Part 8 out of 9
plans made to fix you a place even nicer, and then be forced to
leave it and go to a little room in the city, and make all the
money you earned off of how much other men fight over business,
and land and such perfectly awful things, that they always have
to be whispered when Jerry tells about them? Would you?"
"You little dunce!" she cried.
"I know I'm a fool. I know I'm not telling you a single thing I
should! Maybe I'm hurting Laddie far more than I'm helping him,
and if I am, I wish I would die before I see him; but oh!
Princess, I'm trying with all my might to make you understand how
he feels. He WANTS to do every least thing you'd like him to.
He will, almost any thing else in the world, he would this-- he
would in a minute, but he just CAN'T. All of us know he can't!
If you'd lived with him since he was little and always had known
him, you wouldn't ask him to; you wouldn't want him to! You
don't know what you're doing! Mother says you don't! You'll
kill him if you send him to the city to live, you just will! You
are doing it now! He's getting thinner and whiter every day.
Don't! Oh please don't do it!"
The Princess was looking at the world. She was gazing at it so
dazed-like she seemed to be surprised at what she saw. She acted
as if she'd never really seen it before. She looked and she
looked. She even turned her horse a full circle to see all of
it, and she went around slowly. I stepped from one foot to the
other and sweat; but I kept quiet and let her look. At last when
she came around, she glanced down at me, and she was all melted,
and lovely as any one you ever saw, exactly like Shelley at
Christmas, and she said: "I don't think I ever saw the world
before. I don't know that I'm so crazy about a city myself, and
I perfectly hate lawyers. Come to thing of it, a lawyer helped
work ruin in our family, and I never have believed, I never will
She stopped talking and began looking again. I gave her all the
time she needed. I was just straining to be wise, for mother
says it takes the very wisest person there is to know when to
talk, and when to keep still. As I figured it, now was the time
not to say another word until she made up her mind about what I
had told her already. If Pryors didn't know what we thought of
them by that time, it wasn't mother's fault or mine. As she
studied things over she kept on looking. What she saw seemed to
be doing her a world of good. Her face showed it every second
plainer and plainer. Pretty soon it began to look like she was
going to come through as Amos Hurd did when he was redeemed.
Then, before my very eyes, it happened! I don't know how I ever
held on to the pie or kept from shouting, "Praise the Lord!" as
father does at the Meeting House when he is happiest. Then she
leaned toward me all wavery, and shining eyed, and bloomful, and
said: "Did you ever hurt Laddie's feelings, and make him angry
"I'm sure I never did," I answered.
"But suppose you had! What would you do?"
"Do? Why, I'd go to him on the run, and I'd tell him I never
intended to hurt his feelings, and how sorry I was, and I'd give
him the very best kiss I could."
The Princess stroked Maud's neck a long time and thought while
she studied our farm, theirs beyond it, and at the last, the far
field where Laddie was plowing. She thought, and thought, and
afraid to cheep, I stood gripping the shingle and waited.
Finally she said: "The last time Laddie was at our house, I said
to him those things he repeated to you. He went away at once,
hurt and disappointed. Now, if you like, along with your
precious pie, you may carry him this message from me. You may
tell him that I said I am sorry!"
I could have cried "Glory!" and danced and shouted there in the
road, but I didn't. It was no time to lose my head. That was
all so fine and splendid, as far as it went, but it didn't quite
cover the case. I never could have done it for myself; but for
Laddie I would venture anything, so I looked her in the eyes,
straight as a dart, and said: "He'd want the kiss too,
You could see her stiffen in the saddle and her fingers grip the
reins, but I kept on staring right into her eyes.
"I could come up, you know," I offered.
A dull red flamed in her cheeks and her lips closed tight. One
second she sat very still, then a dancing light leaped sparkling
into her eyes; a flock of dimples chased each other around her
lips like swallows circling their homing place at twilight.
"What about that wonderful pie?" she asked me.
I ran to the nearest fence corner, and laid the shingle on the
gnarled roots of a Johnny Appleseed apple tree. Then I set one
foot on the arch of the Princess' instep and held up my hands.
One second I thought she would not lift me, the next I was on her
level and her lips met mine in a touch like velvet woven from
threads of flame. Then with a turn of her stout little wrist,
she dropped me, and a streak went up our road. Nothing so
amazing and so important ever had happened to me. It was an
occasion that demanded something unusual. To cry, "Praise the
Lord!" was only to repeat an hourly phrase at our house; this
demanded something out of the ordinary, so I said just exactly as
father did the day the brown mare balked with the last load of
seed clover, when a big storm was breaking--"Jupiter Ammon!"
When I had calmed down so I could, I climbed the fence, and
reached through a crack for the pie. As I followed the cool,
damp furrow, and Laddie's whistle, clear as the lark's above the
wheat, thrilled me, I was almost insane with joy. Just joy!
Pure joy! Oh what a good world it was!--most of the time! Most
of the time! Of course, there WERE Paget men in it. But anyway,
THIS couldn't be beaten. I had a message for Laddie from the
Princess that would send him to the seventh heaven, wherever that
was; no one at our house spent any time thinking farther than the
first one. I had her kiss, that I didn't know what would do to
him, and I also had a big piece of juicy rhubarb pie not yet
entirely cold. If that didn't wipe out the trouble I had made
showing the old crest thing, nothing ever could. I knew even
then, that men were pretty hard to satisfy, but I was quite
certain that Laddie would be satisfied that morning. As I
hurried along I wondered whether it would be better to give him
my gift first, or the Princess'. I decided that joy would keep,
while the pie was cold enough, with all the time I had stopped;
and if I told him about her first, maybe he wouldn't touch it at
all, and it wasn't so easy as it looked to carry it to him and
never even once stick in my finger for the tiniest lick--joy
would keep; but I was going to feed him; so with shining face, I
offered the pie and stood back to see just how happy I could get.
"Mother send it?" asked Laddie.
People were curious that morning, as if I had a habit of stealing
pie. I only took pieces of cut ones from the cellar when mother
didn't care. So I explained again that Candace gave it to me,
and I was free to bring it.
"Oh I see!" said Laddie.
After nearly two weeks of work, the grays had sobered down enough
to stand without tying; so he wound the lines around the plow
handle, sat on the beam, and laid aside his hat, having a fresh
flower in the band. Once he started a thing, he just simply
wouldn't give up. He unbuttoned his neckband until I could see
his throat where it was white like a woman's, took out his knife
and ate that pie. Of course we knew better than to use a knife
at the table, but there was no other way in the field. He ate
that pie, slowly and deliberately, and between bites he talked.
I watched him with a wide grin, wondering what in this world he
WOULD say, in a minute. I don't think I ever had quite such a
good time in all my life before, and I never expect to again. He
was saying: "Talk about nectar and ambrosia! Talk about the
feasts of Lucullus! Talk about food for the Gods!"
I put on his hat, sat on the ground in front of him, and was the
happiest girl in the world, of that I am quite sure. When the
last morsel was finished, Laddie looked at me steadily.
"I wonder," he said, "I wonder if there's another man in the
world who is blest with quite such a loving, unselfish little
sister as mine?" Then he answered himself: "No! By all the
Gods, ant half-Gods, I swear it--No!"
It was grand as a Fourth of July oration or the most exciting
part when the Bishop dedicated our church. I couldn't hold in
another second, I could hear my heart beat.
"Oh Laddie!" I shouted, jumping up, "that pie is only the
beginning of the good things I have brought you. I have a
message, and a gift besides, Laddie!"
"A message and a gift?" Laddie repeated. "What! More?"
"Truly I have a message and a gift for you," I cried, "and
Laddie--they are from the Princess!"
His eyes raised to mine now, and slowly he turned Sabethany-like.
"From the Princess!" he exclaimed. "A message and a gift for me,
Little Sister? You never would let Leon put you up to serve me a
That hurt. He should have KNOWN I wouldn't, and besides, "Leon
feels just as badly about this as any of us," I said. "Have you
forgotten he offered to plow, and let you do the clean, easy
"Forgive me! I'm overanxious," said Laddie, his arms reaching
for me. "Go on and tell carefully, and if you truly love me,
don't make a mistake!"
Crowding close, my arms around his neck, his crisp hair against
my lips, I whispered my story softly, for this was such a fine
and splendid secret, that not even the shining blackbirds, and
the pert robins in the furrows were going to get to hear a word
of it. Before I had finished Laddie was breathing as Flos does
when he races her the limit. He sat motionless for a long time,
while over his face slowly crept a beauty that surpassed that of
Apollo in his Greek book.
"And her gift?"
It was only a breath.
"She helped me up, and she sent you this," I answered.
Then I set my lips on his, and held them there a second, trying
my level best to give him her very kiss, but of course I could
"Oh, Laddie," I cried. "Her eyes were like when stars shine down
in our well! Her cheeks were like mother's damask roses! She
smelled like flowers, and when her lips touched mine little
stickers went all over me!"
Then Laddie's arms closed around me and I thought sure every bone
in my body was going to be broken; when he finished there wasn't
a trace of that kiss left for me. Remembering it would be all
I'd ever have. It made me see what would have happened to the
Princess if she had been there; and it was an awful pity for her
to miss it, because he'd sober down a lot before he reached her,
but I was sure as shooting that he wouldn't be so crazy as to
kiss her hands again. Peter wasn't a patching to him!
That night Laddie rode to Pryors'. When he brought Flos to the
gate you could see the shadow of your face on her shining flank;
her mane and tail were like ravelled silk, her hoofs bright as
polished horn, and her muzzle was clean as a ribbon. I broke one
of those rank green sprouts from the snowball bush and brushed
away the flies, so she wouldn't fret, stamp, and throw dust on
herself. Then Laddie came, fresh from a tubbing, starched linen,
dressed in his new riding suit, and wearing top hat and
gauntlets. He looked the very handsomest I ever had seen him;
and at the same time, he seemed trembling with tenderness, and
bursting with power. Goodness sake! I bet the Princess took one
good look and "came down" like Davy Crockett's coon. Mother was
on his arm and she walked clear to the gate with him.
