to look in," said
Laddie.

"I'll bet she'll be sixty and a cat," said Leon.  "Won't I have
fun with her?"

"Maybe so, maybe not!" said Laddie.  "You can't always tell, for
sure.  Remember your Alamo!  You were going to have fun with the
teacher last year, but she had it with you."

Leon threw the oil bottle at him.  Laddie caught it and set it on
the shelf.

"I don't understand," said Leon.

"I do," said Laddie dryly.  "THIS is one reason."  He hit Peter
Dover's horse another slap.

"Maybe yes," said Leon.

"Shelley to music school, two."

"Yes," said Leon.  "Peter Dovers are the greatest expense, and
Peter won't happen but once.  Shelley will have at least two
years in school before it is her turn, and you come next,
anyway."

"Shut up!" cried Laddie.

"Thanky!  Your orders shall be obeyed gladly."

He laid down the pitchfork, went outside, closed the door, and
latched it.  Laddie called to him, but he ran to the house.  When
Laddie and I finished our work, and his, and wanted to go, we had
to climb the stairs and leave through the front door on the
embankment.

"The monkey!" said Laddie, but he didn't get mad; he just
laughed.

The minute I stepped into the house and saw the parlour door
closed, I thought of that "something" again.  I walked past it,
but couldn't hear anything.  Of course mother wanted to know; and
she would be very thankful to me if I could tell her.  I went out
the front door, and thought deeply on the situation.  The windows
were wide open, but I was far below them and I could only hear a
sort of murmur.  Why can't people speak up loud and plain,
anyway?  Of course they would sit on the big haircloth sofa. 
Didn't Leon call it the "sparking bench"?  The hemlock tree would
be best.  I climbed quieter than a cat, for they break bark and
make an awful scratching with their claws sometimes; my bare feet
were soundless.  Up and up I went, slowly, for it was dreadfully
rough.  They were not on the sofa.  I could see plainly through
the needles.  Then I saw the spruce would have been better, for
they were standing in front of the parlour door and Peter had one
hand on the knob.  His other arm was around my sister Sally. 
Breathlessly I leaned as far as I could, and watched.

"Father said he'd give me the money to buy a half interest, and
furnish a house nicely, if you said `yes,' Sally," said Peter.

Sally leaned back all pinksome and blushful, and while she
laughed at him she

            "Carelessly tossed off a curl
             That played on her delicate brow."

exactly like Mary Dow in McGuffey's Third.

"Well, what did I SAY?" she asked.

"Come to think of it, you didn't say anything."

Sally's face was all afire with dancing lights, and she laughed
the gayest little laugh.

"Are you so very sure of that, Peter?" she said.

"I'm not sure of anything," said Peter, "except that I am so
happy I could fly."

"Try it, fool!" I said to myself, deep in my throat.

Sally laughed again, and Peter took his other hand from the door
and put that arm around Sally too, and he drew her to him and
kissed her, the longest, hardest kiss I ever saw.  I let go and
rolled, tumbled, slid, and scratched down the hemlock tree,
dropped from the last branch to the ground, and scampered around
the house.  I reached the dining-room door when every one was
gathering for supper.

"Mother!" I cried.  "Mother!  Yes!  They're engaged!  He's
kissing her, mother!  Yes, Lucy, they're engaged!"

I rushed in to tell all of them what they would be glad to know,
and if there didn't stand Peter and Sally!  How they ever got
through that door, and across the sitting-room before me, I don't
understand.  Sally made a dive at me, and I was so astonished I
forgot to run, so she caught me.  She started for the wood house
with me, and mother followed.  Sally turned at the door and she
was the whitest of anything you ever saw.

"This is my affair," she said.  "I'll attend to this young lady."

"Very well," said mother, and as I live she turned and left me to
my sad fate, as it says in a story book we have.  I wish when
people are going to punish me, they'd take a switch and strike
respectably, like mother does.  This thing of having some one get
all over me, and not having an idea where I'm going to be hit, is
the worst punishment that I ever had.  I'd been down the hill and
up the hemlock that day, anyway.  I'd always been told Sally
didn't want me.  She PROVED it right then.  Finally she quit,
because she was too tired to strike again, so I crept among the
shavings on the work bench and went to sleep.  I THOUGHT they
would like to know, and that I was going to please them.

Anyway, they found out, for by the time Sally got back Peter had
told them about the store, and the furnished house, and asked
father for Sally right before all of them, which father said was
pretty brave; but Peter knew it was all right or he couldn't have
come like he'd been doing.

After that, you couldn't hear anything at our house but wedding. 
Sally's share of linen and bedding was all finished long ago. 
Father took her to Fort Wayne on the cars to buy her wedding,
travelling, and working dresses, and her hat, cloak, and linen,
like you have when you marry.

It was strange that Sally didn't want mother to go, but she said
the trip would tire her too much.  Mother said it was because
Sally could coax more dresses from father.  Anyway, mother told
him to set a limit and stick to it.  She said she knew he hadn't
done it as she got the first glimpse of Sally's face when they
came back, but the child looked so beautiful and happy she hadn't
the heart to spoil her pleasure.

The next day a sewing woman came; and all of them were shut up in
the sitting-room, while the sewing machine just whizzed on the
working dresses.  Sally said the wedding dress had to be made by
hand.  She kept the room locked, and every new thing that they
made was laid away on the bed in the parlour bedroom, and none of
us had a peep until everything was finished.  It was awfully
exciting, but I wouldn't pretend I cared, because I was huffy at
her.  I told her I wouldn't kiss her goodbye, and I'd be GLAD
when she was gone.

Sally said the school-ma'am simply had to go to Winters', or some
place else, but mother said possibly a stranger would have some
ideas, and know some new styles, so Sally then thought maybe they
had better try it a few days, and she could have her place and be
company when she and Shelley left.  Shelley was rather silent and
blue, and before long I found her crying, because mother had told
her she couldn't start for Chicago until after the wedding, and
that would make her miss six weeks at the start.

Next day word was sent around that school was to begin the coming
Monday; so Saturday afternoon the people who had children large
enough to go sent the biggest of them to clean the schoolhouse. 
May, Leon, and I went to do our share.  Just when there were
about a bushel of nut shells, and withered apple cores, and inky
paper on the floor, the blackboard half cleaned, and ashes
trailed deep between the stove and the window Billy Wilson was
throwing them from, some one shouted:  "There comes Mr. Stanton
with Her."

All of us dropped everything and ran to the south windows.  I
tell you I was proud of our big white team as it came prancing
down the hill, and the gleaming patent leather trimmings, and the
brass side lamps shining in the sun.  Father sat very straight,
driving rather fast, as if he would as lief get it over with, and
instead of riding on the back seat, where mother always sat, the
teacher was in front beside him, and she seemed to be talking
constantly.  We looked at each other and groaned when father
stopped at the hitching post and got out.  If we had tried to see
what a dreadful muss we could make, things could have looked no
worse.  I think father told her to wait in the carriage, but we
heard her cry:  "Oh Mr. Stanton, let me see the dear children I'm
to teach, and where I'm to work."

Hopped is the word.  She hopped from the carriage and came
hopping after father.  She was as tall as a clothes prop and
scarcely as fat.  There were gray hairs coming on her temples. 
Her face was sallow and wrinkled, and she had faded, pale-blue
eyes.  Her dress was like my mother had worn several years
before, in style, and of stiff gray stuff.  She made me feel that
no one wanted her at home, and probably that was the reason she
had come so far away.

Every one stood dumb.  Mother always went to meet people and May
was old enough to know it.  She went, but she looked exactly as
she does when the wafer bursts and the quinine gets in her mouth,
and she doesn't dare spit it out, because it costs five dollars a
bottle, and it's going to do her good.  Father introduced May and
some of the older children, and May helped him with the others,
and then he told us to "dig in and work like troopers," and he
would take Miss Pollard on home.

"Oh do let me remain and help the dear children!" she cried.

"We can finish!" we answered in full chorus.

"How lovely of you!" she chirped.

Chirp makes you think of a bird; and in speech and manner Miss
Amelia Pollard was the most birdlike of any human being I ever
have seen.  She hopped from the step to the walk, turned to us,
her head on one side, playfulness in the air around her, and
shook her finger at us.

"Be extremely particular that you leave things immaculate at the
consummation of your labour," she said.  "`Remember that
cleanliness is next to Godliness!'"

"Two terms of that!" gasped Leon, sinking on the stove hearth. 
"Behold Job mourning as close the ashes as he can."

Billy Wilson had the top lid off, so he reached down and got a
big handful of ashes and sifted them over Leon.  But it's no fun
to do anything like that to him; he only sank in a more dejected
heap, and moaned:  "Send for Bildad and Zophar to comfort me, and
more ashes, please."

"Why does the little feathered dear touch earth at all?  Why
doesn't she fly?" demanded Silas Shaw.

"I'm going to get a hundred wads ready for Monday," said Jimmy
Hood.  "We can shoot them when we please."

"Bet ten cents you can't hit her," said Billy Wilson.  "There
ain't enough of her for a decent mark."

"Let's quit and go home," proposed Leon.  "This will look worse
than it does now by Monday night."

Then every one began talking at once.  Suddenly May seized the
poker and began pounding on the top of the stove for order.

"We must clean this up," she said.  "We might as well finish. 
Maybe you'll shoot wads and do what you please, and maybe you
won't.  Her eyes went around like a cat that smells mice.  If she
can spell the language she uses, she is the best we've ever had."

That made us blink, and I never forgot it.  Many times afterward
while listening to people talk, I wondered if they could spell
the words they used.

"Well, come on, then!" said Leon.  He seized the broom and handed
it to Billy Wilson, quoting as he did so, "Work, work, my boy, be
not afraid"; and he told Silas Shaw as he gave him the mop, to
"Look labour boldly in the face!" but he never did a thing
himself, except to keep every one laughing.

So we cleaned up as well as we could, and Leon strutted like
Bobby, because he locked the door and carried the key.  When we
reached home I was sorry I hadn't gone with father, so I could
have seen mother, Sally, Candace, and Laddie when first they met
the new teacher.  The shock showed yet!  Miss Amelia had taken
off her smothery woollen dress and put on a black calico, but it
wasn't any more cheerful.  She didn't know what to do, and you
could see plainly that no one knew what to do with her, so they
united in sending me to show her the place.  I asked her what she
would like most to see, and she said everything was so charming
she couldn't decide.  I thought if she had no more choice than
that, one place would do as well as another, so I started for the
orchard.  Quick as we got there, I knew what to do.  I led her
straight to our best cling peach tree, told her to climb on the
fence so she could reach easily, and eat all she chose.  We
didn't dare shake the tree, because the pigs ran on the other
side of the fence, and they chanked up every peach that fell
there.  Those peaches were too good to feed even father's finest
Berkshires.

By the time Miss Amelia had eaten nine or ten, she was so happy
to think she was there, she quit tilting her head and using big
words.  Of course she couldn't know how I loved to hear them, and
maybe she thought I wouldn't know what they meant, and that they
would be wasted on me.  If she had understood how much spelling
and defining I'd heard in my life, I guess she might have talked
up as big as she could, and still I'd have got most of it.  When
she reached the place where she ate more slowly, she began to
talk.  She must have asked me most a hundred questions.  What all
our names were, how old we were, if our girls had lots of beaus,
and if there were many men in the neighbourhood, and dozens of
things my mother never asked any one.  She always inquired if
people were well, if their crops were growing, how much fruit
they had, and how near their quilts were finished.

I told her all about Sally and the wedding, because no one cared
who knew it, after I had been pounded to mince-meat for telling. 
She asked if Shelley had any beaus, and I said there wasn't any
one who came like Peter, but every man in the neighbourhood
wanted to be her beau.  Then she asked about Laddie, and I was
taking no risks, so I said:  "I only see him at home.  I don't
know where he goes when he's away.  You'll have to ask him."

"Oh, I never would dare," she said.  "But he must.  He is so
handsome!  The girls would just compel him to go to see them."

"Not if he didn't want to go," I said.

"You must never, never tell him I said so, but I do think he is
the handsomest man I ever saw."

"So do I," I said, "and it wouldn't make any difference if I told
him."

"Then do you mean you're going to tell him my foolish remark?"
she giggled.

"No use," I said.  "He knows it now.  Every time he parts his
hair he sees how good looking he is.  He doesn't care.  He says
the only thing that counts with a man is to be big, strong,
manly, and well educated."

"Is he well educated?"

"Yes, I think so, as far as he's gone," I answered.  "Of course
he will go on being educated every day of his life, same as
father.  He says it is all rot about `finishing' your education. 
You never do.  You learn more important things each day, and by
the time you are old enough to die, you have almost enough sense
to know how to live comfortably.  Pity, isn't it?"

"Yes," said Miss Amelia, "it's an awful pity, but it's the truth.

Is your mother being educated too?"

"Whole family," I said.  "We learn all the time, mother most of
any, because father always looks out for her.  You see, it takes
so much of her time to manage the house, and sew, and knit, and
darn, that she can't study so much as the others; so father reads
all the books to her, and tells her about everything he finds
out, and so do all of us.  Just ask her if you think she doesn't
know things."

"I wouldn't know what to ask," said Miss Amelia.

"Ask how long it took to make this world, who invented printing,
where English was first spoken, why Greeley changed his politics,
how to make bluebell perfumery, cut out a dress, or cure a baby
of worms.  Just ask her!"

Miss Amelia threw a peach stone through a fence crack and hit a
pig.  It was a pretty neat shot.

"I don't need ask any of that," she said scornfully.  "I know all
of it now."

"All right!  What is best for worms?" I asked.

"Jayne's vermifuge," said Miss Amelia.

"Wrong!" I cried.  "That's a patent medicine.  Tea made from male
fern root is best, because there's no morphine in it!"

The supper bell rang and I was glad of it.  Peaches are not very
filling after all, for I couldn't see but that Miss Amelia ate as
much as any of us.  For a few minutes every one was slow in
speaking, then mother asked about cleaning the schoolhouse,
Laddie had something to explain to father about corn mould, Sally
and the dressmaker talked about pipings--not a bird--a new way to
fold goods to make trimmings, and soon everything was going on
the same as if the new teacher were not there.  I noticed that
she kept her head straight, and was not nearly so glib-tongued
and birdlike before mother and Sally as she had been at the
schoolhouse.  Maybe that was why father told mother that night
that the new teacher would bear acquaintance.

Sunday was like every other Sabbath, except that I felt so sad
all day I could have cried, but I was not going to do it.  Seemed
as if I never could put on shoes, and so many clothes Monday
morning, quite like church, and be shut in a room for hours, to
try to learn what was in books, when the world was running over
with things to find out where you could have your feet in water,
leaves in your hair, and little living creatures in your hands. 
In the afternoon Miss Amelia asked Laddie to take her for a walk
to see the creek, and the barn, and he couldn't escape.

I suppose our barn was exactly like hundreds of others.  It was
built against an embankment so that on one side you could drive
right on the threshing floor with big loads of grain.  On the
sunny side in the lower part were the sheep pens, cattle stalls,
and horse mangers.  It was always half bursting with overflowing
grain bins and haylofts in the fall; the swallows twittered under
the roof until time to go south for winter, as they sailed from
the ventilators to their nests plastered against the rafters or
eaves.  The big swinging doors front and back could be opened to
let the wind blow through in a strong draft.  From the east doors
you could see for miles across the country.

I said our barn was like others, but it was not.  There was not
another like it in the whole world.  Father, the boys, and the
hired men always kept it cleaned and in proper shape every day. 
The upper floor was as neat as some women's houses.  It was
swept, the sun shone in, the winds drifted through, the odours of
drying hay and grain were heavy, and from the top of the natural
little hill against which it stood you could see for miles in all
directions.

The barn was our great playhouse on Sundays.  It was clean there,
we were where we could be called when wanted, and we liked to
climb the ladders to the top of the haymows, walk the beams to
the granaries, and jump to the hay.  One day May came down on a
snake that had been brought in with a load.  I can hear her yell
now, and it made her so frantic she's been killing them ever
since.  It was only a harmless little garter snake, but she was
so surprised.

Miss Amelia held her head very much on one side all the time she
walked with Laddie, and she was so birdlike Leon slipped him a
brick and told him to have her hold it to keep her down.  Seemed
as if she might fly any minute.  She thought our barn was the
nicest she ever had seen and the cleanest.  When Laddie opened
the doors on the east side, and she could see the big, red,
yellow, and green apples thick as leaves on the trees in the
orchard, the lane, the woods pasture, and the meadow with
scattering trees, two running springs, and the meeting of the
creeks, she said it was the loveliest sight she ever saw--I mean
beheld.  Laddie liked that, so he told her about the beautiful
town, and the lake, and the Wabash River, that our creek emptied
into, and how people came from other states and big cities and
stayed all summer to fish, row, swim, and have good times.

She asked him to take her to the meadow, but he excused himself,
because he had an engagement.  So she stood in the door, and
watched him saddle Flos and start to the house to dress in his
riding clothes.  After that she didn't care a thing about the
meadow, so we went back.

Our house looked as if we had a party. We were all dressed in our
best, and every one was out in the yard, garden, or orchard. 
Peter and Sally were under the big pearmain apple tree at the
foot of the orchard, Shelley and a half dozen beaus were
everywhere.  May had her spelling book in one hand and was in my
big catalpa talking to Billy Stevens, who was going to be her
beau as soon as mother said she was old enough.  Father was
reading a wonderful new book to mother and some of the
neighbours.  Leon was perfectly happy because no one wanted him,
so he could tease all of them by saying things they didn't like
to hear.  When Laddie came out and mounted, Leon asked him where
he was going, and Laddie said he hadn't fully decided: he might
ride to Elizabeth's, and not come back until Monday morning.

"You think you're pretty slick," said Leon.  "But if we could see
north to the cross road we could watch you turn west, and go past
Pryors to show yourself off, or try to find the Princess on the
road walking or riding.  I know something I'm saving to tell next
time you get smart, Mr. Laddie."

Laddie seemed annoyed and no one was quicker to see it than Leon.

Instantly he jumped on the horse block, pulled down his face long
as he could, stretched his hands toward Laddie, and making his
voice all wavery and tremulous, he began reciting from "Lochiel's
Warning," in tones of agonizing pleading:

            "Laddie, Laddie, beware of the day!
             For, dark and despairing, my sight, I may seal,
             But man cannot cover what God would reveal;
             'Tis the sunset of life gives me mystical lore,
             And coming events cast their shadows before."


That scared me.  I begged Leon to tell, but he wouldn't say a
word more.  He went and talked to Miss Amelia as friendly as you
please, and asked her to take a walk in the orchard and get some
peaches, and she went flying.  He got her all she could carry and
guided her to Peter and Sally, introduced her to Peter, and then
slipped away and left her.  Then he and Sally couldn't talk about
their wedding, and Peter couldn't squeeze her hand, and she 
couldn't fix his tie, and it was awful.  Shelley and her boys
almost laughed themselves sick over it, and then she cried, "To
the rescue!" and started, so they followed.  They captured Miss
Amelia and brought her back, and left her with father and the
wonderful book, but I'm sure she liked the orchard better.

I took Grace Greenwood under my arm, Hezekiah on my shoulder, and
with Bobby at my heels went away.  I didn't want my hair pulled,
or to be teased that day.  There was such a hardness around my
heart, and such a lump in my throat, that I didn't care what
happened to me one minute, and the next I knew I'd slap any one
who teased me, if I were sent to bed for it.  As I went down the
lane Peter called to me to come and see him, but I knew exactly
how he looked, and didn't propose to make up.  There was not any
sense in Sally clawing me all over, when I only tried to help
mother and Lucy find out what they wanted to know so badly.  I
went down the hill, crossed the creek on the stepping-stones, and
followed the cowpath into the woods pasture.  It ran beside the
creek bank through the spice thicket and blackberry patches,
under pawpaw groves, and beneath giant oaks and elms.  Just where
the creek turned at the open pasture, below the church and
cemetery, right at the deep bend, stood the biggest white oak
father owned.  It was about a tree exactly like this that an
Englishman wrote a beautiful poem in McGuffey's Sixth, that
begins:

            "A song to the oak, the brave old oak,
             Who hath ruled in the greenwood long;
             Here's health and renown to his broad green crown,
             And his fifty arms so strong."


I knew it was the same, because I counted the arms time and
again, and there were exactly fifty.  There was a pawpaw and
spice hedge around three sides of this one, and water on the
other.  Wild grapes climbed from the bushes to the lower branches
and trailed back to earth again.  Here, I had two secrets I
didn't propose to tell.  One was that in the crotch of some
tiptop branches the biggest chicken hawks you ever saw had their
nest, and if they took too many chickens father said they'd have
to be frightened a little with a gun.  I can't begin to tell how
I loved those hawks.  They did the one thing I wanted to most,
and never could.  When I saw them serenely soar above the lowest
of the soft fleecy September clouds, I was wild with envy.  I
would have gone without chicken myself rather than have seen one
of those splendid big brown birds dropped from the skies.  I was
so careful to shield them, that I selected this for my especial
retreat when I wanted most to be alone, and I carefully gathered
up any offal from the nest that might point out their location,
and threw it into the water where it ran the swiftest.

I parted the vines and crept where the roots of the big oak
stretched like bony fingers over the water, that was slowly
eating under it and baring its roots.  I sat on them above the
water and thought.  I had decided the day before about my going
to school, and the day before that, and many, many times before
that, and here I was having to settle it all over again.  Doubled
on the sak roots, a troubled little soul, I settled it once more.

No books or teachers were needed to tell me about flowing water
and fish, how hawks raised their broods and kept house, about the
softly cooing doves of the spice thickets, the cuckoos slipping
snakelike in and out of the wild crab-apple bushes, or the brown
thrush's weird call from the thorn bush.  I knew what they said
and did, but their names, where they came from, where they went
when the wind blew and the snow fell--how was I going to find out
that?  Worse yet were the flowers, butterflies, and moths; they
were mysteries past learning alone, and while the names I made up
for them were pretty and suitable, I knew in all reason they
wouldn't be the same in the books.  I had to go, but no one will
ever know what it cost.  When the supper bell rang, I sat still. 
I'd have to wait until at least two tables had been served,
anyway, so I sat there and nursed my misery, looked and listened,
and by and by I felt better.  I couldn't see or hear a thing that
was standing still.  Father said even the rocks grew larger year
by year.  The trees were getting bigger, the birds were busy, and
the creek was in a dreadful hurry to reach the river.  It was
like that poetry piece that says:

            "When a playful brook, you gambolled,"

(Mostly that gambolled word is said about lambs)

                "And the sunshine o'er you smiled,
            On your banks did children loiter,
                 Looking for the spring flowers wild?"


The creek was more in earnest and working harder at pushing
steadily ahead without ever stopping than anything else; and like
the poetry piece again, it really did "seem to smile upon us as
it quickly passed us by."  I had to quit playing, and go to work
some time; it made me sorry to think how behind I was, because I
had not started two years before, when I should.  But that
couldn't be helped now.  All there was left was to go this time,
for sure.  I got up heavily and slowly as an old person, and then
slipped out and ran down the path to the meadow, because I could
hear Leon whistle as he came to bring the cows.

By fast running I could start them home for him:  Rose, Brindle,
Bess, and Pidy, Sukey and Muley; they had eaten all day, but they
still snatched bites as they went toward the gate.  I wanted to
surprise Leon and I did.

"Getting good, ain't you?" he asked.  "What do you want?"

"Nothing!" I said.  "I just heard you coming and I thought I'd
help you."

"Where were you?"

"Playing."

"You don't look as if you'd been having much fun."

"I don't expect ever to have any, after I begin school."

"Oh!" said Leon.  "It is kind of tough the first day or two, but
you'll soon get over it.  You should have behaved yourself, and
gone when they started you two years ago."

"Think I don't know it?"

Leon stopped and looked at me sharply.

"I'll help you nights, if you want me to," he offered.

"Can I ever learn?" I asked, almost ready to cry.

"Of course you can," said Leon.  "You're smart as the others, I
suppose.  The sevens and nines of the multiplication table are
the stickers, but you ought to do them if other girls can.  You
needn't feel bad because you are behind a little to start on; you
are just that much better prepared to work, and you can soon
overtake them.  You know a lot none of the rest of us do, and
some day it will come your turn to show off.  Cheer up, you'll be
all right."

Men are such a comfort.  I pressed closer for more.

"Do you suppose I will?" I asked.

"Of course," said Leon.  "Any minute the woods, or birds, or
flowers are mentioned your time will come; and all of us will
hear you read and help nights.  I'd just as soon as not."

That was the most surprising thing.  He never offered to help me
before.  He never acted as if he cared what became of me.  Maybe
it was because Laddie always had taken such good care of me, Leon
had no chance.  He seemed willing enough now.  I looked at him
closely.

"You'll find out I'll learn things if I try," I boasted.  "And
you will find out I don't tell secrets either."

"I've been waiting for you to pipe up about----"

"Well, I haven't piped, have I?"

"Not yet."

"I am not going to either."

"I almost believe you.  A girl you could trust would be a funny
thing to see."

"Tell me what you know about Laddie, and see if I'm funny."

"You'd telltale sure as life!"

"Well, if you know it, he knows it anyway."

"He doesn't know WHAT I know."

"Well, be careful and don't worry mother.  You know how she is
since the fever, and father says all of us must think of her.  If
it's anything that would bother her, don't tell before her."

"Say, looky here," said Leon, turning on me sharply, "is all this
sudden consideration for mother or are you legging for Laddie?"

"For both," I answered stoutly.

"Mostly for Laddie, just the same.  You can't fool me, missy.  I
won't tell you one word."

"You needn't!" I answered, "I don't care!"

"Yes you do," he said.  "You'd give anything to find out what I
know, and then run to Laddie with it, but you can't fool me.  I'm
too smart for you."

"All right," I said.  "You go and tell anything on Laddie, and
I'll watch you, and first trick I catch you at, I'll do some
telling myself, Smarty."

"That's a game more than one can play at," said Leon.  "Go
ahead!"



CHAPTER V

The First Day of School

                "Birds in their little nests agree.
                 And why can't we?"

B-i-r-d-s, birds, i-n, in, t-h-e-i-r, their, l-i-t-t-l-e, little,
n-e-s-t-s, nests, a-g-r-e-e, agree."

My feet burned in my new shoes, but most of my body was chilling
as I stood beside Miss Amelia on the platform, before the whole
school, and followed the point of her pencil, while, a letter at
a time, I spelled aloud my first sentence.  Nothing ever had
happened to me as bad as that.  I was not used to so much
clothing.  It was like taking a colt from the woods pasture and
putting it into harness for the first time.  That lovely
September morning I followed Leon and May down the dusty road, my
heart sick with dread.

May was so much smaller that I could have picked her up and
carried her.  She was a gentle, loving little thing, until some
one went too far, and then they got what they deserved, all at
once and right away.

Many of the pupils were waiting before the church.  Leon climbed
the steps, made a deep bow, waved toward the school building
across the way, and what he intended to say was, "Still sits the
schoolhouse by the road," but he was a little excited and the s's
doubled his tongue, so that we heard:  "Shill stits the
schoolhouse by the road."  We just yelled and I forgot a little
about myself.

When Miss Amelia came to the door and rang the bell, May must
have remembered something of how her first day felt, for as we
reached the steps she waited for me, took me in with her, and
found me a seat.  If she had not, I'm quite sure I'd have run
away and fought until they left me in freedom, as I had two years
before.  All forenoon I had shivered in my seat, while classes
were arranged, and the elder pupils were started on their work;
then Miss Amelia called me to her on the platform and tried to
find out how much schooling I had.  I was ashamed that I knew so
little, but there was no sense in her making me spell after a
pencil, like a baby.  I'd never seen the book she picked up.  I
could read the line she pointed to, and I told her so, but she
said to spell the words; so I thought she had to be obeyed, for
one poetry piece I know says:

            "Quickly speed your steps to school
             And there mind your teacher's rule."


I can see Miss Amelia to-day.  Her pale face was lined deeper
than ever, her drab hair was dragged back tighter.  She wore a
black calico dress with white huckleberries, and a white calico
apron figured in large black apples, each having a stem and two
leaves.  In dress she was a fruitful person.  She had been a
surprise to all of us.  Chipper as a sparrow, she had hopped, and
chattered, and darted here and there, until the hour of opening. 
Then in the stress of arranging classes and getting started, all
her birdlike ways slipped from her.  Stern and bony she stood
before us, and with a cold light in her pale eyes, she began
business in a manner that made Johnny Hood forget all about his
paper wads, and Leon commenced studying like a good boy, and
never even tried to have fun with her.  Every one was so
surprised you could notice it, except May, and she looked, "I
told you so!" even in the back.  She had a way of doing that very
thing as I never saw any one else.  From the set of her head, how
she carried her shoulders, the stiffness of her spine, and her
manner of walking, if you knew her well, you could tell what she
thought, the same as if you saw her face.

I followed that pencil point and in a husky voice repeated the
letters.  I could see Tillie Baher laughing at me from behind her
geography, and every one else had stopped what they were doing to
watch and listen, so I forgot to be thankful that I even knew my
a b c's.  I spelled through the sentence, pronounced the words
and repeated them without much thought as to the meaning; at that
moment it didn't occur to me that she had chosen the lesson
because father had told her how I made friends with the birds. 
The night before he had been putting me through memory tests, and
I had recited poem after poem, even long ones in the Sixth
Reader, and never made one mistake when the piece was about
birds.  At our house, we heard next day's lessons for all ages
gone over every night so often, that we couldn't help knowing
them by heart, if we had any brains at all, and I just loved to
get the big folk's readers and learn the bird pieces.  Father had
been telling her about it, so for that reason she thought she
would start me on the birds, but I'm sure she made me spell after
a pencil point, like a baby, on purpose to shame me, because I
was two years behind the others who were near my age.  As I
repeated the line Miss Amelia thought she saw her chance.  She
sprang to her feet, tripped a few steps toward the centre of the
platform, and cried:  "Classes, attention!  Our Youngest Pupil
has just completed her first sentence.  This sentence contains a
Thought.  It is a wonderfully beautiful Thought.  A Thought that
suggests a great moral lesson for each of us.  `Birrrds--in their
little nests--agreeee.'"

Never have I heard cooing sweetness to equal the melting tones in
which Miss Amelia drawled those words.  Then she continued, after
a good long pause in order to give us time to allow the "Thought"
to sink in:  "There is a lesson in this for all of us.  We are
here in our schoolroom, like little birds in their nest.  Now how
charming it would be if all of us would follow the example of the
birds, and at our work, and in our play, agreeee--be kind,
loving, and considerate of each other.  Let us all remember
always this wonderful truth:  `Birrrrds--in their little nests--
agreeeee!'"

In three steps I laid hold of her apron.  Only last night Leon
had said it would come, yet whoever would have thought that I'd
get a chance like this, so soon.

"Ho but they don't!" I cried.  "They fight like anything!  Every
day they make the feathers fly!"

In a backward stroke Miss Amelia's fingers, big and bony, struck
my cheek a blow that nearly upset me.  A red wave crossed her
face, and her eyes snapped.  I never had been so surprised in all
my life.  I was only going to tell her the truth.  What she had
said was altogether false.  Ever since I could remember I had
watched courting male birds fight all over the farm.  After a
couple had paired, and were nest building, the father always
drove every other bird from his location.  In building I had seen
him pecked for trying to place a twig.  I had seen that happen
again for merely offering food to the mother, if she didn't
happen to be hungry, or for trying to make love to her when she
was brooding.  If a young bird failed to get the bite it wanted,
it sometimes grabbed one of its nestmates by the bill, or the eye
even, and tried to swallow it whole.  Always the oldest and
strongest climbed on top of the youngest and fooled his mammy
into feeding him most by having his head highest, his mouth
widest, and begging loudest.  There could be no mistake.  I was
so amazed I forgot the blow, as I stared at the fool woman.

"I don't see why you slap me!" I cried.  "It's the truth!  Lots
of times old birds pull out bunches of feathers fighting, and
young ones in the nests bite each other until they squeal."

Miss Amelia caught my shoulders and shook me as hard as she
could; and she proved to be stronger than you ever would have
thought to look at her.

"Take your seat!" she cried.  "You are a rude, untrained child!"

"They do fight!" I insisted, as I held my head high and walked to
my desk.

Leon laughed out loud, and that made everyone else.  Miss Amelia
had so much to do for a few minutes that she forgot me, and I
know now why Leon started it, at least partly.  He said afterward
it was the funniest sight he ever saw.  My cheek smarted and
burned.  I could scarcely keep from feeling to learn whether it
were swelling, but I wouldn't have shed a tear or raised my hand
for anything you could offer.

Recess was coming and I didn't know what to do.  If I went to the
playground, all of them would tease me; and if I sat at my desk
Miss Amelia would have another chance at me.  That was too much
to risk, so I followed the others outdoors, and oh joy! there
came Laddie down the road.  He set me on one of the posts of the
hitching rack before the church, and with my arms around his
neck, I sobbed out the whole story.

"She didn't understand," said Laddie quietly.  "You stay here
until I come back.  I'll go explain to her about the birds. 
Perhaps she hasn't watched them as closely as you have."

Recess was over before he returned.  He had wet his handkerchief
at the water bucket, and now he bathed my face and eyes,
straightened my hair with his pocket comb, and began unlacing my
shoes.

"What are you going to do?" I asked.  "I must wear them.  All the
girls do.  Only the boys are barefoot."

"You are excused," answered Laddie.  "Three-fourths of the day is
enough to begin on.  Miss Amelia says you may come with me."

"Where are you going?"

Laddie was stripping off my stockings as he looked into my eyes,
and smiled a peculiar little smile.

"Oh Laddie!" I cried.  "Will you take me?  Honest!"

He laughed again and then he rubbed my feet.

"Poor abused feet," he said.  "Sometimes I wish shoes had never
been invented."

"They feel pretty good when there's ice."

"So they do!" said Laddie.

He swung me to the ground, and we crossed the road, climbed the
fence, and in a minute our redbird swamp shut the schoolhouse and
cross old Miss Amelia from sight.  Then we turned and started
straight toward our Big Woods.  I could scarcely keep on the
ground.

"How are the others getting along?" asked Laddie.

"She's cross as two sticks," I told him.  "Johnny Hood hasn't
shot one paper wad, and Leon hadn't done a thing until he laughed
about the birds, and I guess he did that to make her forget me."

"Good!" cried Laddie.  "I didn't suppose the boy thought that
far."

"Oh, you never can tell by looking at him, how far Leon is
thinking," I said.

"That's so, too," said Laddie.  "Are your feet comfortable now?"

"Yes, but Laddie, isn't my face marked?"

"I'm afraid it is a little," said Laddie.  "We'll bathe it again
at the creek.  We must get it fixed so mother won't notice."

"What will the Princess think?"

"That you fell, perhaps," said Laddie.

"Do the tears show?"

"Not at all.  We washed them all away."

"Did I do wrong, Laddie?"

"Yes, I think you did."

"But it wasn't true, what she said."

"That's not the point."

We had reached the fence of the Big Woods.  He lifted me to the
top rail and explained, while I combed his waving hair with my
fingers.

"She didn't strike you because what you said was not so, for it
was.  She knew instantly you were right, if she knows anything at
all about outdoors.  This is what made her angry: it is her first
day.  She wanted to make a good impression on her pupils, to
arouse their interest, and awaken their respect.  When you spoke,
all of them knew you were right, and she was wrong; that made her
ridiculous.  Can't you see how it made her look and feel?"

"I didn't notice how she looked, but from the way she hit me, you
could tell she felt bad enough."

"She surely did," said Laddie, kissing my cheek softly.  "Poor
little woman!  What a world of things you have to learn!"

"Shouldn't I have told her how mistaken she was?"

"If you had gone to her alone, at recess or noon, or to-night,
probably she would have thanked you.  Then she could have
corrected herself at some convenient time and kept her dignity."

"Must I ask her pardon?"

"What you should do, is to put yourself in Miss Amelia's place
and try to understand how she felt.  Then if you think you
wouldn't have liked any one to do to you what you did to her,
you'll know."

I hugged Laddie tight and thought fast--there was no need to
think long to see how it was.

"I got to tell her I was wrong," I said.  "Now let's go to the
Enchanted Wood and see if we can find the Queen's daughter."

"All right!" said Laddie.

He leaped the fence, swung me over, and started toward the pawpaw
thicket.  He didn't do much going around.  He crashed through and
over; and soon he began whistling the loveliest little dancy
tune.  It made your head whirl, and your toes tingle, and you
knew it was singing that way in his heart, and he was just
letting out the music.  That was why it made you want to dance
and whirl; it was so alive.  But that wasn't the way in an
Enchanted Wood.  I pulled his hand.

"Laddie!" I cautioned, "keep in the path!  You'll step on the
Fairies and crush a whole band with one foot.  No wonder the
Queen makes her daughter grow big when she sends her to you.  If
you make so much noise, some one will hear you, then this won't
be a secret any more."

Laddie laughed, but he stepped carefully in the path after that,
and he said:  "There are times, Little Sister, when I don't care
whether this secret is secret another minute or not.  Secrets
don't agree with me.  I'm too big, and broad, and too much of a
man, to go creeping through the woods with a secret.  I prefer to
print it on a banner and ride up the road waving it."

"Like,--`A youth who bore mid snow and ice, A banner with a
strange device,'" I said.

"That would be `a banner with a strange device,'" laughest
Laddie.  "But, yes--something like!"

"Have you told the Princess?"

"I have!" Laddie fairly shouted it.

"Docs SHE like secrets?"

"No more than I do!"

"Then why----?"

"There you go!" said Laddie.  "Zeus, but the woman is beginning
to measle out all over you!  You know as well as any one that
there's something wrong at her house.  I don't know what it is; I
can't even make a sensible guess as yet, but it's worse than the
neighbours think.  It's a thing that has driven a family from
their home country, under a name that I have doubts about being
theirs, and sent them across an ocean, `strangers in a strange
land,' as it says in the Bible.  It's something that keeps a
cultured gentleman and scholar raging up and down the roads and
over the country like a madman.  It shuts a white-faced, lovely,
little woman from her neighbours, but I have passed her walking
the road at night with both hands pressed against her heart. 
Sometimes it tries the Princess past endurance and control; and
it has her so worn and tired struggling with it that she is
willing to carry another secret, rather than try to find strength
to do anything that would make more trouble for her father and
mother."

"Would it trouble them for her to know you, Laddie?"

"So long as they don't and won't become acquainted with me, or
any one, of course it would."

"Can't you force them to know you?"

"That I can!" said Laddie.  "But you see, I only met the Princess
a short time ago, and there would be no use in raising trouble,
unless she will make me her Knight!"

"But hasn't she, Laddie?"

"Not in the very littlest least," said Laddie.  "For all I know,
she is merely using me to help pass a lonely hour.  You see,
people reared in England have ideas of class, that two or three
generations spent here wash out.  The Princess and her family are
of the unwashed British.  Father's people have been here long
enough to judge a man on his own merits."

"You mean the Princess' family would think you're not good enough
to be her Knight?"

"Exactly!"

"And we know that our family thinks they are infidels, and wicked
people; and that if she would have you, mother would be sick in
bed over it.  Oh Laddie!"

"Precisely!"

"What are you going to do?"

"That I must find out."

"When it will make so much trouble, why not forget her, and go on
like you did before she came?  Then, all of us were happy.  Now,
it makes me shiver to think what will happen."

"Me too," said Laddie.  "But look here, Little Sister, right in
my face.  Will you ever forget the Princess?"

"Never!"

"Then how can you ask me to?"

"I didn't mean forget her, exactly.  I meant not come here and do
things that will make every one unhappy."

"One minute, Chick-a-Biddy," said Laddie.  Sometimes he called me
that, when he loved me the very most of all.  I don't believe any
one except me ever heard him do it.  "Let me ask you this: does
our father love our mother?"

"Love her?" I cried.  "Why he just loves her to death!  He turns
so white, and he suffers so, when her pain is the worst.  Love
her?  And she him?  Why, don't you remember the other day when he
tipped her head against him and kissed her throat as he left the
table; that he asked her if she `loved him yet,' and she said
right before all of us, `Why Paul, I love you, until I scarcely
can keep my fingers off you!'  Laddie, is it like that with you
and the Princess?"

"It is with me," said Laddie.  "Not with the Princess!  Now, can
I forget her?  Can I keep away from even the chance to pass her
on the road?"

"No," I said.  "No, you can't, Laddie.  But can you ever make her
love you?"

"It takes time to find that out," said Laddie.  "I have got to
try; so you be a woman and keep my secret a little while longer,
until I find a way out, but don't bother your head about it!"

"I can't help bothering my head, Laddie.  Can't you make her
understand that God is not a myth?"

"I'm none too sure what I believe myself," said Laddie.  "Not
that there is no God--I don't mean that--but I surely don't
believe all father's teachings."

"If you believe God, do other little things matter, Laddie?"

"I think not," said Laddie, "else Heaven would be all Methodists.

As for the Princess, all she has heard in her life has been
against there being a God.  Now, she is learning something on the
other side.  After a while she can judge for herself.  It is for
us, who profess to be a Christian family, to prove to her why we
believe in God, and what He does for us."

"Well, she would think He could do a good deal, if she knew how
mother hated asking her to come to our house; and yet she did it,
beautifully too, just to give her a chance to see that very
thing.  But I almost made her do it.  I don't believe she ever
would alone, Laddie, or at least not for a long time yet."

"I saw that, and understood it perfectly," said Laddie.  "Thank
you, Little Sister."  He picked me up and hugged me tight.  "If I
could only make you see!"

"But Laddie, I do!  I'm not a baby!  I know how people love and
make homes for themselves, like Sally and Peter are going to.  If
it is with you about the Princess as it is with father and
mother, why I do know."

"All right!  Here we are!" said Laddie.

He parted the willows and we stepped on the Magic Carpet, and
that minute the Magic worked.  I forgot every awful, solemn,
troublous thing we had been talking about, and looked around
while Laddie knelt and hunted for a letter, and there was none. 
That meant the Princess was coming, so we sat on the throne to
wait.  We hadn't remembered to bathe my cheek, we had been so
busy when we passed the water, and I doubt if we were thinking
much then.  We just waited.  The willow walls waved gently, the
moss carpet was spotted with little gold patches of sunlight, in
the shade a few of the red flowers still bloomed, and big, lazy
bumblebees hummed around them, or a hummingbird stood on air
before them.  A sort of golden throbbing filled the woods, and my
heart began to leap, why, I don't know; but I'm sure Laddie's did
too, for I looked at him and his eyes were shining as I never had
seen them before, while his cheeks were a little red, and he was
breathing like when you've been running; then suddenly his body
grew tense against mine, and that meant she was coming.

Like that first day, she came slowly through the woods, stopping
here and there to touch the trunk of a tree, put back a branch,
or bend over a flower face.  Brown as the wood floor was her
dress, and cardinal flowers blazed on her breast, and the same
colour showed on her cheeks and lips.  Her eyes were like
Laddie's for brightness, and she was breathing the same way.  I
thought sure there was going to be something to remember a
lifetime--I was so excited I couldn't stand still.  Before it
could happen Laddie went and said it was a "beautiful day," and
she said "it didn't show in the woods, but the pastures needed
rain."  Then she kissed me.  Well if I ever!  I sank on the
throne and sat there.  They went on talking like that, until it
was too dull to bear, so I slipped out and wandered away to see
what I could find.  When I grew tired and went back, Laddie was
sitting on the Magic Carpet with his back against the beech, and
the Princess was on the throne reading from a little book,
reading such interesting things that I decided to listen.  After
a while she came to this:

        "Thou are mated with a clown,
And the grossness of his nature, will have weight to bear thee
down."

Laddie threw back his head, and how he laughed!  The Princess put
down the book and looked at him so surprised.

"Are you reading that to me because you think it appropriate?"
asked Laddie.

"I am reading it because it is conceded to be one of the most
beautiful poems ever written," said the Princess.

"You knew when you began that you would come to those lines."

"I never even thought of such a thing."

"But you knew that is how your father would regard any
relationship, friendly or deeper, with me!"

"I cannot possibly be held responsible for what my father
thinks."

"It is natural that you should think alike."

"Not necessarily!  You told me recently that you didn't agree
with your father on many subjects."

"Kindly answer me this," said Laddie:  "Do you feel that I'm a
`clown' because I'm not schooled to the point on all questions of
good manners?  Do you find me gross because I plow and sow?"

"You surprise me," said the Princess.  "My consenting to know and
to spend a friendly hour with you here is sufficient answer.  I
have not found the slightest fault with your manners.  I have
seen no suspicion of `grossness' about you."

"Will you tell me, frankly, exactly what you do think of me?"

"Surely!  I think you are a clean, decent man, who occasionally
kindly consents to put a touch of human interest into an hour,
for a very lonely girl.  What has happened, Laddie?  This is not
like you."

Laddie sat straight and studied the beech branches.  Father said
beech trees didn't amount to much; but I first learned all about
them from that one, and what it taught me made me almost worship
them always.  There were the big trunk with great rough spreading
roots, the bark in little ridges in places, smooth purple gray
between, big lichens for ornament, the low flat branches, the
waxy, wavy-edged leaves, with clear veins, and the delicious nuts
in their little brown burrs.  The Princess and I both stared at
the branches and waited while a little breath of air stirred the
leaves, the sunshine flickered, and a cricket sang a sort of
lonesome song.  Laddie leaned against the tree again, and he was
thinking so hard, to look at him made me begin to repeat to
myself the beech part of that beautiful churchyard poem our big
folks recite:


            "There, at the foot of yonder nodding beech,
             That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high,
             His listless length at noontide he would stretch,
             And pore upon the brook that babbles by."


Only he was studying so deeply you could almost feel what was in
his mind, and it was not about the brook at all, even if one ran
close.  Soon he began talking.

"Not so bad!" he said.  "You might think worse.  I admit the
cleanliness, I strive for decency, I delight in being humanely
interesting, even for an hour; you might think worse, much worse!

You might consider me a `clown.'  `A country clod.'  Rather a
lowdown, common thing, a `clod,' don't you think?  And a `clown'!

And `gross' on top of that!"

"What can you mean?" asked the Princess.

"Since you don't seem to share the estimate of me, I believe I'll
tell you," said Laddie.  "The other day I was driving from the
gravel pit with a very heavy load.  The road was wide and level
on either side.  A man came toward me on horseback.  Now the law
of the road is to give half to a vehicle similar to the one you
are driving, but to keep all of it when you are heavily loaded,
if you are passing people afoot or horseback.  The man took half
the road, and kept it until the nose of his horse touched one of
the team I was driving.  I stopped and said:  `Good morning, sir!

Do you wish to speak with me?'  He called angrily:  `Get out of
my way, you clod!'  `Sorry sir, but I can't,' I said.  `The law
gives me this road when I am heavily loaded, and you are on foot
or horseback.'"

"What did he do?" asked the Princess.

And from the way she looked I just knew she guessed the man was
the same one I thought of.

"He raised his whip to strike my horse," said Laddie.

"Ah, surely!" said the Princess.  "Always an arm raised to
strike.  And you, Man?  What did you do?" she cried eagerly.

"I stood on my load, suddenly," said Laddie, "and I called: 
`Hold one minute!'"

"And he?" breathed the Princess.

"Something made him pause with his arm still raised.  I said to
him:  `You must not strike my horse.  It never has been struck,
and it can't defend itself.  If you want to come a few steps
farther and tackle me, come ahead!  I can take it or return it,
as I choose.'"

"Go on!" said the Princess.

"That's all," said Laddie, "or at least almost all."

"Did he strike?"

"He did not.  He stared at me a second, and then he rode around
me; but he was making forceful remarks as he passed about
`country clods,' and there was an interesting one about a `gross
clown.'  What you read made me think of it, that is all."

The Princess stared into the beech branches for a time and then
she said:  "I will ask your pardon for him.  He always had a
domineering temper, and trouble he had lately has almost driven
him mad; he is scarcely responsible at times.  I hesitate about
making him angry."

"I think perhaps," said Laddie, "I would have done myself credit
if I had recognized that, and given him the road, when he made a
point of claiming it."

"Indeed no!" cried the Princess.  "To be beaten at the game he
started was exactly what he needed.  If you had turned from his
way, he would have considered you a clod all his life.  Since you
made him go around, it may possibly dawn on him that you are a
man.  You did the very best thing."

Then she began to laugh, and how she did laugh.

"I would give my allowance for a quarter to have seen it," she
cried.  "I must hurry home and tell mother."

"Does your mother know about me?" he demanded.  "Does she know
that you come here?"

The Princess arose and stood very tall and straight.

"You may beg my pardon or cease to know me," she said.  "Whatever
led you to suppose that I would know or meet you without my
mother's knowledge?"

Then she started toward the entrance.

"One minute!" cried Laddie.

A leap carried him to her side.  He caught her hands and held
them tight, and looked straight into her eyes.  Then he kissed
her hands over and over.  I thought from the look on her face he
might have kissed her cheek if he had dared risk it; but he
didn't seem to notice.  Then she stooped and kissed me, and
turned toward home, while Laddie and I crossed the woods to the
west road, and went back past the schoolhouse.  I was so tired
Laddie tied the strings together and hung my shoes across his
shoulders and took me by the arm the last mile.

All of them were at home when we got there, and Miss Amelia came
to the gate to meet us.  She was mealy-mouthed and good as pie,
not at all as I had supposed she would be.  I wonder what Laddie
said to her.  But then he always could manage things for every
one.  That set me to wondering if by any possible means he could
fix them for himself.  I climbed to the catalpa to think, and the
more I thought, the more I feared he couldn't; but still mother
always says one never can tell until they try, and I knew he
would try with every ounce of brain and muscle in him.  I sat
there until the supper bell rang, and then I washed and reached
the table last.  The very first thing, mother asked how I bruised
my face, and before I could think what to tell her, Leon said
just as careless like:  "Oh she must have run against something
hard, playing tag at recess."  Laddie began talking about Peter
coming that night, and every one forgot me, but pretty soon I
slipped a glance at Miss Amelia, and saw that her face was redder
than mine.



CHAPTER VI

The Wedding Gown

        "The gay belles of fashion may boast of excelling
            In waltz or cotillon, at whist or quadrille;
         And seek admiration by vauntingly telling
            Of drawing and painting, and musical skill;
         But give me the fair one, in country or city,
            Whose home and its duties are dear to her heart,
         Who cheerfully warbles some rustical ditty,
            While plying the needle with exquisite art:
         The bright little needle, the swift-flying needle,
            The needle directed by beauty and art."


The next morning Miss Amelia finished the chapter--that made two
for our family.  Father always read one before breakfast--no
wonder I knew the Bible quite well--then we sang a song, and she
made a stiff, little prayer.  I had my doubts about her prayers;
she was on no such terms with the Lord as my father.  He got
right at Him and talked like a doctor, and you felt he had some
influence, and there was at least a possibility that he might get
what he asked for; but Miss Amelia prayed as if the Lord were ten
million miles away, and she would be surprised to pieces if she
got anything she wanted.  When she asked the Almighty to make us
good, obedient children, there was not a word she said that
showed she trusted either the Lord or us, or thought there was
anything between us and heaven that might make us good because we
wanted to be.  You couldn't keep your eyes from the big gad and
ruler on her desk; she often fingered them as she prayed, and you
knew from her stiff, little, sawed-out petition that her faith
was in implements, and she'd hit you a crack the minute she was
the least angry, same as she had me the day before.  I didn't
feel any too good toward her, but when the blood of the Crusaders
was in the veins, right must be done even if it took a struggle. 
I had to live up to those little gold shells on the trinket. 
Father said they knew I was coming down the line, so they put on
a bird for me; but I told him I would be worthy of the shells
too.  This took about as hard a fight for me as any Crusade would
for a big, trained soldier.  I had been wrong, Laddie had made me
see that.  So I held up my hand, and Miss Amelia saw me as she
picked up Ray's arithmetic.

"What is it?"

I held to the desk to brace myself, and tried twice before I
could raise my voice so that she heard.

"Please, Miss Amelia," I said, "I was wrong about the birds
yesterday.  Not that they don't fight--they do!  But I was wrong
to contradict you before every one, and on your first day, and if
you'll only excuse me, the next time you make a mistake, I'll
tell you after school or at recess."

The room was so still you could hear the others breathing.  Miss
Amelia picked up the ruler and started toward me.  Possibly I
raised my hands.  That would be no Crusader way, but you might do
it before you had time to think, when the ruler was big and your
head was the only place that would be hit.  The last glimpse I
had of her in the midst of all my trouble made me think of
Sabethany Perkins.

Sabethany died, and they buried her at the foot of the hill in
our graveyard before I could remember.  But her people thought
heaps of her, and spent much money on the biggest tombstone in
the cemetery, and planted pinies and purple phlox on her, and
went every Sunday to visit her.  When they moved away, they
missed her so, they decided to come back and take her along.  The
men were at work, and Leon and I went to see what was going on. 
They told us, and said we had better go away, because possibly
things might happen that children would sleep better not to see. 
Strange how a thing like that makes you bound you will see.  We
went and sat on the fence and waited.  Soon they reached
Sabethany, but they could not seem to get her out.  They tried,
and tried, and at last they sent for more men.  It took nine of
them to bring her to the surface.  What little wood was left,
they laid back to see what made her so fearfully heavy, and there
she was turned to solid stone.  They couldn't chip a piece off
her with the shovel.  Mother always said, "For goodness sake,
don't let your mouth hang open," and as a rule we kept ours shut;
but you should have seen Leon's when he saw Sabethany wouldn't
chip off, and no doubt mine was as bad.

"When Gabriel blows his trumpet, and the dead arise and come
forth, what on earth will they do with Sabethany?" I gasped. 
"Why, she couldn't fly to Heaven with wings a mile wide, and what
use could they make of her if she got there?"

"I can't see a thing she'd be good for except a hitching post,"
said Leon, "and I guess they don't let horses in.  Let's go
home."

He acted sick and I felt that way; so we went, but the last
glimpse of Sabethany remained with me.

As my head went down that day, I saw that Miss Amelia looked
exactly like her.  You would have needed a pick-ax or a crowbar
to flake off even a tiny speck of her.  When I had waited for my
head to be cracked, until I had time to remember that a Crusader
didn't dodge and hide, I looked up, and there she stood with the
ruler lifted; but now she had turned just the shade of the
wattles on our fightingest turkey gobbler.

"Won't you please forgive me?"

I never knew I had said it until I heard it, and then the only
way to be sure was because no one else would have been likely to
speak at that time.

Miss Amelia's arm dropped and she glared at me.  I wondered
whether I ever would understand grown people; I doubted if they
understood themselves, for after turning to stone in a second--
father said it had taken Sabethany seven years--and changing to
gobbler red, Miss Amelia suddenly began to laugh.  To laugh, of
all things!  And then, of course, every one else just yelled.  I
was so mortified I dropped my head again and began to cry as I
never would if she'd hit me.

"Don't feel badly!" said Miss Amelia.  "Certainly, I'll forgive
you.  I see you had no intention of giving offense, so none is
taken.  Get out your book and study hard on another lesson."

That was surprising.  I supposed I'd have to do the same one
over, but I might take a new one.  I was either getting along
fast, or Miss Amelia had her fill of birds.  I wiped my eyes as
straight in front of me as I could slip up my handkerchief, and
began studying the first lesson in my reader:  "Pretty bee, pray
tell me why, thus from flower to flower you fly, culling sweets
the livelong day, never leaving off to play?"  That was a poetry
piece, and it was quite cheery, although it was all strung
together like prose, but you couldn't fool me on poetry; I knew
it every time.  As I studied I felt better, and when Miss Amelia
came to hear me she was good as gold.  She asked if I liked
honey, and I started to tell her about the queen bee, but she had
no time to listen, so she said I should wait until after school. 
Then we both forgot it, for when we reached home, the Princess'
horse was hitched to our rack, and I fairly ran in, I was so
anxious to know what was happening.

I was just perfectly amazed at grown people!  After all the
things our folks had said!  You'd have supposed that Laddie would
have been locked in the barn; father reading the thirty second
Psalm to the Princess, and mother on her knees asking God to open
her eyes like Saul's when he tried to kick against the pricks,
and make her to see, as he did, that God was not a myth, Well,
there was no one in the sitting-room or the parlour, but there
were voices farther on; so I slipped in.  I really had to slip,
for there was no other place they could be except the parlour
bedroom, and Sally's wedding things were locked up there, and we
were not to see until everything was finished, like I told you.

Well, this was what I saw: our bedroom had been a porch once, and
when we had been crowded on account of all of us coming, father
enclosed it and made a room.  But he never had taken out the
window in the wall.  So all I had to do when I wanted to know how
fast the dresses were being made, was to shove up the window
above my bed, push back the blind, and look in.  I didn't care
what she had.  I just wanted to get ahead of her and see before
she was ready, to pay her for beating me.  I knew what she had,
and I meant to tell her, and walk away with my nose in the air
when she offered to show me; but this was different.  I was wild
to see what was going on because the Princess was there.  The
room was small, and the big cherry four-poster was very large,
and all of them were talking, so no one paid the slightest
attention to me.

Mother sat in the big rocking chair, with Sally on one of its
arms, leaning against her shoulder.  Shelley and May and the
sewing woman were crowded between the wall and the footboard, and
the others lined against the wall.  The bed was heaped in a
tumble of everything a woman ever wore.  Seemed to me there was
more stuff there than all the rest of us had, put together.  The
working dresses and aprons had been made on the machine, but
there were heaps and stacks of hand-made underclothes.  I could
see the lovely chemise mother embroidered lying on top of a pile
of bedding, and over and over Sally had said that every stitch in
the wedding gown must be taken by hand.  The Princess stood
beside the bed.  A funny little tight hat like a man's and a
riding whip lay on a chair close by.  I couldn't see what she
wore--her usual riding clothes probably--for she had a nip in
each shoulder of a dress she was holding to her chin and looking
down at.  After all, I hadn't seen everything!  Never before or
since have I seen a lovelier dress than that.  It was what always
had been wrapped in the sheet on the foot of the bed and I hadn't
got a peep at it.  The pale green silk with tiny pink moss roses
in it, that I had been thinking was the wedding dress, looked
about right to wash the dishes in, compared with this.

This was a wedding dress.  You didn't need any one to tell you. 
The Princess had as much red as I ever had seen in her cheeks,
her eyes were bright, and she was half-laughing and half-crying.

"Oh you lucky, lucky girl!" she was saying.  "What a perfectly
beautiful bride you will be!  Never have I seen a more wonderful
dress!  Where did you get the material?"

Now we had been trained always to wait for mother to answer a
visitor as she thought suitable, or at least to speak one at a
time and not interrupt; but about six of those grown people told
the Princess all at the same time how our oldest sister Elizabeth
was married to a merchant who had a store at Westchester and how
he got the dress in New York, and gave it to Sally for her
wedding present, or she never could have had it.

The Princess lifted it and set it down softly.  "Oh look!" she
cried.  "Look!  It will stand alone!"

There it stood!  Silk stiff enough to stand by itself, made into
a little round waist, cut with a round neck and sleeves elbow
length and flowing almost to where Sally's knees would come.  It
was a pale pearl-gray silk crossed in bars four inches square,
made up of a dim yellow line almost as wide as a wheat straw,
with a thread of black on each side of it, and all over, very
wide apart, were little faint splashes of black as if they had
been lightly painted on.  The skirt was so wide it almost filled
the room.  Every inch of that dress was lined with soft, white
silk.  There was exquisite lace made into a flat collar around
the neck, and ruffled from sight up the inside of the wide
sleeves.  That was the beginning.  The finish was something you
never saw anything like before.  It was a trimming made of white
and yellow beads.  There was a little heading of white beads
sewed into a pattern, then a lacy fringe that was pale yellow
beads, white inside, each an inch long, that dangled, and every
bead ended with three tiny white ones.  That went around the
neck, the outside of the sleeves, and in a pattern like a big
letter V all the way around the skirt.  And there it stood--
alone!

The Princess, graceful as a bird and glowing like fire, danced
around it, and touched it, and lifted the sleeves, and made the
bead fringe swing, and laughed, and talked every second.  Sally,
and mother, and all of them had smiled such wide smiles for so
long, their faces looked almost as set as Sabethany's, but of
course far different.  Being dead was one thing, getting ready
for a wedding another.

And it looked too as if God might be a myth, for all they cared,
so long as the Princess could make the wedding dress stand alone,
and talk a blue streak of things that pleased them.  It was not
put on either, for there stood the dress, shimmering like the
inside of a pearl-lined shell, white as a lily, and the tinkly
gold fringe.  No one COULD have said enough about it, so no
matter what the Princess said, it had to be all right.  She kept
straight on showing all of them how lovely it was, exactly as if
they hadn't seen it before, and she had to make them understand
about it, as if she felt afraid they might have missed some
elegant touch she had seen.

"Do look how the lace falls when I raise this sleeve!  Oh how
will you wear this and think of a man enough to say the right
words in the right place?"

Mother laughed, and so did all of them.

"Do please show me the rest," begged the Princess.  "I know there
are slippers and a bonnet!"

Sally just oozed pride.  She untied the strings and pushed the
prettiest striped bag from a lovely pink bandbox and took out a
dear little gray bonnet with white ribbons, and the yellow bead
fringe, and a bunch of white roses with a few green leaves. 
These she touched softly, "I'm not quite sure about the leaves,"
she said.

The Princess had the bonnet, turning and tilting it.

"Perfect!" she cried.  "Quite perfect!  You need that touch of
colour, and it blends with everything.  How I envy you!  Oh why
doesn't some one ask me, so I can have things like these?  I
think your brother is a genius.  I'm going to ride to Westchester
tomorrow and give him an order to fill for me the next time he
goes to the city.  No one shows me such fabrics when I go, and
Aunt Beatrice sends nothing from London I like nearly so well. 
Oh!  Oh!"

She was on her knees now, lifting the skirt to set under little
white satin slippers with gold buckles, and white bead buttons. 
When she had them arranged to suit her, she sat on the floor and
kept straight on saying the things my mother and sisters seemed
crazy to hear.  When Sally showed her the long white silk mitts
that went with the bonnet, the Princess cried:  "Oh do ride home
with me and let me give you a handkerchief Aunt Beatrice sent me,
to carry in your hand!"

Then her face flushed and she added without giving Sally time to
say what she would do:  "Or I can bring it the next time I come
past.  It belongs with these things and I have no use for it. 
May I?"

"Please do!  I'll use it for the thing I borrow."

"But I mean it to be a gift," said the Princess.  "It was made to
go with these lace mitts and satin slippers.  You must take it!"

"Thank you very much," said Sally.  "If you really want me to
have it, of course I'd love to."

"I'll bring it to-morrow," promised the Princess.  "And I wish
you'd let me try a way I know to dress hair for a wedding.  Yours
is so beautiful."

"You're kind, I'm sure," said Sally.  "I had intended to wear it
as I always do, so I would appear perfectly natural to the folks;
but if you know a more becoming way, I could begin it now, and
they would be familiar with it by that time."

"I shan't touch it," said the Princess, studying Sally's face. 
"Your idea is right.  You don't want to commence any new,
unfamiliar style that would make you seem different, just at a
time when every one should see how lovely you are, as you always
have been.  But don't forget to wear something blue, and
something borrowed for luck, and oh do please put on one of my
garters!"

"Well for mercy sake!" cried my mother.  "Why?"

"So some one will propose to me before the year is out," laughed
the Princess.  "I think it must be the most fun of all, to make
beautiful things for your very own home, and lovely dresses, and
be surrounded by friends all eager to help you, and to arrange a
house and live with a man you love well enough to marry, and fix
for little people who might come----"

"You know perfectly there isn't a single man in the county who
wouldn't propose to you, if you'd let him come within a mile of
you," said Shelley.

"When the right man comes I'll go half the mile to meet him? you
may be sure of that; won't I, Mrs. Stanton?" the Princess turned
to mother.

"I have known girls who went even farther," said my mother rather
dryly.

"I draw the line at half," laughed the Princess.  "Now I must go;
I have been so long my people will be wondering what I'm doing."

Standing in the middle of the room she put on her hat, picked up
her whip and gloves, and led the way to the hitching rack, while
all of us followed.  At the gate stood Laddie as he had come from
the field.  His old hat was on the back of his head, his face
flushed, his collar loosened so that his strong white neck
showed, and his sleeves were rolled to the elbow, as they had
been all summer, and his arms were burned almost to blisters. 
When he heard us coming he opened the gate, went to the rack,
untied the Princess' horse and led it beside the mounting block. 
As she came toward him, he took off his hat and pitched it over
the fence on the grass.

"Miss Pryor, allow me to make you acquainted with my son," said
mother.

I felt as if I would blow up.  I couldn't keep my eyes from
turning toward the Princess.  Gee!  I could have saved my
feelings.  She made mother the prettiest little courtsey I ever
set eyes on, and then turned and made a deeper one to Laddie.

"I met your son in one of the village stores some time ago," she
said.  "Back her one step farther, please!"

Laddie backed the horse, and quicker than you could see how it
was done, she flashed up the steps and sat the saddle; but as she
leaned over the horse's neck to take the rein from Laddie, he got
one level look straight in the eyes that I was sure none of the
others saw, because they were not watching for it, and I was. 
Laddie bowed from the waist, and put the reins in her fingers all
in one movement.  He caught the glance she gave him too; I could
almost feel it like a band passing between them.  Then she called
a laughing good-bye to all of us at once, and showed us how to
ride right, as she flashed toward the Little Hill.  That was
riding, you may believe, and mother sighed as she watched her.

"If I were a girl again," she said, "I would ride as well as
that, or I'd never mount a horse."

"She's been trained from her cradle, and her father deals in
horses.  Half the battle in riding is a thoroughbred," said
Laddie.  "No such horse as that ever stepped these roads before."

"And no such girl ever travelled them," said my mother, folding
her hands one over the other on top of a post of the hitching
rack.  "I must say I don't know how this is coming out, and it
troubles me."

"Why, what's up?" asked Laddie, covering her hands with his and
looking her in the eyes.

"Just this," said my mother.  "She's more beautiful of face and
form than God ought to allow any woman to be, in mercy to the men
who will be forced to meet her.  Her speech is highly cultured. 
Her manners are perfect, and that is a big and unusual thing in a
girl of her age.  Every word she said, every move she made to-
day, was exactly as I would have been proud to hear, and to see a
daughter of mine speak and move.  If I had only myself to
consider, I would make her my friend, because I'm seasoned in the
ways of the world, and she could influence me only as I chose to
allow her.  With you youngsters it is different.  You'll find her
captivating, and you may let her ways sway you without even
knowing it.  All these outward things are not essential; they are
pleasing, I grant, but they have nothing to do with the one big,
elemental fact that a Godless life is not even half a life.  I
never yet have known any man or woman who attempted it who did
not waste life's grandest opportunities, and then come crawling
and defeated to the foot of the cross in the end, asking God's
mercy where none was deserved or earned.  It seems to me a craven
way.  I know all about the forgiveness on the cross!  I know God
is big enough and merciful enough to accept even death-bed
repentance, but what is that to compare with laying out your
course and running it a lifetime without swerving?  I detest and
distrust this infidel business.  I want no child of mine under
its influence, or in contact with it."

"But when your time comes, if you said just those things to hers
and won her, what a triumph, little mother!"

"`If!'" answered mother.  "That's always the trouble!  One can't
be sure!  `If' I knew I could accomplish that, I would get on my
knees and wrestle with the Lord for the salvation of the soul of
a girl like that, not to mention her poor, housebound mother, and
that man with the unhappiest face I ever have seen, her father. 
It's worth trying, but suppose I try and fail, and at the same
time find that in bringing her among us she has influenced some
of mine to the loss of their immortal souls then, what will I
have done?"

"Mother," said Laddie; "mother, have you such a poor opinion of
the things you and father have taught us, and the lives you've
lived before us, that you're really afraid of a slip of a girl,
almost a stranger?"

"The most attractive girl I ever have seen, and mighty willing to
be no longer a stranger, Lad."

"Well, I can't promise for the others," said Laddie, "but for
myself I will give you my word of honour that I won't be
influenced the breadth of one hair by her, in a doctrinal way."

"Humph!" said my mother.  "And it is for you I fear.  If a young
man is given the slightest encouragement by a girl like that,
even his God can't always hold him; and you never have made a
confession of faith, Laddie.  It is you she will be most likely
to captivate."

"If you think I have any chance, I'll go straight over and ask
her father for her this very evening," said Laddie, and even
mother laughed; then all of us started to the house, for it was
almost supper time.  I got ready and thought I'd take one more
peep at the dress before Sally pinned it in the sheet again, and
when I went back, there all huddled in a bunch before it stood
Miss Amelia, the tears running down her cheeks.

"Did Sally say you might come here?" I asked.

"No," said Miss Amelia, "but I've been so crazy to see I just
slipped in to take a peep when I noticed the open door.  I'll go
this minute.  Please don't tell her."

I didn't say what I would do, but I didn't intend to.

"What are you crying about?" I inquired.

"Ah, I too have known love," sobbed Miss Amelia.  "Once I made a
wedding dress, and expected to be a happy bride."

"Well, wasn't you?" I asked, and knew at once it was a silly
question, for of course she would not be a miss, if she had not
missed marrying.

"He died!" sobbed Miss Amelia.

If he could have seen her then, I believe he'd have been glad of
it; but maybe he looked as bony and dejected as she did before he
went; and he may have turned to stone afterward, as sometimes
happens.  Right then I heard Sally coming, so I grabbed Miss
Amelia and dragged her under the fourposter, where I always hid
when caught doing something I shouldn't.  But Sally had so much
stuff she couldn't keep all of it on the bed, and when she
stooped and lifted the ruffle to shove a box under, she pushed it
right against us, and knelt to look, and there we were.

"Well upon my soul!" she cried, and sat flat on the floor,
holding the ruffle, peering in.  "Miss Amelia!  And in tears! 
Whatever is the trouble?"

Miss Amelia's face was redder than any crying ever made it, and I
saw she wanted to kill me for getting her into such a fix, and if
she became too angry probably she'd take it out on me in school
the next day, so I thought I'd better keep her at work shedding
tears.

"`HE DIED!'"  I told Sally as pathetically as ever I could.

Sally dropped the ruffle instantly, but I saw her knees shake
against the floor.  After a while she lifted the curtain and
offered Miss Amelia her hand.

"I was leaving my dress to show you before putting it away," she
said.

I didn't believe it; but that was what she said.  Maybe it was an
impulse.  Mother always said Sally was a creature of impulse. 
When she took off her flannel petticoat and gave it to poor
little half-frozen Annie Hasty, that was a good impulse, but it
sent Sally to bed for a week.  And when she threw a shovel of
coals on Bill Ramsdell's dog, because Bill was a shiftless lout,
and the dog was so starved it all the time came over and sucked
our eggs, that was a bad impulse, because it didn't do Bill a
particle of good, and it hurt the dog, which would have been glad
to suck eggs at home, no doubt, if Bill hadn't been too worthless
to keep hens.

