Part 9 out of 9
Mother went to planning what else should be done.
"Don't do anything!" cried Shelley. "The house is all right.
There's no need to work and worry into a sweat. He won't notice
or care how things look."
"I miss my guess if he doesn't notice and care very much indeed,"
said mother emphatically. "Men are not blind. No one need think
they don't see when things are not as they should be, just
because they're not cattish enough to let you know it, like a
woman always does. Shelley, wouldn't you like to ride over and
spend the afternoon with the Princess?"
"Nope!" said Shelley. "It's her turn to come to see me.
Besides, you don't get me out of the way like that. I know what
you'll do here, and I intend to help."
"Do you need one of the boys at the house?" asked father, and if
you'll believe it, both of them wanted to stay.
Father said he must have one to help wash the carriage and do a
little fixing around the barn; so he took Leon, but he didn't
like to go. He said: "I don't see what all this fuss is about,
anyway. Probably he'll be another Peter."
Shelley looked at him: "Oh Mr. Paget isn't nearly so large as
Peter," she said, "and his hair is whiter than yours, while his
eyes are not so blue."
"Saints preserve us!" cried Leon. "Come on, father, let's only
dust the carriage! He's not worth washing it for."
"Is he like that?" asked mother anxiously.
"Wait and see!" said Shelley. "Looks don't make a man. He has
proved what he can do."
Then all of us went to work. Before night we were hunting over
the yard, and beside the road, to see if we could find anything
to pick up. Six chickens were in the cellar, father was to bring
meat and a long list of groceries from town in the morning. He
was to start early, get them before train time, put them under
the back seat, and take them out after he drove into the lane,
when he came back. That made a little more trouble for father,
but there was not the slightest necessity for making Mr. Paget
feel that he had ridden in a delivery wagon.
Next morning I wakened laughing softly, because some one was
fussing with my hair, patting my face, and kissing me, so I put
up my arms and pulled that loving person down on my pillow, and
gave back little half-asleep kisses, and slept on; but it was
Shelley, and she gently shook me and began repeating that fool
old thing I have been waked up with half the mornings of my life:
"Get up, Little Sister, the morning is bright,
The birds are all singing to welcome the light,
Get up; for when all things are merry and glad,
Good children should never be lazy and sad;
For God gives us daylight, dear sister, that we
May rejoice like the lark and work like the bee."
Usually I'd have gone on sleeping, but Shelley was so sweet and
lovely, and she kissed me so hard, that I remembered it was going
to be a most exciting day, so I came to quick as snap and jumped
right up, for I didn't want to miss a single thing that might
The carriage was shining when it came to the gate, so was father.
I thought there was going to be a vacant seat beside him, and I
asked if I might go along. He said: "Yes, if mother says so."
He always would stick that in. So I ran to ask her, and she
didn't care, if Shelley made no objections. I was just starting
to find her, when here she came, all shining too, but Laddie was
with her. I hadn't known that he was going, and I was so
disappointed I couldn't help crying.
"What's the matter?" asked Shelley.
"Father and mother both said I might go, if you didn't care."
"Why, I'm dreadfully sorry," said Shelley, "but I have several
things I want Laddie to do for me."
Laddie stooped down to kiss me good-bye and he said: "Don't cry,
Little Sister. The way to be happy is to be good."
Then they drove to Groveville, and we had to wait. But there was
so much to do, it made us fly to get all of it finished. So
mother sent Leon after Mrs. Freshett to help in the kitchen,
while Candace wore her white dress, and waited on the table.
Mother cut flowers for the dining table, and all through the
house. She left the blinds down to keep the rooms cool, chilled
buttermilk to drink, and if she didn't think of every single,
least little thing, I couldn't see what it was. Then all of us
put on our best dresses. Mother looked as glad and sweet as any
girl, when she sat to rest a little while. I didn't dare climb
the catalpa in my white dress, so I watched from the horse block,
and when I saw the grays come over the top of the hill, I ran to
tell. As mother went to the gate, she told May and me to walk
behind, to stay back until we were spoken to, and then to keep
our heads level, and remember our manners. I don't know where
Leon went. He said he lost all interest when he found there was
to be another weak-eyed towhead in the family, and I guess he was
in earnest about it, because he wasn't even curious enough to be
at the gate when Mr. Paget came.
Father stopped with a flourish, Laddie hurried around and helped
Shelley, and then Mr. Paget stepped down. Goodness, gracious,
sakes alive! Little? Towhead? He was taller than Laddie. His
hair was most as black as ink, and wavy. His eyes were big and
dark; he was broad and strong and there was the cleanest,
freshest look about him. He put his arm spang around Shelley,
right there in the road, and mother said: "Hold there! Not so
fast, young man! I haven't given my consent to that."
He laughed, and he said: "Yes, but you'ah going to!" And he put
his other arm around mother, so May and I crowded up, and we had
a family reunion right between the day lilies and the snowball
bush. We went into the house, and he LIKED us, his room, and
everything went exactly right. He was crazy about the cold
buttermilk, and while he was drinking it Leon walked into the
dining-room, because he thought of course Mr. Paget and Shelley
would be on the davenport in the parlour. When he saw Robert he
said lowlike to Shelley: "Didn't Mr. Paget come? Who's that?"
Shelley looked so funny for a minute, then she remembered what
she had told him and she just laughed as she said: "Mr. Paget,
this is my brother."
Robert went to shake hands, and Leon said right to his teeth:
"Well a divil of a towhead you are!"
"Towhead?" said Robert, bewildered-like.
"Shelley said you were a little bit of a man, with watery blue
eyes, and whiter hair than mine."
"Oh I say!" cried Robert. "She must have been stringin' you!"
Leon just whooped; because while Mr. Paget didn't talk like the
'orse, 'ouse people, he made you think of them in the way he said
things, and the sound of his voice. Then we had dinner, and I
don't remember that we ever had quite such a feast before.
Mother had put on every single flourish she knew. She used her
very best dishes, and linen, and no cook anywhere could beat
Candace alone; now she had Mrs. Freshett to help her, and mother
also. If she tried to show Mr. Paget, she did it! No visitor
was there except him, but we must have been at the table two
hours talking, and eating from one dish after another. Candace
LIKED to wear her white dress, and carry things around, and they
certainly were good.