"LADDIE, ARE YOU SURE ENOUGH TO GO?" I heard her ask him whisper-
"SURE AS DEATH!" Laddie answered.
Mother looked, and she had to see how it was with him; no doubt
she saw more than I did from having been through it herself, so
she smiled kind of a half-sad, half-glad smile. Then she turned
to her damask rose bush, the one Lucy brought her from the city,
and that she was so precious about, that none of us dared touch
it, and she searched all over it and carefully selected the most
perfect rose. When she borrowed Laddie's knife and cut the stem
as long as my arm, I knew exactly how great and solemn the
occasion was; for always before about six inches had been her
limit. She held it toward him, smiling bravely and beautifully,
but the tears were running straight down her cheeks.
"Take it to her," she said. "I think, my son, it is very like."
Laddie took her in his arms and wiped away the tears; he told her
everything would come out all right about God, and the mystery,
even. Then he picked me clear off the ground, and he tried to
see how near he could come to cracking every bone in my body
without really doing it, and he kissed me over and over. It
hadn't been so easy, but I guess you'll admit that paid. Then he
rode away with the damask rose waving over his heart. Mother and
I stood beside the hitching rack and looked after him, with our
arms tight around each other while we tried to see which one
could bawl the hardest.
The Homing Pigeon
"A millstone and the human heart,
Are ever driven round,
And if they've nothing else to grind,
They must themselves be ground."
It seemed to me that my mother was the person who really could
have been excused for having heart trouble. The more I watched
her, the more I wondered that she didn't. There was her own
life, the one she and father led, where everything went exactly
as she wanted it to; and if there had been only themselves to
think of, no people on earth could have lived happier, unless the
pain she sometimes suffered made them trouble, and I don't think
it would, for neither of them were to blame for that. They
couldn't help it. They just had it to stand, and fight the
stiffest they could to cure it, and mother always said she was
better; every single time any one asked, she was better. I hoped
soon it would all be gone. Then they could have been happy for
sure, if some of us hadn't popped up and kept them in hot water
all the time.
I can't tell you about Laddie when he came back from Pryors'. He
tore down the house, then tore it up, and then threw around the
pieces, and none of us cared. Every one was just laughing,
shouting, and every bit as pleased as he was, while I was the
Queen Bee. Laddie said so, himself, and if he didn't know, no
one did. Pryors had been lovely to him. When mother asked him
how he made it, he answered: "I rode over, picked up the
Princess and helped myself. After I finished, I remembered the
little unnecessary formality of asking her to marry me; and she
said right out loud that she WOULD. When I had time for them, I
reached Father and Mother Pryor, and maybe it doesn't show, but
somewhere on my person I carry their blessing, genially and
heartily given, I am proud to state. Now, I'm only needing
yours, to make me a king among men."
They gave it quite as willingly, I am sure, although you could
see mother scringe when Laddie said "Father and Mother Pryor." I
knew why. She adored Laddie, like the Bible says you must adore
the Almighty. From a tiny baby Laddie had taken care of her. He
used to go back, take her hand, and try to help her over rough
places while he still wore dresses. Straight on, he had been
like that; always seeing when there was too much work and trying
to shield her; always knowing when a pain was coming and fighting
to head it off; always remembering the things the others forgot,
going to her last at night, and his face against hers on her
pillow the first in the morning, to learn how she was before he
left the house. If you were the mother of a man like that, how
would you like to hear him call some one else mother, and have
the word slip from his tongue so slick you could see he didn't
even realize that he had used it? The answer would be, if you
were honest, that you wouldn't have liked it any more than she
did. She knew he had to go. She wanted him to be happy. She
was as sure of the man he was going to be as she was sure of the
mercy of God. That is the strongest way I know to tell it. She
was unshakably sure of the mercy of God, but I wasn't. There
were times when it seemed as if He couldn't hear the most
powerful prayer you could pray, and when instead of mercy, you
seemed to get the last torment that could be piled on. Take
right now. Laddie was happy, and all of us were, in a way; and
in another we were almost stiff with misery.
I dreaded his leaving us so, I would slip to the hawk oak and cry
myself sick, more than once; whether any of the others were that
big babies I don't know; but anyway, THEY were not his Little
Sister. I was. I always had been. I always would be, for that
matter; but there was going to be a mighty big difference. I had
the poor comfort that I'd done the thing myself. Maybe if it
hadn't been for stopping the Princess when I took him that pie,
they never would have made up, and she might have gone across the
sea and stayed there. Maybe she'd go yet, as mysteriously as she
had come, and take him along. Sometimes I almost wished I hadn't
tried to help him; but of course I didn't really. Then, too, I
had sense enough to know that loving each other as they did, they
wouldn't live on that close together for years and years, and not
find a way to make up for themselves, like they had at the start.
I liked Laddie saying I had made his happiness for him; but I
wasn't such a fool that I didn't know he could have made it for
himself just as well, and no doubt better. So everything was all
right with Laddie; and what happened to us, the day he rode away
for the last time, when he went to stay--what happened to us,
then, was our affair. We had to take it, but every one of us
dreaded it, while mother didn't know how to bear it, and neither
did I. Once I said to her: "Mother, when Laddie goes we'll just
have to make it up to each other the best we can, won't we?"
"Oh my soul, child!" she cried, staring at me so surprised-like.
"Why, how unspeakably selfish I have been! No little lost sheep
ever ran this farm so desolate as you will be without your
brother. Forgive me baby, and come here!"
Gee, but we did cry it out together! The God she believed in has
wiped away her tears long ago; this minute I can scarcely see the
paper for mine. If you could call anything happiness, that was
mixed with feeling like that, why, then, we were happy about
Laddie. But from things I heard father and mother say, I knew
they could have borne his going away, and felt a trifle better
than they did. I was quite sure they had stopped thinking that
he was going to lose his soul, but they couldn't help feeling so
long as that old mystery hung over Pryors that he might get into
trouble through it. Father said if it hadn't been for Mr.
Pryor's stubborn and perverted notions about God, he would like
the man immensely, and love to be friends; and if Laddie married
into the family we would have to be as friendly as we could
anyway. He said he had such a high opinion of Mr. Pryor's
integrity that he didn't believe he'd encourage Laddie to enter
his family if it would involve the boy in serious trouble.
Mother didn't know. Anyway, the thing was done, and by fall, no
doubt, Laddie would leave us.
Just when we were trying to keep a stiff upper lip before him,
and whistling as hard as ever he had, to brace our courage, a
letter came for mother from the head of the music school Shelley
attended, saying she was no longer fit for work, so she was being
sent home at once, and they would advise us to consult a
specialist immediately. Mother sat and stared at father, and
father went to hitch the horses to drive to Groveville.
There's only one other day of my life that stands out as clearly
as that. The house was clean as we could make it. I finished
feeding early, and had most of the time to myself. I went down
to the Big Hill, and followed the top of it to our woods. Then I
turned around, and started toward the road, just idling. If I
saw a lovely spot I sat down and watched all around me to see if
a Fairy really would go slipping past, or lie asleep under a
leaf. I peeked and peered softly, going from spot to spot,
watching everything. Sometimes I hung over the water, and
studied tiny little fish with red, yellow, and blue on them,
bright as flowers. The dragonflies would alight right on me, and
some wore bright blue markings and some blood red. There was a
blue beetle, a beautiful green fly, and how the blue wasps did
flip, flirt and glint in the light. So did the blackbirds and
the redwings. That embankment was left especially to shade the
water, and to feed the birds. Every foot of it was covered with
alders, wild cherry, hazelbush, mulberries, everything having a
berry or nut. There were several scrub apple trees, many red
haws, the wild strawberries spread in big beds in places, and
some of them were colouring.
Wild flowers grew everywhere, great beds were blue with calamus,
and the birds flocked in companies to drive away the water
blacksnakes that often found nests, and liked eggs and bird
babies. When I came to the road at last, the sun was around so
the big oak on the top of the hill threw its shadow across the
bridge, and I lay along one edge and watched the creek bottom, or
else I sat up so the water flowed over my feet, and looked at the
embankment and the sky. In a way, it was the most peculiar day
of my life. I had plenty to think of, but I never thought at
all. I only lived. I sat watching the world go past through a
sort of golden haze the sun made. When a pair of kingbirds and
three crows chased one of my hawks pell-mell across the sky, I
looked on and didn't give a cent what happened. When a big
blacksnake darted its head through sweet grass and cattails, and
caught a frog that had climbed on a mossy stone in the shade to
dine on flies, I let it go. Any other time I would have hunted a
stick and made the snake let loose. To-day I just sat there and
let things happen as they did.
At last I wandered up the road, climbed the back garden fence,
and sat on the board at the edge of a flowerbed, and to-day, I
could tell to the last butterfly about that garden: what was in
bloom, how far things had grown, and what happened. Bobby flew
under the Bartlett pear tree and crowed for me, but I never
called him. I sat there and lived on, and mostly watched the
bees tumble over the bluebells. They were almost ready to be cut
to put in the buttered tumblers for perfume, like mother made for
us. Then I went into the house and looked at Grace Greenwood,
but I didn't take her along. Mother came past and gave me a
piece of stiff yellow brocaded silk as lovely as I ever had seen,
enough for a dress skirt; and a hand-embroidered chemise sleeve
that only needed a band and a button to make a petticoat for a
Queen doll, but I laid them away and wandered into the orchard.
I dragged my bare feet through the warm grass, and finally sat
under the beet red peach tree. If ever I seemed sort of lost and
sorry for myself, that was a good place to go; it was so easy to
feel abused there because you didn't dare touch those peaches.
Fluffy baby chickens were running around, but I didn't care;
there was more than a bird for every tree, bluebirds especially;
they just loved us and came early and stayed late, and grew so
friendly they nested all over the wood house, smoke house, and
any place we fixed for them, and in every hollow apple limb.
Bobby came again, but I didn't pay any attention to him.