That was a good impulse she had then, for she asked Miss Amelia
to help her straighten the room, and of course that meant to fold
and put away wedding things.  Any woman would have been wild to
do that.  Then she told Miss Amelia that she was going to ask
father to dismiss school for half a day, and allow her to see the
wedding, and she asked her if she would help serve the breakfast.

Miss Amelia wiped her eyes, and soon laughed and was just
beaming.  I would have been willing to bet my three cents for
lead pencils the next time the huckster came, that Sally never
thought of wanting her until that minute; and then she arranged
for her to wait on table to keep her from trying to eat with the
wedding party, because Miss Amelia had no pretty clothes for one
thing, and for another, you shouldn't act as if you were hungry
out in company, and she ate every meal as if she were breaking a
forty days' fast.  I wondered what her folks cooked at home.

After supper Peter came, and the instant I saw him I thought of
something, and it was such a teasing thought I followed around
and watched him harder every minute .  At last he noticed me, and
put his arms around me.

"Well, what is it, Little Sister?" he asked.

I did wish he would quit that.  No one really had a right to call
me that, except Laddie.  Maybe I had to put up with Peter doing
it when I was his sister by law, but before, the old name the
preacher baptized on me was good enough for Peter.  I was
thinking about that so hard, I didn't answer, and he asked again.

"I have seen Sally's wedding dress," I told him.

"But that's no reason why you should stare at me."

"That's just exactly the reason," I answered.  "I was trying to
see what in the world there is about you to be worth a dress like
that."

Peter laughed and laughed.  At last he said that he was not
really worth even a calico dress; and he was so little worthy of
Sally that he would button her shoes, if she would let him.  He
got that mixed.  The buttons were on her slippers: her shoes
laced.  But it showed a humble spirit in Peter.  Not that I care
for humble spirits.  I am sure the Crusaders didn't have them.  I
don't believe Laddie would lace even the Princess' shoes, at
least not to make a steady business of it.  But maybe Peter and
Sally had an agreement to help each other.  She was always fixing
his tie, and straightening his hair.  Maybe that was an impulse,
though, and mother said Sally would get over being so impulsive
when she cut her eye teeth.



CHAPTER VII

When Sally Married Peter


"Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
 Be it ever so humble there's no place like home!
 A charm from the skies seems to hallow us there,
 Which, seek through the world, is ne'er met with elsewhere."

When they began arranging the house for the wedding, it could be
seen that they had been expecting it, and getting ready for a
long time.  From all the closets, shelves and chests poured heaps
of new things.  First, the walls were cleaned and some of them
freshly papered, then the windows were all washed long before
regular housecleaning time, the floors were scrubbed and new
carpet put down.  Mother had some window blinds that Winfield had
brought her from New York in the spring, and she had laid them
away; no one knew why, then.  We all knew now.  When mother was
ready to put them up, father had a busy day and couldn't help
her, and she was really provoked.  She almost cried about it,
when Leon rode in bringing the mail, and said Hannah Dover had
some exactly like ours at her windows, that her son had sent from
Illinois.  Father felt badly enough then, for he always did
everything he could to help mother to be first with everything;
but so she wouldn't blame him, he said crosslike that if she had
let him put them up when they came, as he wanted to, she'd have
been six months ahead.

When they finally got ready to hang the blinds no one knew how
they went.  They were a beautiful shiny green, plain on one side,
and on the other there was a silver border across the bottom and
one pink rose as big as a pie plate.  Mother had neglected to ask
Winfield on which side the rose belonged.  Father said from the
way the roll ran, it went inside.  Mother said they were rolled
that way to protect the roses, and that didn't prove anything. 
Laddie said he would jump on a horse and ride round the section,
and see how Hannah Dover had hers, and exactly opposite would be
right.  Everyone laughed, but no one thought he meant it.  Mother
had father hold one against the window, and she stepped outside
to see if she could tell from there.  When she came in she said
the flower looked mighty pretty, and she guessed that was the
way, so father started hanging them.  He had only two up when
Laddie came racing down the Big Hill bareback, calling for him to
stop.

"I tell you that's not right, mother!" he said as he hurried in.

"But I went outside and father held one, and it looked real
pretty," said mother.

"One!  Yes!" said Laddie.  "But have you stopped to consider how
two rows across the house are going to look?  Nine big pink
roses, with the sun shining on them!  Anything funnier than
Dovers' front I never saw.  And look here!"

Laddie picked up a blind.  "See this plain back?  It's double
coated like a glaze.  That is so the sun shining through glass
won't fade it.  The flowers would be gone in a week.  They belong
inside, mother, sure as you live."

"Then when the blinds are rolled to the middle sash in the
daytime no one can see them," wailed mother, who was wild about
pink roses.

"But at night, when they are down, you can put the curtains back
enough to let the roses show, and think how pretty they will look
then."

"Laddie is right!" said father, climbing on the barrel to take
down the ones he had fixed.

"What do you think, girls?" asked mother.

"I think the Princess is coming down the Little Hill," said
Shelley.  "Hurry, father!  Take them down before she sees!  I'm
sure they're wrong."

Father got one all right, but tore the corner of the other. 
Mother scolded him dreadfully cross, and he was so flustered he
forgot about being on the barrel, so he stepped back the same as
on the floor, and fell crashing.  He might have broken some of
his bones, if Laddie hadn't seen and caught him.

"If you are SURE the flowers go inside, fix one before she
comes!" cried mother.

Father stepped too close the edge of the chair, and by that time
he didn't know how to hang anything, so Laddie climbed up and had
one nailed before the Princess stopped.  She came to bring Sally
the handkerchief, and it was the loveliest one any of us ever had
seen.  There was a little patch in the middle about four inches
square, and around it a wide ruffle of dainty lace.  It was made
to carry in a hand covered with white lace mitts, when you were
wearing a wedding gown of silver silk, lined with white.  Of
course it wouldn't have been the slightest use for a funeral or
with a cold in your head.  And it had come from across the sea! 
From the minute she took it by a pinch in the middle, Sally
carried her head so much higher than she ever had before, that
you could notice the difference.

Laddie went straight on nailing up the blinds, and every one he
fixed he let down full length so the Princess could see the roses
were inside; he was so sure he was right.  After she had talked a
few minutes she noticed the blinds going up.  Laddie, in a front
window, waved to her from the barrel.  She laughed and answered
with her whip, and then she laughed again.

"Do you know," she said, "there is the funniest thing at Dovers'.
I rode past on the way to Groveville this morning and they have
some blinds like those you are putting up."

"Indeed?" inquired my mother.  "Winfield sent us these from New
York in the spring, but I thought the hot summer sun would fade
them, so I saved them until the fall cleaning.  The wedding
coming on makes us a little early but----"

"Well, they may not be exactly the same," said the Princess.  "I
only saw from the highway."  She meant road; there were many
things she said differently.  "Have yours big pink roses and
silver scrolls inside?"

"Yes," said mother.

The Princess bubbled until it made you think one of those yellow
oriole birds had perched on her saddle.  "That poor woman has
gone and put hers up wrong side out.  The effect of all those big
pink roses on her white house front is most amusing.  It looks as
if the house were covered with a particularly gaudy piece of
comfort calico.  Only fancy!"

She laughed again and rode away.  Mother came in just gasping.

"Well, for all His mercies, large and small, the Lord be
praised!" she cried piously, as she dropped into the big rocking
chair.  "THAT is what I consider escaping by the skin of your
teeth!"

Then father and Laddie laughed, and said they thought so too. 
When the blinds were up, the outside looked well, and you should
have seen the inside!  The woodwork was enamelled white, and the
wall paper was striped in white and silver.  Every so far on the
silver there was a little pink moss rose having green leaves. 
The carpet was plum red and green in wide stripes, and the lace
curtains were freshly washed, snowy, and touched the floor.  The
big rocker, the straight-backed chairs, and the sofa were
beautiful red mahogany wood, and the seats shining haircloth.  If
no one happened to be looking, you could sit on a sofa arm, stick
your feet out and shoot off like riding down a haystack; the
landing was much better.  On the sofa you bounced two feet high
the first time; one, the second; and a little way the third.  On
the haystack, maybe you hit a soft spot, and maybe you struck a
rock.  Sometimes if you got smart, and tried a new place, and
your feet caught in a tangle of weeds and stuck, you came up
straight, pitched over, and landed on your head.  THEN if you
struck a rock, you were still, quite a while.  I was once.  But
you never dared let mother see you--on the sofa, I mean; she
didn't care about the haystack.

There were pictures in oval black frames having fancy edges, and
a whatnot where all our Christmas and birthday gifts, almost too
dainty to handle, were kept.  You fairly held your breath when
you looked at the nest of spun green glass, with the white dove
in it, that George Washington Mitchell gave to Shelley.  Of
course a dove's nest was never deep, and round, and green, and
the bird didn't have red eyes and a black bill.  I thought
whoever could blow glass as beautifully as that, might just as
easy have made it right while he was at it; but anyway, it was
pretty.  There were pitchers, mugs, and vases, almost too
delicate to touch, and the cloth-covered box with braids of hair
coiled in wreaths from the heads of the little fever and whooping
cough sisters.

Laddie asked Sally if she and Peter were going to have the
ceremony performed while they sat on the sofa.  Seemed the right
place.  They had done all their courting there, even on hot
summer days; but I supposed that was because Sally didn't want to
be seen fixing Peter's tie until she was ready.  She made no
bones about it then.  She fixed it whenever she pleased; likewise
he held her hand.  Shelley said that was disgusting, and you
wouldn't catch her.  Leon said he bet a dollar he would; and I
said if he knew he'd get beaten as I did, I bet two dollars he
wouldn't tell what he saw.  The mantel was white, with vases of
the lovely grasses that grew beside the stream at the foot of the
Big Hill.  Mother gathered the fanciest every fall, dried them,
and dipped them in melted alum coloured with copperas, aniline,
and indigo.  Then she took bunches of the colours that went
together best and made bouquets for the big vases.  They were
pretty in the daytime, but at night you could watch them sparkle
and shimmer forever.

I always thought the sitting-room was nicer than the parlour. 
The woodwork was white enamel there too, but the bureau and
chairs were just cherry and not too precious to use.  They were
every bit as pretty.  The mantel was much larger.  I could stand
up in the fireplace, and it took two men to put on an everyday
log, four the Christmas one.  On each side were the book shelves
above, and the linen closets below.  The mantel set between
these, and mother always used the biggest, most gorgeous bouquets
there, because she had so much room.  The hearth was a slab of
stone that came far into the room.  We could sit on it and crack
nuts, roast apples, chestnuts, and warm our cider, then sweep all
the muss we made into the fire.  The wall paper was white and
pale pink in stripes, and on the pink were little handled baskets
filled with tiny flowers of different colours.  We sewed the rags
for the carpet ourselves, and it was the prettiest thing.  One
stripe was wide, all gray, brown, and dull colours, and the other
was pink.  There were green blinds and lace curtains here also,
and nice braided rugs that all of us worked on of winter
evenings.  Everything got spicker and spanner each day.

Mother said there was no use in putting down a carpet in a
dining-room where you constantly fed a host, and the boys didn't
clean their feet as carefully as they should in winter; but there
were useful rags where they belonged, and in our bedroom opening
from it also.  The dining-room wall paper had a broad stripe of
rich cream with pink cabbage roses scattered over it and a narrow
pink stripe, while the woodwork was something perfectly
marvellous.  I didn't know what kind of wood it was, but a man
who could turn his hand to anything, painted it.  First, he put
on a pale yellow coat and let it dry.  Then he added wood brown,
and while it was wet, with a coarse toothed comb, a rag, and his
fingers, he imitated the grain, the even wood, and knotholes of
dressed lumber, until many a time I found myself staring steadily
at a knot to see if a worm wouldn't really come working out.  You
have to see a thing like that to understand how wonderful it is. 
You couldn't see why they washed the bedding, and took the
feathers from the pillows and steamed them in mosquito netting
bags and dried them in the shade, when Sally's was to be a
morning wedding, but they did.  I even had to take a bucket and
gather from around the walls all the little heaps of rocks and
shells that Uncle Abraham had sent mother from California, take
them out and wash and wipe them, and stack them back, with the
fanciest ones on top.  He sent her a ring made of gold he dug
himself.  She always kept the ring in a bottle in her bureau, and
she meant to wear it at the wedding, with her new silk dress.  I
had a new dress too.  I don't know how they got everything done. 
All of them worked, until the last few days they were perfect
cross patches.

When they couldn't find another thing indoors to scour, they
began on the yard, orchard, barn and road.  Mother even had Leon
stack the wood pile straighter.  She said when corded wood leaned
at an angle, it made people seem shiftless; and she never passed
a place where it looked that way that her fingers didn't just
itch to get at it.  He had to pull every ragweed on each side of
the road as far as our land reached, and lay every rail straight
in the fences.  Father had to take spikes and our biggest maul
and go to the bridges at the foot of the Big and the Little Hill,
and see that every plank was fast, so none of them would rattle
when important guests drove across.  She said she just simply
wouldn't have them in such a condition that Judge Pettis couldn't
hear himself think when he crossed; for you could tell from his
looks that it was very important that none of the things he
thought should be lost.  There wasn't a single spot about the
place inside or out that wasn't gone over; and to lots of it you
never would have known anything had been done if you hadn't seen,
because the place was always in proper shape anyway; but father
said mother acted just like that, even when her sons were married
at other people's houses; and if she kept on getting worse, every
girl she married off, by the time she reached me, we'd all be
scoured threadbare and she'd be on the verge of the grave.  May
and I weeded the flowerbeds, picked all the ripe seed, and pulled
up and burned all the stalks that were done blooming.  Father and
Laddie went over the garden carefully; they scraped the walks and
even shook the palings to see if one were going to come loose
right at the last minute, when every one would be so flustrated
there would be no time to fix it.

Then they began to talk about arrangements for the ceremony,
whether we should have our regular minister, or Presiding Elder
Lemon, and what people they were going to invite.  Just when we
had planned to ask every one, have the wedding in the church, and
the breakfast at the house, and all drive in a joyous procession
to Groveville to give them a good send-off in walked Sally.  She
had been visiting Peter's people, and we planned a lot while she
was away.

"What's going on here?" she asked, standing in the doorway,
dangling her bonnet by the ties.

She never looked prettier.  Her hair had blown out in little
curls around her face from riding, her cheeks were so pink, and
her eyes so bright.

"We were talking about having the ceremony in the church, so
every one can be comfortably seated, and see and hear well,"
answered mother.

Sally straightened up and began jerking the roses on her bonnet
far too roughly for artificial flowers.  Perhaps I surprised you
with that artificial word, but I can spell and define it; it's
easy divided into syllables.  Goodness knows, I have seen enough
flowers made from the hair of the dead, wax, and paper, where you
get the shape, but the colour never is right.  These of Sally's
were much too bright, but they were better than the ones made at
our house.  Hers were of cloth and bought at a store.  You
couldn't tell why, but Sally jerked her roses; I wished she
wouldn't, because I very well knew they would be used to trim my
hat the next summer, and she said:  "Well, people don't have to
be comfortable during a wedding ceremony; they can stand up if I
can, and as for seeing and hearing, I'm asking a good many that I
don't intend to have see or hear either one!"

"My soul!" cried mother, and she dropped her hands and her mouth
fell open, like she always told us we never should let ours,
while she stared at Sally.

"I don't care!" said Sally, straightening taller yet; her eyes
began to shine and her lips to quiver, as if she would cry in a
minute; "I don't care----!"

"Which means, my child, that you DO care, very much," said
father.  "Suppose you cease such reckless talk, and explain to us
exactly what it is that you do want."

Sally gave her bonnet an awful jerk.  Those roses would look like
sin before my turn to wear them came, and she said:  "Well then,
I do care!  I care with all my might!  The church is all right,
of course; but I want to be married in my very own home!  Every
one can think whatever they please about their home, and so can
I, and what I think is, that this is the nicest and the prettiest
place in all the world, and I belong here----"


Father lifted his head, his face began to shine, and his eyes to
grow teary; while mother started toward Sally.  She put out her
hand and held mother from her at arm's length, and she turned and
looked behind her through the sitting-room and parlour, and then
at us, and she talked so fast you never could have understood
what she said if you hadn't known all of it anyway, and thought
exactly the same thing yourself.

"I have just loved this house ever since it was built," she said,
"and I've had as good times here as any girl ever had.  If any
one thinks I'm so very anxious to leave it, and you, and mother,
and all the others, why it's a big mistake.  Seems as if a girl
is expected to marry and go to a home of her own; it's drummed
into her and things fixed for her from the day of her birth; and
of course I do like Peter, but no home in the world, not even the
one he provides for me, will ever be any dearer to me than my own
home; and as I've always lived in it, I want to be married in it,
and I want to stay here until the very last second----"

"You shall, my child, you shall!" sobbed mother.

"And as for having a crowd of men that father is planning to ask,
staring at me, because he changes harvest help and wood chopping
with them, or being criticised and clawed over by some women
simply because they'll be angry if they don't get the chance, I
just won't--so there!  Not if I have to stand the minister
against the wall, and turn our backs to every one.  I think----"

"That will do!" said father, wiping his eyes.  "That will do,
Sally!  Your mother and I have got a pretty clear understanding
of how you feel, now.  Don't excite yourself!  Your wedding
shan't be used to pay off our scores.  You may ask exactly whom
you please, want, and feel quite comfortable to have around
you----"

Then Sally fell on mother's neck and every one cried a while;
then we wiped up, Leon gave Sally his slate, and she came and sat
beside the table and began to make out a list of those she really
wanted to invite.  First she put down all of our family, even
many away in Ohio, and all of Peter's, and then his friends, and
hers.  Once in the list of girls she stopped and said:  "If I
take that beautiful imported handkerchief from Pamela Pryor, I
have just got to invite her "

"And she will outdress and outshine you at your own wedding," put
in Shelley.

"Let her, if she can!" said Sally calmly.  "She'll have to hump
herself if she beats that dress of mine; and as for looks, I know
lots of people who think gray eyes, pink cheeks, and brown curls
far daintier and prettier than red cheeks and black eyes and
curls.  If she really is better looking than I am, it isn't her
fault; God made her that way, and He wouldn't like us to punish
her for it; and it would, because any one can see she wants to be
friends; don't you think, mother?"--mother nodded--"and besides,
I think she's better looking than I am, myself!"

Sally said that, and wrote down the Princess' name in big
letters, and no one cheeped.

Then she began on our neighbourhood, thinking out loud and
writing what she thought.  So all of us were as still, and held
our breath in softly and waited, and Sally said slow and musing
like, "Of course we couldn't have anything at THIS house without
Sarah Hood.  She dressed most of us when we were born, nursed us
when we were sick, helped with threshing, company, and parties,
and she's just splendid anyway; we better ask all the Hoods"; so
she wrote them down.  "And it will be lonely for Widow Willis and
the girls to see every one else here--we must have them; and of
course Deams--Amanda is always such splendid help; and the Widow
Fall is so perfectly lovely, we want her for decorative purposes;
and we could scarcely leave out Shaws; they always have all of us
everything they do; and Dr. Fenner of course; and we'll want Flo
and Agnes Kuntz to wait on table, so their folks might as well
come too----"

So she went on taking up each family we knew, and telling what
they had done for us, or what we had done for them; and she found
some good reason for inviting them, and pretty soon father
settled back in his chair and never took his eyes from Sally's
shining head as she bent over the slate, and then he began
pulling his lower lip, like when it won't behave, and his eyes
danced exactly as I've seen Leon's.  I never had noticed that
before.

Sally went straight on and at last she came to Freshetts.  "I am
going to have all of them, too," she said.  "The children are
good children, and it will help them along to see how things are
done when they are right; and I don't care what any one says, I
LIKE Mrs. Freshett.  I'll ask her to help work, and that will
keep her from talking, and give the other women a chance to see
that she's clean, and human, and would be a good neighbour if
they'd be friendly.  If we ask her, then the others will."

When she finished--as you live--there wasn't a soul she had left
out except Bill Ramsdell, who starved his dog until it sucked our
eggs, and Isaac Thomas, who was so lazy he wouldn't work enough
to keep his wife and children dressed so they ever could go
anywhere, but he always went, even with rags flying, and got his
stomach full just by talking about how he loved the Lord.  To
save me I couldn't see Isaac Thomas without beginning to myself:

        "'Tis the voice of the sluggard; I hear him complain,
         You have waked me too soon, I must slumber again.
         I passed by his garden, I saw the wild brier,
         The thorn, and the thistle, grow broader and higher;
         The clothes that hang on him are turning to rags;
         And his money he wastes, till he starves or he begs."


That described Isaac to the last tatter, only he couldn't waste
money; he never had any.  Once I asked father what he thought
Isaac would do with it, if by some unforeseen working of Divine
Providence, he got ten dollars.  Father said he could tell me
exactly, because Isaac once sold some timber and had a hundred
all at once.  He went straight to town and bought Mandy a red
silk dress and a brass breastpin, when she had no shoes.  He got
the children an organ, when they were hungry; and himself a plug
hat.  Mandy and the children cried because he forgot candy and
oranges until the last cent was gone.  Father said the only time
Isaac ever worked since he knew him was when he saw how the hat
looked with his rags.  He actually helped the men fell the trees
until he got enough to buy a suit, the remains of which he still
wore on Sunday.  I asked father why he didn't wear the hat too,
and father said the loss of that hat was a blow, from which Isaac
never had recovered.  Once at camp-meeting he laid it aside to
pray his longest, most impressive prayer, and an affectionate cow
strayed up and licked the nap all off before Isaac finished, so
he never could wear it again.

Sally said:  "I'll be switched if I'll have that disgusting
creature around stuffing himself on my wedding day; but if you're
not in bed, when it's all over, mother, I do wish you'd send
Mandy and the children a basket."

Mother promised, and father sat and looked on and pulled his
lower lip until his ears almost wiggled.  Then Sally said she
wanted Laddie and Shelley to stand at the parlour door and keep
it tight shut, and seat every one in the sitting-room except a
special list she had made out to send in there.  She wanted all
our family and Peter's, and only a few very close friends, but it
was enough to fill the room.  She said when she and Peter came
downstairs every one could see how they looked when they crossed
the sitting-room, and for all the difference the door would make,
it could be left open then; she would be walled in by people she
wanted around her, and the others could have the fun of being
there, seeing what they could, and getting all they wanted to
eat.  Father and mother said that was all right, only to say
nothing about the plan to shut the door; but when the time came
just to close it and everything would be satisfactory.

Then Sally took the slate upstairs to copy the list with ink, so
every one went about something, while mother crossed to father
and he took her on his lap, and they looked at each other the
longest and the hardest, and neither of them said a word.  After
a while they cried and laughed, and cried some more, and it was
about as sensible as what a flock of geese say when they are let
out of the barn and start for the meadow in the morning.  Then
father, all laughy and criey, said:  "Thank God!  Oh, thank God,
the girl loves the home we have made for her!"

Just said it over and over, and mother kept putting in:  "It
pays, Paul!  It pays!"

Next day Sally put on her riding habit and fixed herself as
pretty as ever she could, and went around to have a last little
visit with every one, and invited them herself, and then she
wrote letters to people away.  Elizabeth and Lucy came home, and
every one began to work.  Father and mother went to the village
in the carriage and brought home the bed full of things to eat,
and all we had was added, and mother began to pack butter, and
save eggs for cakes, and the day before, I thought there wouldn't
be a chicken left on the place.  They killed and killed, and
Sarah Hood, Amanda Deam, and Mrs. Freshett picked and picked.

"I'll bet a dollar we get something this time besides ribs and
neck," said Leon.  "How do you suppose thigh and breast would
taste?"

"I was always crazy to try the tail," I said.

"Much chance you got," sniggered Leon.  "'Member the time that
father asked the Presiding Elder, `Brother Lemon, what piece of
the fowl do you prefer?' and he up and said: `I'm partial to the
rump, Brother Stanton.'  There sat father bound he wouldn't give
him mother's piece, so he pretended he couldn't find it, and
forked all over the platter and then gave him the ribs and the
thigh.  Gee, how mother scolded him after the preacher had gone! 
You notice father hasn't asked that since.  Now, he always says: 
`Do you prefer light or dark meat?'  Much chance you have of ever
tasting a tail, if father won't even give one to the Presiding
Elder!"

"But as many as they are killing----"

"Oh THIS time," said Leon with a flourish, "this time we are
going to have livers, and breast, and thighs, AND tails, if you
are beholden to tail."

"I'd like to know how we are?"

"Well, since you have proved that you can keep your mouth shut,
for a little while, anyway, I'm going to take you in on this,"
said Leon.  "You keep your eyes on me.  When the wedding gets
going good, you watch me, and slip out.  That's all!  I'll be
fixed to do the rest.  But mind this, get out when I do."

"All right," I promised.

They must have wakened about four o'clock on the wedding day; it
wasn't really light when I got up.  I had some breakfast in my
night dress, and then I was all fixed up in my new clothes, and
made to sit on a chair, and never move for fear I would soil my
dress, for no one had time to do me over, and there was only one
dress anyway.  There was so much to see you could keep interested
just watching, and I was as anxious to look nice before the boys
and girls, and the big people, as any one.

Every mantel and table and bureau was covered with flowers, and
you could have smelled the kitchen a mile away, I know.  The
dining table was set for the wedding party, our father and
mother, and Peter's, and the others had to wait.  You couldn't
have laid the flat of your hand on that table anywhere, it was so
covered with things to eat.  Miss Amelia, in a dress none of us
ever had seen before, a real nice white dress, pranced around it
and smirked at every one, and waved the peacock feather brush to
keep the flies from the jelly, preserves, jam, butter, and things
that were not cooked.

For hours Mrs. Freshett had stood in the kitchen on one side of
the stove frying chicken and heaping it in baking pans in the
oven, and Amanda Deam on the other, frying ham, while Sarah Hood
cooked other things, and made a wash boiler of coffee. 
Everything was ready by the time it should have been.  I had
watched them until I was tired, when Sally came through the room
where I was, and she said I might come along upstairs and see her
dressed.  When we reached the door I wondered where she would put
me, but she pushed clothing together on a bed, and helped me up,
and that was great fun.

She had been bathed and had on her beautiful new linen
underclothing that mother punched full of holes and embroidered
in flowers and vines, and Shelley was brushing her hair when some
one called out:  "The Princess is coming!"

I jumped for the window, and all of them, even Sally, crowded
behind.  Well, talk about carriages!  No one ever had seen THAT
one before.  It WAS a carriage.  And such horses!  The funny
"'orse, 'ouse" man who made the Pryor garden was driving.  He
stopped at the gate, got out and opened a door, and the Princess'
father stepped down, tall and straight, all in shiny black.  He
turned around and held out his hand, bowing double, and the
Princess laid her hand in his and stepped out too.  He walked
with her to the gate, made another bow, kissed her hand, and
stepped back, and she came down the walk alone.  He got in the
carriage, the man closed the door, and they drove away.

Sally must have arranged before that the Princess was to come
early, for she came straight upstairs.  She wore a soft white
silk dress with big faded pink roses in it, and her hair was
fastened at each ear with a bunch of little pink roses.  She was
lovely, but she didn't "outdress or outshine" Sally one bit, and
she never even glanced at the mirror to see how she looked; she
began helping with Sally's hair, and to dress her.  When Bess
Kuntz prinked so long she made every one disgusted, the Princess
said:  "Oh save your trouble.  No one will look at you when
there's a bride in the house."

There was a roll almost as thick as your arm of garters that all
the other girls wanted Sally to wear for them so they would get a
chance to marry that year, and Agnes Kuntz's was so large it went
twice around, and they just laughed about it.  They put a blue
ribbon on Sally's stays for luck, and she borrowed Peter's sister
Mary's comb to hold her back hair.  They had the most fun, and
when she was all ready except her dress they went away, and Sally
stood in the middle of the room trembling a little.  Outside you
could hear carriage wheels rolling, the beat of horses' hoofs,
and voices crying greetings.  "There was a sound of revelry," by
day.  Mother came in hurriedly.  She wore her new brown silk,
with a lace collar pinned at the throat with the pin that had a
brown goldstone setting in it, and her precious ring was on her
finger.  She was dainty and pretty enough to have been a bride
herself.  She turned Sally around slowly, touching her hair a
little and her skirts; then she went to the closet, took out the
wedding dress, put the skirt over Sally's head, and she came up
through the whiteness, pink and glowing.  She slipped her arms
into the sleeves, and mother fastened it, shook out the skirt,
saw that the bead fringe hung right, and the lace collar lay
flat, then she took Sally in her arms, held her tight and said: 
"God bless you, dear, and keep you always.  Amen."

Then she stepped to the door, and Peter, all shining and new,
came in.  He hugged Sally and kissed her like it didn't make the
least difference whether she had on calico or a wedding dress,
and he just stared, and stared at her, and never said a word, so
at last she asked:  "Well Peter, do you like my dress?"

And the idiot said:  "Why Sally, I hadn't even seen it!"

Then both of them laughed, and the Presiding Elder came.

I never liked to look at him very well because something had
happened, and he had only one eye.  I always wondered if he had
"plucked it out" because it had "offended" him; but if you could
forget his eye, and just listen to his voice, it was like the
sweetest music.  He married those two people right there in the
bedroom, all but about three words at the end.  I heard and saw
every bit of it.  Then Sally said it was time for me to go to
mother, but she followed me into the boys' room and shut the
door.  Then she knelt in her beautiful silver dress, and put her
arms around me and said:  "Honest, Little Sister, aren't you
going to kiss me goodbye?"

"Oh I can if you want me to," I said, but I didn't look at her; I
looked out of the window.

She laughed a breathless little catchy sort of laugh and said: 
"That's exactly what I do want."

"You didn't even want me, to begin with," I reminded her.

"There isn't a doubt but whoever told you that, could have been
in better business," said Sally, angry-like.  "I was much younger
then, and there were many things I didn't understand, and it
wasn't you I didn't want; it was just no baby at all.  I wouldn't
have wanted a boy, or any other girl a bit more.  I foolishly
thought we had children enough in this house.  I see now very
plainly that we didn't, for this family never could get along
without you, and I'm sorry I ever thought so, and I'd give
anything if I hadn't struck you and----"

"Oh be still, and go on and get married!" I said.  I could just
feel a regular beller coming in my throat.  "I was only fooling
to pay you up.  I meant all the time to kiss you good-bye when
the others did.  I'll nearly die being lonesome when you're
gone----"

Then I ran for downstairs, and when I reached the door, where the
steps went into the sitting-room, I stopped, scared at all the
people.  It was like camp-meeting.  You could see the yard full
through the windows.  Just as I was thinking I'd go back to the
boys' room, and from there into the garret, and down the back
stairway, Laddie went and saw me.  He came over, led me to the
parlour door, put me inside, and there mother took my hand and
held me tight, and I couldn't see Leon anywhere.

I was caught, but they didn't have him.  Mother never hung on as
she did that day.  I tried and tried to pull away, and she held
tight.  It was only a minute until the door opened, people
crowded back, and the Presiding Elder, followed by Sally and
Peter, came into the room, and they began being married all over
again.

If it hadn't grown so solemn my mother sprung a tear, I never
would have made it.  She just had to let me go to sop her face,
because tears are salty, and they would turn her new brown silk
front yellow.  The minute my hand was free, I slipped between the
people and looked at the parlour door.  It was wedged full and
more standing on chairs behind them.  No one could get out there.

I thought I would fail Leon sure, and then I remembered the
parlour bedroom.  I got through that door easy as anything, and
it was no trick at all to slip behind the blind, raise the
window, and drop into mother's room from the sill.  From there I
reached the back dining-room door easy enough, went around to the
kitchen, and called Leon softly.  He opened the door at once and
I slipped in.  He had just got there.  We looked all around and
couldn't see where to begin at first.  There was enough cooked
food there to load two wagons.

An old pillow-case that had dried sage in it was lying across a
chair and Leon picked it up and poured the sage into the wood-
box, and handed the case to me.  He went over and knelt before
the oven, while I followed and held open the case.  Leon rolled
his eyes to the ceiling and said so exactly like father when he
is serving company that not one of us could have told the
difference:  "Which part of the fowl do you prefer, Brother
Lemon?"

It was so funny it made me snigger, but I straightened up and
answered as well as I could:  "I'm especially fond of the rump,
Brother Stanton."

Leon stirred the heap and piled four or five tails in the case. 
I thought that was all I could manage before they would spoil, so
I said:  "Do you prefer light or dark meat, Sister Abigail?"

"I wish to choose breast," said Leon, simpering just like that
silly Abigail Webster.  He put in six breasts.  Then we found
them hidden away back in the oven in a pie pan, for the bride's
table, I bet, and we took two livers apiece; we didn't dare take
more for fear they had been counted.  Then he threw in whatever
he came to that was a first choice big piece, until I was really
scared, and begged him to stop; but he repeated what the fox said
in the story of the "Quarrelsome Cocks"--"Poco was very good, but
I have not had enough yet," so he piled in pieces until I ran
away with the pillow-case; then he slid in a whole plateful of
bread, another of cake, and put the plates in a tub of dishes
under the table.  Then we took some of everything that wasn't too
runny.  Just then the silence broke in the front part of the
house, and we scooted from the back door, closing it behind us,
ran to the wood house and climbed the ladder to the loft over the
front part.  There we were safe as could be, we could see to the
road, hear almost everything said in the kitchen, and "eat our
bites in peace," like Peter Justice told the Presiding Elder at
the church trial that he wanted his wife to, the time he slapped
her.  Before very long, they began calling us, and called, and
called.  We hadn't an idea what they wanted, so we ate away.  We
heard them first while I was holding over a back to let Leon
taste kidney, and it made him blink when he got it good.

"Well my soul!" he said.  "No wonder father didn't want to feed
that to another man when mother isn't very well, and likes it! 
No wonder!"

Then he gave me a big bite of breast.  It was sort of dry and
tasteless; I didn't like it.

"Why, I think neck or back beats that all to pieces!" I said in
surprise.

"Fact is, they do!" said Leon.  "I guess the people who `wish to
choose breast,' do it to get the biggest piece."

I never had thought of it before, but of course that would be the
reason.

"Allow me, Sister Stanton," said Leon, holding out a piece of
thigh.

That was really chicken!  Then we went over the backs and picked
out all the kidneys, and ate the little crusty places, and all
the cake we could swallow; then Leon fixed up the bag the best he
could, and set it inside an old cracked churn and put on the lid.

He said that would do almost as well as the cellar, and the food
would keep until to-morrow.  I wanted to slip down and put it in
the Underground Station; but Leon said father must be spending a
lot of money right now, and he might go there to get some, so
that wouldn't be safe.  Then he cleaned my face, and I told him
when he got his right, and we slipped from the back door, crossed
the Lawton blackberry patch, and went to the house from the
orchard.  Leon took an apple and broke it in two, and we went in
eating as if we were starving.  When father asked us where in
this world we had been, Leon told him we thought it would be so
awful long before the fourth or fifth table, and we hadn't had
much breakfast, and we were so hungry we went and hunted
something to eat.

"If you'd only held your horses a minute," said father; "they
were calling you to take places at the bride's table."

Well for land's sake!  Our mouths dropped open until it's a
wonder the cake and chicken didn't show, and we never said a
word.  There didn't seem to be anything to say, for Leon loved to
be with grown folks, and to have eaten at the bride's table would
have been the biggest thing that ever happened to me.  At last,
when I could speak, I asked who had taken our places, and bless
your heart if it wasn't that mealy-faced little sister of
Peter's, and one of the aunts from Ohio.  They had finished, and
Sally was upstairs putting on her travelling dress, while the
guests were eating, when I heard Laddie ask the Princess to ride
with him and Sally's other friends, who were going to escort her
to the depot.

"You'll want all your horses.  What could I ride?"

"If I find you a good horse and saddle will you go?"

"I will.  I think it would be fine sport."

Laddie turned and went from sight that minute.  The Princess
laughed and kept on making friends with every one, helping wait
on people, thinking of nice things to do, and just as the
carriage was at the gate for father and mother, and Sally and
Peter, and every one else was untying their horses to ride in the
procession to the village, from where I was standing on the
mounting block I saw something coming down the Little Hill.  I
took one look, ran to the Princess, and almost dragged her.

Up raced Laddie, his face bright, his eyes snapping with fun.  He
rode Flos, was leading the Princess' horse Maud, and carrying a
big bundle under his arm.  He leaped from the saddle and fastened
both horses.

"Gracious Heaven!  What have you done?" gasped the Princess.

"Brought your mount," said Laddie, quite as if he were used to
going to Pryors' after the sausage grinder or the grain sacks. 
But the Princess was pale and trembling.  She stepped so close
she touched him, and he immediately got a little closer.  You
couldn't get ahead of Laddie, and he didn't seem to care who saw,
and neither did she.

"Tell me exactly what occurred," she said, just as father does
when he means to whale us completely.

"I rapped at the front door," said Laddie.

"And who opened it?" cried the Princess.

"Your father!"

"My father?"

"Yes, your father!" said Laddie.  "And because I was in such a
hurry, I didn't wait for him to speak.  I said:  `Good morning,
Mr. Pryor.  I'm one of the Stanton boys, and I came for Miss
Pryor's mount and habit.  All the young people who are on
horseback are going to ride an escort to the village, around my
sister's bridal carriage, and Miss Pryor thinks she would enjoy
going.  Please excuse such haste, but we only this minute made
the plan, and the train won't wait.'"

"And he?"

"He said:  `Surely!  Hold one minute.'  I stood on the step and
waited, and I could hear him give the order to some one to get
your riding habit quickly, and then he blew a shrill whistle, and
your horse was at the gate the fastest of anything I ever saw."

"Did he do or say----"

"Nothing about `clods, and clowns, and grossness!'  Every other
word he spoke was when I said, `Thank you, and good morning,' and
was turning away.  He asked:  `Did Miss Pryor say whether she
preferred to ride home, or shall I escort her in the carriage?'"

"`She did not,' I answered.  `The plan was so sudden she had no
time to think that far.  But since she will have her horse and
habit, why not allow my father to escort her?'  So you see, I'm
going to take you home," exulted Laddie.

"But you told him your FATHER," said the Princess.

"And thereby created the urgent necessity," said Laddie with a
flourish, "for speaking to him again, and telling him that my
father had visitors from Ohio, and couldn't leave them.  We will
get all the fun from the day that we can; but before dusk, too
early for them to have any cause for cavil, `the gross country
clod' is going to take you home!"

One at a time, Laddie pounded those last words into the hitching
post, with his doubled fist.

"Suppose he sets the dogs on you!  You know he keeps two dreadful
ones."

Laddie just roared.  He leaned closer.

"Beaucheous Lady," he said, "I have fed those same dogs and
rubbed their ears so many nights lately, he'll get the surprise
of his life if he tries that."

The Princess drew away and stared at Laddie the funniest.

"On my life!" she said at last.  "Well for a country clod----!"

Then she turned with the habit bundle, and ran into the house. 
Father and mother came from the front door arm in arm and walked
to the carriage, and Sally and Peter followed.  My, but they
looked fine!  The Princess had gone to the garden and gathered
flowers and lined all the children in rows down each side of the
walk.  They were loaded with blooms to throw at Sally; but when
she came out, in her beautiful gray poplin travelling dress,
trimmed in brown ribbon, the same shade as her curls, her face
all pink, her eyes shining, and the ties of her little brown
bonnet waving to her waist, she was so perfectly beautiful, every
single child watched her open mouthed, gripped its flowers, and
forgot to throw them at all.

And this you scarcely will believe after what she had said the
day she made her list, and when all of us knew her heart was all
torn up, Sally just swept along smiling at every one and calling
"good-bye" to those who had no way to ride to the village, as if
leaving didn't amount to much.  At the carriage, a little white,
but still smiling, she turned and took one long look at
everything, and then she got in and called for me, right out loud
before every one, so I got to hold up my head as high as it would
go, and step in too, and ride all the way to Groveville between
her and Peter, and instead of holding his hand, she held mine,
just gripped it tight.  She gripped so hard she squeezed all the
soreness at her from my heart, and when she kissed me good-bye
the very last of all, I whispered in her ear that I wouldn't ever
be angry any more, and I wasn't, because after she had explained
I saw how it had been.  It wasn't ME she didn't want; it was just
no baby.

After our carriage came Peter's people, then one father borrowed
for the Ohio relatives, then the other children, and all the
neighbours followed, and when we reached the high hill where you
turn beside the woods, I saw father gather up the lines and brace
himself, for Ned and Jo were what he called "mettlesome."  "Then
came a burst of thunder sound," as it says in "Casablanca," and
the horseback riders came sweeping around us, Laddie and the
Princess leading.  These two rode ahead of us, and the others
lined three deep on either side, and the next carriage dropped
back and let them close in behind, so Sally and Peter were "in
the midst thereof."  Instead of throwing old shoes, as always had
been done, the Princess coaxed them to throw rice and roses, and
every other flower pulled from the bouquets at home, and from the
gardens we had passed.  Every one was out watching us go by, and
when William Justus rode beside the fences crying, "Flowers for
the bride!  Give us flowers for the bride!" some of the women
were so excited they pulled things up by the roots and gave him
armloads, and he rode ahead and supplied Laddie and the Princess,
and they kept scattering them in the road until every foot of the
way to Groveville was covered with flowers, "the fair young
flowers that lately sprang and stood."  He even made side-cuts
into swampy places and gathered armloads of those perfectly
lovely, fringy blue gentians, caught up, and filled the carriage
and scattered them in a wicked way, because you should only take
a few of those rare, late flowers that only grow from seed.

Sally looked just as if she had come into her own and was made
for it; I never did see her look so pretty, but Peter sweated and
acted awful silly.  Father had a time with the team.  Ned and Jo
became excited and just ranted.  They simply danced.  Laddie had
braided their manes and tails, and they waved like silken floss
in the sunshine, and the carriage was freshly washed and the
patent leather and brass shone, and we rode flower-covered. 
Ahead, Laddie and the Princess fairly tried themselves.  She
hadn't put on her hat or habit after all.  When Laddie told her
they were going to lead, she said:  "Very well!  Then I shall go
as I am.  The dress makes no difference.  It's the first time
I've had a chance to spoil one since I left England."

When the other girls saw what she was going to do, nearly every
one of them left off their hats and riding skirts.  Every family
had saddle horses those days, and when the riders came racing up
they looked like flying flowers, they were all laughing, bloom
ladened, singing and calling jokes.  Ahead, Laddie and the
Princess just plain showed off.  Her horse came from England with
them, and Laddie said it had Arab blood in it, like the one in
the Fourth Reader poem, "Fret not to roam the desert now, With
all thy winged speed," and the Princess loved her horse more than
that man did his.  She said she'd starve before she'd sell it,
and if her family were starving, she'd go to work and earn food
for them, and keep her horse.  Laddie's was a Kentucky
thoroughbred he'd saved money for years to buy; and he took a
young one and trained it himself, almost like a circus horse. 
Both of them COULD ride; so that day they did.  They ran those
horses neck and neck, right up the hill approaching Groveville,
until they were almost from sight, then they whirled and came
sweeping back fast as the wind.  The Princess' eyes were like
dead coals, and her black curls streamed, the thin silk dress
wrapped tight around her and waved back like a gossamer web such
as spiders spin in October.  Laddie's hair was blowing, his
cheeks and eyes were bright, and with one eye on the Princess--
she didn't need it--and one on the road, he cut curves, turned,
wheeled, and raced, and as he rode, so did she.

"Will they break their foolish necks?" wailed mother.

"They are the handsomest couple I ever have seen in my life!"
said father.

"Yes, and you two watch out, or you'll strike trouble right
there," said Sally, leaning forward.

I gave her an awful nudge.  It made me so happy I could have
screamed to see them flying away together like that.

"Well, if that girl represents trouble," said father, "God knows
it never before came in such charming guise."

"You can trust a man to forget his God and his immortal soul if a
sufficiently beautiful woman comes along," said my mother dryly,
and all of them laughed.

She didn't mean that to be funny, though.  You could always tell
by the set of her lips and the light in her eyes.

Just this side of Groveville we passed a man on horseback.  He
took off his hat and drew his horse to one side when Laddie and
the Princess rode toward him.  He had a big roll of papers under
his arm, to show that he had been for his mail.  But I knew, so
did Laddie and the Princess, that he had been compelled to saddle
and ride like mad, to reach town and come that far back in time
to watch us pass; for it was the Princess' father, and WATCH was
exactly what he was doing; he wanted to see for himself.  Laddie
and the Princess rode straight at him, neck and neck, and then
both of them made their horses drop on their knees and they waved
a salute, and then they were up and away.  Of course father and
mother saw, so mother bowed, and father waved his whip as we
passed.  He sat there like he'd turned the same on horseback as
Sabethany had in her coffin; but he had to see almost a mile of
us driving our best horses and carriages, wearing our wedding
garments and fine raiment, and all that "cavalcade," father
called it, of young, reckless riders.  You'd have thought if
there were a hint of a smile in his whole being it would have
shown when Sally leaned from the carriage to let him see that her
face and clothes were as good as need be and smiled a lovely
smile on him, and threw him a rose.  He did leave his hat off and
bow low, and then Shelley, always the very dickens for daring,
rode right up to him and laughed in his face, and she leaned and
thrust a flower into his bony hands; you would have thought he
would have been simply forced to smile then, but he looked far
more as if he would tumble over and roll from the saddle.  My
heart ached for a man in trouble like that.  I asked the Lord to
preserve us from secrets we couldn't tell the neighbours!

At the station there wasn't a thing those young people didn't do.

They tied flowers and ribbons all over Sally's satchel and trunk.

They sowed rice as if it were seeding time in a wheatfield.  They
formed a circle around Sally and Peter and as mushy as ever they
could they sang, "As sure as the grass grows around the stump,
You are my darling sugar lump," while they danced.  They just
smiled all the time no matter what was done to them.  Some of it
made me angry, but I suppose to be pleasant was the right way. 
Sally was strong on always doing the right thing, so she just
laughed, and so did all of us.  Going home it was wilder yet, for
all of them raced and showed how they could ride.

At the house people were hungry again, so the table was set and
they ate up every scrap in sight, and Leon and I ate with them
that time and saved ours.  Then one by one the carriages, spring
wagons, and horseback riders went away, all the people saying
Sally was the loveliest bride, and hers had been the prettiest
wedding they'd ever seen, and the most good things to eat, and
Laddie and the Princess went with them.  When the last one was
gone, and only the relatives from Ohio were left, mother pitched
on the bed, gripped her hands and cried as if she'd go to pieces,
and father cried too, and all of us, even Mrs. Freshett, who
stayed to wash up the dishes.  She was so tickled to be there,
and see, and help, that mother had hard work to keep her from
washing the linen that same night.  She did finish the last dish,
scrub the kitchen floor, black the stove, and pack all the
borrowed china in tubs, ready to be taken home, and things like
that.  Mother said it was a burning shame for any neighbourhood
to let a woman get so starved out and lonesome she'd act that
way.  She said enough was enough, and when Mrs. Freshett had
cooked all day, and washed dishes until the last skillet was in
place, she had done as much as any neighbour ought to do, and the
other things she went on and did were a rebuke to us.

I felt sore, weepy, and tired out.  It made me sick to think of
the sage bag in the cracked churn, so I climbed my very own
catalpa tree in the corner, watched up the road for Laddie, and
thought things over.  If I ever get married I want a dress, and a
wedding exactly like that, but I would like a man quite different
from Peter; like Laddie would suit me better.  When he rode under
the tree, I dropped from a limb into his arms, and went with him
to the barn.  He asked me what was going on at the house, and I
told him about Mrs. Freshett being a rebuke to us; and Laddie
said she was, and he didn't believe one word against her.  When I
told him mother was in bed crying like anything, he said:  "I
knew that had to come when she kept up so bravely at the station.

Thank the Lord, she showed her breeding by holding in until she
got where she had a right to cry if she pleased."

Then I whispered for fear Leon might be around:  "Did he set the
dogs on you?"

"He did not," said Laddie, laughing softly.

"Did he call you names again?"

"He did!" said Laddie, "but I started it.  You see, when we got
there, Thomas was raking the grass and he came to take the
Princess' horse.  Her father was reading on a bench under a tree.

I helped her down, and walked with her to the door and said good-
bye, and thanked her for the pleasure she had added to the day
for us, loudly enough that he could hear; then I went over to him
and said:  `Good evening, Mr. Pryor.  If my father knew anything
about it, he would very much regret that company from Ohio
detained him and compelled me to escort your daughter home.  He
would greatly have enjoyed the privilege, but I honestly believe
that I appreciated it far more than he could.'"

"Oh Laddie, what did he say?"

"He arose and glared at me, and choked on it, and he tried
several times, until I thought the clods were going to fly again,
but at last he just spluttered:  `You blathering rascal, you!' 
That was such a compliment compared with what I thought he was
going to say that I had to laugh.  He tried, but he couldn't keep
from smiling himself, and then I said:  `Please think it over,
Mr. Pryor, and if you find that Miss Pryor has had an agreeable,
entertaining day, won't you give your consent for her to come
among us again?  Won't you allow me to come here, if it can be
arranged in such a way that I intrude on no one?'"

"Oh Laddie!"

"He exploded in a kind of a snarl that meant, I'll see you in the
Bad Place first.  So I said to him:  `Thank you very much for to-
day, anyway.  I'm sure Miss Pryor has enjoyed this day, and it
has been the happiest of my life--one to be remembered always. 
Of course I won't come here if I am unwelcome, but I am in honour
bound to tell you that I intend to meet your daughter elsewhere,
whenever I possibly can.  I thought it would be a better way for
you to know and have us where you could see what was going on, if
you chose, than for us to meet without your knowledge."

"Oh Laddie," I wailed, "now you've gone and ruined everything!"

"Not so bad as that, Little Sister," laughed Laddie.  "Not half
so bad!  He exploded in another growl, and he shook his walking
stick at me, and he said--guess what he said."

"That he would kill you," I panted, clinging to him.

"Right!" said Laddie.  "You have it exactly.  He said:  `Young
man, I'll brain you with my walking stick if ever I meet you
anywhere with my daughter, when you have not come to her home and
taken her with my permission.'"

"What!" I stammered.  "What!  Oh Laddie, say it over!  Does it
mean----?"

"It means," said Laddie, squeezing me until I was near losing my
breath, "it means, Little Sister, that I shall march to his door
and ask him squarely, and if it is anywhere the Princess wants to
go, I shall take her."

"Like, `See the conquering hero comes?'"

"Exactly!" laughed Laddie.

"What will mother say?"

"She hasn't made up her mind yet," answered Laddie.

"Do you mean----?" I gasped again.

"Of course!" said Laddie.  "I wasn't going to let a girl get far
ahead of me.  The minute I knew she had told her mother, I told
mine the very first chance."

"Mother knows that you feel about the Princess as father does
about her?"

"Mother knows," answered Laddie, "and so does father.  I told
both of them."

Both of them knew!  And it hadn't made enough difference that any
one living right with them every day could have told it.  Time
and work will be needed to understand grown people.



CHAPTER VIII

The Shropshire and the Crusader

        "For, among the rich and gay,
            Fine, and grand, and decked in laces,
         None appear more glad then they,
            With happier hearts, or happier faces."

Every one told mother for a week before the wedding that she
would be sick when it was over, and sure enough she was.  She had
been on her feet too much, and had so many things to think about,
and there had been such a dreadful amount of work for her and
Candace, even after all the neighbours helped, that she was sick
in bed and we couldn't find a thing she could eat, until she was
almost wild with hunger and father seemed as if he couldn't
possibly bear it a day longer.

After Candace had tried everything she could think of, I went up
and talked it over with Sarah Hood, and she came down, pretending
she happened in, and she tried thickened milk, toast and mulled
buttermilk; she kept trying for two days before she gave up. 
Candace thought of new things, and Mrs. Freshett came and made
all the sick dishes she knew, but mother couldn't even taste
them; so we were pretty blue, and we nearly starved ourselves,
for how could we sit and eat everything you could mention, and
mother lying there, almost crying with hunger?

Saturday morning I was hanging around her room hoping maybe she
could think of some least little thing I could do for her, even
if no more than to bring a glass of water, or a late rose to lay
on her pillow; it would be better than not being able to do
anything at all.  After a while she opened her eyes and looked at
me, and I scarcely knew her.  She smiled the bravest she could
and said:  "Sorry for mother, dear?"

I nodded.  I couldn't say much, and she tried harder than ever to
be cheerful and asked:  "What are you planning to do to-day?"

"If you can't think of one thing I can do for you, guess I'll go
fishing," I said.

Her eyes grew brighter and she seemed half interested.

"Why, Little Sister," she said, "if you can catch some of those
fish like you do sometimes, I believe I could eat one of them."

I never had such a be-hanged time getting started.  I slipped
from the room, and never told a soul even where I was going.  I
fell over the shovel and couldn't find anything quick enough but
my pocket to put the worms in, and I forgot my stringer.  At
last, when I raced down the hill to the creek and climbed over
the water of the deep place, on the roots of the Pete Billings
yowling tree, I had only six worms, my apple sucker pole, my
cotton cord line, and bent pin hook.  I put the first worm on
carefully, and if ever I prayed!  Sometimes it was hard to
understand about this praying business.  My mother was the best
and most beautiful woman who ever lived.  She was clean, and
good, and always helped "the poor and needy who cluster round
your door," like it says in the poetry piece, and there never
could have been a reason why God would want a woman to suffer
herself, when she went flying on horseback even dark nights
through rain or snow, to doctor other people's pain, and when she
gave away things like she did--why, I've seen her take a big
piece of meat from the barrel, and a sack of meal, and heaps of
apples and potatoes to carry to Mandy Thomas--when she gave away
food by the wagonload at a time, God couldn't have WANTED her to
be hungry, and yet she WAS that very minute almost crying for
food; and I prayed, oh how I did pray! and a sneaking old back-
ended crayfish took my very first worm.  I just looked at the sky
and said:  "Well, when it's for a sick woman, can't You do any
better than that?"

I suppose I shouldn't have said it, but if it had been your
mother, how would you have felt?  I pinched the next worm in two,
so if a crayfish took that, it wouldn't get but half.  I lay down
across the roots and pulled my bonnet far over my face and tried
to see to the bottom.  I read in school the other day:


            "And by those little rings on the water I know
             The fishes are merrily swimming below."


There were no rings on the water, but after a while I saw some
fish darting around, only they didn't seem to be hungry; for they
would come right up and nibble a tiny bit at my worm, but they
wouldn't swallow it.  Then one did, so I jerked with all my
might, jerked so hard the fish and worm both flew off, and I had
only the hook left.  I put on the other half and tried again.  I
prayed straight along, but the tears would come that time, and
the prayer was no powerful effort like Brother Hastings would
have made; it was little torn up pieces mostly:  "O Lord, please
do make only one fish bite!"  At last one did bite good, so I
swung carefully that time, and landed it on the grass, but it was
so little and it hit a stone and was killed.  I had no stringer
to put it back in the water to keep cool, and the sun was hot
that day, like times in the fall.  Stretched on the roots, with
it shining on my back, and striking the water and coming up from
below, I dripped with heat and excitement.

I threw that one away, put on another worm, and a big turtle took
it, the hook, and broke my line, and almost pulled me in.  I
wouldn't have let go if it had, for I just had to have a fish. 
There was no help from the Lord in that, so I quit praying, only
what I said when I didn't know it.  Father said man was born a
praying animal, and no matter how wicked he was, if he had an
accident, or saw he had just got to die, he cried aloud to the
Lord for help and mercy before he knew what he was doing.

I could hear the roosters in the barnyard, the turkey gobbler,
and the old ganders screamed once in a while, and sometimes a
bird sang a skimpy little fall song; nothing like spring, except
the killdeers and larks; they were always good to hear--and then
the dinner bell rang.  I wished I had been where I couldn't have
heard that, because I didn't intend going home until I had a fish
that would do for mother if I stayed until night.  If the best
one in the family had to starve, we might as well all go
together; but I wouldn't have known how hungry I was, if the bell
hadn't rung and told me the others were eating.  So I bent
another pin and tried again.  I lost the next worm without
knowing how, and then I turned baby and cried right out loud.  I
was so thirsty, the salty tears running down my cheeks tasted
good, and doing something besides fishing sort of rested me; so I
looked around and up at the sky, wiped my face on the skirt of my
sunbonnet, and put on another worm.  I had only one more left,
and I began to wonder if I could wade in and catch a fish by
hand; I did teeny ones sometimes, but I knew the water there was
far above my head, for I had measured it often with the pole; it
wouldn't do to try that; instead of helping mother any, a funeral
would kill her, too, so I fell back on the Crusaders, and tried
again.

Strange how thinking about them helped.  I pretended I was
fighting my way to the Holy City, and this was the Jordan just
where it met the sea, and I had to catch enough fish to last me
during the pilgrimage west or I'd never reach Jerusalem to bring
home a shell for the Stanton crest.  I pretended so hard, that I
got braver and stronger, and asked the Lord more like there was
some chance of being heard.  All at once there was a jerk that
almost pulled me in, so I jerked too, and a big fish flew over my
head and hit the bank behind me with a thump.  Of course by a big
fish I don't mean a red horse so long as my arm, like the boys
bring from the river; I mean the biggest fish I ever caught with
a pin in our creek.  It looked like the whale that swallowed
Jonah, as it went over my head.  I laid the pole across the
roots, jumped up and turned, and I had to grab the stump to keep
from falling in the water and dying.  There lay the fish, the
biggest one I ever had seen, but it was flopping wildly, and it
wasn't a foot from a hole in the grass where a muskrat had
burrowed through.  If it gave one flop that way, it would slide
down the hole straight back into the water; and between me and
the fish stood our cross old Shropshire ram.  I always looked to
see if the sheep were in the meadow before I went to the creek,
but that morning I had been so crazy to get something for mother
to eat, I never once thought of them--and there it stood!

That ram hadn't been cross at first, and father said it never
would be if treated right, and not teased, and if it were, there
would be trouble for all of us.  I was having more than my share
that minute, and it bothered me a lot almost every day.  I never
dared enter a field any more if it were there, and now it was
stamping up and down the bank, shaking its head, and trying to
get me; with one flop the fish went ALMOST in the hole, and the
next a little away from it.  Everything put together, I thought I
couldn't stand it.  I never wanted anything as I wanted that
fish, and I never hated anything as I hated that sheep.  It
wasn't the sheep's fault either; Leon teased it on purpose, just
to see it chase Polly Martin; but that was more her doings than
his.

She was a widow and she crossed our front meadow going to her
sister's.  She had two boys big as Laddie, and three girls, and
father said they lived like "the lilies of the field; they toiled
not, neither did they spin."  They never looked really hungry or
freezing, but they never plowed, or planted, they had no cattle
or pigs or chickens, only a little corn for meal, and some
cabbage, and wild things they shot for meat, and coons to trade
the skins for more powder and lead--bet they ate the coons--never
any new clothes, never clean, they or their house.  Once when
father and mother were driving past, they saw Polly at the well
and they stopped for politeness sake to ask how she was, like
they always did with every one.  Polly had a tin cup of water and
was sopping at her neck with a carpet rag, and when mother asked,
"How are you, Mrs. Martin?" she answered:  "Oh I ain't very well
this spring; I gest I got the go-backs!"

Mother said Polly looked as if she'd been born with the "go-
backs," and had given them to all her children, her home, garden,
fields, and even the FENCES.  We hadn't a particle of patience
with such people.  When you are lazy like that it is very
probable that you'll live to see the day when your children will
peep through the fence cracks and cry for bread.  I have seen
those Martin children come mighty near doing it when the rest of
us opened our dinner baskets at school; and if mother hadn't
always put in enough so that we could divide, I bet they would. 
If Polly Martin had walked up as if she were alive, and had been
washed and neat, and going somewhere to do some one good, Leon
never would have dreamed of such a thing as training the
Shropshire to bunt her.  She was so long and skinny, always wore
a ragged shawl over her head, a floppy old dress that the wind
whipped out behind, and when she came to the creek, she sat
astride the foot log, and hunched along with her hands; that
tickled the boys so, Leon began teasing the sheep on purpose to
make it get her.  But inasmuch as she saw fit to go abroad
looking so funny, that any one could see she'd be a perfect
circus if she were chased, I didn't feel that it was Leon's
fault.  If, like the little busy bee, she had "improved each
shining hour," he never would have done it.  Seems to me, she
brought the trouble on her own head.

First, Leon ran at the Shropshire and then jumped aside; but soon
it grew so strong and quick he couldn't manage that, so he put
his hat on a stick and poked it back and forth through a fence
crack, and that made the ram raving mad.  At last it would butt
the fence until it would knock itself down, and if he dangled the
hat again, get right up and do it over.  Father never caught
Leon, so he couldn't understand what made the sheep so dreadfully
cross, because he had thought it was quite peaceable when he
bought it.  The first time it got after Polly, she threw her
shawl over its head, pulled up her skirts, and Leon said she hit
just eleven high places crossing an eighty-acre field; she came
to the house crying, and father had to go after her shawl, and
mother gave her a roll of butter and a cherry pie to comfort her.

The Shropshire never really got Polly, but any one could easily
see what it would do to me if I dared step around that stump, and
it was dancing and panting to begin.  If whoever wrote that
"Gentle Sheep, pray tell me why," piece ever had seen a sheep
acting like that, it wouldn't have been in the books; at least I
think it wouldn't, but one can't be sure.  He proved that he
didn't know much about anything outdoors or he wouldn't have said
that sheep were "eating grass and daisies white, from the morning
till the night," when daisies are bitter as gall.

Flop! went the fish, and its tail touched the edge of the hole. 
Then I turned around and picked up the pole.  I put my sunbonnet
over the big end of it, and poked it at the ram, and drew it back
as Leon did his hat.  One more jump and mother's fish would be
gone.  I stood on the roots and waved my bonnet.  The sheep
lowered its head and came at it with a rush.  I drew back the
pole, and the sheep's forefeet slid over the edge, and it braced
and began to work to keep from going in.  The fish gave a big
flop and went down the hole.  Then I turned Crusader and began to
fight, and I didn't care if I were whipped black and blue, I
meant to finish that old black-faced Shropshire.  I set the pole
on the back of its neck and pushed with all my might, and I got
it in, too.  My, but it made a splash!  It wasn't much good at
swimming either, and it had no chance, for I stood on the roots
and pushed it down, and hit it over the nose with all my might,
and I didn't care how far it came on the cars, or how much money
it cost, it never would chase me, and make me lose my fish again.

I didn't hear him until he splashed under the roots and then I
was so mad I didn't see that it was Laddie; I only knew that it
was someone who was going to help out that miserable ram, so I
struck with all my might, the sheep when I could hit it, if not,
the man.

"You little demon, stop!" cried Laddie.

I got in a good one right on the ram's nose.  Then Laddie dropped
the sheep and twisted the fish pole from my fingers, and I pushed
him as hard as I could, but he was too strong.  He lifted the
sheep, pulled it to the bank, and rolled it, worked its jaws, and
squeezed water from it, and worked and worked.

"I guess you've killed it!" he said at last.

"Goody!" I shouted.  "Goody!  Oh but I am glad it's dead!"

"What on earth has turned you to a fiend?" asked Laddie,
beginning work on the sheep again.

"That ram!" I said.  "Ever since Leon made it cross so it would
chase Polly Martin, it's got me oftener than her.  I can't go
anywhere for it, and to-day it made me lose a big fish, and
mother is waiting.  She thought maybe she could eat some."

Then I roared; bet I sounded like Bashan's bull.

"Dear Lord!" said Laddie dropping the sheep and taking me in his
wet arms.  "Tell me, Biddy!  Tell me how it is."

Then I forgot I was a Crusader, and told him all about it as well
as I could for choking, and when I finished he bathed my hot
face, and helped me from the roots.  Then he went and looked down
the hole I showed him and he cried out quicklike, and threw
himself on the grass, and in a second up came the fish.  Some one
had rolled a big stone in the hole, so the fish was all right,
not even dead yet, and Laddie said it was the biggest one he ever
had seen taken from the creek.  Then he said if I'd forgive him
and all our family, for spoiling the kind of a life I had a
perfect right to lead, and if I'd run to the house and get a big
bottle from the medicine case quick, he would see to it that some
place was fixed for that sheep where it would never bother me
again.  So I took the fish and ran as fast as I could, but I sent
May back with the bottle, and did the scaling myself.  No one at
our house could do it better, for Laddie taught me the right way
long ago, when I was small, and I'd done it hundreds of times.

Then I went to Candace and she put a little bit of butter and a
speck of lard in a skillet, and cooked the fish brown.  She made
a slice of toast and boiled a cup of water and carried it to the
door; then she went in and set the table beside the bed, and I
took in the tray, and didn't spill a drop.  Mother never said a
word; she just reached out and broke off a tiny speck and nibbled
it, and it stayed; she tried a little bigger piece, and another,
and she said:  "Take out the bones, Candace!"  She ate every
scrap of that fish like the hungriest traveller who ever came to
our door, and the toast, and drank the hot water.  Then she went
into a long sleep and all of us walked tiptoe, and when she waked
up she was better, and in a few days she could sit in her chair
again, and she began getting Shelley ready to go to music school.

I have to tell you the rest, too.  Laddie made the ram come
alive, and father sold it the next day for more than he paid for
it.  He said he hoped I'd forgive him for not having seen how it
had been bothering me, and that he never would have had it on the
place a day if he'd known.  The next time he went to town he
bought me a truly little cane rod, a real fishing line, several
hooks, and a red bobber too lovely to put into the water.  I
thought I was a great person from the fuss all of them made over
me, until I noticed Laddie shrug his shoulders, and reach back
and rub one, and then I remembered.

I went flying, and thank goodness! he held out his arms.

"Oh Laddie!  I never did it!" I cried.  "I never, never did!  I
couldn't!  Laddie, I love you best of any one; you know I do!"

"Of course you didn't!" said Laddie.  "My Little Sister wasn't
anywhere around when that happened.  That was a poor little girl
I never saw before, and she was in such trouble she didn't know
WHAT she was doing.  And I hope I'll never see her again," he
ended, twisting his shoulder.  But he kissed me and made it all
right, and really I didn't do that; I just simply couldn't have
struck Laddie.

Marrying off Sally was little worse than getting Shelley ready
for school.  She had to have three suits of everything, and a new
dress of each kind, and three hats; her trunk wouldn't hold all
there was to put in it; and father said he never could pay the
bills.  He had promised her to go, and he didn't know what in
this world to do; because he never had borrowed money in his
life, and he couldn't begin; for if he died suddenly, that would
leave mother in debt, and they might take the land from her. 
That meant he'd spent what he had in the bank on Sally's wedding,
and all that was in the Underground Station, or maybe the Station
money wasn't his.

Just when he was awfully bothered, mother said to never mind, she
believed she could fix it.  She sent all of us into the orchard
to pick the fine apples that didn't keep well, and father made
three trips to town to sell them.  She had big jars of lard she
wouldn't need before butchering time came again, and she sold
dried apples, peaches, and raspberries from last year.  She got
lots of money for barrels of feathers she'd saved to improve her
feather beds and pillows; she said she would see to that later. 
Father was so tickled to get the money to help him out that he
said he'd get her a pair of those wonderful new blue geese like
Pryors had, that every one stopped to look at.  When there was
not quite enough yet, from somewhere mother brought out money
that she'd saved for a long time, from butter and eggs, and
chickens, and turkeys, and fruit and lard, and things that
belonged to her.  Father hated to use it the worst way, but she
said she'd saved it for an emergency, and now seemed to be the
time.

She said if the child really had talent, she should be about
developing it, and while there would be many who would have far
finer things than Shelley, still she meant her to have enough
that she wouldn't be the worst looking one, and so ashamed she
couldn't keep her mind on her work.  Father said, with her face
it didn't make any difference what she wore, and mother said that
was just like a man; it made all the difference in the world what
a girl wore.  Father said maybe it did to the girl, and other
women; what he meant was that it made none to a man.  Mother said
the chief aim and end of a girl's life was not wrapped up in a
man; and father said maybe not with some girls, but it would be
with Shelley: she was too pretty to escape.  I do wonder if I'm
going to be too pretty to escape, when I put on long dresses. 
Sometimes I look in the glass to see if it's coming, but I don't
suppose it's any use.  Mother says you can't tell a thing at the
growing age about how a girl is going to look at eighteen.

When everything was almost ready, Leon came in one day and said: 
"Shelley, what about improving your hair?  Have you tried your
wild grape sap yet?"

Shelley said:  "Why, goodness me!  We've been so busy getting
Sally married, and my clothes made, I forgot all about that. 
Have you noticed the crock in passing?  Is there anything in it?"

"It was about half full, once when I went by," said Leon. "I
haven't seen it lately."

"Do please be a dear and look, when you go after the cows this
evening," said Shelley.  "If there's anything in it, bring it
up."

            "Do it yourself for want of me,
             The boy replied quite manfully,"


quoted Leon from "The Little Lord and the Farmer."  He was always
teasing.

"I think you're mean as dirt if you don t bring it," said
Shelley.

Leon grinned and you should have heard the nasty, teasing way he
said more of that same piece:

            "Anger and pride are both unwise,
             Vinegar never catches flies----"


I wondered she didn't slap him.  You could see she wanted to.  "I
can get it myself," she said angrily.

"What will you give me to bring it?" asked Leon, who never missed
a chance to make a bargain.

"My grateful thanks.  Are they not a proper reward?" asked
Shelley.

"Thanks your foot!" said Leon.  "Will you bring something pretty
from Chicago for Susie Fall's Christmas present?"

Every one laughed, but Leon never cared.  He liked Susie best of
any of the girls, and he wanted every one to know it.  He went
straight to her whenever he had a chance, and he'd already told
her mother to keep all the other boys away, because he meant to
marry her when he grew up, and Widow Fall said that was fair
enough, and she'd save her for him.  So Shelley said she would
get him something for Susie, and Leon brought the crock.  Shelley
looked at it sort of dubious-like, tipped it, and stared at the
dirt settled in the bottom, and then stuck in her finger and
tasted it.  She looked at Leon with a queer grin and said: 
"Smarty, smarty, think you're smart!"  She threw the creek water
into the swill bucket.  No one said a word, but Leon looked much
sillier than she did.  After he was gone I asked her if she would
bring him a Christmas present for Susie NOW, and she said she
ought to bring him a pretty glass bottle labelled perfume, with
hartshorn in it, and she would, if she thought he'd smell it
first.

