Part 5 out of 9
Mickey stopped, studying the landscape. A cool gentle breeze crossed the
clover field beside the way, refreshing him in its passing. He sucked his
lungs full, then lifted his cap, shaking the hair from his forehead. He
stuffed the cap into his pocket, walking slowly along, intending to stop
at the nearest farmhouse to ask for water. But the first home was not to
Mickey's liking. He went on, passing another and another.
Then he came to land that attracted him. The fences were so straight. The
corners so clean where they were empty, so delightful where they were
filled with alder, wild plum, hawthorn; attractive locations for the birds
of the bushes that were field and orchard feeders. Then the barn and
outbuildings looked so neat and prosperous; grazing cattle in rank meadows
were so sleek; then a big white house began to peep from the screen of
vines, bushes and trees.
"Well if the water here gives you fever, it will anywhere," said Mickey,
and turning in at the open gate started up a walk having flower beds on
each side. There was a wide grassy lawn where the big trees scattered
around afforded almost complete shade. Mickey never had seen a home like
it closely. He scarcely could realize that there were places in the world
where families lived alone like this. He tried to think how he would feel
if he belonged there. When he reached the place where he saw Lily on a
comfort under a big bloom-laden pear tree, his throat grew hard, his eyes
dry and his feet heavy. Then the screen to the front door swung back as a
smiling woman in a tidy gingham dress came through and stood awaiting
"I just told Peter when he came back alone, I bet a penny you'd got off at
the wrong stop!" she cried. "I'm so glad you found your way by yourself.
But you must be tired and hot walking. Come right in and have a glass of
milk, then strip your feet and I'll ring for Junior."
For one second Mickey was dazed. The next, he knew what it must mean.
These people were the kind whom God had made so big and generous they
divided home and summer with tenement children from the big city thirty
miles away. Some boy was coming for a week, maybe, into what exactly
filled Mickey's idea of Heaven, but he was not the boy.
"'Most breaks my heart to tell you," he said, "but I ain't the boy you're
expecting. I'm just taking a walk and I thought maybe you'd let me have a
drink. I've wanted one past the last three houses, but none looked as if
they'd have half such good, cool water as this."
"Now don't that beat the nation!" exclaimed the woman. "The Multiopolis
papers are just oozing sympathy for the poor city children who are wild
for woods and water; and when I'd got myself nerved up to try one and
thought it over till I was really anxious about it, and got my children
all worked up too, here for the second time Peter knocks off plowing and
goes to the trolley to meet one, and he doesn't come. I've got a notion to
write the editor of the _Herald_ and tell him my experience. I think it's
funny! But you wanted water, come this way."
Mickey followed a footpath white with pear petals around the big house and
standing beside a pump waited while the woman stepped to the back porch
for a cup. He took it, drinking slowly.
"Thank you ma'am," he said as he handed it back, turning to the path.
Yesterday had weakened his nerve. He was going to cry again. He took a
quick step forward, but the woman was beside him, her hand on his
"Wait a minute," she said. "Sit on this bench under the pear tree. I want
to ask you something. Excuse me and rest until I come back."
Mickey leaned against the tree, shutting his eyes, fighting with all his
might. He was too big to cry. The woman would think him a coward as Mr.
Bruce had. Then things happened as they actually do at times. The woman
hurriedly came from the door, sat on the bench beside him, and said: "I
went in there to watch you through the window, but I can't stand this a
second longer. You poor child you, now tell me right straight what's the
Mickey tried but no sound came. The woman patted his shoulder. "Now
doesn't it beat the band?" she said, to the backyard in general. "Just a
little fellow not in long trousers yet, and bearing such a burden he can't
talk. I guess maybe God has a hand in this. I'm not so sure my boy hasn't
come after all. Who are you, and where are you going? Don't you want to
send your ma word you will stay here a week with me?"
Mickey lifted a bewildered face.
"Why, I couldn't, lady," he said brokenly, but gaining control as he went
on. "I must work. Mr. Bruce needs me. I'm a regular plute compared with
most of the 'newsies'; you wouldn't want to do anything for me who has so
much; but if you're honestly thinking about taking a boy and he hasn't
come, how would you like to have a little girl in his place? A little girl
about _so_ long, and _so_ wide, with a face like Easter church flowers,
and rings of gold on her head, and who wouldn't be half the trouble a boy
would, because she hasn't ever walked, so she couldn't get into things."