Then I heard the carriage cross the bridge. I knew when it was
father, every single time his team touched the first plank. So I
ran like an Indian, and shinned up a cedar tree, scratching
myself until I bled. Away up I stood on a limb, held to the tree
and waited. Father drove to the gate, and mother came out, with
May, Candace, and Leon following. When Shelley touched the
ground and straightened, any other tree except a spruce having
limbs to hold me up, I would have fallen from it. She looked
exactly as if she had turned to tombstone with eyes and hair
alive. She stopped a second to brush a little kiss across
mother's lips, to the others she said without even glancing at
them: "Oh do let me lie down a minute! The motion of that train
made me sick."
Well, I should say it did! I quit living, and began thinking in
a hooray, and so did every one else at our house. Once I had
been sick and queened it over them for a while, now all of us
strained ourselves trying to wait on Shelley; but she wouldn't
have it. She only said she was tired to death, to let her rest,
and she turned her face to the wall and lay there. Once she said
she never wanted to see a city again so long as she lived. When
mother told her about Laddie and the Princess to try to interest
her, she never said a word; I doubted if she even listened.
Father and mother looked at each other, when they thought no one
would see, and their eyes sent big, anxious questions flashing
back and forth. I made up my mind I'd keep awake that night and
hear what they said, if I had to take pins to bed with me and
Once mother said to Shelley that she was going to send for Dr.
Fenner, and she answered: "All right, if you need him. Don't
you dare for me! I'll not see him. All I want is a little peace
The idea! Not one of us ever had spoken to mother like that
before in all our born days. I held my breath to see what she
would do, but she didn't seem to have heard it, or to notice how
rude it had been. Well, THAT told about as plain as anything
what we had on our hands. I wandered around and NOW there was no
trouble about thinking things. They came in such a jumble I
could get no sense from them; but one big black thought came
over, and over, and over, and wouldn't be put away. It just
stood, stayed, forced you, and made you look it in the face. If
Shelley weren't stopped quickly she was going up on the hill with
the little fever and whooping cough sisters. There it was! You
could try to think other things, to play, to work, to talk it
down in the pulpit, to sing it out in a tree, to slide down the
haystack away from it--there it stayed! And every glimpse you
had of Shelley made it surer.
There was no trouble about keeping awake that night; I couldn't
sleep. I stood at the window and looked down the Big Hill
through the soft white moonlight, and thought about it, and then
I thought of mother. I guess NOW you see what kind of things
mothers have to face. All day she had gone around doing her
work, every few minutes suggesting some new thing for one of us
to try, or trying it herself; all day she had talked and laughed,
and when Sarah Hood came she told her she thought Shelley must be
bilious, that she had travelled all night and was sleeping: but
she would be up the first place she went, and then they talked
all over creation and Mrs. Hood went home and never remembered
that she hadn't seen Shelley. She worked Mrs. Freshett off the
same way, but you could see she was almost too tired to do it, so
by night she was nearly as white as Shelley, yet keeping things
going. When the house was still, she came into the room, and
stood at the window as I had, until father entered, then she
turned, and I could see they were staring at each other in the
moonlight, as they had all day.
"She's sick?" asked father, at last.
"Heartsick!" said mother bitterly.
"We'd better have Doc come?"
"She says she isn't sick, and she won't see him."
"She will if I put my foot down."
"Best not, Paul! She'll feel better soon. She's so young! She
must get over it."
They were silent for a long time and then father asked in a harsh
whisper: "Ruth, can she possibly have brought us to shame?"
"God forbid!" cried mother. "Let us pray."
Then those two people knelt on each side of that bed, and I could
hear half the words they muttered, until I was wild enough to
scream. I wished with all my heart that I hadn't listened. I
had always known it was no nice way. I must have gone to sleep
after a while, but when I woke up I was still thinking about it,
and to save me, I couldn't quit. All day, wherever I went, that
question of father's kept going over in my head. I thought about
it until I was almost crazy, and I just couldn't see where
anything about shame came in.
She was only mistaken. She THOUGHT he loved her, and he didn't.
She never could have been so bloomy, so filled with song,
laughter, and lovely like she was, if she hadn't truly believed
with all her heart that he loved her. Of course it would almost
finish her to give him up, when she felt like that; and maybe she
did wrong to let herself care so much, before she was sure about
him; but that would only be foolish, there wouldn't be even a
shadow of shame about it. Besides, Laddie had done exactly the
same thing. He loved the Princess until it nearly killed him
when he thought he had to give her up, and he loved her as hard
as ever he could, when he hadn't an idea whether she would love
him back, even a tiny speck; and the person who wasn't foolish,
and never would be, was Laddie.
The more I thought, the worse I got worked up, and I couldn't see
how Shelley was to blame for anything at all. Love just came to
her, like it came to Laddie. She would hardly have knelt down
and beseeched the Lord to make her fall in love with a man she
scarcely knew, and when she couldn't be sure what he was going to
do about it--not the Lord, the man, I mean. You could see for
yourself she wouldn't do that. I finished my work, and then I
tried to do things for her, and she wouldn't let me. Mother told
me to ask her to make Grace Greenwood the dress she had promised
when I was so sick; so I took the Scotch plaid to her and
reminded her, and she pushed me away and said: "Some time!"
I even got Grace, and showed Shelley the spills on her dress, and
how badly she needed a new one, but she never looked, she said:
"Oh bother! My head aches. Do let me be!"
Mother was listening. I could see her standing outside the door.
She motioned to me to come away, so I went to her and she was
white as Shelley. She was sick too, she couldn't say a word for
a minute, but after a while she kissed me, I could feel the
quivers in her lips, and she said stifflike: "Never mind, she'll
be better soon, then she will! Run play now!"
Sometimes I wandered around looking at things and living dully.
I didn't try to study out anything, but I must have watched
closer than I knew, for every single thing I saw then, over that
whole farm, I can shut my eyes and see to-day; everything, from
the old hawk tilting his tail to steer him in soaring, to a snake
catching field mice in the grass, lichens on the fence, flowers,
butterflies, every single thing. Mostly I sat to watch something
that promised to become interesting, and before I knew it, I was
back on the shame question. That's the most dreadful word in the
dictionary. There's something about it that makes your face
burn, only to have it in your mind.
Laddie said he never had met any man who knew the origin of more
words than father. He could even tell every clip what
nationality a man was from his name. Hundreds of time I have
heard him say to stranger people, "From your name you'd be of
Scotch extraction," or Irish, or whatever it was, and every time
the person he was talking with would say, "Yes." Some day away
out in the field, alone, I thought I would ask him what people
first used the word "shame," and just exactly what it did mean,
and what the things were that you could do that would make the
people who loved you until they would die for you, ashamed of
Thinking about that and planning out what it was that I wanted to
know, gave me another idea. Why not ask her? She was the only
one who knew what she had done away there in the city, alone
among strangers; I wasn't sure whether all the music a girl could
learn was worth letting her take the chances she would have to in
a big city. From the way Laddie and father hated them, they were
a poor place for men, and they must have been much worse for
girls. Shelley knew, why not ask HER? Maybe I could coax her to
tell me, and it would make my life much easier to know; and only
think what was going on in father's and mother's heads and
hearts, when I felt that way, and didn't even know what there was
to be ashamed about. She wouldn't any more than slap me; and
sick as she was, I made up my mind not to get angry at her, or
ever to tell, if she did. I'd rather have her hit me when she
was so sick than to have Sally beat me until she couldn't strike
another lick, just because she was angry. But I forgave her
that, and I was never going to think of it again--only I did.
Mother kept sending Leon to the post-office, and she met him at
the gate half the time herself and fairly snatched the letters
from his hands. Hum! She couldn't pull the wool over my eyes.
I knew she hoped somehow, some way, there would be a big fat one
with Paget, Legal Adviser, or whatever a Chicago lawyer puts on
his envelopes. Jerry's just say: "Attorney at Law."
No letter ever came that had Paget in the corner, or anything
happened that did Shelley any good. Far otherwise! Just before
supper Leon came from Groveville one evening, and all of us could
see at a glance that he had been crying like a baby. He had
wiped up, and was trying to hold in, but he was killed, next. I
nearly said, "Well, for heaven's sake, another!" when I saw him.
He slammed down a big, long envelope, having printing on it,
before father, and glared at it as if he wanted to tear it to
smithereens, and he said: "If you want to know why it looks like
that, I buried it under a stone once; but I had to go back, and
then I threw it as far as I could send it, into Ditton's gully,
but after a while I hunted it up again!"
Then he keeled over on the couch mother keeps for her in the
dining-room, and sobbed until he looked like he'd come apart.
Of course all of us knew exactly what that letter was from the
way he acted. Mother had told him, time and again, not to set
his heart so; father had, too and Laddie, and every one of us,
but that little half-Arab, half-Kentucky mare was the worst
temptation a man who loved horses could possibly have; and while
father and mother stopped at good work horses, and matched
roadsters for the carriage, they managed to prize and tend them
so that every one of us had been born horse-crazy, and we had
been allowed to ride, care for, and taught to love horses all our
lives. Treat a horse ugly, and we'd have gone on the thrashing
Father laid the letter face down, his hand on it, and shook his
head. "This is too bad!" he said. "It's a burning shame, but
the money, the exact amount, was taken from a farmer in Medina
County, Ohio, by a traveller he sheltered a few days, because he
complained of a bad foot. The description of the man who robbed
us is perfect. The money was from the sale of some prize cattle.
It will have to be returned."
"Just let me see the letter a minute," said Laddie.
He read it over thoughtfully. He was long enough about it to
have gone over it three times; then he looked at Leon, and his
forehead creased in a deep frown. The tears slid down mother's
cheeks, but she didn't know it, or else she'd have wiped them
away. She was never mussy about the least little thing.
"Father!" she said. "Father----!"
That was as far as she could go.