Shelley felt badly about leaving mother when she wasn't very
well; but mother said it was all right, she had Candace to keep
house and May and me, and father, and all of us to take care of
her, and it would be best for Shelley to go now and work hard as
she could, while she had the chance.  So one afternoon father
took her trunk to the depot and bought the tickets and got the
checks, and the next day Laddie drove to Groveville with father
and Shelley, and she was gone.  Right at the last, she didn't
seem to want to leave so badly, but all of them said she must. 
Peter's cousin, who had gone last year, was to meet her, and have
a room ready where she boarded if she could, and if she couldn't
right away, then the first one who left, Shelley was to have the
place, so they'd be together.

There were eight of us left, counting Candace and Miss Amelia,
and you wouldn't think a house with eight people living in it
would be empty, but ours was.  Everything seemed to wilt.  The
roses on the window blinds didn't look so bright as they had;
mother said the only way she could get along was to keep right on
working.  She helped Candace all she could, but she couldn't be
on her feet very much, so she sat all day long and peeled peaches
to dry, showed Candace how to jelly, preserve, and spice them,
and peeled apples for butter and to dry, quantities more than we
could use, but she said she always could sell such things, and
with the bunch of us to educate yet, we'd need the money.

When it grew cold enough to shut the doors, and have fire at
night, first thing after supper all of us helped clear the table,
then we took our slates and books and learned our lessons for the
next day, and then father lined us against the wall, all in a row
from Laddie down, and he pronounced words--easy ones that divided
into syllables nicely, for me, harder for May, and so up until I
might sit down.  For Laddie, May and Leon he used the geography,
the Bible, Roland's history, the Christian Advocate, and the
Agriculturist.  My, but he had them so they could spell!  After
that, as memory tests, all of us recited our reading lesson for
the next day, especially the poetry pieces.  I knew most of them,
from hearing the big folks repeat them so often and practise the
proper way to read them.  I could do "Rienzi's Address to the
Romans," "Casablanca," "Gray's Elegy," or "Mark Antony's Speech,"
but best of all, I liked "Lines to a Water-fowl."  When he was
tired, if it were not bedtime yet, all of us, boys too, sewed
rags for carpet and rugs.  Laddie braided corn husks for the
kitchen and outside door mats, and they were pretty, and "very
useful too," like the dog that got his head patted in McGuffey's
Second.

Then they picked the apples.  These had to be picked by hand,
wrapped in soft paper, packed in barrels, and shipped to Fort
Wayne.  Where they couldn't reach by hand, they stood on barrels
or ladders, and used a long handled picker, so as not to bruise
the fruit.  Laddie helped with everything through the day, worked
at his books at night, and whenever he stepped outside he looked
in the direction of Pryors'.  He climbed to the topmost limbs of
the trees with a big basket, picked it full and let it down with
a long piece of clothesline.  I loved to be in the orchard when
they were working; there were plenty of summer apples to eat yet;
it was fun to watch the men, and sometimes I could be useful by
handing baskets or heaping up apples to be buried for us.

One night father read about a man who had been hanged for killing
another man, and they cut him down too soon, so he came alive,
and they had to hang him over; and father got all worked up about
it.  He said the man had suffered death the first time to "all
intents and purposes," so that fulfilled the requirements of the
law, and they were wrong when they hanged him again.  Laddie said
it was a piece of bungling sure enough, but the law said a man
must be "hanged by his neck until he was dead," and if he weren't
dead, why, it was plain he hadn't fulfilled the requirements of
the law, so they were forced to hang him again.  Father said that
law was wrong; the man never should have been hanged in the first
place.  They talked and argued until we were all excited about
it, and the next evening after school Leon and I were helping
pick apples, and when father and Laddie went to the barn with a
load we sat down to rest and we thought about what they said.

"Gee, that was tough on the man!" said Leon, "but I guess the law
is all right.  Of course he wouldn't want to die, and twice over
at that, but I don't suppose the man he killed liked to die
either.  I think if you take a life, it's all right to give your
own to pay for it."

"Leon," I said, "some time when you are fighting Absalom Saunders
or Lou Wicks, just awful, if you hit them too hard on some tender
spot and kill them, would you want to die to pay for it?"

"I wouldn't want to, but I guess I'd have to," said Leon. 
"That's the law, and it's as good a way to make it as any.  But
I'm not going to kill any one.  I've studied my physiology hard
to find all the spots that will kill.  I never hit them behind
the ear, or in the pit of the stomach; I just black their eyes,
bloody their snoots, and swat them on the chin to finish off
with."

"Well, suppose they don't study their physiologies like you do,
and hit YOU in the wrong place, and kill you, would you want THEM
hanged by the neck until they were dead, to pay for it?"

"I don't think I'd want anything if I were dead," he said.  "I
wonder how it feels to die.  Now THAT man knew.  I'd like to be
hanged enough to find out how it goes, and then come back, and
brag about it.  I don't think it hurts much; I believe I'll try
it."

So Leon took the rope Laddie lowered the baskets with, and threw
it over a big limb.  Then he rolled up a barrel and stood on it
and put my sunbonnet on with the crown over his face, for a black
cap, and made the rope into a slip noose over his head, and told
me to stand back by the apple tree and hold the rope tight, until
he said he was hanged enough.  Then he stepped from the barrel. 
It jerked me toward him about a yard, as he came down smash! on
his feet.  I held with all my might, but he was too heavy--and
falling that way.  So he went to trying to fix some other plan,
and I told him the sensible thing to do would be for him to hang
me, because he'd be strong enough to hold me and I could tell him
how it felt just as well.  So we fixed me up like we had him, and
when Leon got the rope stretched, he wrapped it twice around the
apple tree so it wouldn't jerk him as it had me, and when he said
"Ready," I stepped from the barrel.  The last thing I heard was
Leon telling me to say when I was hanged enough.  I was so heavy,
the rope stretched, and I went down until it almost tore off my
head, and I couldn't get a single breath, so of course I didn't
tell him, and I couldn't get on the barrel, and my tongue went
out, and my chest swelled up, and my ears roared, and I kicked
and struggled, and all the time I could hear Leon laughing, and
shouting to keep it up, that I was dying fine; only he didn't
know that I really was, and at last I didn't feel or know
anything more.

When I came to, I was lying on the grass, while father was
pumping my arms, and Laddie was pouring creek water on my face
from his hat, and Leon was running around in circles, clear
crazy.  I heard father tell him he'd give him a scutching he'd
remember to the day of his death; but inasmuch as I had told Leon
to do it, I had to grab father and hold to him tight as I could,
until I got breath enough to explain how it happened.  Even then
I wasn't sure what he was going to do.

After all that, when I tried to tell Leon how it felt, he just
cried like a baby, and he wouldn't listen to a word, even when
he'd wanted to know so badly.  He said if I hadn't come back,
he'd have gone to the barn and used the swing rope on himself, so
it was a good thing I did, for one funeral would have cost
enough, when we needed money so badly, not to mention how mother
would have felt to have two of us go at once, like she had
before.  And anyway, it didn't amount to so awful much.  It was
pretty bad at first, but it didn't last long, and the next day my
neck was only a little blue and stiff, and in three days it was
all over, only a rough place where the rope grained the skin as I
went down; but I never got to tell Leon how it felt; I just
couldn't talk him into hearing, and it was quite interesting too;
but still I easily saw why the man in the paper would object to
dying twice, to pay for killing another man once.

When the apples were picked and the cabbage, beets, turnips, and
potatoes were buried, some corn dried in the garret for new meal,
pumpkins put in the cellar, the field corn all husked, and the
butchering done, father said the work was in such fine shape,
with Laddie to help, and there was so much more corn than he
needed for us, and the price was so high, and the turkeys did so
well, and everything, that he could pay back what mother helped
him, and have quite a sum over.

It was Thanksgiving by that time, and all of Winfield's, Lucy's,
Sally and Peter, and our boys came home.  We had a big time, all
but Shelley; it was too expensive for her to come so far for one
day, but mother sent her a box with a whole turkey for herself
and her friends; and cake, popcorn, nuts, and just everything
that wasn't too drippy.  Shelley wrote such lovely letters that
mother saved them and after we had eaten as much dinner as we
could, she read them before we left the table.

I had heard most of them, but I liked to listen again, because
they sounded so happy.  You could hear Shelley laugh on every
page.  She told about how Peter's cousin was waiting when the
train stopped.  They couldn't room together right away, but they
were going to the first chance they had.  Shelley felt badly
because they were so far apart, but she was in a nice place,
where she could go with other girls of the school until she
learned the way.  She told about her room and the woman she
boarded with and what she had to eat; she wrote mother not to
worry about clothes, because most of the others were from the
country, or small towns, and getting ready to teach, and lots of
them didn't have NEARLY as many or as pretty dresses as she did. 
She told about the big building, the classes, the professors, and
of going to public recitals where some of the pupils who knew
enough played; and she was working her fingers almost to the
bone, so she could next year.  She told of people she met, and
how one of the teachers took a number of girls in his class to
see a great picture gallery.  She wrote pages about a young
Chicago lawyer she met there, and only a few lines about the
pictures, so father said as that was the best collection of art
work in Chicago, it was easy enough to see that Shelley had been
far more impressed with the man than she had been with the
pictures.  Mother said she didn't see how he could say a thing
like that about the child.  Of course she couldn't tell in a
letter about hundreds of pictures, but it was easy enough to tell
all about a man.

Father got sort of spunky at that, and he said it was mighty
little that mattered most, that could be told about a Chicago
lawyer; and mother had better caution Shelley to think more about
her work, and write less of the man.  Mother said that would stop
the child's confidences completely and she'd think all the time
about the man, and never mention him again, so she wouldn't know
what WAS going on.  She said she was glad Shelley had found
pleasing, refined friends, and she'd encourage her all she could
in cultivating them; but of course she'd caution her to be
careful, and she'd tell her what the danger was, and after that
Shelley wrote and wrote.  Mother didn't always read the letters
to us, but she answered every one she got that same night. 
Sometimes she pushed the pen so she jabbed the paper, and often
she smiled or laughed softly.

I liked Thanksgiving.  We always had a house full of company, and
they didn't stay until we were tired of them, as they did at
Christmas, and there was as much to eat; the only difference was
that there were no presents.  It wasn't nearly so much work to
fix for one day as it was for a week; so it wasn't so hard on
mother and Candace, and father didn't have to spend much money. 
We were wearing all our clothes from last fall that we could, and
our coats from last winter to help out, but we didn't care.  We
had a lot of fun, and we wanted Sally and Shelley to have fine
dresses, because they were in big cities where they needed them,
and in due season, no doubt, we would have much more than they,
because, as May figured it, there would be only a few of us by
that time, so we could have more to spend.  That looked sensible,
and I thought it would be that way, too.  We were talking it over
coming from school one evening, and when we had settled it, we
began to play "Dip and Fade."  That was a game we made up from
being at church, and fall and spring were the only times we could
play it, because then the rains filled all the ditches beside the
road where the dirt was plowed up to make the bed higher, and we
had to have the water to dip in and fade over.

We played it like that, because it was as near as we could come
to working out a song Isaac Thomas sang every time he got happy. 
He had a lot of children at home, and more who had died, from
being half-fed and frozen, mother thought; and he was always
talking about meeting the "pore innocents" in Heaven, and singing
that one song.  Every time he made exactly the same speech in
meeting.  It began like reciting poetry, only it didn't rhyme,
but it sort of cut off in lines, and Isaac waved back and forth
on his feet, and half sung it, and the rags waved too, but you
just couldn't feel any thrills of earnestness about what he said,
because he needed washing, and to go to work and get him some
clothes and food to fill out his frame.  He only looked funny,
and made you want to laugh.  It took Emanuel Ripley to raise your
hair.  I don't know why men like my father, and the minister, and
John Dover stood it; they talked over asking Isaac to keep quiet
numbers of times, but the minister said there were people like
that in every church, they always came among the Lord's anointed,
and it was better to pluck out your right eye than to offend one
of them, and he was doubtful about doing it.  So we children all
knew that the grown people scarcely could stand Isaac's speech,
and prayer, and song, and that they were afraid to tell him plain
out that he did more harm than good.  Every meeting about the
third man up was Isaac, and we had to watch him wave, and rant,
and go sing-songy:

        "Oh brethering and sistering--ah,
         It delights my heart--ah to gather with you,
         In this holy house of worship--ah.
         In his sacred word--ah,
         The Lord--ah tells us,
         That we are all his childring--ah.
         And now, lemme exhort you to-night--ah,
         As one that loves you--ah,
         To choose that good part, that Mary chose--ah,
         That the worrrr-uld kin neither give ner take away--ah."

That went on until he was hoarse, then he prayed, and arose and
sang his song.  Other men spoke where they stood.  Isaac always
walked to the altar, faced the people, and he was tired out when
he finished, but so proud of himself, so happy, and he felt so
sure that his efforts were worth a warm bed, sausage, pancakes,
maple syrup, and coffee for breakfast, that it was mighty seldom
he failed to fool some one else into thinking so too, and if he
could, he wouldn't have to walk four miles home on cold nights,
with no overcoat.  In summer, mostly, they let him go.  Isaac
always was fattest in winter, especially during revivals, but at
any time mother said he looked like a sheep's carcass after the
buzzards had picked it.  It could be seen that he was perfectly
strong, and could have fed and clothed himself, and Mandy and the
children, quite as well as our father did us, if he had wanted to
work, for we had the biggest family of the neighbourhood.  So we
children made fun of him and we had to hold our mouths shut when
he got up all tired and teary-like, and began to quaver:

        "Many dear childurn we know dew stan'
         Un toon ther harps in the better lan',
         Ther little hans frum each soundin' string,
         Bring music sweet, wile the Anguls sing,
         Bring music sweet, wile the Anguls sing,--
                 We shell meet them agin on that shore,
                 We shell meet them agin on that shore,
                 With fairer face, un angel grace,
                 Each loved un ull welcome us ther.

        "They uster mourn when the childurn died,
         Un said goo-bye at the river side,
         They dipped ther feet in the glidin' stream,
         Un faded away, like a loveli dream,
         Un faded away like a loveli dream."


Then the chorus again, and then Isaac dropped on the front seat
exhausted, and stayed there until some good-hearted woman, mostly
my mother, felt so sorry about his shiftlessness she asked him to
go home with us and warmed and fed him, and put him in the
traveller's bed to sleep.  The way we played it was this: we
stood together at the edge of a roadside puddle and sang the
first verse and the chorus exactly as Isaac did.  Then I sang the
second verse, and May was one of the "many dear childurn," and as
I came to the lines she dipped her feet in the "glidin' stream,"
and for "fading away," she jumped across.

Now May was a careful little soul, and always watched what she
was doing, so she walked up a short way, chose a good place, and
when I sang the line, she was almost birdlike, she dipped and
faded so gracefully.  Then we laughed like dunces, and then May
began to sway and swing, and drone through her nose for me, and I
was so excited I never looked.  I just dipped and faded on the
spot.  I faded all right too, for I couldn't jump nearly across,
and when I landed in pure clay that had been covered with water
for three weeks, I went down to my knees in mud, to my waist in
water, and lost my balance and fell backward.

A man passing on horseback pried me out with a rail and helped me
home.  Of course he didn't know how I happened to fall in, and I
was too chilled to talk.  I noticed May only said I fell, so I
went to bed scorched inside with red pepper tea, and never told a
word about dipping and fading.  Leon whispered and said he bet it
was the last time I would play that, so as soon as my coat and
dress were washed and dried, and I could go back to school, I did
it again, just to show him I was no cowardy-calf; but I had
learned from May to choose a puddle I could manage before I
faded.



CHAPTER IX

"Even So"

            "All things whatsoever ye would
             That men should do to you,
             Do ye even so to them."


Our big girls and boys always made a dreadful fuss and said we
would catch every disease you could mention, but mother and
father were set about it, just like the big rocks in the hills. 
They said they, themselves, once had been at the mercy of the
people, and they knew how it felt.  Mother said when they were
coming here in a wagon, and she had ridden until she had to walk
to rest her feet, and held a big baby until her arms became so
tired she drove while father took it, and when at last they saw a
house and stopped, she said if the woman hadn't invited her in,
and let her cook on the stove, given her milk and eggs, and
furnished her a bed to sleep in once in a while, she couldn't
have reached here at all; and she never had been refused once. 
Then she always quoted:  "All things whatsoever ye would that men
should do to you, do ye EVEN SO to them."

Father said there were men who made a business of splitting
hairs, and of finding different meanings in almost everything in
the Bible.  I would like to have seen any one split hairs about
that, or it made to mean something else.  Of all the things in
the Bible that you had to do because it said to, whether you
liked it or not, that was the one you struck oftenest in life and
it took the hardest pull to obey.  It was just the hatefulest
text of any, and made you squirm most.  There was no possible way
to get around it.  It meant, that if you liked a splinter new
slate, and a sharp pencil all covered with gold paper, to make
pictures and write your lessons, when Clarissa Polk sat next you
and sang so low the teacher couldn't hear until she put herself
to sleep on it, "I WISHT I had a slate!  I wisht I HAD a slate! 
I wisht I had a SLATE!  Oh I WISHT I HAD A SLATE!"--it meant that
you just had to wash up yours and stop making pictures yourself,
and pass it over; you even had to smile when you offered it, if
you did it right.  I seldom got through it as the Lord would, for
any one who loaned Clarissa a slate knew that it would come back
with greasy, sweaty finger marks on it you almost had to dig a
hole to wash off, and your pencil would be wet.  And if there
were the least flaw of crystal in the pencil, she found it, and
bore down so hard that what she wrote never would come off.

The Lord always seemed bigger and more majestic to me, than at
any other time, when I remembered that He could have known all
that, and yet smiled as He loaned Clarissa His slate.  And that
old Bible thing meant, too, that if you would like it if you were
travelling a long way, say to California to hunt gold, or even
just to Indiana, to find a farm fit to live on--it meant that if
you were tired, hungry, and sore, and would want to be taken in
and fed and rested, you had to let in other people when they
reached your house.  Father and mother had been through it
themselves, and they must have been tired as could be, before
they reached Sarah Hood's and she took them in, and rested and
fed them, even when they were only a short way from the top of
the Little Hill, where next morning they looked down and stopped
the wagon, until they chose the place to build their house. 
Sarah Hood came along, and helped mother all day, so by night she
was settled in the old cabin that was on the land, and ready to
go to work making money to build a new one, and then a big house,
and fix the farm all beautiful like it was then.  They knew so
well how it felt, that they kept one bed in the boys' room, and
any man who came at dusk got his supper, to sleep there, and his
breakfast, and there never was anything to pay.  The girls always
scolded dreadfully about the extra washing, but mother said she
slept on sheets when she came out, and some one washed them.

One time Sally said:  "Mother, have you ever figured out how many
hundred sheets you've washed since, to pay for that?"

Mother said:  "No, but I just hope it will make a stack high
enough for me to climb from into Heaven."

Sally said:  "The talk at the church always led me to think that
you flew to Heaven."

Mother answered:  "So I get there, I don't mind if I creep."

Then Sally knew it was time to stop.  We always knew.  And we
stopped, too!

We had heard that "All things" quotation, until the first two
words were as much as mother ever needed repeat of it any more,
and we had cooked, washed for, and waited on people travelling,
until Leon got so when he saw any one coming--of course we knew
all the neighbours, and their horses and wagons and carriages--he
always said:  "Here comes another `Even So!'"  He said we had
done "even so" to people until it was about our share, but mother
said our share was going to last until the Lord said, "Well done,
good and faithful servant," and took us home.  She had much more
about the stranger at the gate and entertaining angels unawares;
why, she knew every single thing in the Bible that meant it was
her duty to feed and give a bed to any one, no matter how dirty
or miserable looking he was!  So when Leon came in one evening at
dusk and said, "There's another `Even So' coming down the Little
Hill!" all of us knew that we'd have company for the night, and
we had.

I didn't like that man, but some of the others seemed to find him
amusing.  Maybe it was because I had nothing to do but sit and
watch him, and so I saw more of him than the ones who came and
went all the time.  As long as there was any one in the room, he
complained dreadfully about his sore foot, and then cheered up
and talked, and he could tell interesting things.  He was young,
but he must have been most everywhere and seen everything.  He
was very brave and could stand off three men who were going to
take from him the money he was carrying to buy a piece of land in
Illinois.  The minute the grown folks left the room to milk, do
the night feeding, and begin supper, he twisted in his chair and
looked at every door, and went and stood at the back dining-room
window, where he could see the barn and what was out there, and
coming back he took a peep into father's and mother's room, and
although he limped dreadfully when he came, he walked like any
one when he went over and picked up father's gun and looked to
see if it were loaded, and seemed mighty glad when he found it
wasn't.  Father said he could load in a flash when it was
necessary, but he was dubious about a loaded gun in a house full
of children.  Not one of us ever touched it, until the boys were
big enough to have permission, like Laddie and Leon had.  He said
a gun was such a great "moral persuader," that the sight of one
was mostly all that was needed, and nobody could tell by looking
at it whether it was loaded or not.  This man could, for he
examined the lock and smiled in a pleased way over it, and he
never limped a step going back to his chair.  He kept on
complaining, until father told him before bedtime that he had
better rest a day or two, and mother said that would be a good
idea.

He talked so much we couldn't do our lessons or spell very well,
but it was Friday and we'd have another chance Saturday, so it
didn't make so much difference.  Father said the traveller must
be tired and sleepy and Leon should take a light and show him to
bed.  He stayed so long father went to the foot of the stairway,
and asked him why he didn't come down and he said he was in bed
too.  The next morning he was sleepy at breakfast and Laddie said
it was no wonder, because Leon and the traveller were talking
when he went upstairs.  The man turned to father and said: 
"That's a mighty smart boy, Mr. Stanton."  Father frowned and
said:  "Praise to the face is open disgrace.  I hope he will be
smart enough not to disgrace us, anyway."

The traveller said he was sure he would be, and we could see that
he had taken a liking to Leon, for he went with him to the barn
to help do the morning feeding.  They stayed so long mother sent
me to call them, and when I got there, the man was telling Leon
how foolish it was for boys to live on a farm; how they never
would amount to anything unless they went to cities, and about
all the fun there was there, and how nice it was to travel,
even along the roads, because every one fed you, and gave you a
good bed.  He forgot that walking had made his foot lame, and I
couldn't see, to save me, why he was going to spend his money to
buy a farm, if he thought a town the only place where it was fit
to live.

He stayed all Saturday, and father said Sunday was no suitable
time to start on a journey again, and the man's foot was bad when
father was around, so it would be better to wait until Monday. 
The traveller tagged Leon and told him what a fine fellow he was,
how smart he was, and to prove it, Leon boasted about everything
he knew, and showed the man all over the farm.

I even saw them pass the Station in the orchard, and heard Leon
brag how father had been an agent for the Governor; but of course
he didn't really show him the place, and probably it would have
made no difference if he had, for all the money must have been
spent on Sally's wedding.  Of course father might have put some
there he had got since, or that money might never have been his
at all, but it seemed as if it would be, because it was on his
land.

Sunday evening all of us attended church, but the traveller was
too tired, so when Leon said he'd stay with him, father thought
it was all right.  I could see no one wanted to leave the man
alone in the house.  He said they'd go to bed early, and we came
in quite late.  The lamp was turned low, the door unlocked, and
everything in place.  Laddie went to bed without a candle, and
said he'd undress and slip in easy so as not to waken them.

In the morning when he got up the traveller's bed hadn't been
slept in, and neither had Leon's.  The gun was gone, and father
stared at mother, and mother stared at Laddie, and he turned and
ran straight toward the Station, and in a minute he was back,
whiter than a plate.  He just said:  "All gone!"  Father and
mother both sat down suddenly and hard.  Then Laddie ran to the
barn and came back and said none of the horses had been taken. 
Soon they went into the parlour and shut the door, and when they
came out father staggered and mother looked exactly like
Sabethany.  Laddie ran to the barn, saddled Flos and rode away. 
Father wanted to ring an alarm on the dinner bell, like he had a
call arranged to get all the neighbours there quickly if we had
sickness or trouble, and mother said:  "Paul, you shall not! 
He's so young!  We've got to keep this as long as we can, and
maybe the Lord will help us find him, and we can give him another
chance."

Father started to say something, and mother held up her hand and
just said, "Paul!" and he sank back in the chair and kept still. 
Mother always had spoken of him as "the Head of the Family," and
here he wasn't at all!  He minded her quickly as I would.

When Miss Amelia came downstairs they let her start to school and
never told her a word, but mother said May and I were not to go. 
So I slipped out and ran through the orchard to look at the
Station, and sure enough! the stone was rolled back, the door
open and the can lying on the floor.  I slid down and picked it
up, and there was one sheet of paper money left in it stuck to
the sides.  It was all plain as a pikestaff.  Leon must have
thought the money had been spent, and showed the traveller the
Station, just to brag, and he guessed there might be something
there, and had gone while we were at church and taken it.  He had
all night the start of us, and he might have a horse waiting
somewhere, and be almost to Illinois by this time, and if the
money belonged to father, there would be no Christmas; and if it
happened to be the money the county gave him to pay the men who
worked the roads every fall, and Miss Amelia, or collections from
the church, he'd have to pay it back, even if it put him in debt;
and if he died, they might take the land, like he said; and where
on earth was Leon?  Knew what he'd done and hiding, I bet!  He
needed the thrashing he would get that time, and I started out to
hunt him and have it over with, so mother wouldn't be uneasy
about him yet; and then I remembered Laddie had said Leon hadn't
been in bed all night.  He was gone too!

Maybe he wanted to try life in a city, where the traveller had
said everything was so grand; but he must have known that he'd
kill his mother if he went, and while he didn't kiss her so
often, and talk so much as some of us, I never could see that he
didn't run quite as fast to get her a chair or save her a step. 
He was so slim and light he could race for the doctor faster than
Laddie or father, either one.  Of course he loved his mother,
just as all of us did; he never, never could go away and not let
her know about it.  If he had gone, that watchful-eyed man, who
was lame only part of the time, had taken the gun and made him
go.  I thought I might as well save the money he'd overlooked, so
I gripped it tight in my hand, and put it in my apron pocket, the
same as I had Laddie's note to the Princess, and started to the
barn, on the chance that Leon might be hiding.  I knew precious
well I would, if I were in his place.  So I hunted the granaries,
the haymow, the stalls, then I stood on the threshing floor and
cried:  "Leon!  If you're hiding come quick!  Mother will be sick
with worrying and father will be so glad to see you, he won't do
anything much.  Do please hurry!"

Then I listened, and all I could hear was a rat gnawing at a
corner of the granary under the hay.  Might as well have saved
its teeth, it would strike a strip of tin when it got through,
but of course it couldn't know that.  Then I went to every hole
around the haystack, where the cattle had eaten; none were deep
yet, like they would be later in the season, and all the way I
begged of Leon to come out.  Once a rooster screamed, flew in my
face and scared me good, but no Leon; so I tried the corn crib,
the implement shed, and the wood house, climbing the ladder with
the money still gripped in one hand.  Then I slipped in the front
door, up the stairs, and searched the garret, even away back
where I didn't like to very well.  At last I went to the dining-
room, and I don't think either father or mother had moved, while
Sabethany turned to stone looked good compared with them.  Seemed
as if it would have been better if they'd cried, or scolded, or
anything but just sit there as they did, when you could see by
their moving once in a while that they were alive.  In the
kitchen Candace and May finished the morning work, and both of
them cried steadily.  I slipped to May, "Whose money was it?" I
whispered.  "Father's, or the county's, or the church's?"

"All three," said May.

"The traveller took it."

"How would he find it?  None of us knew there was such a place
before."

"Laddie seemed to know!"

"Oh Laddie!  Father trusts him about everything."

"They don't think HE told?"

"Of course not, silly.  It's Leon who is gone!"

"Leon may have told about the Station!" I cried.  "He didn't
touch the money.  He never touched it!"

Then I went straight to father.  Keeping a secret was one thing;
seeing the only father you had look like that, was another.  I
held out the money.

"There's one piece old Even So didn't get, anyway," I said. 
"Found it on the floor of the Station, where it was stuck to the
can.  And I thought Leon must be hiding for fear he'd be whipped
for telling, but I've hunted where we usually hide, and promised
him everything under the sun if he'd come out; but he didn't, so
I guess that traveller man must have used the gun to make him go
along."

Father sat and stared at me.  He never offered to touch the
money, not even when I held it against his hand.  So I saw that
money wasn't the trouble, else he'd have looked quick enough to
see how much I had.  They were thinking about Leon being gone, at
least father was.  Mother called me to her and asked:  "You knew
about the Station?"

I nodded.

"When?"

"On the way back from taking Amanda Deam her ducks this summer."

"Leon was with you?"

"He found it."

"What were you doing?"

"Sitting on the fence eating apples.  We were wondering why that
ravine place wasn't cleaned up, when everywhere else was, and
then Leon said there might be a reason.  He told about having
seen a black man, and that he was hidden some place, and we
hunted there and found it.  We rolled back the stone, and opened
the door, and Leon went in, and both of us saw a can full of
money."

"Go on."

"We didn't touch it, mother!  Truly we didn't!  Leon said we'd
found something not intended for children, and we'd be whipped
sick if we ever went near or told, and we never did, not even
once, unless Leon wanted to boast to the traveller man, but if he
showed him the place, he thought sure the money had all been
spent on the wedding and sending Shelley away."

Father's arms shot out, and his head pitched on the table. 
Mother got up and began to walk the floor, and never went near or
even touched him.  I couldn't bear it.  I went and pulled his arm
and put the bill under his hand.

"Leon didn't take your money!  He didn't!  He didn't!  I just
know he didn't!  He does tricks because they are so funny, or he
thinks they'll be, but he doesn't steal!  He doesn't touch a
single thing that is not his, only melons, or chicken out of the
skillet, or bread from the cellar; but not money and things.  I
take gizzards and bread myself, but I don't steal, and Leon or
none of us do!  Oh father, we don't!  Not one of us do!  Don't
you remember about `Thou shalt not,' and the Crusaders?  Leon's
the best fighter of any of us.  I'm not sure that he couldn't
even whip Laddie, if he got mad enough!  Maybe he can't whip the
traveller if he has the gun, but, father, Leon simply couldn't
take the money.  Laddie will stay home and work, and all of us. 
We can help get it back.  We can sell a lot of things.  Laddie
will sell Flos before he'll see you suffer so; and all of us will
give up Christmas, and we'll work!  We'll work as hard as ever we
can, and maybe you could spare the little piece Joe Risdell wants
to build his cabin on.  We can manage about the money, father,
indeed we can.  But you don't dare think Leon took it!  He never
did!  Why, he's yours!  Yours and mother's!"

Father lifted his head and reached out his arms.

"You blessing!" he said.  "You blessing from the Lord!"

Then he gave me a cold, stiff kiss on the forehead, went to
mother, took her arm, and said:  "Come, mommy, let's go and tell
the Lord about it, and then we'll try to make some plan.  Perhaps
Laddie will be back with word soon."

But he almost had to carry her.  Then we could hear him praying,
and he was so anxious, and he made it so earnest it sounded
exactly like the Lord was in our room and father was talking
right to His face.  I tried to think, and this is what I thought:
as father left the room, he looked exactly as I had seen Mr.
Pryor more than once, and my mother had both hands gripped over
her heart, and she said we must not let any one know.  Now if
something could happen to us to make my father look like the
Princess' and my mother hold her heart with both hands, and if no
one were to know about it like they had said, how were we any
different from Pryors?  We might be of the Lord's anointed, but
we could get into the same kind of trouble the infidels could,
and have secrets ourselves, or at least it seemed as if it might
be very nearly the same, when it made father and mother look and
act the way they did.  I wondered if we'd have to leave our
lovely, lovely home, cross a sea and be strangers in a strange
land, as Laddie said; and if people would talk about us, and make
us feel that being a stranger was the loneliest, hardest thing in
all the world.  Well, if mysteries are like this, and we have to
live with one days and years, the Lord have mercy on us!  Then I
saw the money lying on the table, so I took it and put it in the
Bible.  Then I went out and climbed the catalpa tree to watch for
Laddie.

Soon I saw a funny thing, such as I never before had seen. 
Coming across the fields, straight toward our house, sailing over
the fences like a bird, came the Princess on one of her horses. 
Its legs stretched out so far its body almost touched the ground,
and it lifted up and swept over the rails.  She took our meadow
fence lengthwiselike, and at the hitching rack she threw the
bridle over the post, dismounted, and then I saw she had been
riding astride, like a man.  I ran before her and opened the
sitting-room door, but no one was there, so I went on to the
dining-room.  Father had come in, and mother was sitting in her
chair.  Both of them looked at the Princess and never said a
word.

She stopped inside the dining-room door and spoke breathlessly,
as if she as well as the horse had raced.

"I hope I'm not intruding," she said, "but a man north of us told
our Thomas in the village that robbers had taken quite a large
sum of hidden money you held for the county, and church, and of
your own, and your gun, and got away while you were at church
last night.  Is it true?"

"Practically," said my father.

Then my mother motioned toward a chair.

"You are kind to come," she said.  "Won't you be seated?"

The Princess stepped to the chair, but she gripped the back in
both hands and stood straight, breathing fast, her eyes shining
with excitement, her lips and cheeks red, so lovely you just had
to look, and look.

"No," she said.  "I'll tell you why I came, and then if there is
nothing I can do here, and no errand I can ride for you, I'll go.

Mother has heart trouble, the worst in all the world, the kind no
doctor can ever hope to cure, and sometimes, mostly at night, she
is driven to have outside air.  Last night she was unusually ill,
and I heard her leave the house, after I'd gone to my room.  I
watched from my window and saw her take a seat on a bench under
the nearest tree.  I was moving around and often I looked to see
if she were still there.  Then the dogs began to rave, and I
hurried down.  They used to run free, but lately, on account of
her going out, father has been forced to tie them at night.  They
were straining at their chains, and barking dreadfully.  I met
her at the door, but she would only say some one passed and gave
her a fright.  When Thomas came in and told what he had heard,
she said instantly that she had seen the man.

"She said he was about the size of Thomas, that he came from your
direction, that he ran when our dogs barked, but he kept beside
the fences, and climbed over where there were trees.  He crossed
our barnyard and went toward the northwest.  Mother saw him
distinctly as he reached the road, and she said he was not a
large man, he stooped when he ran, and she thought he moved like
a slinking, city thief.  She is sure he's the man who took your
money; she says he acted exactly as if he were trying to escape
pursuit; but I was to be SURE to tell you that he didn't carry a
gun.  If your gun is gone, there must have been two, and the
other man took that and went a different way.  Did two men stop
here?"

"No," said father.  "Only one."

The Princess looked at him thoughtfully.

"Do you think, Mr. Stanton," she said, "that the man who took the
money would burden himself with a gun?  Isn't a rifle heavy for
one in flight to carry?"

"It is," said father.  "Your mother saw nothing of two men?"

"Only one, and she knows he didn't carry a gun.  Except the man
you took in, no stranger has been noticed around here lately?"

"No one.  We are quite careful.  Even the gun was not loaded as
it stood; whoever took it carried the ammunition also, but he
couldn't fire until he loaded."

Father turned to the corner where the gun always stood and then
he stooped and picked up two little white squares from the floor.

They were bits of unbleached muslin in which he wrapped the
bullets he made.

"The rifle was loaded before starting, and in a hurry," he said,
as he held up the squares of muslin.  Then he scratched a match,
bent, and ran it back and forth over the floor, and at one place
there was a flash, and the flame went around in funny little
fizzes as it caught a grain of powder here and there.  "You see
the measure was overrun."

"Wouldn't the man naturally think the gun was loaded, and take it
as it stood?"

"That would be a reasonable conclusion," said father.

"But he looked!" I cried.  "That first night when you and the
boys went to the barn, and the girls were getting supper, he
looked at the gun, and he LIKED it when he saw it wasn't loaded. 
He smiled.  And he didn't limp a mite when I was the only one in
the room.  He and Leon knew it wasn't loaded, and I guess he
didn't load it, for he liked having it empty so well."

"Ummmm!" said father.  "What it would save in this world if a
child only knew when to talk and when to keep still.  Little
Sister, the next time you see a stranger examine my gun when I'm
not in the room, suppose you take father out alone and whisper to
him about it."

"Yes, sir," I said.

The way I wished I had told that at the right time made me dizzy,
but then there were several good switchings I'd had for telling
things, besides what Sally did to me about her and Peter.  I
would have enjoyed knowing how one could be sure.  Hereafter, it
will be all right about the gun, anyway.

"Could I take my horse and carry a message anywhere for you?  Are
both your sons riding to tell the neighbours?"

Father hesitated, but it seemed as if he stopped to think, so I
just told her:  "Laddie is riding.  Leon didn't take a horse."

Father said there was nothing she could do, so she took my hand
and we started for the gate.

"I do hope they will find him, and get back the money, and give
him what he deserves!" she cried.

"Yes, father and mother are praying that they'll find him," I
said.  "It doesn't seem to make the least difference to them
about the money.  Father didn't even look at a big paper piece I
found where it was hidden.  But they are anxious about the man. 
Mother says he is so young, we just must find him, and keep this
a secret, and give him another chance.  You won't tell, will
you?"

The Princess stood still on our walk, and then of all things!  if
she didn't begin to go Sabethany-like.  The colour left her
cheeks and lips and she shivered and shook and never said one
word.  I caught her arm.  "Say, what ails you?" I cried.  "You
haven't gone and got heart trouble too, have you?"

She stood there trembling, and then, wheeling suddenly, ran back
into the house, and went to my mother.  On her knees, the
Princess buried her face in mother's breast and said:  "Oh Mrs.
Stanton!  Oh, if I only could help you!"

She began to cry as if something inside her had broken, and she'd
shake to pieces.

Mother stared above her head at father, with her eyebrows raised
high, and he waved his hand toward me.  Mother turned to me, but
already she had put her arms around the Princess, and was trying
to hold her together.

"What did you tell her that made her come back?" she asked
sternlike.

"You forgot to explain that the man was so young, and you wanted
to keep it a secret and give him another chance," I said.  "I
just asked her not to tell."

Mother looked at father and all the colour went from her face,
and she began to shake.  He stared at her, then he opened her
door and lifted the Princess with one arm, and mother with the
other, and helped them into mother's room, stepped back and
closed the door.  After a while it opened and they came out
together, with both mother's arms around the Princess, and she
had cried until she staggered.  Mother lifted her face and kissed
her, when they reached the door and said:  "Tell your mother I
understand enough to sympathize.  Carry her my love.  I do wish
she would give herself the comfort of asking God to help her."

"She does!  Oh, I'm sure she does!" said the Princess.  "It's
father who has lost all judgment and reason."

Father went with her to the gate, and this time she needed help
to mount her horse, and she left it to choose its way and go
where it pleased on the road.  When father came in he looked at
mother, and she said:  "I haven't the details, but she
understands too well.  The Pryor mystery isn't much of a mystery
any more.  God help their poor souls, and save us from suffering
like that!"

She said so little and meant so much, I couldn't figure out
exactly what she did mean, but father seemed to understand.

"I've often wondered," he said, but he didn't say what he
wondered, and he hurried to the barn and saddled our best horse
and came in and began getting ready to ride, and we knew he would
go northwest.  I went back to the catalpa tree and wondered
myself; but it was too much for me to straighten out: just why my
mother wanting to give the traveller man another chance would
make the Princess feel like that.  If she had known my mother as
I did, she'd have known that she ALWAYS wanted to give every man
a second chance, no matter whether he was young or old.

Then I saw Laddie coming down the Big Hill beside the church, but
he was riding so fast I thought he wouldn't want to bother with
me, so I slid from the tree, and ran to tell mother.  She went to
the door and watched as he rode up, but you could see by his face
he had not heard of them.

"Nothing, but I have some men out.  I am going east now," he
said.  "I wish, father, you would rub Flos down, blanket her, and
if you can, walk her slowly an hour while she cools off.  I am
afraid I've ruined her.  How much had you there?"

"I haven't stopped to figure," said father.  "I think I'd better
take the horse I have ready and go on one of the northwest roads.

The Pryor girl was here a few moments ago, and her mother saw a
man cross their place about the right time last evening.  He ran
and acted suspiciously when the dogs barked.  But he was alone
and he didn't have a gun."

"Was she sure?"

"Positive."

"Then it couldn't have been our man, but I'll ride in that
direction and start a search.  They would keep to the woods, I
think!  You'd better stay with mother.  I'll ask Jacob Hood to
take your place."

So Laddie rode away again without even going into the house, and
mother said to father:  "What can he be saying to people, that
the neighbours don't come?"

Father answered:  "I don't know, but if any one can save the
situation, Laddie will."

Mother went to bed, while father sat beside her reading aloud
little scraps from the Bible, and they took turns praying.  From
the way they talked to the Lord, you could plainly see that they
were reminding Him of all the promises He had made to take care
of people, comfort those in trouble, and heal the broken-hearted.

One thing was so curious, I asked May if she noticed, and she
had.  When they had made such a fuss about money only a short
while before, and worked so hard to get our share together, and
when they would have to pay back all that belonged to the county
and church, neither of them ever even mentioned money then. 
Every minute I expected father to ask where I'd put the piece I
found, and when he opened right at it, in the Bible, he turned on
past, exactly as if it were an obituary, or a piece of Sally's
wedding dress, or baby hair from some of our heads.  He went on
hunting places where the Lord said sure and strong that He'd help
people who loved Him.  When either of them prayed, they asked the
Lord to help those near them who were in trouble, as often and
earnestly as they begged Him to help them.  There were no people
near us who were in trouble that we knew of, excepting Pryors. 
Hard as father and mother worked, you'd have thought the Lord
wouldn't have minded if they asked only once to get the money
back, or if they forgot the neighbours, but they did neither one.

May said because they were big like that was why all of us loved
them so.

I would almost freeze in the catalpa, but as I could see far in
all directions there, I went back, and watched the roads, and
when I remembered what Laddie had said, I kept an eye on the
fields too.  At almost dusk, and frozen so stiff I could scarcely
hang to the limb, I heard the bulldogs at Pryors' begin to rave. 
They kept on steadily, and I thought Gypsies must be passing. 
Then from the woods came a queer party that started across the
cornfield toward the Big Meadow in front of the house, and I
thought they were hunters.  I stood in the tree and watched until
they climbed the meadow fence, and by that time I could see
plainly.

The traveller man got over first, then Leon and the dogs, and
then Mr. Pryor handed Leon the gun, leaped over, and took it.  I
looked again, and then fell from the tree and almost bursted.  As
soon as I could get up, and breathe, I ran to the front door,
screaming:  "Father!  Father!  Come open the Big Gate.  Leon's
got him, but he's so tired Mr. Pryor is carrying the gun, and
helping him walk!"

Just like one, all of us ran; father crossed the road, and opened
the gate.  The traveller man wouldn't look up, he just slouched
along.  But Leon's chin was up and his head high.  He was
scratched, torn, and dirty.  He was wheezing every breath most
from his knees, and Mr. Pryor half carried him and the gun.  When
they met us, Leon reached in his trousers pocket and drew out a
big roll of money that he held toward father.  "My fault!" he
gasped.  "But I got it back for you."

Then he fell over and father caught him in his arms and carried
him into the house, and laid him on the couch in the dining-room.

Mr. Pryor got down and gathered up the money from the road.  He
followed into the house and set the gun in the corner.

"Don't be frightened," he said to mother.  "The boy has walked
all night, and all day, with no sleep or food, and the gun was a
heavy load for him.  I gathered from what he said, when the dogs
let us know they were coming, that this hound took your money. 
Your dog barked and awakened the boy and he loaded the gun and
followed.  The fellow had a good start and he didn't get him
until near daybreak.  It's been a stiff pull for the youngster
and he seems to feel it was his fault that this cowardly cur you
sheltered learned where you kept your money.  If that is true, I
hope you won't be hard on him!"

Father was unfastening Leon's neckband, mother was rubbing his
hands, Candace was taking off his shoes, and May was spilling
water father had called for, all over the carpet, she shook so. 
When Leon drew a deep breath and his head rolled on the pillow,
father looked at Mr. Pryor.  I don't think he heard all of it,
but he caught the last words.

"`Hard on him!  Hard on him!'" he said, the tears rolling down
his cheeks.  "`This my son, who was lost, is found!'"

"Oh!" shouted Mr. Pryor, slamming the money on the table.  "Poor
drivel to fit the circumstances.  If I stood in your boots, sir,
I would rise up in the mighty strength of my pride and pull out
foundation stones until I shook the nation!  I never envied
mortal man as I envy you to-day!"

Candace cried out:  "Oh look, his poor feet!  They are blistered
and bleeding!"

Mother moved down a little, gathered them in her arms, and began
kissing them.  Father wet Leon's lips and arose.  He held out his
hand, and Mr. Pryor took it.

"I will pray God," he said, "that it may happen `even so' to
you."

Leon opened his eyes and caught only the last words.

"You had better look out for the `Even So's,' father," he said.

And father had to laugh, but Mr. Pryor went out, and slammed the
door, until I looked to see if it had cracked from top to bottom;
but we didn't care if it had, we were so happy over having Leon
back.

I went and picked up the money and carried it to father to put
away, and that time he took it.  But even then he didn't stop to
see if he had all of it.

"You see!" I said, "I told you----"

"You did indeed!" said father.  "And you almost saved our reason.
There are times when things we have come to feel we can't live
without, so press us, that money seems of the greatest
importance.  This is our lesson.  Hereafter, I and all my family,
who have been through this, will know that money is not even
worth thinking about when the life and honour of one you love
hangs in the balance.  When he can understand, your brother shall
know of the wondrous faith his Little Sister had in him."

"Maybe he won't like what you and mother thought.  Maybe we
better not tell him.  I can keep secrets real well.  I have
several big ones I've never told, and I didn't say a word about
the Station when Leon said I shouldn't."

"After this there will be no money kept on the place," said
father.  "It's saving time at too great cost.  All we have goes
into the bank, and some of us will cheerfully ride for what we
want, when we need it.  As for not telling Leon, that is as your
mother decides.  For myself, I believe I'd feel better to make a
clean breast of it."

Mother heard, for she sobbed as she bathed Leon's feet, and when
his eyes came open so they'd stay a little while, he kept looking
at her so funny, between sips of hot milk.

"Don't CRY, mammy!" he said.  "I'M all right.  Sorry such a
rumpus!  Let him fool me.  Be smart as the next fellow, after
this!  Know how glad you are to get the money!"

Mother sat back on her heels and roared as I do when I step in a
bumblebee's nest, and they get me.  Leon was growing better every
minute, and he stared at her, and then his dealish, funny old
grin began to twist his lips and he cried:  "Oh golly!  You
thought _I_ helped take it and went with him, didn't you?"

"Oh my son, my son!" wailed mother until she made me think of
Absalom under the oak.

"Well, I be ding-busted!" said Leon, sort of slow and wondering-
like, and father never opened his head to tell him that was no
way to talk.

Mother cried more than ever, and between sobs she tried to
explain that I heard what the traveller man had said about how
bad it was to live in the country; and how Leon was now at an age
where she'd known boys to get wrong ideas, and how things looked,
and in the middle of it he raised on his elbow and took her in
his arms and said:  "Well of all the geese!  And I 'spose father
was in it too!  But since it's the first time, and since it is
you----!  Go to bed now, and let me sleep----But see that you
don't ever let this happen again."

Then he kissed her over and over and clung to her tight and at
last dropped back and groaned:

            "My reputation, O my reputation!
             I've lost my reputation!"


She had to laugh while the tears were still running, and father
and Laddie looked at each other and shouted.  I guess they
thought Leon was about right after that.  Laddie went and bent
over him and took his hand.

"Don't be in quite such a hurry, old man," he said.  "Before you
wink out I have got to tell you how proud I am of having a
brother who is a real Crusader.  The Lord knows this took nerve! 
You're great, boy, simply great!"

Leon grabbed Laddie's hand with both of his and held tight and
laughed.  You could see the big tears squeeze out, although he
fought to wink them back.  He held to Laddie and said low-like,
only for him to hear:  "It's all right if you stay by a while,
old man."

He began to talk slowly.

"It was a long time before I caught up, and then I had to hide,
and follow until day, and he wasn't so very easy to handle.  Once
I thought he had me sure!  It was an awful load, but if it hadn't
been for the good old gun, I'd never have got him.  When we mixed
up, I had fine luck getting that chin punch on him; good thing I
worked it out so slick on Absalom Saunders, and while old Even So
was groggy I got the money away from him, took the gun, and stood
back some distance, before he came out of it.  Once we had it
settled who walked ahead, and who carried the money and gun, we
got along better, but I had to keep an eye on him every minute. 
To come through the woods was the shortest, but I'm tired out,
and so is he.  Getting close I most felt sorry for him, he was so
forlorn, and so scared about what would be done to him.  He
stopped and pulled out another roll, and offered me all of it, if
I'd let him go.  I didn't know whether it was really his, or part
of father's, so I told him he could just drop it until I found
out.  Made him sweat blood, but I had the gun, and he had to
mind.  I was master then.  So there may be more in the roll I
gave father than Even So took.  Father can figure up and keep
what belongs to him.  Even So had gone away past Flannigans'
before I tackled him, and I was sleepy, cold, and hungry; you'd
have thought there'd have been a man out hunting, or passing on
the road, but not a soul did we see 'til Pryors'!  Say, the old
man was bully!  He helped me so, I almost thought I belonged to
him!  My! he's fine, when you know him!  After he came on the
job, you bet old Even So walked up.  Say, where is he?  Have you
fed him?"

Laddie looked at father, who was listening, and we all rushed to
the door, but it must have been an hour, and Even So hadn't
waited.  Father said it was a great pity, because a man like that
shouldn't be left to prey on the community; but mother said she
didn't want to be mixed up with a trial, or to be responsible for
taking the liberty of a fellow creature, and father said that was
exactly like a woman.  Leon went to sleep, but none of us thought
of going to bed; we just stood around and looked at him, and
smiled over him, and cried about him, until you would have
thought he had been shipped to us in a glass case, and cost,
maybe, a hundred dollars.

Father got out his books and figured up his own and the road
money, and Miss Amelia's, and the church's.  Laddie didn't want
her around, so he stopped at the schoolhouse and told her to stay
at Justices' that night, we'd need all our rooms; but she didn't
like being sent away when there was such excitement, but every
one minded Laddie when he said so for sure.

When father had everything counted there was more than his, quite
a lot of it, stolen from other people who sheltered the traveller
no doubt, father said.  We thought he wouldn't be likely to come
back for it, and father said he was at loss what to do with it,
but Laddie said he wasn't--it was Leon's--he had earned it; so
father said he would try to find out if anything else had been
stolen, and he'd keep it a year, and then if no one claimed it,
he would put it on interest until Leon decided what he wanted to
do with it.

When you watched Leon sleep you could tell a lot more about what
had happened to him than he could.  He moaned, and muttered
constantly, and panted, and felt around for the gun, and breathed
like he was running again, and fought until Laddie had to hold
him on the couch, and finally awakened him.  But it did no good;
he went right off to sleep again, and it happened all over.  Then
father began getting his Crusader blood up, although he always
said he was a man of peace.  But it was a lucky thing Even So got
away; for after father had watched Leon a while, he said if that
man had been on the premises, his fingers itched so to get at
him, he was positive he'd have vented a little righteous
indignation on him that would have cost him within an inch of his
life.  And he'd have done it too!  He was like that.  It took a
lot, and it was slow coming, but when he became angry enough, and
felt justified in it, why you'd be much safer to be some one else
than the man who provoked him.

After ten o'clock the dog barked, some one tapped, and father
went; he always would open the door; you couldn't make him
pretend he was asleep, or not at home when he was, and there
stood Mr. Pryor.  He said they could see the lights and they were
afraid the boy was ill, and could any of them help.  Father said
there was nothing they could do; Leon was asleep.  Then Mr. Pryor
said:  "If he is off sound, so it won't disturb him, I would like
to see him again."

Father told him Leon was restless, but so exhausted a railroad
train wouldn't waken him, so Mr. Pryor came in and went to the
couch.  He took off his hat, like you do beside a grave, while
his face slowly grew whiter than his hair, and that would be
snow-white; then he turned at last and stumbled toward the door. 
Laddie held it for him, but he didn't seem to remember he was
there.  He muttered over and over:  "Why?  Why?  In the name of
God, why?"  Laddie followed to the gate to help him on his horse,
because he thought he was almost out of his head, but he had
walked across the fields, so Laddie kept far behind and watched
until he saw him go safely inside his own door.

I think father and Laddie sat beside Leon all night.  The others
went to sleep.  A little after daybreak, just as Laddie was
starting to feed, there was an awful clamour, and here came a lot
of neighbours with Even So.  Mr. Freshett had found him asleep in
a cattle hole in the straw stack, and searched him, and he had
more money, and that made Mr. Freshett sure; and as he was very
strong, and had been for years a soldier, and really loved to
fight, he marched poor Even So back to our house.  Every few rods
they met more men out searching who came with them, until there
were so many, our front yard and the road were crowded.  Of all
the sights you ever saw, Even So looked the worst.  You could see
that he'd drop over at much more.  Those men kept crying they
were going to hang him; but mother went out and talked to them,
and said they mustn't kill a man for taking only money.  She told
them how little it was worth compared with other things; she had
Candace bring Even So a cup of hot coffee, lots of bread, and
sausage from the skillet, and she said it was our money, and our
lad, and we wanted nothing done about it.  The men didn't like
it, but the traveller did.  He grabbed and gobbled like a beast
at the hot food and cried, and mother said she forgave him, and
to let him go.

Then Mr. Freshett looked awful disappointed, and he came up to
father, with his back toward mother, and asked:  "That's your say
too, Mr. Stanton?"  Father grinned sort of rueful-like, but he
said to give Even So his money and let him go.  He told all about
getting ours back, and having had him at the house once before. 
He brought the money Leon took from him, but the men said no
doubt he had stolen that, and Leon had earned it bringing him
back, so the traveller shouldn't have it.  They took him away on
a horse and said they'd let him go, but that they'd escort him
from the county.  Father told Mr. Freshett that he was a little
suspicious of them, and he would hold him responsible for the
man's life.  Mr. Freshett said that he'd give his word that the
man would be safe; they only wanted to make sure he wouldn't come
back, and that he'd be careful in the future how he abused
hospitality, so they went, and all of us were glad of it.

I don't know what Mr. Freshett calls safe, for they took Even So
to Groveville and locked him up until night.  Then they led him
to the railroad, and made him crawl back and forth through an old
engine beside the track, until he was blacker than any negro ever
born; and then they had him swallow a big dose of croton oil for
his health.  That was the only KIND thing they did, for afterward
they started him down the track and told him to run, and all of
them shot at his feet as he went.  Hannah Freshett told me at
school the next day.  Her father said Even So just howled, and
flew up in the air, and ducked, and dodged and ran like he'd
never walked a step, or was a bit tired.  We made a game of it,
and after that one of the boys was Even So, and the others were
the mob, and the one who could howl nicest, jump highest, and go
fastest, could be "It" oftenest.

Leon grew all right faster than you would think.  He went to
school day after next, and the boys were sick with envy.  They
asked and asked, but Leon wouldn't tell much.  He didn't seem to
like to talk about it, and he wouldn't play the game or even
watch us.  He talked a blue streak about the money.  Father was
going to write to every sheriff of the counties along the way the
man said he had come, and if he could find no one before spring
who had been robbed, he said Leon might do what he liked with the
money.  I used to pretend it was coming to me, and each day I
thought of a new way to spend it.  Leon was so sure he'd get it
he marched right over and asked Mr. Pryor about a nice young
thoroughbred horse, from his stables, and when he came back he
could get a coltlike one so very cheap that father and Laddie
looked at each other and gasped, and never said a word.  They
figured up, and if Leon got the money, he could have the horse,
and save some for college, and from the start he never changed a
mite about those two things he wanted to do with it.  He had the
horse picked out and went to the field to feed and pet it and
make it gentle, so he could ride bareback, and mother said he
would be almost sick if the owner of the money turned up.

Pulling his boots one night, father said so too, and that the
thoughts of it worried him.  He said Mr. Pryor had shaded his
price so that if the money had to go, he would be tempted to see
if we couldn't manage it ourselves.  I don't know how shading the
price of a horse would make her feel better, but it did, and
maybe Leon is going to get it.



CHAPTER X

Laddie Takes the Plunge


            "This is the state of man: to-day he puts forth
             The tender leaves of hopes; to-morrow blossoms,
             And bears his blushing honors thick upon him;
             The third day comes a frost, a killing frost,
             And, when he thinks, good, easy man, full surely
             His greatness is a-ripening, nips his root,
             And then he falls, as I do."


Watch me take the plunge!" said Laddie.

"`Mad frenzy fires him now,'" quoted Leon.

It was Sunday after dinner.  We had been to church and Sunday-
school in the forenoon, and we had a houseful of company for
dinner.  All of them remained to spend the afternoon, because in
our home it was perfectly lovely.  We had a big dinner with
everything good to start on, and then we talked and visited and
told all the news.  The women exchanged new recipes for cooking,
advised each other about how to get more work done with less
worry, to doctor their sick folks, and to make their dresses.  At
last, when every thing was talked over, and there began to be a
quiet time, father would reach across the table, pick up a paper
and read all the interesting things that had happened in the
country during the past week; the jokes too, and they made people
think of funny stories to tell, and we just laughed.  In the
Agriculturist there were new ways to farm easier, to make land
bear more crops; so he divided that with the neighbours, also how
to make gardens, and prune trees.  Before he finished, he always
managed to work in a lot about being honest, kind, and loving
God.

He and mother felt so good over Leon, and by this time they were
beginning to see that they were mighty glad about the money too. 
It wouldn't have been so easy to work, and earn, and pay back all
that for our school, roads, and the church; and every day you
could see plainer how happy they felt that they didn't have to do
it.  Because they were so glad about these things, they invited
every one they met that day; but we knew Saturday mother felt
that probably she would ask a crowd, from the chickens, pie, and
cake she got ready.  When the reading part was over, and the
women were beginning to look at the clock, and you knew they felt
they should go home, and didn't want to, Laddie arose and said
that, and Leon piped up like he always does and made every one
laugh.  Of course they looked at Laddie, and no one knew what he
meant, so all the women and a few of the men asked him.

"Watch me, I said," laughed Laddie as he left the room.

Soon Mrs. Dover, sitting beside the front window, cried:  "Here
he is at the gate!"

He was on his horse, but he hitched it and went around the house
and up the back way.  Before long the stair door of the sitting-
room opened, and there he stood.  We stared at him.  Of course he
was bathed, and in clean clothing to start with, but he had
washed and brushed some more, until he shone.  His cheeks were as
smooth and as clear pink as any girl's, his eyes blue-gray and
big, with long lashes and heavy brows.  His hair was bright brown
and wavy, and he was so big and broad.  He never had been sick a
day in his life, and he didn't look as if he ever would be.

And clothes DO make a difference.  He would have had exactly the
same hair, face, and body, wearing a hickory shirt and denim
trousers; but he wouldn't have looked as he did in the clothes he
wore at college, when it was Sunday there, or he was invited to a
party at the President's.  I don't see how any man could possibly
be handsomer or look finer.  His shirt, collar, and cuffs were
snow-white, like everything had to be before mother got through
with it; his big loose tie almost reached his shoulders; and our
men could do a thing no other man in the neighbourhood did: they
could appear easier in the finest suit they could put on than in
their working clothes.

Mother used to say one thing she dreaded about Sunday was the
evident tortures of the poor men squirming in boots she knew
pinched them, coats too tight, and collars too high.  She said
they acted like half-broken colts fretting over restriction. 
Always she said to father and the boys when they went to buy
their new clothes:  "Now, DON'T join the harness fighters!  Get
your clothing big enough to set your bodies with comfort and
ease."

I suppose those other men would have looked like ours if their
mothers had told them.  You can always see that a man needs a
woman to help him out awful bad.

Of course Laddie knew he was handsome; he had to know all of them
were looking at him curiously, but he stood there buttoning his
glove and laughing to himself until Sarah Hood asked:  "Now what
are you up to?"

He took a step toward her, ran one hand under her lanternjawed
chin, pulled her head against his side and turned up her face.

"Sarah," he said, "'member the day we spoiled the washing?"

Every one laughed.  They had made jokes about it until our
friends knew what they meant.

"What are you going to spoil now?" asked Sarah.

"The Egyptians!  The `furriners.' I'm going right after them!"

"Well, you could be in better business," said Sarah Hood sharply.

Laddie laughed and squeezed her chin, and hugged her head against
him.

"Listen to that, now!" he cried.  "My best friend going back on
me.  Sarah, I thought you, of all people, would wish me luck."

"I do !" she said instantly.  "And that's the very reason I don't
want you mixed up with that mysterious, offish, stuck-up mess."

"Bless your dear heart!" said Laddie, giving her a harder squeeze
than ever.  "You got that all wrong, Sarah.  You'll live to see
the day, very shortly, when you'll change every word of it."

"I haven't done anything but get surer about it every day for two
years, anyway," said Sarah Hood.

"Exactly!" said Laddie, "but wait until I have taken the plunge! 
Let me tell you how the Pryor family strikes me.  I think he is a
high-tempered, domineering man, proud as Lucifer!  For some
cause, just or not, he is ruining his life and that of his family
because he so firmly believes it just; he is hiding here from his
home country, his relatives, and friends.  I think she is,
barring you and mother, the handsomest woman of her age I ever
saw----"

All of them laughed, because Sarah Hood was nearly as homely as a
woman could grow, and maybe other people didn't find our mother
so lovely as we thought her.  I once heard one of her best
friends say she was "distinctly plain."  I didn't see how she
could; but she said that.

"--and the most pitiful," Laddie went on.  "Sarah, what do you
suppose sends a frail little woman pacing the yard, and up and
down the road, sometimes in storm and rain, gripping both hands
over her heart?"

"I suppose it's some shameful thing I don't want you mixed up
with!" said Sarah Hood promptly, and people just shouted.

"Sarah," said Laddie, "I've seen her closely, watched her move,
and studied her expression.  There's not one grain of possibility
that you, or mother, or Mrs. Fall, or any woman here, could be
any closer connected with SHAME.  Shame there is," said Laddie,
"and what a word!  How it stings, burns, withers, and causes
heart trouble and hiding; but shame in connection with that
woman, more than shame thrust upon her, which might come to any
of us, at any time, shame that is her error, in the life of a
woman having a face like hers, Sarah, I am ashamed of you!  Your
only excuse is that you haven't persisted as I have until you got
to see for yourself."

"I am not much on persistence in the face of a locked door, a
cast-iron man with a big cane, and two raving bulldogs," said
Mrs. Hood.  "Wait, young man!  Just wait until he sets them on
you."

Laddie's head went back and how he laughed.

"Hist!  A word with you, Sarah!" he said.  "'Member I have a sort
of knack with animals.  I never yet have failed with one I
undertook to win.  Now those bulldogs of Pryors' are as mild as
kittens with a man who knows the right word.  Reason I know,
Sarah, I've said the word to them, separately and collectively,
and it worked.  There is a contrast, Sarah, between what I say
and do to those dogs, and the kicks and curses they get from
their owner.  I'll wager you two to one that if you can get Mr.
Pryor to go into a `sic-ing' contest with me, I can have his own
dogs at his throat, when he can't make them do more than to lick
my hands."

They laughed as if that were funny.

"Well, I didn't know about this," said Sarah.  "How long have you
lived at Pryors'?"

You couldn't have heard what Laddie said if he'd spoken; so he
waited until he could be heard, and it never worried him a speck.

He only stood and laughed too; then, "Long enough," he said, "to
know that all of us are making a big and cruel mistake in taking
them at their word, and leaving them penned up there weltering in
misery.  What we should do, is to go over there, one at a time,
or in a body, and batter at the door of their hearts, until we
break down the wall of pride they have built around them, ease
their pain, and bring them with us socially, if they are going to
live among us.  You people who talk loudly and often about loving
God, and `doing unto others,' should have gone long ago, for
Jesus' sake; I'm going for the sake of a girl, with a face as
sweet, and a heart as pure, as any accepted angel at the foot of
the throne.  Mother, I want a cup of peach jelly, and some of
that exceptionally fine cake you served at dinner, to take to our
sick neighbour."

Mother left the room.

"Father, I want permission to cut and carry a generous chestnut
branch, burred, and full fruited, to the young woman.  There is
none save ours in this part of the country, and she may never
have seen any, and be interested.  And I want that article about
foot disease in horses, for Mr. Pryor.  I'll bring it back when
he finishes."

Father folded the paper and handed it to Laddie, who slipped it
in his pocket.

"Take the finest branch you can select," father said, and I
almost fell over.

He had carried those trees from Ohio, before I had been born, and
mother said for years he wrapped them in her shawl in winter and
held an umbrella over them in summer, and father always went red
and grinned when she told it.  He was wild about trees, and
bushes, so he made up his mind he'd have chestnuts.  He planted
them one place, and if they didn't like it, he dug them up and
set them another where he thought they could have what they
needed and hadn't got the last place.  Finally, he put them, on
the fourth move, on a little sandy ridge across the road from the
wood yard, and that was the spot.  They shot up, branched,
spread, and one was a male and two were females, so the pollen
flew, the burrs filled right, and we had a bag of chestnuts to
send each child away from home, every Christmas.  The brown
leaves and burrs were so lovely, mother cut one of the finest
branches she could select and hung it above the steel engraving
of "Lincoln Freeing the Slaves," in the boys' room, and nothing
in the house was looked at oftener, or thought prettier.  That
must have been what was in the back of Laddie's head when he
wanted a branch for the Princess.

Mother came in with the cake and jelly in a little fancy basket,
and Laddie said:  "Thank you!  Now every one wish me luck!  I'm
going to ride to Pryors', knock at the door, and present these
offerings with my compliments.  If I'm invited in, I'm going to
make the effort of my life at driving the entering wedge toward
social intercourse between Pryors and their neighbours.  If I'm
not, I'll be back in thirty minutes and tell you what happened to
me.  If they refuse my gifts, you shall have the jelly, Sarah;
I'll give Mrs. Fall the olive branch, bring back the paper, and
eat the cake to console my wounded spirits."

Of course every one laughed; they couldn't help it.  I watched
father and he laughed hardest of the men, but mother was more
stiff-lipped about it; she couldn't help a little, though.  And I
noticed some of those women acted as if they had lost something. 
Maybe it was a chance to gossip about Laddie, for he hadn't left
them a thing to guess at, and mother says the reason gossip is so
dreadful is because it is always GUESSWORK.  Well, that was all
fair and plain.  He had told those people, our very best friends,
what he thought about everything, the way they acted included. 
He was carrying something to each member of the Pryor family, and
he'd left a way to return joking and unashamed, if they wouldn't
let him in.  He had fixed things so no one had anything to guess
at, and it would look much worse for the Pryors than it would for
him, if he did come back.

I wondered if he had been born that smart, or if he learned it in
college.  If he did, no wonder Leon was bound to go.  Come to
think of it, though, mother said Laddie was always like that. 
She said he never bit her when he nursed; he never mauled her as
if she couldn't be hurt when he was little, he never tore his
clothes and made extra work as he grew, and never in his life
gave her an hour's uneasiness.  But I guess she couldn't have
said that about uneasiness lately, for she couldn't keep from
looking troubled as all of us followed to the gate to see him
start.

How they joked, and tried to tease him!  But they couldn't get a
breath ahead.  He shot back answers as fast as they could ask
questions, while he cut the branch and untied the horse.  He gave
the limb and basket to mother to hold, kissed her good-bye, and
me too, before he mounted.  With my arms around his neck--I never
missed a chance to try to squeeze into him how I loved him--I
whispered:  "Laddie, is it a secret any more?"

He threw back his head and laughed the happiest.

"Not the ghost of a secret!" he said.  "But you let me do the
talking, until I tell you."  Then he went on right out loud: 
"I'm riding up the road waving the banner of peace.  If I suffer
repulse, the same thing has happened to better men before, so
I'll get a different banner and try again."

Laddie mounted, swept a circle in the road, dropped Flos on her
knees in a bow, and waved the branch.  Leon began to sing at the
top of his voice, "Nothing but leaves, nothing but leaves," while
Laddie went flashing up the road.

The women went back to the house; the men stood around the gate,
watched him from sight, talked about his horse, how he rode, and
made wagers that he'd get shut out, like every one did, but they
said if that happened he wouldn't come back.  Father was annoyed.

"You heard Laddie say he'd return immediately if they wouldn't
let him in," he said.  "He's a man of his word.  He will either
enter or come home at once."

It was pitch dark and we had supper before some of them left;
they never stayed so late.  After we came from church, father
read the chapter and we were ready for bed; still Laddie hadn't
come back.  And father liked it!  He just plain liked it!  He
chuckled behind the Advocate until you could see it shake; but
mother had very little to say, and her lips closed tight.

At bedtime he said to mother:  "Well, they don't seem in a hurry
about sending the boy back."

"Did you really think he WOULD be sent back?" asked mother.

"Not ordinarily," said father, "no!  If he had no brain, no wit,
no culture, on an animal basis, a woman would look twice before
she'd send him away; but with such fanatics as Pryors, one can't
always tell what will happen."

"In a case like this, one can be reasonably certain," said
mother.

"You don't know what social position they occupied at home. 
Their earmarks are all good.  We've no such notions here as they
have."

"Thank God for so much, at any rate," said mother.  "How old
England would rise up and exult if she had a man in line with
Laddie's body, blood and brain, to set on her throne.  This talk
about class and social position makes me sick.  Men are men, and
Laddie is as much above the customary timber found in kings and
princes, physically and mentally, as the sky is above the earth. 
Talk me no talk about class!  If I catch it coming from any of
mine, save you, I will beat it out of them.  He has admitted he's
in love with the girl; the real question is, whether she's fit to
be his wife."

"I should say she appears so," said father.

"Drat appearances!" cried mother.  "When it's a question of
lifetime misery, and the soul's salvation of my son, if things go
wrong, I've no time for appearances.  I want to know!"

He might have known he would make her angry when he laughed.  She
punched the pillow, and wouldn't say another word; so I went to
sleep, and didn't miss anything that time.

Next morning at breakfast Laddie was beaming, and father hardly
waited to ask the blessing before he inquired:  "Well, how did
you make it, son?"

Laddie laughed and answered:  "Altogether, it might have been
much worse."

That was all he would say until Miss Amelia started to school,
then he took me on his lap and talked as he buttoned my coat.

"Thomas met me at the gate," he said, "and held my horse while I
went to the door.  One of their women opened it, and I inquired
for Mr. Pryor.  She said he was in the field looking at the
horses, so I asked for Miss Pryor.  She came in a minute, so I
gave her the branch, told her about it, and offered the jelly and
cake for her mother.  The Princess invited me to enter.  I told
her I couldn't without her father's permission, so I went to the
field to see him.  The dogs were with him and he had the surprise
of his life when his man-eaters rolled at my feet, and licked my
hands."

"What did he say?" chuckled father.