"Oh my goodness! A crippled little girl?"
"She isn't crippled," said Mickey. "She's as straight as you are, what
there is of her. She had so little food, and care, her back didn't seem to
stiffen, so her legs won't walk. She wouldn't be half so much trouble as a
boy. Honest, dearest lady, she wouldn't!"
"Who are you?" asked the woman.
Mickey produced a satisfactory pedigree, and gave unquestionable
references which she recognized, for she slowly nodded at the names of
Chaffner and Bruce.
"And who is the little girl you are asking me to take?"
Mickey studied the woman and then began to talk, cautiously at first.
Ashamed to admit the squalor and the awful truth of how he had found the
thing he loved, then gathering courage he began what ended in an
outpouring. The woman watched him, listening, and when Mickey had no
further word: "She is only a tiny girl?" she asked wonderingly.
"The littlest girl you ever saw," said Mickey.
"Perfectly helpless?" marvelled the woman.
"Oh no! She can sit up and use her hands," said Mickey. "She can feed
herself, write on her slate, and learn her lessons. It's only that she
stays put. She has to be lifted if she's moved."
"You lift her?" queried the woman.
"Could with one hand," said Mickey tersely.
"You say this young lawyer you work for, whose name I see in the _Herald_
connected with the investigation going on, is at the club house now?" she
"Yes," answered Mickey.
"He's coming past here this evening?" she pursued.
"About how much waiting on would your little girl take?" she asked next.
"Well just at present, she does the waiting on me," said Mickey. "You see,
dearest lady, I have to get her washed and fix her breakfast and her lunch
beside the bed, and be downtown by seven o'clock, and I don't get back
'til six. Then I wash her again to freshen her up and cook her supper.
Then she says her lesson, her prayers and goes to sleep. So you see it's
mostly _her_ waiting on _me_. A boy couldn't be less trouble than that,
"It doesn't seem like it," said the woman, "and no matter how much bother
she was, I guess I could stand it for a week, if she's such a little girl,
and can't walk. The difficulty is this: I promised my son Junior a boy and
his heart is so set. He's wild about the city. He's going to be gone
before we know it. He doesn't seem to care for anything we have, or do. I
don't know just what he hoped to get out of a city boy; but I promised him
one. Then I felt scared and wrote Mr. Chaffner how it was and asked him to
send me a real nice boy who could be trusted. If it were not for Junior--
Mary and the Little Man would be delighted."
"Well never mind," said Mickey. "I'll go see the Nurse Lady and maybe she
can think of a plan. Anyway I don't know as it would be best for Lily. If
she came here a week, seems like it would kill me to take her back, and I
don't know how she'd bear staying alone all day, after she had got used to
company. And pretty soon now it's going to get so hot, top floors in the
city, that if she had a week like this, going back would make her sick."
"You must give me time to think," said the woman. "Peter will soon be home
to supper. I'll talk it over with him and with Junior and see what they
think. Where could you be found in Multiopolis? We drive in every few
days. We like to go ourselves, and there's no other way to satisfy the
children. They get so tired and lonesome in the country."
Mickey was aghast. "They _do?_ Why it doesn't seem possible! I wish I
could trade jobs with Junior for a while. What is his work?"
"He drives the creamery wagon," answered the woman.
"O Lord!" Mickey burst forth. "Excuse me ma'am, I mean----Oh my! Drives a
real live horse along these streets and gathers up the cream cans we pass
at the gates, and takes them to the trolley?"
"Yes," she said.
"And he'd give up _that_ job for blacking somebody's shoes, or carrying
papers, or running errands, or being shut up all summer in a big hot
building! Oh my!"
"When will you be our way again?" asked the woman. "I'll talk this over
with Peter. If we decided to try the little girl and she did the 'waiting'
as you say, she couldn't be much trouble. I should think we could manage
her, and a boy too. I wish you could be the boy. I'd like to have _you_.
I've been thinking if we could get a boy to show Junior what it is he
wants to know about a city, he'd be better satisfied at home, but I don't
know. It's just possible it might make him worse. Now such an
understanding boy as you seem to be, maybe you could teach Junior things
about the city that would make him contented at _home_. Do you think you
"Dearest lady, I _get_ you," said Mickey. "_Do I think I could?_ Well if
you really wished me to, I could take your Junior to Multiopolis with me
for a week and make him so sick he'd never want to see a city again while
his palpitator was running."