"The man must have his money," said father, "but we'll look into
He pushed back the plates and tablecloth, and cleared his end of
the table. Mother never budged to stack the plates, or
straighten the cloth so it wouldn't be wrinkled. Then father
brought his big account book from the black walnut chest in our
room, some little books, and papers, sharpened a pencil and began
going up and down the columns and picking out figures here and
there that he set on a piece of paper. I never had seen him look
either old or tired before; but he did then. Mother noticed it
too, for her lips tightened, she lifted her head, wiped her eyes,
and pretended that she felt better. Laddie said something about
doing the feeding, and slipped out. Just then Shelley came into
the room, stopped, and looked questioningly at us. Her eyes
opened wide, and she stared hard at Leon.
"Why what ails him?" she asked mother.
"You remember what I wrote you about a man who robbed us, and the
money Leon was to have, provided no owner was found in a
reasonable time; and the horse the boy had planned to buy, and
how he had been going to Pryors'--Oh, I think he's slipped over
there once a day, and often three times, all this spring! Mr.
Pryor encouraged him, let him take his older horses to practise
on, even went out and taught him cross-country riding
"I remember!" said Shelley.
Leon sobbed out loud. Shelley crossed the room swiftly, dropped
beside him and whispered something in his ear. Quick as a shot
his arm reached out and went around her. She hid her head deep
in the pillow beside him, and they went to pieces together.
Clear to pieces! Pretty soon father had to take off his glasses
and wipe them so he could see the figures. Mother took one long
look at him, a short one at Leon and Shelley, then she arose, her
voice as even and smooth, and she said: "While you figure,
father, I'll see about supper. I have tried to plan an extra
good one this evening."
She left the room. NOW, I guess you know about all I can tell
you of mother! I can't see that there's a thing left. That was
the kind of soldier she was. Talk about Crusaders, and a good
fight! All the blood of battle in our family wasn't on father's
side, not by any means! The Dutch could fight too!
Father's pencil scraped a little, a bee that had slipped in
buzzed over the apple butter, while the clock ticked as if it
used a hammer. It was so loud one wanted to pitch it from the
window. May and I sat still as mice when the cat is near.
Candace couldn't keep away from the kitchen door to save her, and
where mother went I hadn't an idea, but she wasn't getting an
extra good supper. Shelley and Leon were quieter now. May
nudged me, and I saw that his arm around her was gripping her
tight, while her hand on his head was patting him and fingering
Ca-lumph! Ca-lumph! came the funniest sound right on the stone
walk leading to the east door, then a shrill whicker that made
father drop his pencil. Leon was on his feet, Shelley beside
him, while at the door stood Laddie grinning as if his face would
split, and with her forefeet on the step and her nose in the
room, stood the prettiest, the very prettiest horse I ever saw.
She was sticking her nose toward Leon, whinnying softly, as she
lifted one foot, and if Laddie hadn't backed her, she would have
walked right into the dining-room.
"Come on, Weiscope, she's yours!" said Laddie. "Take her to the
barn, and put her in one of the cow stalls, until we fix a place
Leon crossed the room, but he never touched the horse. He threw
his arms around Laddie's neck.
"Son! Son! Haven't you let your feelings run away with you?
What does this mean?" asked father sternly.
"There's nothing remarkable in a big six-footer like me buying a
horse," said Laddie. "I expect to purchase a number soon, and
without a cent to pay, in the bargain. I contracted to give five
hundred dollars for this mare. She is worth more; but that
should be satisfactory all around. I am going to earn it by
putting five of Mr. Pryor's fancy, pedigreed horses in shape for
market, taking them personally, and selling them to men fit to
own and handle real horses. I get one hundred each, and my
expenses for the job. I'll have as much fun doing it as I ever
had at anything. It suits me far better than plowing, even."
Mother entered the room at a sweep, and pushed Leon aside.
"Oh you man of my heart!" she cried. "You man after my own
Laddie bent and kissed her, holding her tight as he looked over
her head at father.
"It's all right, of course?" he said.
"I never have known of anything quite so altogether right," said
father. "Thank you, lad, and God bless you!"
He took Laddie's hand, and almost lifted him from the floor, then
he wiped his glasses, gathered up his books with a big, deep
breath of relief, and went into his room. If the others had
looked to see why he was gone so long, they would have seen him
on his knees beside his bed thanking God, as usual. Leon
couldn't have come closer than when he said, "The same yesterday,
to-day, and forever," about father.
Leon had his arms around the neck of his horse now, and he was
kissing her, patting her, and explaining to Shelley just why no
other horse was like her. He was pouring out a jumble all about
the oasis of the desert, the tent dwellers, quoting lines from
"The Arab to His Horse," bluegrass, and gentleness combined with
spirit, while Shelley had its head between her hands, stroking it
and saying, "Yes," to every word Leon told her. Then he said:
"Just hop on her back from that top step and ride her to the
barn, if you want to see the motion she has."
Shelley said: "Has a woman ever been on her back? Won't she shy
at my skirts?"
"No," explained Leon. "I've been training her with a horse
blanket pinned around me, so Susie could ride her! She'll be all
So Shelley mounted, and the horse turned her head, and tried to
rub against her, as she walked away, tame as a sheep. I wondered
if she could be too gentle. If she went "like the wind," as Leon
said, it didn't show then. I was almost crazy to go along, and
maybe Leon would let me ride a little while; but I had a question
that it would help me to know the answer and I wanted to ask
father before I forgot; so I waited until he came out. When he
sat down, smiled at me and said, "Well, is the girl happy for
brother?" I knew it was a good time, and I could ask anything I
chose, so I sat on his knee and said: "Father, when you pray for
anything that it's all perfectly right for you to have, does God
come down from heaven and do it Himself, or does He send a man
like Laddie to do it for him?"
Father hugged me tight, smiling the happiest.
"Why, you have the whole thing right there in a nutshell, Little
Sister," he said. "You see it's like this: the Book tells us
most distinctly that `God is love.' Now it was love that sent
Laddie to bind himself for a long, tedious job, to give Leon his
horse, wasn't it?"
"Of course!" I said. "He wouldn't have been likely to do it if
he hated him. It was love, of course!"
"Then it was God," said father, "because `God is love.' They are
one and the same thing."
Then he kissed me, and THAT was settled. So I wondered when you
longed for anything so hard you really felt it was worth
bothering God about, whether the quickest way to get it was to
ask Him for it, or to try to put a lot of love into the heart of
some person who could do what you wanted. I decided it all went
back to God though, for most of the time probably we wouldn't
know who the right one was to try to awaken love in. I was
mighty sure none of us ever dreamed Laddie could walk over to
Pryors', and come back with that horse, in a way perfectly
satisfactory to every one, slick as an eel.
You should have seen Leon following around after Laddie, trying
to do things for him, taking on his work to give him more time
with the horses, getting up early to finish his own stunts, so he
could go over to Pryors' and help. Mother said it had done more
to make a man of him than anything that ever happened. It helped
Shelley, too. Something seemed to break in her, when she cried
so with Leon, because he was in trouble. Then he was so crazy to
show off his horse he had Shelley ride up and down the lane,
while he ran along and led, so she got a lot of exercise, and it
made her good and hungry. If you don't think by this time that
my mother was the beatenest woman alive, I'll prove it to you.
When the supper bell rang there was strawberry preserves instead
of the apple butter, biscuit, fried chicken, and mashed potatoes.
She must have slapped those chickens into the skillet before they
knew their heads were off. When Shelley came to the table, for
the first time since she'd been home, had pink in her cheeks, and
talked some, and ate too, mother forgot her own supper. She
fumbled over her plate, but scarcely touched even the livers, and
those delicious little kidneys in the tailpiece like Leon and I
had at Sally's wedding. When we finished, and it was time for
her to give the signal to arise, no one had asked to be excused,
she said: "Let us have a word with the Most High." Then she
bowed her head, so all of us did too. "O Lord, we praise Thee
for all Thy tender mercies, and all Thy loving kindness. Amen!"
Of course father always asked the blessing to begin with, and
mostly it was the same one, and that was all at meal time, but
this was a little extra that mother couldn't even wait until
night to tell the Almighty, she was so pleased with Him. Maybe I
haven't told everything about her, after all. Father must have
thought that was lovely of her; he surely felt as happy as she
did, to see Shelley better, for he hugged and kissed her over and
over, finishing at her neck like he always did, and then I be-
hanged, if he didn't hug and kiss every last one of us--tight,
even the boys. Shelley he held long and close, and patted her a
little when he let her go. It made me wonder if the rest of us
didn't get ours, so he'd have a chance at her without her
noticing it. One thing was perfectly clear. If shame came to
us, they were going to love her, and stick tight to her right
straight through it.
Now that everything was cleared up so, Shelley seemed a little
more like herself every day, although it was bad enough yet; I
thought I might as well hurry up the end a little, and stop the
trouble completely, so I began watching for a chance to ask her.
But I wanted to get her away off alone, so no one would see if
she slapped me. I didn't know how long I'd have to wait. I
tried coaxing her to the orchard to see a bluebird's nest, but
she asked if bluebirds were building any different that year, and
I had to admit they were not. Then I tried the blue-eyed Mary
bed, but she said she supposed it was still under the cling peach
tree, and the flower, two white petals up, two blue down, and so
it was. Just as I was beginning to think I'd have to take that
to the Lord in prayer, I got my chance by accident.
May and Candace were forever going snake hunting. You would
think any one with common sense would leave them alone and be
glad of the chance, but no indeed! They went nearly every day as
soon as the noon work was finished, and stayed until time to get
supper. They did have heaps of fun and wild excitement. May was
gentle, and tender with everything else on earth; so I 'spose she
had a right to bruise the serpent with her heel--really she used
sticks and stones--if she wanted to. I asked her how she COULD,
and she said there was a place in the Bible that told how a snake
coaxed Eve to eat an apple, that the Lord had told her she
mustn't touch; and so she got us into most of the trouble there
was in the world. May said it was all the fault of the SNAKE to
begin with, and she meant to pay up every one she could find,
because she had none of the apple, and lots of the trouble.
Candace cried so much because Frederick Swartz had been laid in
the tomb, that mother was pleased to have her cheer up, even
enough to go snake hunting.