And talk! Father, Laddie, and Robert talked over all creation.
Every once in a while when mother saw an opening, she put in her
paddle, and no one could be quicker, when she watched sharp and
was trying to make a good impression. Shelley was very quiet;
she scarcely spoke or touched that delicious food. Once the
Paget man turned to her, looking at her so fondlike, as he picked
up one of her sauce dishes and her spoon and wanted to feed her.
And he said: "Heah child, eat your dinnah! You have nawthing to
be fussed ovah! I mean to propose to you, and your parents
befowr night. That is what I am heah for."
Every one laughed so, Shelley never got the bite; but after that
she perked up more and ate a little by herself.
At last father couldn't stand it any longer, so he began asking
Robert about his trip to England, and the case he had won. When
the table was cleared for dessert, Mr. Paget asked mother to have
Candace to bring his satchel. He opened it and spread papers all
over, so that father and Laddie could see the evidence, while he
told them how it was.
It seemed there was a law in England, all of us knew about it,
because father often had explained it. This law said that a man
who had lots of money and land must leave almost all of it to his
eldest son; and the younger ones must go into law, the army, be
clergymen, or enter trade and earn a living, while the eldest
kept up the home place. Then he left it to his eldest son, and
his other boys had to work for a living. It kept the big estates
together; but my! it was hard on the younger sons, and no one
seemed even to think about the daughters. I never heard them
Now there was a very rich man; he had only two sons, and each of
them married, and had one son. The younger son died, and sent
his boy for his elder brother to take care of. He pretended to
be good, but for sure, he was bad as ever he could be. He knew
that if his cousin were out of the way, all that land and money
would be his when his uncle died. So he went to work and he
tried for years, and a lawyer man who had no conscience at all,
helped him. At last when they had done everything they could
think of, they took a lot of money and put it in the pocket of
the son they wanted to ruin; then when his father missed the
money, and the house was filled with policemen, detectives, and
neighbours, the bad man said he'd feel more comfortable to have
the family searched too, merely as a formality, so he stepped out
and was gone over, and when the son's turn came, there was the
money on him! That made him a public disgrace to his family, and
a criminal who couldn't inherit the estate, and his father went
raving mad and tried to kill him, so he had to run away. At
first he didn't care what he did, so he came over here. Robert
said that man was his best friend, and as men went, he was a
decent fellow, so he cheered him up all he could, and went to
work with all his might to prove he was innocent, and to get back
his family, and his money for him.
When Robert had enough evidence that he was almost ready to start
to England, his man got a cable from an old friend of his
father's, who always had believed in him, and it said that the
bad man was dying--to come quick. So Robert went all of a
sudden, like the Dead Letters told about. Now, he described how
he reached there, took the old friend of the father of his friend
with him, and other witnesses, and all the evidence he had, and
went to see the sick man. When Robert showed him what he could
prove, the bad man said it was no use, he had to die in a few
days, so he might as well go with a clean conscience, and he told
about everything he had done. Robert had it all written out,
signed and sworn to. He told about all of it, and then he said
to father: "Have I made it clear to you?"
Leon was so excited he forgot all the manners he ever had, for he
popped up before father could open his head, and cried: "Clear as
mud! I got that son business so plain in my mind, I'd know the
party of the first part, from the party of the second part, if I
met him promenading on the Stone Wall of China!"
Father and Laddie knew so much law they asked dozens of
questions; but that Robert man wasn't a smidgin behind, for every
clip he had the answer ready, and then he could go on and tell
much more than he had been asked. He said as a Case, it was a
pretty thing to work on; but it was much more than a case to him,
because he always had known that his friend was not guilty; that
he was separated from his family, suffering terribly under the
disgrace, and they must be also. He had worked for life for his
friend, because the whole thing meant so much to both of them.
He said he must go back soon and finish up a little more that he
should have done while he was there, if it hadn't been that he
received no word from Shelley.
"When I didn't heah from heh for so long, and wrote so many
letters, and had no reply, I thought possibly some gay `young
Lochinvah had come out from the west,' and taken my sweet 'eart,"
he said, "and while I had my armour on, I made up my mind that
I'd give him a fight too. I didn't propose to lose Shelley, if
it were in my powah to win heh. I hadn't been able to say to heh
exactly what I desiahed, on account of getting a start alone in
this country; but if I won this case, I would have ample means.
When I secuahed the requiahed evidence, I couldn't wait to
finish, so I came straight ovah, to make sure of heh."
He arose and handed the satchel to father.
"I notice you have a very good looking gun convenient," he said.
"Would you put these papahs where you consider them safe until
I'm ready to return? Our home, our living, and the honah of a
man are there, and we are mighty particular about that bag, are
we not, Shelley?"
"Well I should think we are!" cried Shelley. "For goodness sake,
father, hang to it! Is the man still living? Could you get that
evidence over again?"
"He was alive when I left, but the doctors said ten days would be
his limit, so he may be gone befowr this."
Father picked up the satchel, set it on his knees, and stroked it
as if it were alive.
"Well! Well!" he said. "Now would any one think such a little
thing could contain so much?"
Shelley leaned toward Robert.
"Your friend!" she cried, "Your friend! What DID he say to you?
What did he DO?"
"Well, for a time he was wildly happy ovah having the stain
removed from his honah, and knowing that he would have his family
and faw'tn back; but there is an extremely sad feature to his
case that is not yet settled, so he must keep his head level
until we work that out. Now about that hoss you wanted to show
me----" he turned to Leon.