"Hu'umh!" said the lady slowly, her eyes on far distance. "Let me think! I
don't know but that would be a fine thing for all of us. We have land
enough for a nice farm for both boys, and the way things look now, land
seems about as sure as anything; we could give them a farm apiece when we
are done with it, and the girl the money to take to her home when she
marries--I would love to know that Junior was going to live on land as his
father does; but all his life he's talked about working in the city when
he grows up. Hu'umh!"
"Well if you want him cured of that, gimme the job," he grinned. "You see
lady, I know the city, inside out and outside in again. I been playing the
game with it since I can remember. You can't tell me anything I don't know
about the lowest, poorest side of it. Oh I could tell you things that
would make your head swim. If you want your boy dosed just sick as a horse
on what a workingman gets in Multiopolis 'tween Sunrise Alley and Biddle
Boulevard, just you turn him over to me a week. I'll fix him. I'll make
the creamery job look like 'Lijah charioteering for the angels to him,
honest I will lady; and he won't ever _know_ it, either. He'll come
through with a lump in his neck, and a twist in his stummick that means
home and mother. See?"
The woman looked at Mickey in wide-eyed and open-mouthed amazement: "Well
if I ever!" she gasped.
"If you don't believe me, try it," said Mickey.
"Well! Well! I'll have to think," she said. "I don't know but it would be
a good thing if it could be done."
"Well don't you have any misgivings about it being done," said Mickey.
"It's being _done_ every day. I know men, hundreds of them, just scraping,
and slaving and half starving to get together the dough to pull out. I
hear it on the cars, on the streets, and see it in the papers. They're
jumping their jobs and going every day, while hundreds of
Schmeltzenschimmers, O'Laughertys, Hansons, and Pietros are coming in to
take their places. Multiopolis is more than half filled with crowd-outs
from across the ocean now, instead of home folks' cradles, as it should
be. If Junior has got a hankering for Multiopolis that is going to cut him
out of owning a place like this, and bossing his own job, dearest lady,
cook him! Cook him quick!"
"Would you come here?" she questioned.
"Would I?" cried Mickey. "Well try me and see!"
"I'm deeply interested in what you say about Junior," she said. "I'll talk
it over to-night with Peter."
"Well I don't know," said Mickey. "He might put the grand kibosh on it.
Hard! But if Junior came back asking polite for his mush and milk, and
offering his Christmas pennies for the privilege of plowing, or driving
the cream wagon, believe me dear lady, then Peter would fall on your neck
and weep for joy."
"Yes, in that event, he would," said the lady, "and the temptation is so
great, that I believe if you'll give me your address, I'll look you up the
next time I come to Multiopolis, which will be soon. I'd like to see your
Lily before I make any promises. If I thought I could manage, I could
bring her right out in the car. Tell me where to find you, and I'll see
what Peter thinks."
Mickey grinned widely. "You ain't no suffragette lady, are you?" he
"Well I don't know about that," said the lady. "There are a good many
things to think of these days."
"Yes I know," said Mickey, "but as long as everything you say swings the
circle and rounds up with Peter, it's no job to guess what's most
important in your think-tank. Peter must be some pumpkins!"
"Come to think of it, he is, Mickey," she said. "Come to think of it, I do
sort of revolve around Peter. We always plan together. Not that we always
_think_ alike: there are some things I just _can't_ make Peter see, that I
wish I _could;_ but I wouldn't trade Peter----"
"No I guess he's top crust," laughed Mickey.
"He is so!" said the woman. "How did you say I could reach you?"
"Well, the easiest way would be this. Here, I'll write the number for
"Fine!" said the woman. "I'll hurry through my shopping and call you--when
would it suit you best?"
"Never mind me," said Mickey. "For this, I'll come when you say."
"What about three in the afternoon, then?"
"Sure!" cried Mickey. "Suits me splendid! Mostly quit for the day then.
But ma'am, I don't know about this. Lily isn't used to anybody but me, she
may be afraid to come with you."
"And I may think I would scarcely want to try to take care of her for a
week, when I see her," said the woman.
