Part 2 out of 9
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.
"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
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
"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
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
"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
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.
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
"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!"
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
"Where is your hunting ground, and what game are you after?" he
"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
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
"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,"
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
"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
"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.
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
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.
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,"
"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
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
"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
"Guess what else!" I cried.
"More?" said Laddie. "Out with it! Don't kill me with
"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
"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
"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,
"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
"The monkey!" said Laddie, but he didn't get mad; he just
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
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
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
"Then do you mean you're going to tell him my foolish remark?"
"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
"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
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
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
"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
"Where were you?"
"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
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
"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?"
"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
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
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