"Told Thomas they'd been overfed and didn't amount to a brass
farthing; to take them to the woods and shoot them.  Thomas said
he'd see to it the very first thing in the morning, and then Mr.
Pryor told him he would shoot him if he did."

"Charming man to work for," said mother.

"Then I told him I'd been at the house to carry a little gift to
his wife and daughter, and to inquire if I might visit an hour,
and as he was not there, I had come to the field to ask him. 
Then I looked him in the eye and said:  `May I?'

"`I'll warrant the women asked you to come in,' he said.

"`Miss Pryor was so kind,' I answered, `but I enter no man's
house without his permission.  May I talk with your daughter an
hour, and your wife, if she cares to see me?'

"`It makes no earthly difference to me,' he said, which was not
gracious, but might have been worse, so I thanked him, and went
back to the house.  When I knocked the second time, the Princess
came, and I told her the word was that it made `no difference to
her father' if I came in, so she opened the door widely, took my
hat and offered me a seat.  Then she went to the next room and
said:  `Mother, father has given Mr. Stanton permission to pay us
a call.  Do you feel able to meet him?'  She came at once,
offering her hand and saying:  `I have already met Mr. Stanton so
often, really, we should have the privilege of speaking.'"

"What did she mean by that?" asked mother.

"She meant that I have haunted the road passing their place for
two years, and she'd seen me so frequently that she came to
recognize me."

"Umph!" said mother.

"Laddie tell on!" I begged.

"Well, I sharpened all the wits I had and went to work.  I never
tried so hard in my life to be entertaining.  Of course I had to
feel my way.  I'd no idea what would interest a delicate, high-
bred lady"--mother sniffed again--"so I had to search and probe,
and go by guess until I saw a shade of interest, then I worked in
more of the same.  It was easy enough to talk to the Princess--
all young folks have a lot in common, we could get along on fifty
topics; it was different with the housebound mother.  I did my
best, and after a while Mr. Pryor came in.  I asked him if any of
his horses had been attacked with the trouble some of the
neighbours were having, and told him what it was.  He had the
grace to thank me.  He said he would tell Thomas not to tie his
horse at the public hitching rack when he went to town, and once
he got started, he was wild to talk with a man, and I'd no chance
to say a word to the women.  He was interested in our colleges,
state, and national laws, in land development, and everything
that all live men are.  When a maid announced dinner I apologized
for having stayed so long, and excused myself, because I had been
so interested, but Mrs. Pryor merely said:  `I'm waiting to be
offered your arm.'

"Well, you should have seen me drop my hat and step up.  I did my
best, and while I talked to him a little, I made it most to the
women.  Any one could see they were starved for company, so I
took the job of entertaining them.  I told some college jokes,
funny things that had happened in the neighbourhood, and
everything of interest I could think up.  I know we were at the
table for two hours with things coming and going on silver
platters."

Mother sat straight suddenly.

"Just what did they have to eat, and how did they serve it?" she
asked.

"Couldn't tell if I were to be shot for it, mummy," said Laddie. 
"Forgive me!  Next time I'll take notes for you.  This first
plunge, I had to use all my brains, not to be a bore to them; and
to handle food and cutlery as the women did.  It's quite a
process, but as they were served first, I could do right by
waiting.  I never was where things were done quite so elaborately
before."

"And they didn't know they would have company until you went to
the table?"

"Well, they must have thought likely, there was a place for me."

"Umph!" said mother.  "Fine idea!  Then any one who drops in can
be served, and see that they are not a mite of trouble.  Candace,
always an extra place after this!"

Father just shouted.

"I thought you'd get something out of it!" he said.

"Happy to have justified your faith!" replied mother calmly.  "Go
on, son!"

"That's all!" said Laddie.  "We left the table and talked an hour
more.  The women asked me to come again; he didn't say anything
on that subject; but when he ordered my horse, he asked the
Princess if she would enjoy a little exercise, and she said she
would, so he told Thomas to bring their horses, and we rode
around the section, the Princess and I ahead, Mr. Pryor
following.  Where the road was good and the light fine enough
that there was no danger of laming a horse, we dropped back, one
on either side of him, so we could talk.  Mrs. Pryor ate the cake
and said it was fine; and the `conserve,' she called it,
delicious as she ever had tasted.  She said all our fruits here
had much more flavour than at home; she thought it was the dryer
climate and more sunshine.  She sent her grateful thanks, and she
wants your recipe before next preserving time."

Mother just beamed.  My! but she did love to have the things she
cooked, bragged on.

"Possibly she'd like my strawberries?" she said.

"There isn't a doubt about it," said Laddie.  "I've yet to see
the first person who doesn't."

"Is that all?" asked mother.

"I can think of nothing more at this minute," answered Laddie. 
"If anything comes to my mind later, I won't forget to tell you. 
Oh yes, there was one thing:  You couldn't keep Mr. Pryor from
talking about Leon.  He must have taken a great fancy to him.  He
talked until he worried the Princess, and she tried to keep him
away from the subject, but his mind seemed to run on it
constantly.  When we were riding she talked quite as much as he,
and it will hustle us to think what the little scamp did, any
bigger than they do.  Of course, father, you understood the price
Mr. Pryor made on one of his very finest colts was a joke. 
There's a strain of Arab in the father--he showed me the record--
and the mother is bluegrass.  There you get gentleness and
endurance combined with speed and nerve.  I'd trade Flos for that
colt as it stands to-day.  There's nothing better on earth in the
way of horse.  His offer is practically giving it away.  I know,
with the records to prove its pedigree, what that colt would
bring him in any city market."

"I don't like it," said mother.  "I want Leon to have a horse,
but a boy in a first experience, and reckless as he is, doesn't
need a horse like that, for one thing, and what is more
important, I refuse to be put under any obligations to Pryors."

"That's the reason Mr. Pryor asked anything at all for the horse.

It is my opinion that he would be greatly pleased to give it to
Leon, if he could do what he liked."

"Well, that's precisely the thing he can't do in this family,"
said mother sternly.

"What do you think, father?" asked Laddie.

"I think Amen! to that proposition," said father; "but I would
have to take time to thresh it out completely.  It appeals to me
that Leon is old enough to recognize the value of the animal; and
that the care of it would develop and strengthen his character. 
It would be a responsibility that would steady him.  You could
teach him to tend and break it."

"Break it!" cried Laddie.  "Break it!  Why father, he's riding it
bareback all over the Pryor meadow now, and jumping it over logs.
Whenever he leaves, it follows him to the fence, and the Princess
says almost any hour of the day you look out you can see it
pacing up and down watching this way and whinnying for him to
come."

"And your best judgment is----?"

Laddie laughed as he tied my hood strings.  "Well I don't feel
about the Pryors as the rest of you do," he said.  "If the money
isn't claimed inside the time you specified, I would let Leon and
Mr. Pryor make their own bargain.  The boy won't know for years
that it is practically a gift, and it would please Mr. Pryor
immensely.  Now run, or you'll be late!"

I had to go, so I didn't know how they settled it, but if they
wouldn't let Leon have that horse, it was downright mean.  What
if we were under obligations to Mr. Pryor?  We were to Sarah
Hood, and half the people we knew, and what was more, we LIKED to
be.

When I came from school that night father had been to town.  He
had an ax and was opening a big crate, containing two of the
largest, bluest geese you ever saw.  Laddie said being boxed that
way and seeing them so close made them look so big; really, they
were no finer than Pryors', where he had got the address of the
place that sold them.  Mother was so pleased.  She said she had
needed a new strain, for a long time, to improve her feathers;
now she would have pillows worth while, in a few years.  They put
them in the barn where our geese stayed over night, and how they
did scream.  That is, one of them did; the other acted queerly
and father said to Laddie that he was afraid the trip was hard on
it.  Laddie said it might have been hurt, and mother was worried
too.  Before she had them an hour, she had sold all our ganders;
spring had come, she had saved the blue goose eggs, set them
under a hen, raised the goslings with the little chickens, never
lost one, picked them and made a new pair of pillows too fine for
any one less important than a bishop, or a judge, or Dr. Fenner
to sleep on.  Then she began saving for a featherbed.  And still
the goose didn't act as spry or feel as good as the gander.  He
stuck up his head, screamed, spread his wings and waved them, and
the butts looked so big and hard, I was not right certain whether
it would be safe to tease him or not.

The first person who came to see them was Sarah Hood, and she
left with the promise of a pair as soon as mother could raise
them.  Father said the only reason mother didn't divide her hair
with Sarah Hood was because it was fast, and she couldn't. 
Mother said gracious goodness! she'd be glad to get rid of some
of it if she could, and of course Sarah should have first chance
at it.  Hadn't she kept her over night so she could see her new
home when she was rested, and didn't she come with her, and help
her get settled, and had she ever failed when we had a baby, or
sickness, or trouble, or thrashers, or a party?  Of course she'd
gladly divide, even the hair of her head, with Sarah Hood.  And
father said, "Yes, he guessed she would, and come to think of it,
he'd just as soon spare Sarah part of his," and then they both
laughed, when it was nothing so very funny that I could see.

The next caller the geese had was Mrs. Freshett.  My! she thought
they were big and fine.  Mother promised her a couple of eggs to
set under a hen.  Father said she was gradually coming down the
scale of her feelings, and before two weeks she'd give Isaac
Thomas, at least, a quill for a pen.  Almost no one wrote with
them any more, but often father made a few, and showed us how to
use them.  He said they were gone with candles, sand boxes, and
snuff.  Mother said she had no use for snuff, but candles were
not gone, she'd make and use them to the day of her death, as
they were the nicest light ever invented to carry from room to
room, or when you only wanted to sit and think.  Father said
there was really no good pen except the quill you sharpened
yourself; and while he often used steel ones like we children had
at school to write to the brothers and sisters away, and his
family, he always kept a few choice quills in the till of his
chest, and when he wrote a deed, or any valuable paper, where
there was a deal with money, he used them.  He said it lent the
dignity of a past day to an important occasion.

After mother and Mrs. Freshett had talked over every single thing
about the geese, and that they were like Pryors' had been
settled, Mrs. Freshett said:  "Since he told about it before all
of us, and started out the way he did, would it be amiss to ask
how Laddie got on at Pryors'?"

"Just the way I thought he would," said mother.  "He stayed until
all of us were in bed, and I'd never have known when he came in,
if it were not a habit of his always to come to my door to see if
I'm sleeping.  Sometimes I'm wakeful, and if he pommels my pillow
good, brings me a drink, and rubs my head a few strokes with his
strong, cool hands, I can settle down and have a good night's
rest.  I was awake when he came, or I'd never have known.  It was
almost midnight; but they sat two hours at the table, and then
all of them rode."

"Not the Missus?"

"Oh no!  She's not strong enough.  She really has incurable heart
trouble, the worst kind there is; her daughter told me so."

"Then they better look out," said Mrs. Freshett.  "She is likely
to keel over at a breath."

"They must know it.  That's why she keeps so quiet."

"And they had him to supper?"

"It was a dinner served at night.  Yes.  He took Mrs. Pryor in on
his arm, and it was like a grand party, just as they fixed for
themselves, alone.  Waiters, and silver trays, and things carried
in and out in courses."

"My land!  Well, I s'pose he had enough schoolin' to get him
through it all right!"

My mother's face grew red.  She never left any one in doubt as to
what she meant.  Father said that "was the Dutch of it."  And
mother always answered that if any one living could put things
plainer than the English, she would like to hear them do it.

"He certainly had," said mother, "or they wouldn't have invited
him to come again.  And all mine, Mrs. Freshett, knew how to sit
properly at the table, and manage a knife, fork and napkin,
before they ever took a meal away from home."

"No 'fence," laughed Mrs. Freshett.  "I meant that maybe his
years of college schoolin' had give him ways more like theirs
than most of us have.  For all the money it takes to send a boy
to college, he ought to get somethin' out of it more than jest
fillin' his head with figgers, an' stars, an' oratin'; an' most
always you can see that he does."

"It is contact with cultivated people," said mother.  "You are
always influenced by it, without knowing it often."

"Maybe you are, bein' so fine yourself," said Mrs. Freshett. 
"An' me too, I never get among my betters that I don't carry home
a lot I put right into daily use, an' nobody knows it plainer.  I
come here expectin' to learn things that help me, an' when I go
home I know I have."

"Why, thank you," said mother.  "I'm sure that is a very nice
compliment, and I wish I really could feel that it is well
deserved."

"Oh I guess you do!" said Mrs. Freshett laughing.  "I often
noticed you makin' a special effort to teach puddin' heads like
me somethin', an' I always thank you for it.  There's a world in
right teachin'.  I never had any.  So all I can pick up an'
hammer into mine is a gain for me an' them.  If my Henry had
lived, an' come out anything like that boy o' yourn an' the show
he made last Sunday, I'd do well if I didn't swell up an' bust
with pride.  An' the little tow-haired strip, takin' the gun an'
startin' out alone after a robber, even if he wa'n't much of a
man, that was downright spunky.  If my boys will come out
anywhere near like yourn, I'll be glad."

"I don't know how my boys will come out," said mother.  "But I
work, pray, hope, and hang to them; that's all I know to do."

"Well, if they don't come out right, they ought to be bumped!"
said Mrs. Freshett.  "After all the chances they've had!  I don'
know jest how Freshett was brung up, but I'd no chance at all. 
My folks--well, I guess the less said--little pitchers, you know!
I can't see as I was to blame.  I was the youngest, an' I knew
things was wrong.  I fought to go to school, an' pap let me
enough that I saw how other people lived.  Come night I'd go to
the garret, an' bar the trapdoor; but there would be times when I
couldn't help seein' what was goin' on.  How'd you like chances
such as that for a girl of yourn?"

"Dreadful!" said mother.  "Mrs. Freshett, please do be careful!"

"Sure!" laughed Mrs. Freshett.  "I was jest goin' to tell you
about me an' Josiah.  He come to our house one night, a stranger
off the road.  He said he was sick, an' tired, an' could he have
a bed.  Mother said, `No, for him to move on.'  He tried an' he
couldn't.  They was somethin' about him--well, you know how them
things go!  I wa'n't only sixteen, but I felt so sorry for him,
all fever burned and mumblin', I helped pap put him to bed, an'
doctored him all I could.  Come mornin' he was a sick man.  Pap
went for the county doctor, an' he took jest one look an' says: 
`Small pox!  All of ye git!'

"I was bound I wouldn't go, but pap made me, an' the doctor said
he'd send a man who'd had it; so I started, but I felt so bad,
come a chanct when they got to Groveville, I slipped out an' went
back.  The man hadn't come, so I set to work the best I knowed. 
'Fore long Josiah was a little better an' he asked who I was, an'
where my folks went, an' I told him, an' he asked WHY I came back
an' I didn't know what to say, so I jest hung my head an'
couldn't face him.  After a while he says, `All right!  I guess I
got this sized up.  If you'll stay an' nuss me through, I'll be
well enough to pull you out, by the time you get it, an' soon as
you're able we'll splice, if you say so.'

"`Marry me, you mean?' says I.  They wa'n't ever any talk about
marryin' at our house.  `Sure!' says he.  `You're a mighty likely
lookin' girl!  I'll do fair by ye.'  An' he always has, too!  But
I didn't feel right to let him go it blind, so I jest up and
says.  `You wouldn't if you knowed my folks!'  `You look as
decent as I do,' says he; `I'll chance it!'  Then I tole him I
was as good as I was born, an' he believed me, an' he always has,
an' I was too!  So I nussed him, but I didn't make the job of it
he did.  You 'member he is pitted considerable.  He was so strong
I jest couldn't keep him from disfigerin' himself, but he tied
me.  I begged to be loose, an' he wouldn't listen, so I got a
clean face, only three little scars, an' they ain't deep to speak
of.  He says he looks like a piece of side meat, but say! they
ain't nothin' the matter with his looks to me!

"The nuss man never did come, but the county doctor passed things
in the winder, till I was over the worst, an' Josiah sent for a
preacher an' he married us through the winder--I got the writin's
to show, all framed an' proper.  Josiah said he'd see I got all
they was in it long that line, anyway.  When I was well, hanged
if he didn't perdooce a wad from his clothes before they burnt
'em, an' he got us new things to wear, an' a horse, an' wagon,
an' we driv away here where we thought we could start right, an'
after we had the land, an' built the cabin, an' jest as happy as
heart could wish, long come a man I'd made mad once, an' he tole
everythin' up and down.  Josiah was good about it.  He offered to
sell the land, an' pull up an' go furder.  `What's the use?' says
I.  `Hundreds know it.  We can't go so far it won't be like to
follow us; le's stay here an' fight it.'  `All right,' says
Josiah, but time an' ag'in he has offered to go, if I couldn't
make it.  `Hang on a little longer,' says I, every time he knew I
was snubbed an' slighted.  I never tole what he didn't notice.  I
tried church, when my children began to git a size I wanted 'em
to have right teachin', an' you come an' welcomed me an' you been
my friend, an' now the others is comin' over at last, an'
visitin' me, an' they ain't a thing more I want in life."

"I am so glad!" said mother.  "Oh my dear, I am so glad!"

"Goin' right home an' tell that to Josiah," said Mrs. Freshett,
jumping up laughing and crying like, "an' mebby I'll jest spread
wings and fly!  I never was so happy in all my life as I was
Sunday, when you ast me before all of them, so cordial like, an'
says I to Josiah, `We'll go an' try it once,' an' we come an'
nobody turned a cold shoulder on us, an' I wa'n't wearin' specks
to see if they did, for I never knowed him so happy in all his
days.  Orter heard him whistle goin' home, an' he's tryin' all
them things he learned, on our place, an' you can see it looks a
heap better a'ready, an' now he's talkin' about buildin' in the
spring.  I knowed he had money, but he never mentioned buildin'
before, an' I always thought it was bekase he 'sposed likely we'd
have to move on, some time.  'Pears now as if we can settle, an'
live like other folks, after all these years.  I knowed ye didn't
want me to talk, but I had to tell you!  When you ast us to the
weddin', and others began comin' round, says I to Josiah, `Won't
she be glad to know that my skirts is clear, an' I did as well as
I could?'  An' he says, `That she will!  An' more am I,' says he.

`I mighty proud of you,' says he.  Proud!  Think of that!  Miss
Stanton, I'd jest wade fire and blood for you!"

"Oh my dear !" said mother.  "What a dreadful thing to say!"

"Gimme the chanct, an' watch if I don't," said Mrs. Freshett. 
"Now, Josiah is proud I stuck it out!  Now, I can have a house! 
Now, my children can have all the show we can raise to give 'em! 
I'm done cringin' an' dodgin'!  I've always done my best;
henceforth I mean to hold up my head an' say so.  I sure can't be
held for what was done 'fore I was on earth, or since neither. 
You've given me my show, I'm goin' to take it, but if you want to
know what's in my heart about you, gimme any kind of a chanct to
prove, an' see if I don't pony right up to it!"

Mother laughed until the tears rolled, she couldn't help it.  She
took Mrs. Freshett in her arms and hugged her tight, and kissed
her mighty near like she does Sarah Hood.  Mrs. Freshett threw
her arms around mother, and looked over her shoulder, and said to
me, "Sis, when you grow up, always take a chanct on welcomin' the
stranger, like your maw does, an' heaven's bound to be your home!
My, but your maw is a woman to be proud of!" she said, hugging
mother and patting her on the back.

"All of us are proud of her!" I boasted.

"I doubt if you are proud enough!" cried Mrs. Freshett.  "I have
my doubts!  I don't see how people livin' with her, an' seein'
her every day, are in a shape to know jest what she can do for a
person in the place I was in.  I have my doubts!"

That night when I went home from school mother was worrying over
the blue goose.  When we went to feed, she told Leon that she was
afraid it was weak, and not getting enough to eat when it fed
with the others.  She said after the work was finished, to take
it out alone, and give it all it would eat; so when the horses
were tended, the cows milked, everything watered, and the barn
ready to close for the night, Laddie took the milk to the house,
while Leon and I caught the blue goose, carried her to the well,
and began to shell corn.  She was starved to death, almost.  She
ate a whole ear in no time and looked for more, so Leon sent me
after another.  By the time that was most gone she began to eat
slower, and stick her bill in the air to help the grains slip
down, so I told Leon I thought she had enough.

"No such thing!" said Leon.  "You distinctly heard mother tell me
to give her `all she would eat.'  She's eating, isn't she?  Go
bring another ear!"

So she was, but I was doubtful about more.

Leon said I better mind or he would tell mother, so I got it. 
She didn't begin on it with any enthusiasm.  She stuck her bill
higher, stretched her neck longer, and she looked so funny when
she did it, that we just shrieked.  Then Leon reached over, took
her by the bill, and stripped her neck to help her swallow, and
as soon as he let go, she began to eat again.

"You see!" said Leon, "she's been starved.  She can't get enough.
I must help her!"

So he did help her every little bit.  By that time we were
interested in seeing how much she could hold; and she looked so
funny that Leon sent me for more corn; but I told him I thought
what she needed now was water, so we held her to the trough, and
she tried to drink, but she couldn't swallow much.  We set her
down beside the corn, and she went to eating again.

"Go it, old mill-hopper!" cried Leon.

Right then there was an awful commotion in the barn, and from the
squealing we knew one of the horses was loose, and fighting the
others.  We ran to fix them, and had a time to get Jo back into
his stall, and tied.  Before we had everything safe, the supper
bell rang, and I bet Leon a penny I could reach the house while
he shut the door and got there.  We forgot every single thing
about the goose.

At supper mother asked Leon if he fed the goose all she would
eat, and I looked at him guilty-like, for I remembered we hadn't
put her back.  He frowned at me cross as a bear, and I knew that
meant he had remembered, and would slip back and put her inside
when he finished his supper, so I didn't say anything.

"I didn't feed her ALL she would eat!" said Leon.  "If I had,
she'd be at it yet.  She was starved sure enough!  You never saw
anything like the corn she downed."

"Well I declare!" said mother.  "Now after this, take her out
alone, for a few days, and give her as much as she wants."

"All right!" chuckled Leon, because it was a lot of fun to see
her run her bill around, and gobble up the corn, and stick up her
head.

The next day was Saturday, so after breakfast I went with Leon to
drive the sheep and geese to the creek to water; the trough was
so high it was only for the horses and cattle; when we let out
the geese, the blue one wasn't there.

"Oh Leon, did you forget to come back and put her in?"

"Yes I did!" he said.  "I meant to when I looked at you to keep
still, and I started to do it, but Sammy Deam whistled, so I went
down in the orchard to see what he wanted, and we got to planning
how to get up a fox chase, and I stayed until father called for
night, and then I ran and forgot all about the blame old goose."

"Oh Leon!  Where is she?  What will mother say? 'Spose a fox got
her!"

"It wouldn't help me any if it had, after I was to blame for
leaving her outside.  Blast a girl!  If you ever amounted to
anything, you could have put her in while I fixed the horses.  At
least you could have told me to."

I stood there dumblike and stared at him.  He has got the
awfulest way of telling the truth when he is scared or provoked. 
Of course I should have thought of the goose when he was having
such a hard fight with the horses.  If I'd been like he was, I'd
have told him that he was older, mother told HIM to do it, and it
wasn't my fault; but in my heart I knew he did have his hands
full, and if you're your brother's keeper, you ought to HELP your
brother remember.  So I stood gawking, while Leon slowly turned
whiter and whiter.

"We might as well see if we can find her," he said at last, so
slow and hopeless like it made my heart ache.  So he started
around the straw stack one way, and I the other, looking into all
the holes, and before I had gone far I had a glimpse of her, and
it scared me so I screamed, for her head was down, and she didn't
look right.  Leon came running and pulled her out.  The swelled
corn rolled in a little trail after her, and the pigs ran up and
began to eat it.  Pigs are named righter than anything else I
know.

"Busted!" cried Leon in tones of awe; about the worst awe you
ever heard, and the worst bust you ever saw.

From bill to breast she was wide open, and the hominy spilling. 
We just stood staring at her, and then Leon began to kick the
pigs; because it would be no use to kick the goose; she would
never know.  Then he took her up, carried her into the barn, and
put her on the floor where the other geese had stayed all night. 
We stood and looked at her some more, as if looking and hoping
would make her get up and be alive again.  But there's nothing in
all this world so useless as wishing dead things would come
alive; we had to do something.

"What are you going to tell mother?"

"Shut up!" said Leon.  "I'm trying to think."

"I'll say it was as much my fault as yours.  I'll go with you. 
I'll take half whatever they do to you."

"Little fool!" said Leon.  "What good would that do me?"

"Do you know what they cost?  Could you get another with some of
your horse money?"

I saw it coming and dodged again, before I remembered the
Crusaders.

"All right!" I said.  "If that's the way you are going to act,
Smarty, I'll lay all the blame on you; I won't help you a bit,
and I don't care if you are whipped until the blood runs."

Then I went out of the barn and slammed the door.  For a minute I
felt better; but it was a short time.  I SAID that to be mean,
but I did care.  I cared dreadfully; I was partly to blame, and I
knew it.  Coming around the barn, I met Laddie, and he saw in a
flash I was in trouble, so he stopped and asked:  "What now,
Chicken?"

"Come into the barn where no one will hear us," I said.

So we went around the outside, entered at the door on the
embankment, and he sat in the wheelbarrow on the threshing floor
while I told him.  I thought I felt badly enough, but after I saw
Laddie, it grew worse, for I remembered we were short of money
that fall, that the goose was a fine, expensive one, and how
proud mother was of her, and how she'd be grieved, and that was
trouble for sure.

"Run along and play!" said Laddie, "and don't tell any one else
if you can help it.  I'll hide the goose, and see if I can get
another in time to take the place of this one, so mother won't be
worried."

I walked to the house slowly, but I was afraid to enter.  When
you are all choked up, people are sure to see it, and ask fool
questions.  So I went around to the gate and stood there looking
up and down the road, and over the meadow toward the Big Woods;
and all at once, in one of those high, regular bugle calls, like
they mostly scream in spring, one of Pryors' ganders split the
echoes for a mile; maybe farther.

I was across the road and slinking down inside the meadow fence
before I knew it.  There was no thought or plan.  I started for
Pryors' and went straight ahead, only I kept out of line with our
kitchen windows.  I tramped through the slush, ice, and crossed
fields where I was afraid of horses; but when I got to the top of
the Pryor backyard fence, I stuck there, for the bulldogs were
loose, and came raving at me.  I was going to be eaten alive, for
I didn't know the word Laddie did; and those dogs climbed a fence
like a person; I saw them the time Leon brought back Even So.  I
was thinking what a pity it was, after every one had grown
accustomed to me, and had begun loving me, that I should be
wasted for dog feed, when Mr. Pryor came to the door, and called
them; they didn't mind, so he came to the fence, and crossest you
ever heard, every bit as bad as the dogs, he cried:  "Whose brat
are you, and what are you doing here?"

I meant to tell him; but you must have a minute after a thing
like that.

"God of my life!" he fairly frothed.  "What did anybody send a
dumb child here for?"

"Dumb child!"  I didn't care if Mr. Pryor did wear a Crown of
Glory.  It wasn't going to do him one particle of good, unless he
was found in the way of the Lord.  "Dumb child!"  I was no more
dumb than he was, until his bulldogs scared me so my heart got
all tangled up with my stomach, my lungs, and my liver.  That
made me mad, and there was nothing that would help me to loosen
up and talk fast, like losing my temper.  I wondered what kind of
a father he had.  If he'd been stood against the wall and made to
recite, "Speak gently," as often as all of us, perhaps he'd have
remembered the verse that says:

            "Speak gently to the little child;
                Its love be sure to gain;
             Teach it in accents soft and mild;
                It may not long remain."


I should think not, if it had any chance at all to get away!  I
was so angry by that time I meant to tell him what I thought. 
Polite or not polite, I'd take a switching if I had to, but I
wasn't going to stand that.

"You haven't got any God in your life," I reminded him, "and no
one sent me here.  I came to see the Princess, because I'm in
awful trouble and I hoped maybe she could fix up a way to help
me."

"Ye Gods!" he cried.  He would stick to calling on God, whether
he believed in Him or not.  "If it isn't Nimrod!  I didn't
recognize you in all that bundling."

Probably he didn't know it, but Nimrod was from the Bible too! 
By bundling, he meant my hood and coat.  He helped me from the
fence, sent the bulldogs rolling--sure enough he did kick them,
and they didn't like it either--took my hand and led me straight
into the house, and the Princess was there, and a woman who was
her mother no doubt, and he said:  "Pamela, here is our little
neighbour, and she says she's in trouble, and she thinks you may
be of some assistance to her.  Of course you will be glad if you
can."

"Surely!" said the Princess, and she introduced me to her mother,
so I bowed the best I knew, and took off my wet mitten, dirty
with climbing fences, to shake hands with her.  She was so
gracious and lovely I forgot what I went after.  The Princess
brought a cloth and wiped the wet from my shoes and stockings,
and asked me if I wouldn't like a cup of hot tea to keep me from
taking a chill.

"I've been much wetter than this," I told her, "and I never have
taken a chill, and anyway my throat's too full of trouble to
drink."

"Why, you poor child!" said the Princess.  "Tell me quickly!  Is
your mother ill again?"

"Not now, but she's going to be as soon as she finds out," I
said, and then I told them.

They all listened without a sound until I got where Leon helped
the goose eat, and from that on Mr. Pryor laughed until you could
easily see that he had very little feeling for suffering
humanity.  It was funny enough when we fed her, but now that she
was bursted wide open there was nothing amusing about it; and to
roar when a visitor plainly told you she was in awful trouble,
didn't seem very good manners to me.  The Princess and her mother
never even smiled; and before I had told nearly all of it, Thomas
was called to hitch the Princess' driving cart, and she took me
to their barnyard to choose the goose that looked most like
mother's, and all of them seemed like hers, so we took the first
one Thomas could catch, put it into a bag in the back of the
cart, and then we got in and started for our barn.  As we reached
the road, I said to her:  "You'd better go past Dovers', for if
we come down our Little Hill they will see us sure; it's baking
day."

"All right!" said the Princess, so we went the long way round the
section, but goodness me! when she drove no way was far.

When we were opposite our barn she stopped, hitched her horse to
the fence, and we climbed over, and slipping behind the barn,
carried the goose around to the pen and put it in with ours.  She
said she wanted the broken one, because her father would enjoy
seeing it.  I didn't see how he could!  We were ready to slip
out, when our geese began to run at the new one, hiss and scream,
and make such a racket that Laddie and Leon both caught us.  They
looked at the goose, at me, the Princess, and each other, and
neither said a word.  She looked back a little bit, and then she
laughed as hard as she could.  Leon grew red, and he grinned
ashamed-like, so she laughed worse than ever.  Laddie spoke to
me:  "You went to Mr. Pryor's and asked for that goose?"

"She did not!" said the Princess before I could answer.  "She
never asked for anything.  She was making a friendly morning call
and in the course of her visit she told about the pathetic end of
the goose that was expected to lay the golden egg--I mean stuff
the Bishop's pillow--and as we have a large flock of blue geese,
father gave her one, and he had the best time he's had in years
doing it.  I wouldn't have had him miss the fun he got from it
for any money.  He laughed like home again.  Now I must slip away
before any one sees me, and spoils our secret.  Leon, lad, you
can go to the house and tell your little mother that the feeding
stopped every pain her goose had, and hereafter it looks to you
as if she'd be all right."

"Miss Pryor," said Leon, "did you care about what I said at you
in church that day?"

"`Thou art all fair, my love.  There is no spot in thee.'  Well,
it was a little pointed, but since you ask a plain question, I
have survived it."

"I'm awfully sorry," said Leon.  "Of course I never would, if I'd
known you could be this nice."

The Princess looked at Laddie and almost gasped, and then both of
them laughed.  Leon saw that he had told her he was sorry he said
she was "fair, and no spot in her."

"Oh I don't mean that!" he said.  "What I do mean is that I thank
you awful much for the goose, and helping me out like such a
brick of a good fellow, and what I wish is, that I was as old as
Laddie, and he'd hump himself if he got to be your beau."

The Princess almost ran.  Laddie and I followed to the road,
where he unhitched the horse and helped her in.  Then he stood
stroking its neck, as he held the bridle.

"I don't know what to say!" said Laddie.

"In such case, I would counsel silence," advised the Princess.

"I hope you understand how I thank you."

"I fail to see what for.  Father gave the goose to Little Sister.
Her thanks and Leon's are more than enough for him.  We had great
sport."

"I insist on adding mine.  Deep and fervent!"

"You take everything so serious.  Can't you see the fun of this?"

"No," said Laddie.  "But if you can, I am glad, and I'm thankful
for anything that gives me a glimpse of you."

"Bye, Little Sister," said the Princess, and when she loosened
the lines the mud flew a rod high.



CHAPTER XI

Keeping Christmas Our Way

            "I remember, I remember
                How my childhood fleeted by,--
             The mirth of its December,
                And the warmth of its July."

When dusk closed in it would be Christmas eve.  All day I had
three points--a chair beside the kitchen table, a lookout melted
through the frost on the front window, and the big sitting-room
fireplace.

All the perfumes of Araby floated from our kitchen that day. 
There was that delicious smell of baking flour from big snowy
loaves of bread, light biscuit, golden coffee cake, and cinnamon
rolls dripping a waxy mixture of sugar, butter, and spice, much
better than the finest butterscotch ever brought from the city. 
There was the tempting odour of boiling ham and baking pies.  The
air was filled with the smell of more herbs and spices than I
knew the names of, that went into mincemeat, fruit cake, plum
pudding, and pies.  There was a teasing fragrance in the spiced
vinegar heating for pickles, a reminder of winesap and rambo in
the boiling cider, while the newly opened bottles of grape juice
filled the house with the tang of Concord and muscadine.  It
seemed to me I never got nicely fixed where I could take a sly
dip in the cake dough or snipe a fat raisin from the mincemeat
but Candace would say:  "Don't you suppose the backlog is halfway
down the lane?"

Then I hurried to the front window, where I could see through my
melted outlook on the frosted pane, across the west eighty to the
woods, where father and Laddie were getting out the Christmas
backlog.  It was too bitterly cold to keep me there while they
worked, but Laddie said that if I would watch, and come to meet
them, he would take me up, and I might ride home among the
Christmas greens on the log.

So I flattened my nose against the pane and danced and fidgeted
until those odours teased me back to the kitchen; and no more did
I get nicely located beside a jar of pudding sauce than Candace
would object to the place I had hung her stocking.  It was my
task, my delightful all-day task, to hang the stockings.  Father
had made me a peg for each one, and I had ten feet of mantel
front along which to arrange them.  But it was no small job to do
this to every one's satisfaction.  No matter what happened to any
one else, Candace had to be pleased: for did not she so manage
that most fowls served on mother's table went gizzardless to the
carving?  She knew and acknowledged the great importance of
trying cookies, pies, and cake while they were hot.  She was
forever overworked and tired, yet she always found time to make
gingerbread women with currant buttons on their frocks, and pudgy
doughnut men with clove eyes and cigars of cinnamon.  If my own
stocking lay on the hearth, Candace's had to go in a place that
satisfied her--that was one sure thing.  Besides, I had to make
up to her for what Leon did, because she was crying into the
corner of her apron about that.

He slipped in and stole her stocking, hung it over the
broomstick, and marched around the breakfast table singing to the
tune of--

            "Ha, ha, ha, who wouldn't go--
                 Up on the housetop click, click, click?
             Down through the chimney,
                 With good Saint Nick----"

words he made up himself.  He walked just fast enough that she
couldn't catch him, and sang as he went:

            "Ha, ha, ha, good Saint Nick,
                 Come and look at this stocking, quick!

             If you undertake its length to fill,
                 You'll have to bust a ten-dollar bill.
             Who does it belong to?  Candace Swartz.
                 Bring extra candy,--seven quarts----"


She got so angry she just roared, so father made Leon stop it,
but I couldn't help laughing myself.  Then we had to pet her all
day, so she'd cheer up, and not salt the Christmas dinner with
her tears.  I never saw such a monkey as Leon!  I trotted out to
comfort her, and snipped bites, until I wore a triangle on the
carpet between the kitchen and the mantel, the mantel and the
window, and the window and the kitchen, while every hour things
grew more exciting.

There never had been such a flurry at our house since I could
remember; for to-morrow would be Christmas and bring home all the
children, and a house full of guests.  My big brother, Jerry, who
was a lawyer in the city, was coming with his family, and so were
Frank, Elizabeth, and Lucy with theirs, and of course Sally and
Peter--I wondered if she would still be fixing his tie--and
Shelley came yesterday, blushing like a rose, and she laughed if
you pointed your finger at her.

Something had happened to her in Chicago.  I wasn't so sure as I
had been about a city being such a dreadful place of noise, bad
air, and wicked people.  Nothing had hurt Shelley.  She had grown
so much that you could see she was larger.  Her hair and face--
all of Shelley just shone.  Her eyes danced, she talked and
laughed all the time, and she hugged every one who passed her. 
She never loved us so before.  Leon said she must have been
homesick and coming back had given her a spell.  I did hope it
would be a bad one, and last forever.  I would have liked for all
our family to have had a spell if it would have made them act and
look like Shelley.  The Princess was not a speck lovelier, and
she didn't act any nicer.

If I could have painted, I'd have made a picture of Shelley with
a circle of light above her head like the one of the boy Jesus
where He talked with the wise men in the temple.  I asked father
if he noticed how much prettier and nicer she was, and he said he
did.  Then I asked him if he thought now, that a city was such a
bad place to live in, and he said where she was had nothing to do
with it, the same thing would happen here, or anywhere, when
life's greatest experience came to a girl.  That was all he would
say, but figuring it out was easy.  The greatest experience that
happened to our girls was when they married, like Sally, so it
meant that Shelley had gone and fallen in love with that lawyer
man, and she liked sitting on the sofa with him, and no doubt she
fixed his ties.  But if any one thought I would tell anything I
saw when he came they were badly mistaken.

All of us rushed around like we were crazy.  If father and mother
hadn't held steady and kept us down, we might have raised the
roof.  We were all so glad about getting Leon and the money back;
mother hadn't been sick since the fish cured her; the new blue
goose was so like the one that had burst, even father never
noticed any difference; all the children were either home or
coming, and after we had our gifts and the biggest dinner we ever
had, Christmas night all of us would go to the schoolhouse to see
our school try to spell down three others to whom they had sent
saucy invitations to come and be beaten.

Mother sat in the dining-room beside the kitchen door, so that
she could watch the baking, brewing, pickling, and spicing.  It
took four men to handle the backlog, which I noticed father
pronounced every year "just a little the finest we ever had," and
Laddie strung the house with bittersweet, evergreens, and the
most beautiful sprays of myrtle that he raked from under the
snow.  Father drove to town in the sleigh, and the list of things
to be purchased mother gave him as a reminder was almost a yard
long.

The minute they finished the outdoor work Laddie and Leon began
bringing in baskets of apples, golden bellflowers, green pippins,
white winter pearmains, Rhode Island greenings, and striped
rambos all covered with hoarfrost, yet not frozen, and so full of
juice you had to bite into them carefully or they dripped and
offended mother.  These they washed and carried to the cellar
ready for use.

Then they cracked big dishes of nuts; and popped corn that popped
with the most resounding pops in all my experience--popped a
tubful, and Laddie melted maple sugar and poured over it and made
big balls of fluff and sweetness.  He took a pan and filled it
with grains, selected one at a time, the very largest and
whitest, and made an especial ball, in the middle of which he put
a lovely pink candy heart on which was printed in red letters: 
"How can this heart be mine, yet yours, unless our hearts are
one?"  He wouldn't let any of them see it except me, and he only
let me because he knew I'd be delighted.

It was almost dusk when father came through the kitchen loaded
with bundles and found Candace and the girls still cooking.

We were so excited we could scarcely be gathered around the
supper table, and mother said we chattered until she couldn't
hear herself think.  After a while Laddie laid down his fork and
looked at our father.

"Have you any objection to my using the sleigh to-morrow night?"
he asked.

Father looked at mother.

"Had you planned to use it, mother?"

Mother said:  "No.  If I go, I'll ride in the big sled with all
of us.  It is such a little way, and the roads are like glass."

So father said politely, as he always spoke to us:  "Then it will
give me great pleasure for you to take it, my son."

That made Leon bang his fork loudly as he dared and squirm in his
chair, for well he knew that if he had asked, the answer would
have been different.  If Laddie took the sleigh he would harness
carefully, drive fast, but reasonably, blanket his horse, come
home at the right time, and put everything exactly where he found
it.  But Leon would pitch the harness on some way, race every
step, never think of his steaming horse, come home when there was
no one so wild as he left to play pranks with, and scatter the
harness everywhere.  He knew our father would love to trust him
the same as he did Laddie.  He wouldn't always prove himself
trustworthy, but he envied Laddie.

"You think you'll take the Princess to the spelling bee, don't
you?" he sneered.

"I mean to ask her," replied Laddie.

"Maybe you think she'll ride in our old homemade, hickory
cheesebox, when she can sail all over the country like a bird in
a velvet-lined cutter with a real buffalo robe."

There was a quick catch in mother's breath and I felt her hand on
my chair tremble.  Father's lips tightened and a frown settled on
his face, while Laddie fairly jumped.  He went white to the lips,
and one hand dropped on the table, palm up, the fingers closing
and unclosing, while his eyes turned first to mother, and then to
father, in dumb appeal.  We all knew that he was suffering.  No
one spoke, and Leon having shot his arrow straight home, saw as
people so often do in this world that the damage of unkind words
could not easily be repaired; so he grew red in the face and
squirmed uncomfortably.

At last Laddie drew a deep, quivering breath.  "I never thought
of that," he said.  "She has seemed happy to go with me several
times when I asked her, but of course she might not care to ride
in ours, when she has such a fine sleigh of her own."

Father's voice fairly boomed down the length of the table.

"Your mother always has found our sleigh suitable," he said.

The fact was, father was rarely proud of it.  He had selected the
hickory in our woods, cut it and hauled it to the mill, cured the
lumber, and used all his spare time for two winters making it. 
With the exception of having the runners turned at a factory and
iron-bound at a smithy, he had completed it alone with great
care, even to staining it a beautiful cherry colour, and fitting
white sheepskins into the bed.  We had all watched him and been
so proud of it, and now Leon was sneering at it.  He might just
as well have undertaken to laugh at father's wedding suit or to
make fun of "Clark's Commentaries."

Laddie appealed to mother:  "Do you think I'd better not ask
her?"

He spoke with an effort.

"Laddie, that is the first time I ever heard you propose to do
any one an injustice," she said.

"I don't see how," said Laddie.

"It isn't giving the Princess any chance at all," replied mother
"You've just said that she has seemed pleased to accompany you
before, now you are proposing to cut her out of what promises to
be the most delightful evening of the winter, without even giving
her the chance to say whether she'd go with you or not.  Has she
ever made you feel that anything you offered her or wanted to do
for her was not good enough?"

"Never!" exclaimed Laddie fervently.

"Until she does, then, do you think it would be quite manly and
honourable to make decisions for her?  You say you never thought
of anything except a pleasant time with her; possibly she feels
the same.  Unless she changes, I would scarcely let a boy's
foolish tongue disturb her pleasure.  Moreover, as to the matter
of wealth, your father may be as rich as hers; but they have one,
we have many.  If what we spend on all our brood could be
confined to one child, we could easily duplicate all her
luxuries, and I think she has the good sense to realize the fact
as quickly as any one.  I've no doubt she would gladly exchange
half she has for the companionship of a sister or a brother in
her lonely life."

Laddie turned to father, and father's smile was happy again. 
Mother was little but she was mighty.  With only a few words she
had made Leon feel how unkind and foolish he had been, quieted
Laddie's alarm, and soothed the hurt father's pride had felt in
that he had not been able to furnish her with so fine a turnout
as Pryors had.

Next morning when the excitement of gifts and greetings was over,
and Laddie's morning work was all finished, he took a beautiful
volume of poems and his popcorn ball and started across the
fields due west; all of us knew that he was going to call on and
offer them to the Princess, and ask to take her to the spelling
bee.  I suppose Laddie thought he was taking that trip alone, but
really he was surrounded.  I watched him from the window, and my
heart went with him.  Presently father went and sat beside
mother's chair, and stroking her hand, whispered softly:  "Please
don't worry, little mother.  It will be all right.  Your boy will
come home happy."

"I hope so," she answered, "but I can't help feeling dreadfully
nervous.  If things go wrong with Laddie, it will spoil the day."

"I have much faith in the Princess' good common sense," replied
father, "and considering what it means to Laddie, it would hurt
me sore to lose it."

Mother sat still, but her lips moved so that I knew she was
making soft little whispered prayers for her best loved son.  But
Laddie, plowing through the drift, never dreamed that all of us
were with him.  He was always better looking than any other man I
ever had seen, but when, two hours later, he stamped into the
kitchen he was so much handsomer than usual, that I knew from the
flush on his cheek and the light in his eye, that the Princess
had been kind, and by the package in his hand, that she had made
him a present.  He really had two, a beautiful book and a
necktie.  I wondered to my soul if she gave him that, so she
could fix it!  I didn't believe she had begun on his ties at that
time; but of course when he loved her as he did, he wished she
would.

It was the very jolliest Christmas we ever had, but the day
seemed long.  When night came we were in a precious bustle.  The
wagon bed on bobs, filled with hay and covers, drawn by Ned and
Jo, was brought up for the family, and the sleigh made spick-and-
span and drawn by Laddie's thoroughbred, stood beside it.  Laddie
had filled the kitchen oven with bricks and hung up a comfort at
four o'clock to keep the Princess warm.

Because he had to drive out of the way to bring her, Laddie
wanted to start early; and when he came down dressed in his
college clothes, and looking the manliest of men, some of the
folks thought it funny to see him carefully rake his hot bricks
from the oven, and pin them in an old red breakfast shawl.  I
thought it was fine, and I whispered to mother:  "Do you suppose
that if Laddie ever marries the Princess he will be good to her
as he is to you?"

Mother nodded with tear-dimmed eyes, but Shelley said:  "I'll
wager a strong young girl like the Princess will laugh at you for
babying over her."

"Why?" inquired Laddie.  "It is a long drive and a bitter night,
and if you fancy the Princess will laugh at anything I do, when I
am doing the best I know for her comfort, you are mistaken.  At
least, that is the impression she gave me this morning."

I saw the swift glance mother shot at father, and father laid
down his paper and said, while he pretended his glasses needed
polishing:  "Now there is the right sort of a girl for you.  No
foolishness about her, when she has every chance.  Hurrah for the
Princess!"

It was easy to see that she wasn't going to have nearly so hard a
time changing father's opinion as she would mother's.  It was not
nearly a year yet, and here he was changed already.  Laddie said
good-bye to mother--he never forgot--gathered up his comfort and
bricks, and started for Pryors' downright happy.  We went to the
schoolhouse a little later, all of us scoured, curled, starched,
and wearing our very best clothes.  My! but it was fine.  There
were many lights in the room and it was hung with greens.  There
was a crowd even though it was early.  On Miss Amelia's table was
a volume of history that was the prize, and every one was looking
and acting the very best he knew how, although there were cases
where they didn't know so very much.

Our Shelley was the handsomest girl there, until the Princess
came, and then they both were.  Shelley wore one of her city
frocks and a quilted red silk hood that was one of her Christmas
gifts, and she looked just like a handsome doll.  She made every
male creature in that room feel that she was pining for him
alone.  May had a gay plaid frock and curls nearly a yard long,
and so had I, but both our frocks and curls were homemade; mother
would have them once in a while; father and I couldn't stop her.

But there was not a soul there who didn't have some sort of gift
to rejoice over, and laughter and shouts of "Merry Christmas!"
filled the room.  It was growing late and there was some talk of
choosers, when the door opened and in a rush of frosty air the
Princess and Laddie entered.  Every one stopped short and stared.

There was good reason.  The Princess looked as if she had
accidentally stepped from a frame.  She was always lovely and
beautifully dressed, but to-night she was prettier and finer than
ever before.  You could fairly hear their teeth click as some of
the most envious of those girls caught sight of her, for she was
wearing a new hat!--a black velvet store hat, fitting closely
over her crown, with a rim of twisted velvet, a scarlet bird's
wing, and a big silver buckle.  Her dress was of scarlet cloth
cut in forms, and it fitted as if she had been melted and poured
into it.  It was edged around the throat, wrists, and skirt with
narrow bands of fur, and she wore a loose, long, silk-lined coat
of the same material, and worst of all, furs--furs such as we had
heard wealthy and stylish city ladies were wearing.  A golden
brown cape that reached to her elbows, with ends falling to the
knees, finished in the tails of some animal, and for her hands a
muff as big as a nail keg.

Now, there was not a girl in that room, except the Princess, an
she had those clothes, who wouldn't have flirted like a peacock,
almost bursting with pride; but because the Princess had them,
and they didn't, they sat stolid and sullen, and cast glances at
each other as if they were saying:  "The stuck-up thing!" 
"Thinks she's smart, don't she?"

Many of them should have gone to meet her and made her welcome,
for she was not of our district and really their guest.  Shelley
did go, but I noticed she didn't hurry.

The choosers began at once, and Laddie was the first person
called for our side, and the Princess for the visitors'.  Every
one in the room was chosen on one side or the other; even my name
was called, but I only sat still and shook my head, for I very
well knew that no one except father would remember to pronounce
easy ones for me, and besides I was so bitterly disappointed I
could scarcely have stood up.  They had put me in a seat near the
fire; the spellers lined either wall, and a goodly number that
refused to spell occupied the middle seats.  I couldn't get a
glimpse of Laddie or the home folks, or worst of all, of my
idolized Princess.

I never could bear to find a fault with Laddie, but I sadly
reflected that he might as well have left me at home, if I were
to be buried where I could neither hear nor see a thing.  I was
just wishing it was summer so I could steal out to the cemetery,
and have a good visit with the butterflies that always swarmed
around Georgiana Jane Titcomb's grave at the corner of the
church.  I never knew Georgiana Jane, but her people must have
been very fond of her, for her grave was scarlet with geraniums,
and pink with roses from earliest spring until frost, and the
bright colours attracted swarms of butterflies.  I had learned
that if I stuck a few blossoms in my hair, rubbed some sweet
smelling ones over my hands, and knelt and kept so quiet that I
fitted into the landscape, the butterflies would think me a
flower too, and alight on my hair, dress, and my hands, even. 
God never made anything more beautiful than those butterflies,
with their wings of brightly painted velvet down, their bright
eyes, their curious antennae, and their queer, tickly feet. 
Laddie had promised me a book telling all about every kind there
was, the first time he went to a city, so I was wishing I had it,
and was among my pet beauties with it, when I discovered him
bending over me.

He took my arm, and marching back to his place, helped me to the
deep window seat beside him, where with my head on a level, and
within a foot of his, I could see everything in the whole room. 
I don't know why I ever spent any time pining for the beauties of
Georgiana Jane Titcomb's grave, even with its handsome headstone
on which was carved a lamb standing on three feet and holding a
banner over its shoulder with the fourth, and the geraniums,
roses, and the weeping willow that grew over it, thrown in.  I
might have trusted Laddie.  He never had forgotten me; until he
did, I should have kept unwavering faith.

Now, I had the best place of any one in the room, and I smoothed
my new plaid frock and shook my handmade curls just as near like
Shelley as ever I could.  But it seems that most of the ointment
in this world has a fly in it, like in the Bible, for fine as my
location was, I soon knew that I should ask Laddie to put me
down, because the window behind me didn't fit its frame, and the
night was bitter.  Before half an hour I was stiff with cold; but
I doubt if I would have given up that location if I had known I
would freeze, because this was the most fun I had ever seen.

Miss Amelia began with McGuffey's spelling book, and whenever
some poor unfortunate made a bad break the crowd roared with
laughter.  Peter Justice stood up to spell and before three
rounds he was nodding on his feet, so she pronounced "sleepy" to
him.  Some one nudged Pete and he waked up and spelled it, s-l-e,
sle, p-e, pe, and because he really was so sleepy it made every
one laugh.  James Whittaker spelled compromise with a k, and
Isaac Thomas spelled soap, s-o-a-p-e, and it was all the funnier
that he couldn't spell it, for from his looks you could tell that
he had no acquaintance with it in any shape.  Then Miss Amelia
gave out "marriage" to the spooniest young man in the district,
and "stepfather" to a man who was courting a widow with nine
children; and "coquette" to our Shelley, who had been making
sheep's eyes at Johnny Myers, so it took her by surprise and she
joined the majority, which by that time occupied seats.

There was much laughing and clapping of hands for a time, but
when Miss Amelia had let them have their fun and thinned the
lines to half a dozen on each side who could really spell, she
began business, and pronounced the hardest words she could find
in the book, and the spellers caught them up and rattled them off
like machines.

"Incompatibility," she gave out, and before the sound of her
voice died away the Princess was spelling:  "I-n, in, c-o-m, com,
in com, p-a-t, pat, incompat, i, incompati, b-i-l, bil,
incompatibil, i, incompatibili, t-y, ty, incompatibility."

Then Laddie spelled "incomprehensibility," and they finished up
the "bilities" and the "alities" with a rush and changed
McGuffey's for Webster, with five on Laddie's side and three on
the Princess', and when they quit with it, the Princess was
alone, and Laddie and our little May facing her.

From that on you could call it real spelling.  They spelled from
the grammars, hyperbole, synecdoche, and epizeuxis.  They spelled
from the physiology, chlorophyll, coccyx, arytenoid, and the
names of the bones and nerves, and all the hard words inside you.

They tried the diseases and spelled jaundice, neurasthenia, and
tongue-tied.  They tried all the occupations and professions, and
went through the stores and spelled all sorts of hardware, china
and dry goods.  Each side kept cheering its own and urging them
to do their best, and every few minutes some man in the back of
the house said something that was too funny.  When Miss Amelia
pronounced "bombazine" to Laddie our side cried, "Careful,
Laddie, careful! you're out of your element!"

And when she gave "swivel-tree" to the Princess, her side
whispered, "Go easy!  Do you know what it is?  Make her define
it."

They branched over the country.  May met her Jonah on the
mountains.  Katahdin was too much for her, and Laddie and the
Princess were left to fight it out alone.  I didn't think Laddie
liked it.  I'm sure he never expected it to turn out that way. 
He must have been certain he could beat her, for after he
finished English there were two or three other languages he knew,
and every one in the district felt that he could win, and
expected him to do it.  It was an awful place to put him in, I
could see that.  He stood a little more erect than usual, with
his eyes toward the Princess, and when his side kept crying,
"Keep the prize, Laddie!  Hold up the glory of the district!" he
ground out the words as if he had a spite at them for not being
so hard that he would have an excuse for going down.

The Princess was poised lightly on her feet, her thick curls,
just touching her shoulders, shining in the light; her eyes like
stars, her perfect, dark oval face flushed a rich red, and her
deep bosom rising and falling with excitement.  Many times in
later years I have tried to remember when the Princess was
loveliest of all, and that night always stands first.

I was thinking fast.  Laddie was a big man.  Men were strong on
purpose so they could bear things.  He loved the Princess so, and
he didn't know whether she loved him or not; and every
marriageable man in three counties was just aching for the chance
to court her, and I didn't feel that he dared risk hurting her
feelings.

Laddie said, to be the man who conquered the Princess and to whom
she lifted her lips for a first kiss was worth life itself.  I
made up my mind that night that he knew just exactly what he was
talking about.  I thought so too.  And I seemed to understand why
Laddie--Laddie in his youth, strength, and manly beauty, Laddie,
who boasted that there was not a nerve in his body--trembled
before the Princess.

It looked as if she had set herself against him and was working
for the honours, and if she wanted them, I didn't feel that he
should chance beating her, and then, too, it was beginning to be
plain that it was none too sure he could.  Laddie didn't seem to
be the only one who had been well drilled in spelling.

I held my jaws set a minute, so that I could speak without Laddie
knowing how I was shivering, and then I whispered:  "Except her
eyes are softer, she looks just like a cardinal."

Laddie nodded emphatically and moving a step nearer laid his
elbow across my knees.  Heavens, how they spelled!  They finished
all the words I ever heard and spelled like lightning through a
lot of others the meaning of which I couldn't imagine.  Father
never gave them out at home.  They spelled epiphany, gaberdine,
ichthyology, gewgaw, kaleidoscope, and troubadour.  Then Laddie
spelled one word two different ways; and the Princess went him
one better, for she spelled another three.

They spelled from the Bible, Nebuchadnezzar, Potiphar, Peleg,
Belshazzar, Abimelech, and a host of others I never heard the
minister preach about.  Then they did the most dreadful thing of
all.  "Broom," pronounced the teacher, and I began mentally, b-r-
o-o-m, but Laddie spelled "b-r-o-u-g-h-a-m," and I stared at him
in a daze.  A second later Miss Amelia gave out "Beecham" to the
Princess, and again I tried it, b-e-e-c-h, but the Princess was
spelling "B-e-a-u-c-h-a-m-p," and I almost fell from the window.

They kept that up until I was nearly crazy with nervousness; I
forgot I was half frozen.  I pulled Laddie's sleeve and whispered
in his ear:  "Do you think she'll cry if you beat her?"

I was half crying myself, the strain had been awful.  I was torn
between these dearest loves of mine.

"Seen me have any chance to beat her?" retorted Laddie.

Miss Amelia seemed to have used most of her books, and at last
picked up an old geography and began giving out points around the
coast, while Laddie and the Princess took turns snatching the
words from her mouth and spelling them.  Father often did that,
so Laddie was safe there.  They were just going it when Miss
Amelia pronounced, "Terra del Fuego," to the Princess.  "T-e-r-r-
a, Terra, d-e-l, del, F-i-e-u-g-o," spelled the Princess, and sat
down suddenly in the midst of a mighty groan from her side,
swelled by a wail from one little home district deserter.

"Next!" called Miss Amelia.

"T-e-r-r-a, Terra, d-e-l, del, F-e-u-g-o," spelled Laddie.

"Wrong!" wailed Miss Amelia, and our side breathed one big groan
in concert, and I lifted up my voice in that also.  Then every
one laughed and pretended they didn't care, and the Princess came
over and shook hands with Laddie, and Laddie said to Miss Amelia:

"Just let me take that book a minute until I see how the thing
really does go."  It was well done and satisfied the crowd, which
clapped and cheered; but as I had heard him spell it many, many
times for father, he didn't fool me.

Laddie and the Princess drew slips for the book and it fell to
her.  He was so pleased he kissed me as he lifted me down and
never noticed I was so stiff I could scarcely stand--and I did
fall twice going to the sleigh.  My bed was warm and my room was
warm, but I chilled the night through and until the next
afternoon, when I grew so faint and sleepy I crept to Miss
Amelia's desk, half dead with fright--it was my first trip to ask
an excuse--and begged:  "Oh teacher, I'm so sick.  Please let me
go home."

I think one glance must have satisfied her that it was true, for
she said very kindly that I might, and she would send Leon along
to take care of me.  But my troubles were only half over when I
had her consent.  It was very probable I would be called a baby
and sent back when I reached home, so I refused company and
started alone.  It seemed a mile past the cemetery.  I was so
tired I stopped, and leaning against the fence, peeped through at
the white stones and the whiter mounds they covered, and wondered
how my mother would feel if she were compelled to lay me beside
the two little whooping cough and fever sisters already sleeping
there.  I decided that it would be so very dreadful, that the
tears began to roll down my cheeks and freeze before they fell.

Down the Big Hill slowly I went.  How bare it looked then!  Only
leafless trees and dried seed pods rattling on the bushes, the
sand frozen, and not a rush to be seen for the thick blanket of
snow.  A few rods above the bridge was a footpath, smooth and
well worn, that led down to the creek, beaten by the feet of
children who raced it every day and took a running slide across
the ice.  I struck into the path as always; but I was too stiff
to run, for I tried.  I walked on the ice, and being almost worn
out, sat on the bridge and fell to watching the water bubbling
under the glassy crust.  I was so dull a horse's feet struck the
bridge before I heard the bells--for I had bells in my ears that
day--and when I looked up it was the Princess--the Princess in
her red dress and furs, with a silk hood instead of her hat, her
sleigh like a picture, with a buffalo robe, that it was whispered
about the country, cost over a hundred dollars, and her
thoroughbred mare Maud dancing and prancing.  "Bless me!  Is it
you, Little Sister?" she asked.  "Shall I give you a ride home?"

Before I could scarcely realize she was there, I was beside her
and she was tucking the fine warm robe over me.  I lifted a pair
of dull eyes to her face.

"Oh Princess, I am so glad you came," I said.  "I don't think I
could have gone another step if I had frozen on the bridge."

The Princess bent to look in my face.  "Why, you poor child!" She
exclaimed, "you're white as death!  Where are you ill?"

I leaned on her shoulder, though ordinarily I would not have
offered to touch her first, and murmured:  "I am not ill,
outdoors, only dull, sleepy, and freezing with the cold."

"It was that window!" she exclaimed.  "I thought of it, but I
trusted Laddie."

That roused me a little.

"Oh Princess," I cried, "you mustn't blame Laddie!  I knew it was
too cold, but I wouldn't tell him, because if he put me down I
couldn't see you, and we thought, but for your eyes being softer,
you looked just like a cardinal."

The Princess hugged me close and laughed merrily.  "You darling!"
she cried.

Then she shook me up sharply:  "Don't you dare go to sleep!" she
said.  "I must take you home first."

Once there she quieted my mother's alarm, put me to bed, drove
three miles for Dr. Fenner and had me started nicely on the road
to a month of lung fever, before she left.  In my delirium I
spelled volumes; and the miracle of it was I never missed a word
until I came to "Terra del Fuego," and there I covered my lips
and stoutly insisted that it was the Princess' secret.

To keep me from that danger sleep on the road, she shook me up
and asked about the spelling bee.  I thought it was the grandest
thing I had ever seen in my life, and I told her so.  She
gathered me close and whispered:  "Tell me something, Little
Sister, please."

The minx!  She knew I thought that a far finer title than hers.

"Would Laddie care?" I questioned.

"Not in the least!"

"Well then, I will."

"Can Laddie spell `Terra del Fuego?'" she whispered.

I nodded.

"Are you sure?"

"I have heard him do it over and over for father."

The Princess forgot I was so sick, forgot her horse, forgot
everything.  She threw her head back and her hands up, until her
horse stopped in answer to the loosened line, and she laughed and
laughed.  She laughed until peal on peal re-echoed from our Big
Woods clear across the west eighty.  She laughed until her
ringing notes set my slow pulses on fire, and started my numbed
brain in one last effort.  I stood up and took her lovely face
between my palms, turning it until I could see whether the
thought that had come to me showed in her eyes, and it did.

"Oh you darling, splendid Princess!" I cried.  "You missed it on
purpose to let Laddie beat!  You can spell it too!"



CHAPTER XII

The Horn of the Hunter

            "The dusky night rides down the sky,
                 And ushers in the morn:
             The hounds all join in glorious cry,
                 The huntsman winds his horn."

Leon said our house reminded him of the mourners' bench before
any one had "come through."  He said it was so deadly with Sally
and Shelley away, that he had a big notion to marry Susie Fall
and bring her over to liven things up a little.  Mother said she
thought that would be a good idea, and Leon started in the
direction of Falls', but he only went as far as Deams'.  When he
came back he had a great story to tell about dogs chasing their
sheep, and foxes taking their geese.  Father said sheep were only
safe behind securely closed doors, especially in winter, and
geese also.  Leon said every one hadn't as big a barn as ours,
and father said there was nothing to prevent any man from
building the sized barn he needed to shelter his creatures in
safety and comfort, if he wanted to dig in and earn the money to
put it up.  There was no answer to that, and Mr. Leon didn't try
to make any.  Mostly, he said something to keep on talking, but
sometimes he saw when he had better quit.

I was having a good time, myself.  Of course when the fever was
the worst, and when I never had been sick before, it was pretty
bad, but as soon as I could breathe all right, there was no pain
to speak of, and every one was so good to me.  I could have Bobby
on the footboard of my bed as long as I wanted him, and he would
crow whenever I told him to.  I kept Grace Greenwood beside me,
and spoiled her dress making her take some of each dose of
medicine I did, but Shelley wrote that she was saving goods and
she would make her another as soon as she came home.  I made
mother put red flannel on Grace's chest and around her neck,
until I could hardly find her mouth when she had to take her
medicine, but she swallowed it down all right, or she got her
nose held, until she did.  She was not nearly so sick as I was,
though.  We both grew better together, and, when Dr. Fenner
brought me candy, she had her share.

When I began to get well it was lovely.  Such toast, chicken
broth, and squirrels, as mother always had.  I even got the
chicken liver, oranges, and all of them gave me everything they
had that I wanted--I must almost have died to make them act like
that!

Laddie and father would take me up wrapped in blankets and hold
me to rest my back.  Father would rock me and sing about "Young
Johnny," just as he had when I was little.  We always laughed at
it, we knew it was a fool song, but we liked it.  The tune was
smooth and sleepy-like and the words went:

            "One day young Johnny, he did go,
             Way down in the meadow for to mow.
        Li-tu-di-nan-incty, tu-di-nan-incty, noddy O!

             He scarce had mowed twice round the field,
             When a pesky sarpent bit him on the heel,
         Li-tu-di-nan-incty, tu-di-nan-incty, noddy O!

             He threw the scythe upon the ground,
             An' shut his eyes, and looked all round,
         Li-tu-di-nan-incty, tu-di-nan-incty, noddy O!

             He took the sarpent in his hand,
             And then ran home to Molly Bland,
         Li-tu-di-nan-incty, tu-di-nan-incty, noddy O!

             O Molly dear, and don't you see,
             This pesky sarpent that bit me?
         Li-tu-di-nan-incty, tu-di-nan-incty, noddy O!

             O Johnny dear, why did you go,
             Way down in the meadow fot to mow?
         Li-tu-di-nan-incty, tu-di-nan-incty, noddy O!

             O Molly dear, I thought you knowed
             'Twas daddy's grass, and it must be mowed,
         Li-tu-di-nan-incty, tu-di-n an-incty, noddy O!

             Now all young men a warning take,
             And don't get bit by a rattlesnake.
         Li-tu-di-nan-incty, tu-di-nan-incty, noddy O!"



All of them told me stories, read to me, and Frank, one of my big
gone-away brothers, sent me the prettiest little book.  It had a
green cover with gold on the back, and it was full of stories and
poems, not so very hard, because I could read every one of them,
with help on a few words.  The piece I liked best was poetry.  If
it hadn't been for that, I'm afraid, I was having such a good
time, I'd have lain there until I forgot how to walk, with all of
them trying to see who could be nicest to me.  The ones who
really could, were Laddie and the Princess, except mother. 
Laddie lifted me most carefully, the Princess told the best
stories, but after all, if the burning and choking grew so bad I
could scarcely stand it, mother could lay her hand on my head and
say, "Poor child," in a way that made me work to keep on
breathing.  Maybe I only THOUGHT I loved Laddie best.  I guess if
I had been forced to take my choice when I had the fever, I'd
have stuck pretty tight to mother.  Even Dr. Fenner said if I
pulled through she'd have to make me.  I might have been lying
there yet, if it hadn't been for the book Frank sent me, with the
poetry piece in it.  It began:

        "Somewhere on a sunny bank, buttercups are bright,
         Somewhere 'mid the frozen grass, peeps the daisy white."


I read that so often I could repeat it quite as well with the
book shut as open, and every time I read it, I wanted outdoors
worse.  In one place it ran:


       "Welcome, yellow buttercups, welcome daisies white,
        Ye are in my spirit visioned a delight.
        Coming in the springtime of sunny hours to tell,
        Speaking to our hearts of Him who doeth all things well."


That piece helped me out of bed, and the blue gander screaming
opened the door.  It was funny about it too.  I don't know WHY it
worked on me that way; it just kept singing in my heart all day,
and I could shut my eyes and go to sleep seeing buttercups in a
gold sheet all over our Big Hill, although there never was a
single one there; and meadows full of daisies, which were things
father said were a pest he couldn't tolerate, because they spread
so, and he grubbed up every one he found.  Yet that piece filled
our meadow until I imagined I could roll on daisies.  They might
be a pest to farmers, but sheets of them were pretty good if you
were burning with fever.  Between the buttercups and the daisies
I left the bed with a light head and wobbly legs.

Of course I wasn't an idiot.  I knew when I looked from our south
window exactly what was to be seen.  The person who wrote that
piece was the idiot.  It sang and sounded pretty, and it pulled
you up and pushed you out, but really it was a fool thing, as I
very well knew.  I couldn't imagine daisies peeping through
frozen grass.  Any baby should have known they bloomed in July. 
Skunk cabbage always came first, and hepatica.  If I had looked
from any of our windows and seen daisies and buttercups in March,
I'd have fallen over with the shock.  I knew there would be
frozen brown earth, last year's dead leaves, caved-in apple and
potato holes, the cabbage row almost gone, puddles of water and
mud everywhere, and I would hear geese scream and hens sing.  And
yet that poem kept pulling and pulling, and I was happy as a
queen--I wondered if they were for sure; mother had doubts--the
day I was wrapped in shawls and might sit an hour in the sun on
the top board of the back fence, where I could see the barn,
orchard, the creek and the meadow, as you never could in summer
because of the leaves.  I wasn't looking for buttercups and
daisies either.  I mighty well knew there wouldn't be any.

But the sun was there.  A little taste of willow, oak and maple
was in the air.  You could see the buds growing fat too, and you
could smell them.  If you opened your eyes and looked in any
direction you could see blue sky, big, ragged white clouds, bare
trees, muddy earth with grassy patches, and white spots on the
shady sides where unmelted snow made the icy feel in the air,
even when the sun shone.  You couldn't hear yourself think for
the clatter of the turkeys, ganders, roosters, hens, and
everything that had a voice.  I was so crazy with it I could
scarcely hang to the fence; I wanted to get down and scrape my
wings like the gobbler, and scream louder than the gander, and
crow oftener than the rooster.  There was everything all ice and
mud.  They would have frozen, if they hadn't been put in a house
at night, and starved, if they hadn't been fed; they were not at
the place where they could hunt and scratch, and not pay any
attention to feeding time, because of being so bursting full. 
They had no nests and babies to rejoice over.  But there they
were!  And so was I!  Buttercups and daisies be-hanged!  Ice and
mud really!  But if you breathed that air, and shut your eyes,
north, you could see blue flags, scarlet lilies, buttercups,
cattails and redbirds sailing over them; east, there would be
apple bloom and soft grass, cowslips, and bubbling water, robins,
thrushes, and bluebirds; and south, waving corn with wild rose
and alder borders, and sparrows, and larks on every fence rider.