Mother gave the signal, and we left the table. Father carried
the satchel to his chest, made room for it, locked it in and put
the key in his pocket. Then our men started to the barn to show
the Arab-Kentucky horse. Mr. Paget went to Shelley and took her
in his arms exactly like Peter did Sally before the parlour door
that time when I got into trouble, and he looked at mother and
laughed as he said: "I hope you will excuse me, but I"e been
having a very nawsty, anxious time, and I cawn't conform to the
rules for a few days, until I become accustomed to the fawct that
Shelley is not lost to me. It was beastly when I reached
Chicago, had back all my letters, and found she had gone home
ill. I've much suffering to recompense. I'll atone for a small
He lifted Shelley right off the floor--that's how big and strong
he was--he hugged her tight, and kissed her forehead, cheeks, and
"When I've gone through the fahmality of asking your parents for
you, and they have said a gracious `yes,' I'll put the fust one
on your lips," he said, setting her down carefully. "In the
meantime, you be fixing your mouth to say, `yes,' also, when I
propose to you, because it's coming befowr you sleep."
Shelley was like a peach blossom. She reached up and touched his
cheek, while she looked at mother all smiling, and sparkling, as
she said: "You see!"
Mother smiled back.
"I do, indeed!" she answered.
Leon pulled Mr. Paget's sleeve.
"Aw quit lally-gaggin' and come see a real horse," he said.
Robert put his other arm around Leon, drew him to his side and
hugged him as if he were a girl. "I'm so glad Shelley has a
lawge family," he said. "Big families are jolly. I'm so proud
of all the brothers I'm going to have. I was the only boy at
"You haven't told us about your family," said mother.
"No," said Robert, "but I intend to. I have a family! One of
the finest on uth. We'll talk about them after this hoss is
He let Shelley go and walked away, his arm still around Leon.
Shelley ran to mother and both of them sobbed out loud.
"NOW YOU SEE HOW IT WAS!" she said.
"You poor child!" cried mother. "Indeed I DO see how it was.
You've been a brave girl. A good, brave girl! Father and I are
mighty proud of you!"
"Oh mother! I thought you were ashamed of me!" sobbed Shelley.
"Oh my child!" said mother quavery-like. "Oh my child! You
surely see that none of us could understand, as we do now."
She patted Shelley, and told her to run upstairs and lie down for
a while, because she was afraid she would be sick.
"We mustn't have a pale, tired girl right now," said mother.
Well!" said Shelley, but she just stood there holding mother.
"Well?" said mother gripping her.
"You see!" said Shelley.
"Child," said mother, "I DO see! I see six feet of as handsome
manhood as I ever have seen anywhere. His manner is perfect, and
I find his speech most attractive. I am delighted with him. I
do see indeed! Your father is quite as proud and pleased as I
am. Now go to bed."
Shelley held up her lips, and then went. I ran to the barn,
where the men were standing in the shade, while Leon led his
horse up and down before them, told about its pedigree, its
record, how he came to have it. The Paget man stood there
looking and listening gravely, as he studied the horse. At last
he went over her, and gee! but he knew horse! Then Laddie
brought out Flos and they talked all about her, and then went
into the barn. Father opened the east doors to show how much
land he had, which were his lines; and while the world didn't
look quite so pretty as it had in May, still it was good enough.
Then they went into the orchard, sat under the trees and began
talking about business conditions. That was so dry I went back
to the house. And maybe I didn't strike something interesting
As I came up the orchard path to a back yard gate, I saw a
carriage at the hitching rack in front of the house, so I took a
peep and almost fell over. It was the one the Princess had come
to Sally's wedding in; so I knew she was in the house visiting
Shelley. I went to the parlour and there I had another shock;
for lo and behold! in our big rocking chair, and looking as well
as any one, so far as you could see--of course you can't see
heart trouble, though--sat Mrs. Pryor. The Princess and mother
were there, all of them talking, laughing and having the best
time, while on the davenport enjoying himself as much as any one,
was Mr. Pryor. They talked about everything, and it was easy to
see that the Pryor door was OPEN so far as we were concerned,
anyway. Mrs. Pryor was just as nice and friendly as she could
be, and so was he. Shelley sat beside him, and he pinched her
cheek and said: "Something seems to make you especially
brilliant today, young woman!"
Shelley flushed redder, laughed, and glanced at mother, so she
said: "Shelley is having a plain old-fashioned case of beau.
She met a young man in Chicago last fall and he's here now to ask
our consent. All of us are quite charmed with him. That's why
she's so happy."
Then the Princess sprang up and kissed Shelley, so did Mrs.
Pryor, while such a chatter you never heard. No one could repeat
what they said, for as many as three talked at the same time.
"Oh do let's have a double wedding!" cried the Princess when the
excitement was over a little. "I think it would be great fun; do
let's! When are you planning for?"
"Nothing is settled yet," said Shelley. "We've had no time to
"Mercy!" cried the Princess. "Go make your arrangements quickly!
Hurry up, then come over, and we'll plan for the same time. It
will be splendid! Don't you think that would be fine, Mrs.
"I can't see any objections to it," said mother.
"Where is your young man? I'm crazy to see him," cried the
Princess. "If you have gone and found a better looking one than
mine, I'll never speak to you again."
"She hasn't!" cried Mrs. Pryor calmly, like that settled it. I
like her. "They're not made!"
"I am not so sure of that," said Shelley proudly. "Mother, isn't
my man quite as good looking, and as nice in every way, as
"Fully as handsome, and so far as can be seen in such a short
time, quite as fine," said mother.
I was perfectly amazed at her; as if any man could be!
"I don't believe it, I won't stand it, and I shan't go home until
I have seen for myself!" cried the Princess, laughing, and yet it
sounded as if she were half-provoked, and I knew I was. The
Paget man was all right, but I wasn't going to lose my head over
him. Laddie was the finest, of course!
"Well, he's somewhere on the place with our men, this minute,"
said Shelley, "but you stay for supper, and meet him."
"When you haven't your arrangements made yet! You surely are
unselfish! Of course I won't do that, but I'd love to have one
little peep, then you bring him and come over to-morrow, so all
of us can become acquainted, and indeed, I'm really in earnest
about a double wedding."
"Go see where the men are," said Shelley to me.
I went to the back door, and their heads were bobbing far down in
"They're under the greening apple tree," I reported.
"If you will excuse us," said Shelley to Mr. and Mrs. Pryor,
"we'll walk down a few minutes and prove that I'm right."