That afternoon Mehitabel Heasty had come to visit May, so she
went along, and I followed. They poked around the driftwood at
the floodgate behind the barn, and were giving up the place.
Candace had crossed the creek and was coming back, and May had
started, when she saw a tiny little one and chased it. We didn't
know then that it was a good thing to have snakes to eat moles,
field mice, and other pests that bother your crops; the Bible had
no mercy on them at all, so we were not saving our snakes; and
anyway we had more than we needed, while some of them were too
big to be safe to keep, and a few poison as could be. May began
to bruise the serpent, when out of the driftwood where they
hadn't found anything came its mammy, a great big blacksnake,
maddest you ever saw, with its pappy right after her, mad as ever
too. Candace screamed at May to look behind her, but May was
busy with the snake and didn't look quick enough, so the old
mammy struck right in her back. She just caught in the hem of
May's skirt, and her teeth stuck in the goods--you know how a
snake's teeth turn back--so she couldn't let go. May took one
look and raced down the bank to the crossing, through the water,
and toward us, with the snake dragging and twisting, and trying
her best to get away. May was screaming at every jump for
Candace, and Mehitabel was flying up and down crying: "Oh
there's snakes in my shoes! There's snakes in my shoes!"
That was a fair sample of how much sense a Heasty ever had. It
took all Mehitabel's shoes could do to hold her feet, for after
one went barefoot all week, and never put on shoes except on
Sunday or for a visit, the feet became so spread out, shoes had
all they could do to manage them, and then mostly they pinched
until they made one squirm. But she jumped and said that, while
May ran and screamed, and Candace gripped her big hickory stick
and told May to stand still. Then she bruised that serpent with
her whole foot, for she stood on it, and swatted it until she
broke its neck. Then she turned ready for the other one, but
when it saw what happened to its mate, it decided to go back.
Even snakes, it doesn't seem right to break up families like
that; so by the time Candace got the mammy killed, loose from
May's hem, and stretched out with the back up, so she wouldn't
make it rain, when Candace wasn't sure that father wanted rain, I
had enough. I went down the creek until I was below the orchard,
then I crossed, passed the cowslip bed, climbed the hill and
fence, and stopped to think what I would do first; and there only
a few feet away was Shelley. She was sitting in the shade, her
knees drawn up, her hands clasped around them, staring straight
before her across the meadow at nothing in particular, that I
could see. She jumped as if I had been a snake when she saw me,
then she said, "Oh, is it you?" like she was half glad of it. My
chance had come.
I went to her, sat close beside her and tried snuggling up a
little. It worked. She put her arm around me, drew me tight,
rubbed her cheek against my head and we sat there. I was
wondering how in the world I could ask her, and not get slapped.
I was growing most too big for that slapping business, anyway.
We sat there; I was looking across the meadow as she did, only I
was watching everything that went on, so when I saw a grosbeak
fly from the wild grape where Shelley had put the crock for sap,
it made me think of her hair. She used to like to have me play
with it so well, she'd give me pennies if I did. I got up, and
began pulling out her pins carefully. I knew I was getting a
start because right away she put up her hand to help me.
"I can get them," I said just as flannel-mouthed as ever I could,
like all of us talked to her now, so I got every one and never
pulled a mite. When I reached over her shoulder to drop them in
her lap, being so close I kissed her cheek. Then I shook down
her hair, spread it out, lifted it, parted it, and held up
strands to let the air on her scalp. She shivered and said:
"Mercy child, how good that does feel! My head has ached lately
until it's a wonder there's a hair left on it."
So I was pleasing her. I never did handle hair so carefully. I
tried every single thing it feels good to you to have done with
your hair, rubbed her head gently, and to cheer her up I told her
about May and the snake, and what fool Mehitabel had said, and
she couldn't help laughing; so I had her feeling about as good as
she could, for the way she actually felt, but still I didn't
really get ahead. Come right to the place to do it, that was no
very easy question to ask a person, when you wouldn't hurt their
feelings for anything; I was beginning to wonder if I would lose
my chance, when all at once a way I could manage popped into my
"Shelley," I said, "they told you about Laddie and the Princess,
I knew they had, but I had to make a beginning some way.
"Yes," she said. "I'm glad of it! I think she's pretty as a
picture, and nice as she looks. Laddie may have to hump himself
to support her, but if he can't get her as fine clothes as she
has, her folks can help him. They seem to have plenty, and she's
their only child."
"They're going to. I heard Mr. Pryor ask Laddie if he'd be so
unkind as to object to them having the pleasure of giving her
"Well, the greenhorn didn't say he would!"
"No. He didn't want to put his nose to the grindstone quite that
close. He said it was between them."
"I should think so!"
"Shelley, there's a question I've been wanting to ask some one
for quite a while."
"Why, this! You know, Laddie was in love with the Princess, like
you are when you want to marry folks, for a long, long time,
before he could be sure whether she loved him back."
"Well, now, 'spose she never had loved him, would he have had
anything to be ashamed of?"
"I can't see that he would. Some one must start a courtship, or
there would be no marrying, and it's conceded to be the place of
the man. No. He might be disappointed, or dreadfully hurt, but
there would be no shame about it."
"Well, then, suppose she loved him, and wanted to marry him, and
he hadn't loved her, or wanted her, would SHE have had anything
to be ashamed of?"
"I don't think so! If she was attracted by him, and thought she
would like him, she would have a right to go to a certain extent,
to find out if he cared for her, and if he didn't, why, she'd
just have to give him up. But any sensible girl waits for a man
to make the advances, and plenty of them, before she allows
herself even to dream of loving him, or at least, I would."
Now I was getting somewhere!
"Of course you would!" I said. "That would be the WAY mother
would, wouldn't it?"
"If that Paget man you used to write about had seemed to be just
what you liked, you'd have waited to know if he wanted you,
before you loved him, wouldn't you?"
"I certainly would!" answered Shelley. "Or at least, I'd have
waited until I THOUGHT sure as death, I knew. It seems that
sometimes you can be fooled about those things."
"But if you thought sure you knew, and then found out you had
been mistaken, you wouldn't have anything to be ASHAMED of, would
"Not-on-your-life-I-wouldn't!" cried Shelley, hammering each word
into her right knee with her doubled fist. "What are you driving
at, Blatherskite? What have you got into your head?"
"Oh just studying about things," I said, which was exactly the
truth. "Sally getting married last fall, and Laddie going to
this, just started me to wondering."
Fooled her, too!
"Oh well, there's no harm done," she said. "The sooner you get
these matters straightened out, the better able you will be to
take care of yourself. If you ever go to a city, you'll find out
that a girl needs considerable care taken of her."
"You could look out for yourself, Shelley?"
"Well, I don't know as I made such a glorious fist of it," she
said, "but at least, as you say, I've nothing to be ashamed of!"
I almost hugged her head off.
"Of course you haven't!" I cried. "Of course you wouldn't have!"
I just kissed her over and over for joy; I was so glad my heart
hurt for father and mother. Shame had not come to them!
"Now, I guess I'll run to the house and get a comb," I told her.
"Go on," said Shelley. "I know you are tired."
"I'm not in the least," I said. "Don't you remember I always use
a comb when I fuss with your hair?"
"It is better," said Shelley. "Go get one."
As I got up to start I took a last look at her, and there was
something in her face that I couldn't bear. I knelt beside her,
and put both arms around her neck.
"Shelley, it's a secret," I said in a breathless half whisper.
"It's a great, big secret, but I'm going to tell you. Twice now
I've had a powerful prayer all ready to try. It's the kind where
you go to the barn, all alone, stand on that top beam below the
highest window and look toward the east. You keep perfectly
still, and just think with all your might, and you look away over
where Jesus used to be, and when the right feeling comes, you
pray that prayer as if He stood before you, and it will come
true. I KNOW it will come true. The reason I know is because
twice now I've been almost ready to try it, and what I intended
to ask for happened before I had time; so I've saved that prayer;
but Shelley, shall I pray it about the Paget man, for you?"
She gripped me, and she shook until she was all twisted up; you
could hear her teeth click, she chilled so. The tears just
gushed, and she pulled me up close and whispered right in my ear:
It was only pretend about the comb; what I really wanted was to
get to father and mother quick. I knew he was at the barn and he
was going to be too happy for words in a minute. But as I went
up the lane, I wasn't sure whether I'd rather pray about that
Paget man or bruise him with my heel like a serpent. The only
way I could fix it was to remember if Shelley loved him so, he
must be mighty nice. Father was in the wagon shovelling corn
from it to a platform where it would be handy to feed the pigs,
so I ran and called him, and put one foot on a hub and raised my
hands. He pulled me up and when he saw how important it was, he
sat on the edge of the bed, so I told him: "Father, you haven't
got a thing in the world to be ashamed of about Shelley."
"Praise the Lord!" said father like I knew he would, but you
should have seen his face. "Tell me about it!"
I told him and he said: "Well, I don't know but this is the
gladdest hour of my life. Go straight and repeat to your mother
exactly what you've said to me. Take her away all alone, and
then forget about it, you little blessing."
"Father, have you got too many children?"
"No!" he said. "I wish I had a dozen more, if they'd be like
When I went up the lane I was so puffed up with importance I felt
too dignified to run. I strutted like our biggest turkey
gobbler. The only reason you couldn't hear my wings scrape, was
because through mistake they grew on the turkey. If I'd had
them, I would have dragged them sure, and cried "Ge-hobble-
hobble!" at every step.
I took mother away alone and told her, and she asked many more
questions than father, but she was even gladder than he. She
almost hugged the breath out of me. Sometimes I get things
RIGHT, anyway! Then I took the comb and ran back to Shelley.
"I thought you'd forgotten me," she said.