Right there I got that daisy thing figured out.  It wasn't that
there were or ever would be daisies and buttercups among the
frozen grass; but it was forever and always that when this FEEL
came into the air, you knew they were COMING.  THAT was what
ailed the gander and the gobbler.  They hadn't a thing to be
thankful for yet, but something inside them was swelling and
pushing because of what was coming.  I felt exactly as they did,
because I wanted to act the same way, but I'd been sick enough to
know that I'd better be thankful for the chance to sit on the
fence, and think about buttercups and daisies.  Really, one old
brown and purple skunk cabbage with a half-frozen bee buzzing
over it, or a few forlorn little spring beauties, would have set
me wild, and when a lark really did go over, away up high, and a
dove began to coo in the orchard, if Laddie hadn't come for me, I
would have fallen from the fence.

I simply had to get well and quickly too, for the wonderful time
was beginning.  It was all very well to lie in bed when there was
nothing else to do, and every one would pet me and give me
things; but here was maple syrup time right at the door, and the
sugar camp most fun alive; here was all the neighbourhood crazy
mad at the foxes, and planning a great chase covering a circuit
of miles before the ground thawed; here was Easter and all the
children coming, except Shelley--again, it would cost too much
for only one day--and with everything beginning to hum, I found
out there would be more amusement outdoors than inside.  That was
how I came to study out the daisy piece.  There was nothing in
the silly, untrue lines: the pull and tug was in what they made
you think of.

I was still so weak I had to take a nap every day, so I wasn't
sleepy as early at night, and I heard father and mother talk over
a lot of things before they went to bed.  After they mentioned
it, I remembered that we hadn't received nearly so many letters
from Shelley lately, and mother seldom found time to read them
aloud during the day and forgot, or her eyes were tired, at
night.

"Are you worrying about Shelley?" asked father one night.

"Yes, I am," answered mother.

"What do you think is the trouble?"

"I'm afraid things are not coming out with Mr. Paget as she
hoped."

"If they don't, she is going to be unhappy?"

"That's putting it mildly."

"Well, I was doubtful in the beginning."

"Now hold on," said mother.  "So was I; but what are you going to
do?  I can't go through the world with my girls, and meet men for
them.  I trained them just as carefully as possible before I
started them out; that was all I could do.  Shelley knows when a
man appears clean, decent and likable.  She knows when his
calling is respectable.  She knows when his speech is proper, his
manners correct, and his ways attractive.  She found this man all
of these things, and she liked him accordingly.  At Christmas she
told me about it freely."

"Have you any idea how far the thing has gone?"

"She said then that she had seen him twice a week for two months.

He seemed very fond of her.  He had told her he cared more for
her than any girl he ever had met, and he had asked her to come
here this summer and pay us a visit, so she wanted to know if he
might."

"Of course you told her yes."

"Certainly I told her yes.  I wish now we'd saved money and you'd
gone to visit her and met him when she first wrote of him.  You
could have found out who and what he was, and with your
experience you might have pointed out signs that would have
helped her to see, before it was too late."

"What do you think is the trouble?"

"I wish I knew!  She simply is failing to mention him in her
letters; all the joy of living has dropped from them, she merely
writes about her work; and now she is beginning to complain of
homesickness and to say that she doesn't know how to endure the
city any longer.  There's something wrong."

"Had I better go now?"

"Too late!" said mother, and I could hear her throat go wrong and
the choke come into her voice.  "She is deeply in love with him;
he hasn't found in her what he desires; probably he is not coming
any more; what could you do?"

"I could go and see if there is anything I could do?"

"She may not want you.  I'll write her to-morrow and suggest that
you or Laddie pay her a visit and learn what she thinks."

"All right," said father.

He kissed her and went to sleep, but mother was awake yet, and
she got up and stood looking down at the church and the two
little white gravestones she could see from her window, until I
thought she would freeze, and she did nearly, for her hands were
cold and the tears falling when she examined my covers, and felt
my face and hands before she went to bed.  My, but the mother of
a family like ours is never short of a lot of things to think of!

I had a new one myself.  Now what do you suppose there was about
that man?

Of course after having lived all her life with father and Laddie,
Shelley would know how a man should look, and act to be right;
and this one must have been right to make her bloom out in winter
the way other things do in spring; and now what could be wrong? 
Maybe city girls were prettier than Shelley.  But all women were
made alike on the outside, and that was as far as you could see. 
You couldn't find out whether they had pure blood, true hearts,
or clean souls.  No girl could be so very much prettier than
Shelley; they simply were not made that way.  She knew how to
behave; she had it beaten into her, like all of us.  And she knew
her books, what our schools could teach her, and Groveville, and
Lucy, who had city chances for years, and there never was a day
at our house when books and papers were not read and discussed,
and your spelling was hammered into you standing in rows against
the wall, and memory tests--what on earth could be the matter
with Shelley that a man who could make her look and act as she
did at Christmas, would now make her unhappy?  Sometimes I wanted
to be grown up dreadfully, and again, times like that, I wished
my bed could stay in mother's room, and I could creep behind
father's paper and go to sleep between his coat and vest, and
have him warm my feet in his hands forever.

This world was too much for me.  I never worked and worried in
all my life as I had over Laddie and the Princess, and Laddie
said I, myself, never would know how I had helped him.  Of course
nothing was settled; he had to try to make her love him by
teaching her how lovable he was.  We knew, because we always had
known him, but she was a stranger and had to learn.  It was
mighty fine for him that he could force his way past the dogs,
Thomas, the other men, her half-crazy father, and through the
locked door, and go there to try to make her see, on Sunday
nights, and week days, every single chance he could invent, and
he could think up more reasons for going to Pryors' than mother
could for putting out an extra wash.

Now just as I got settled a little about him, and we could see
they really wanted him there, at least the Princess and her
mother did, and Mr. Pryor must have been fairly decent or Laddie
never would have gone; and the Princess came to our house to
bring me things to eat, and ask how mother was, and once to learn
how she embroidered Sally's wedding chemise, and social things
like that; and when father acted as if he liked her so much he
hadn't a word to say, and mother seemed to begin to feel as if
Laddie and the Princess could be trusted to fix it up about God;
and the old mystery didn't matter after all; why, here Shelley
popped up with another mystery, and it belonged to us.  But
whatever ailed that man I couldn't possibly think.  It had got to
be him, for Shelley was so all right at Christmas, it made her
look that pretty we hardly knew her.

I was thinking about her until I scarcely could study my lessons,
so I could recite to Laddie at night, and not fall so far behind
at school.  Miss Amelia offered to hear me, but I just begged
Laddie, and father could see that he taught me fifty things in a
lesson that you could tell to look at Miss Amelia, she never
knew.  Why, he couldn't hear me read:

            "We charged upon a flock of geese,
                 And put them all to flight
             Except one sturdy gander
                 That thought to show us fight,"--

without teaching me that the oldest picture in all the world was
made of a row of geese, some of which were kinds we then had--the
earth didn't seem so old when you thought of that--and how a
flock of geese once wakened an army and saved a city, and how far
wild geese could fly without alighting in migration, and
everything you could think of about geese, only he didn't know
why eating the same grass made feathers on geese and wool on
sheep.  Anyway, Miss Amelia never told you a word but what was in
the book, and how to read and spell it.  May said that father was
very much disappointed in her, and he was never going to hire
another teacher until he met and talked with her, no matter what
kind of letters she could send.  He was not going to help her get
a summer school, and O my soul!  I hope no one does, for if they
do, I have to go, and I'd rather die than go to school in the
summer.

Leon came in about that time with more fox stories.  Been in
Jacob Hood's chicken house and taken his best Dorking rooster,
and father said it was time to do something.  He never said a
word so long as they took Deams', except they should have barn
room for their geese, but when anything was the matter at Hoods'
father and mother started doing something the instant they heard
of it.  So father and Laddie rode around the neighbourhood and
talked it over, and the next night they had a meeting at our
schoolhouse; men for miles came, and they planned a regular old-
fashioned foxchase, and every one was wild about it.

Laddie told it at Pryors' and the Princess wanted to go; she
asked to go with him, and if you please, Mr. Pryor wanted to go
too, and their Thomas.  They attended the meeting to tell how
people chase foxes in England, where they seem to hunt them most
of the time.  Father said:  "Thank God for even a foxchase, if it
will bring Mr. Pryor among his neighbours and help him to act
sensibly."  They are going away fifteen miles or farther, and
form a big circle of men from all directions, some walking in a
line, and others riding to bring back any foxes that escape, and
with dogs, and guns, they are going to rout out every one they
can find, and kill them so they won't take the geese, little
pigs, lambs, and Hoods' Dorking rooster.  Laddie had a horn that
Mr. Pryor gave him when he told him this country was showing
signs of becoming civilized at last; but Leon grinned and said
he'd beat that.

Then when you wanted him, he was in the wood house loft at work,
but father said he couldn't get into mischief there.  He should
have seen that churn when it was full of wedding breakfast!  We
ate for a week afterward, until things were all moulded, and we
didn't dare anymore.  One night I begged so hard and promised so
faithfully he trusted me; he did often, after I didn't tell about
the Station; and I went to the loft with him, and watched him
work an hour.  He had a hollow limb about six inches through and
fourteen long.  He had cut and burned it to a mere shell, and
then he had scraped it with glass inside and out, until it shone
like polished horn.  He had shaved the wool from a piece of
sheepskin, soaked, stretched, and dried it, and then fitted it
over one end of the drumlike thing he had made, and tacked and
bound it in a little groove at the edge.  He put the skin on damp
so he could stretch it tight.  Then he punched a tiny hole in the
middle, and pulled through it, down inside the drum, a sheepskin
thong rolled in resin, with a knot big enough to hold it, and not
tear the head.  Then he took it under his arm and we slipped
across the orchard below the Station, and went into the hollow
and tried it.

It worked!  I almost fell dead with the first frightful sound. 
It just bellowed and roared.  In only a little while he found
different ways to make it sound by his manner of working the
tongue.  A long, steady, even pull got that kind of a roar.  A
short, quick one made it bark.  A pull half the length of the
thong, a pause, and another pull, made it sound like a bark and a
yelp.  To pull hard and quick, made it go louder, and soft and
easy made it whine.  Before he had tried it ten minutes he could
do fifty things with it that would almost scare the livers out of
those nasty old foxes that were taking every one's geese, Dorking
roosters, and even baby lambs and pigs.  Of course people
couldn't stand that; something had to be done!

Even in the Bible it says, "Beware of the little foxes that spoil
the vines," and geese, especially blue ones, Dorking roosters,
lambs, and pigs were much more valuable than mere vines; so Leon
made that awful thing to scare the foxes from their holes that's
in the Bible too, about the holes I mean, not the scaring.  I
wanted Leon to slip to the back door and make the dumb-bell--
that's what he called it; if I had been naming it I would have
called it the thunder-bell--go; but he wouldn't.  He said he
didn't propose to work as he had, and then have some one find
out, and fix one like it.  He said he wouldn't let it make a
sound until the night before the chase, and then he'd raise the
dead.  I don't know about the dead; but it was true of the
living.  Father went a foot above his chair and cried:  "Whoo-
pee!"  All of us, even I, when I was waiting for it, screamed as
if Paddy Ryan raved at the door.  Then Leon came in and showed
us, and every one wanted to work the dumb-bell, even mother. 
Leon marched around and showed off; he looked "See the conquering
hero comes," all over.  I never felt worse about being made into
a girl than I did that night.

I couldn't sleep for excitement, and mother said I might as well,
for it would be at least one o'clock before they would round-up
in our meadow below the barn.  All the neighbours were to shut up
their stock, tie their dogs, or lead them with chains, if they
took them, so when the foxes were surrounded, they could catch
them alive, and save their skins.  I wondered how some of those
chasing people, even Laddie, Leon, and father--think of that!
father was going too--I wondered how they would have liked to
have had something as much bigger than they were, as they were
bigger than the foxes, chase them with awful noises, guns and
dogs, and catch them alive--to save their skins.  No wonder I
couldn't sleep!  I guess the foxes wouldn't either, if they had
known what was coming.  Maybe hereafter the mean old things would
eat rabbits and weasels, and leave the Dorking roosters alone.

May, Candace, and Miss Amelia were going to Deams' to wait, and
when the round-up formed a solid line, they planned to stand
outside, and see the sport.  If they had been the foxes, maybe
they wouldn't have thought it was so funny; but of course, people
just couldn't have even their pigs and lambs taken.  We had to
have wool to spin yarn for our stockings, weave our blankets and
coverlids, and our Sunday winter dresses of white flannel with
narrow black crossbars were from the backs of our own sheep, and
we had to have ham to fry with eggs, and boil for Sunday night
suppers, and bacon to cook the greens with--of course it was all
right.

Before it was near daylight I heard Laddie making the kitchen
fire, so father got right up, Leon came down, and all of them
went to the barn to do the feeding.  I wanted to get up too, but
mother said I should stay in bed until the house was warm,
because if I took more cold I'd be sick again.  At breakfast May
asked father about when they should start for Deams' to be ahead
of the chase, and he said by ten o'clock at least; because a fox
driven mad by pursuit, dogs, and noise, was a very dangerous
thing, and a bite might make hy----the same thing as a mad dog. 
He said our back barn door opening from the threshing floor would
afford a fine view of the meet, but Candace, May, and Miss Amelia
wanted to be closer.  I might go with them if they would take
good care of me, and they promised to; but when the time came to
start, there was such a queer feeling inside me, I thought maybe
it was more fever, and with mother would be the best place for
me, so I said I wanted to watch from the barn.  Father thought
that was a capital idea, because I would be on the east side,
where there would be no sun and wind, and it would be perfectly
safe; also, I really could see what was going on better from that
height than on the ground.

The sun was going to shine, but it hadn't peeped above Deams'
strawstack when father on his best saddle horse, and Laddie on
Flos, rode away, their eyes shining, their faces red, their blood
pounding so it made their voices sound excited and different. 
Leon was to go on foot.  Father said he would ride a horse to
death.  He just grinned and never made a word of complaint. 
Seemed funny for him.

"I was over having a little confidential chat with my horse, last
night," he said, "and next year we'll be in the chase, and we'll
show you how to take fences, and cut curves; just you wait!"

"Leon, DON'T build so on that horse," wailed mother.  "I'm sure
that money was stolen like ours, and the owner will claim it! I
feel it in my bones!"

"Aw, shucks!" said Leon.  "That money is mine.  He won't either!"

When they started, father took Leon behind him to ride as far as
the county line.  He said he would go slowly, and it wouldn't
hurt the horse, but Leon slipped off at Hoods', and said he'd go
with their boys, so father let him, because light as Leon was,
both of them were quite a load for one horse.  Laddie went to
ride with the Princess.  We could see people moving around in
Pryors' barnyard when our men started.  Candace washed, Miss
Amelia wiped the dishes, May swept, and all of them made the
beds, and then they went to Deams', while I stayed with mother. 
When she thought it was time, she bundled me up warmly, and I
went to the barn.  Father had the east doors standing open for
me, so I could sit in the sun, hang my feet against the warm
boards, and see every inch of our meadow where the meet was to
be.  I was really too warm there, and had to take off the scarf,
untie my hood, and unbutton my coat.

It was a trifle muddy, but the frost had not left the ground yet,
the sparrows were singing fit to burst, so were the hens.  I
didn't care much for the music of the hen, but I could see she
meant well.  She liked her nest quite as much as the red velvet
bird with black wings, or the bubbly yellow one, and as for baby
chickens, from the first peep they beat a little naked, blind,
wobbly tree bird, so any hen had a right to sing for joy because
she was going to be the mother of a large family of them.  A hen
had something was going to be the mother of a large family of
them.  A hen had something to sing about all right, and so had
we, when we thought of poached eggs and fried chicken.  When I
remembered them, I saw that it was no wonder the useful hen
warbled so proudlike; but that was all nonsense, for I don't
suppose a hen ever tasted poached eggs, and surely she wouldn't
be happy over the prospect of being fried.  Maybe one reason she
sang was because she didn't know what was coming; I hardly think
she'd be so tuneful if she did.

Sometimes the geese, shut in the barn, raised an awful clatter,
and the horses and cattle complained about being kept from the
sunshine and fresh air.  You couldn't blame them.  It was a
lovely day, and the big upper door the pleasantest place.  I
didn't care if the fox hunters never came, there was so much to
see, hear, and smell.  Everything was busy making signs of
spring, and one could become tired of ice and snow after a while,
and so hungry for summer that those first days which were just
hints of what was coming were almost better than the real thing
when it arrived.  Bud perfume was stronger than last week, many
doves and bluebirds were calling, and three days more of such
sunshine would make cross-country riding too muddy to be
pleasant.  I sat there thinking; grown people never know how much
children do think, they have so much time, and so many bothersome
things to study out.  I heard it behind me, a long, wailing,
bellowing roar, and my hood raised right up with my hair.  I was
in the middle of the threshing floor in a second, in another at
the little west door, cut into the big one, opening it a tiny
crack to take a peep, and see how close they were.

I could see nothing, but I heard a roar of dreadful sound
steadily closing in a circle around me.  No doubt the mean old
foxes wished then they had let the Dorking roosters alone. 
Closer it came and more dreadful.  Never again did I want to hear
such sounds coming at me; even when I knew what was making them. 
And then away off, beyond Pryors', and Hoods', and Dovers', I
could see a line of tiny specks coming toward me, and racing
flying things that must have been people on horses riding back
and forth to give the foxes no chance to find a hiding place.  No
chance!  Laddie and the Princess, Mr. Pryor and father, and all
of them were after the bad old foxes; and they were going to get
them; because they'd have no chance--Not with a solid line of men
with raving dogs surrounding them, and people on horseback racing
after them, no! the foxes would wish now that they had left the
pigs and lambs alone.  In that awful roaring din, they would
wish, Oh how they would wish, they were birds and could fly!  Fly
back to their holes like the Bible said they had, where maybe
they LIKED to live, and no doubt they had little foxes there,
that would starve when their mammies were caught alive, to save
their skins.

To save their skins!  I could hear myself breathe, and feel my
teeth click, and my knees knock together.  And then!  Oh dear! 
There they came across our cornfield.  Two of them!  And they
could fly, almost.  At least you could scarcely see that they
touched the ground.  The mean old things were paying up for the
pigs and lambs now.  Through the fence, across the road, straight
toward me they came.  Almost red backs, nearly white beneath,
long flying tails, beautiful pointed ears, and long tongues, fire
red, hanging from their open mouths; their sleek sides pulsing,
and that awful din coming through the woods behind them.  One
second, the first paused to glance toward either side, and threw
back its head to listen.  What it saw, and heard, showed it.  I
guess then it was sorry it ever took people's ham, and their
greens, and their blankets; and it could see and hear that it had
no chance--to save its skin.

"Oh Lord!  Dear Lord!  Help me!" I prayed.

It had to be me, there was no one else.  I never had opened the
big doors; I thought it took a man, but when I pushed with all my
might--and maybe if the hairs of our heads were numbered, and the
sparrows counted, there would be a little mercy for the foxes--I
asked for help; maybe I got it.  The doors went back, and I
climbed up the ladder to the haymow a few steps and clung there,
praying with all my might:  "Make them come in!  Dear Lord, make
them come in!  Give them a chance!  Help them to save their
skins, O Lord!"

With a whizz and a flash one went past me, skimmed the cider
press, and rushed across the hay; then the other.  I fell to the
floor and the next thing I knew the doors were shut, and I was
back at my place.  I just went down in a heap and leaned against
the wall and shook, and then I laughed and said:  "Thank you,
Lord!  Thank you for helping with the door!  And the foxes!  The
beautiful little red and white foxes!  They've got their chance! 
They'll save their skins!  They'll get back to their holes and
their babies!  Praise the Lord!"

I knew when I heard that come out, that it was exactly like my
father said it when Amos Hurd was redeemed.  I never knew father
to say it so impressively before, because Amos had been so bad,
people really were afraid of him, and father said if once he got
started right, he would go at it just as hard as he had gone at
wrongdoing.  I suppose I shouldn't have said it about a fox, when
there were the Dorkings, and ham, and white wool dresses, and all
that, but honestly, I couldn't remember that I cared particularly
whether Amos Hurd was redeemed or not; he was always lovely to
children; while I never in all my life had wanted anything worse
than I wanted those foxes to save their skins.  I could hear them
pant like run out dogs; and I could hear myself, and I hadn't
been driven from my home and babies, maybe--and chased miles and
miles, either.

Then I just shook.  They came pounding, roaring and braying right
around the barn, and down the lane.  The little door flew open
and a strange man stuck in his head.

"Shut that door!" I screamed.  "You'll let them in on me, and
they bite!  They're poison!  They'll kill me!"

I hadn't even thought of it before.

"See any foxes?" cried the man.

"Two crossed our barnyard headed that way!" I cried back,
pointing east.  "Shut the door!"

The man closed it and ran calling as he went:  "It's all right! 
They crossed the barnyard.  We've got them!"

I began to dance and beat my hands, and then I stopped and held
my breath.  They were passing, and the noise was dreadful.  They
struck the sides of the barn, poked around the strawstack, and
something made me look up, and at the edge of the hay stood a fox
ready to spring.  If it did, it would go from the door, right
into the midst thereof.  Nothing but my red hood sailing straight
at it, and a yell I have, drove it back.  No one hit the barn
again, the line closed up, and went on at a run now, they were so
anxious to meet and see what they had.  Then came the beat of
hoofs and I saw that all the riders had dropped back, and were
behind the line of people on foot.  I watched Laddie as he flew
past waving to me, and I grabbed my scarf to wave at him.  The
Princess flashed by so swiftly I couldn't see how she looked, and
then I heard a voice I knew cry:  "Ep!  Ep!  Over Lad!"  And I
almost fell dead where I stood.  Mr. Pryor sailed right over the
barnyard fence into the cornfield, ripping that dumb-bell as he
went, and neck and neck, even with him, on one of his finest
horses, was our Leon.  His feet were in the stirrups, he had the
reins tight, he almost stood as he arose, his face was crimson,
his head bare, his white hair flying, the grandest sight you ever
saw.  At the top of my voice I screamed after them, "Ep!  Ep! 
Over lad!" and then remembered and looked to see if I had to
chase back the foxes, but they didn't mind only me, after what
they had been through.  Then I sat down suddenly again.

Well!  What would father think of that!  Leon kill a horse of
ours indeed!  There he was on one of Mr. Pryor's, worth as much
as six of father's no doubt, flying over fences, and the creek
was coming, and the bank was steep behind the barn.  I was up
again straining to see.

"Ep!  Ep!  Over!" rang the cry.

There they went!  Laddie and the Princess too.  I'll never spend
another cent on paper dolls, candy, raisins, or oranges.  I'll
give all I have to help Leon buy his horse; then I'm going to
begin saving for mine.

The line closed up, a solid wall of men with sticks, clubs and
guns; the dogs ranged outside, and those on horseback stopped
where they could see best; and inside, raced back and forth, and
round and round, living creatures.  I couldn't count they moved
so, but even at that distance I could see that some were poor
little cotton tails.  The scared things!  A whack over the head,
a backward toss, and the dogs were mouthing them.  The long
tailed, sleek, gracefully moving ones, they were foxes, the foxes
driven from their holes, and nothing on earth could save their
skins for them now; those men meant to have them.

I pulled the doors shut suddenly.  I was so sick I could scarcely
stand.  I had to work, but at last I pushed the west doors open
again.  I don't think the Lord helped me any that time, for I
knew what it took--before, they just went.  Or maybe He did help
me quite as much, but I had harder work to do my share, because I
felt so dizzy and ill.  Anyway, they opened.  Then I climbed the
upright ladder to the top beam, walked it to the granary, and
there I danced, pounded and yelled so that the foxes jumped from
the hay, leaped lightly to the threshing floor, and stood looking
and listening.  I gave them time to hear where the dreadful
racket was, and then I jumped to the hay and threw the pitchfork
at them.  It came down smash! and both of them sprang from the
door.  When I got down the ladder and where I could see, they
were so rested they were hiking across the cornfield like they
never had raced a step before; and as the clamour went up behind
me, that probably meant the first fox had lost its beautiful red
and white skin, they reached our woods in safety.  The doors went
shut easier, and I started to the house crying like any
blubbering baby; but when mother turned from the east window, and
I noticed her face, I forgot the foxes.

"You saw Leon!" I cried.

"That I did!" she exulted, rocking on her toes the same as she
does at the Meeting House when she is going to cry, "Glory!" any
minute.  "That I did!  Ah! the brave little chap!  Ah! the fine
fellow!"

Her cheeks were the loveliest pink, and her eyes blazed.  I
scarcely knew her.

"What will father say?"

"If his father isn't every particle as proud of him as I am this
day, I've a big disappointment coming," she answered.  "If Mr.
Pryor chose to let him take that fine horse, and taught him how
to ride it, father should be glad."

"If he'd gone into the creek, you wouldn't feel so fine."

"Ah! but he didn't!  He didn't!  He stuck to the saddle and
sailed over in one grand, long sweep!  It was fine!  I hope--to
my soul, I hope his father saw it!"

"He did!" I said.  "He did!  He was about halfway down the lane. 
He was where he could see fine."

"You didn't notice----?"

"I was watching if Leon went under.  What if he had, mother?"

"They'd have taken him out, and brought him to me, and I'd have
worked with all the strength and skill God has given me, and if
it were possible to us, he would be saved, and if it were not, it
would be a proud moment for a woman to offer a boy like that to
the God who gave him.  One would have nothing to be ashamed of!"

"Could you do it, like you are now, and not cry, mother?" I asked
wonderingly.

"Patience no!" said she.  "Before long you will find out, child,
that the fountain head of tears and laughter lies in the same
spot, deep in a woman's heart.  Men were made for big things! 
They must brave the wild animals, the Indians, fight the battles,
ride the races, till the fields, build the homes.  In the making
of a new country men must have the thing in their souls that
carried Leon across the creek.  If he had checked that horse and
gone to the ford, I would have fallen where I stood!"

"Father crossed the ford!"

"True!  But that's different.  He never had a chance at a horse
like that!  He never had time for fancy practice, and his nose
would have been between the pages of a book if he had.  But
remember this!  Your father's hand has never faltered, and his
aim has never failed.  All of us are here, safe and comfortable,
through him.  It was your father who led us across the
wilderness, and fended from us the wildcat, wolf, and Indian.  He
built this house, cleared this land, and gave to all of us the
thing we love.  Get this in your head straight.  Your father rode
a plow horse; he never tried flourishes in riding; but no man can
stick in the saddle longer, ride harder, and face any danger with
calmer front.  If you think this is anything, you should have
seen his face the day he stood between me and a band of Indians,
we had every reason to think, I had angered to the fighting
point."

"Tell me!  Please tell me!" I begged.

All of us had been brought up on that story, but we were crazy to
hear it, and mother loved to tell it, so she dropped on a chair
and began:

"We were alone in a cabin in the backwoods of Ohio.  Elizabeth
was only nine months old, and father always said a mite the
prettiest of any baby we ever had.  Many of the others have
looked quite as well to me, but she was the first, and he was so
proud of her he always wanted me to wait in the wagon until he
hitched the horses, so he would get to take and to carry her
himself.  Well, she was in the cradle, cooing and laughing, and I
had my work all done, and cabin shining.  I was heating a big
poker red-hot, and burning holes into the four corners of a board
so father could put legs in it to make me a bench.  A greasy old
squaw came to the door with her papoose on her back.  She wanted
to trade berries for bread.  There were berries everywhere for
the picking; I had more dried than I could use in two years.  We
planted only a little patch of wheat and father had to ride three
days to carry to mill what he could take on a horse.  I baked in
an outoven and when it was done, a loaf of white bread was by far
the most precious thing we had to eat.  Sometimes I was caught,
and forced to let it go.  Often I baked during the night and hid
the bread in the wheat at the barn.  There was none in the cabin
that day and I said so.  She didn't believe me.  She set her
papoose on the floor beside the fireplace, and went to the
cupboard.  There wasn't a crumb there except cornbread, and she
didn't want that.  She said:  `Brod!  Brod!'

"She learned that from the Germans in the settlement.  I shook my
head.  Then she pulled out a big steel hunting knife, such as the
whites traded to the Indians so they would have no trouble in
scalping us neatly, and walked to the cradle.  She took that
knife loosely between her thumb and second finger and holding it
directly above my baby's face, she swung it lightly back and
forth and demanded:  `Brod!  Brod!'

"If the knife fell, it would go straight through my baby's head,
and Elizabeth was reaching her little hands and laughing.  There
was only one thing to do, and I did it.  I caught that red-hot
poker from the fire, and stuck it so close her baby's face, that
the papoose drew back and whimpered.  I scarcely saw how she
snatched it up and left.  When your father came, I told him, and
we didn't know what to do.  We knew she would come back and bring
her band.  If we were not there, they would burn the cabin, ruin
our crops, kill our stock, take everything we had, and we
couldn't travel so far, or so fast, that on their ponies they
couldn't overtake us.  We endangered any one with whom we sought
refuge, so we gripped hands, knelt down and told the Lord all
about it, and we felt the answer was to stay.  Father cleaned the
gun, and hours and hours we waited.

"About ten o'clock the next day they came, forty braves in war
paint and feathers.  I counted until I was too sick to see, then
I took the baby in my arms and climbed to the loft, with our big
steel knife in one hand.  If your father fell, I was to use it,
first on Elizabeth, then on myself.  The Indians stopped at the
woodyard, and the chief of the band came to the door, alone. 
Your father met him with his gun in reach, and for a whole
eternity they stood searching each other's eyes.  I was at the
trapdoor where I could see both of them.

"To the depths of my soul I enjoyed seeing Leon take the fence
and creek: but what was that, child, to compare with the timber
that stood your father like a stone wall between me and forty
half-naked, paint besmeared, maddened Indians?  Don't let any
showing the men of to-day can make set you to thinking that
father isn't a king among men.  Not once, but again and again in
earlier days, he fended danger from me like that.  I can shut my
eyes and see his waving hair, his white brow, his steel blue
eyes, his unfaltering hand.  I don't remember that I had time or
even thought to pray.  I gripped the baby, and the knife, and
waited for the thing I must do if an arrow or a shot sailed past
the chief and felled father.  They stood second after second,
like two wooden men, and then slowly and deliberately the chief
lighted his big pipe, drew a few puffs and handed it to father. 
He set down his gun, took the pipe and quite as slowly and
deliberately he looked at the waiting band, at the chief, and
then raised it to his lips.

"`White squaw brave!  Heap much brave!' said the chief.

"`In the strength of the Lord.  Amen!' said father.

"Then he reached his hand and the chief took it, so I came down
the ladder and stood beside father, as the Indians began to file
in the front door and out the back.  As they passed, every man of
them made the peace sign and piled in a heap, venison, fish, and
game, while each squaw played with the baby and gave me a gift of
beads, a metal trinket, or a blanket she had woven.  After that
they came often, and brought gifts, and if prowling Gypsies were
pilfering, I could look to see a big Indian loom up and seat
himself at my fireside until any danger was past.  I really got
so I liked and depended on them, and father left me in their care
when he went to mill, and I was safe as with him.  You have heard
the story over and over, but to-day is the time to impress on you
that an exhibition like THIS is the veriest child's play compared
with what I have seen your father do repeatedly!"

"But it was you, the chief said was brave!"

Mother laughed.

"I had to be, baby," she said.  "Mother had no choice.  There's
only one way to deal with an Indian.  I had lived among them all
my life, and I knew what must be done."

"I think both of you were brave," I said, "you, the bravest!"

"Quite the contrary," laughed mother.  "I shall have to confess
that what I did happened so quickly I'd no time to think.  I only
realized the coal red iron was menacing the papoose when it drew
back and whimpered.  Father had all night to face what was coming
to him, and it was not one to one, but one to forty, with as many
more squaws, as good fighters as the braves, to back them.  It
was a terror but I never have been sorry we went through it
together.  I have rested so securely in your father ever since."

"And he is as safe in you," I insisted.

"As you will," said mother.  "This world must have her women
quite as much as her men.  It is shoulder to shoulder, heart to
heart, business."

The clamour in the meadow arose above our voices and brought us
back to the foxes.

"There goes another!" I said, the tears beginning to roll again.

"It is heathenish business," said mother.  "I don't blame you! 
If people were not too shiftless to care for their stuff, the
foxes wouldn't take their chickens and geese.  They never get
ours!"

"Hoods aren't shiftless!" I sobbed.

"There are always exceptions," said mother, "and they are the
exception in this case."

The door flew open and Leon ran in.  He was white with
excitement, and trembling.

"Mother, come and see me take a fence on Pryor's Rocket!" he
cried.

Mother had him in her arms.

"You little whiffet!" she said.  "You little tow-haired whiffet!"

Both of them were laughing and crying at the same time, and so
was I.

"I saw you take one fence and the creek, Weiscope!" she said,
holding him tight, and stroking his hair.  "That will do for to-
day.  Ride the horse home slowly, rub it down if they will allow
you, and be sure to remember your manners when you leave.  To
trust such a child as you with so valuable a horse, and for Mr.
Pryor to personally ride with you and help you, I think that was
a big thing for a man like him to do."

"But, mother, he's been showing me for weeks, or I couldn't have
done it to-day.  It was our secret to surprise you.  When I get
my horse, I'll be able to ride a little, as well as Mr. Laddie."

"Leon, don't," said mother, gripping him tighter.

"You must bear in mind, word about that money may come any day."

"Aw, it won't either," said Leon, pulling away.  "And say,
mother, that dumb-bell was like country boys make in England.  He
helped me hunt the wood and showed me, and I couldn't ride and
manage it, so he had it all day, and you should have heard him
make it rip.  Say, mother, take my word, he was some pumpkins in
England.  I bet he ordered the Queen around, when he was there!"

"No doubt!" laughed mother, kissing him and pushing him from the
door.

Some people are never satisfied.  After that splendid riding and
the perfect day, father, Leon, and Laddie came home blaming every
one, and finding fault, and trying to explain how it happened,
that the people from the east side claimed two foxes, and there
was only one left for the west side, when they had seen and knew
they had driven three for miles.  They said they lost them in our
Big Woods.

I didn't care one speck.  I would as lief wear a calico dress,
and let the little foxes have their mammies to feed them; and I
was willing to bet all my money that we would have as much ham,
and as many greens next summer as we ever had.  And if the foxes
took Hoods' Dorkings again, let them build a coop with safe
foundations.  The way was to use stone and heap up dirt around it
in the fall, to be perfectly sure, and make it warmer.

We took care of our chickens because we had to have them.  All
the year we needed them, but most especially for Easter.  Mother
said that was ordained chicken time.  Turkeys for Thanksgiving,
sucking pigs for Christmas, chickens for Easter, goose, she
couldn't abide.  She thought it was too strong.  She said the egg
was a symbol of life; of awakening, of birth, and the chickens
came from the eggs, first ones about Easter, so that proved it
was chicken time.

I am going to quit praying about little things I can manage
myself.  Father said no prayer would bring an answer unless you
took hold and pulled with all your being for what you wanted.  I
had been intending for days to ask the Lord to help me find where
Leon hid his Easter eggs.  It had been the law at our house from
the very first, that for the last month before Easter, aside from
what mother had to have for the house, all of us might gather
every egg we could find and keep them until Easter.  If we could
locate the hiding place of any one else, we might take all
theirs.  The day before Easter they were brought in, mother put
aside what she required, and the one who had the most got to sell
all of them and take the money.  Sometimes there were two
washtubs full, and what they brought was worth having, for sure. 
So we watched all year for safe places, and when the time came we
almost ran after the hens with a basket.  Because Laddie and Leon
were bigger they could outrun us, and lots of hens laid in the
barn, so there the boys always had first chance.  Often during
the month we would find and take each other's eggs a dozen times.

We divided them, and hid part in different places, so that if
either were found there would still be some left.

Laddie had his in the hopper of the cider press right on the
threshing floor, and as he was sure to get more than I had
anyway, I usually put mine with his.  May had hers some place,
and where Leon had his, none of us could find or imagine.  I
almost lay awake of nights trying to think, and every time I
thought of a new place, the next day I would look, and they
wouldn't be there.  Three days before Easter, mother began to
cook and get the big dinner ready, and she ran short of eggs. 
She told me to go to the barn and tell the boys that each of them
must send her a dozen as quickly as they could.  Of course that
was fair, if she made both give up the same number.  So I went to
the barn.

The lane was muddy, and as I had been sick, I wore my rubbers
that spring.  I thought to keep out of the deep mud, where horses
and cattle trampled, I'd go up the front embankment, and enter
the little door.  My feet made no sound, and it so happened that
the door didn't either, and as I started to open it.  I saw Leon
disappearing down the stairway, with a big sack on his back.  I
thought it was corn for the horses, and followed him, but he went
to the cow stable door and started toward the lane, and then I
thought it was for the pigs, so I called Laddie and told him
about the eggs.  He said he'd give me two dozen of his, and Leon
could pay him back.  We went together to get them, and there was
only one there.

Wasn't that exactly like Leon?  Leave ONE for the nest egg!  If
he were dying and saw a joke or a trick, he'd stop to play it
before he finished, if he possibly could.  If he had no time at
all, then he'd go with his eyes twinkling over the thoughts of
the fun it would have been if he possibly could have managed it. 
Of course when we saw that one lonely egg in the cider hopper,
just exactly like the "Last Rose of Summer, left to pine on the
stem," I thought of the sack Leon carried, and knew what had been
in it.  We hurried out and tried to find him, but he was
swallowed up.  You couldn't see him or hear a sound of him
anywhere.

Mother was as cross as she ever gets.  Right there she made a new
rule, and it was that two dozen eggs must be brought to the house
each day, whether any were hidden or not.  She had to stop baking
until she got eggs.  She said a few times she had used a goose
egg in custard.  I could fix that.  I knew where one of our gray
geese had a nest, and if she'd cook any goose egg, it would be a
gray one.  Of course I had sense enough not to take a blue one. 
So I slipped from the east door, crossed the yard and orchard
corner, climbed the fence and went down the lane.  There was the
creek up and tearing.  It was half over the meadow, and the
floodgate between the pasture and the lane rocked with the rush
of water; still, I believed I could make it.  So I got on the
fence and with my feet on the third rail, and holding by the top
one, I walked sidewise, and so going reached the floodgate.  It
was pretty wobbly, but I thought I could cross on the run.  I
knew I could if I dared jump at the other end; but there the
water was over the third rail, and that meant above my head.

It was right at that time of spring when you felt so good you
thought you could do most anything, except fly--I tried that
once--so I went on.  The air was cold for all the sun shone, the
smell of catkin pollen, bursting buds, and the odour of earth
steaming in the sun, was in every breath; the blackbirds were
calling, and the doves; the ganders looked longingly at the sky
and screamed a call to every passing wild flock, and Deams'
rooster wanted to fight all creation, if you judged by the
boasting he was doing from their barnyard gate.  He made me think
of eggs, so I set my jaws, looked straight ahead, and scooted
across the floodgate to the post that held it and the rails of
the meadow fence.  I made it too, and then the fence was easy,
only I had to double quite short, because the water was over the
third rail there, but at last it was all gone, and I went to the
fence corner and there was the goose on the nest, laying an egg. 
She had built on a little high place, among puddles, wild rose
bushes, and thorns, and the old thing wouldn't get off.  She just
sat there and stuck out her head and hissed and hissed.  I never
noticed before that geese were so big and so aggravating.  I
wasn't going to give up, after that floodgate, so I hunted a big
stick, set it against her wing, pushed her off and grabbed three
eggs and ran.  When I got to the fence, I was in a pickle for
sure.  I didn't know what in the world to do with the eggs.

At last I unbuttoned my coat, put them in my apron front,
gathered it up, and holding it between my teeth, started back.  I
had to double more than ever on account of the eggs, and when I
reached the floodgate it rocked like a branch in the wind; but I
had to get back, so I rested and listened to the larks a while. 
That was a good plan.  They were calling for mates, and what they
said was so perfectly lovely, you couldn't think of anything
else; and the less you thought about how that gate rocked, and
how deep and swift the water ran, the better for you.  At last
one lark went almost from sight and he rang, twisted and trilled
his call, until my heart swelled so big it hurt.  I crossed on
the jump with no time to think at all.  That was a fine plan, for
I made it, but I hit the post so hard I broke the middle egg.  I
was going to throw it away, but there was so much starch in my
apron it held like a dish, and it had been clean that morning,
now the egg soiled it anyway, so I ran and got home all right.

Mother was so pleased about the eggs she changed the apron and
never said a word, except to brag on me.  She said she couldn't
keep house without me, and I guess that was a fact.  I came in
handy a lot of times.  But at dinner when she scolded the boys
about the eggs, and told them I brought the goose eggs for her
custard, else there would have been no pie, father broke loose,
and I thought he was going to whip me sure.  He told mother all
about the water and the gate, and how I had to cross, and he
said, `it was a dispensation of Providence that we didn't have a
funeral instead of celebrating Easter,' so I said:

"Well, if you think I came so near drowning myself, when you
rejoice because Christ is risen from the dead, you can be glad I
am too, and that will make it all the better."

The boys laughed, but father said it was no laughing matter.  I
think that speech saved me from going on the threshing floor, for
he took me on his lap when I thought I'd have to go, and told me
never, never to do anything like that again, and then he hugged
me until I almost broke.  Gracious!  He should have seen us going
to school some days.  Why, we even walked the top rail when it
was the only one above water, and we could cross the bridge if we
wanted to.  At least when Laddie or Miss Amelia was not around,
we did.

Leon was so bursting full he scarcely could eat, and Laddie
looked pretty glum when he had to admit he had no eggs; so Laddie
had to hand over the whole two dozen.  Leon didn't mind that, but
he said if he must, then all of us should stay in the dining-room
until he brought them, because of course he couldn't walk
straight and get them in broad daylight with us watching, and not
show where they were.  Father said that was fair, so Leon went
out and before so very long he came back with the eggs.

I thought until my skull almost cracked, about where he COULD
have gone, and I was almost to the place where the thing seemed
serious enough that I'd ask the Lord to help me find Laddie's
eggs, when mother sent me to the garret for red onion skins.  She
had an hour to rest, and she was going to spend it fixing
decorations for our eggs.  Of course there were always red and
black aniline ones, and yellow and blue, but none of us ever like
them half so well as those mother coloured, herself.

She took the dark red skins and cut boys, girls, dogs, cats,
stars, flowers, butterflies, fish, and everything imaginable, and
wet the skins a little and laid them on very white eggs that had
been soaked in alum water to cut the grease, and then wrapped
light yellow skins over, and then darker ones, and at last layer
after layer of cloth, and wet that, and roasted them an hour in
hot ashes and then let them cool and dry, before unwrapping. 
When she took them out, rubbed on a little grease and polished
them--there they were!  They would have our names, flowers,
birds, animals, all in pale yellow, deep rich brown, almost red,
and perfectly beautiful colours, while you could hunt and hunt
before you found everything on one egg.  And sometimes the onion
skins slipped, and made things of themselves that she never put
on.

I was coming from the bin with an apron full of skins and I
almost fell over.  I couldn't breathe for a long time.  I danced
on my toes, and held my mouth to keep from screaming.  On the
garret floor before me lay a little piece of wet mud, and the
faintest outline of a boot, a boot about Leon's size.  That was
all I needed to know.  As soon as I could hold steady, I took the
skins to mother, slipped back and hunted good; and of course I
had to find them--grainsacks half full of them--carried in the
front door in the evening, and up the front stairs, where no one
went until bedtime, unless there were company.  Away back under
the eaves, across the joists, behind the old clothing waiting to
be ripped, coloured and torn for carpet rangs and rugs, Mr. Leon
had almost every egg that had been laid on the place for a month.

NOW he'd see what he'd get for taking Laddie's!

Then I stopped short.  What I thought most made me sick, but I
didn't propose to lie in bed again for a year at least, for it
had its bad parts as well as its good; so I went straight and
whispered to Laddie.  He never looked pleased at all, so I knew I
had been right.  He kissed me, and thanked me, and then said
slowly:  "It's mighty good of you, Little Sister, but you see it
wouldn't be FAIR.  He found mine himself, so he had a right to
take them.  But I don't dare touch his, when you tell me where
they are.  I never in a month of Sundays would have looked for
them in the house.  I was going to search the wood house and
smoke house this afternoon.  I can't take them.  But thank you
just as much."

Then I went to father and he laughed.  How he did laugh!

"Laddie is right!" he said at last.  "He didn't find them, and he
mustn't take them.  But you may!  They're yours!  That front door
scheme of Leon's was fairly well, but it wasn't quite good
enough.  If he'd cleaned his feet as he should, before he crossed
mother's carpet and climbed the stairs, he'd have made it all
right.  `His tracks betrayed him,' as tracks do all of us, if we
are careless enough to leave any.  The eggs are yours, and to-
night is the time to produce them.  Where do you want to hide
them?"

Well of all things! and after I had stumbled on them without
pestering the Lord, either!  Just as slick as anything!  Mine!  I
never ever thought of it.  But when I did think, I liked it.  The
more I thought, the funnier it grew.

"Under mother's bed," I whispered.  "But I never can get them. 
They're in wheat sacks, and full so high, and they'll have to be
handled like eggs."

"I'll do the carrying," laughed father.  "Come show me!"

So we took all those eggs, and put them under mother's bed.

Of course she and Candace saw us, but they didn't hunt eggs and
they'd never tell.  If ever I thought I'd burst wide open!  About
dusk I saw Leon coming from the barn carrying his hat at his
side--more eggs--so I ran like a streak and locked the front
door, and then slipped back in the dining-room and almost
screamed, when I could hear him trying it, and he couldn't get
in.  After a while he came in, fussed around, and finally went
into the sitting-room, and the key turned and he went upstairs. 
I knew I wouldn't dare look at him when he came down, so I got a
reader and began on a piece I just love:

            "A nightingale made a mistake;
                 She sang a few notes out of tune:
             Her heart was ready to break,
                 And she hid away from the moon."


When I did get a peep, gracious but he was black!  Maybe it
wasn't going to be so much fun after all.  But he had the money
last year, and the year before, and if he'd cleaned his feet
well--I was not hunting his eggs, when I found them.  "His tracks
betrayed him," as father said.  I was thankful supper was ready
just then, and while it was going on mother said:  "As soon as
you finish, all bring in your eggs.  I want to wrap the ones to
colour to-night, and bury them in the fireplace so they will
colour, dry, and be ready to open in the morning."

No one said a word, but neither Laddie nor Leon looked very
happy, and I took awful bites to keep my face straight.  When all
of us finished May brought a lot from the bran barrel in the
smoke house, but Laddie and Leon only sat there and looked silly;
it really was funny.

"I must have more eggs than this?" said mother.  "Where are they
to come from?"

Father nodded to me and I said:  "From under your bed!"

"Oh, it was you!  And I never once caught you snooping!" cried
Leon.

"Easy son!" said father.  "That will do.  You lost through your
own carelessness.  You left wet mud on the garret floor, and she
saw it when mother sent her for the onion skins.  You robbed
Laddie of his last egg this morning; be a good loser yourself!"

"Well, anyway, you didn't get 'em," said Leon to Laddie.

"And she only found them by accident!"

Then we had a big time counting all those eggs, and such another
heap as there was to sell, after mother filled baskets to cook
with and colour.  When the table was cleared, Laddie and Leon
made tallow pencils from a candle and wrote all sorts of things
over eggs that had been prepared to colour.  Then mother boiled
them in copperas water, and aniline, and all the dyes she had,
and the boys polished them, and they stood in shining black, red,
blue and yellow heaps.  The onion ones would be done in the
morning.  Leon had a goose egg and mother let him keep it, so he
wrote and wrote on it, until Laddie said it would be all writing,
and no colour, and he boiled it in red, after mother finished,
and polished it himself.  It came out real pretty with roses on
it and lots of words he wouldn't let any of us read; but of
course it was for Susie Fall.

Next morning he slipped it to her at church.  When we got home,
all of us were there except Shelley, and we had a big dinner and
a fine time and Laddie stayed until after supper, before he went
to Pryors'.

"How is he making it?" asked Sally.

You could see she was making it all right; she never looked
lovelier, and mother said Peter was letting her spend away too
much money on her clothes.  She told him so, but Peter just
laughed and said business was good, and he could afford it, and
she was a fine advertisement for his store when she was dressed
well."

"All I know is," said mother, "that he goes there every
whipstitch, and the women, at least, seem glad to have him.  He
says Mr. Pryor treats him decently, and that is more than he does
his own family and servants.  He and the girl and her mother are
divided about something.  She treats her father respectfully, but
she's in sympathy with mother."

"Laddie can't find out what the trouble is?"

"I don't think that he tries."

"Maybe he'd feel better not to know," said Peter.

"Possibly!" said mother.

"Nonsense!" said father.

"You seem to be reconciled," said Elizabeth.

"That girl would reconcile a man to anything," said father.

"Not to the loss of his soul, I hope," said mother stiffly.

"Souls are not so easy to lose," said father.  "Besides, I am
counting on Laddie saving hers."



CHAPTER XIII

The Garden of the Lord

            "With what content and merriment,
             Their days are spent, whose minds are bent
             To follow the useful plow."

That spring I decided if school didn't stop pretty soon, I'd run
away again, and I didn't in the least care what they did to me. 
A country road was all right and it was good enough, if it had
been heaped up, leveled and plenty of gravel put on; and of
course our road would be fine, because father was one of the
commissioners, and as long as he filled that office, every road
in the county would be just as fine as the law would allow him to
make it.  I have even heard him tell mother that he "stretched it
a leetle mite," when he was forced to by people who couldn't seem
to be made to understand what was required to upbuild a nation. 
He said our language was founded on the alphabet, and to master
it you had to begin with "a".  And he said the nation was like
that; it was based on townships, and when a township was clean,
had good roads, bridges, schoolhouses, and churches, a county was
in fine shape, and when each county was in order, the state was
right, and when the state was prosperous, the nation could
rejoice in its strength.

He said Atlas in the geography book, carrying the world on his
back, was only a symbol, but it was a good one.  He said when the
county elected him to fill an important office, it used his
shoulder as a prop for the nation, so it became his business to
stand firmly, and use every ounce of strength and brains he had,
first of all to make his own possessions a model, then his
township, his county, and his state, and if every one worked
together doing that, no nation on earth had our amount of
territory and such fine weather, so none of them could beat us.

Our road was like the barn floor, where you drove: on each side
was a wide grassy strip, and not a weed the length of our land. 
All the rails in the fences were laid straight, the gates were
solid, sound, and swung firmly on their beams, our fence corners
were full of alders, wild roses, sumac, blackberry vines, masses
of wild flowers beneath them, and a bird for every bush.  Some of
the neighbours thought that to drive two rails every so often,
lay up the fences straight, and grub out the shrubs was the way,
but father said they were vastly mistaken.  He said that was such
a shortsighted proceeding, he would be ashamed to indulge in it. 
You did get more land, but if you left no place for the birds,
the worms and insects devoured your crops, and you didn't raise
half so much as if you furnished the birds shelter and food.  So
he left mulberries in the fields and fence corners and wild
cherries, raspberries, grapes, and every little scrub apple tree
from seeds sown by Johnny Appleseed when he crossed our land.

Mother said those apples were so hard a crane couldn't dent them,
but she never watched the birds in winter when the snow was
beginning to come and other things were covered up.  They swarmed
over those trees until spring, for the tiny sour apples stuck
just like oak leaves waiting for next year's crop to push them
off.  She never noticed us, either.  After a few frosts, we could
almost get tipsy on those apples; there was not a tree in our
orchard that had the spicy, teasing tang of Johnny Appleseed's
apples.  Then too, the limbs could be sawed off and rambo and
maiden's-blush grafted on, if you wanted to; father did on some
of them, so there would be good apples lying beside the road for
passers-by, and they needn't steal to get them.  You could graft
red haws on them too, and grow great big, little haw-apples, that
were the prettiest things you ever saw, and the best to eat. 
Father said if it didn't spoil the looks of the road, he wouldn't
care how many of his neighbours straightened their fences.  If
they did, the birds would come to him, and the more he had, the
fewer bugs and worms he would be troubled with, so he would be
sure of big crops, and sound fruit.  He said he would much rather
have a few good apples picked by robins or jays, than untouched
trees, loaded with wormy falling ones he could neither use nor
sell.  He always patted my head and liked every line of it when I
recited, sort of tearful-like and pathetic:

            "Don't kill the birds! the happy birds,
             That bless the field and grove;
             So innocent to look upon,
             They claim our warmest love."


The roads crossing our land were all right, and most of the
others near us; and a road is wonderful, if it is taking you to
the woods or a creek or meadow; but when it is walking you
straight to a stuffy little schoolhouse where you must stand up
to see from a window, where a teacher is cross as fire, like Miss
Amelia, and where you eternally HEAR things you can't see, there
comes a time about the middle of April when you had quite as soon
die as to go to school any longer; and what you learn there
doesn't amount to a hill of beans compared with what you can find
out for yourself outdoors.

Schoolhouses are made wrong.  If they must be, they should be
built in a woods pasture beside a stream, where you could wade,
swim, and be comfortable in summer, and slide and skate in
winter.  The windows should be cut to the floor, and stand wide
open, so the birds and butterflies could pass through.  You ought
to learn your geography by climbing a hill, walking through a
valley, wading creeks, making islands in them, and promontories,
capes, and peninsulas along the bank.  You should do your
arithmetic sitting under trees adding hickory-nuts, subtracting
walnuts, multiplying butternuts, and dividing hazelnuts.  You
could use apples for fractions, and tin cups for liquid measure. 
You could spell everything in sight and this would teach you the
words that are really used in the world.  Every single one of us
could spell incompatibility, but I never heard father, or the
judge, or even the Bishop, put it in a speech.

If you simply can't have school THAT way, then you should be shut
in black cells, deep under the ground, where you couldn't see, or
hear a sound, and then if they'd give you a book and candle and
Miss Amelia, and her right-hand man, Mister Ruler, why you might
learn something.  This way, if you sat and watched the windows
you could see a bird cross our woods pasture to the redbird swamp
every few minutes; once in a while one of my big hawks took your
breath as he swept, soared, sailed, and circled, watching the
ground below for rabbits, snakes, or chickens.  The skinny old
blue herons crossing from the Wabash to hunt frogs in the cowslip
swale in our meadow, sailed so slow and so low, that you could
see their sharp bills stuck out in front, their uneven, ragged
looking feathers, and their long legs trailing out behind.  I bet
if Polly Martin wore a blue calico dress so short her spindle-
shanks showed, and flew across our farm, you couldn't tell her
from a heron.

There were so many songs you couldn't decide which was which to
save you; it was just a pouring jumble of robins, larks, doves,
blackbirds, sparrows, everything that came that early; the red
and the yellow birds had not come yet, or the catbirds or
thrushes.  You could hear the thumping wings of the roosters in
Sills' barnyard nearest the schoolhouse, and couldn't tell which
was whipping, so you had to sit there and wonder; and worst of
all you must stand Miss Amelia calmly telling you to pay
attention to your books or you would be kept in, and all the time
you were forced to bear torments, while you watched her walk from
window to window to see every speck of the fight.  One day they
had thumped and fought for half an hour; she had looked from
every window in the room, and at last there was an awful
whacking, and then silence.  It grew so exciting I raised my
hand, and almost before she nodded permission, "Which whipped?" I
asked.

Miss Amelia turned red as a beet.  Gee, but she was mad!

"I did!" she said.  "Or at least I will.  You may remain for it
after school is dismissed."

Now if you are going to be switched, they never do it until they
are just so angry anyway, and then they always make it as hard as
they dare not to stripe you, so it isn't much difference HOW
provoked they are, it will be the same old thrashing, and it's
sure to sting for an hour at least, so you might as well be
beaten for a little more as hardly anything at all.  At that
instant from the fence not far from my window came a triumphant
crow that fairly ripped across the room.

"Oh, it was the Dorking!" I said.  "No wonder you followed clear
around the room to see him thrash a Shanghai three times his
size!  I bet a dollar it was great!"

Usually, I wouldn't have put up more than five cents, but at that
time I had over six dollars from my Easter eggs, and no girl of
my age at our school ever had half that much.  Miss Amelia
started toward me, and I braced my feet so she'd get a good jolt
herself, when she went to shake me; she never struck us over the
head since Laddie talked to her that first day; but John Hood's
foot was in the aisle.  I thought maybe I'd have him for my beau
when we grew up, because I bet he knew she was coming, and stuck
out his foot on purpose; anyway, she pitched, and had to catch a
desk to keep off the floor, and that made her so mad at him, that
she forgot me, while he got his scolding; so when my turn came at
last, she had cooled down enough that she only marched past to
her desk, saying I was to remain after school.  I had to be
careful after that to be mighty good to May and Leon.

When school was out they sat on the steps before the door and
waited.  Miss Amelia fussed around and there they sat.  Then her
face grew more gobblerish than usual, and she went out and told
them to go home.  Plain as anything I heard May say It:  "She's
been awful sick, you know, and mother wouldn't allow it."  And
then Leon piped up:  "You DID watch the roosters, all the time
they fought, and of course all of us wanted to see just as badly
as you did."

She told them if they didn't go right home she'd bring them back
and whip them too; so they had to start, and leave me to my sad
fate.  I was afraid they had made it sadder, instead of helping
me; she was so provoked when she came in she was crying, and over
nothing but the plain truth too; if we had storied on her, she'd
have had some cause to beller.  She arranged her table, cleaned
the board, emptied the water bucket, and closed the windows. 
Then she told me I was a rude, untrained child.  I was rude, I
suppose, but goodness knows, I wasn't untrained; that was hard on
father and mother; I had a big notion to tell them; and then, she
never whipped me at all.  She said if I wanted her to love me, I
mustn't be a saucy, impudent girl, and I should go straight home
and think it over.

I went, but I was so dazed at her thinking I wanted her to love
me, that I hardly heard May and Leon calling; when I did I went
to the cemetery fence and there they lay in the long grass
waiting.

"If you cried, we were coming back and pitch into her," said
Leon.

There was a pointer.  Next time, first cut she gave me, I decided
to scream bloody murder.  But that would be no Crusader way. 
There was one thing though.  No Crusader ever sat and heard a
perfectly lovely fight going on, and never even wondered which
whipped.

May and Leon stepped one on each side, took a hand, and we ran
like Indians, and slid down the hill between the bushes, climbed
the fence, crossed the pasture back of the church, and went to
the creek.  There we sat on a log, I told them, and we just
laughed.  I didn't know what I could do to pay them, for they
saved me sure as fate that time.

I wished we lived in the woods the way it was when father and
mother were married and moved to Ohio.  The nearest neighbours
were nine miles, and there wasn't a dollar for school funds, so
of course the children didn't have to go, and what their fathers
and mothers taught them was all they knew.  That would not have
helped me much though, for we never had one single teacher who
knew anything to compare with what father and mother did, and we
never had one who was forever reading books, papers, and learning
more things that help, to teach other people.  I wished father
had time to take our school.  It would have been some fun to go
to him, because I just knew he would use the woods for the room,
and teach us things it would do some good to know about.

I began debating whether it was a big enough thing to bother the
Lord with: this being penned up in the schoolhouse droning over
spelling and numbers, when you could smell tree bloom, flower
bloom, dozens of birds were nesting, and everything was beginning
to hum with life.  I couldn't think for that piece about "Spring"
going over in my head:

            "I am coming, I am coming:
                 Hark! the little bee is humming:
             See! the lark is soaring high,
                 In the bright and sunny sky;
             All the birds are on the wing:
                 Little maiden, now is spring."


I made up my mind that it was of enough importance to call for
the biggest prayer I could think of and that I would go up in the
barn to the top window, stand on a beam, and turn my face to the
east, where Jesus used to be, and I'd wrestle with the Lord for
freedom, as Jacob wrestled with the Angel on the banks of the
Jabbok in the land of Ammon.  I was just getting up steam to pray
as hard as ever I could; for days I'd been thinking of it, and I
was nearly to the point where one more killdeer crying across the
sky would have sent me headlong from the schoolhouse anywhere
that my feet were on earth, and the air didn't smell of fried
potatoes, kraut, sweat, and dogs, like it did whenever you sat
beside Clarissa Polk.  When I went to supper one night; father
had been to Groveville, and he was busy over his papers.  After
he finished the blessing, he seemed worried, at last he said the
funds were all out, and the county would make no appropriation so
school would have to close next week.

Well that beats me!  I had faith in that prayer I was going to
make, and here the very thing I intended to ask for happened
before I prayed.  I decided I would save the prayer until the
next time I couldn't stand anything another minute, and then I
would try it with all my might, and see if it really did any
good.  After supper I went out the back door, spread my arms
wide, and ran down the orchard to the fence in great bounds, the
fastest I ever went in my life.  I climbed my pulpit in the
corner and tried to see how much air my lungs would hold without
bursting, while I waved my arms and shouted at the top of my
voice:  "Praise ye the Lord!  Praised be His holy name!"

"Ker-awk!" cried an old blue heron among the cowslips below me. 
I had almost scared it to death, and it arose on flapping wings
and paid me back by frightening me so I screamed as I dodged its
shadow.

"What is all this?" asked father behind me.

"Come up and take a seat, and I'll try to tell you," I said.

So he stepped on my pulpit and sat on the top rail, while I stood
between his knees, put my arms around his neck, took off his hat
and loosened his hair so the wind could wave it, and make his
head feel cool and good.  His hair curled a little and it was
black and fine.  His cheeks were pink and his eyes the brightest
blue, with long lashes, and heavier brows than any other man I
ever have seen.  He was the best looking--always so clean and
fresh, and you never had to be afraid of him, unless you had been
a bad, sinful child.  If you were all right, you would walk into
his arms, play with his hair, kiss him all you pleased, and there
wasn't a thing on earth you couldn't tell him, excepting a secret
you had promised to keep.

So I explained all this, and more too.  About how I wanted to
hunt for the flowers, to see which bloomed first, and watch in
what order the birds came, and now it was a splendid time to
locate nests, because there were no leaves, so I could see
easily, and how glad mother would be to know where the blue goose
nested, and her white turkey hen; because she wanted her geese
all blue, and the turkeys all white, as fast as she could manage.

Every little thing that troubled me or that I wanted, I told him.

He sat there and he couldn't have listened with more interest or
been quieter if I had been a bishop, which is the biggest thing
that ever happened at our house; his name was Ninde and he came
from Chicago to dedicate our church when it was new.  So father
listened and thought and held his arms around me, and--

"And you think the Lord was at the bottom of the thing that makes
you happy?"

"Well, you always go to Him about what concerns you, and you say,
`Praise the Lord,' when things go to please you."

"I do indeed!" said father.  "But I had thought of this running
short of school funds as a calamity.  If I had been praying about
it, I would have asked Him to show me a way to raise money to
continue until middle May at least."

"Oh father!"

I just crumpled up in his arms and began to cry; to save me I
couldn't help it.  He held me tight.  At last he said:  "I think
you are a little overstrained this spring.  Maybe you were sicker
than we knew, or are growing too fast.  Don't worry any more
about school.  Possibly father can fix it."

Next morning when I wakened, my everyday clothes lay across the
foot of the bed, so I called mother and asked if I should put
them on; she took me in her arms, and said father thought I had
better be in the open, and I needn't go to school any more that
spring.  I told her I thought I could bear it a few more days,
now it was going to be over so soon; but she said I might stay at
home, father and Laddie would hear me at night, and I could take
my books anywhere I pleased and study when I chose, if I had my
spelling and reading learned at evening.  NOW, say the Lord
doesn't help those who call on Him in faith believing!

Think of being allowed to learn your lessons on the top of the
granary, where you could look out of a window above the treetops,
lie in the cool wind, and watch swallows and martins.  Think of
studying in the pulpit when the creek ran high, and the wild
birds sang so sweetly you seemed to hear them for the first time
in all your life, and hens, guineas, and turkeys made prime music
in the orchard.  You could see the buds swell, and the little
blue flags push through the grass, where Mrs. Mayer had her
flowerbed, and the cowslips greening under the water of the swale
at the foot of the hill, while there might be a Fairy under any
leaf.  I was so full, so swelled up and excited, that when I got
ready to pick up a book, I could learn a lesson in a few minutes,
tell all about it, spell every word, and read it back, front, and
sideways.  I never learned lessons so quick and so easy in all my
life; father, Laddie, and every one of them had to say so.  One
night, father said to Laddie:  "This child is furnishing evidence
that our school system is wrong, and our methods of teaching far
from right."

"Or is it merely proof that she is different," said Laddie, "and
you can't run her through the same groove you could the rest of
us?"

"A little of both," said father, "but most that the system is
wrong.  We are not going at children in a way to gain and hold
their interest, and make them love their work.  There must be a
better way of teaching, and we should find different teachers. 
You'll have to try the school next year yourself, Laddie."

"I have a little plan about a piece of land I am hoping to take
before then," answered Laddie.  "It's time for me to try my wings
at making a living, and land is my choice.  I have fully decided.
I stick to the soil!"

"Amen!" cried father.  "You please me mightily.  I hate to see
sons of mine thriving on law, literally making their living out
of the fruit of other men's discord.  I dislike seeing them
sharpen their wits in trade, buying at the lowest limit,
extorting the highest.  I don't want their horizons limited by
city blocks, their feet on pavements, everything under the sun in
their heads that concerns a scheme to make money; not room for an
hour's thought or study in a whole day, about the really vital
things of life.  After all, land and its products are the basis
of everything; the city couldn't exist a day unless we feed and
clothe it.  In the things that I consider important, you are a
king among men, with your feet on soil you own."

"So I figure it," said Laddie.

"And you are the best educated man I have reared," said father. 
"Take this other thought with you: on land, the failure of the
bank does not break you.  The fire another man's carelessness
starts, does not wipe out your business or home.  You are not in
easy reach of contagion.  Any time you want to branch out, your
mother and I will stand back of you."

"Thank you!" said Laddie.  "You backed none of the others.  They
would resent it.  I'll make the best start I can myself, and as
they did, stand alone."

Father looked at him and smiled slowly.

"You are right, as always," he said.  "I hadn't thought so far. 
It would make trouble.  At any rate, let me inspect and help you
select your land."

"That of course!" said Laddie.

I suspect it's not a very nice thing for me to tell, but all of
us were tickled silly the day Miss Amelia packed her trunk and
left for sure.  Mother said she never tried harder in all her
days, but Miss Amelia was the most distinctly unlovable person
she ever had met.  She sympathized with us so, she never said a
word when Leon sang:


        "Believe me, if all those endearing young charms,
             Which I gaze on so fondly to-day,
         Were to change by to-morrow, and fleet in my arms,
             Like fairy-gifts fading away,
         Thou wouldst still be adored, as this moment thou art,
             Let thy loveliness fade as it will,
         And around the dear ruin each wish of my heart
             Would entwine itself verdantly still--"

while Miss Amelia drove from sight up the Groveville road.

As he sang Leon stretched out his arms after her vanishing form. 
"I hope," he said, "that you caught that touching reference to
`the dear ruin,' and could anything be expressed more beautifully
and poetically than that `verdantly still?'"

I feel sorry for a snake.  I like hoptoads, owls, and shitepokes.
I envy a buzzard the way it can fly, and polecats are beautiful;
but I never could get up any sort of feeling at all for Miss
Amelia, whether she was birdlike or her true self.  So no one was
any gladder than I when she was gone.

After that, spring came pushing until you felt shoved.  Our
family needed me then.  If they never had known it before, they
found out there was none too many of us.  Every day I had to
watch the blue goose, and bring in her egg before it was chilled,
carrying it carefully so it would not be jarred.  I had to hunt
the turkey nests and gather their eggs so they would be right for
setting.  There had to be straw carried from the stack for new
nests, eggs marked, and hens set by the dozen.  Garden time came,
so leaves had to be raked from the beds and from the dooryard. 
No one was busier than I; but every little while I ran away, and
spent some time all by myself in the pulpit, under the hawk oak,
or on the roof.

Coming from church that Sunday, when we reached the top of the
Big Hill, mother touched father's arm.  "Stop a minute," she
said, and he checked the horses, while we sat there and wondered
why, as she looked and looked all over the farm, then, "Now drive
to the top of the Little Hill and turn, and stop exactly on the
place from which we first viewed this land together," she said. 
"You know the spot, don't you?"

"You may well believe I know it," said father.  "I can hit it to
the inch.  You see, children," he went on, "your mother and I
arranged before the words were said over us"--he always put it
that way--I never in my life heard him say, "when we were
married"; he read so many books he talked exactly like a book--
"that we would be partners in everything, as long as we lived. 
When we decided the Ohio land was not quite what we wanted, she
sent me farther west to prospect, while she stayed at home and
kept the baby.  When I reached this land, found it for sale, and
within my means, I bought it, and started home happy.  Before I'd
gone a mile, I turned to look back, and saw that it was hilly,
mostly woods, and there was no computing the amount of work it
would require to make it what I could see in it; so I began to
think maybe she wouldn't like it, and to wish I had brought her,
before I closed the deal.  By the time I returned home, packed
up, and travelled this far on the way back with her, there was
considerable tension in my feelings--considerable tension,"
repeated father as he turned the horses and began driving
carefully, measuring the distance from Hoods' and the bridge.  At
last he stopped, backed a step, and said:  "There, mommy, did I
hit the spot?"

"You did!" said mother, stepping from the carriage and walking up
beside him.  She raised one hand and laid it on the lamp near
him.  He shifted the lines, picked up her hand, and held it
tight.  Mother stood there looking, just silently looking.  May
jabbed me in the side, leaned over and whispered:

            "Could we but stand where Moses stood,
                 And view the landscape o'er,
             Not our Little Creek, nor dinner getting cold,
                 Could fright us from that shore."


I couldn't help giggling, but I knew that was no proper time, so
I hid my head in her lap and smothered the sound the best I
could; but they were so busy soft-soddering each other they
didn't pay a bit of attention to us.

It was May now, all the leaves were fresh and dustless,
everything that flowered at that time was weighted with bloom,
bees hummed past, butterflies sailed through the carriage, while
birds at the tops of their voices, all of them, every kind there
was, sang fit to split; friendly, unafraid bluebirds darted
around us, and talked a blue streak from every fence rider.  Made
you almost crazy to know what they said.  The Little Creek flowed
at our feet across the road, through the blue-flag swamp, where
the red and the yellow birds lived.  You could see the sun flash
on the water where it emptied into the stream that crossed
Deams', and flowed through our pasture; and away beyond the Big
Hill arose, with the new church on top, the graveyard around it,
the Big Creek flashing at its base.  In the valley between lay
our fields, meadows, the big red barn, the white house with the
yard filled with trees and flowering shrubs, beyond it the
garden, all made up, neat and growing; and back of it the orchard
in full bloom.

Mother looked and looked.  Suddenly she raised her face to
father.  "Paul," she said, "that first day, did you ever dream it
could be made to look like this?"

"No!" said father.  "I never did!  I saw houses, barns, and
cleared fields; I hoped for comfort and prosperity, but I didn't
know any place could grow to be so beautiful, and there is
something about it, even on a rainy November day, there is
something that catches me in the breast, on the top of either of
these hills, until it almost stifles me.  What is it, Ruth?"