"Don't stay," said Mrs. Pryor. "This trip is so unusual for me
that I'm quite tired. For a first venture, in such a long time,
I think I've done well. But now I'm beginning to feel I should
"Go straight along," said the Princess. "I'll walk across the
fields, or Thomas can come back after me."
So Mr. and Mrs. Pryor went away, while the Princess, Shelley,
May, and I walked through the orchard toward the men. They were
standing on the top of the hill looking over the meadow, and
talking with such interest they didn't hear us or turn until
Shelley said: "Mr. Paget, I want to present you to Laddie's
betrothed--Miss Pamela Pryor."
He swung around, finishing what he was saying as he turned, the
Princess took a swift step toward him, then, at the same time,
both of them changed to solid tombstone, and stood staring, and
so did all of us, while no one made a sound. At last the Paget
man drew a deep, quivery breath and sort of shook himself as he
gazed at her.
"Why, Pam!" he cried. "Darling Pam, cawn it possibly be you?"
If you ever heard the scream of a rabbit when the knives of a
reaper cut it to death, why that's exactly the way she cried out.
She covered her eyes with her hands. He drew back and smiled,
the red rushed into his face, and he began to be alive again.
Laddie went to the Princess and took her hands.
"What does this mean?" he begged.
She pulled away from him, and went to the Paget man slowly, her
big eyes wild and strained.
"Robert!" she cried. "Robert! how did you get here? Were you
"All ovah England, yes," he said. "Not heah! I came heah to see
Shelley. But you? How do you happen to be in this country?"
"We've lived on adjoining land for two years!"
"You moved heah! To escape the pity of our friends?"
"Father moved! Mother and I had no means, and no refuge. We
were forced. We never believed it! Oh Robert, we never--not for
a minute! Oh Robert, say you never did it!"
"Try our chawming cousin Emmet your next guess!"
"That devil! Oh that devil!"
She cried out that hurt way again, so he took her tight in his
arms; but sure as ever Laddie was my brother, he was hers, so
that was all right. When they were together you wondered why in
this world you hadn't thought of it the instant you saw him
alone. They were like as two peas. They talked exactly the
same, only he sounded much more so, probably from having just
been in England for weeks, while in two years she had grown a
little as we were. We gazed at them, open-mouthed, like as not,
and no one said a word.
At last Mr. Paget looked over the Princess' shoulder at father
and said: "I can explain this, Mr. Stanton, in a very few wuds.
I am my friend. The case was my own. The evidence I secuahed
was for myself. This is my only sisteh. Heh people are
"The relationship is apparent," said father. "There is a
striking likeness between you and your sister, and I can discern
traces of your parents in your face, speech and manner."
"If you know my father," said Robert, "then you undehstand what
happened to me when I was found with his money on my pehson, in
the presence of our best friends and the police. He went raving
insane on the instant, and he would have killed me if he hadn't
been prevented; he tried to; has he changed any since, Pam?"
The Princess was clinging to him with both hands, staring at him,
wonder, joy, and fear all on her lovely face.
"Worse!" she cried. "He's much worse! The longer he broods, the
more mother grieves, the bitterer he becomes. Mr. Stanton, he is
always armed. He'll shoot on sight. Oh what shall we do?"
"Miss Pamela," said Leon, "did your man Thomas know your brother
"All his life."
"Well, then, we'd better be doing something quick. He tied the
horses and was walking up and down the road while he waited, and
he saw us plainly when we crossed the wood yard a while ago. He
followed us and stared so, I couldn't help noticing him."
"Jove!" cried Robert. "I must have seen him in the village this
morning. A man reminded me of him, then I remembered how like
people of his type are, and concluded I was mistaken. Mr.
Stanton, you have agreed that the evidence I hold is sufficient.
Pam cawn tell you that while I don't deny being full of tricks as
a boy, they weh not dirty, not low, and while father always
taking Emmet's paht against me drove me to recklessness
sometimes, I nevah did anything underhand or disgraceful. She
knows what provocation I had, and exactly what happened. Let heh
"I don't feel that I require any further information," said
father. "You see, I happen to be fairly well acquainted with Mr.
"He made us use that name here," explained the Princess.
"WELL, HIS NAME IS PAGET!" said Robert angrily.
Laddie told me long ago he didn't believe it was Pryor.
"Then, if you are acquainted with my father, what would you
counsel? Unless I'm prepahed to furnish the central figyah of
interest in a funeral, I dare not meet him, until he has seen
this evidence, had time to digest it, and calm himself."
Shelley caught him by the arm. No wonder! She hadn't been
proposed to, or even had a kiss on her lips. She pulled him.
"You come straight to the house," she said. "Thomas may tell
your father he thought he saw you."
That was about as serious as anything could be, but nothing ever
stopped Leon. He sidled away from father, repeating in a low
"`For sore dismayed, through storm and shade
His child he did discover;
One lovely hand she stretched for aid,
And one was round her lover--'"
Shelley just looked daggers at him, but she was too anxious to
waste any time.
"Would Thomas tell your father?" she asked the Princess.
"The instant he saw him alone, yes. He wouldn't before mother."
"Hold one minute!" cried father. "We must think of our mother,
just a little. Shelley, you and the girls run up and explain how
this is. Better all of you go to the house, except Mr. Paget.
He'll be safe here as anywhere. Mr. Pryor will stop there, if he
comes. So it would be best for you to keep out of sight, Robert,
until I have had a little talk with him."
"I'll stay here," I offered. "We'll talk until you get Mr. Pryor
cooled off. He can be awful ragesome when he's excited, and it
doesn't take much to start him."
"You're right about that!" agreed Robert.
So we sat under the greening and were having a fine visit while
the others went to break the news gently to mother that the Pryor
mystery had gone up higher than Gilderoy's kite. My! but she'd
be glad! It would save her many a powerful prayer. I was
telling Robert all about the time his father visited us, and what
my mother said to him, and he said: "She'd be the one to talk
with him now. Possibly he'd listen to her, until he got it
through his head that his own son is not a common thief."
"Maybe he'll have to be held, like taking quinine, and made to
listen," I said.
"That would be easy, if he were not a walking ahsenal," said
Robert. "You have small chance to reason with a half-crazy man
while he is handling a pistol."
He meant revolver.
