Part 4 out of 9
"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.
"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.'"
"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
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
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!"
"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?'"
"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
"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
"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.
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
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
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,
"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
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
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
"Do it yourself for want of me,
The boy replied quite manfully,"
quoted Leon from "The Little Lord and the Farmer." He was always
"I think you're mean as dirt if you don t bring it," said
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
"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
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
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
"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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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?"
"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
"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
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
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
"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
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
"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
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?"
"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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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