She had wiped up and was looking better. If ever I combed
carefully I did then. Just when I had all the tangles out, there
came mother. She had not walked that far in a long time. I
thought maybe she could comfort Shelley, so I laid the comb in
her lap and went to see how the snake hunters were coming on. It
must be all right, when the Bible says so, but the African Jungle
will do for me, and a popgun is not going to scatter families. I
never felt so strongly about breaking home ties in my life as I
did then. There was nothing worse. It was not where I wanted to
be, so I thought I'd go back to the barn, and hang around father,
hoping maybe he'd brag on me some more. Going up the lane I saw
a wagon passing with the biggest box I ever had seen, and I ran
to the gate to watch where it went. It stopped at our house and
Frank came toward me as I hurried up the road.
"Where are the folks?" he asked, without paying the least
attention to my asking him over and over what was in the box.
"May and Candace are killing every snake in the driftwood behind
the barn, Shelley and mother are down in the orchard, and father
and the boys are hauling corn."
"Go tell the boys to come quickly and keep quiet," he said. "But
don't let any one else know I'm here."
That was so exciting I almost fell over my feet running, and all
three of them came quite as fast. I stood back and watched, and
I just danced a steady hop from one foot to the other while those
men got the big box off the wagon and opened it. On the side I
spelled Piano, so of course it was for Shelley. It was so heavy
it took all six of them, father and the three boys, the driver
and another very stylish looking man to carry it. They put it in
the parlour, screwed a leg on each corner, and a queer harp in
the middle, then they lifted it up and set it on its feet, under
the whatnot, and it seemed as if it filled half the room. Then
Frank spread a beauteous wine coloured cover all embroidered in
pink roses with green leaves over it, and the stylish man opened
a lid, sat down and spread out his hands. Frank said: "Soft
pedal! Mighty soft!" So he smothered it down, and tried only
enough to find that it had not been hurt coming, and then he went
away on the wagon. Father and the boys gathered up every scrap,
swept the walk, and put all the things they had used back where
they got them, like we always did.
Then Frank took a card from his pocket and tied it to the music
rack, and it read: "For Shelley, from her brothers in fact, and
in law." To a corner of the cover he pinned another card that
read: "From Peter."
"What is that?" asked father.
"That's from Peter," said Frank. "Peter is great on finishing
touches. He had to outdo the rest of us that much or bust. Fact
is, none of us thought of a cover except him."
"How about this?" asked father, staring at it as if it were an
animal that would bite.
"Well," said Frank, "it was apparent that practising her fingers
to the bone wouldn't do Shelley much good unless she could keep
it up in summer, and you and mother always have done so much for
the rest of us, and now mother isn't so strong and the expenses
go on the same with these youngsters; we know you were figuring
on it, but we beat you. Put yours in the bank, and try the feel
of a surplus once more. Haven't had much lately, have you,
"Well, not to speak of," said father.
"Now let's shut everything up, ring the bell to call them, and
get Shelley in here and surprise her."
"She's not very well," said father. "Mother thinks she worked
"She's all right now, father," I said. "She is getting pink
again and rounder, and this will fix her grand."
Wouldn't it though! There wasn't one anywhere, short of the
city. Even the Princess had none. Father hunted up a song book,
opened it and set it on the rack. Then all of us went out.
"We'll write to the boys, mother and I, and Shelley also," said
father. "I can't express myself just now. This is a fine thing
for all of you to do."
Frank seemed to think so too, and looked rather puffed up, until
Leon began telling about his horse. When Frank found out that
Laddie, who had not yet branched out for himself, had given Leon
much more than any one of them had Shelley, he looked a little
disappointed. He explained how the piano cost eight hundred
dollars, but by paying cash all at once, the man took seven
hundred and fifty, so it only cost them one hundred and fifty a
piece, and none of them felt it at all.
"Sometimes the clouds loom up pretty black, and mother and I
scarcely know how to go on, save for the help of the Lord, but we
certainly are blest with good children, children we can be proud
of. Your mother will like that instrument as well as Shelley,
son," said father.
Frank went out and rang the bell, tolled it, and made a big noise
like he always did when he came unexpectedly, and then sat on the
back fence until he saw them coming, and went to meet them. He
walked between mother and Shelley, with an arm around each one.
If he thought Shelley looked badly, he didn't mention it. What
he did say was that he was starved, and to fly around and get
supper. I thought I'd burst. They began to cook, and the boys
went to feed and see Leon's horse, and then we had supper. I
just sat and stared at Frank and grinned. I couldn't eat.
"Do finish your supper," said mother. "I never saw anything take
your appetite like seeing your brother. You'll be wanting a
piece before bedtime."
I didn't say a word, because I was afraid to, but I kept looking
at Leon and he smiled back, and we had great fun. Secrets are
lovely. Mother couldn't have eaten a bite if she'd known about
that great shining thing, all full of wonderful sound, standing
in our parlour. When the last slow person had finished, father
said: "Shelley, won't you step into the front room and bring me
that book I borrowed from Frank on `Taxation.' I want to talk
over a few points."
All of us heard her little breathless cry, and mother said,
"There!" as if she'd been listening for something, and she beat
all of us to the door. Then she cried out too, and such a time
as we did have. At last after all of us had grown sensible
enough to behave, Shelley sat on the stool, spread her fingers
over the keys and played at the place father had selected, and
all of us sang as hard as we could: "Be it ever so humble,
There's no place like home;" and there WAS no place like ours, of
THAT I'm quite sure.
In Faith Believing
"Nor could the bright green world around
A joy to her impart,
For still she missed the eyes that made
The summer of her heart."
Soon as she had the piano, Shelley needed only the Paget man to
make her happy as a girl could be; and having faith in that
prayer, I decided to try it right away. So I got Laddie to
promise surely that he'd wake me when he got up the next morning.
I laid my clothes out all ready; he merely touched my foot, and I
came to, slipped out with him, and he helped me dress. We went
to the barn when the morning was all gray.
"What the dickens have you got in your head now, Chicken?" he
asked. "Is it business with the Fairies?"
"No, this is with the Most High," I said solemnly, like father.
"Go away and leave me alone."
"Well of all the queer chickens!" he said, but he kissed me and
I climbed the stairs to the threshing floor, then the ladder to
the mow, walked a beam to the wall, there followed one to the
east end, and another to the little, high-up ventilator window.
There I stood looking at the top of the world. A gray mist was
rising like steam from the earth, there was a curious colour in
the east, stripes of orange and flames of red, where the sun was
coming. I folded my hands on the sill, faced the sky, and stood
staring. Just stood, and stood, never moving a muscle. By and
by I began to think how much we loved Shelley, how happy she had
been at Christmas the way she was now, and how much all of us
would give in money, or time, or love, to make her sparkling,
bubbling, happy again; so I thought and thought, gazing at the
sky, which every second became a grander sight. Little cold
chills began going up my back, and soon I was talking to the Lord
exactly as if He stood before me on the reddest ray that topped
our apple trees.
I don't know all I said. That's funny, for I usually remember to
the last word; but this time it was so important, I wanted it so
badly, and I was so in earnest that words poured in a stream. I
began by reminding Him that He knew everything, and so He'd
understand if what I asked was for the best. Then I told Him how
it looked to us, who knew only a part; and then I went at Him and
implored and beseeched, if it would be best for Shelley, and
would make her happy, to send her the Paget man, and to be quick
about it. When I had said the last word that came to me, and
begged all I thought becoming--I don't think with His face, that
Jesus wants us to grovel to Him, at least He looks too dignified
to do it Himself--I just stood there, still staring.
I didn't expect to see a burning bush, or a pillar of fire, or a
cloud of flame, or even to hear a small, still voice; but I
watched, so I wouldn't miss it if there should be anything
different in that sunrise from any other I ever had seen, and
there was not. Not one thing! It was so beautiful, and I was so
in earnest my heart hurt; but that was like any other sunrise on
a fine July morning. There wasn't the least sign that Jesus had
heard me, and would send the man; yet before I knew it, I was
amazed to find the feeling creeping over me that he was coming.
If I had held the letter in my hand saying he would arrive on the
noon train, I couldn't have grown surer. Why, I even looked down
the first time I moved, to see if I had it; but I was certain
anyway. So I looked steadily toward the east once more and said,
"Thank you, with all my heart, Lord Jesus," then I slowly made my
way down and back to the house.
Shelley was at the orchard gate, waiting; so I knew they had
missed me, and Laddie had told them where I was and not to call.
She had the strangest look on her face, as she asked: "Where
have you been?"
I looked straight and hard at her and said, "It's all right,
Shelley. He's going to come soon"; but I didn't think it was a
thing to mouth over, so I twisted away from her, and ran to the
kitchen to see if breakfast had all been eaten. I left Shelley
standing there with her eyes wide, also her mouth. She looked
about as intelligent as Mehitabel Heasty, and it wouldn't have
surprised me if she had begun to jump up and down and say there
were snakes in HER shoes. No doubt you have heard of people
having been knocked silly; I knew she was, and so she had a
perfect right to look that way, until she could remember what she
was doing, and come back to herself. Maybe it took her longer,
because mother wasn't there, to remind her about her mouth, and I
didn't propose to mention it.
At breakfast, mother said father was going to drive Frank home in
the carriage, and if I would like, I might go along. I would
have to sit on the back seat alone, going; but coming home I
could ride beside and visit with father. I loved that, for you
could see more from the front seat, and father would stop to
explain every single thing. He always gave me the money and let
me pay the toll. He would get me a drink at the spring, let me
wade a few minutes at Enyard's riffles, where their creek, with
the loveliest gravel bed, ran beside the road; and he always
raced like wildfire at the narrows, where for a mile the railroad
ran along the turnpike.
We took Frank to his office, stopped a little while to visit
Lucy, and give her the butter and cream mother sent, went to the
store to see Peter, and then to the post-office. From there we
could see that the veranda of the hotel across the street was
filled with gayly dressed people, and father said that the summer
boarders from big cities around must be pouring in fast. When he
came out with the mail he said he better ask if the landlord did
not want some of mother's corn and milk fed spring chickens,
because last year he had paid her more than the grocer. So he
drove across the street, stopped at the curb, and left me to hold
Maybe you think I wasn't proud! I've told you about Ned and Jo,
with their sharp ears, dappled sides, and silky tails, and the
carriage almost new, with leather seats, patent leather
trimmings, and side lamps, so shiny you could see yourself in the
brass. We never drove into the barn with one speck of mud or
dust on it. That was how particular mother was.