"But he'll shoot!" I cried. "The Princess said he'd shoot!"
"So he will!" said Robert. "Shoot first, then find out how
things are, and kill himself and every one else with remorse,
afterward. He is made that way."
"Then he doesn't dare see you until he finds out how mistaken he
has been," I said, for I was growing to like Robert better every
minute longer I knew him. Besides, there was the Princess,
looking like him as possible, and loving him of course, like I
did Laddie, maybe. And if anything could cure Mrs. Pryor's heart
trouble, having her son back would, because that was what made it
in the first place, and even before them, there was Shelley to be
thought of, and cared for.
The Pryor Mystery
"And now old Dodson, turning pale,
Yields to his fate--so ends my tale."
It didn't take me long to see why Shelley liked Robert Paget. He
was one of the very most likeable persons I ever had seen. We
were sitting under the apple tree, growing better friends every
minute, when we heard a smash, so we looked up, and it was the
sound made by Ranger as Mr. Pryor landed from taking our meadow
fence. He had ridden through the pasture, and was coming down
the creek bank. He was a spectacle to behold. A mile away you
could see that Thomas had told him he had seen Robert, and where
he was. Father had been mistaken in thinking Mr. Pryor would go
to the house. He had lost his hat, his white hair was flying,
his horse was in a lather, and he seemed to be talking to
himself. Robert took one good look. "Ye Gods!" he cried.
"There he comes now, a chattering madman!"
"The Station," I panted. "Up that ravine! Roll back the stone
and pull the door shut after you. Quick!"
He never could have been inside, before Mr. Pryor's horse was
raving along the embankment beside the fence.
"Where is he?" he cried. "Thomas saw him here!"
I didn't think his horse could take the fence at the top of the
hill, but it looked as if he intended trying to make it, and I
had to stop him if I could.
"Saw who?" I asked with clicking teeth.
"A tall, slender man, with a handsome face, and the heart of a
"Yes, there was a man here like that in the face. I didn't see
his heart," I said.
"Which way?" raved Mr. Pryor. "Which way? Is he at your house?"
Then I saw that he had the reins in his left hand, and a big
revolver in his right. So there was no mistake about whether
he'd really shoot. But that gun provoked me. People have no
business to be careless with those things. They're dangerous!
"He didn't do what you think he did," I cried, "and he can prove
he didn't, if you'll stop cavorting, and listen to reason."
Mr. Pryor leaned over the fence, dark purple like a beet now.
"You tell me where he is, or I'll choke it out of you," he said.
I guess he meant it. I took one long look at his lean, clawlike
fingers, and put both hands around my neck.
"He knew Thomas saw him. He went that way," I said, waving off
toward the north.
"Hah! striking for petticoats, as usual!" he cried, and away he
went in the direction of his house. Then I flew for the Station.
"Come from there, quick!" I cried. "I've sent him back to his
house, but when he finds you're not there, he will come here
again. Hurry, and I'll put you in the woodshed loft. He'd never
think of looking there."
He came out and we started toward the house, going pretty fast.
Almost to the back gate we met Shelley.
"Does mother know?" I asked.
"I just told her," she said.
"Father," I cried, going in the back dining-room door. "Mr.
Pryor was down in the meadow on Ranger. Thomas did see Robert,
and his father is hunting him with a gun. We saw him coming, so
I hid Robert in the Station and sent Mr. Pryor back home--I guess
I told him a lie, father, or at least part of one, I said he went
`that way,' and he did, but not so far as I made his father
think; so he started back home, but when he gets there and
doesn't find Robert he'll come here again, madder than ever. Oh
father, he'll come again, and he's crazy, father! Clear, raving
crazy! I know he'll come again!"
"Yes," said father calmly. "I think it very probable that he
will come again."
Then he started around shutting and latching windows, closing and
locking the doors, and he carefully loaded his gun, and leaned it
against the front casing. Then he put on his glasses, and began
examining the papers they had brought out again. Robert stood
beside him, and explained and showed him.
"You see with me out of the way, the English law would give
everything to my cousin," he said, and he explained it all over
"And to think how he always posed for a perfect saint!" cried the
Princess. "Oh I hope the devil knows how to make him pay for
what all of us have suffered!"
"Child! Child!" cried mother.
"I can't help it!" said the Princess. "Let me tell you, Mr.
Then SHE told everything all over again, but it was even more
interesting than the way Robert explained it, because what she
said was about how it had been with her and her mother.
"It made father what he is," she said. "He would have killed
Robert, if our friends hadn't helped him away. He will now, if
he isn't stopped. I tell you he will! He sold everything he
could legally control, for what any one chose to give him, and
fled here stricken in pride, heartbroken, insane with anger, the
creature you know. In a minute he'll be back again. Oh what are
we going to do?"
Father was laying out the papers that he wanted to use very
"These constitute all the proof any court would require," he said
to Robert. "If he returns, all of you keep from sight. This is
my house; I'll manage who comes here, in my own way."
"But you must be allowed to take no risk!" cried Robert. "I
cawn't consent to youah facing danger for me."
"There will be no risk," said father. "There is no reason why he
should want to injure me. As the master of this house, I am
accustomed to being obeyed. If he comes, step into the parlour
there, until I call you."
He was busy with the papers when he saw Mr. Pryor coming. I
wondered if he would jump the yard fence and ride down mother's
flowers, but he left his horse at the hitching rack, and pounded
on the front door.
"Did any of you notice whether he was displaying a revolver?"
"Yes father! Yes!" I cried. "And he's shaking so I'm afraid
he'll make it go, when he doesn't intend to."
Father picked up and levelled his rifle on the front door.
"Leon," he said, "you're pretty agile. Open this door, keep
yourself behind it, and step around in the parlour. The rest of
you get out, and stay out of range."
Those nearest hurried into the parlour. Candace, May, and I
crouched in the front stairway, but things were so exciting we
just had to keep the door open a tiny crack so we could see plain
as anything. There had been nothing for Mrs. Freshett to do all
afternoon, so she had gone over to visit an hour with Amanda
Deam. Now Mr. Pryor probably thought father would meet him with
the Bible in his hand, and read a passage about loving your
neighbour as yourself. I'll bet anything you can mention that he
never expected to find himself looking straight down the barrel
of a shining big rifle when that door swung open. It surprised
him so, he staggered, and his arm wavered. If he had shot and
hit anything then, it would have been an accident.