"The Home Feeling!" said mother.  "It is in my heart so big this
morning I am filled with worship.  Just filled with the spirit of
worship."

She was rocking on her toes like she does when she becomes too
happy at the Meeting House to be quiet any longer, and cries,
"Glory!" right out loud.  She pointed to the orchard, an immense
orchard of big apple trees in full bloom, with two rows of peach
trees around the sides.  It looked like a great, soft, pinkish
white blanket, with a deep pink border, spread lightly on the
green earth.

"We planted that way because we thought it was best; how could we
know how it would look in bloom time?  It seems as if you came to
these hilltops and figured on the picture you would make before
you cleared, or fenced a field."

"That's exactly what I did," said father.  "Many's the hour, all
told, that I have stopped my horse on one of these hilltops and
studied how to make the place beautiful, as well as productive. 
That was a task you set me, my girl.  You always considered
BEAUTY as well as USE about the house and garden, and wherever
you worked.  I had to hold my part in line."

"You have made it all a garden," said mother.  "You have made it
a garden growing under the smile of the Master; a very garden of
the Lord, father."

Father drew up her hand and held it tight against his heart.

"Your praise is sweet, my girl, sweet!" he said.  "I have tried,
God knows I have tried, to make it first comfortable, then
beautiful, for all of us.  To the depths of my soul I thank Him
for this hour.  I am glad, Oh I am so glad you like your home,
Ruth!  I couldn't endure it if you complained, found fault and
wished you lived elsewhere."

"Why, father!" said my mother in the most surprised voice.  "Why,
father, it would kill me to leave here.  This is ours.  We have
made it by and through the strength of the Lord and our love for
each other.  All my days I want to live here, and when I die, I
want to lie beside my blessed babies and you, Paul, down by the
church we gave the land for, and worked so hard to build.  I love
it, Oh I love it!  See how clean and white the dark evergreens
make the house look!  See how the big chestnuts fit in and point
out the yellow road.  I wish we had a row the length of it!"

"They wouldn't grow," said father.  "You mind the time I had
finding the place those wanted to set their feet?"

"I do indeed!" said mother, drawing her hand and his with it
where she could rub her cheek against it.  "Now we'll go home and
have our dinner and a good rest.  I'm a happy woman this day,
father, a happy, happy woman.  If only one thing didn't worry
me----"

"Must there always be a `fly in the ointment,' mother?"

She looked at him with a smile that was like a hug and kiss, and
she said:  "I have found it so, father, and I have been happy in
spite of it.  Where one has such wide interests, at some point
there is always a pull, but in His own day, in His own way, the
Lord is going to make everything right."

"`Thy faith hath made thee whole,'" quoted father.

Then she stepped into the carriage, and he waited a second, quite
long enough to let her see that he was perfectly willing to sit
there all day if she wanted him to, and then he slowly and
carefully drove home, as he always did when she was in the
carriage.  Times when he had us children out alone, he went until
you couldn't see the spokes in the wheels.  He just loved to
"speed up" once in a while on a piece of fine road to let us know
how going fast felt.

Mother sat there trembling a little, smiling, misty-eyed.  I was
thinking, for I knew what the "fly in the ointment" was.  She had
a letter from Shelley yesterday, and she said there wasn't a
reason on earth why father or Laddie should spend money to come
to Chicago, she would soon be home, she was counting the hours,
and she never wanted to leave again.  In the start she didn't
want to go at all, unless she could stay three years, at the very
least.  Of course it was that dreadful man, who had made her so
beautiful and happy, and then taken away all the joy; how COULD a
man do it?  It was the hardest thing to understand.

Next morning mother was feeling fine, the world was lovely, Miss
Amelia was gone, May was home to help, so she began housecleaning
by washing all the curtains.  She had been in the kitchen to show
Candace how.  I had all my work done, and was making friends with
a robin brooding in my very own catalpa tree, when Mr. Pryor rode
up, tied his horse, and started toward the gate.  I knew he and
father had quarrelled; that is, father had told him he couldn't
say "God was a myth" in this house, and he'd gone home mad as
hops; so I knew it would be something mighty important that was
bringing him back.  I slid from the tree, ran and opened the
gate, and led the way up the walk.  I opened the front door and
asked him in, and then I did the wrong thing.  I should have
taken his hat, told him to be seated, and said I would see if I
could find father; I knew what to do, and how to do it, but
because of that about God, I was so excited I made a mistake.  I
never took his hat, or offered him a chair; I just bolted into
the dining-room, looking for father or mother, and left the door
wide open, so he thought that wasn't the place to sit, because I
didn't give him a chair, and he followed me.  The instant I saw
mother's face, I knew what I had done.  The dining-room was no
place for particular company like him, and bringing him in that
way didn't give her time to smooth her hair, pull shut her dress
band at the neck, put on her collar, and shiny goldstone pin, her
white apron, and rub her little flannel rag, with rice flour on
it, on her nose to take away the shine.  I had made a mess of it.

There she came right in the door, just as she was from the tub. 
Her hair was damp and crinkled around her face, her neckband had
been close in stooping, so she had unfastened it, and tucked it
back in a little V-shaped place to give her room and air.  Her
cheeks were pink, her eyes bright, her lips red as a girl's, and
her neck was soft and white.  The V-shaped place showed a little
spot like baby skin, right where her neck went into her chest. 
Sure as father kissed her lips, he always tipped back her head,
bent lower and kissed that spot too.  I had seen hundreds of them
go there, and I had tried it myself, lots of times, and it WAS
the sweetest place.  Seeing what I had done, I stopped
breathless.  You have to beat most everything you teach a child
right into it properly to keep it from making such a botch of
things as that.  I hardly dared to peep at mother, but when I
did, she took my breath worse than the mistake I had made.

Caught, she stood her ground.  She never paused a second. 
Straight to him she went, holding out her hand, and I could see
that it was red and warm from pressing the lace in the hot suds. 
A something flashed over her, that made her more beautiful than
she was in her silk dress going to town to help Lucy give a
party, and her voice was sweet as the bubbling warbler on the
garden fence when he was trying to coax a mate into the privet
bush to nest.

Mother asked him to be seated, so he took one of the chairs
nearest him, and sat holding his hat in one hand, his whip in the
other.  Mother drew a chair beside the dining table, dropped her
hands on each other, and looking in his eyes, she smiled at him. 
I tell the same thing over about people's looks, but I haven't
told of this smile of mother's; because I never saw exactly how
it was, or what it would do to people, until that morning.  Then
as I watched her--for how she felt decided what would happen to
me, after Mr. Pryor was gone I saw something I never had noticed
until that minute.  She could laugh all over her face, before her
lips parted until her teeth showed.  She was doing it now.  With
a wide smile running from cheek to cheek, pushing up a big dimple
at each end, her lips barely touching, her eyes dancing, she sat
looking at him.

"This IS the most blessed season for warming up the heart," she
said.  "If you want the half of my kingdom, ask quickly.  I'm in
the mood to bestow it."

How she laughed!  He just had to loosen up a little, and smile
back, even though it looked pretty stiff.

"Well, I'll not tax you so far," he said.  "I only want Mr.
Stanton."

"But he is the whole of the kingdom, and the King to boot!" she
laughed, dimpled, and flamed redder.

Mr. Pryor stared at her wonderingly.  You could even see the
wonder, like it was something you could take hold of.  I suppose
he wondered what could make a woman so happy, like that.

"Lucky man!" he said.  "All of us are not so fortunate."

"Then it must be you don't covet the place or the title," said
mother more soberly.  "Any woman will crown the man she marries,
if he will allow her.  Paul went farther.  He compelled it."

"I wonder how!" said Mr. Pryor, his eyes steadily watching
mother's face.

"By never failing in a million little things, that taken as a
whole, make up one mighty big thing, on which he stands like the
Rock of Ages."

"Yet they tell me that you are the mother of twelve children," he
said, as if he marvelled at something.

"Yes!" cried mother, and the word broke right through a bubbling
laugh.  "Am I not fortunate above most women?  We had the grief
to lose two little daughters at the ages of eight and nine, all
the others I have, and I rejoice in them."

She reached out, laid a hand on me, drew me to her, and lightly
touched my arm, sending my spirits sky-high.  She wasn't going to
do a thing to me, not even scold!  Mr. Pryor stared at her like
Jacob Hood does at Laddie when he begins rolling Greek before
him, so I guess what mother said must have been Greek to Mr.
Pryor.

"I came to see Mr. Stanton," he said suddenly, and crosslike as
if he didn't believe a word she said, and had decided she was too
foolish to bother with any longer; but he kept on staring.  He
couldn't quit that, no matter how cross he was.  The funniest
thing came into my mind.  I wondered what on earth he'd have done
if she'd gone over, sat on his lap, put her arms around his neck,
took his face between her hands and kissed his forehead, eyes,
lips, and tousled his hair, like she does father and our boys. 
I'll bet all I got, he'd have turned to stonier stone than
Sabethany.  You could see that no one ever served HIM like that
in all his old, cold, hard, cross, mysterious, shut-in life.  I
was crazy to ask, "Say, did anybody ever kiss you?" but I had
such a close escape bringing him in wrong, I thought it would be
wise not to take any risks so soon after.  It was enough to stand
beside mother, and hear every word they said.  What was more, she
wanted me, because she kept her hand on mine, or touched my apron
every little while.

"I'm so sorry!" she said.  "He was called to town on business. 
The County Commissioners are sitting to-day."

"They are deciding about the Groveville bridge, and pike?"

"Yes.  He is working so hard for them."

"The devil you say!  I beg pardon!  But it was about that I came.

I'm three miles from there, and I'm taxed over sixty pounds for
it."

"But you cross the bridge every time you go to town, and travel
the road.  Groveville is quite a resort on account of the water
and lovely country.  Paul is very anxious to have the work
completed before the summer boarders come from surrounding
cities.  We are even farther from it than you; but it will cost
us as much."

"Are you insane?" cried Mr. Pryor, not at all politely; but you
could see that mother was bound she wouldn't become provoked
about anything, for she never stopped a steady beam on him. 
"Spend all that money for strangers to lazy around on a few weeks
and then go!"

"But a good bridge and fine road will add to their pleasure, and
when they leave, the improvements remain.  They will benefit us
and our children through all the years to come."

"Talk about `the land of the free'!" cried Mr. Pryor.  "This is a
tax-ridden nation.  It's a beastly outrage!  Ever since I came,
it's been nothing but notice of one assessment after another.  I
won't pay it!  I won't endure it.  I'll move!"

Mother let go of me, gripped her hands pretty tight together on
the table, and she began to talk.

"As for freedom--no man ever was, or is, or will be free," she
said, quite as forcibly as he could speak.  "You probably knew
when you came here that you would find a land tax-ridden from a
great civil war of years' duration, and from newness of vast
territory to be opened up and improved.  You certainly studied
the situation."

"`Studied the situation'!"  His whip beat across his knee. 
"`Studied the situation'!  My leaving England was--er--the result
of intolerable conditions there--in the nature of flight from
things not to be endured.  I had only a vague idea of the
States."

"If England is intolerable, and the United States an outrage, I
don't know where in this world you'll go," said mother softly.

Mr. Pryor stared at her sharply.

"Madame is pleased to be facetious," he said sneeringly.

Mother's hands parted, and one of them stretched across the table
toward him.

"Forgive me!" she cried.  "That was unkind.  I know you are in
dreadful trouble.  I'd give--I'd almost give this right hand to
comfort you.  I'd do nearly anything to make you feel that you
need bear no burden alone; that we'd love to help support you."

"I believe you would," he said slowly, his eyes watching her
again.  "I believe you would.  I wonder why!"

"All men are brothers, in the broader sense," said mother, "and
if you'll forgive me, your face bears marks of suffering almost
amounting to torture."

She stretched out the other hand.

"You couldn't possibly let us help you?"

Slowly he shook his head.

"Think again!" urged mother.  "A trouble shared is half over to
start with.  You lay a part of it on your neighbours, and your
neighbours in this case would be glad, glad indeed, to see you
care-free and happy as all men should be."

"We'll not discuss it," he said.  "You can't possibly imagine the
root of my trouble."

"I shan't try!" said mother.  "But let me tell you this:  I don't
care if you have betrayed your country, blasphemed your God, or
killed your own child!  So long, as you're a living man, daily a
picture of suffering before me, you're a burden on my heart. 
You're a load on my shoulders, without your consent.  I have
implored God, I shall never cease to implore Him, until your brow
clears, your head is lifted, and your heart is at rest.  You
can't prevent me!  This hour I shall go to my closet and beg Him
to have mercy on your poor soul, and when His time comes, He
will.  You can't help yourself, or you would have done so, long
ago.  You must accept aid!  This must end, or there will be
tragedy in your house."

"Madame, there has been!" said Mr. Pryor, shaking as he sat.

"I recognize that," said mother.  "The question is whether what
has passed is not enough."

"You simply cannot understand!" he said.

"Mr. Pryor," she said, "you're in the position of a man doubly
bereft.  You are without a country, and without a God.  Your face
tells every passer-by how you are enjoying that kind of life. 
Forgive me, if I speak plainly.  I admire some things about you
so much, I am venturing positive unkindness to try to make you
see that in shutting out your neighbours you will surely make
them think more, and worse things, than are true.  I haven't a
doubt in my mind but that your trouble is not one half so
dreadful as you imagine while brooding over it.  We will pass
that.  Let me tell you how we feel about this road matter.  You
see we did our courting in Pennsylvania, married and tried Ohio,
and then came on here.  We took this land when it was mostly
woods.  I could point you to the exact spot where we stopped; we
visited it yesterday, looked down the hill and selected the place
where we would set this house, when we could afford to build it. 
We moved into the cabin that was on the land first, later built a
larger one, and finally this home as we had planned it.  Every
fruit tree, bush, vine, and flower we planted.  Here our children
have been born, lived, loved, and left us; some for the graveyard
down yonder, some for homes of their own.  Always we have planned
and striven to transform this into the dearest, the most
beautiful spot on earth.  In making our home the best we can, in
improving our township, county, and state, we are doing our share
toward upbuilding this nation."

She began at the a b c's, and gave it to him straight: the whole
thing, just as we saw it; and he listened, as if he were a
prisoner, and she a judge telling him what he must do to gain his
freedom.  She put in the birds to keep away the worms, the trees
to break the wind, the creeks to save the moisture.  She whanged
him, and she banged him, up one side, and down the other.  She
didn't stop to be mincy.  She shot things at him like a man
talking to another man who had plenty of sense but not a particle
of reason.  She gave him the reason.  She told him exactly why,
and how, and where, and also just WHAT he must do to feel RIGHT
toward his neighbours, his family, and his God.  No preacher ever
talked half so well.  Yea verily, she was as interesting as the
Bishop himself, and far pleasanter to look at.  When she ran
short of breath, and out of words, she reached both hands toward
him again.

"OH DO PLEASE THINK OF THESE THINGS!" she begged.  "Do try to
believe that I am a sensible person, and know what I am talking
about."

"Madame," said Mr. Pryor, "there's no doubt in my mind but you
are the most wonderful woman I ever have met.  Surely I believe
you!  Surely I know your plan of life is the true, the only right
way.  It is one degree added to my humiliation that the ban I am
under keeps me from friendly intercourse with so great a lady."

"`Lady'?" said my mother, her eyes widening.  "`Lady'?  Now it is
you who are amused."

"I don't understand!" he said.  "Certainly you are a lady, a very
great lady."

"Goodness, gracious me!" cried my mother, laughing until her
dimples would have held water.  "That's the first time in all my
life I was ever accused of such a thing."

"Again, I do not comprehend," said Mr. Pryor, as if vexed about
all he would endure.

Mother laughed on, and as she did so she drew back her hands and
studied them.  Then she looked at him again, one pink dimple
flashing here and there, all over her face.

"Well, to begin at the root of the matter," she said, "that is an
enormous big word that you are using lightly.  Any one in
petticoats is not a lady--by no means!  A lady must be born of
unsullied blood for at least three generations, on each side of
her house.  Think for a minute about where you are going to
fulfil that condition.  Then she must be gentle by nature, and
rearing.  She must know all there is to learn from books, have
wide experience to cover all emergencies, she must be steeped in
social graces, and diplomatic by nature.  She must rise unruffled
to any emergency, never wound, never offend, always help and
heal, she must be perfect in deportment, virtue, wifehood and
motherhood.  She must be graceful, pleasing and beautiful.  She
must have much leisure to perfect herself in learning, graces and
arts----"

"Madame, you draw an impossible picture!" cried Mr. Pryor.

"I draw the picture of the only woman on earth truly entitled to
be called a lady.  You use a good word lightly.  I have told you
what it takes to make a lady--now look at me!"

How she laughed! Mr. Pryor looked, but he didn't laugh.

"More than ever you convince me that you are a lady, indeed," he
said.

Mother wiped her eyes.

"My dear man!" she cried, "I'm the daughter of a Dutch miller,
who lived on a Pennsylvania mountain stream.  There never was a
school anywhere near us, and father and mother only taught us to
work.  Paul Stanton took a grist there, and saw me.  He married
me, and brought me here.  He taught me to read and write.  I
learned my lessons with my elder children.  He has always kept
school in our house, every night of his life.  Our children
supposed it was for them; I knew it was quite as much for me. 
While I sat at knitting or sewing, I spelled over the words he
gave out.  I know nothing of my ancestors, save that they came
from the lowlands of Holland, down where there were cities,
schools, and business.  They were well educated, but they would
not take the trouble to teach their children.  As I have spoken
to you, my husband taught me.  All I know I learn from him, from
what he reads aloud, and places he takes me.  I exist in a
twenty-mile radius, but through him, I know all lands,
principalities and kingdoms, peoples and customs.  I need never
be ashamed to go, or afraid to speak, anywhere."

"Indeed not!" cried Mr. Pryor.

"But when you think on the essentials of a real lady--and then
picture me patching, with a First Reader propped before me;
facing Indians, Gypsies, wild animals--and they used to be bad
enough--why, I mind one time in Ohio when our first baby was only
able to stand beside a chair, and through the rough puncheon
floor a copperhead stuck up its gleam of bronzy gold, and shot
its darting tongue within a foot of her bare leg.  By all
accounts, a lady would have reached for her smelling salts and
gracefully fainted away; in fact, a lady never would have been in
such a place at all.  It was my job to throw the first thing I
could lay my hands on so straight and true that I would break
that snake's neck, and send its deadly fangs away from my baby. 
I did it with Paul's plane, and neatly too!  Then I had to put
the baby on the bed and tear up every piece of the floor to see
that the snake had not a mate in hiding there, for copperheads at
that season were going pairs.  Once I was driven to face a big
squaw, and threatened the life of her baby with a red-hot poker
while she menaced mine with a hunting knife.  There is not one
cold, rough, hard experience of pioneer life that I have not
endured.  Shoulder to shoulder, and heart to heart, I've stood
beside my man, and done what had to be done, to build this home,
rear our children, save our property.  Many's the night I have
shivered in a barn doctoring sick cattle and horses we could ill
afford to lose.  Time and again I have hung on and brought things
out alive, after the men gave up and quit.  A lady?  How funny!"

"The amusement is all on your part, Madame."

"So it seems!" said mother.  "But you see, I know so well how
ridiculous it is.  When I think of the life a woman must lead in
order to be truly a lady, when I review the life I have been
forced to live to do my share in making this home, and rearing
these children, the contrast is too great.  I thank God for any
part I have been able to take.  Had I life to live over, I see
now where I could do more; but neighbour, believe me, my highest
aspiration is to be a clean, thrifty housekeeper, a bountiful
cook, a faithful wife, a sympathetic mother.  That is life work
for any woman, and to be a good woman is the greatest thing on
earth.  Never mind about the ladies; if you can honestly say of
me, she is a good woman, you have paid me the highest possible
tribute."

"I have nothing to change, in the face of your argument," said
Mr. Pryor.  "Our loved Queen on her throne is no finer lady."

That time mother didn't laugh.  She looked straight at him a
minute and then she said:  "Well, for an Englishman, as I know
them, you have said the last word.  Higher praise there is none. 
But believe me, I make no such claim.  To be a good wife and
mother is the end toward which I aspire.  To hold the respect and
love of my husband is the greatest object of my life."

"Then you have succeeded.  You stand a monument to wifehood; your
children prove your idea of motherhood," said Mr. Pryor.  "How in
this world have you managed it?  The members of your family whom
I have seen are fine, interesting men and women, educated above
the average.  It is not idle curiosity.  I am deeply interested
in knowing how such an end came to be accomplished here on this
farm.  I wish you would tell me just how you have gone about
schooling your children."

"By educating ourselves before their coming, and with them
afterward.  Self-control, study, work, joy of life, satisfaction
with what we have had, never-ending strife to go higher, and to
do better--Dr. Fenner laughs when I talk of these things.  He
says he can take a little naked Hottentot from the jungle, and
educate it to the same degree that I can one of mine.  I don't
know; but if these things do not help before birth, at least they
do not hinder; and afterward, you are in the groove in which you
want your children to run.  With all our twelve there never has
been one who at nine months of age did not stop crying if its
father lifted his finger, or tapped his foot and told it to. 
From the start we have rigorously guarded our speech and actions
before them.  From the first tiny baby my husband has taught all
of them to read, write and cipher some, before they went to
school at all.  He is always watching, observing, studying: the
earth, the stars, growing things; he never comes to a meal but he
has seen something that he has or will study out for all of us. 
There never has been one day in our home on which he did not read
a new interesting article from book or paper; work out a big
problem, or discuss some phase of politics, religion, or war. 
Sometimes there has been a little of all of it in one day, always
reading, spelling, and memory exercises at night.  He has a
sister who twice in her life has repeated the Bible as a test
before a committee.  He, himself, can go through the New
Testament and all of the Old save the books of the generations. 
He always says he considers it a waste of gray matter to learn
them.  He has been a schoolmaster, his home his schoolroom, his
children, wife and helpers his pupils; the common things of life
as he meets them every day, the books from which we learn.

"I was ignorant at first of bookish subjects, but in his
atmosphere, if one were no student, and didn't even try to keep
up, or forge ahead, they would absorb much through association. 
Almost always he has been on the school board and selected the
teachers; we have made a point of keeping them here, at great
inconvenience to ourselves, in order to know as much of them as
possible, and to help and guide them in their work.  When the
children could learn no more here, for most of them we have
managed the high school of Groveville, especially after our
daughter moved there, and for each of them we have added at least
two years of college, music school, or whatever the peculiar bent
of the child seemed to demand.

"Before any daughter has left our home for one of her own, she
has been taught all I know of cleanliness about a house, cookery,
sewing, tending the sick, bathing and dressing the new born.  She
has to bake bread, pie, cake, and cook any meat or vegetable we
have.  She has had her bolt of muslin to make as she chose for
her bedding, and linen for her underclothing.  The quilts she
pieced and the blankets she wove have been hers.  All of them
have been as well provided for as we could afford.  They can
knit, darn, patch, tuck, hem, and embroider, set a hen and plant
a garden.  I go on a vacation and leave each of them to keep
house for her father a month, before she enters a home of her
own.  They are strong, healthy girls; I hope all of them are
making a good showing at being useful women, and I know they are
happy, so far at least."

"Wonderful!" said Mr. Pryor.

"Father takes the boys in hand and they must graduate in a
straight furrow, an even fence, planting and tending crops,
trimming and grafting trees, caring for stock, and handling
plane, auger and chisel.  Each one must select his wood, cure,
fashion, and fit his own ax with a handle, grind and swing it
properly, as well as cradle, scythe and sickle.  They must be
able to select good seed grain, boil sap, and cure meat.  They
must know animals, their diseases and treatment, and when they
have mastered all he can teach them, and done each thing
properly, they may go for their term at college, and make their
choice of a profession.  As yet I'm sorry to say but one of them
has come back to the land."

"You mean Laddie?"

"Yes."

"He has decided to be a farmer?"

"He is determined to make the soil yield his living."

"I am sorry--sorry indeed to hear it," said Mr. Pryor.  "He has
brain and education to make a brilliant figure at law or
statesmanship; he would do well in trade."

"What makes you think he would not do well on land?"

"Wasted!" cried Mr. Pryor.  "He would be wasted!"

"Hold a bit!" said mother, her face flushing as it did when she
was very provoked.  "My husband is, and always has been, on land.
He is far from being wasted.  He is a power in this community. 
He has sons in cities in law and in trade.  Not one of them has
the friends, and the influence on his time, that his father has. 
Any day he says the word, he can stand in legislative halls, and
take any part he chooses in politics.  He prefers his home and
family, and the work he does here, but let me tell you, no son of
his ever had his influence or opportunity, or ever will have."

"All this is news to me," said Mr. Pryor.

"You didn't expect us to come over, force our way in and tell
you?"

It was his turn to blush and he did.

"Laddie has been at our house often," he said.  "He might have
mentioned----"

Mother laughed.  She was the gayest that morning.

"He `might,' but he never would.  Neither would I if you hadn't
seemed to think that the men who do the things Mr. Stanton
REFUSES to do are the ones worth while."

"He could accomplish much in legislative halls."

"He figures in the large.  He thinks that to be a commissioner,
travel his county and make all of it the best possible, to stand
in primaries and choose only worthy men for all offices, is doing
a much bigger work than to take one place for himself, and strive
only for that.  Besides, he really loves his land, his house, and
family.  He says no man has a right to bring twelve children into
the world and not see personally to rearing and educating them. 
He thinks the farm and the children too much for me, and he's
sure he is doing the biggest thing for the community at large, to
go on as he does."

"Perhaps so," said Mr. Pryor slowly.  "He should know best. 
Perhaps he is."

"I make no doubt!" said mother, lifting her head proudly.  "And
as Laddie feels and has fitted himself, I look to see him go head
and shoulders above any other son I have.  Trade is not the only
way to accumulate.  Law is not the only path to the legislature. 
Comfort, independence, and freedom, such as we know here, is not
found in any city I ever have visited.  We think we have the best
of life, and we are content on land.  We have not accumulated
much money; we have spent thousands; we have had a big family for
which to provide, and on account of the newness of the country,
taxes always have been heavy.  But we make no complaint.  We are
satisfied.  We could have branched off into fifty different
things after we had a fair start here.  We didn't, because we
preferred life as we worked it out for ourselves.  Paul says when
he leaves the city, and his horses' hoofs strike the road between
our fields, he always lifts his head higher, squares his
shoulders, and feels a man among men.  To own land, and to love
it, is a wonderful thing, Mr. Pryor."

She made me think of something.  Ever since I had added to my
quill and arrow money, the great big lot at Easter, father had
shared his chest till with me.  The chest stood in our room, and
in it lay his wedding suit, his every Sunday clothes, his best
hat with a red silk handkerchief in the crown, a bundle of
precious newspapers he was saving on account of rare things in
them he wanted for reference, and in the till was the wallet of
ready money he kept in the house for unexpected expense, his
deeds, insurance papers, all his particular private papers, the
bunches of lead pencils, slate pencils, and the box of pens from
which he supplied us for school.  Since I had grown so rich, he
had gone partners with me, and I might lift the lid, open the
till and take out my little purse that May bought from the
huckster for my last birthday.  I wasn't to touch a thing, save
my own, and I never did; but I knew precious well what was there.

If Mr. Pryor thought my father didn't amount to much because he
lived on land; if it made him think more of him, to know that he
could be in the legislature if he chose, maybe he'd think still
more----

I lifted the papers, picked it up carefully, and slipping back
quietly, I laid it on Mr. Pryor's knee.  He picked it up and held
it a minute, until he finished what he was saying to mother, and
then he looked at it.  Then he looked long and hard.  Then he
straightened up and looked again.

"God bless my soul!" he cried.

You see when he was so astonished he didn't know what he was
saying, he called on God, just as father says every one does.  I
took a side look at mother.  Her face was a little extra flushed,
but she was still smiling; so I knew she wasn't angry with me,
though of course she wouldn't have shown the thing herself.  She
and father never did, except as each of us grew big enough to be
taught about the Crusaders.  Father said he didn't care the snap
of his finger about it, except as it stood for hardihood and
bravery.  But Mr. Pryor cared!  He cared more than he could say. 
He stared, and stared, and over and over he wonderingly repeated:

"God bless my soul!"

"Where did you get the crest of the Earl of Eastbrooke, the
master of Stanton house?" he demanded.  "Stanton house!" he
repeated.  "Why--why, the name!  It's scarcely possible, but----"

"But there it is!" laughed mother.  "A mere bauble for show and
amounting to nothing on earth save as it stands a mark for brave
men who have striven to conquer."

"Surgere tento!" read Mr. Pryor, from the little shield.  "Four
shells!  Madame, I know men who would give their lives to own
this, and to have been born with the right to wear it.  It came
to your husband in straight line?"

"Yes," said mother, "but generations back.  He never wore it.  He
never would.  He only saves it for the children."

"It goes to your eldest son?"

"By rights, I suppose it should," said mother.  "But father
mentioned it the other night.  He said none of his boys had gone
as he tried to influence them, unless Laddie does now in choosing
land for his future, and if he does, his father is inclined to
leave it to him, and I agree.  At our death it goes to Laddie I
am quite sure."

"Well, I hope--I hope," said Mr. Pryor, "that the young man has
the wit to understand what this would mean to him in England."

"His wit is just about level with his father's," said mother. 
"He never has been in England, and most probably he never will
be.  I don't think it means a rap more to Laddie than it does to
my husband.  Laddie is so busy developing the manhood born in
him, he has no time to chase the rainbow of reflected glory, and
no belief in its stability if he walked in its light.  The child
of my family to whom that trinket really means something is
Little Sister, here.  When Leon came in with the thief, I thought
he should have it; but after all, she is the staunchest little
Crusader I have."

Mr. Pryor looked me over with much interest.

"Yes, yes!  No doubt!" he said.  "But the male line!  This
priceless treasure should descend to one of the male line!  To
one whose name will remain Stanton!  To Laddie would be best, no
doubt!  No doubt at all!"

"We will think about it," said mother serenely as Mr. Pryor arose
to go.

He apologized for staying so long, and mother said it hadn't been
long, and asked him the nicest ever to come again.  She walked in
the sunlight with him and pointed out the chestnuts.  She asked
what he thought of a line of trees to shade the road, and they
discussed whether the pleasure they would give in summer would
pay for the dampness they would hold in winter.  They wandered
around the yard and into the garden.  She sent me to bring a
knife, trowel, and paper, so when he started for home, he was
carrying a load of cuttings, and roots to plant.

When father came from town that evening, at the first sight of
him, she went straight into his arms, her face beaming; she had
been like a sun all that day.  Some of it must have been joy
carried over from yesterday.

"Praise God, the wedge is in!" she cried.

Father held her tight, stroked her hair, and began smiling
without having the least idea why, but he very well knew that
whatever pleased her like that was going to be good news for him
also.

"What has happened, mother?" he asked.

"Mr. Pryor came over about the road and bridge tax, and oh Paul! 
I've said every word to him I've been bursting to say from the
very start.  Every single word, Paul!"

"How did he take it?"

"Time will tell.  Anyway, he heard it, all of it, and he went
back carrying a load of things to plant.  Only think of that! 
Once he begins planting, and watching things grow, the home
feeling is bound to come.  I tell you, Paul, the wedge is in!  Oh
I'm so happy!"



CHAPTER XIV

The Crest of Eastbrooke

            "Sow;--and look onward, upward,
                 Where the starry light appears,--
             Where, in spite of coward's doubting,
                 Or your own heart's trembling fears,
             You shall reap in joy the harvest
                 You have sown to-day in tears."

Any objections to my beginning to break ground on the west eighty
to-day?" asked Laddie of father at breakfast Monday morning.

"I had thought we would commence on the east forty, when planning
the work."

"So had I," said Laddie.  "But since I thought that, a very
particular reason has developed for my beginning to plow the west
eighty at once, and there is a charming little ditty I feel
strongly impelled to whistle every step of the way."

Father looked at him sharply, and so, I think, did all of us. 
And because we loved him deeply, we saw that his face was a
trifle pale for him; his clear eyes troubled, in spite of his
laughing way.  He knew we were studying him too, but he wouldn't
have said anything that would make us look and question if he had
minded our doing it.  That was exactly like Laddie.  He meant it
when he said he hated a secret.  He said there was no place on
earth for a man to look for sympathy and love if he couldn't find
it in his own family; and he never had been so happy since I had
been big enough to notice his moods as he had been since all of
us knew about the Princess.  He didn't wait for father to ask why
he'd changed his mind about the place to begin.

"You see," he said, "a very charming friend of mine expressed
herself strongly last night about the degrading influence of
farming, especially that branch of agriculture which evolves
itself in a furrow; hence it is my none too happy work to plow
the west eighty where she can't look our way without seeing me;
and I have got to whistle my favourite `toon' where she must stop
her ears if she doesn't hear; and then it will be my painful
task, I fear, to endeavour to convince her that I am still clean,
decent, and not degraded."

"Oh Laddie!" cried mother.

"Abominable foolishness!" roared father like he does roar once in
about two years.

"Isn't it now?" asked Laddie sweetly.  "I don't know what has got
into her head.  She has seen me plowing fifty times since their
land has joined ours, and she never objected before."

"I can tell you blessed well!" said mother.  "She didn't care two
hoots how much my son plowed, but it makes a difference when it
comes to her lover."

"Maw, you speak amazing reckless," said Laddie, "if I thought
there was anything in THAT feature of the case, I'd attempt a
Highland fling on the ridgepole of our barn."

"Be serious!" said father sternly.  "This is no laughing matter."

"That's precisely why I am laughing," said Laddie.  "Would it
help me any to sit down and weep?  I trow not!  I have thought
most of the silent watches--by the way they are far from silent
in May--and as I read my title clear, it's my job to plow the
west eighty immejit."

Father tried to look stern, but he just had to laugh.

"All right then, plow it!" he said.

"What did she say?" asked mother.

"Phew!" Laddie threw up both hands.  "She must have been bottled
some time on the subject.  The ferment was a spill of
considerable magnitude.  The flood rather overwhelmed me, because
it was so unexpected.  I had been taking for granted that she
accepted my circumstances and surroundings as she did me.  But
no, kind friends, far otherwise!  She said last night, in the
clearest English I ever heard spoken impromptu, that I was a man
suitable for her friend, but I would have to change my occupation
before I could be received on more than a friendly footing."

"`On more than a friendly footing'?" repeated mother.

"You have her exact words," said Laddie.  "Kindly pass the ham."

"What did you say?"

"Nothing!  I am going to plow the answer.  Please don't object to
my beginning this morning."

"You try yourself all winter to get as far as you have, and then
upset the bowl like this?" cried mother.

"Softly, mummy, softly!" said Laddie.  "What am I to do?  I've
definitely decided on my work.  I see land and life, as you and
father taught me, in range and in perspective far more than
you've got from it.  You had a first hand wrestle.  The land I
covet has been greatly improved already.  I can do what I choose
with it, making no more strenuous effort than plowing; and I am
proud to say that I LOVE to plow.  I like my feet in the soil.  I
want my head in the spring air.  I can become almost tipsy on the
odours that fill my nostrils.  Music evolved by the Almighty is
plenty good enough for me.  I'm proud of a spanking big team,
under the control of a touch or a word.  I enjoy farming, and I
am going to be a farmer.  Plowing is one of the most pleasing
parts of the job.  Sowing the seed beats it a little, from an
artistic standpoint, either is preferable to haying, threshing,
or corn cutting: all are parts of my work, so I'm going to begin.

Mother, I hope you don't mind if I take your grays.  I'll be very
careful; but the picture I present to my girl to-day is going to
go hard with her at best, so I'd like to make it level best."

He arose, went around and knelt beside mother.  He took her,
chair and all, in his arms:

            "Best of mothers! on my breast
             Lean thy head, and sink to rest."


She quoted.  Mother laughed.

"Mammy," he asked bending toward her, "am I clean?"

"You goose!" she said, putting her arms around him and holding
him tight.

"Gander love," said Laddie, turning up his face for a kiss. 
"Honest mother, you have been through nigh unto forty years of
it, tell me, can a man be a farmer and keep neat enough not to be
repulsive to a refined woman?"

"Your father is the answer," said mother.  "All of you know how
perfectly repulsive he is and always has been to me."

"`Repulsive,"' said father.  "That's an ugly word!"

"There are a whole lot of unpleasant things that peep around
corners occasionally," said Laddie.  "But whoever of you dear
people it was that showed Mr. Pryor the Crest of Eastbrooke,
brought out this particular dragon for me to slay."

"Tut, tut!  Now what does that mean?" said father.  "Have we had
a little exhibition of that especial brand of pride that goes
before a fall?"

"We have! and I take the tumble," said Laddie.  "Watch me start! 
`Jack fell down and broke his crown.'  Question--will `Jill come
tumbling after?'"

My heart stopped and I was shaking in my bare feet, because I
wore no shoes to shake in.  Oh my soul!  No matter how Laddie
jested I knew he was almost killed; the harder he made fun, the
worse he was hurt.  I opened my mouth to say I did it, I had to,
but Leon began to talk.

"Well, I think she's smart!" he cried.  "If she was going to give
you the mitten, why didn't she do it long ago?"

"She had to find out first whether there were a possibility of
her wanting to keep it," said Laddie.

"You're sure you are all signed, sealed, and delivered on this
plowing business, are you?" asked Leon.

"Dead sure!" said Laddie.

"All right, if you like it!" said Leon.  "None for me after
college!  But say, you can be a farmer and not plow, you know. 
You go trim the trees, and work at cleaner, more gentlemanly
jobs.  I'll plow that field.  I'd just as soon as not.  I plowed
last year and you said I did well, didn't you, father?"

"Yes, on the potato patch," said father.  "A cornfield is a
different thing.  I fear you are too light."

"Oh but that was a year ago!" cried Leon.

He pushed back his chair and went to father.

"Just feel my biceps now!  Most like steel!" he boasted.  "A
fellow can grow a lot in a year, and all the riding I've been
doing, and all the exercise I've had.  Cert' I can plow that
meadow."

"You're all right, shaver," said Laddie.  "I'll not forget your
offer; but in this case it wouldn't help.  Either the Princess
takes her medicine or I take mine.  I'm going to live on land:
I'm going to plow in plain sight of the Pryor house this week, if
I have to hire to Jacob Hood to get the chance.  May I plow, and
may I take the grays, father?"

"Yes!" said father roundly.

"Then here goes!" said Laddie.  "You needn't fret, mother.  I'll
not overheat them.  I must give a concert simultaneous with this
plowing performance, and I'm particular about the music, so I
can't go too fast.  Also, I'll wrap the harness."

"Goodness knows I'm not thinking about the horses," said mother.

"No, but if they turned up next Sunday, wind-broken, and with
nice large patches of hair rubbed from their sides, you would be!
If you were me, would you whistle, or vocalize to start on?"

Mother burst right out crying and laid her face all tear-wet
against him.  Laddie kissed her, and wiped away the tears, teased
her, and soon as he could he bolted from the east door; but I was
closest, so I saw plainly that his eyes were wet too.  My soul
and body!  AND I HAD DONE IT!  I might as well get it over.

"I showed Mr. Pryor the trinket," I said.

"How did you come to do that?" asked father sternly.

"When he was talking with mother.  He told her Laddie would be
`wasted' farming----"

"Wasted?"

"That's what he said.  Mother told him you had always farmed and
you were a `power in this community.'  She told him about what
you did, because you wanted to, and what you COULD do if you
chose, about holding office, you know, and that seemed to make
him think heaps more of you, so I thought it would be a good
thing for him to know about the Crusaders too, and I ran and got
the crest.  I THOUGHT it would help----"

"And so it will," said mother.  "They constantly make the best
showing they can, we might as well, too.  The trouble is they got
more than they expected.  They thought they could look down on
us, and patronize us, if they came near at all; when they found
we were quite as well educated as they, had as much land, could
hold prominent offices if we chose, and had the right to that
bauble, they veered to the other extreme.  Now they seem to
demand that we quit work----"

"Move to the city, `sit on a cushion and sew a fine seam,'"
suggested father.

"Exactly!" said mother.  "They'll have to find out we are running
our own business; but I'm sorry it fell to Laddie to show them. 
You could have done it better.  It will come out all right.  The
Princess is not going to lose a man like Laddie on account of how
he makes his money."

"Don't be too confident," said father.  "With people of their
stripe, how much money a man can earn, and at what occupation,
constitute the whole of life."

She wasn't too confident.  Yesterday she had been so happy she
almost flew.  To-day she kept things going, and sang a lot, but
nearly every time you looked at her you could see her lips draw
tight, a frown cross her forehead, and her head shake.  Pretty
soon we heard a racket on the road, so we went out.  There was
Laddie with the matched team of carriage horses and a plow.  Now,
in dreadfully busy times, father let Ned and Jo work a little,
but not very much.  They were not plow horses; they were
roadsters.  They liked to prance, and bow their necks and dance
to the carriage.  It shamed them to be hitched to a plow.  They
drooped their heads and slunk along like dogs caught sucking
eggs.  But they were a sight on the landscape.  They were lean
and slender and yet round too, matched dapple gray on flank and
side, with long snow-white manes and tails.  No wonder mother
didn't want them to work.  Laddie had reached through the garden
fence and hooked a bunch of red tulips and yellow daffodils.  The
red was at Jo's ear, and the yellow at Ned's, and they did look
fine.  So did he!  Big, strong, clean, a red flower in his floppy
straw hat band; and after he drove through the gate, he began a
shrill, fifelike whistle you could have heard a half mile:

      "See the merry farmer boy, tramp the meadows through,
       Swing his hoe in careless joy, while dashing off the dew.
       Bobolink in maple high, trills a note of glee,
       Farmer boy in gay reply now whistles cheerily."


The chorus was all whistle, and it was written for folks who
could.  It went up until it almost split the echoes, and Laddie
could easily sail a measure above the notes.  He did it too.  As
for me, I kept from sight.  For a week Laddie whistled and
plowed.  He wore that tune threadbare, and got an almost
continuous pucker on his lips.  Leon said if he didn't stop
whistling, and sing more, the girls would think he was doing a
prunes and prisms stunt.  So after that he sang the words, and
whistled the chorus.  But he made no excuse to go, and he didn't
go, to Pryors'.  When Sunday came, he went to Westchester to see
Elizabeth, and stayed until Monday morning.  Not once that week
did the Princess ride past our house, or her father either.  By
noon Monday Laddie was back in the field, and I had all I could
bear.  He was neither whistling nor singing so much now, because
he was away at the south end, where he couldn't be seen or heard
at Pryors'.  He almost scoured the skin from him, and he wore his
gloves more carefully than usual.  If he soiled his clothing in
the least, and it looked as if he would make more than his share
of work, he washed the extra pieces at night.

Tuesday morning I hurried with all my might, and then I ran to
the field where he was.  I climbed on the fence, sat there until
he came up, and then I gave him some cookies.  He stopped the
horses, climbed beside me and ate them.  Then he put his arms
around me and hugged me tight.

"Laddie, do you know I did it?" I wailed.

"Did you now?" said Laddie.  "No, I didn't know for sure, but I
had suspicions.  You always have had such a fondness for that
particular piece of tinware."

"But Laddie, it means so much!"

"Doesn't it?" said Laddie.  "A few days ago no one could have
convinced me that it meant anything at all to me, or ever could. 
Just look at me now!"

"Don't joke, Laddie!  Something must be done."

"Well, ain't I doing it?" asked Laddie.  "Look at all these acres
and acres of Jim-dandy plowing!"

"Don't!" I begged.  "Why don't you go over there?"

"No use, Chicken," said Laddie.  "You see her exact stipulation
was that I must CHANGE MY OCCUPATION before I came again."

"What does she want you to do?"

"Law, I think.  Unfortunately, I showed her a letter from Jerry
asking me to enter his office this fall."

"Hadn't you better do it, Laddie?"

"How would you like to be shut in little, stuffy rooms, and set
to droning over books and papers every hour of the day, all your
life, and to spend the best of your brain and bodily strength
straightening out other men's quarrels?"

"Oh Laddie, you just couldn't!" I cried.

"Precisely!" said Laddie.  "I just couldn't, and I just won't!"

"What can you do?"

"I might compromise on stock," he said.  "I could follow the same
occupation as her father, and with better success.  Neither he
nor his men get the best results from horses.  They don't
understand them, especially the breeds they are attempting to
handle.  Most Arab horsemen are tent dwellers.  They travel from
one oasis to another with their stock.  At night their herds are
gathered around them as children.  As children they love them,
pet them, feed them.  Each is named for a divinity, a planet or a
famous ruler, and the understanding between master and beast is
perfect.  Honestly, Little Sister, I think you have got to
believe in the God of Israel, in order to say the right word to
an Arabian horse; and I know you must believe in the God of love.
A beast of that breed, jerked, kicked, and scolded is a fine
horse ruined.  If I owned half the stock Mr. Pryor has over
there, I could put it in such shape for market that I could get
twice from it what his men will."

"Are Thomas and James rough with the horses?"

"`Like master, like man,' " quoted Laddie.  "They are!  They are
foolish with the Kentucky strain, and fools with the Arab; and
yet, that combination beats the world.  But I must get on with
the P.C. job."

He slid from the fence, took a drink from his water jug, and
pulled a handful of grass for each horse.  As he stood feeding
them, I almost fell from the top rail.

"Laddie!" I whispered.  "Look!  Mr. Pryor is halfway across the
field on Ranger."

"So?" said Laddie.  "Now I wonder----"

"Shall I go?"

"No indeed !" said Laddie.  "Stay right where you are.  It can't
be anything of much importance."

At first it didn't seem to be.  They talked about the weather,
the soil, the team.  Laddie scooped a handful of black earth, and
holding it out, told Mr. Pryor all about how good it was, and
why, and he seemed interested.  Then they talked about
everything; until if he had been Jacob Hood, he would have gone
away.  But just at the time when I expected him to start, he
looked at Laddie straight and hard.

"I missed you Sabbath evening," he said.

Then I looked at him.  He had changed, some way.  He seemed more
human, more like our folks, less cold and stern.

"I sincerely hope it was unanimous," said Laddie.

Mr. Pryor had to laugh.

"It was a majority, at any rate."

Laddie stared dazed.  You see that was kind of a joke.  An easy
one, because I caught it; but we were not accustomed to expecting
a jest from Mr. Pryor.  Not one of us dreamed there was a joke
between his hat crown and his boot soles.  Then Laddie laughed;
but he sobered quickly.

"I'm mighty sorry if Mrs. Pryor missed me," he said.  "I thought
of her.  I have grown to be her devoted slave, and I hoped she
liked me."

"You put it mildly," said Mr. Pryor.  "Since you didn't come when
she expected you, we've had the worst time with her that we have
had since we reached this da--ah--er--um--this country."

"Could you make any suggestion?" asked Laddie.

"I could!  I would suggest that you act like the sensible fellow
I know you to be, and come as usual, at your accustomed times."

"But I'm forbidden, man!" cried Laddie.

Ugh!  Such awful things as Mr. Pryor said.

"Forbidden!" he cried.  "Is a man's roof his own, or is it not? 
While I live, I propose to be the head of my family.  I invite
you!  I ask you!  Mrs. Pryor and I want you!  What more is
necessary?"

"TWO things," said Laddie, just as serenely.  "That Miss Pryor
wants me, and that I want to come."

"D'ye mean to tell me that you DON'T want to come, eh?  After the
fight you put up to force your way in!"

Laddie studied the sky, a whimsy smile on his lips.

"Now wasn't that a good fight?" he inquired.  "I'm mighty proud
of it!  But not now, or ever, do I wish to enter your house
again, if Miss Pryor doesn't want, and welcome me."

Then he went over, took Mr. Pryor's horse by the head, and began
working with its bridle.  It didn't set right some way, and Mr.
Pryor had jerked, spurred, and mauled, until there was a big
space tramped to mortar.  Laddie slid his fingers beneath the
leather, eased it a little, and ran his hands over the fretful
creature's head.  It just stopped, stood still, pushed its nose
under his arm, and pressed against his side.  Mr. Pryor arose in
one stirrup, swung around and alighted.  He looped an arm through
the bridle rein, and with both hands gripped his whipstock.

"How the devil do you do it?" he asked, as if he were provoked.

"First, the bridle was uncomfortable; next, you surely know, Mr.
Pryor, that a man can transfer his mental state to his mount."

Laddie pointed to the churned up earth.

"THAT represents your mental state; THIS"--he slid his hand down
the neck of the horse--"portrays mine."

Mr. Pryor's face reddened, but Laddie was laughing so heartily he
joined in sort of sickly-like.

"Oh I doubt if you are so damnably calm!" he cried.

"I'm CALM enough, so far as that goes," said Laddie.  "I'm not
denying that I've got about all the heartache I can conveniently
carry."

"Do you mind telling me how far this affair has gone?"

"Wouldn't a right-minded man give the woman in the case the first
chance to answer that question?  I greatly prefer that you ask
Miss Pryor."

If ever I felt sorry for any one, I did then for Mr. Pryor.  He
stood there gripping the whip with both hands and he looked
exactly as if the May wind might break him into a thousand tiny
pieces, and every one of them would be glass.

"Um--er----" he said at last.  "You're right, of course, but
unfortunately, Pamela and her mother did not agree with my
motives, or my course in coming to this country; and while there
is no outward demonstration er--um--other than Mrs. Pryor's
seclusion; yet, er--um!--I am forced to the belief that I'm NOT
in their confidence."

"I see!" said Laddie.  "And of course you love your daughter as
any man would love so beautiful a child, and when she is all he
has----"  I thought the break was coming right there, but Mr.
Pryor clenched his whip and put it off; still, any one watching
with half an eye could see that it was only put off, and not for
long at that,--"It has been my idea, Mr. Pryor, that the proper
course for me was to see if I could earn any standing with your
daughter.  If I could, and she gave me permission, then I
intended coming to you the instant I knew how she felt.  But in
such a case as this, I don't think I shall find the slightest
hesitation in telling you anything you want to know, that I am
able."

"You don't know how you stand with her?"

Laddie took off his hat and ran his fingers through his hair. 
His feet were planted widely apart, and his face was sober enough
for any funeral now.  At last he spoke.

"I've been trying to figure that out," he said slowly.  "I
believe the situation is as open to you as it is to me.  She was
a desperately lonely, homesick girl, when she caught my eye and
heart; and I placed myself on her horizon.  In her case the women
were slow in offering friendship, because, on account of Mrs.
Pryor's seclusion, none was felt to be wanted; then Miss Pryor
was different in dress and manner.  I found a way to let her see
that I wanted to be friends, and she accepted my friendship, and
at the same time allowed it go only so far.  On a few rare
occasions, I've met her alone, and we've talked out various
phases of life together; but most of our intercourse has taken
place in your home, and in your presence.  You probably have seen
her meet and entertain her friends frequently.  I should think
you would be more nearly able to gauge my standing with her than
I am."

"You haven't told her that you love her?"

"Haven't I though?" cried Laddie.  "Man alive!  What do you think
I'm made of?  Putty?  Told her?  I've told her a thousand times. 
I've said it, and sung it and whistled it, and looked it, and
lived it.  I've written it, and ridden it, and this week I've
plowed it!  Your daughter knows as she knows nothing else, in all
this world, that she has only to give me one glance, one word,
one gesture of invitation, to find me before her six feet of the
worst demoralized beefsteak a woman ever undertook to handle. 
Told her?  Ye Gods!  I should say I've told her!"

If any of Pryors had been outdoors they certainly could have
heard Mr. Pryor.  How he laughed!  He shook until he tottered. 
Laddie took his arm and led him to the fence.  He lifted a broad
top rail, pushed it between two others across a corner and made a
nice comfortable seat for him.  After a while Mr. Pryor wiped his
eyes.  Laddie stood watching him with a slow grin on his face.

"And she hasn't given the signal you are waiting for?" he asked
at last.

Laddie slowly shook his head.

"Nary the ghost of a signal!" he said.  "Now we come to Sunday
before last.  I only intimated, vaguely, that a hint of where I
stood would be a comfort--and played Jonah.  The whale swallowed
me at a gulp, and for all my inches, never batted an eye.  You
see, a few days before I showed her a letter from my brother
Jerry, because I thought it might interest her.  There was
something in it to which I had paid little or no attention, about
my going to the city and beginning work in his law office; to cap
that, evidently you had mentioned before her our prize piece of
family tinware.  There was a culmination like a thunder clap in a
January sky.  She said everything that was on her mind about a
man of my size and ability doing the work I am, and then she said
I must change my occupation before I came again."

"And for answer you've split the echoes with some shrill,
abominable air, and plowed, before her very eyes, for a week!"

Then Laddie laughed.

"Do you know," he said; "that's a good one on me!  It never
occurred to me that she would not be familiar with that air, and
understand its application.  Do you mean to crush me further by
telling me that all my perfectly lovely vocalizing and whistling
was lost?"

"It was a dem irritating, challenging sort of thing," said Mr.
Pryor.  "I listened to it by the hour, myself, trying to make out
exactly what it did mean.  It seemed to combine defiance with
pleading, and through and over all ran a note of glee that was
really quite charming."

"You have quoted a part of it, literally," said Laddie.  "`A note
of glee'--the cry of a glad heart, at peace with all the world,
busy with congenial work."

"I shouldn't have thought you'd have been so particularly
joyful."

"Oh, the joy was in the music," said Laddie.  "That was a whistle
to keep up my courage.  The joy was in the song, not in me!  Last
week was black enough for me to satisfy the most exacting
pessimist."

"I wish you might have seen the figure you cut!  That fine team,
flower bedecked, and the continuous concert!"

"But I did!" cried Laddie.  "We have mirrors.  That song can't be
beaten.  I know this team is all right, and I'm not dwarfed or
disfigured.  That was the pageant of summer passing in review. 
It represented the tilling of the soil; the sowing of seed,
garnering to come later.  You buy corn and wheat, don't you? 
They are vastly necessary.  Much more so than the settling of
quarrels that never should have taken place.  Do you think your
daughter found the spectacle at all moving?"

"Damn you, sir, what I should do, is to lay this whip across your
shoulders!" cried Mr. Pryor.

But if you will believe it, he was laughing again.

"I prefer that you don't," said Laddie, "or on Ranger either. 
See how he likes being gentled."

Then he straightened and drew a deep breath.

"Mr. Pryor," he said, "as man to man, I have got this to say to
you--and you may use your own discretion about repeating it to
your daughter:  I can offer her six feet of as sound manhood as
you can find on God's footstool.  I never in my whole life have
had enough impure blood in my body to make even one tiny eruption
on my skin.  I never have been ill a day in my life.  I never
have touched a woman save as I lifted and cared for my mother,
and hers, or my sisters.  As to my family and education she can
judge for herself.  I offer her the first and only love of my
heart.  She objects to farming, because she says it is dirty,
offensive work.  There are parts of it that are dirty.  Thank
God, it only soils the body, and that can be washed.  To delve
and to dive into, and to study and to brood over the bigger half
of the law business of any city is to steep your brain in, and
smirch your soul with, such dirt as I would die before I'd make
an occupation of touching.  Will you kindly tell her that word
for word, and that I asked you to?"

Mr. Pryor was standing before I saw him rise.  He said those
awful words again, but between them he cried:  "You're right! 
It's the truth! It's the eternal truth!"

"It IS the truth," said Laddie.  "I've only to visit the offices,
and examine the business of those of my family living by law, to
KNOW that it's the truth.  Of course there's another side!  There
are times when there are great opportunities to do good; I
recognize that.  To some these may seem to overbalance that to
which I object.  If they do, all right.  I am merely deciding for
myself.  Once and for all, for me it is land.  It is born in me
to love it, to handle it easily, to get the best results from
stock.  I am going to take the Merriweather place adjoining ours
on the west, and yours on the south.  I intend to lease it for
ten years, with purchase privilege at the end, so that if I make
of it what I plan, my work will not be lost to me.  I had thought
to fix up the place and begin farming.  If Miss Pryor has any use
whatever for me, and prefers stock, that is all right with me. 
I'll go into the same business she finds suitable for you.  I can
start in a small way and develop.  I can afford a maid for her
from the beginning, but I couldn't clothe her as she has been
accustomed to being dressed, for some time.  I would do my best,
however.  I know what store my mother sets by being well gowned. 
And as a husband, I can offer your daughter as loving
consideration as woman ever received at the hands of man. 
Provided by some miracle I could win her consent, would you even
consider me, and such an arrangement?"

"Frankly sir," said Mr. Pryor, "I have reached the place where I
would be----" whenever you come to a long black line like that,
it means that he just roared a lot of words father never said,
and never will--"glad to!  To tell the truth, the thing you
choose to jestingly refer to as `tinware'--I hope later to
convince of the indelicacy of such allusion--would place you in
England on a social level above any we ever occupied, or could
hope to.  Your education equals ours.  You are a physical
specimen to be reckoned with, and I believe what you say of
yourself.  There's something so clean and manly about you, it
amounts to confirmation.  A woman should set her own valuation on
that; and the height of it should correspond with her knowledge
of the world."

"Thank you!" said Laddie.  "You are more than kind! more than
generous!"

"As to the arrangements you could make for Pamela," said Mr.
Pryor, "she's all we have.  Everything goes to her, ultimately. 
She has her stipulated allowance now; whether in my house or
yours, it would go with her.  Surely you wouldn't be so callous
as to object to our giving her anything that would please us!"

"Why should I?" asked Laddie.  "That's only natural on your part.

Your child is your child; no matter where or what it is, you
expect to exercise a certain amount of loving care over it.  My
father and mother constantly send things to their children absent
from home, and they take much pleasure in doing it.  That is
between you and your daughter, of course.  I shouldn't think of
interfering.  But in the meantime, unless Miss Pryor has been
converted to the beauties of plowing through my continuous
performance of over a week, I stand now exactly where I did
before, so far as she is concerned.  If you and Mrs. Pryor have
no objection to me, if you feel that you could think of me, or
find for me any least part of a son's place in your hearts, I
believe I should know how to appreciate it, and how to go to work
to make myself worthy of it."

Mr. Pryor sat down so suddenly, the rail almost broke.  I thought
the truth was, that he had heart trouble, himself.  He stopped
up, choked on things, flopped around, and turned so white.  I
suppose he thought it was womanish, and a sign of weakness.  and
so he didn't tell, but I bet anything that he had it--bad!

"I'll try to make the little fool see!" he said.

"Gently, gently!  You won't help me any in that mood," said
Laddie.  "The chances are that Miss Pryor repeated what she heard
from you long ago, and what she knows you think and feel, unless
you've changed recently."

"That's the amount of it!" cried Mr. Pryor.  "All my life I've
had a lot of beastly notions in my head about rank, and class,
and here they don't amount to a damn!  There's no place for them.
Things are different.  Your mother, a grand, good woman, opened
my eyes to many things recently, and I get her viewpoint--
clearly, and I agree with her, and with you, sir!--I agree with
you!"

"I am more than glad," said Laddie.  "You certainly make a friend
at court.  Thank you very much!"

"And you will come----?"

"The instant Miss Pryor gives me the slightest sign that I am
wanted, and will be welcomed by her, I'll come like a Dakota
blizzard!  Flos can hump herself on time for once."

"But you won't come until she does?"

"Man alive!  I can't!" cried Laddie.  "Your daughter said
positively exactly what she meant.  It was unexpected and it hit
me so hard I didn't try to argue.  I simply took her at her word,
her very explicit word."

"Fool!" cried Mr. Pryor.  "The last thing on earth any woman ever
wants or expects is for a man to take her at her word."

"What?" cried Laddie.

"She had what she said in her mind of course, but what she wanted
was to be argued out of it!  She wanted to be convinced!"

"I think not!  She was entirely too convincing herself," said
Laddie.  "It's my guess that she has thought matters over, and
that her mind is made up; but I would take it as a mighty big
favour if you would put that little piece of special pleading
squarely up to her.  Will you?"

"Yes," said Mr. Pryor, "I will.  I'll keep cool and do my best,
but I am so unfortunate in my temper.  I could manage slaves
better than women.  This time I'll be calm, and reason things out
with her, or I'll blow out my brains."

"Don't you dare!" laughed Laddie.  "You and I are going to get
much pleasure, comfort and profit from this world, now that we
have come to an understanding."

Mr. Pryor arose and held out his hand.  Laddie grasped it tight,
and they stood there looking straight at each other, while a lark
on the fence post close by cried, "Spring o' ye-ar !" at them,
over and over, but they never paid the least attention.

"You see," said Mr. Pryor, "I've been thinking things over
deeply, deeply! ever since talking with your mother.  I've cut
myself off from going back to England, by sacrificing much of my
property in hasty departure, if by any possibility I should ever
want to return, and there is none, not the slightest!  There's no
danger of any one crossing the sea, and penetrating to this
particular spot so far inland; we won't be molested!  And
lately--lately, despite the rawness, and the newness, there is
something about the land that takes hold, after all.  I should
dislike leaving now!  I found in watching some roots your mother
gave me, that I wanted them to grow, that I very much hoped they
would develop, and beautify our place with flowers, as yours is. 
I find myself watching them, watching them daily, and oftener,
and there seems to be a sort of home feeling creeping around my
heart.  I wish Pamela would listen to reason!  I wish she would
marry you soon!  I wish there would be little children.  Nothing
else on earth would come so close to comforting my wife, and me
also.  Nothing!  Go ahead, lad, plow away!  I'll put your special
pleading up to the girl."

He clasped Laddie's hand, mounted and rode back to the gate he
had entered when he came.  Laddie sat on the rail, so I climbed
down beside him.  He put his arm around me.

"Do I feel any better?" he asked dubiously.

"Of course you do!" I said stoutly.  "You feel whole heaps, and
stacks, and piles better.  You haven't got him to fight any more,
or Mrs. Pryor.  It's now only to convince the Princess about how
it's all right to plow."

"Small matter, that!" said Laddie.  "And easy!  Just as simple
and easy!"

"Have you asked the Fairies to help you?"

"Aye, aye, sir," said Laddie.  "Also the winds, the flowers, the
birds and the bees!  I have asked everything on earth to help me
except you, Little Sister.  I wonder if I have been making a
mistake there?"

"Are you mad at me, Laddie?"

"'Cause for why?"

"About the old crest thing!"

"Forget it!" laughed Laddie.  "I have.  And anyway, in the long
run, I must be honest enough to admit that it may have helped. 
It seems to have had its influence with Mr. Pryor, no doubt it
worked the same on Mrs. Pryor, and it may be that it was because
she had so much more to bank on than she ever expected, that the
Princess felt emboldened to make her demand.  It may be, you
can't tell!  Anyway, it's very evident that it did no real harm. 
And forget my jesting, Chicken.  A man can't always cry because
there are tears in his heart.  I think quite as much of that
crest as you do.  In the sum of human events, it is a big thing. 
No one admires a Crusader more than I.  No one likes a good fight
better.  No Crusader ever put up a stiffer battle than I have in
the past week while working in these fields.  Every inch of them
is battlefield, every furrow a separate conflict.  Gaze upon the
scene of my Waterloo!  When June covers it with green, it will
wave over the resting place of my slain heart!"

"Oh Laddie!" I sobbed.  "There you go again!  How can you?"

"Whoo-pee!" cried Laddie.  "That's the question!  How can I?  Got
to, Little Sister!  There's no other way."

"No," I was forced to admit, "there isn't.  What are we going to
do now?"

"Life-saver, we'll now go to dinner," said Laddie.  "Nothing
except the partnership implied in `we' sustains me now.  YOU'LL
FIND A WAY TO HELP ME OUT, WON'T YOU, LITTLE SISTER?"

"OF COURSE I WILL!" I promised, without ever stopping a minute to
think what kind of a job that was going to be.

Did you ever wish with all your might that something would
happen, and wait for it, expect it, and long for it, and nothing
did, until it grew so bad, it seemed as if you had to go on
another minute you couldn't bear it?  Now I thought when Mr.
Pryor talked to her, maybe she'd send for Laddie that very same
night; but send nothing!  She didn't even ride on our road any
more.  Of course her father had made a botch of it!  Bet I could
have told her Laddie's message straighter than he did.  I could
think it over, and see exactly how he'd do.  He'd talk nicely
about one minute, and the first word she said, that he didn't
like, he'd be ranting, and using unsuitable words.  Just as like
as not he told her that he'd lay his whip across her shoulders,
like he had Laddie.  Any one could see that as long as she was
his daughter, she might be slightly handy with whips herself; at
least she wouldn't be likely to stand still and tell him to go
ahead and beat her.

Sunday Laddie went to Lucy's.  He said he was having a family
reunion on the installment plan.  Of course we laughed, but none
of us missed the long look he sent toward Pryors' as he mounted
to start in the opposite direction.

Everything went on.  I didn't see how it could, but it did.  It
even got worse, for another letter came from Shelley that made
matters concerning her no brighter, and while none of us talked
about Laddie, all of us knew mighty well how we felt; and what
was much worse, how he felt.  Father and mother had quit worrying
about God; especially father.  He seemed to think that God and
Laddie could be trusted to take care of the Princess, and I don't
know exactly what mother thought.  No doubt she saw she couldn't
help herself, and so she decided it was useless to struggle.

The plowing on the west side was almost finished, and some of the
seed was in.  Laddie went straight ahead flower-trimmed and
whistling until his face must have ached as badly as his heart. 
In spite of how hard he tried to laugh, and keep going, all of us
could see that he fairly had to stick up his head and stretch his
neck like the blue goose, to make the bites go down.  And you
couldn't help seeing the roundness and the colour go from his
face, a little more every day.  My! but being in love, when you
couldn't have the one you loved, was the worst of all.  I wore
myself almost as thin as Laddie, hunting a Fairy to ask if she'd
help me to make the Princess let Laddie go on and plow, when he
was so crazy about it.  I prayed beside my bed every night, until
the Lord must have grown so tired He quit listening to me, for I
talked right up as impressively as I knew how, and it didn't do
the least bit of good.  I hadn't tried the one big prayer toward
the east yet; but I was just about to the place where I intended
to do it soon.



CHAPTER XV

Laddie, the Princess, and the Pie

            "O whistle, and I'll come to you, my lad."

Candace was baking the very first batch of rhubarb pies for the
season and the odour was so tempting I couldn't keep away from
the kitchen door.  Now Candace was a splendid cook about chicken
gizzards--the liver was always mother's--doughnuts and tarts, but
I never really did believe she would cut into a fresh rhubarb
pie, even for me.  As I reached for the generous big piece I
thought of Laddie poor Laddie, plowing away at his Crusader
fight, and not a hint of victory.  No one in the family liked
rhubarb pie better than he did.  I knew there was no use to ask
for a plate.

"Wait--oh wait!" I cried.

I ran to the woodshed, pulled a shining new shingle from a bale
stacked there, and held it for Candace.  Then I slipped around
the house softly.  I didn't want to run any one's errands that
morning.  I laid the pie on the horseblock and climbed the
catalpa carefully, so as not to frighten my robins.  They were
part father's too, because robins were his favourite birds; he
said their song through and after rain was the sweetest music on
earth, and mostly he was right; so they were not all my robins,
but they were most mine after him; and I owned the tree.  I
hunted the biggest leaf I could see, and wiped it clean on my
apron, although it was early for much dust.  It covered the pie
nicely, because it was the proper shape, and I held the stem with
one hand to keep it in place.


If I had made that morning myself I couldn't have done better. 
It was sunny, spring air, but it was that cool, spicy kind that
keeps you stopping every few minutes to see just how full you can
suck your lungs without bursting.  It seemed to wash right
through and through and make you all over.  The longer you
breathed it the clearer your head became, and the better you
felt, until you would be possessed to try and see if you really
couldn't fly.  I tried that last summer, and knocked myself into
jelly.  You'd think once would have been enough, but there I was
going down the road with Laddie's pie, and wanting with all my
heart to try again.

Sometimes I raced, but I was a little afraid the pie would shoot
from the shingle and it was like pulling eye teeth to go fast
that morning.  I loved the soft warm dust, that was working up on
the road.  Spat!  Spat!  I brought down my bare feet, already
scratched and turning brown, and laughed to myself at the velvety
feel of it.  There were little puddles yet, where May and I had
"dipped and faded" last fall, and it was fun to wade them.  The
roadsides were covered with meadow grass and clover that had
slipped through the fence.  On slender green blades, in spot
after spot, twinkled the delicate bloom of blue-eyed grass. 
Never in all this world was our Big Creek lovelier.  It went
slipping, and whispering, and lipping, and lapping over the
stones, tugging at the rushes and grasses as it washed their
feet; everything beside it was in masses of bloom, a blackbird
was gleaming and preening on every stone, as it plumed after its
bath.  Oh there's no use to try--it was just SPRING when it
couldn't possibly be any better.

But even spring couldn't hold me very long that morning, for you
see my heart was almost sick about Laddie; and if he couldn't
have the girl he wanted, at least I could do my best to comfort
him with the pie.  I was going along being very careful the more
I thought about how he would like it, so I was not watching the
road so far ahead as I usually did.  I always kept a lookout for
Paddy Ryan, Gypsies, or Whitmore's bull.  When I came to an
unusually level place, and took a long glance ahead, my heart
turned right over and stopped still, and I looked long enough to
be sure, and then right out loud some one said, "I'll DO
something!" and as usual, I was the only one there.

For days I'd been in a ferment, like the vinegar barrel when the
cider boils, or the yeast jar when it sets too close to the
stove.  To have Laddie and the Princess separated was dreadful,
and knowing him as I did, I knew he never really would get over
it.  I had tried to help once, and what I had done started things
going wrong; no wonder I was slow about deciding what to try
next.  That I was going to do something, I made up my mind the
instant Laddie said he was not mad at me; that I was his partner,
and asked me to help; but exactly WHAT would do any good, took
careful thought.

Here was my chance coming right at me.  She was far up the road,
riding Maud like racing.  I began to breathe after a while, like
you always do, no matter how you are worked up, and with my brain
whirling, I went slowly toward her.  How would I manage to stop
her?  Or what could I say that would help Laddie?  I was shaking,
and that's the truth; but through and over it all, I was watching
her too.  I only wish you might have seen her that morning.  Of
course the morning was part of it.  A morning like that would
make a fence post better looking.  Half a mile away you could see
she was tipsy with spring as I was, or the song sparrows, or the
crazy babbling old bobolinks on the stakes and riders.  She made
such a bright splash against the pink fence row, with her dark
hair, flushed cheeks, and red lips, she took my breath.  Father
said she was the loveliest girl in three counties, and Laddie
stretched that to the whole world.  As she came closer, smash!
through me went the thought that she looked precisely as Shelley
had at Christmas time; and Shelley had been that way because she
was in love with the Paget man.  Now if the Princess was gleaming
and flashing like that, for the same reason, there wasn't any one
for her to love so far as I knew, except Laddie.