I watched the team carefully; I had to if I didn't want my neck
broken; but I also kept an eye on that veranda. You could see at
a glance that those were stylish women. Now my mother liked to
be in fashion as well as any one could; so I knew she'd be
mightily pleased if I could tell her a new place to set her comb,
a different way to fasten her collar, or about an unusual pattern
for a frock.
I got my drink at the spring, father offered to stop at the
riffle, but I was enjoying the ride so much, and I could always
wade at home, although our creek was not so beautiful as
Enyard's, but for common wading it would do; we went through the
narrows, like two shakes of a sheep's tail, then we settled down
to a slow trot, and were having the loveliest visit possible,
when in the bundle on my lap, I saw the end of something that
interested me. Mr. Agnew always made our mail into a roll with
the Advocate and the Agriculturist on the outside, and because
every one was so anxious about their letters, and some of them
meant so much, I felt grown and important while holding the
I was gripping it tight when I noticed the end of one letter much
wider and fatter than any I ever had seen, so when father was not
looking I began pushing it a little at one end, and pulling it at
the other, to work it up, until I could read the address. I got
it out so far I thought every minute he'd notice, and tell me not
to do that, but I could only see Stanton. All of us were
Stanton, so it might be for me, for that matter. Jerry might be
sending me pictures, or a book, he did sometimes, but there was
an exciting thing about it. Besides being fatter than it looked
right at the end, it was plastered with stamps--lots of them,
enough to have brought it clear around the world. I pushed that
end back, pulled out the other, and took one good look. I almost
fell from the carriage. I grabbed father's arm and cried:
"Stop! Stop this team quick. Stop them and see if I can read."
"Are you crazy, child?" asked father, but he checked the horses.
"No, but you are going to be in a minute," I said. "Look at
I yanked the letter from the bundle, and held it over. I THOUGHT
I could read, but I was too scared to be sure. I thought it said
in big, strong, upstanding letters, Miss Shelley Stanton,
Groveville, Indiana. And in the upper corner, Blackburn, Yeats
and PAGET, Counsellors of Law, 37 to 39 State St., Chicago. I
put my finger on the Paget, and looked into father's face. I was
no fool after all. He was not a bit surer that HE could read
than I was, from the dazed way he stared.
"You see!" I said.
"It says Paget!" he said, like he would come nearer believing; it
if he heard himself pronounce the word.
"I THOUGHT it said `Paget,'" I gasped, "but I wanted to know if
you thought so too."
"Yes, it's Paget plain enough," said father, but he acted like
there was every possibility that it might change to Jones any
minute. "It says `Paget,' plain as print."
"Father!" I cried, clutching his arm, "father, see how fat it is!
There must be pages and pages! Father, it wouldn't take all that
to tell her he didn't like her, and he never wanted to see her
again. Would it, father?"
"It doesn't seem probable," said father.
"Father don't you think it means there's been some big mistake,
and it takes so much to tell how it can be fixed?"
"It seems reasonable."
I gripped him tighter, and maybe shook him a little.
"Father!" I cried. "Father, doesn't it just look HURRY, all
over? Can't you speed up a little? They have all day to cool
off. Oh father, won't you speed a little?"
"That I will!" said father. "Get a tight hold, and pray God it
is good word we carry."
"But I prayed the one big prayer to get this," I said. "It
wouldn't be sent if it wasn't good. The thing to do now is to
thank the Lord for `all his loving kindnesses,' like mother said.
Drive father! Make them go!"
At first he only touched them up; I couldn't see that we were
getting home so fast; but in a minute a cornfield passed like a
streak, a piece of woods flew by a dark blur, a bridge never had
time to rattle, and we began to rock from side to side a little.
Then I gripped the top supports with one hand, the mail with the
other, and hung on for dear life. I took one good look at
His feet were on the brace, his face was clear, even white, his
eyes steely, and he never moved a muscle. When Jo thought it was
funny, that he was loose in the pasture, and kicked up a little
behind, father gave him a sharp cut with the whip and said:
"Steady boy! Get along there!"
Sometimes he said, "Aye, aye! Easy!" but he never stopped a
mite. We whizzed past the church and cemetery, and scarcely
touched the Big Hill. People ran to their doors, even to the
yards, and I was sure they thought we were having a runaway, but
we were not. Father began to stop at the lane gate, he pulled
all the way past the garden, and it was as much as he could do to
get them slowed down so that I could jump out by the time we
reached the hitching rack. He tied them, and followed me into
the house instead of going to the barn. I ran ahead calling:
"Shelley! Where is Shelley?"
"What in this world has happened, child?" asked mother, catching
"Her letter has come! Her Paget letter! The one you looked for
until you gave up. It's come at last! Oh, where is she?"
"Be calmer, child, you'll frighten her," said mother.
May snatched the letter from my fingers and began to read all
that was on it aloud. I burst out crying.
"Make her give that back!" I sobbed to father. "It's mine! I
found it. Father, make her let me take it!"
"Give it to her!" said father. "I rather feel that it is her
right to deliver it."
May passed it back, but she looked so disappointed, that by how
she felt I knew how much I wanted to take it myself; so I reached
my hand to her and said: "You can come along! We'll both take
it! Oh where is she?"
"She went down in the orchard," said mother. "I think probably
she's gone back where she was the other day."
Gee, but we ran! And there she was! As we came up, she heard us
"Shelley!" I cried. "Here's your letter! Everything is all
right! He's coming, Shelley! Look quick, and see when! Mother
will want to begin baking right away!"
Shelley looked at me, and said coolly: "Paddy Ryan! What's the
"Your letter!" I cried, shoving it right against her hands.
"Your letter from Robert! From the Paget man, you know! I told
you he was coming! Hurry, and see when!"
She took it, and sat there staring at it, so much like father,
that it made me think of him, so I saw that she was going to have
to come around to it as we did, and that one couldn't hurry her.
She just had to take her time to sense it.
"Shall I open it for you?" I asked, merely to make her see that
it was time she was doing it herself.
Blest if she didn't reach it toward me!--sort of woodenlike. I
stuck my finger under the flap, gave it a rip across and emptied
what was inside into her lap. Bet there were six or seven
letters in queer yellow envelopes I never before had seen any
like, and on them was the name, Robert Paget, while in one corner
it said, "Returned Dead Letter"; also there was a loose folded
white sheet. She sat staring at the heap, touching one, another,
and repeating "Robert Paget?" as she picked each up in turn.
"What do you suppose it means?" she asked May. May examined
"You must read the loose sheet," she advised. "No doubt that
But Shelley never touched it. She handled those letters and
stared at them. Father and mother came through the orchard and
stood together behind us, so father knelt down at last, reached
across Shelley's shoulder, picked one up and looked at it.
"Have you good word, dear?" asked mother of Shelley.
"Why, I don't understand at all," said Shelley. "Just look at
all these queer letters, addressed to Mr. Paget. Why should they
be sent to me? I mustn't open them. They're not mine. There
must be some mistake."
"These are DEAD LETTERS," said father. "They've been written to
you, couldn't be delivered, and so were sent to the Dead Letter
Office at Washington, which returned them to the writer, and
unopened he has forwarded them once more to you. You've heard of
dead letters, haven't you?"
"I suppose so," said Shelley. "I don't remember just now; but
there couldn't be a better name. They've come mighty near
"If you'd only read that note!" urged May, putting it right into
Shelley still sat there.
"I'm afraid of it," she said exactly like I'd have spoken if
there had been a big rattlesnake coming right at me, when I'd
nothing at hand to bruise it.
Laddie and Leon came from the barn. They had heard me calling,
seen May and me run, and then father and mother coming down, so
they walked over.
"What's up?" asked Leon. "Has Uncle Levi's will been discovered,
and does mother get his Mexican mines?"
"What have you got, Shelley?" asked Laddie, kneeling beside her,
and picking up one of the yellow letters.
"I hardly know," said Shelley.
"I brought her a big letter with all those little ones and a note
in it, and they are from the Paget man," I explained to him.
"But she won't even read the note, and see what he writes. She
says she's afraid."
"Poor child! No wonder!" said Laddie, sitting beside her and
putting his arm around her. "Suppose I read it for you. May I?"
"Yes," said Shelley. "You read it. Read it out loud. I don't
She leaned against him, while he unfolded the white sheet.
"Umph!" he said. "This DOES look bad for you. It begins: `My
own darling Girl.'"
"Let me see!" cried Shelley, suddenly straightening, and reaching
Laddie held the page toward her, but she only looked, she didn't
offer to touch it.
"`My own darling Girl:'" repeated Laddie tenderly, making it mean
just all he possibly could, because he felt so dreadfully sorry
for her--" `On my return to Chicago, from the trip to England I
have so often told you I intended to make some time soon----'"
"Did he?" asked mother.
"Yes," answered Shelley. "He couldn't talk about much else. It
was his first case. It was for a friend of his who had been
robbed of everything in the world; honour, relatives, home, and
money. If Robert won it, he got all that back for his friend and
enough for himself--that he could--a home of his own, you know!
Read on, Laddie!"
"`I was horrified to find on my desk every letter I had written
you during my absence returned to me from the Dead Letter Office,
as you see.'"
"Good gracious!" cried mother, picking up one and clutching it
tight as if she meant to see that it didn't get away again.
"Go on!" cried Shelley.
"`I am enclosing some of them as they came back to me, in proof
of my statement. I drove at once to your boarding place and
found you had not been there for weeks, and your landlady was
distinctly crabbed. Then I went to the college, only to find
that you had fallen ill and gone to your home. That threw me
into torments, and all that keeps me from taking the first train
is the thought that perhaps you refused to accept these letters,
for some reason. Shelley, you did not, did you? There is some
mistake somewhere, is there not----'"
"One would be led to think so," said father sternly. "Seems as
if he might have managed some way----"
"Don't you blame him!" cried Shelley. "Can't you see it's all my
fault? He'd been coming regularly, and the other girls envied
me; then he just disappeared, and there was no word or anything,
and they laughed and whispered until I couldn't endure it; so I
moved in with Peter's cousin, as I wrote you; but that left Mrs.