"Got you over the heart," said father, in precisely the same
voice he always said, "This is a fine day we are having." "Now
why are you coming here in such a shape?" This was a little
cross. "I'm not the man to cringe before you!" This was quite
boastful. "You'll get bullet for bullet, if you attempt to
invade my house with a gun." This pinged as if father shot words
instead of bullets.
"I want my daughter to come home," said Mr. Pryor. "And if
you're sheltering the thief she is trying to hide, yield him up,
if you would save yourself."
"Well, I'm not anxious about dying, with the family I have on my
hands, neighbour," said father, his rifle holding without a
waver, "but unless you put away that weapon, and listen to
reason, you cannot enter my house. Calm yourself, man, and hear
what there is to be said! Examine the proof, that is here
waiting to be offered to you."
"Once and but once, send them out, or I'll enter over you!" cried
"Sorry," said father, "but if only a muscle of your trigger
finger moves, you fall before I do. I've the best range, and the
most suitable implement for the work."
"Implement for the work!" Well, what do you think of father?
Any one who could not see, to have heard him, would have thought
he was talking about a hoe. We saw a shadow before we knew what
made it; then, a little at a time, wonderingly, her jolly face a
bewildered daze, her mouth slowly opening, Mrs. Freshett, half-
bent and peering, stooped under Mr. Pryor's arm and looked in our
door. She had come back to help get supper, and because the
kitchen was locked, she had gone around the house to see if she
could get in at the front. What she saw closed her mouth, and
straightened her back.
"WHY, YOU TWO OLD FOOLS!" she cried. "IF YE AIN'T DRAWED A BEAD
ON EACH OTHER!"
None of us saw her do it. We only knew after it was over what
must have happened. She had said she'd risk her life for mother.
She never stopped an instant when her chance came. She must have
turned, and thrown her big body against Mr. Pryor. He was tired,
old, and shaking with anger. They went down together, she
gripping his right wrist with both hands, and she was strong as
most men. Father set the gun beside the door, and bent over
them. A minute more and he handed the revolver to Leon, and
helped Mrs. Freshett to her feet. Mr. Pryor lay all twisted on
the walk, his face was working, and what he said was a stiff
jabber no one could understand. He had broken into the pieces we
often feared he would.
Robert and Laddie came running to help father carry him in, and
lay him on the couch.
"I hope, Miss Stanton," said Mrs. Freshett, "that I wa'n't too
rough with him. He was so shaky-like, I was 'feered that thing
would go off without his really makin' it, and of course I
couldn't see none of yourn threatened with a deadly weepon,
'thout buttin' in and doin' the best I could."
Mother put her arms around her as far as they would reach. She
would have had to take her a side at a time to really hug all of
her, and she said: "Mrs. Freshett, you are an instrument in the
hands of the Lord this day. Undoubtedly you have kept us from a
fearful tragedy; possibly you have saved my husband for me. None
of us ever can thank you enough."
"Loosen his collar and give him air," said Mrs. Freshett pushing
mother away. "I think likely he has bust a blood vessel."
Father sent Leon flying to bring Dr. Fenner. Laddie took the
carriage and he and Robert went after Mrs. Pryor, while father,
mother, Mrs. Freshett, the Princess, May, and I, every last one,
worked over Mr. Pryor. We poured hot stuff down his throat, put
warm things around him, and rubbed him until the sweat ran on us,
trying to get his knotted muscles straightened out. When Dr.
Fenner came he said we were doing all he could; MAYBE Mr. Pryor
would come to and be all right, and maybe his left side would be
helpless forever; it was a stroke. Seemed to me having Mrs.
Freshett come against you like that, could be called a good deal
more than a stroke, but I couldn't think of the right word then.
And after all, perhaps stroke was enough. He couldn't have been
much worse off if the barn had fallen on him. I didn't think
there was quite so much of Mrs. Freshett; but then she was
scared, and angry; and he was about ready to burst, all by
himself, if no one had touched him. He had much better have
stayed at home and listened to what was to be said, reasonably,
like father would; and then if he really had to shoot, he would
have been in some kind of condition to take aim.
After a long hard fight we got him limber, straightened out, and
warm, it didn't rip so when he breathed, then they put him in the
parlour on the big davenport. Leon said if the sparkin' bench
didn't bring him to, nothing would. Laddie sat beside him and
mother kept peeping. She wouldn't let Dr. Fenner go, because she
said Mr. Pryor just must come out of it right, and have a few
years of peace and happiness.
Mrs. Pryor came back with Laddie and Robert. He carried her in,
put her in the big rocking chair again, and he sat beside her,
stroking and kissing her, while she held him with both hands.
You could see NOW why his mother couldn't sleep, walked the road,
and held her hands over her heart. She was a brave woman, and
she had done well to keep alive and going in any shape at all.
You see we knew. There had been only the few hours when it
seemed possible that one of our boys had taken father's money and
was gone. I well remembered what happened to our mother then.
And if she had been disgraced before every one, dragged from her
home away across a big sea to live among strangers, and not known
where her boy was for years, I'm not a bit sure that she'd have
done better than Mrs. Pryor. Yes, she would too; come to think
it out--she'd have kept on believing the Lord had something to do
with it, and that He'd fix it some way; and I know she and father
would have held hands no matter what happened or where they went.
I guess the biggest thing the matter with Pryors was that they
didn't know how to go about loving each other right; maybe it was
because they didn't love God, so they couldn't know exactly what
PROPER LOVE was; because God is love, like father said.
Mrs. Pryor didn't want to see Mr. Pryor--I can't get used to
calling them Paget--and she didn't ask anything about him. I
guess she was pretty mad at him. She never had liked the Emmet
cousin, and she'd had nothing but trouble with him all the time
he had been in her family, and then that awful disgrace, that she
always THOUGHT was all him, but she couldn't prove it, and she
had no money.