Then smash! came another thought.  She HAD to love him!  She
couldn't help herself.  She had all winter, all last summer, and
no one but themselves knew how long before that, and where was
there any other man like Laddie?  Of course she loved him!  Who
so deserving of love?  Who else had his dancing eyes of deep
tender blue, cheeks so pink, teeth so white, such waving chestnut
hair, and his height and breadth?  There was no other man who
could ride, swim, leap, and wrestle as he could.  None who could
sing the notes, do the queer sums with letters having little
figures at the corners in the college books, read Latin as fast
as English, and even the Greek Bible.  Of course she loved him! 
Every one did!  Others might plod and meander, Laddie walked the
tired, old road that went out of sight over the hill, with as
prideful a step as any king; his laugh was as merry as the song
of the gladdest thrush, while his touch was so gentle that when
mother was in dreadful pain I sometimes thought she would a
little rather have him hold her than father.

Now, he was in this fearful trouble, the colour was going from
his face, his laugh was a little strained, and the heartache
almost more than he could endure--and there she came!  I stepped
squarely in the middle of the road so she would have to stop or
ride over me, and when she was close, I stood quite still.  I was
watching with my eyes, heart, and brain, and I couldn't see that
she was provoked, as she drew rein and cried:  "Good morning,
Little Queer Person!"

I had supposed she would say Little Sister, she had for ages,
just like Laddie, but she must have thought it was queer for me
to stop her that way, so she changed.  I was in for it.  I had
her now, so I smiled the very sweetest smile that I could think
up in such a hurry, and said, "Good morning," the very politest I
ever did in all my life.  Then I didn't know what to do next, but
she helped me out.

"What have you there?" she asked.

"It's a piece of the very first rhubarb pie for this spring, and
I'm carrying it to Laddie," I said, as I lifted the catalpa leaf
and let her peep, just to show her how pie looked when it was
right.  I bet she never saw a nicer piece.

The Princess slid her hand down Maud's neck to quiet her
prancing, and leaned in the saddle, her face full of interest.  I
couldn't see a trace of anything to discourage me; her being on
our road again looked favourable.  She seemed to think quite as
much of that pie as I did.  She was the finest little
thoroughbred.  She understood so well, I was sorry I couldn't
give it to her.  It made her mouth water all right, for she drew
a deep breath that sort of quivered; but it was no use, she
didn't get that pie.

"I think it looks delicious," she said.  "Are you carrying it for
Candace?"

"No!  She gave it to me.  It's my very own."

"And you're doing without it yourself to carry it to Laddie, I'll
be bound!" cried the Princess.

"I'd much rather," I said.

"Do you love Laddie so dearly?" she asked.

My heart was full of him right then; I forgot all about when I
had the fever, and as I never had been taught to lie, I told her
what I thought was the truth, and I guess it WAS:  "Best of any
one in all this world!"

The Princess looked across the field, where she must have seen
him finishing the plowing, and thought that over, and I waited,
sure in my mind, for some reason, that she would not go for a
little while longer.

"I have been wanting to see you," she said at last.  "In fact I
think I came this way hoping I'd meet you.  Do you know the words
to a tune that goes like this?"

Then she began to whistle "The Merry Farmer Boy." I wish you
might have heard the flourishes she put to it.

"Of course I do," I answered.  "All of us were brought up on it."

"Well, I have some slight curiosity to learn what they are," she
said.  "Would you kindly repeat them for me?"

"Yes," I said.  "This is the first verse:

"`See the merry farmer boy tramp the meadows through,
  Swing his hoe in careless joy while dashing off the dew.
  Bobolink in maple high----'

"Of course you can see for yourself that they're not.  There
isn't a single one of them higher than a fence post.  The person
who wrote the piece had to put it that way so high would rhyme
with reply, which is coming in the next line."

"I see!" said the Princess.

        "`Bobolink in maple high, trills a note of glee
          Farmer boy a gay reply now whistles cheerily.'


"Then you whistle the chorus like you did it."

"You do indeed!" said the Princess.  "Proceed!"

"`Then the farmer boy at noon, rests beneath the shade,
  Listening to the ceaseless tune that's thrilling through
                            the glade.
  Long and loud the harvest fly winds his bugle round,
  Long, and loud, and shrill, and high, he whistles back
                            the sound.'"


"He does!  He does indeed!  I haven't a doubt about that!" cried
the Princess.  "`Long, and loud, and shrill, and high,' he
whistles over and over the sound, until it becomes maddening.  Is
that all of that melodious, entrancing production?"

"No, evening comes yet.  The last verse goes this way:

"`When the busy day's employ, ends at dewy eve,
  Then the happy farmer boy, doth haste his work to leave,
  Trudging down the quiet lane, climbing o'er the hill,
  Whistling back the changeless wail, of plaintive               

              whip-poor-will,'--

and then you do the chorus again, and if you know how well enough
you whistle in, `whip-poor-will,' 'til the birds will answer you.
Laddie often makes them."

"My life!" cried the Princess.  "Was that he doing those bird
cries?  Why, I hunted, and hunted, and so did father.  We'd never
seen a whip-poor-will.  Just fancy us!"

"If you'd only looked at Laddie," I said.

"My patience!" cried the Princess.  "Looked at him!  There was no
place to look without seeing him.  And that ear-splitting thing
will ring in my head forever, I know."

"Did he whistle it too high to suit you, Princess?"

"He was perfectly welcome to whistle as he chose," she said, "and
also to plow with the carriage horses, and to bedeck them and
himself with the modest, shrinking red tulip and yellow
daffodil."

Now any one knows that tulips and daffodils are NOT modest and
shrinking.  If any flowers just blaze and scream colour clear
across a garden, they do.  She was provoked, you could see that.

"Well, he only did it to please you," I said.  "He didn't care
anything about it.  He never plowed that way before.  But you
said he mustn't plow at all, and he just had to plow, there was
no escaping that, so he made it as fine and happy as possible to
show you how nicely it could be done."

"Greatly obliged, I'm sure!" cried the Princess.  "He showed me! 
He certainly did!  And so he feels that there's `no escaping'
plowing, does he?"

Then I knew where I was.  I'd have given every cent of mine in
father's chest till, if mother had been in my place.  Once, for a
second, I thought I'd ask the Princess to go with me to the
house, and let mother tell her how it was; but if she wouldn't
go, and rode away, I felt I couldn't endure it, and anyway, she
had said she was looking for me; so I gripped the shingle, dug in
my toes and went at her just as nearly like mother talked to her
father as I could remember, and I'd been put through memory
tests, and descriptive tests, nearly every night of my life, so I
had most of it as straight as a string.

"Well, you see, he CAN'T escape it," I said.  "He'd do anything
in all this world for you that he possibly could; but there are
some things no man CAN do."

"I didn't suppose there was anything you thought Laddie couldn't
do," she said.

"A little time back, I didn't," I answered.  "But since he took
the carriage horses, trimmed up in flowers, and sang and whistled
so bravely, day after day, when his heart was full of tears, why
I learned that there was something he just COULDN'T DO; NOT TO
SAVE HIS LIFE, OR HIS LOVE, OR EVEN TO SAVE YOU."

"And of course you don't mind telling me what that is?" coaxed
the Princess in her most wheedling tones.

"Not at all!  He told our family, and I heard him tell your
father.  The thing he can't do, not even to win you, is to be
shut up in a little office, in a city, where things roar, and
smell, and nothing is like this----"

I pointed out the orchard, hill, and meadow, so she looked where
I showed her--looked a long time.

"No, a city wouldn't be like this," she said slowly.

"And that isn't even the beginning," I said.  "Maybe he could
bear that, men have been put in prison and lived through years
and years of it, perhaps Laddie could too; I doubt it! but anyway
the worst of it is that he just couldn't, not even to save you,
spend all the rest of his life trying to settle other people's
old fusses.  He despises a fuss.  Not one of us ever in our lives
have been able to make him quarrel, even one word.  He simply
won't.  And if he possibly could be made to by any one on earth,
Leon would have done it long ago, for he can start a fuss with
the side of a barn.  But he can't make Laddie fuss, and nobody
can.  He NEVER would at school, or anywhere.  Once in a while if
a man gets so overbearing that Laddie simply can't stand it, he
says:  `Now, you'll take your medicine!'  Then he pulls off his
coat, and carefully, choosing the right spots, he just pounds the
breath out of that man, but he never stops smiling, and when he
helps him up he always says:  `Sorry! hope you'll excuse me, but
you WOULD have it.'  That's what he said about you, that you had
to take your medicine----"

I made a mistake there.  That made her too mad for any use.

"Oh," she cried, "I do? I'll jolly well show the gentleman!"

"Oh, you needn't take the trouble," I cried.  "He's showing you!"

She just blazed like she'd break into flame.  Any one could fuss
with her all right; but that was the last thing on earth I wanted
to do.

"You see he already knows about you," I explained as fast as I
could talk, for I was getting into an awful mess.  "You see he
knows that you want him to be a lawyer, and that he must quit
plowing before he can be more than friends with you.  That's what
he's plowing for!  If it wasn't for that, probably he wouldn't;
be plowing at all.  He asked father to let him, and he borrowed
mother's horses, and he hooked the flowers through the fence. 
Every night when he comes home, he kneels beside mother and asks
her if he is `repulsive,' and she takes him in her arms and the
tears roll down her cheeks and she says:  `Father has farmed all
his life, and you know how repulsive he is.'"

I ventured an upward peep.  I was doing better.  Her temper
seemed to be cooling, but her face was a jumble.  I couldn't find
any one thing on it that would help me, so I just stumbled ahead
guessing at what to say.

"He didn't WANT to do it.  He perfectly HATED it.  Those fields
were his Waterloo.  Every furrow was a FIGHT, but he was FORCED
to show you."

"Exactly WHAT was he trying to show me?"

"I can think of three things he told me," I answered.  "That
plowing could be so managed as not to disfigure the
landscape----"

"The dunce!" she said.

"That he could plow or do dirtier work, and not be repulsive----"

"The idiot!" she said.

"That if he came over there, and plowed right under your nose,
when you'd told him he mustn't, or he couldn't be more than
friends; and when you knew that he'd much rather die and be laid
beside the little sisters up there in the cemetery than to NOT be
more than friends, why, you'd see, if he did THAT, he couldn't
help it, that he just MUST.  That he was FORCED----"

"The soldier!" she said.

"Oh Princess, he didn't want to!" I cried.  "He tells me secrets
he doesn't any one else, unless you.  He told me how he hated it;
but he just had to do it."

"Do you know WHY?"

"Of course!  It's the way he's MADE!  Father is like that!  He
has chances to live in cities, make big business deals, and go to
the legislature at Indianapolis; I've seen his letters from his
friend Oliver P. Morton, our Governor, you know; they're in his
chest till now; but father can't do it, because he is made so he
stays at home and works for us, and this farm, and township, and
county where he belongs.  He says if all men will do that the
millennium will come to-morrow.  I 'spose you know what the
millennium is?"

"I do!" said the Princess.  "But I don't know what your father
and his friend Oliver P. Morton have to do with Laddie."

"Why, everything on earth!  Laddie is father's son, you see, and
he is made like father.  None of our other boys is.  Not one of
them loves land.  Leon is going away as quick as ever he finishes
college; but the more you educate Laddie, the better he likes to
make things grow, the more he loves to make the world beautiful,
to be kind to every one, to gentle animals--why, the biggest
fight he ever had, the man he whipped 'til he most couldn't bring
him back again, was one who kicked his horse in the stomach. 
Gee, I thought he'd killed him!  Laddie did too for a while, but
he only said the man deserved it."

"And so he did!" cried the Princess angrily.  "How beastly!"

"That's one reason Laddie sticks so close to land.  He says he
doesn't meet nearly so many two-legged beasts in the country. 
Almost every time he goes to town he either gets into a fight or
he sees something that makes him fighting mad.  Princess, you
think this beautiful, don't you?"

I just pointed anywhere.  All the world was in it that morning. 
You couldn't look right or left and not see lovely places, hear
music, and smell flowers.

"Yes!  It is altogether wonderful!" she said.

"Would you like to live among this all your life, and have your
plans made to fix you a place even nicer, and then be forced to
leave it and go to a little room in the city, and make all the
money you earned off of how much other men fight over business,
and land and such perfectly awful things, that they always have
to be whispered when Jerry tells about them?  Would you?"

"You little dunce!" she cried.

"I know I'm a fool.  I know I'm not telling you a single thing I
should!  Maybe I'm hurting Laddie far more than I'm helping him,
and if I am, I wish I would die before I see him; but oh! 
Princess, I'm trying with all my might to make you understand how
he feels.  He WANTS to do every least thing you'd like him to. 
He will, almost any thing else in the world, he would this-- he
would in a minute, but he just CAN'T.  All of us know he can't! 
If you'd lived with him since he was little and always had known
him, you wouldn't ask him to; you wouldn't want him to!  You
don't know what you're doing!  Mother says you don't!  You'll
kill him if you send him to the city to live, you just will!  You
are doing it now!  He's getting thinner and whiter every day. 
Don't!  Oh please don't do it!"

The Princess was looking at the world.  She was gazing at it so
dazed-like she seemed to be surprised at what she saw.  She acted
as if she'd never really seen it before.  She looked and she
looked.  She even turned her horse a full circle to see all of
it, and she went around slowly.  I stepped from one foot to the
other and sweat; but I kept quiet and let her look.  At last when
she came around, she glanced down at me, and she was all melted,
and lovely as any one you ever saw, exactly like Shelley at
Christmas, and she said:  "I don't think I ever saw the world
before.  I don't know that I'm so crazy about a city myself, and
I perfectly hate lawyers.  Come to thing of it, a lawyer helped
work ruin in our family, and I never have believed, I never will
believe----"

She stopped talking and began looking again.  I gave her all the
time she needed.  I was just straining to be wise, for mother
says it takes the very wisest person there is to know when to
talk, and when to keep still.  As I figured it, now was the time
not to say another word until she made up her mind about what I
had told her already.  If Pryors didn't know what we thought of
them by that time, it wasn't mother's fault or mine.  As she
studied things over she kept on looking.  What she saw seemed to
be doing her a world of good.  Her face showed it every second
plainer and plainer.  Pretty soon it began to look like she was
going to come through as Amos Hurd did when he was redeemed. 
Then, before my very eyes, it happened!  I don't know how I ever
held on to the pie or kept from shouting, "Praise the Lord!" as
father does at the Meeting House when he is happiest.  Then she
leaned toward me all wavery, and shining eyed, and bloomful, and
said:  "Did you ever hurt Laddie's feelings, and make him angry
and sad?"

"I'm sure I never did," I answered.

"But suppose you had!  What would you do?"

"Do?  Why, I'd go to him on the run, and I'd tell him I never
intended to hurt his feelings, and how sorry I was, and I'd give
him the very best kiss I could."

The Princess stroked Maud's neck a long time and thought while
she studied our farm, theirs beyond it, and at the last, the far
field where Laddie was plowing.  She thought, and thought, and
afraid to cheep, I stood gripping the shingle and waited. 
Finally she said:  "The last time Laddie was at our house, I said
to him those things he repeated to you.  He went away at once,
hurt and disappointed.  Now, if you like, along with your
precious pie, you may carry him this message from me.  You may
tell him that I said I am sorry!"

I could have cried "Glory!" and danced and shouted there in the
road, but I didn't.  It was no time to lose my head.  That was
all so fine and splendid, as far as it went, but it didn't quite
cover the case.  I never could have done it for myself; but for
Laddie I would venture anything, so I looked her in the eyes,
straight as a dart, and said:  "He'd want the kiss too,
Princess!"

You could see her stiffen in the saddle and her fingers grip the
reins, but I kept on staring right into her eyes.

"I could come up, you know," I offered.

A dull red flamed in her cheeks and her lips closed tight.  One
second she sat very still, then a dancing light leaped sparkling
into her eyes; a flock of dimples chased each other around her
lips like swallows circling their homing place at twilight.

"What about that wonderful pie?" she asked me.

I ran to the nearest fence corner, and laid the shingle on the
gnarled roots of a Johnny Appleseed apple tree.  Then I set one
foot on the arch of the Princess' instep and held up my hands. 
One second I thought she would not lift me, the next I was on her
level and her lips met mine in a touch like velvet woven from
threads of flame.  Then with a turn of her stout little wrist,
she dropped me, and a streak went up our road.  Nothing so
amazing and so important ever had happened to me.  It was an
occasion that demanded something unusual.  To cry, "Praise the
Lord!" was only to repeat an hourly phrase at our house; this
demanded something out of the ordinary, so I said just exactly as
father did the day the brown mare balked with the last load of
seed clover, when a big storm was breaking--"Jupiter Ammon!"

When I had calmed down so I could, I climbed the fence, and
reached through a crack for the pie.  As I followed the cool,
damp furrow, and Laddie's whistle, clear as the lark's above the
wheat, thrilled me, I was almost insane with joy.  Just joy! 
Pure joy!  Oh what a good world it was!--most of the time!  Most
of the time!  Of course, there WERE Paget men in it.  But anyway,
THIS couldn't be beaten.  I had a message for Laddie from the
Princess that would send him to the seventh heaven, wherever that
was; no one at our house spent any time thinking farther than the
first one.  I had her kiss, that I didn't know what would do to
him, and I also had a big piece of juicy rhubarb pie not yet
entirely cold.  If that didn't wipe out the trouble I had made
showing the old crest thing, nothing ever could.  I knew even
then, that men were pretty hard to satisfy, but I was quite
certain that Laddie would be satisfied that morning.  As I
hurried along I wondered whether it would be better to give him
my gift first, or the Princess'.  I decided that joy would keep,
while the pie was cold enough, with all the time I had stopped;
and if I told him about her first, maybe he wouldn't touch it at
all, and it wasn't so easy as it looked to carry it to him and
never even once stick in my finger for the tiniest lick--joy
would keep; but I was going to feed him; so with shining face, I
offered the pie and stood back to see just how happy I could get.

"Mother send it?" asked Laddie.

People were curious that morning, as if I had a habit of stealing
pie.  I only took pieces of cut ones from the cellar when mother
didn't care.  So I explained again that Candace gave it to me,
and I was free to bring it.

"Oh I see!" said Laddie.

After nearly two weeks of work, the grays had sobered down enough
to stand without tying; so he wound the lines around the plow
handle, sat on the beam, and laid aside his hat, having a fresh
flower in the band.  Once he started a thing, he just simply
wouldn't give up.  He unbuttoned his neckband until I could see
his throat where it was white like a woman's, took out his knife
and ate that pie.  Of course we knew better than to use a knife
at the table, but there was no other way in the field.  He ate
that pie, slowly and deliberately, and between bites he talked. 
I watched him with a wide grin, wondering what in this world he
WOULD say, in a minute.  I don't think I ever had quite such a
good time in all my life before, and I never expect to again.  He
was saying:  "Talk about nectar and ambrosia!  Talk about the
feasts of Lucullus!  Talk about food for the Gods!"

I put on his hat, sat on the ground in front of him, and was the
happiest girl in the world, of that I am quite sure.  When the
last morsel was finished, Laddie looked at me steadily.

"I wonder," he said, "I wonder if there's another man in the
world who is blest with quite such a loving, unselfish little
sister as mine?"  Then he answered himself:  "No!  By all the
Gods, ant half-Gods, I swear it--No!"

It was grand as a Fourth of July oration or the most exciting
part when the Bishop dedicated our church.  I couldn't hold in
another second, I could hear my heart beat.

"Oh Laddie!" I shouted, jumping up, "that pie is only the
beginning of the good things I have brought you.  I have a
message, and a gift besides, Laddie!"

"A message and a gift?" Laddie repeated.  "What!  More?"

"Truly I have a message and a gift for you," I cried, "and
Laddie--they are from the Princess!"

His eyes raised to mine now, and slowly he turned Sabethany-like.

"From the Princess!" he exclaimed.  "A message and a gift for me,
Little Sister?  You never would let Leon put you up to serve me a
trick?"

That hurt.  He should have KNOWN I wouldn't, and besides, "Leon
feels just as badly about this as any of us," I said.  "Have you
forgotten he offered to plow, and let you do the clean, easy
work?"

"Forgive me!  I'm overanxious," said Laddie, his arms reaching
for me.  "Go on and tell carefully, and if you truly love me,
don't make a mistake!"

Crowding close, my arms around his neck, his crisp hair against
my lips, I whispered my story softly, for this was such a fine
and splendid secret, that not even the shining blackbirds, and
the pert robins in the furrows were going to get to hear a word
of it.  Before I had finished Laddie was breathing as Flos does
when he races her the limit.  He sat motionless for a long time,
while over his face slowly crept a beauty that surpassed that of
Apollo in his Greek book.

"And her gift?"

It was only a breath.

"She helped me up, and she sent you this," I answered.

Then I set my lips on his, and held them there a second, trying
my level best to give him her very kiss, but of course I could
only try.

"Oh, Laddie," I cried.  "Her eyes were like when stars shine down
in our well!  Her cheeks were like mother's damask roses!  She
smelled like flowers, and when her lips touched mine little
stickers went all over me!"

Then Laddie's arms closed around me and I thought sure every bone
in my body was going to be broken; when he finished there wasn't
a trace of that kiss left for me.  Remembering it would be all
I'd ever have.  It made me see what would have happened to the
Princess if she had been there; and it was an awful pity for her
to miss it, because he'd sober down a lot before he reached her,
but I was sure as shooting that he wouldn't be so crazy as to
kiss her hands again.  Peter wasn't a patching to him!

That night Laddie rode to Pryors'.  When he brought Flos to the
gate you could see the shadow of your face on her shining flank;
her mane and tail were like ravelled silk, her hoofs bright as
polished horn, and her muzzle was clean as a ribbon.  I broke one
of those rank green sprouts from the snowball bush and brushed
away the flies, so she wouldn't fret, stamp, and throw dust on
herself.  Then Laddie came, fresh from a tubbing, starched linen,
dressed in his new riding suit, and wearing top hat and
gauntlets.  He looked the very handsomest I ever had seen him;
and at the same time, he seemed trembling with tenderness, and
bursting with power.  Goodness sake!  I bet the Princess took one
good look and "came down" like Davy Crockett's coon.  Mother was
on his arm and she walked clear to the gate with him.

"LADDIE, ARE YOU SURE ENOUGH TO GO?" I heard her ask him whisper-
like.

"SURE AS DEATH!" Laddie answered.

Mother looked, and she had to see how it was with him; no doubt
she saw more than I did from having been through it herself, so
she smiled kind of a half-sad, half-glad smile.  Then she turned
to her damask rose bush, the one Lucy brought her from the city,
and that she was so precious about, that none of us dared touch
it, and she searched all over it and carefully selected the most
perfect rose.  When she borrowed Laddie's knife and cut the stem
as long as my arm, I knew exactly how great and solemn the
occasion was; for always before about six inches had been her
limit.  She held it toward him, smiling bravely and beautifully,
but the tears were running straight down her cheeks.

"Take it to her," she said.  "I think, my son, it is very like."

Laddie took her in his arms and wiped away the tears; he told her
everything would come out all right about God, and the mystery,
even.  Then he picked me clear off the ground, and he tried to
see how near he could come to cracking every bone in my body
without really doing it, and he kissed me over and over.  It
hadn't been so easy, but I guess you'll admit that paid.  Then he
rode away with the damask rose waving over his heart.  Mother and
I stood beside the hitching rack and looked after him, with our
arms tight around each other while we tried to see which one
could bawl the hardest.



CHAPTER XVI

The Homing Pigeon

            "A millstone and the human heart,
             Are ever driven round,
             And if they've nothing else to grind,
             They must themselves be ground."

It seemed to me that my mother was the person who really could
have been excused for having heart trouble.  The more I watched
her, the more I wondered that she didn't.  There was her own
life, the one she and father led, where everything went exactly
as she wanted it to; and if there had been only themselves to
think of, no people on earth could have lived happier, unless the
pain she sometimes suffered made them trouble, and I don't think
it would, for neither of them were to blame for that.  They
couldn't help it.  They just had it to stand, and fight the
stiffest they could to cure it, and mother always said she was
better; every single time any one asked, she was better.  I hoped
soon it would all be gone.  Then they could have been happy for
sure, if some of us hadn't popped up and kept them in hot water
all the time.

I can't tell you about Laddie when he came back from Pryors'.  He
tore down the house, then tore it up, and then threw around the
pieces, and none of us cared.  Every one was just laughing,
shouting, and every bit as pleased as he was, while I was the
Queen Bee.  Laddie said so, himself, and if he didn't know, no
one did.  Pryors had been lovely to him.  When mother asked him
how he made it, he answered:  "I rode over, picked up the
Princess and helped myself.  After I finished, I remembered the
little unnecessary formality of asking her to marry me; and she
said right out loud that she WOULD.  When I had time for them, I
reached Father and Mother Pryor, and maybe it doesn't show, but
somewhere on my person I carry their blessing, genially and
heartily given, I am proud to state.  Now, I'm only needing
yours, to make me a king among men."

They gave it quite as willingly, I am sure, although you could
see mother scringe when Laddie said "Father and Mother Pryor."  I
knew why.  She adored Laddie, like the Bible says you must adore
the Almighty.  From a tiny baby Laddie had taken care of her.  He
used to go back, take her hand, and try to help her over rough
places while he still wore dresses.  Straight on, he had been
like that; always seeing when there was too much work and trying
to shield her; always knowing when a pain was coming and fighting
to head it off; always remembering the things the others forgot,
going to her last at night, and his face against hers on her
pillow the first in the morning, to learn how she was before he
left the house.  If you were the mother of a man like that, how
would you like to hear him call some one else mother, and have
the word slip from his tongue so slick you could see he didn't
even realize that he had used it?  The answer would be, if you
were honest, that you wouldn't have liked it any more than she
did.  She knew he had to go.  She wanted him to be happy.  She
was as sure of the man he was going to be as she was sure of the
mercy of God.  That is the strongest way I know to tell it.  She
was unshakably sure of the mercy of God, but I wasn't.  There
were times when it seemed as if He couldn't hear the most
powerful prayer you could pray, and when instead of mercy, you
seemed to get the last torment that could be piled on.  Take
right now.  Laddie was happy, and all of us were, in a way; and
in another we were almost stiff with misery.

I dreaded his leaving us so, I would slip to the hawk oak and cry
myself sick, more than once; whether any of the others were that
big babies I don't know; but anyway, THEY were not his Little
Sister.  I was.  I always had been.  I always would be, for that
matter; but there was going to be a mighty big difference.  I had
the poor comfort that I'd done the thing myself.  Maybe if it
hadn't been for stopping the Princess when I took him that pie,
they never would have made up, and she might have gone across the
sea and stayed there.  Maybe she'd go yet, as mysteriously as she
had come, and take him along.  Sometimes I almost wished I hadn't
tried to help him; but of course I didn't really.  Then, too, I
had sense enough to know that loving each other as they did, they
wouldn't live on that close together for years and years, and not
find a way to make up for themselves, like they had at the start.

I liked Laddie saying I had made his happiness for him; but I
wasn't such a fool that I didn't know he could have made it for
himself just as well, and no doubt better.  So everything was all
right with Laddie; and what happened to us, the day he rode away
for the last time, when he went to stay--what happened to us,
then, was our affair.  We had to take it, but every one of us
dreaded it, while mother didn't know how to bear it, and neither
did I.  Once I said to her:  "Mother, when Laddie goes we'll just
have to make it up to each other the best we can, won't we?"

"Oh my soul, child!" she cried, staring at me so surprised-like. 
"Why, how unspeakably selfish I have been!  No little lost sheep
ever ran this farm so desolate as you will be without your
brother.  Forgive me baby, and come here!"

Gee, but we did cry it out together!  The God she believed in has
wiped away her tears long ago; this minute I can scarcely see the
paper for mine.  If you could call anything happiness, that was
mixed with feeling like that, why, then, we were happy about
Laddie.  But from things I heard father and mother say, I knew
they could have borne his going away, and felt a trifle better
than they did.  I was quite sure they had stopped thinking that
he was going to lose his soul, but they couldn't help feeling so
long as that old mystery hung over Pryors that he might get into
trouble through it.  Father said if it hadn't been for Mr.
Pryor's stubborn and perverted notions about God, he would like
the man immensely, and love to be friends; and if Laddie married
into the family we would have to be as friendly as we could
anyway.  He said he had such a high opinion of Mr. Pryor's
integrity that he didn't believe he'd encourage Laddie to enter
his family if it would involve the boy in serious trouble. 
Mother didn't know.  Anyway, the thing was done, and by fall, no
doubt, Laddie would leave us.

Just when we were trying to keep a stiff upper lip before him,
and whistling as hard as ever he had, to brace our courage, a
letter came for mother from the head of the music school Shelley
attended, saying she was no longer fit for work, so she was being
sent home at once, and they would advise us to consult a
specialist immediately.  Mother sat and stared at father, and
father went to hitch the horses to drive to Groveville.

There's only one other day of my life that stands out as clearly
as that.  The house was clean as we could make it.  I finished
feeding early, and had most of the time to myself.  I went down
to the Big Hill, and followed the top of it to our woods.  Then I
turned around, and started toward the road, just idling.  If I
saw a lovely spot I sat down and watched all around me to see if
a Fairy really would go slipping past, or lie asleep under a
leaf.  I peeked and peered softly, going from spot to spot,
watching everything.  Sometimes I hung over the water, and
studied tiny little fish with red, yellow, and blue on them,
bright as flowers.  The dragonflies would alight right on me, and
some wore bright blue markings and some blood red.  There was a
blue beetle, a beautiful green fly, and how the blue wasps did
flip, flirt and glint in the light.  So did the blackbirds and
the redwings.  That embankment was left especially to shade the
water, and to feed the birds.  Every foot of it was covered with
alders, wild cherry, hazelbush, mulberries, everything having a
berry or nut.  There were several scrub apple trees, many red
haws, the wild strawberries spread in big beds in places, and
some of them were colouring.

Wild flowers grew everywhere, great beds were blue with calamus,
and the birds flocked in companies to drive away the water
blacksnakes that often found nests, and liked eggs and bird
babies.  When I came to the road at last, the sun was around so
the big oak on the top of the hill threw its shadow across the
bridge, and I lay along one edge and watched the creek bottom, or
else I sat up so the water flowed over my feet, and looked at the
embankment and the sky.  In a way, it was the most peculiar day
of my life.  I had plenty to think of, but I never thought at
all.  I only lived.  I sat watching the world go past through a
sort of golden haze the sun made.  When a pair of kingbirds and
three crows chased one of my hawks pell-mell across the sky, I
looked on and didn't give a cent what happened.  When a big
blacksnake darted its head through sweet grass and cattails, and
caught a frog that had climbed on a mossy stone in the shade to
dine on flies, I let it go.  Any other time I would have hunted a
stick and made the snake let loose.  To-day I just sat there and
let things happen as they did.

At last I wandered up the road, climbed the back garden fence,
and sat on the board at the edge of a flowerbed, and to-day, I
could tell to the last butterfly about that garden: what was in
bloom, how far things had grown, and what happened.  Bobby flew
under the Bartlett pear tree and crowed for me, but I never
called him.  I sat there and lived on, and mostly watched the
bees tumble over the bluebells.  They were almost ready to be cut
to put in the buttered tumblers for perfume, like mother made for
us.  Then I went into the house and looked at Grace Greenwood,
but I didn't take her along.  Mother came past and gave me a
piece of stiff yellow brocaded silk as lovely as I ever had seen,
enough for a dress skirt; and a hand-embroidered chemise sleeve
that only needed a band and a button to make a petticoat for a
Queen doll, but I laid them away and wandered into the orchard.

I dragged my bare feet through the warm grass, and finally sat
under the beet red peach tree.  If ever I seemed sort of lost and
sorry for myself, that was a good place to go; it was so easy to
feel abused there because you didn't dare touch those peaches. 
Fluffy baby chickens were running around, but I didn't care;
there was more than a bird for every tree, bluebirds especially;
they just loved us and came early and stayed late, and grew so
friendly they nested all over the wood house, smoke house, and
any place we fixed for them, and in every hollow apple limb. 
Bobby came again, but I didn't pay any attention to him.

Then I heard the carriage cross the bridge.  I knew when it was
father, every single time his team touched the first plank.  So I
ran like an Indian, and shinned up a cedar tree, scratching
myself until I bled.  Away up I stood on a limb, held to the tree
and waited.  Father drove to the gate, and mother came out, with
May, Candace, and Leon following.  When Shelley touched the
ground and straightened, any other tree except a spruce having
limbs to hold me up, I would have fallen from it.  She looked
exactly as if she had turned to tombstone with eyes and hair
alive.  She stopped a second to brush a little kiss across
mother's lips, to the others she said without even glancing at
them:  "Oh do let me lie down a minute!  The motion of that train
made me sick."

Well, I should say it did!  I quit living, and began thinking in
a hooray, and so did every one else at our house.  Once I had
been sick and queened it over them for a while, now all of us
strained ourselves trying to wait on Shelley; but she wouldn't
have it.  She only said she was tired to death, to let her rest,
and she turned her face to the wall and lay there.  Once she said
she never wanted to see a city again so long as she lived.  When
mother told her about Laddie and the Princess to try to interest
her, she never said a word; I doubted if she even listened. 
Father and mother looked at each other, when they thought no one
would see, and their eyes sent big, anxious questions flashing
back and forth.  I made up my mind I'd keep awake that night and
hear what they said, if I had to take pins to bed with me and
stick myself.

Once mother said to Shelley that she was going to send for Dr.
Fenner, and she answered:  "All right, if you need him.  Don't
you dare for me!  I'll not see him.  All I want is a little peace
and rest."

The idea!  Not one of us ever had spoken to mother like that
before in all our born days.  I held my breath to see what she
would do, but she didn't seem to have heard it, or to notice how
rude it had been.  Well, THAT told about as plain as anything
what we had on our hands.  I wandered around and NOW there was no
trouble about thinking things.  They came in such a jumble I
could get no sense from them; but one big black thought came
over, and over, and over, and wouldn't be put away.  It just
stood, stayed, forced you, and made you look it in the face.  If
Shelley weren't stopped quickly she was going up on the hill with
the little fever and whooping cough sisters.  There it was!  You
could try to think other things, to play, to work, to talk it
down in the pulpit, to sing it out in a tree, to slide down the
haystack away from it--there it stayed!  And every glimpse you
had of Shelley made it surer.

There was no trouble about keeping awake that night; I couldn't
sleep.  I stood at the window and looked down the Big Hill
through the soft white moonlight, and thought about it, and then
I thought of mother.  I guess NOW you see what kind of things
mothers have to face.  All day she had gone around doing her
work, every few minutes suggesting some new thing for one of us
to try, or trying it herself; all day she had talked and laughed,
and when Sarah Hood came she told her she thought Shelley must be
bilious, that she had travelled all night and was sleeping: but
she would be up the first place she went, and then they talked
all over creation and Mrs. Hood went home and never remembered
that she hadn't seen Shelley.  She worked Mrs. Freshett off the
same way, but you could see she was almost too tired to do it, so
by night she was nearly as white as Shelley, yet keeping things
going.  When the house was still, she came into the room, and
stood at the window as I had, until father entered, then she
turned, and I could see they were staring at each other in the
moonlight, as they had all day.

"She's sick?" asked father, at last.

"Heartsick!" said mother bitterly.

"We'd better have Doc come?"

"She says she isn't sick, and she won't see him."

"She will if I put my foot down."

"Best not, Paul!  She'll feel better soon.  She's so young!  She
must get over it."

They were silent for a long time and then father asked in a harsh
whisper:  "Ruth, can she possibly have brought us to shame?"

"God forbid!" cried mother.  "Let us pray."

Then those two people knelt on each side of that bed, and I could
hear half the words they muttered, until I was wild enough to
scream.  I wished with all my heart that I hadn't listened.  I
had always known it was no nice way.  I must have gone to sleep
after a while, but when I woke up I was still thinking about it,
and to save me, I couldn't quit.  All day, wherever I went, that
question of father's kept going over in my head.  I thought about
it until I was almost crazy, and I just couldn't see where
anything about shame came in.

She was only mistaken.  She THOUGHT he loved her, and he didn't. 
She never could have been so bloomy, so filled with song,
laughter, and lovely like she was, if she hadn't truly believed
with all her heart that he loved her.  Of course it would almost
finish her to give him up, when she felt like that; and maybe she
did wrong to let herself care so much, before she was sure about
him; but that would only be foolish, there wouldn't be even a
shadow of shame about it.  Besides, Laddie had done exactly the
same thing.  He loved the Princess until it nearly killed him
when he thought he had to give her up, and he loved her as hard
as ever he could, when he hadn't an idea whether she would love
him back, even a tiny speck; and the person who wasn't foolish,
and never would be, was Laddie.

The more I thought, the worse I got worked up, and I couldn't see
how Shelley was to blame for anything at all.  Love just came to
her, like it came to Laddie.  She would hardly have knelt down
and beseeched the Lord to make her fall in love with a man she
scarcely knew, and when she couldn't be sure what he was going to
do about it--not the Lord, the man, I mean.  You could see for
yourself she wouldn't do that.  I finished my work, and then I
tried to do things for her, and she wouldn't let me.  Mother told
me to ask her to make Grace Greenwood the dress she had promised
when I was so sick; so I took the Scotch plaid to her and
reminded her, and she pushed me away and said:  "Some time!"

I even got Grace, and showed Shelley the spills on her dress, and
how badly she needed a new one, but she never looked, she said: 
"Oh bother!  My head aches.  Do let me be!"

Mother was listening.  I could see her standing outside the door.

She motioned to me to come away, so I went to her and she was
white as Shelley.  She was sick too, she couldn't say a word for
a minute, but after a while she kissed me, I could feel the
quivers in her lips, and she said stifflike:  "Never mind, she'll
be better soon, then she will!  Run play now!"

Sometimes I wandered around looking at things and living dully. 
I didn't try to study out anything, but I must have watched
closer than I knew, for every single thing I saw then, over that
whole farm, I can shut my eyes and see to-day; everything, from
the old hawk tilting his tail to steer him in soaring, to a snake
catching field mice in the grass, lichens on the fence, flowers,
butterflies, every single thing.  Mostly I sat to watch something
that promised to become interesting, and before I knew it, I was
back on the shame question.  That's the most dreadful word in the
dictionary.  There's something about it that makes your face
burn, only to have it in your mind.

Laddie said he never had met any man who knew the origin of more
words than father.  He could even tell every clip what
nationality a man was from his name.  Hundreds of time I have
heard him say to stranger people, "From your name you'd be of
Scotch extraction," or Irish, or whatever it was, and every time
the person he was talking with would say, "Yes."  Some day away
out in the field, alone, I thought I would ask him what people
first used the word "shame," and just exactly what it did mean,
and what the things were that you could do that would make the
people who loved you until they would die for you, ashamed of
you.

Thinking about that and planning out what it was that I wanted to
know, gave me another idea.  Why not ask her?  She was the only
one who knew what she had done away there in the city, alone
among strangers; I wasn't sure whether all the music a girl could
learn was worth letting her take the chances she would have to in
a big city.  From the way Laddie and father hated them, they were
a poor place for men, and they must have been much worse for
girls.  Shelley knew, why not ask HER?  Maybe I could coax her to
tell me, and it would make my life much easier to know; and only
think what was going on in father's and mother's heads and
hearts, when I felt that way, and didn't even know what there was
to be ashamed about.  She wouldn't any more than slap me; and
sick as she was, I made up my mind not to get angry at her, or
ever to tell, if she did.  I'd rather have her hit me when she
was so sick than to have Sally beat me until she couldn't strike
another lick, just because she was angry.  But I forgave her
that, and I was never going to think of it again--only I did.

Mother kept sending Leon to the post-office, and she met him at
the gate half the time herself and fairly snatched the letters
from his hands.  Hum!  She couldn't pull the wool over my eyes. 
I knew she hoped somehow, some way, there would be a big fat one
with Paget, Legal Adviser, or whatever a Chicago lawyer puts on
his envelopes.  Jerry's just say:  "Attorney at Law."

No letter ever came that had Paget in the corner, or anything
happened that did Shelley any good.  Far otherwise!  Just before
supper Leon came from Groveville one evening, and all of us could
see at a glance that he had been crying like a baby.  He had
wiped up, and was trying to hold in, but he was killed, next.  I
nearly said, "Well, for heaven's sake, another!" when I saw him. 
He slammed down a big, long envelope, having printing on it,
before father, and glared at it as if he wanted to tear it to
smithereens, and he said:  "If you want to know why it looks like
that, I buried it under a stone once; but I had to go back, and
then I threw it as far as I could send it, into Ditton's gully,
but after a while I hunted it up again!"

Then he keeled over on the couch mother keeps for her in the
dining-room, and sobbed until he looked like he'd come apart.

Of course all of us knew exactly what that letter was from the
way he acted.  Mother had told him, time and again, not to set
his heart so; father had, too and Laddie, and every one of us,
but that little half-Arab, half-Kentucky mare was the worst
temptation a man who loved horses could possibly have; and while
father and mother stopped at good work horses, and matched
roadsters for the carriage, they managed to prize and tend them
so that every one of us had been born horse-crazy, and we had
been allowed to ride, care for, and taught to love horses all our
lives.  Treat a horse ugly, and we'd have gone on the thrashing
floor ourselves.

Father laid the letter face down, his hand on it, and shook his
head.  "This is too bad!" he said.  "It's a burning shame, but
the money, the exact amount, was taken from a farmer in Medina
County, Ohio, by a traveller he sheltered a few days, because he
complained of a bad foot.  The description of the man who robbed
us is perfect.  The money was from the sale of some prize cattle.
It will have to be returned."

"Just let me see the letter a minute," said Laddie.

He read it over thoughtfully.  He was long enough about it to
have gone over it three times; then he looked at Leon, and his
forehead creased in a deep frown.  The tears slid down mother's
cheeks, but she didn't know it, or else she'd have wiped them
away.  She was never mussy about the least little thing.

"Father!" she said.  "Father----!"

That was as far as she could go.

"The man must have his money," said father, "but we'll look into
this----"

He pushed back the plates and tablecloth, and cleared his end of
the table.  Mother never budged to stack the plates, or
straighten the cloth so it wouldn't be wrinkled.  Then father
brought his big account book from the black walnut chest in our
room, some little books, and papers, sharpened a pencil and began
going up and down the columns and picking out figures here and
there that he set on a piece of paper.  I never had seen him look
either old or tired before; but he did then.  Mother noticed it
too, for her lips tightened, she lifted her head, wiped her eyes,
and pretended that she felt better.  Laddie said something about
doing the feeding, and slipped out.  Just then Shelley came into
the room, stopped, and looked questioningly at us.  Her eyes
opened wide, and she stared hard at Leon.

"Why what ails him?" she asked mother.

"You remember what I wrote you about a man who robbed us, and the
money Leon was to have, provided no owner was found in a
reasonable time; and the horse the boy had planned to buy, and
how he had been going to Pryors'--Oh, I think he's slipped over
there once a day, and often three times, all this spring!  Mr.
Pryor encouraged him, let him take his older horses to practise
on, even went out and taught him cross-country riding
himself----"

"I remember!" said Shelley.

Leon sobbed out loud.  Shelley crossed the room swiftly, dropped
beside him and whispered something in his ear.  Quick as a shot
his arm reached out and went around her.  She hid her head deep
in the pillow beside him, and they went to pieces together. 
Clear to pieces!  Pretty soon father had to take off his glasses
and wipe them so he could see the figures.  Mother took one long
look at him, a short one at Leon and Shelley, then she arose, her
voice as even and smooth, and she said:  "While you figure,
father, I'll see about supper.  I have tried to plan an extra
good one this evening."

She left the room.  NOW, I guess you know about all I can tell
you of mother!  I can't see that there's a thing left.  That was
the kind of soldier she was.  Talk about Crusaders, and a good
fight!  All the blood of battle in our family wasn't on father's
side, not by any means!  The Dutch could fight too!

Father's pencil scraped a little, a bee that had slipped in
buzzed over the apple butter, while the clock ticked as if it
used a hammer.  It was so loud one wanted to pitch it from the
window.  May and I sat still as mice when the cat is near. 
Candace couldn't keep away from the kitchen door to save her, and
where mother went I hadn't an idea, but she wasn't getting an
extra good supper.  Shelley and Leon were quieter now.  May
nudged me, and I saw that his arm around her was gripping her
tight, while her hand on his head was patting him and fingering
his hair.

Ca-lumph!  Ca-lumph! came the funniest sound right on the stone
walk leading to the east door, then a shrill whicker that made
father drop his pencil.  Leon was on his feet, Shelley beside
him, while at the door stood Laddie grinning as if his face would
split, and with her forefeet on the step and her nose in the
room, stood the prettiest, the very prettiest horse I ever saw. 
She was sticking her nose toward Leon, whinnying softly, as she
lifted one foot, and if Laddie hadn't backed her, she would have
walked right into the dining-room.

"Come on, Weiscope, she's yours!" said Laddie.  "Take her to the
barn, and put her in one of the cow stalls, until we fix a place
for her."

Leon crossed the room, but he never touched the horse.  He threw
his arms around Laddie's neck.

"Son!  Son!  Haven't you let your feelings run away with you? 
What does this mean?" asked father sternly.

"There's nothing remarkable in a big six-footer like me buying a
horse," said Laddie.  "I expect to purchase a number soon, and
without a cent to pay, in the bargain.  I contracted to give five
hundred dollars for this mare.  She is worth more; but that
should be satisfactory all around.  I am going to earn it by
putting five of Mr. Pryor's fancy, pedigreed horses in shape for
market, taking them personally, and selling them to men fit to
own and handle real horses.  I get one hundred each, and my
expenses for the job.  I'll have as much fun doing it as I ever
had at anything.  It suits me far better than plowing, even."

Mother entered the room at a sweep, and pushed Leon aside.

"Oh you man of my heart!" she cried.  "You man after my own
heart!"

Laddie bent and kissed her, holding her tight as he looked over
her head at father.

"It's all right, of course?" he said.

"I never have known of anything quite so altogether right," said
father.  "Thank you, lad, and God bless you!"

He took Laddie's hand, and almost lifted him from the floor, then
he wiped his glasses, gathered up his books with a big, deep
breath of relief, and went into his room.  If the others had
looked to see why he was gone so long, they would have seen him
on his knees beside his bed thanking God, as usual.  Leon
couldn't have come closer than when he said, "The same yesterday,
to-day, and forever," about father.

Leon had his arms around the neck of his horse now, and he was
kissing her, patting her, and explaining to Shelley just why no
other horse was like her.  He was pouring out a jumble all about
the oasis of the desert, the tent dwellers, quoting lines from
"The Arab to His Horse," bluegrass, and gentleness combined with
spirit, while Shelley had its head between her hands, stroking it
and saying, "Yes," to every word Leon told her.  Then he said: 
"Just hop on her back from that top step and ride her to the
barn, if you want to see the motion she has."

Shelley said:  "Has a woman ever been on her back?  Won't she shy
at my skirts?"

"No," explained Leon.  "I've been training her with a horse
blanket pinned around me, so Susie could ride her!  She'll be all
right."

So Shelley mounted, and the horse turned her head, and tried to
rub against her, as she walked away, tame as a sheep.  I wondered
if she could be too gentle.  If she went "like the wind," as Leon
said, it didn't show then.  I was almost crazy to go along, and
maybe Leon would let me ride a little while; but I had a question
that it would help me to know the answer and I wanted to ask
father before I forgot; so I waited until he came out.  When he
sat down, smiled at me and said, "Well, is the girl happy for
brother?"  I knew it was a good time, and I could ask anything I
chose, so I sat on his knee and said:  "Father, when you pray for
anything that it's all perfectly right for you to have, does God
come down from heaven and do it Himself, or does He send a man
like Laddie to do it for him?"

Father hugged me tight, smiling the happiest.

"Why, you have the whole thing right there in a nutshell, Little
Sister," he said.  "You see it's like this: the Book tells us
most distinctly that `God is love.'  Now it was love that sent
Laddie to bind himself for a long, tedious job, to give Leon his
horse, wasn't it?"

"Of course!" I said.  "He wouldn't have been likely to do it if
he hated him.  It was love, of course!"

"Then it was God," said father, "because `God is love.'  They are
one and the same thing."

Then he kissed me, and THAT was settled.  So I wondered when you
longed for anything so hard you really felt it was worth
bothering God about, whether the quickest way to get it was to
ask Him for it, or to try to put a lot of love into the heart of
some person who could do what you wanted.  I decided it all went
back to God though, for most of the time probably we wouldn't
know who the right one was to try to awaken love in.  I was
mighty sure none of us ever dreamed Laddie could walk over to
Pryors', and come back with that horse, in a way perfectly
satisfactory to every one, slick as an eel.

You should have seen Leon following around after Laddie, trying
to do things for him, taking on his work to give him more time
with the horses, getting up early to finish his own stunts, so he
could go over to Pryors' and help.  Mother said it had done more
to make a man of him than anything that ever happened.  It helped
Shelley, too.  Something seemed to break in her, when she cried
so with Leon, because he was in trouble.  Then he was so crazy to
show off his horse he had Shelley ride up and down the lane,
while he ran along and led, so she got a lot of exercise, and it
made her good and hungry.  If you don't think by this time that
my mother was the beatenest woman alive, I'll prove it to you. 
When the supper bell rang there was strawberry preserves instead
of the apple butter, biscuit, fried chicken, and mashed potatoes.

She must have slapped those chickens into the skillet before they
knew their heads were off.  When Shelley came to the table, for
the first time since she'd been home, had pink in her cheeks, and
talked some, and ate too, mother forgot her own supper.  She
fumbled over her plate, but scarcely touched even the livers, and
those delicious little kidneys in the tailpiece like Leon and I
had at Sally's wedding.  When we finished, and it was time for
her to give the signal to arise, no one had asked to be excused,
she said:  "Let us have a word with the Most High."  Then she
bowed her head, so all of us did too.  "O Lord, we praise Thee
for all Thy tender mercies, and all Thy loving kindness.  Amen!"

Of course father always asked the blessing to begin with, and
mostly it was the same one, and that was all at meal time, but
this was a little extra that mother couldn't even wait until
night to tell the Almighty, she was so pleased with Him.  Maybe I
haven't told everything about her, after all.  Father must have
thought that was lovely of her; he surely felt as happy as she
did, to see Shelley better, for he hugged and kissed her over and
over, finishing at her neck like he always did, and then I be-
hanged, if he didn't hug and kiss every last one of us--tight,
even the boys.  Shelley he held long and close, and patted her a
little when he let her go.  It made me wonder if the rest of us
didn't get ours, so he'd have a chance at her without her
noticing it.  One thing was perfectly clear.  If shame came to
us, they were going to love her, and stick tight to her right
straight through it.

Now that everything was cleared up so, Shelley seemed a little
more like herself every day, although it was bad enough yet; I
thought I might as well hurry up the end a little, and stop the
trouble completely, so I began watching for a chance to ask her. 
But I wanted to get her away off alone, so no one would see if
she slapped me.  I didn't know how long I'd have to wait.  I
tried coaxing her to the orchard to see a bluebird's nest, but
she asked if bluebirds were building any different that year, and
I had to admit they were not.  Then I tried the blue-eyed Mary
bed, but she said she supposed it was still under the cling peach
tree, and the flower, two white petals up, two blue down, and so
it was.  Just as I was beginning to think I'd have to take that
to the Lord in prayer, I got my chance by accident.

May and Candace were forever going snake hunting.  You would
think any one with common sense would leave them alone and be
glad of the chance, but no indeed!  They went nearly every day as
soon as the noon work was finished, and stayed until time to get
supper.  They did have heaps of fun and wild excitement.  May was
gentle, and tender with everything else on earth; so I 'spose she
had a right to bruise the serpent with her heel--really she used
sticks and stones--if she wanted to.  I asked her how she COULD,
and she said there was a place in the Bible that told how a snake
coaxed Eve to eat an apple, that the Lord had told her she
mustn't touch; and so she got us into most of the trouble there
was in the world.  May said it was all the fault of the SNAKE to
begin with, and she meant to pay up every one she could find,
because she had none of the apple, and lots of the trouble. 
Candace cried so much because Frederick Swartz had been laid in
the tomb, that mother was pleased to have her cheer up, even
enough to go snake hunting.

That afternoon Mehitabel Heasty had come to visit May, so she
went along, and I followed.  They poked around the driftwood at
the floodgate behind the barn, and were giving up the place. 
Candace had crossed the creek and was coming back, and May had
started, when she saw a tiny little one and chased it.  We didn't
know then that it was a good thing to have snakes to eat moles,
field mice, and other pests that bother your crops; the Bible had
no mercy on them at all, so we were not saving our snakes; and
anyway we had more than we needed, while some of them were too
big to be safe to keep, and a few poison as could be.  May began
to bruise the serpent, when out of the driftwood where they
hadn't found anything came its mammy, a great big blacksnake,
maddest you ever saw, with its pappy right after her, mad as ever
too.  Candace screamed at May to look behind her, but May was
busy with the snake and didn't look quick enough, so the old
mammy struck right in her back.  She just caught in the hem of
May's skirt, and her teeth stuck in the goods--you know how a
snake's teeth turn back--so she couldn't let go.  May took one
look and raced down the bank to the crossing, through the water,
and toward us, with the snake dragging and twisting, and trying
her best to get away.  May was screaming at every jump for
Candace, and Mehitabel was flying up and down crying:  "Oh
there's snakes in my shoes!  There's snakes in my shoes!"

That was a fair sample of how much sense a Heasty ever had.  It
took all Mehitabel's shoes could do to hold her feet, for after
one went barefoot all week, and never put on shoes except on
Sunday or for a visit, the feet became so spread out, shoes had
all they could do to manage them, and then mostly they pinched
until they made one squirm.  But she jumped and said that, while
May ran and screamed, and Candace gripped her big hickory stick
and told May to stand still.  Then she bruised that serpent with
her whole foot, for she stood on it, and swatted it until she
broke its neck.  Then she turned ready for the other one, but
when it saw what happened to its mate, it decided to go back. 
Even snakes, it doesn't seem right to break up families like
that; so by the time Candace got the mammy killed, loose from
May's hem, and stretched out with the back up, so she wouldn't
make it rain, when Candace wasn't sure that father wanted rain, I
had enough.  I went down the creek until I was below the orchard,
then I crossed, passed the cowslip bed, climbed the hill and
fence, and stopped to think what I would do first; and there only
a few feet away was Shelley.  She was sitting in the shade, her
knees drawn up, her hands clasped around them, staring straight
before her across the meadow at nothing in particular, that I
could see.  She jumped as if I had been a snake when she saw me,
then she said, "Oh, is it you?" like she was half glad of it.  My
chance had come.

I went to her, sat close beside her and tried snuggling up a
little.  It worked.  She put her arm around me, drew me tight,
rubbed her cheek against my head and we sat there.  I was
wondering how in the world I could ask her, and not get slapped. 
I was growing most too big for that slapping business, anyway. 
We sat there; I was looking across the meadow as she did, only I
was watching everything that went on, so when I saw a grosbeak
fly from the wild grape where Shelley had put the crock for sap,
it made me think of her hair.  She used to like to have me play
with it so well, she'd give me pennies if I did.  I got up, and
began pulling out her pins carefully.  I knew I was getting a
start because right away she put up her hand to help me.

"I can get them," I said just as flannel-mouthed as ever I could,
like all of us talked to her now, so I got every one and never
pulled a mite.  When I reached over her shoulder to drop them in
her lap, being so close I kissed her cheek.  Then I shook down
her hair, spread it out, lifted it, parted it, and held up
strands to let the air on her scalp.  She shivered and said: 
"Mercy child, how good that does feel!  My head has ached lately
until it's a wonder there's a hair left on it."

So I was pleasing her.  I never did handle hair so carefully.  I
tried every single thing it feels good to you to have done with
your hair, rubbed her head gently, and to cheer her up I told her
about May and the snake, and what fool Mehitabel had said, and
she couldn't help laughing; so I had her feeling about as good as
she could, for the way she actually felt, but still I didn't
really get ahead.  Come right to the place to do it, that was no
very easy question to ask a person, when you wouldn't hurt their
feelings for anything; I was beginning to wonder if I would lose
my chance, when all at once a way I could manage popped into my
mind.

"Shelley," I said, "they told you about Laddie and the Princess,
didn't they?"

I knew they had, but I had to make a beginning some way.

"Yes," she said.  "I'm glad of it!  I think she's pretty as a
picture, and nice as she looks.  Laddie may have to hump himself
to support her, but if he can't get her as fine clothes as she
has, her folks can help him.  They seem to have plenty, and she's
their only child."

"They're going to.  I heard Mr. Pryor ask Laddie if he'd be so
unkind as to object to them having the pleasure of giving her
things."

"Well, the greenhorn didn't say he would!"

"No.  He didn't want to put his nose to the grindstone quite that
close.  He said it was between them."

"I should think so!"

"Shelley, there's a question I've been wanting to ask some one
for quite a while."

"What?"

"Why, this!  You know, Laddie was in love with the Princess, like
you are when you want to marry folks, for a long, long time,
before he could be sure whether she loved him back."

"Yes."

"Well, now, 'spose she never had loved him, would he have had
anything to be ashamed of?"

"I can't see that he would.  Some one must start a courtship, or
there would be no marrying, and it's conceded to be the place of
the man.  No.  He might be disappointed, or dreadfully hurt, but
there would be no shame about it."

"Well, then, suppose she loved him, and wanted to marry him, and
he hadn't loved her, or wanted her, would SHE have had anything
to be ashamed of?"

"I don't think so!  If she was attracted by him, and thought she
would like him, she would have a right to go to a certain extent,
to find out if he cared for her, and if he didn't, why, she'd
just have to give him up.  But any sensible girl waits for a man
to make the advances, and plenty of them, before she allows
herself even to dream of loving him, or at least, I would."

Now I was getting somewhere!

"Of course you would!" I said.  "That would be the WAY mother
would, wouldn't it?"

"Surely!"

"If that Paget man you used to write about had seemed to be just
what you liked, you'd have waited to know if he wanted you,
before you loved him, wouldn't you?"

"I certainly would!" answered Shelley.  "Or at least, I'd have
waited until I THOUGHT sure as death, I knew.  It seems that
sometimes you can be fooled about those things."

"But if you thought sure you knew, and then found out you had
been mistaken, you wouldn't have anything to be ASHAMED of, would
you?"

"Not-on-your-life-I-wouldn't!" cried Shelley, hammering each word
into her right knee with her doubled fist.  "What are you driving
at, Blatherskite?  What have you got into your head?"

"Oh just studying about things," I said, which was exactly the
truth.  "Sally getting married last fall, and Laddie going to
this, just started me to wondering."

Fooled her, too!

"Oh well, there's no harm done," she said.  "The sooner you get
these matters straightened out, the better able you will be to
take care of yourself.  If you ever go to a city, you'll find out
that a girl needs considerable care taken of her."

"You could look out for yourself, Shelley?"

"Well, I don't know as I made such a glorious fist of it," she
said, "but at least, as you say, I've nothing to be ashamed of!"

I almost hugged her head off.

"Of course you haven't!" I cried.  "Of course you wouldn't have!"

I just kissed her over and over for joy; I was so glad my heart
hurt for father and mother.  Shame had not come to them!

"Now, I guess I'll run to the house and get a comb," I told her.

"Go on," said Shelley.  "I know you are tired."

"I'm not in the least," I said.  "Don't you remember I always use
a comb when I fuss with your hair?"

"It is better," said Shelley.  "Go get one."

As I got up to start I took a last look at her, and there was
something in her face that I couldn't bear.  I knelt beside her,
and put both arms around her neck.

"Shelley, it's a secret," I said in a breathless half whisper. 
"It's a great, big secret, but I'm going to tell you.  Twice now
I've had a powerful prayer all ready to try.  It's the kind where
you go to the barn, all alone, stand on that top beam below the
highest window and look toward the east.  You keep perfectly
still, and just think with all your might, and you look away over
where Jesus used to be, and when the right feeling comes, you
pray that prayer as if He stood before you, and it will come
true.  I KNOW it will come true.  The reason I know is because
twice now I've been almost ready to try it, and what I intended
to ask for happened before I had time; so I've saved that prayer;
but Shelley, shall I pray it about the Paget man, for you?"

She gripped me, and she shook until she was all twisted up; you
could hear her teeth click, she chilled so.  The tears just
gushed, and she pulled me up close and whispered right in my ear:

"Yes!"

It was only pretend about the comb; what I really wanted was to
get to father and mother quick.  I knew he was at the barn and he
was going to be too happy for words in a minute.  But as I went
up the lane, I wasn't sure whether I'd rather pray about that
Paget man or bruise him with my heel like a serpent.  The only
way I could fix it was to remember if Shelley loved him so, he
must be mighty nice.  Father was in the wagon shovelling corn
from it to a platform where it would be handy to feed the pigs,
so I ran and called him, and put one foot on a hub and raised my
hands.  He pulled me up and when he saw how important it was, he
sat on the edge of the bed, so I told him:  "Father, you haven't
got a thing in the world to be ashamed of about Shelley."

"Praise the Lord!" said father like I knew he would, but you
should have seen his face.  "Tell me about it!"

I told him and he said:  "Well, I don't know but this is the
gladdest hour of my life.  Go straight and repeat to your mother
exactly what you've said to me.  Take her away all alone, and
then forget about it, you little blessing."

"Father, have you got too many children?"

"No!" he said.  "I wish I had a dozen more, if they'd be like
you."

When I went up the lane I was so puffed up with importance I felt
too dignified to run.  I strutted like our biggest turkey
gobbler.  The only reason you couldn't hear my wings scrape, was
because through mistake they grew on the turkey.  If I'd had
them, I would have dragged them sure, and cried "Ge-hobble-
hobble!" at every step.

I took mother away alone and told her, and she asked many more
questions than father, but she was even gladder than he.  She
almost hugged the breath out of me.  Sometimes I get things
RIGHT, anyway!  Then I took the comb and ran back to Shelley.

"I thought you'd forgotten me," she said.

She had wiped up and was looking better.  If ever I combed
carefully I did then.  Just when I had all the tangles out, there
came mother.  She had not walked that far in a long time.  I
thought maybe she could comfort Shelley, so I laid the comb in
her lap and went to see how the snake hunters were coming on.  It
must be all right, when the Bible says so, but the African Jungle
will do for me, and a popgun is not going to scatter families.  I
never felt so strongly about breaking home ties in my life as I
did then.  There was nothing worse.  It was not where I wanted to
be, so I thought I'd go back to the barn, and hang around father,
hoping maybe he'd brag on me some more.  Going up the lane I saw
a wagon passing with the biggest box I ever had seen, and I ran
to the gate to watch where it went.  It stopped at our house and
Frank came toward me as I hurried up the road.

"Where are the folks?" he asked, without paying the least
attention to my asking him over and over what was in the box.

"May and Candace are killing every snake in the driftwood behind
the barn, Shelley and mother are down in the orchard, and father
and the boys are hauling corn."

"Go tell the boys to come quickly and keep quiet," he said.  "But
don't let any one else know I'm here."

That was so exciting I almost fell over my feet running, and all
three of them came quite as fast.  I stood back and watched, and
I just danced a steady hop from one foot to the other while those
men got the big box off the wagon and opened it.  On the side I
spelled Piano, so of course it was for Shelley.  It was so heavy
it took all six of them, father and the three boys, the driver
and another very stylish looking man to carry it.  They put it in
the parlour, screwed a leg on each corner, and a queer harp in
the middle, then they lifted it up and set it on its feet, under
the whatnot, and it seemed as if it filled half the room.  Then
Frank spread a beauteous wine coloured cover all embroidered in
pink roses with green leaves over it, and the stylish man opened
a lid, sat down and spread out his hands.  Frank said:  "Soft
pedal!  Mighty soft!"  So he smothered it down, and tried only
enough to find that it had not been hurt coming, and then he went
away on the wagon.  Father and the boys gathered up every scrap,
swept the walk, and put all the things they had used back where
they got them, like we always did.

Then Frank took a card from his pocket and tied it to the music
rack, and it read:  "For Shelley, from her brothers in fact, and
in law."  To a corner of the cover he pinned another card that
read:  "From Peter."

"What is that?" asked father.

"That's from Peter," said Frank.  "Peter is great on finishing
touches.  He had to outdo the rest of us that much or bust.  Fact
is, none of us thought of a cover except him."

"How about this?" asked father, staring at it as if it were an
animal that would bite.

"Well," said Frank, "it was apparent that practising her fingers
to the bone wouldn't do Shelley much good unless she could keep
it up in summer, and you and mother always have done so much for
the rest of us, and now mother isn't so strong and the expenses
go on the same with these youngsters; we know you were figuring
on it, but we beat you.  Put yours in the bank, and try the feel
of a surplus once more.  Haven't had much lately, have you,
father?"

"Well, not to speak of," said father.

"Now let's shut everything up, ring the bell to call them, and
get Shelley in here and surprise her."

"She's not very well," said father.  "Mother thinks she worked
too hard."

"She's all right now, father," I said.  "She is getting pink
again and rounder, and this will fix her grand."

Wouldn't it though!  There wasn't one anywhere, short of the
city.  Even the Princess had none.  Father hunted up a song book,
opened it and set it on the rack.  Then all of us went out.

"We'll write to the boys, mother and I, and Shelley also," said
father.  "I can't express myself just now.  This is a fine thing
for all of you to do."

Frank seemed to think so too, and looked rather puffed up, until
Leon began telling about his horse.  When Frank found out that
Laddie, who had not yet branched out for himself, had given Leon
much more than any one of them had Shelley, he looked a little
disappointed.  He explained how the piano cost eight hundred
dollars, but by paying cash all at once, the man took seven
hundred and fifty, so it only cost them one hundred and fifty a
piece, and none of them felt it at all.

"Sometimes the clouds loom up pretty black, and mother and I
scarcely know how to go on, save for the help of the Lord, but we
certainly are blest with good children, children we can be proud
of.  Your mother will like that instrument as well as Shelley,
son," said father.

Frank went out and rang the bell, tolled it, and made a big noise
like he always did when he came unexpectedly, and then sat on the
back fence until he saw them coming, and went to meet them.  He
walked between mother and Shelley, with an arm around each one. 
If he thought Shelley looked badly, he didn't mention it.  What
he did say was that he was starved, and to fly around and get
supper.  I thought I'd burst.  They began to cook, and the boys
went to feed and see Leon's horse, and then we had supper.  I
just sat and stared at Frank and grinned.  I couldn't eat.

"Do finish your supper," said mother.  "I never saw anything take
your appetite like seeing your brother.  You'll be wanting a
piece before bedtime."

I didn't say a word, because I was afraid to, but I kept looking
at Leon and he smiled back, and we had great fun.  Secrets are
lovely.  Mother couldn't have eaten a bite if she'd known about
that great shining thing, all full of wonderful sound, standing
in our parlour.  When the last slow person had finished, father
said:  "Shelley, won't you step into the front room and bring me
that book I borrowed from Frank on `Taxation.' I want to talk
over a few points."

All of us heard her little breathless cry, and mother said,
"There!" as if she'd been listening for something, and she beat
all of us to the door.  Then she cried out too, and such a time
as we did have.  At last after all of us had grown sensible
enough to behave, Shelley sat on the stool, spread her fingers
over the keys and played at the place father had selected, and
all of us sang as hard as we could:  "Be it ever so humble,
There's no place like home;" and there WAS no place like ours, of
THAT I'm quite sure.



CHAPTER XVII


In Faith Believing

            "Nor could the bright green world around
                 A joy to her impart,
             For still she missed the eyes that made
                 The summer of her heart."

Soon as she had the piano, Shelley needed only the Paget man to
make her happy as a girl could be; and having faith in that
prayer, I decided to try it right away.  So I got Laddie to
promise surely that he'd wake me when he got up the next morning.

I laid my clothes out all ready; he merely touched my foot, and I
came to, slipped out with him, and he helped me dress.  We went
to the barn when the morning was all gray.

"What the dickens have you got in your head now, Chicken?" he
asked.  "Is it business with the Fairies?"

"No, this is with the Most High," I said solemnly, like father. 
"Go away and leave me alone."

"Well of all the queer chickens!" he said, but he kissed me and
went.

I climbed the stairs to the threshing floor, then the ladder to
the mow, walked a beam to the wall, there followed one to the
east end, and another to the little, high-up ventilator window. 
There I stood looking at the top of the world.  A gray mist was
rising like steam from the earth, there was a curious colour in
the east, stripes of orange and flames of red, where the sun was
coming.  I folded my hands on the sill, faced the sky, and stood
staring.  Just stood, and stood, never moving a muscle.  By and
by I began to think how much we loved Shelley, how happy she had
been at Christmas the way she was now, and how much all of us
would give in money, or time, or love, to make her sparkling,
bubbling, happy again; so I thought and thought, gazing at the
sky, which every second became a grander sight.  Little cold
chills began going up my back, and soon I was talking to the Lord
exactly as if He stood before me on the reddest ray that topped
our apple trees.

I don't know all I said.  That's funny, for I usually remember to
the last word; but this time it was so important, I wanted it so
badly, and I was so in earnest that words poured in a stream.  I
began by reminding Him that He knew everything, and so He'd
understand if what I asked was for the best.  Then I told Him how
it looked to us, who knew only a part; and then I went at Him and
implored and beseeched, if it would be best for Shelley, and
would make her happy, to send her the Paget man, and to be quick
about it.  When I had said the last word that came to me, and
begged all I thought becoming--I don't think with His face, that
Jesus wants us to grovel to Him, at least He looks too dignified
to do it Himself--I just stood there, still staring.

I didn't expect to see a burning bush, or a pillar of fire, or a
cloud of flame, or even to hear a small, still voice; but I
watched, so I wouldn't miss it if there should be anything
different in that sunrise from any other I ever had seen, and
there was not.  Not one thing!  It was so beautiful, and I was so
in earnest my heart hurt; but that was like any other sunrise on
a fine July morning.  There wasn't the least sign that Jesus had
heard me, and would send the man; yet before I knew it, I was
amazed to find the feeling creeping over me that he was coming. 
If I had held the letter in my hand saying he would arrive on the
noon train, I couldn't have grown surer.  Why, I even looked down
the first time I moved, to see if I had it; but I was certain
anyway.  So I looked steadily toward the east once more and said,
"Thank you, with all my heart, Lord Jesus," then I slowly made my
way down and back to the house.

Shelley was at the orchard gate, waiting; so I knew they had
missed me, and Laddie had told them where I was and not to call. 
She had the strangest look on her face, as she asked:  "Where
have you been?"