Fleet with an empty room in the middle of the term, and it made
her hopping mad. I bet anything she wouldn't give the postman my
new address, to pay me back. I left it, of course. But if I'd
been half a woman, and had the confidence I should have had in
myself and in him---- Oh how I've suffered, and punished all of
"Never you mind about that," said mother, stroking Shelley's
hair. "Likely there isn't much in Chicago to give a girl who
never had been away from her family before, `confidence' in
herself or any one else. As for him--just disappearing like
that, without a word or even a line---- Go on Laddie!"
"`Surely, you knew that I was only waiting the outcome of this
trip to tell you how dearly I love you. Surely, you encouraged
me in thinking you cared for me a little, Shelley. Only a little
will do to begin with----'"
"You see, I DID have something to go on!" cried Shelley, wiping
her eyes and straightening up.
"`No doubt you misunderstood and resented my going without coming
to explain, and bid you good-bye in person, but Shelley, _I_
SIMPLY DARED NOT. You see, it was this way: I got a cable about
the case I was always talking of, and the only man who could give
the testimony I MUST HAVE was dying!'"
"For land's sake! The poor boy!" cried mother, patting Shelley's
"`An hour's delay might mean the loss of everything in the world
to me, even you. For if I lost any time, and the man escaped me,
there was no hope of winning my case, and everything, even you,
as I said before, depended on him----'"
"Good Lord! I mean land!" cried Leon.
"`If I could catch the train in an hour, I could take a boat at
New York, and go straight through with no loss of time. So I
wrote you a note that probably said more than I would have
ventured in person, and paid a boy to deliver it.'"
"Kept the money and tore up the note, I bet!" said May.
"`I wrote on the train, but found after sailing that I had rushed
so I had failed to post it in New York. I kept on writing every
day on the boat, and mailed you six at Liverpool. All the time I
have written frequently; there are many more here that this
envelope will not hold, that I shall save until I hear from
"Well, well!" said father.
"`Shelley, I beat death, reached my man, got the testimony I had
to have, and won my case.'"
"Glory!" cried mother. "Praise the Lord!"
"`Then I scoured England, and part of the continent, hunting some
interested parties; and when I was so long finding them, and
still no word came from you, I decided to come back and get you,
if you would come with me, and go on with the work together.'"
"Listen to that! More weddings!" cried Leon. He dropped on his
knees before Shelley. "Will you marry me, my pretty maid?" he
"Young man, if you cut any capers right now, I'll cuff your
ears!" cried father. "This is no proper time for your
"`Shelley, I beg that you will believe me, and if you care for me
in the very least, telegraph if I may come. Quick! I'm half
insane to see you. I have many things to tell you, first of all
how dear you are to me. Please telegraph. Robert.'"
"Saddle a horse, Leon!" father cried as he unstrapped his wallet.
"Laddie, take down her message."
"Can you put it into ten words?" asked Laddie.
"Mother, what would you say?" questioned Shelley.
Leon held up his fingers and curled down one with each word.
"Say, `Dear Robert. Well and happy. Come when you get ready.'"
"But then I won't know when he's coming," objected Shelley. "You
don't need to," said Leon. "You can take it for granted from
that epistolary effusion that he won't let the grass grow under
his feet while coming here. That's a bully message! It sounds
as if you weren't crazy over him, and it's a big compliment to
mother. Looks as if she didn't have to know when people are
coming--like she's ready all the time."
"Write it out and let me see," said Shelley.
So Laddie wrote it, and she looked at it a long time, it seemed
to me, at last she said: "I don't like that `get.' It doesn't
sound right. Wouldn't `are' be better?"
"Come when you are ready," repeated Laddie. "Yes, that's better.
`Get' sounds rather saucy."
"Why not put it, `Come when you choose?'" suggested mother.
"That will leave a word to spare, so it won't look as if you had
counted them and used exactly ten on purpose, and it doesn't
sound as if you expected him to make long preparations, like the
other. That will leave it with him to start whenever he likes."
"Yes! yes!" cried Shelley. "That's much better! Say, `Come when
"Right!" said Laddie as he wrote it. "Now I'll take this!"
"Oh no you won't!" cried Leon. "Father told me to saddle my
horse. She's got enough speed in her to beat yours a mile. I
take that! Didn't you say for me to saddle, father?"
"Such important business, I think I better," said Laddie, and
Leon began to cry.
"I think you should both go," said Shelley. "It is so important,
and if one goes to make a mistake, maybe the other will notice
"Yes, that's the best way," said mother.
"Yes, both go," said father.
It was like one streak when they went up the Big Hill. Father
shook his head. "Poor judgment--that," he said. "Never run a
horse up hill!"
"But they're in such a hurry," Shelley reminded him.
"So they are," said father. "In this case I might have broken
the rule myself. Now come all of you, and let the child get at
"But I want you to stay," said Shelley. "I'm so addle-pated this
morning. I need my family to help me."
"Of course you do, child," said mother. "Families were made to
cling together, and stand by each other in every circumstance of
life--joy or sorrow. Of course you need your family."
May began sorting the letters by dates so Shelley could start on
the one that had been written first. Father ran his knife across
the top of each, and cut all the envelopes, and Shelley took out
the first and read it; that was the train one. In it he told her
about sending the boy with the note again, and explained more
about how it was so very important for him to hurry, because the
only man who could help him was so sick. We talked it over, and
all of us thought the boy had kept the money and torn up the
note. Father said the way would have been to send the note and
pay the boy when he came back; but Shelley said Mr. Paget would
have been gone before the boy got back, so father saw that
wouldn't have been the way, in such a case.
Next she read one written on the boat. He told more about
sending the boy; how he loved her, what it would mean to both of
them if he got the evidence he wanted and won his first case; and
how much it would bring his friend. The next one told it all
over again, and more. In that he wrote a little about the ocean,
the people on board the ship, and he gave Shelley the name of the
place where he was going and begged her to write to him. He told
her if the ship he was on passed another, they were going to stop
and send back the mail. He begged her to write often, and to say
she forgave him for starting away without seeing her, as he had
been forced to.
The next one was the same thing over, only a little more yet. In
the last he had reached England, the important man was still
living, but he was almost gone, and Mr. Paget took two good
witnesses, all the evidence he had, and went to see him; and the
man saw it was no use, so he made a statement, and Robert had it
all written out, signed and witnessed. For the real straight
sense there was in that letter, I could have done as well myself.
It was a wild jumble, because Robert was so crazy over having the
evidence that would win his case; and he told Shelley that now he
was perfectly free to love her all she would allow him. He said
he had to stay a while longer to find his friend's people so they
would get back their share of the money, but it was not going to
be easy to locate them. You wouldn't think the world so big, but
maybe it seemed smaller to me because as far as I could see from
the top of our house, was all I knew about it. After Shelley had
read the letters, and the note again, father heaved a big sigh
that seemed to come clear from his boot soles and he said: "Well
Shelley, it looks to me as if you had found a MAN. Seems to me
that's a mighty important case for a young lawyer to be trusted
with, in a first effort."
"Yes, but it was for Robert's best friend, and only think, he has
"I don't see how he could have done better if he'd been old as
Methuselah, and wise as Solomon," boasted mother.
"But he hasn't found the people who must have back their money,"
said May. "He will have to go to England again. And he wants to
take you, Shelley. My! You'll get to sail on a big steamer,
cross the Atlantic Ocean, and see London. Maybe you'll even get
a peep at the Queen!"
Shelley was busy making a little heap of her letters; when the
top one slid off I reached over and put it back for her. She
looked straight at me, and smiled the most wonderful and the most
beautiful smile I ever saw on any one's face, so I said to her:
"You see! I TOLD you he was coming!"
"I can't understand it!" said Shelley.
"YOU KNOW I told you."
"Of course I do! But what made you think so?"
"That was the answer. Just that he was coming."
"What are you two talking about?" asked mother.
Shelley looked at me, and waited for me to tell mother as much as
I wanted to, of what had happened. But I didn't think things
like that were to be talked about before every one, so I just
"Oh nothing! Only, I told Shelley this very morning that the
Paget man was coming soon, and that everything was going to be
"You did? Well of all the world! I can't see why."
"Oh something told me! I just FELT that way."
"More of that Fairy nonsense?" asked father sharply.
"No. I didn't get that from the Fairies."
"Well, never mind!" said Shelley, rising, because she saw that I
had told all I wanted to. "Little Sister DID tell me this
morning that he was coming, that everything would be made right,
and it's the queerest thing, but instantly I believed her.
Didn't I sing all morning, mother? The first note since Robert
didn't come when I expected him in Chicago, weeks ago."
"Yes," said mother. "That's a wonderfully strange thing. I
can't see what made you think so."
"Anyway, I did!" I said. "Now let's go have dinner. I'm
I caught May's hand, and ran to get away from them. Father and
mother walked one on each side of Shelley, while with both hands
she held her letters before her. When we reached the house we
just talked about them all the time. Pretty soon the boys were
back, and then they told about sending the telegram. Leon vowed
he gave the operator a dime extra to start that message with a
shove, so it would go faster.
"It will go all right," said Laddie, "and how it will go won't be
a circumstance to the way he'll come. If there's anything we
ought to do, before he gets here, we should hustle. Chicago
isn't a thousand miles away. That message can reach him by two
o'clock, it's probable he has got ready while he was waiting, so
he will start on the first train our way. He could reach
Groveville on the ten, to-morrow. We better meet it."
"Yes, we'll meet it," said mother. "Is the carriage perfectly
Father said: "It must be gone over. Our general manager here
ordered me to speed up, and we drove a little coming from town."