That's a very bad thing. A woman should always have some money.
She works as hard as any one, and usually she has more that
worries her, so it's only fair for her to have part of what the
work and worry bring. Mother always has money. Why, she has so
much, she can help father out when he is pushed with bills, as
she did last fall, to start Shelley to music school. It's no way
to be forced to live with a man, just to get a home, food, and
clothing. I don't believe mother ever would do it in all this
world. But then mother has worked all her life, and so if father
doesn't do as she wants him to, she'd know exactly how to go
about taking care of herself.
After all Mrs. Pryor didn't need to sit back on her dignity and
look so abused. He couldn't knock her down, and drag her clear
here. Why didn't she say right out, in the beginning, that her
son COULDN'T be a thief, that she knew it, and she'd stay at home
and wait for him to come back? She could have put a piece in the
paper saying she knew her boy was all right, and for him to come
back, so they could go to work and PROVE it. I bet if she'd had
one tenth of the ginger mother has, she'd have stopped the whole
fuss in the start. I looked at her almost steadily, trying to
figure out just what mother would have done in her place. Maybe
I'm mistaken about exactly how she would have set to work, but
this I KNOW: she'd have stuck to the Lord; she'd have loved
father, so dearly, he just COULDN'T have wanted her to do things
that hurt her until it gave her heart trouble; and she never,
never would have given up one of us, and sat holding her heart
for months, refusing to see or to speak to any one, while she
waited for some one else to do something. Mother never waits.
She always thinks a minute, if she's in doubt she asks father; if
he can't decide, both of them ask God; and then you ought to see
things begin to fly.
The more I watched Mrs. Pryor, the more I began to think she was
a lady; and just about when I was sure that was what ailed her, I
heard father say: "Perhaps the lady would like a cup of tea." I
had a big notion to tell her to come on, and I would show her
where the cannister was, but I thought I better not. I wanted
to, though. She'd have felt much better if she had got up and
worked like the rest of us. With all the excitement, and
everything happening at once, you'd have thought mother would be
flat on her back, but flat nothing! Everything was picked up and
slid back, fast as it was torn down; she found time to flannel
her nose and brush her hair, her collar was straight, and the
goldstone pin shone in the light, while her starched white apron
fluttered as she went through the doors. She said a few words to
Candace and Mrs. Freshett, May took out a linen cloth and began
to set places for all the grown people, so I knew there'd be
strawberry preserves and fried ham, but in all that, would you
ever have thought that she'd find a second to make biscuit, and
tea cakes herself? Plain as preaching I heard her say to Mrs.
Freshett: "I do hope and pray that Mr. Pryor will come out of it
right, so we can take him home, and teach him to behave himself;
but if he's gone this minute, I intend to have another decent
meal for Shelley to offer her young man; and I don't care if I
show Mrs. Pryor that we're not hungry over here, if we do lack
servants to carry in food on silver platters."
"That I jest would!" said Mrs. Freshett. "Even if he turns up
his toes, 'tain't YOUR funeral, thank the Lord! an' looky here,
I'd jest as soon set things in a bake pan an' pass 'em for you,
myself. I'll do it, if you say the word."
Mother bit her lip, and fought her face to keep it straight, as
she said confidential-like: "No, I'm not going to toady to her.
I only want her to see that a meal really consists of food after
all; I don't mind putting my best foot foremost, but I won't ape
"Huccome they to fuss like this, peaceable as Mr. Stanton be, an'
what's Shelley's beau to them?"
"I should think you could tell by looking at Pryors," said
mother. "He's their mystery, and also their son. Shelley met
him in Chicago, he came here to see her, and ran right into them.
I'll tell you about it before you go. Now, I must keep these
applications hot, for I've set my head on pulling Mr. Pryor out
so that he can speak, and have a few decent years of life yet."
"But why did the old devil--EX-cuse me, I mean the old GENTLEMAN,
want to shoot your man?"
"He didn't! I'll tell you all about it after they're gone."
"I bet you don't get shet of them the night," said Mrs. Freshett.
"All right!" said mother. "Whatever Dr. Fenner thinks. I won't
have Mr. Pryor moved until it can't hurt him, if he stays a week.
I blame her quite as much as I do him; from what I know. If a
woman is going to live with a man, there are times when she's got
to put her foot down--flat--most unmercifully flat!"
"Ain't she though!" said Mrs. Freshett; then she and mother just
There! What did I tell you? I feel as good as if father had
patted me on the head and bragged on me a lot. I THOUGHT mother
wouldn't think that Mr. Pryor was ALL to blame, and she didn't.
I figured that out by myself, too.
Every minute Mr. Pryor grew better. He breathed easier, and
mother tilted on her toes and waved her hands, when he moved his
feet, threw back his head, lifted his hand to it, and acted like
he was almost over it, and still in shape to manage himself. She
hurried to tell Mrs. Pryor, and I know mother didn't like it when
she never even said she was glad, or went to see for herself.
Laddie and the Princess watched him, while every one else went to
supper. Laddie picked up Mrs. Pryor's chair, carried her to the
dining-room, and set her in my place beside father. He placed
Dr. Fenner next her, and left Robert to sit with Shelley. I
don't think Mrs. Pryor quite liked that, but no one asked her.
I watched and listened until everything seemed to be going right
there, and then I slipped into the parlour, where Laddie and the
Princess were caring for Mr. Pryor. With one hand Laddie held
hers, the other grasped Mr. Pryor's wrist. Laddie never took his
eyes from that white, drawn face, except to smile at her, and
squeeze her hand every little while. At last Mr. Pryor turned
over and sighed, pretty soon he opened his eyes, and looked at
Laddie, then at the Princess, and it was nothing new to see them,
so he smiled and dozed again. After a while he opened them
wider, then he saw the piano--that was an eye-opener for any
one--and the strange room, so he asked, most as plain as he ever
talked, why he was at our house again, and then he began to
remember. He struggled to sit up and the colour came into his
face. So Laddie let go the Princess, and held him down while he
said: "Mr. Pryor, answer me this. Do you want to spend the
remainder of your life in an invalid's chair, or would you like
to walk abroad and sit a horse again?"