I looked straight and hard at her and said, "It's all right,
Shelley.  He's going to come soon"; but I didn't think it was a
thing to mouth over, so I twisted away from her, and ran to the
kitchen to see if breakfast had all been eaten.  I left Shelley
standing there with her eyes wide, also her mouth.  She looked
about as intelligent as Mehitabel Heasty, and it wouldn't have
surprised me if she had begun to jump up and down and say there
were snakes in HER shoes.  No doubt you have heard of people
having been knocked silly; I knew she was, and so she had a
perfect right to look that way, until she could remember what she
was doing, and come back to herself.  Maybe it took her longer,
because mother wasn't there, to remind her about her mouth, and I
didn't propose to mention it.

At breakfast, mother said father was going to drive Frank home in
the carriage, and if I would like, I might go along.  I would
have to sit on the back seat alone, going; but coming home I
could ride beside and visit with father.  I loved that, for you
could see more from the front seat, and father would stop to
explain every single thing.  He always gave me the money and let
me pay the toll.  He would get me a drink at the spring, let me
wade a few minutes at Enyard's riffles, where their creek, with
the loveliest gravel bed, ran beside the road; and he always
raced like wildfire at the narrows, where for a mile the railroad
ran along the turnpike.

We took Frank to his office, stopped a little while to visit
Lucy, and give her the butter and cream mother sent, went to the
store to see Peter, and then to the post-office.  From there we
could see that the veranda of the hotel across the street was
filled with gayly dressed people, and father said that the summer
boarders from big cities around must be pouring in fast.  When he
came out with the mail he said he better ask if the landlord did
not want some of mother's corn and milk fed spring chickens,
because last year he had paid her more than the grocer.  So he
drove across the street, stopped at the curb, and left me to hold
the team.

Maybe you think I wasn't proud!  I've told you about Ned and Jo,
with their sharp ears, dappled sides, and silky tails, and the
carriage almost new, with leather seats, patent leather
trimmings, and side lamps, so shiny you could see yourself in the
brass.  We never drove into the barn with one speck of mud or
dust on it.  That was how particular mother was.

I watched the team carefully; I had to if I didn't want my neck
broken; but I also kept an eye on that veranda.  You could see at
a glance that those were stylish women.  Now my mother liked to
be in fashion as well as any one could; so I knew she'd be
mightily pleased if I could tell her a new place to set her comb,
a different way to fasten her collar, or about an unusual pattern
for a frock.

I got my drink at the spring, father offered to stop at the
riffle, but I was enjoying the ride so much, and I could always
wade at home, although our creek was not so beautiful as
Enyard's, but for common wading it would do; we went through the
narrows, like two shakes of a sheep's tail, then we settled down
to a slow trot, and were having the loveliest visit possible,
when in the bundle on my lap, I saw the end of something that
interested me.  Mr. Agnew always made our mail into a roll with
the Advocate and the Agriculturist on the outside, and because
every one was so anxious about their letters, and some of them
meant so much, I felt grown and important while holding the
package.

I was gripping it tight when I noticed the end of one letter much
wider and fatter than any I ever had seen, so when father was not
looking I began pushing it a little at one end, and pulling it at
the other, to work it up, until I could read the address.  I got
it out so far I thought every minute he'd notice, and tell me not
to do that, but I could only see Stanton.  All of us were
Stanton, so it might be for me, for that matter.  Jerry might be
sending me pictures, or a book, he did sometimes, but there was
an exciting thing about it.  Besides being fatter than it looked
right at the end, it was plastered with stamps--lots of them,
enough to have brought it clear around the world.  I pushed that
end back, pulled out the other, and took one good look.  I almost
fell from the carriage.  I grabbed father's arm and cried: 
"Stop!  Stop this team quick.  Stop them and see if I can read."

"Are you crazy, child?" asked father, but he checked the horses.

"No, but you are going to be in a minute," I said.  "Look at
that!"

I yanked the letter from the bundle, and held it over.  I THOUGHT
I could read, but I was too scared to be sure.  I thought it said
in big, strong, upstanding letters, Miss Shelley Stanton,
Groveville, Indiana.  And in the upper corner, Blackburn, Yeats
and PAGET, Counsellors of Law, 37 to 39 State St., Chicago.  I
put my finger on the Paget, and looked into father's face.  I was
no fool after all.  He was not a bit surer that HE could read
than I was, from the dazed way he stared.

"You see!" I said.

"It says Paget!" he said, like he would come nearer believing; it
if he heard himself pronounce the word.

"I THOUGHT it said `Paget,'" I gasped, "but I wanted to know if
you thought so too."

"Yes, it's Paget plain enough," said father, but he acted like
there was every possibility that it might change to Jones any
minute.  "It says `Paget,' plain as print."

"Father!" I cried, clutching his arm, "father, see how fat it is!

There must be pages and pages!  Father, it wouldn't take all that
to tell her he didn't like her, and he never wanted to see her
again.  Would it, father?"

"It doesn't seem probable," said father.

"Father don't you think it means there's been some big mistake,
and it takes so much to tell how it can be fixed?"

"It seems reasonable."

I gripped him tighter, and maybe shook him a little.

"Father!" I cried.  "Father, doesn't it just look HURRY, all
over?  Can't you speed up a little?  They have all day to cool
off.  Oh father, won't you speed a little?"

"That I will!" said father.  "Get a tight hold, and pray God it
is good word we carry."

"But I prayed the one big prayer to get this," I said.  "It
wouldn't be sent if it wasn't good.  The thing to do now is to
thank the Lord for `all his loving kindnesses,' like mother said.

Drive father!  Make them go!"

At first he only touched them up; I couldn't see that we were
getting home so fast; but in a minute a cornfield passed like a
streak, a piece of woods flew by a dark blur, a bridge never had
time to rattle, and we began to rock from side to side a little. 
Then I gripped the top supports with one hand, the mail with the
other, and hung on for dear life.  I took one good look at
father.

His feet were on the brace, his face was clear, even white, his
eyes steely, and he never moved a muscle.  When Jo thought it was
funny, that he was loose in the pasture, and kicked up a little
behind, father gave him a sharp cut with the whip and said: 
"Steady boy!  Get along there!"

Sometimes he said, "Aye, aye!  Easy!" but he never stopped a
mite.  We whizzed past the church and cemetery, and scarcely
touched the Big Hill.  People ran to their doors, even to the
yards, and I was sure they thought we were having a runaway, but
we were not.  Father began to stop at the lane gate, he pulled
all the way past the garden, and it was as much as he could do to
get them slowed down so that I could jump out by the time we
reached the hitching rack.  He tied them, and followed me into
the house instead of going to the barn.  I ran ahead calling: 
"Shelley!  Where is Shelley?"

"What in this world has happened, child?" asked mother, catching
my arm.

"Her letter has come!  Her Paget letter!  The one you looked for
until you gave up.  It's come at last!  Oh, where is she?"

"Be calmer, child, you'll frighten her," said mother.

May snatched the letter from my fingers and began to read all
that was on it aloud.  I burst out crying.

"Make her give that back!" I sobbed to father.  "It's mine!  I
found it.  Father, make her let me take it!"

"Give it to her!" said father.  "I rather feel that it is her
right to deliver it."

May passed it back, but she looked so disappointed, that by how
she felt I knew how much I wanted to take it myself; so I reached
my hand to her and said:  "You can come along!  We'll both take
it!  Oh where is she?"

"She went down in the orchard," said mother.  "I think probably
she's gone back where she was the other day."

Gee, but we ran!  And there she was!  As we came up, she heard us
and turned.

"Shelley!" I cried.  "Here's your letter!  Everything is all
right!  He's coming, Shelley!  Look quick, and see when!  Mother
will want to begin baking right away!"

Shelley looked at me, and said coolly:  "Paddy Ryan!  What's the
matter?"

"Your letter!" I cried, shoving it right against her hands. 
"Your letter from Robert!  From the Paget man, you know!  I told
you he was coming!  Hurry, and see when!"

She took it, and sat there staring at it, so much like father,
that it made me think of him, so I saw that she was going to have
to come around to it as we did, and that one couldn't hurry her. 
She just had to take her time to sense it.

"Shall I open it for you?" I asked, merely to make her see that
it was time she was doing it herself.

Blest if she didn't reach it toward me!--sort of woodenlike.  I
stuck my finger under the flap, gave it a rip across and emptied
what was inside into her lap.  Bet there were six or seven
letters in queer yellow envelopes I never before had seen any
like, and on them was the name, Robert Paget, while in one corner
it said, "Returned Dead Letter"; also there was a loose folded
white sheet.  She sat staring at the heap, touching one, another,
and repeating "Robert Paget?" as she picked each up in turn.

"What do you suppose it means?" she asked May.  May examined
them.

"You must read the loose sheet," she advised.  "No doubt that
will explain."

But Shelley never touched it.  She handled those letters and
stared at them.  Father and mother came through the orchard and
stood together behind us, so father knelt down at last, reached
across Shelley's shoulder, picked one up and looked at it.

"Have you good word, dear?" asked mother of Shelley.

"Why, I don't understand at all," said Shelley.  "Just look at
all these queer letters, addressed to Mr. Paget.  Why should they
be sent to me?  I mustn't open them.  They're not mine.  There
must be some mistake."

"These are DEAD LETTERS," said father.  "They've been written to
you, couldn't be delivered, and so were sent to the Dead Letter
Office at Washington, which returned them to the writer, and
unopened he has forwarded them once more to you.  You've heard of
dead letters, haven't you?"

"I suppose so," said Shelley.  "I don't remember just now; but
there couldn't be a better name.  They've come mighty near
killing me."

"If you'd only read that note!" urged May, putting it right into
her fingers.

Shelley still sat there.

"I'm afraid of it," she said exactly like I'd have spoken if
there had been a big rattlesnake coming right at me, when I'd
nothing at hand to bruise it.

Laddie and Leon came from the barn.  They had heard me calling,
seen May and me run, and then father and mother coming down, so
they walked over.

"What's up?" asked Leon.  "Has Uncle Levi's will been discovered,
and does mother get his Mexican mines?"

"What have you got, Shelley?" asked Laddie, kneeling beside her,
and picking up one of the yellow letters.

"I hardly know," said Shelley.

"I brought her a big letter with all those little ones and a note
in it, and they are from the Paget man," I explained to him. 
"But she won't even read the note, and see what he writes.  She
says she's afraid."

"Poor child!  No wonder!" said Laddie, sitting beside her and
putting his arm around her.  "Suppose I read it for you.  May I?"

"Yes," said Shelley.  "You read it.  Read it out loud.  I don't
care."

She leaned against him, while he unfolded the white sheet.

"Umph!" he said.  "This DOES look bad for you.  It begins:  `My
own darling Girl.'"

"Let me see!" cried Shelley, suddenly straightening, and reaching
her hand.

Laddie held the page toward her, but she only looked, she didn't
offer to touch it.

"`My own darling Girl:'" repeated Laddie tenderly, making it mean
just all he possibly could, because he felt so dreadfully sorry
for her--"  `On my return to Chicago, from the trip to England I
have so often told you I intended to make some time soon----'"

"Did he?" asked mother.

"Yes," answered Shelley.  "He couldn't talk about much else.  It
was his first case.  It was for a friend of his who had been
robbed of everything in the world; honour, relatives, home, and
money.  If Robert won it, he got all that back for his friend and
enough for himself--that he could--a home of his own, you know! 
Read on, Laddie!"

"`I was horrified to find on my desk every letter I had written
you during my absence returned to me from the Dead Letter Office,
as you see.'"

"Good gracious!" cried mother, picking up one and clutching it
tight as if she meant to see that it didn't get away again.

"Go on!" cried Shelley.

"`I am enclosing some of them as they came back to me, in proof
of my statement.  I drove at once to your boarding place and
found you had not been there for weeks, and your landlady was
distinctly crabbed.  Then I went to the college, only to find
that you had fallen ill and gone to your home.  That threw me
into torments, and all that keeps me from taking the first train
is the thought that perhaps you refused to accept these letters,
for some reason.  Shelley, you did not, did you?  There is some
mistake somewhere, is there not----'"

"One would be led to think so," said father sternly.  "Seems as
if he might have managed some way----"

"Don't you blame him!" cried Shelley.  "Can't you see it's all my
fault?  He'd been coming regularly, and the other girls envied
me; then he just disappeared, and there was no word or anything,
and they laughed and whispered until I couldn't endure it; so I
moved in with Peter's cousin, as I wrote you; but that left Mrs.
Fleet with an empty room in the middle of the term, and it made
her hopping mad.  I bet anything she wouldn't give the postman my
new address, to pay me back.  I left it, of course.  But if I'd
been half a woman, and had the confidence I should have had in
myself and in him----  Oh how I've suffered, and punished all of
you----!"

"Never you mind about that," said mother, stroking Shelley's
hair.  "Likely there isn't much in Chicago to give a girl who
never had been away from her family before, `confidence' in
herself or any one else.  As for him--just disappearing like
that, without a word or even a line----  Go on Laddie!"

"`Surely, you knew that I was only waiting the outcome of this
trip to tell you how dearly I love you.  Surely, you encouraged
me in thinking you cared for me a little, Shelley.  Only a little
will do to begin with----'"

"You see, I DID have something to go on!" cried Shelley, wiping
her eyes and straightening up.

"`No doubt you misunderstood and resented my going without coming
to explain, and bid you good-bye in person, but Shelley, _I_
SIMPLY DARED NOT.  You see, it was this way:  I got a cable about
the case I was always talking of, and the only man who could give
the testimony I MUST HAVE was dying!'"

"For land's sake!  The poor boy!" cried mother, patting Shelley's
shoulder.

"`An hour's delay might mean the loss of everything in the world
to me, even you.  For if I lost any time, and the man escaped me,
there was no hope of winning my case, and everything, even you,
as I said before, depended on him----'"

"Good Lord!  I mean land!" cried Leon.

"`If I could catch the train in an hour, I could take a boat at
New York, and go straight through with no loss of time.  So I
wrote you a note that probably said more than I would have
ventured in person, and paid a boy to deliver it.'"

"Kept the money and tore up the note, I bet!" said May.

"`I wrote on the train, but found after sailing that I had rushed
so I had failed to post it in New York.  I kept on writing every
day on the boat, and mailed you six at Liverpool.  All the time I
have written frequently; there are many more here that this
envelope will not hold, that I shall save until I hear from
you.'"

"Well, well!" said father.

"`Shelley, I beat death, reached my man, got the testimony I had
to have, and won my case.'"

"Glory!" cried mother.  "Praise the Lord!"

"`Then I scoured England, and part of the continent, hunting some
interested parties; and when I was so long finding them, and
still no word came from you, I decided to come back and get you,
if you would come with me, and go on with the work together.'"

"Listen to that!  More weddings!" cried Leon.  He dropped on his
knees before Shelley.  "Will you marry me, my pretty maid?" he
begged.

"Young man, if you cut any capers right now, I'll cuff your
ears!" cried father.  "This is no proper time for your
foolishness!"

"`Shelley, I beg that you will believe me, and if you care for me
in the very least, telegraph if I may come.  Quick!  I'm half
insane to see you.  I have many things to tell you, first of all
how dear you are to me.  Please telegraph.  Robert.'"

"Saddle a horse, Leon!" father cried as he unstrapped his wallet.

"Laddie, take down her message."

"Can you put it into ten words?" asked Laddie.

"Mother, what would you say?" questioned Shelley.

Leon held up his fingers and curled down one with each word. 
"Say, `Dear Robert.  Well and happy.  Come when you get ready.'"

"But then I won't know when he's coming," objected Shelley.  "You
don't need to," said Leon.  "You can take it for granted from
that epistolary effusion that he won't let the grass grow under
his feet while coming here.  That's a bully message!  It sounds
as if you weren't crazy over him, and it's a big compliment to
mother.  Looks as if she didn't have to know when people are
coming--like she's ready all the time."

"Write it out and let me see," said Shelley.

So Laddie wrote it, and she looked at it a long time, it seemed
to me, at last she said:  "I don't like that `get.'  It doesn't
sound right.  Wouldn't `are' be better?"

"Come when you are ready," repeated Laddie.  "Yes, that's better.

`Get' sounds rather saucy."

"Why not put it, `Come when you choose?'" suggested mother. 
"That will leave a word to spare, so it won't look as if you had
counted them and used exactly ten on purpose, and it doesn't
sound as if you expected him to make long preparations, like the
other.  That will leave it with him to start whenever he likes."

"Yes! yes!" cried Shelley.  "That's much better!  Say, `Come when
you choose!'"

"Right!" said Laddie as he wrote it.  "Now I'll take this!"

"Oh no you won't!" cried Leon.  "Father told me to saddle my
horse.  She's got enough speed in her to beat yours a mile.  I
take that!  Didn't you say for me to saddle, father?"

"Such important business, I think I better," said Laddie, and
Leon began to cry.

"I think you should both go," said Shelley.  "It is so important,
and if one goes to make a mistake, maybe the other will notice
it."

"Yes, that's the best way," said mother.

"Yes, both go," said father.

It was like one streak when they went up the Big Hill.  Father
shook his head.  "Poor judgment--that," he said.  "Never run a
horse up hill!"

"But they're in such a hurry," Shelley reminded him.

"So they are," said father.  "In this case I might have broken
the rule myself.  Now come all of you, and let the child get at
her mail."

"But I want you to stay," said Shelley.  "I'm so addle-pated this
morning.  I need my family to help me."

"Of course you do, child," said mother.  "Families were made to
cling together, and stand by each other in every circumstance of
life--joy or sorrow.  Of course you need your family."

May began sorting the letters by dates so Shelley could start on
the one that had been written first.  Father ran his knife across
the top of each, and cut all the envelopes, and Shelley took out
the first and read it; that was the train one.  In it he told her
about sending the boy with the note again, and explained more
about how it was so very important for him to hurry, because the
only man who could help him was so sick.  We talked it over, and
all of us thought the boy had kept the money and torn up the
note.  Father said the way would have been to send the note and
pay the boy when he came back; but Shelley said Mr. Paget would
have been gone before the boy got back, so father saw that
wouldn't have been the way, in such a case.

Next she read one written on the boat.  He told more about
sending the boy; how he loved her, what it would mean to both of
them if he got the evidence he wanted and won his first case; and
how much it would bring his friend.  The next one told it all
over again, and more.  In that he wrote a little about the ocean,
the people on board the ship, and he gave Shelley the name of the
place where he was going and begged her to write to him.  He told
her if the ship he was on passed another, they were going to stop
and send back the mail.  He begged her to write often, and to say
she forgave him for starting away without seeing her, as he had
been forced to.

The next one was the same thing over, only a little more yet.  In
the last he had reached England, the important man was still
living, but he was almost gone, and Mr. Paget took two good
witnesses, all the evidence he had, and went to see him; and the
man saw it was no use, so he made a statement, and Robert had it
all written out, signed and witnessed.  For the real straight
sense there was in that letter, I could have done as well myself.

It was a wild jumble, because Robert was so crazy over having the
evidence that would win his case; and he told Shelley that now he
was perfectly free to love her all she would allow him.  He said
he had to stay a while longer to find his friend's people so they
would get back their share of the money, but it was not going to
be easy to locate them.  You wouldn't think the world so big, but
maybe it seemed smaller to me because as far as I could see from
the top of our house, was all I knew about it.  After Shelley had
read the letters, and the note again, father heaved a big sigh
that seemed to come clear from his boot soles and he said:  "Well
Shelley, it looks to me as if you had found a MAN.  Seems to me
that's a mighty important case for a young lawyer to be trusted
with, in a first effort."

"Yes, but it was for Robert's best friend, and only think, he has
won!"

"I don't see how he could have done better if he'd been old as
Methuselah, and wise as Solomon," boasted mother.

"But he hasn't found the people who must have back their money,"
said May.  "He will have to go to England again.  And he wants to
take you, Shelley.  My!  You'll get to sail on a big steamer,
cross the Atlantic Ocean, and see London.  Maybe you'll even get
a peep at the Queen!"

Shelley was busy making a little heap of her letters; when the
top one slid off I reached over and put it back for her.  She
looked straight at me, and smiled the most wonderful and the most
beautiful smile I ever saw on any one's face, so I said to her: 
"You see! I TOLD you he was coming!"

"I can't understand it!" said Shelley.

"YOU KNOW I told you."

"Of course I do!  But what made you think so?"

"That was the answer.  Just that he was coming."

"What are you two talking about?" asked mother.

Shelley looked at me, and waited for me to tell mother as much as
I wanted to, of what had happened.  But I didn't think things
like that were to be talked about before every one, so I just
said:

"Oh nothing!  Only, I told Shelley this very morning that the
Paget man was coming soon, and that everything was going to be
all right."

"You did?  Well of all the world!  I can't see why."

"Oh something told me! I just FELT that way."

"More of that Fairy nonsense?" asked father sharply.

"No.  I didn't get that from the Fairies."

"Well, never mind!" said Shelley, rising, because she saw that I
had told all I wanted to.  "Little Sister DID tell me this
morning that he was coming, that everything would be made right,
and it's the queerest thing, but instantly I believed her. 
Didn't I sing all morning, mother?  The first note since Robert
didn't come when I expected him in Chicago, weeks ago."

"Yes," said mother.  "That's a wonderfully strange thing.  I
can't see what made you think so."

"Anyway, I did!" I said.  "Now let's go have dinner.  I'm
starving."

I caught May's hand, and ran to get away from them.  Father and
mother walked one on each side of Shelley, while with both hands
she held her letters before her.  When we reached the house we
just talked about them all the time.  Pretty soon the boys were
back, and then they told about sending the telegram.  Leon vowed
he gave the operator a dime extra to start that message with a
shove, so it would go faster.

"It will go all right," said Laddie, "and how it will go won't be
a circumstance to the way he'll come.  If there's anything we
ought to do, before he gets here, we should hustle.  Chicago
isn't a thousand miles away.  That message can reach him by two
o'clock, it's probable he has got ready while he was waiting, so
he will start on the first train our way.  He could reach
Groveville on the ten, to-morrow.  We better meet it."

"Yes, we'll meet it," said mother.  "Is the carriage perfectly
clean?"

Father said:  "It must be gone over.  Our general manager here
ordered me to speed up, and we drove a little coming from town."

Mother went to planning what else should be done.

"Don't do anything!" cried Shelley.  "The house is all right. 
There's no need to work and worry into a sweat.  He won't notice
or care how things look."

"I miss my guess if he doesn't notice and care very much indeed,"
said mother emphatically.  "Men are not blind.  No one need think
they don't see when things are not as they should be, just
because they're not cattish enough to let you know it, like a
woman always does.  Shelley, wouldn't you like to ride over and
spend the afternoon with the Princess?"

"Nope!" said Shelley.  "It's her turn to come to see me. 
Besides, you don't get me out of the way like that.  I know what
you'll do here, and I intend to help."

"Do you need one of the boys at the house?" asked father, and if
you'll believe it, both of them wanted to stay.

Father said he must have one to help wash the carriage and do a
little fixing around the barn; so he took Leon, but he didn't
like to go.  He said:  "I don't see what all this fuss is about,
anyway.  Probably he'll be another Peter."

Shelley looked at him:  "Oh Mr. Paget isn't nearly so large as
Peter," she said, "and his hair is whiter than yours, while his
eyes are not so blue."

"Saints preserve us!" cried Leon.  "Come on, father, let's only
dust the carriage!  He's not worth washing it for."

"Is he like that?" asked mother anxiously.

"Wait and see!" said Shelley.  "Looks don't make a man.  He has
proved what he can do."

Then all of us went to work.  Before night we were hunting over
the yard, and beside the road, to see if we could find anything
to pick up.  Six chickens were in the cellar, father was to bring
meat and a long list of groceries from town in the morning.  He
was to start early, get them before train time, put them under
the back seat, and take them out after he drove into the lane,
when he came back.  That made a little more trouble for father,
but there was not the slightest necessity for making Mr. Paget
feel that he had ridden in a delivery wagon.

Next morning I wakened laughing softly, because some one was
fussing with my hair, patting my face, and kissing me, so I put
up my arms and pulled that loving person down on my pillow, and
gave back little half-asleep kisses, and slept on; but it was
Shelley, and she gently shook me and began repeating that fool
old thing I have been waked up with half the mornings of my life:

        "Get up, Little Sister, the morning is bright,
         The birds are all singing to welcome the light,
         Get up; for when all things are merry and glad,
         Good children should never be lazy and sad;
         For God gives us daylight, dear sister, that we
         May rejoice like the lark and work like the bee."


Usually I'd have gone on sleeping, but Shelley was so sweet and
lovely, and she kissed me so hard, that I remembered it was going
to be a most exciting day, so I came to quick as snap and jumped
right up, for I didn't want to miss a single thing that might
happen.

The carriage was shining when it came to the gate, so was father.

I thought there was going to be a vacant seat beside him, and I
asked if I might go along.  He said:  "Yes, if mother says so." 
He always would stick that in.  So I ran to ask her, and she
didn't care, if Shelley made no objections.  I was just starting
to find her, when here she came, all shining too, but Laddie was
with her.  I hadn't known that he was going, and I was so
disappointed I couldn't help crying.

"What's the matter?" asked Shelley.

"Father and mother both said I might go, if you didn't care."

"Why, I'm dreadfully sorry," said Shelley, "but I have several
things I want Laddie to do for me."

Laddie stooped down to kiss me good-bye and he said:  "Don't cry,
Little Sister.  The way to be happy is to be good."

Then they drove to Groveville, and we had to wait.  But there was
so much to do, it made us fly to get all of it finished.  So
mother sent Leon after Mrs. Freshett to help in the kitchen,
while Candace wore her white dress, and waited on the table. 
Mother cut flowers for the dining table, and all through the
house.  She left the blinds down to keep the rooms cool, chilled
buttermilk to drink, and if she didn't think of every single,
least little thing, I couldn't see what it was.  Then all of us
put on our best dresses.  Mother looked as glad and sweet as any
girl, when she sat to rest a little while.  I didn't dare climb
the catalpa in my white dress, so I watched from the horse block,
and when I saw the grays come over the top of the hill, I ran to
tell.  As mother went to the gate, she told May and me to walk
behind, to stay back until we were spoken to, and then to keep
our heads level, and remember our manners.  I don't know where
Leon went.  He said he lost all interest when he found there was
to be another weak-eyed towhead in the family, and I guess he was
in earnest about it, because he wasn't even curious enough to be
at the gate when Mr. Paget came.

Father stopped with a flourish, Laddie hurried around and helped
Shelley, and then Mr. Paget stepped down.  Goodness, gracious,
sakes alive!  Little?  Towhead?  He was taller than Laddie.  His
hair was most as black as ink, and wavy.  His eyes were big and
dark; he was broad and strong and there was the cleanest,
freshest look about him.  He put his arm spang around Shelley,
right there in the road, and mother said:  "Hold there!  Not so
fast, young man!  I haven't given my consent to that."

He laughed, and he said:  "Yes, but you'ah going to!"  And he put
his other arm around mother, so May and I crowded up, and we had
a family reunion right between the day lilies and the snowball
bush.  We went into the house, and he LIKED us, his room, and
everything went exactly right.  He was crazy about the cold
buttermilk, and while he was drinking it Leon walked into the
dining-room, because he thought of course Mr. Paget and Shelley
would be on the davenport in the parlour.  When he saw Robert he
said lowlike to Shelley:  "Didn't Mr. Paget come?  Who's that?"

Shelley looked so funny for a minute, then she remembered what
she had told him and she just laughed as she said:  "Mr. Paget,
this is my brother."

Robert went to shake hands, and Leon said right to his teeth: 
"Well a divil of a towhead you are!"

"Towhead?" said Robert, bewildered-like.

"Shelley said you were a little bit of a man, with watery blue
eyes, and whiter hair than mine."

"Oh I say!" cried Robert.  "She must have been stringin' you!"

Leon just whooped; because while Mr. Paget didn't talk like the
'orse, 'ouse people, he made you think of them in the way he said
things, and the sound of his voice.  Then we had dinner, and I
don't remember that we ever had quite such a feast before. 
Mother had put on every single flourish she knew.  She used her
very best dishes, and linen, and no cook anywhere could beat
Candace alone; now she had Mrs. Freshett to help her, and mother
also.  If she tried to show Mr. Paget, she did it!  No visitor
was there except him, but we must have been at the table two
hours talking, and eating from one dish after another.  Candace
LIKED to wear her white dress, and carry things around, and they
certainly were good.

And talk!  Father, Laddie, and Robert talked over all creation. 
Every once in a while when mother saw an opening, she put in her
paddle, and no one could be quicker, when she watched sharp and
was trying to make a good impression.  Shelley was very quiet;
she scarcely spoke or touched that delicious food.  Once the
Paget man turned to her, looking at her so fondlike, as he picked
up one of her sauce dishes and her spoon and wanted to feed her. 
And he said:  "Heah child, eat your dinnah!  You have nawthing to
be fussed ovah!  I mean to propose to you, and your parents
befowr night.  That is what I am heah for."

Every one laughed so, Shelley never got the bite; but after that
she perked up more and ate a little by herself.

At last father couldn't stand it any longer, so he began asking
Robert about his trip to England, and the case he had won.  When
the table was cleared for dessert, Mr. Paget asked mother to have
Candace to bring his satchel.  He opened it and spread papers all
over, so that father and Laddie could see the evidence, while he
told them how it was.

It seemed there was a law in England, all of us knew about it,
because father often had explained it.  This law said that a man
who had lots of money and land must leave almost all of it to his
eldest son; and the younger ones must go into law, the army, be
clergymen, or enter trade and earn a living, while the eldest
kept up the home place.  Then he left it to his eldest son, and
his other boys had to work for a living.  It kept the big estates
together; but my! it was hard on the younger sons, and no one
seemed even to think about the daughters.  I never heard them
mentioned.

Now there was a very rich man; he had only two sons, and each of
them married, and had one son.  The younger son died, and sent
his boy for his elder brother to take care of.  He pretended to
be good, but for sure, he was bad as ever he could be.  He knew
that if his cousin were out of the way, all that land and money
would be his when his uncle died.  So he went to work and he
tried for years, and a lawyer man who had no conscience at all,
helped him.  At last when they had done everything they could
think of, they took a lot of money and put it in the pocket of
the son they wanted to ruin; then when his father missed the
money, and the house was filled with policemen, detectives, and
neighbours, the bad man said he'd feel more comfortable to have
the family searched too, merely as a formality, so he stepped out
and was gone over, and when the son's turn came, there was the
money on him!  That made him a public disgrace to his family, and
a criminal who couldn't inherit the estate, and his father went
raving mad and tried to kill him, so he had to run away.  At
first he didn't care what he did, so he came over here.  Robert
said that man was his best friend, and as men went, he was a
decent fellow, so he cheered him up all he could, and went to
work with all his might to prove he was innocent, and to get back
his family, and his money for him.

When Robert had enough evidence that he was almost ready to start
to England, his man got a cable from an old friend of his
father's, who always had believed in him, and it said that the
bad man was dying--to come quick.  So Robert went all of a
sudden, like the Dead Letters told about.  Now, he described how
he reached there, took the old friend of the father of his friend
with him, and other witnesses, and all the evidence he had, and
went to see the sick man.  When Robert showed him what he could
prove, the bad man said it was no use, he had to die in a few
days, so he might as well go with a clean conscience, and he told
about everything he had done.  Robert had it all written out,
signed and sworn to.  He told about all of it, and then he said
to father:  "Have I made it clear to you?"

Leon was so excited he forgot all the manners he ever had, for he
popped up before father could open his head, and cried: "Clear as
mud!  I got that son business so plain in my mind, I'd know the
party of the first part, from the party of the second part, if I
met him promenading on the Stone Wall of China!"

Father and Laddie knew so much law they asked dozens of
questions; but that Robert man wasn't a smidgin behind, for every
clip he had the answer ready, and then he could go on and tell
much more than he had been asked.  He said as a Case, it was a
pretty thing to work on; but it was much more than a case to him,
because he always had known that his friend was not guilty; that
he was separated from his family, suffering terribly under the
disgrace, and they must be also.  He had worked for life for his
friend, because the whole thing meant so much to both of them. 
He said he must go back soon and finish up a little more that he
should have done while he was there, if it hadn't been that he
received no word from Shelley.

"When I didn't heah from heh for so long, and wrote so many
letters, and had no reply, I thought possibly some gay `young
Lochinvah had come out from the west,' and taken my sweet 'eart,"
he said, "and while I had my armour on, I made up my mind that
I'd give him a fight too.  I didn't propose to lose Shelley, if
it were in my powah to win heh.  I hadn't been able to say to heh
exactly what I desiahed, on account of getting a start alone in
this country; but if I won this case, I would have ample means. 
When I secuahed the requiahed evidence, I couldn't wait to
finish, so I came straight ovah, to make sure of heh."

He arose and handed the satchel to father.

"I notice you have a very good looking gun convenient," he said. 
"Would you put these papahs where you consider them safe until
I'm ready to return?  Our home, our living, and the honah of a
man are there, and we are mighty particular about that bag, are
we not, Shelley?"

"Well I should think we are!" cried Shelley.  "For goodness sake,
father, hang to it!  Is the man still living?  Could you get that
evidence over again?"

"He was alive when I left, but the doctors said ten days would be
his limit, so he may be gone befowr this."

Father picked up the satchel, set it on his knees, and stroked it
as if it were alive.

"Well!  Well!" he said.  "Now would any one think such a little
thing could contain so much?"

Shelley leaned toward Robert.

"Your friend!" she cried, "Your friend!  What DID he say to you? 
What did he DO?"

"Well, for a time he was wildly happy ovah having the stain
removed from his honah, and knowing that he would have his family
and faw'tn back; but there is an extremely sad feature to his
case that is not yet settled, so he must keep his head level
until we work that out.  Now about that hoss you wanted to show
me----" he turned to Leon.

Mother gave the signal, and we left the table.  Father carried
the satchel to his chest, made room for it, locked it in and put
the key in his pocket.  Then our men started to the barn to show
the Arab-Kentucky horse.  Mr. Paget went to Shelley and took her
in his arms exactly like Peter did Sally before the parlour door
that time when I got into trouble, and he looked at mother and
laughed as he said:  "I hope you will excuse me, but I"e been
having a very nawsty, anxious time, and I cawn't conform to the
rules for a few days, until I become accustomed to the fawct that
Shelley is not lost to me.  It was beastly when I reached
Chicago, had back all my letters, and found she had gone home
ill.  I've much suffering to recompense.  I'll atone for a small
portion immediately."

He lifted Shelley right off the floor--that's how big and strong
he was--he hugged her tight, and kissed her forehead, cheeks, and
eyes.

"When I've gone through the fahmality of asking your parents for
you, and they have said a gracious `yes,' I'll put the fust one
on your lips," he said, setting her down carefully.  "In the
meantime, you be fixing your mouth to say, `yes,' also, when I
propose to you, because it's coming befowr you sleep."

Shelley was like a peach blossom.  She reached up and touched his
cheek, while she looked at mother all smiling, and sparkling, as
she said:  "You see!"

Mother smiled back.

"I do, indeed!" she answered.

Leon pulled Mr. Paget's sleeve.

"Aw quit lally-gaggin' and come see a real horse," he said.

Robert put his other arm around Leon, drew him to his side and
hugged him as if he were a girl.  "I'm so glad Shelley has a
lawge family," he said.  "Big families are jolly.  I'm so proud
of all the brothers I'm going to have.  I was the only boy at
home."

"You haven't told us about your family," said mother.

"No," said Robert, "but I intend to.  I have a family!  One of
the finest on uth.  We'll talk about them after this hoss is
inspected."

He let Shelley go and walked away, his arm still around Leon. 
Shelley ran to mother and both of them sobbed out loud.

"NOW YOU SEE HOW IT WAS!" she said.

"You poor child!" cried mother.  "Indeed I DO see how it was. 
You've been a brave girl.  A good, brave girl!  Father and I are
mighty proud of you!"

"Oh mother!  I thought you were ashamed of me!" sobbed Shelley.

"Oh my child!" said mother quavery-like.  "Oh my child!  You
surely see that none of us could understand, as we do now."

She patted Shelley, and told her to run upstairs and lie down for
a while, because she was afraid she would be sick.

"We mustn't have a pale, tired girl right now," said mother.

Well!" said Shelley, but she just stood there holding mother.

"Well?" said mother gripping her.

"You see!" said Shelley.

"Child," said mother, "I DO see!  I see six feet of as handsome
manhood as I ever have seen anywhere.  His manner is perfect, and
I find his speech most attractive.  I am delighted with him.  I
do see indeed!  Your father is quite as proud and pleased as I
am.  Now go to bed."

Shelley held up her lips, and then went.  I ran to the barn,
where the men were standing in the shade, while Leon led his
horse up and down before them, told about its pedigree, its
record, how he came to have it.  The Paget man stood there
looking and listening gravely, as he studied the horse.  At last
he went over her, and gee! but he knew horse!  Then Laddie
brought out Flos and they talked all about her, and then went
into the barn.  Father opened the east doors to show how much
land he had, which were his lines; and while the world didn't
look quite so pretty as it had in May, still it was good enough. 
Then they went into the orchard, sat under the trees and began
talking about business conditions.  That was so dry I went back
to the house.  And maybe I didn't strike something interesting
there!

As I came up the orchard path to a back yard gate, I saw a
carriage at the hitching rack in front of the house, so I took a
peep and almost fell over.  It was the one the Princess had come
to Sally's wedding in; so I knew she was in the house visiting
Shelley.  I went to the parlour and there I had another shock;
for lo and behold! in our big rocking chair, and looking as well
as any one, so far as you could see--of course you can't see
heart trouble, though--sat Mrs. Pryor.  The Princess and mother
were there, all of them talking, laughing and having the best
time, while on the davenport enjoying himself as much as any one,
was Mr. Pryor.  They talked about everything, and it was easy to
see that the Pryor door was OPEN so far as we were concerned,
anyway.  Mrs. Pryor was just as nice and friendly as she could
be, and so was he.  Shelley sat beside him, and he pinched her
cheek and said:  "Something seems to make you especially
brilliant today, young woman!"

Shelley flushed redder, laughed, and glanced at mother, so she
said:  "Shelley is having a plain old-fashioned case of beau. 
She met a young man in Chicago last fall and he's here now to ask
our consent.  All of us are quite charmed with him.  That's why
she's so happy."

Then the Princess sprang up and kissed Shelley, so did Mrs.
Pryor, while such a chatter you never heard.  No one could repeat
what they said, for as many as three talked at the same time.

"Oh do let's have a double wedding!" cried the Princess when the
excitement was over a little.  "I think it would be great fun; do
let's!  When are you planning for?"

"Nothing is settled yet," said Shelley.  "We've had no time to
talk!"

"Mercy!" cried the Princess.  "Go make your arrangements quickly!

Hurry up, then come over, and we'll plan for the same time.  It
will be splendid!  Don't you think that would be fine, Mrs.
Stanton?"

"I can't see any objections to it," said mother.

"Where is your young man?  I'm crazy to see him," cried the
Princess.  "If you have gone and found a better looking one than
mine, I'll never speak to you again."

"She hasn't!" cried Mrs. Pryor calmly, like that settled it.  I
like her.  "They're not made!"

"I am not so sure of that," said Shelley proudly.  "Mother, isn't
my man quite as good looking, and as nice in every way, as
Laddie?"

"Fully as handsome, and so far as can be seen in such a short
time, quite as fine," said mother.

I was perfectly amazed at her; as if any man could be!

"I don't believe it, I won't stand it, and I shan't go home until
I have seen for myself!" cried the Princess, laughing, and yet it
sounded as if she were half-provoked, and I knew I was.  The
Paget man was all right, but I wasn't going to lose my head over
him.  Laddie was the finest, of course!

"Well, he's somewhere on the place with our men, this minute,"
said Shelley, "but you stay for supper, and meet him."

"When you haven't your arrangements made yet!  You surely are
unselfish!  Of course I won't do that, but I'd love to have one
little peep, then you bring him and come over to-morrow, so all
of us can become acquainted, and indeed, I'm really in earnest
about a double wedding."

"Go see where the men are," said Shelley to me.

I went to the back door, and their heads were bobbing far down in
the orchard.

"They're under the greening apple tree," I reported.

"If you will excuse us," said Shelley to Mr. and Mrs. Pryor,
"we'll walk down a few minutes and prove that I'm right."

"Don't stay," said Mrs. Pryor.  "This trip is so unusual for me
that I'm quite tired.  For a first venture, in such a long time,
I think I've done well.  But now I'm beginning to feel I should
go home."

"Go straight along," said the Princess.  "I'll walk across the
fields, or Thomas can come back after me."

So Mr. and Mrs. Pryor went away, while the Princess, Shelley,
May, and I walked through the orchard toward the men.  They were
standing on the top of the hill looking over the meadow, and
talking with such interest they didn't hear us or turn until
Shelley said:  "Mr. Paget, I want to present you to Laddie's
betrothed--Miss Pamela Pryor."

He swung around, finishing what he was saying as he turned, the
Princess took a swift step toward him, then, at the same time,
both of them changed to solid tombstone, and stood staring, and
so did all of us, while no one made a sound.  At last the Paget
man drew a deep, quivery breath and sort of shook himself as he
gazed at her.

"Why, Pam!" he cried.  "Darling Pam, cawn it possibly be you?"

If you ever heard the scream of a rabbit when the knives of a
reaper cut it to death, why that's exactly the way she cried out.

She covered her eyes with her hands.  He drew back and smiled,
the red rushed into his face, and he began to be alive again. 
Laddie went to the Princess and took her hands.

"What does this mean?" he begged.

She pulled away from him, and went to the Paget man slowly, her
big eyes wild and strained.

"Robert!" she cried.  "Robert! how did you get here?  Were you
hunting us?"

"All ovah England, yes," he said.  "Not heah!  I came heah to see
Shelley.  But you?  How do you happen to be in this country?"

"We've lived on adjoining land for two years!"

"You moved heah!  To escape the pity of our friends?"

"Father moved!  Mother and I had no means, and no refuge.  We
were forced.  We never believed it!  Oh Robert, we never--not for
a minute!  Oh Robert, say you never did it!"

"Try our chawming cousin Emmet your next guess!"

"That devil!  Oh that devil!"

She cried out that hurt way again, so he took her tight in his
arms; but sure as ever Laddie was my brother, he was hers, so
that was all right.  When they were together you wondered why in
this world you hadn't thought of it the instant you saw him
alone.  They were like as two peas.  They talked exactly the
same, only he sounded much more so, probably from having just
been in England for weeks, while in two years she had grown a
little as we were.  We gazed at them, open-mouthed, like as not,
and no one said a word.

At last Mr. Paget looked over the Princess' shoulder at father
and said:  "I can explain this, Mr. Stanton, in a very few wuds. 
I am my friend.  The case was my own.  The evidence I secuahed
was for myself.  This is my only sisteh.  Heh people are
mine----"

"The relationship is apparent," said father.  "There is a
striking likeness between you and your sister, and I can discern
traces of your parents in your face, speech and manner."

"If you know my father," said Robert, "then you undehstand what
happened to me when I was found with his money on my pehson, in
the presence of our best friends and the police.  He went raving
insane on the instant, and he would have killed me if he hadn't
been prevented; he tried to; has he changed any since, Pam?"

The Princess was clinging to him with both hands, staring at him,
wonder, joy, and fear all on her lovely face.

"Worse!" she cried.  "He's much worse!  The longer he broods, the
more mother grieves, the bitterer he becomes.  Mr. Stanton, he is
always armed.  He'll shoot on sight.  Oh what shall we do?"

"Miss Pamela," said Leon, "did your man Thomas know your brother
in England?"

"All his life."

"Well, then, we'd better be doing something quick.  He tied the
horses and was walking up and down the road while he waited, and
he saw us plainly when we crossed the wood yard a while ago.  He
followed us and stared so, I couldn't help noticing him."

"Jove!" cried Robert.  "I must have seen him in the village this
morning.  A man reminded me of him, then I remembered how like
people of his type are, and concluded I was mistaken.  Mr.
Stanton, you have agreed that the evidence I hold is sufficient. 
Pam cawn tell you that while I don't deny being full of tricks as
a boy, they weh not dirty, not low, and while father always
taking Emmet's paht against me drove me to recklessness
sometimes, I nevah did anything underhand or disgraceful.  She
knows what provocation I had, and exactly what happened.  Let heh
tell you!"

"I don't feel that I require any further information," said
father.  "You see, I happen to be fairly well acquainted with Mr.
Pryor."

"Pryor?"

"He made us use that name here," explained the Princess.

"WELL, HIS NAME IS PAGET!" said Robert angrily.

Laddie told me long ago he didn't believe it was Pryor.

"Then, if you are acquainted with my father, what would you
counsel?  Unless I'm prepahed to furnish the central figyah of
interest in a funeral, I dare not meet him, until he has seen
this evidence, had time to digest it, and calm himself."

Shelley caught him by the arm.  No wonder!  She hadn't been
proposed to, or even had a kiss on her lips.  She pulled him.

"You come straight to the house," she said.  "Thomas may tell
your father he thought he saw you."

That was about as serious as anything could be, but nothing ever
stopped Leon.  He sidled away from father, repeating in a low
voice:

        "`For sore dismayed, through storm and shade
             His child he did discover;
          One lovely hand she stretched for aid,
             And one was round her lover--'"


Shelley just looked daggers at him, but she was too anxious to
waste any time.

"Would Thomas tell your father?" she asked the Princess.

"The instant he saw him alone, yes.  He wouldn't before mother."

"Hold one minute!" cried father.  "We must think of our mother,
just a little.  Shelley, you and the girls run up and explain how
this is.  Better all of you go to the house, except Mr. Paget. 
He'll be safe here as anywhere.  Mr. Pryor will stop there, if he
comes.  So it would be best for you to keep out of sight, Robert,
until I have had a little talk with him."

"I'll stay here," I offered.  "We'll talk until you get Mr. Pryor
cooled off.  He can be awful ragesome when he's excited, and it
doesn't take much to start him."

"You're right about that!" agreed Robert.

So we sat under the greening and were having a fine visit while
the others went to break the news gently to mother that the Pryor
mystery had gone up higher than Gilderoy's kite.  My! but she'd
be glad!  It would save her many a powerful prayer.  I was
telling Robert all about the time his father visited us, and what
my mother said to him, and he said:  "She'd be the one to talk
with him now.  Possibly he'd listen to her, until he got it
through his head that his own son is not a common thief."

"Maybe he'll have to be held, like taking quinine, and made to
listen," I said.

"That would be easy, if he were not a walking ahsenal," said
Robert.  "You have small chance to reason with a half-crazy man
while he is handling a pistol."

He meant revolver.

"But he'll shoot!" I cried.  "The Princess said he'd shoot!"

"So he will!" said Robert.  "Shoot first, then find out how
things are, and kill himself and every one else with remorse,
afterward.  He is made that way."

"Then he doesn't dare see you until he finds out how mistaken he
has been," I said, for I was growing to like Robert better every
minute longer I knew him.  Besides, there was the Princess,
looking like him as possible, and loving him of course, like I
did Laddie, maybe.  And if anything could cure Mrs. Pryor's heart
trouble, having her son back would, because that was what made it
in the first place, and even before them, there was Shelley to be
thought of, and cared for.



CHAPTER XVIII

The Pryor Mystery

            "And now old Dodson, turning pale,
             Yields to his fate--so ends my tale."

It didn't take me long to see why Shelley liked Robert Paget.  He
was one of the very most likeable persons I ever had seen.  We
were sitting under the apple tree, growing better friends every
minute, when we heard a smash, so we looked up, and it was the
sound made by Ranger as Mr. Pryor landed from taking our meadow
fence.  He had ridden through the pasture, and was coming down
the creek bank.  He was a spectacle to behold.  A mile away you
could see that Thomas had told him he had seen Robert, and where
he was.  Father had been mistaken in thinking Mr. Pryor would go
to the house.  He had lost his hat, his white hair was flying,
his horse was in a lather, and he seemed to be talking to
himself.  Robert took one good look.  "Ye Gods!" he cried. 
"There he comes now, a chattering madman!"

"The Station," I panted.  "Up that ravine!  Roll back the stone
and pull the door shut after you.  Quick!"

He never could have been inside, before Mr. Pryor's horse was
raving along the embankment beside the fence.

"Where is he?" he cried.  "Thomas saw him here!"

I didn't think his horse could take the fence at the top of the
hill, but it looked as if he intended trying to make it, and I
had to stop him if I could.

"Saw who?" I asked with clicking teeth.

"A tall, slender man, with a handsome face, and the heart of a
devil."

"Yes, there was a man here like that in the face.  I didn't see
his heart," I said.

"Which way?" raved Mr. Pryor.  "Which way?  Is he at your house?"

Then I saw that he had the reins in his left hand, and a big
revolver in his right.  So there was no mistake about whether
he'd really shoot.  But that gun provoked me.  People have no
business to be careless with those things.  They're dangerous!

"He didn't do what you think he did," I cried, "and he can prove
he didn't, if you'll stop cavorting, and listen to reason."

Mr. Pryor leaned over the fence, dark purple like a beet now.

"You tell me where he is, or I'll choke it out of you," he said.

I guess he meant it.  I took one long look at his lean, clawlike
fingers, and put both hands around my neck.

"He knew Thomas saw him.  He went that way," I said, waving off
toward the north.

"Hah! striking for petticoats, as usual!" he cried, and away he
went in the direction of his house.  Then I flew for the Station.

"Come from there, quick!" I cried.  "I've sent him back to his
house, but when he finds you're not there, he will come here
again.  Hurry, and I'll put you in the woodshed loft.  He'd never
think of looking there."

He came out and we started toward the house, going pretty fast. 
Almost to the back gate we met Shelley.

"Does mother know?" I asked.

"I just told her," she said.

"Father," I cried, going in the back dining-room door.  "Mr.
Pryor was down in the meadow on Ranger.  Thomas did see Robert,
and his father is hunting him with a gun.  We saw him coming, so
I hid Robert in the Station and sent Mr. Pryor back home--I guess
I told him a lie, father, or at least part of one, I said he went
`that way,' and he did, but not so far as I made his father
think; so he started back home, but when he gets there and
doesn't find Robert he'll come here again, madder than ever.  Oh
father, he'll come again, and he's crazy, father!  Clear, raving
crazy!  I know he'll come again!"

"Yes," said father calmly.  "I think it very probable that he
will come again."

Then he started around shutting and latching windows, closing and
locking the doors, and he carefully loaded his gun, and leaned it
against the front casing.  Then he put on his glasses, and began
examining the papers they had brought out again.  Robert stood
beside him, and explained and showed him.

"You see with me out of the way, the English law would give
everything to my cousin," he said, and he explained it all over
again.

"And to think how he always posed for a perfect saint!" cried the
Princess.  "Oh I hope the devil knows how to make him pay for
what all of us have suffered!"

"Child!  Child!" cried mother.

"I can't help it!" said the Princess.  "Let me tell you, Mr.
Stanton."

Then SHE told everything all over again, but it was even more
interesting than the way Robert explained it, because what she
said was about how it had been with her and her mother.

"It made father what he is," she said.  "He would have killed
Robert, if our friends hadn't helped him away.  He will now, if
he isn't stopped.  I tell you he will!  He sold everything he
could legally control, for what any one chose to give him, and
fled here stricken in pride, heartbroken, insane with anger, the
creature you know.  In a minute he'll be back again.  Oh what are
we going to do?"

Father was laying out the papers that he wanted to use very
carefully.

"These constitute all the proof any court would require," he said
to Robert.  "If he returns, all of you keep from sight.  This is
my house; I'll manage who comes here, in my own way."

"But you must be allowed to take no risk!" cried Robert.  "I
cawn't consent to youah facing danger for me."

"There will be no risk," said father.  "There is no reason why he
should want to injure me.  As the master of this house, I am
accustomed to being obeyed.  If he comes, step into the parlour
there, until I call you."

He was busy with the papers when he saw Mr. Pryor coming.  I
wondered if he would jump the yard fence and ride down mother's
flowers, but he left his horse at the hitching rack, and pounded
on the front door.

"Did any of you notice whether he was displaying a revolver?"
asked father.

"Yes father!  Yes!" I cried.  "And he's shaking so I'm afraid
he'll make it go, when he doesn't intend to."

Father picked up and levelled his rifle on the front door.

"Leon," he said, "you're pretty agile.  Open this door, keep
yourself behind it, and step around in the parlour.  The rest of
you get out, and stay out of range."

Those nearest hurried into the parlour.  Candace, May, and I
crouched in the front stairway, but things were so exciting we
just had to keep the door open a tiny crack so we could see plain
as anything.  There had been nothing for Mrs. Freshett to do all
afternoon, so she had gone over to visit an hour with Amanda
Deam.  Now Mr. Pryor probably thought father would meet him with
the Bible in his hand, and read a passage about loving your
neighbour as yourself.  I'll bet anything you can mention that he
never expected to find himself looking straight down the barrel
of a shining big rifle when that door swung open.  It surprised
him so, he staggered, and his arm wavered.  If he had shot and
hit anything then, it would have been an accident.

"Got you over the heart," said father, in precisely the same
voice he always said, "This is a fine day we are having."  "Now
why are you coming here in such a shape?"  This was a little
cross.  "I'm not the man to cringe before you!"  This was quite
boastful.  "You'll get bullet for bullet, if you attempt to
invade my house with a gun."  This pinged as if father shot words
instead of bullets.

"I want my daughter to come home," said Mr. Pryor.  "And if
you're sheltering the thief she is trying to hide, yield him up,
if you would save yourself."

"Well, I'm not anxious about dying, with the family I have on my
hands, neighbour," said father, his rifle holding without a
waver, "but unless you put away that weapon, and listen to
reason, you cannot enter my house.  Calm yourself, man, and hear
what there is to be said!  Examine the proof, that is here
waiting to be offered to you."

"Once and but once, send them out, or I'll enter over you!" cried
Mr. Pryor.

"Sorry," said father, "but if only a muscle of your trigger
finger moves, you fall before I do.  I've the best range, and the
most suitable implement for the work."

"Implement for the work!"  Well, what do you think of father? 
Any one who could not see, to have heard him, would have thought
he was talking about a hoe.  We saw a shadow before we knew what
made it; then, a little at a time, wonderingly, her jolly face a
bewildered daze, her mouth slowly opening, Mrs. Freshett, half-
bent and peering, stooped under Mr. Pryor's arm and looked in our
door.  She had come back to help get supper, and because the
kitchen was locked, she had gone around the house to see if she
could get in at the front.  What she saw closed her mouth, and
straightened her back.

"WHY, YOU TWO OLD FOOLS!" she cried.  "IF YE AIN'T DRAWED A BEAD
ON EACH OTHER!"

None of us saw her do it.  We only knew after it was over what
must have happened.  She had said she'd risk her life for mother.

She never stopped an instant when her chance came.  She must have
turned, and thrown her big body against Mr. Pryor.  He was tired,
old, and shaking with anger.  They went down together, she
gripping his right wrist with both hands, and she was strong as
most men.  Father set the gun beside the door, and bent over
them.  A minute more and he handed the revolver to Leon, and
helped Mrs. Freshett to her feet.  Mr. Pryor lay all twisted on
the walk, his face was working, and what he said was a stiff
jabber no one could understand.  He had broken into the pieces we
often feared he would.

Robert and Laddie came running to help father carry him in, and
lay him on the couch.

"I hope, Miss Stanton," said Mrs. Freshett, "that I wa'n't too
rough with him.  He was so shaky-like, I was 'feered that thing
would go off without his really makin' it, and of course I
couldn't see none of yourn threatened with a deadly weepon,
'thout buttin' in and doin' the best I could."

Mother put her arms around her as far as they would reach.  She
would have had to take her a side at a time to really hug all of
her, and she said:  "Mrs. Freshett, you are an instrument in the
hands of the Lord this day.  Undoubtedly you have kept us from a
fearful tragedy; possibly you have saved my husband for me.  None
of us ever can thank you enough."

"Loosen his collar and give him air," said Mrs. Freshett pushing
mother away.  "I think likely he has bust a blood vessel."

Father sent Leon flying to bring Dr. Fenner.  Laddie took the
carriage and he and Robert went after Mrs. Pryor, while father,
mother, Mrs. Freshett, the Princess, May, and I, every last one,
worked over Mr. Pryor.  We poured hot stuff down his throat, put
warm things around him, and rubbed him until the sweat ran on us,
trying to get his knotted muscles straightened out.  When Dr.
Fenner came he said we were doing all he could; MAYBE Mr. Pryor
would come to and be all right, and maybe his left side would be
helpless forever; it was a stroke.  Seemed to me having Mrs.
Freshett come against you like that, could be called a good deal
more than a stroke, but I couldn't think of the right word then. 
And after all, perhaps stroke was enough.  He couldn't have been
much worse off if the barn had fallen on him.  I didn't think
there was quite so much of Mrs. Freshett; but then she was
scared, and angry; and he was about ready to burst, all by
himself, if no one had touched him.  He had much better have
stayed at home and listened to what was to be said, reasonably,
like father would; and then if he really had to shoot, he would
have been in some kind of condition to take aim.

After a long hard fight we got him limber, straightened out, and
warm, it didn't rip so when he breathed, then they put him in the
parlour on the big davenport.  Leon said if the sparkin' bench
didn't bring him to, nothing would.  Laddie sat beside him and
mother kept peeping.  She wouldn't let Dr. Fenner go, because she
said Mr. Pryor just must come out of it right, and have a few
years of peace and happiness.

Mrs. Pryor came back with Laddie and Robert.  He carried her in,
put her in the big rocking chair again, and he sat beside her,
stroking and kissing her, while she held him with both hands. 
You could see NOW why his mother couldn't sleep, walked the road,
and held her hands over her heart.  She was a brave woman, and
she had done well to keep alive and going in any shape at all. 
You see we knew.  There had been only the few hours when it
seemed possible that one of our boys had taken father's money and
was gone.  I well remembered what happened to our mother then. 
And if she had been disgraced before every one, dragged from her
home away across a big sea to live among strangers, and not known
where her boy was for years, I'm not a bit sure that she'd have
done better than Mrs. Pryor.  Yes, she would too; come to think
it out--she'd have kept on believing the Lord had something to do
with it, and that He'd fix it some way; and I know she and father
would have held hands no matter what happened or where they went.

I guess the biggest thing the matter with Pryors was that they
didn't know how to go about loving each other right; maybe it was
because they didn't love God, so they couldn't know exactly what
PROPER LOVE was; because God is love, like father said.

Mrs. Pryor didn't want to see Mr. Pryor--I can't get used to
calling them Paget--and she didn't ask anything about him.  I
guess she was pretty mad at him.  She never had liked the Emmet
cousin, and she'd had nothing but trouble with him all the time
he had been in her family, and then that awful disgrace, that she
always THOUGHT was all him, but she couldn't prove it, and she
had no money.

That's a very bad thing.  A woman should always have some money. 
She works as hard as any one, and usually she has more that
worries her, so it's only fair for her to have part of what the
work and worry bring.  Mother always has money.  Why, she has so
much, she can help father out when he is pushed with bills, as
she did last fall, to start Shelley to music school.  It's no way
to be forced to live with a man, just to get a home, food, and
clothing.  I don't believe mother ever would do it in all this
world.  But then mother has worked all her life, and so if father
doesn't do as she wants him to, she'd know exactly how to go
about taking care of herself.

After all Mrs. Pryor didn't need to sit back on her dignity and
look so abused.  He couldn't knock her down, and drag her clear
here.  Why didn't she say right out, in the beginning, that her
son COULDN'T be a thief, that she knew it, and she'd stay at home
and wait for him to come back?  She could have put a piece in the
paper saying she knew her boy was all right, and for him to come
back, so they could go to work and PROVE it.  I bet if she'd had
one tenth of the ginger mother has, she'd have stopped the whole
fuss in the start.  I looked at her almost steadily, trying to
figure out just what mother would have done in her place.  Maybe
I'm mistaken about exactly how she would have set to work, but
this I KNOW: she'd have stuck to the Lord; she'd have loved
father, so dearly, he just COULDN'T have wanted her to do things
that hurt her until it gave her heart trouble; and she never,
never would have given up one of us, and sat holding her heart
for months, refusing to see or to speak to any one, while she
waited for some one else to do something.  Mother never waits. 
She always thinks a minute, if she's in doubt she asks father; if
he can't decide, both of them ask God; and then you ought to see
things begin to fly.

The more I watched Mrs. Pryor, the more I began to think she was
a lady; and just about when I was sure that was what ailed her, I
heard father say:  "Perhaps the lady would like a cup of tea."  I
had a big notion to tell her to come on, and I would show her
where the cannister was, but I thought I better not.  I wanted
to, though.  She'd have felt much better if she had got up and
worked like the rest of us.  With all the excitement, and
everything happening at once, you'd have thought mother would be
flat on her back, but flat nothing!  Everything was picked up and
slid back, fast as it was torn down; she found time to flannel
her nose and brush her hair, her collar was straight, and the
goldstone pin shone in the light, while her starched white apron
fluttered as she went through the doors.  She said a few words to
Candace and Mrs. Freshett, May took out a linen cloth and began
to set places for all the grown people, so I knew there'd be
strawberry preserves and fried ham, but in all that, would you
ever have thought that she'd find a second to make biscuit, and
tea cakes herself?  Plain as preaching I heard her say to Mrs.
Freshett:  "I do hope and pray that Mr. Pryor will come out of it
right, so we can take him home, and teach him to behave himself;
but if he's gone this minute, I intend to have another decent
meal for Shelley to offer her young man; and I don't care if I
show Mrs. Pryor that we're not hungry over here, if we do lack
servants to carry in food on silver platters."

"That I jest would!" said Mrs. Freshett.  "Even if he turns up
his toes, 'tain't YOUR funeral, thank the Lord! an' looky here,
I'd jest as soon set things in a bake pan an' pass 'em for you,
myself.  I'll do it, if you say the word."

Mother bit her lip, and fought her face to keep it straight, as
she said confidential-like:  "No, I'm not going to toady to her. 
I only want her to see that a meal really consists of food after
all; I don't mind putting my best foot foremost, but I won't ape
her."

"Huccome they to fuss like this, peaceable as Mr. Stanton be, an'
what's Shelley's beau to them?"

"I should think you could tell by looking at Pryors," said
mother.  "He's their mystery, and also their son.  Shelley met
him in Chicago, he came here to see her, and ran right into them.
I'll tell you about it before you go.  Now, I must keep these
applications hot, for I've set my head on pulling Mr. Pryor out
so that he can speak, and have a few decent years of life yet."

"But why did the old devil--EX-cuse me, I mean the old GENTLEMAN,
want to shoot your man?"

"He didn't!  I'll tell you all about it after they're gone."

"I bet you don't get shet of them the night," said Mrs. Freshett.

"All right!" said mother.  "Whatever Dr. Fenner thinks.  I won't
have Mr. Pryor moved until it can't hurt him, if he stays a week.
I blame her quite as much as I do him; from what I know.  If a
woman is going to live with a man, there are times when she's got
to put her foot down--flat--most unmercifully flat!"

"Ain't she though!" said Mrs. Freshett; then she and mother just
laughed.

There!  What did I tell you?  I feel as good as if father had
patted me on the head and bragged on me a lot.  I THOUGHT mother
wouldn't think that Mr. Pryor was ALL to blame, and she didn't. 
I figured that out by myself, too.

Every minute Mr. Pryor grew better.  He breathed easier, and
mother tilted on her toes and waved her hands, when he moved his
feet, threw back his head, lifted his hand to it, and acted like
he was almost over it, and still in shape to manage himself.  She
hurried to tell Mrs. Pryor, and I know mother didn't like it when
she never even said she was glad, or went to see for herself.

Laddie and the Princess watched him, while every one else went to
supper.  Laddie picked up Mrs. Pryor's chair, carried her to the
dining-room, and set her in my place beside father.  He placed
Dr. Fenner next her, and left Robert to sit with Shelley.  I
don't think Mrs. Pryor quite liked that, but no one asked her.

I watched and listened until everything seemed to be going right
there, and then I slipped into the parlour, where Laddie and the
Princess were caring for Mr. Pryor.  With one hand Laddie held
hers, the other grasped Mr. Pryor's wrist.  Laddie never took his
eyes from that white, drawn face, except to smile at her, and
squeeze her hand every little while.  At last Mr. Pryor turned
over and sighed, pretty soon he opened his eyes, and looked at
Laddie, then at the Princess, and it was nothing new to see them,
so he smiled and dozed again.  After a while he opened them
wider, then he saw the piano--that was an eye-opener for any
one--and the strange room, so he asked, most as plain as he ever
talked, why he was at our house again, and then he began to
remember.  He struggled to sit up and the colour came into his
face.  So Laddie let go the Princess, and held him down while he
said:  "Mr. Pryor, answer me this.  Do you want to spend the
remainder of your life in an invalid's chair, or would you like
to walk abroad and sit a horse again?"

He glared at Laddie, but he heard how things were plainly enough.

Laddie held him, while he explained what a fight we had to unlock
his muscles, and start him going again, and how, if we hadn't
loved him, and wanted him so, and had left him untouched until
the Doctor came, very likely he'd have been paralyzed all the
rest of his life, if he hadn't died; and he said he wished he
HAD, and he didn't THANK any one for saving him.

"Oh yes you do!" said Laddie, the same as he'd have talked to
Leon.  "You can't stuff me on that, and you needn't try.  Being
dead is a cold, clammy proposition, that all of us put off as
long as we can.  You know you want to see Pamela in her own home.

You know you are interested in how I come out with those horses. 
You know you want the little people you spoke of, around you. 
You know the pain and suspense you have borne have almost driven
you insane, and it was because you cared so deeply.  Now lie
still, and keep quiet!  All of us are tired and there's no sense
in making us go through this again, besides the risk of crippling
yourself that you run.  Right here in this house are the papers
to prove that your nephew took your money, and hid it in your
son's clothing, as he already had done a hundred lesser things,
before, purposely to estrange you.  Hold steady!  You must hear
this!  The sooner you know it, the better you'll feel.  You
remember, don't you, that before your nephew entered your home,
you idolized your son.  You thought the things he did were
amusing.  A boy is a boy, and if he's alive, he's very apt to be
lively.  Mother could tell you a few pranks that Leon has put us
through; but they're only a boy's foolishness, they are not
unusual or unforgivable.  I've gone over the evidence your son
brings, with extreme care, so has father.  Both of us are quite
familiar with common law.  He has every proof you can possibly
desire.  You can't get around it, even if your heart wasn't worn
out with rebellion, and you were not crazy to have the loving
sympathy of your family again."

"I don't believe a word of it!"

"You have got to!  I tell you it is PROOF, man!  The documents
are in this house now."

"He forged them, or stole them, as he took the money!"

Laddie just laughed.

"How you do long, and fight, to be convinced!" he said.  "I don't
blame you!  When anything means this much, of course you must be
sure.  But you'll know your nephew's signature; also your
lawyer's.  You'll know letters from old friends who are above
question.  Sandy McSheel has written you that he was with Robert
through all of it, and he gives you his word that everything is
all right.  You will believe him, won't you?"

Big tears began to squeeze from under Mr. Pryor's lids, until
Laddie and the Princess each tried to see how much of him they
could hold to keep him together-like.

"Tell me!" he said at last, so they took turns explaining
everything plain as day, and soon he listened without being held.

When they had told him everything they could think of, he asked: 
"Did Robert kill Emmet?"

"I am very happy to be able to tell you that he did not.  It
would have been painful, and not helped a bad matter a particle. 
Your nephew had dissipated until he was only a skeleton just
breathing his last.  It's probable that his fear of death helped
your son out, so that he got the evidence he wanted easier than
he hoped to in the beginning.  I don't mean that he is dead now;
but he is passing slowly, and loathsomely.  Robert thinks word
that he has gone will come any hour.  Think how pleasant it will
be to have your son!  Think how happy your home will be now! 
Think how you will love to see Sandy, and all your old friends! 
Think how glad you'll be to go home, and take charge of your
estate!"

"Think!" cried Mr. Pryor, pushing Laddie away and sitting up: 
"Think how I shall enjoy wringing the last drop of blood from
that craven's body with these old hands!"

What a sight he did look to be sure!  Sick, half-crazy, on the
very verge of the grave himself, and wanting to kill a poor man
already dying.  Aren't some people too curious?

Laddie carefully laid him down, straightened him out and held him
again.  Mother always said he was "patient as Job," and that day
it proved to be a good thing.

"You're determined to keep yourself well supplied with trouble,"
laughed Laddie.  I don't believe any one else would have dared. 
"Now to an unbiased observer, it would seem that you'd be ready
to let well enough alone.  You have your son back, you have him
fully exonerated, you have much of your property, you are now
ready for freedom, life, and love, with the best of us; you have
also two weddings on your hands in the near future.  Why in the
name of sense are you anxious for more?"

"I should have thought that Sandy McSheel, if he's a real friend
of mine----"

"Sandy tells you all about it in the letter he has sent.  He went
with Robert fully intending to do that very thing for you, but
the poor creature was too loathsome.  The sight of him made Sandy
sick.  He writes you that when he saw the horrible spectacle, all
he could think of was to secure the evidence needed and get
away."

Suddenly the Princess arose and knelt beside the davenport.  She
put her arms around her father's neck and drew his wrinkled,
white old face up against her lovely one.

"Daddy!  Dear old Daddy!" she cried.  "I've had such a hard spot
in my heart against you for so long.  Oh do let's forget
everything, and begin all over again; begin away back where we
were before Emmet ever came.  Oh Daddy, do let's forget, and
begin all over new, like other people!"

He held her tight a minute, then his lips began whispering
against her ear.  Finally he said:  "Take yourselves off, and
send Robert here.  I want my son.  Oh I want my boy!"

It was a long time before Robert came from the parlour; when he
did, it was only to get his mother and take her back with him;
then it was a still longer time before the door opened; but when
it did, it was perfectly sure that they were all friends again. 
Then Leon went to tell Thomas, and he came with the big carriage.

White and shaking, Mr. Pryor was lifted into it and they went
home together, taking Shelley with them to stay that night; so no
doubt she was proposed to and got her kiss before she slept.

That fall there were two weddings at our church at the same time.

Sally's had been fine; but it wasn't worth mentioning beside
Laddie and the Princess, and Robert and Shelley.  You should have
seen my mother!  She rocked like a kingbird on the top twig of
the winesap, which was the tallest tree in our orchard, and for
once there wasn't a single fly in her ointment, not one, she said
so herself, and so did father.  As we watched the big ve-hi-
ackle, as Leon called it, creep slowly down the Little Hill, it
made me think of that pathetic poem, "The Three Warnings," in
McGuffey's Sixth.  I guess I gave Mr. Pryor the first, that time
he got so angry he hit his horse until it almost ran away. 
Mother delivered the second when she curry-combed him about the
taxes, and Mrs. Freshett finished the job.  The last two lines
read as if they had been especially written about him:

            "And now old Dodson, turning pale,
             Yields to his fate--so ends my tale."


The end of Project Gutenberg etext of "Laddie: A True Blue Story"




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