He glared at Laddie, but he heard how things were plainly enough.
Laddie held him, while he explained what a fight we had to unlock
his muscles, and start him going again, and how, if we hadn't
loved him, and wanted him so, and had left him untouched until
the Doctor came, very likely he'd have been paralyzed all the
rest of his life, if he hadn't died; and he said he wished he
HAD, and he didn't THANK any one for saving him.
"Oh yes you do!" said Laddie, the same as he'd have talked to
Leon. "You can't stuff me on that, and you needn't try. Being
dead is a cold, clammy proposition, that all of us put off as
long as we can. You know you want to see Pamela in her own home.
You know you are interested in how I come out with those horses.
You know you want the little people you spoke of, around you.
You know the pain and suspense you have borne have almost driven
you insane, and it was because you cared so deeply. Now lie
still, and keep quiet! All of us are tired and there's no sense
in making us go through this again, besides the risk of crippling
yourself that you run. Right here in this house are the papers
to prove that your nephew took your money, and hid it in your
son's clothing, as he already had done a hundred lesser things,
before, purposely to estrange you. Hold steady! You must hear
this! The sooner you know it, the better you'll feel. You
remember, don't you, that before your nephew entered your home,
you idolized your son. You thought the things he did were
amusing. A boy is a boy, and if he's alive, he's very apt to be
lively. Mother could tell you a few pranks that Leon has put us
through; but they're only a boy's foolishness, they are not
unusual or unforgivable. I've gone over the evidence your son
brings, with extreme care, so has father. Both of us are quite
familiar with common law. He has every proof you can possibly
desire. You can't get around it, even if your heart wasn't worn
out with rebellion, and you were not crazy to have the loving
sympathy of your family again."
"I don't believe a word of it!"
"You have got to! I tell you it is PROOF, man! The documents
are in this house now."
"He forged them, or stole them, as he took the money!"
Laddie just laughed.
"How you do long, and fight, to be convinced!" he said. "I don't
blame you! When anything means this much, of course you must be
sure. But you'll know your nephew's signature; also your
lawyer's. You'll know letters from old friends who are above
question. Sandy McSheel has written you that he was with Robert
through all of it, and he gives you his word that everything is
all right. You will believe him, won't you?"
Big tears began to squeeze from under Mr. Pryor's lids, until
Laddie and the Princess each tried to see how much of him they
could hold to keep him together-like.
"Tell me!" he said at last, so they took turns explaining
everything plain as day, and soon he listened without being held.
When they had told him everything they could think of, he asked:
"Did Robert kill Emmet?"
"I am very happy to be able to tell you that he did not. It
would have been painful, and not helped a bad matter a particle.
Your nephew had dissipated until he was only a skeleton just
breathing his last. It's probable that his fear of death helped
your son out, so that he got the evidence he wanted easier than
he hoped to in the beginning. I don't mean that he is dead now;
but he is passing slowly, and loathsomely. Robert thinks word
that he has gone will come any hour. Think how pleasant it will
be to have your son! Think how happy your home will be now!
Think how you will love to see Sandy, and all your old friends!
Think how glad you'll be to go home, and take charge of your
"Think!" cried Mr. Pryor, pushing Laddie away and sitting up:
"Think how I shall enjoy wringing the last drop of blood from
that craven's body with these old hands!"
What a sight he did look to be sure! Sick, half-crazy, on the
very verge of the grave himself, and wanting to kill a poor man
already dying. Aren't some people too curious?
Laddie carefully laid him down, straightened him out and held him
again. Mother always said he was "patient as Job," and that day
it proved to be a good thing.
"You're determined to keep yourself well supplied with trouble,"
laughed Laddie. I don't believe any one else would have dared.
"Now to an unbiased observer, it would seem that you'd be ready
to let well enough alone. You have your son back, you have him
fully exonerated, you have much of your property, you are now
ready for freedom, life, and love, with the best of us; you have
also two weddings on your hands in the near future. Why in the
name of sense are you anxious for more?"
"I should have thought that Sandy McSheel, if he's a real friend
"Sandy tells you all about it in the letter he has sent. He went
with Robert fully intending to do that very thing for you, but
the poor creature was too loathsome. The sight of him made Sandy
sick. He writes you that when he saw the horrible spectacle, all
he could think of was to secure the evidence needed and get
Suddenly the Princess arose and knelt beside the davenport. She
put her arms around her father's neck and drew his wrinkled,
white old face up against her lovely one.
"Daddy! Dear old Daddy!" she cried. "I've had such a hard spot
in my heart against you for so long. Oh do let's forget
everything, and begin all over again; begin away back where we
were before Emmet ever came. Oh Daddy, do let's forget, and
begin all over new, like other people!"
He held her tight a minute, then his lips began whispering
against her ear. Finally he said: "Take yourselves off, and
send Robert here. I want my son. Oh I want my boy!"
It was a long time before Robert came from the parlour; when he
did, it was only to get his mother and take her back with him;
then it was a still longer time before the door opened; but when
it did, it was perfectly sure that they were all friends again.
Then Leon went to tell Thomas, and he came with the big carriage.
White and shaking, Mr. Pryor was lifted into it and they went
home together, taking Shelley with them to stay that night; so no
doubt she was proposed to and got her kiss before she slept.
That fall there were two weddings at our church at the same time.
Sally's had been fine; but it wasn't worth mentioning beside
Laddie and the Princess, and Robert and Shelley. You should have
seen my mother! She rocked like a kingbird on the top twig of
the winesap, which was the tallest tree in our orchard, and for
once there wasn't a single fly in her ointment, not one, she said
so herself, and so did father. As we watched the big ve-hi-
ackle, as Leon called it, creep slowly down the Little Hill, it
made me think of that pathetic poem, "The Three Warnings," in
McGuffey's Sixth. I guess I gave Mr. Pryor the first, that time
he got so angry he hit his horse until it almost ran away.
Mother delivered the second when she curry-combed him about the
taxes, and Mrs. Freshett finished the job. The last two lines
read as if they had been especially written about him:
"And now old Dodson, turning pale,
Yields to his fate--so ends my tale."