"You may think that now, but you'll change your mind when you see her,"
said Mickey. "Dearest lady, when you see a little white girl that hasn't
ever walked, smiling up at you shy and timid, you won't be any more
anxious for Orphings' Homes and Charity Palaces to swallow her up than I
am; not a bit! All I must think of is what Lily will say about coming.
She's never been out of my room since I found her, and she hasn't seen any
one but Mr. Bruce, so she'll be afraid, and worried. _Seeing her_ is all I
ask of _you!_ What I'm up against is what she's going to say; and how I'm
going to take her _back_ after a week here, when it will be hotter there
and lonesomer than ever."
"You surely give one things to think about," commented the woman.
"Do I?" queried Mickey. "Well I don't know as I should. Probably with
Peter, and three children of your own, and this farm to run, you are busy
enough without spending any of your time on me."
"The command in the good book is plain: 'Bear ye one another's burdens,'"
quoted the woman.
"Oh yes! 'Burdens,' of course!" agreed Mickey. "But that couldn't mean
Lily, 'cause she's nothing but joy! Just pure joy! All about her is that a
fellow loves her so, that it keeps him laying awake at nights thinking how
to do what would be _best_ for her. She's mine, and I'm going to _keep_
her; that's the surest thing you know. If I take you to see Lily, and if I
decide to let you have her a few days to rest her and fresh her up, you
wouldn't go and want to put her 'mong the Orphings' Home kids, would you?
You wouldn't think she ought to be took from me and raised in a flock of
every kind, from every place. Would you lady?"
"No, I wouldn't," said the lady. "I see how you feel, and I am sure I
wouldn't want that for one of mine."
"Well, there's no question about her being _mine!_" said Mickey. "But I
like you so, maybe I'll let you _help_ me a _little_. A big boy that can
run and play doesn't need you, dearest lady, half so much as my little
girl. Do you think he does?"
"No, I think the Lord sent you straight here. If you don't stop I'll be so
worked up I can't rest. I may come to-morrow."
Mickey arose, holding out his hand.
"Thank you dearest lady," he said. "I must be getting out where the car
won't pass without my seeing it."
"You wait at the gate a minute," she said, "I want to send in a little
basket of things to-night. I'll have it ready in a jiffy."
Mickey slowly walked to the gate. When the woman came with a basket
covered with a white cloth, he thanked her again; as he took it he rested
his head against her arm, smiling up at her with his wide true eyes.
"A thing I can't understand is," he said, "why when the Lord was making
mothers, he didn't cut all of them from the same piece he did you. I'll
just walk on down the road and smell June beside this clover field. Is it
"Yes," she said.
"Would you care if I'd take just a few to Lily? I know she never saw any."
"Take a bunch as big as your head if you want them."
"Lily is so little, three will do her just as well; besides, she's got to
remember how we are fixed, so she needn't begin to expect things to come
her way by baskets and bunches," said Mickey. "She's bound to be spoiled
bad enough as it is. I can't see how I'm going to come out with her, but
she's mine, and I'm going to keep her."
"Mickey," laughed the woman, "don't you think you swing around to Lily
just about the way I do to Peter?"
"Well maybe I do," conceded Mickey.
"What kind of a car did you say Mr. Bruce has?"
"Oh the car is dark green, and the driver has sandy hair; and Mr. Bruce--
why you'd know him anywhere! Just look for the finest man you ever saw, if
you are out when he goes by, and that will be Mr. Douglas Bruce."
"I guess I'll know him if I happen to be out."
"Sure lady, you couldn't miss him," replied Mickey.
Carefully holding his basket he went down the road. The woman made supper
an hour late standing beside the gate watching for a green car. Many
whirled past, then at last one with the right look came gliding along; so
she stepped out and raised her hand for a parley. The car stopped.
"Mr. Douglas Bruce?" she asked.
"At your service, Madam!" he answered.
"Just a word with you," she said.
He arose instantly, swung open the car door, and stepping down walked with
her to the shade of a big widely branching maple. The woman looked at him,
and said flushing and half confused: "Please to excuse me for halting you,
but I had a reason. This afternoon such an attractive little fellow
stopped here to ask for a drink in passing. Now Peter and I had decided
we'd try our hand at taking a city boy for a week or so for his vacation,
and twice Peter has left his work and gone to the trolley station to fetch
him, and he failed us. I supposed Peter had missed him, so when I saw the
boy coming, just the first glimpse my heart went right out to him----"
"Very likely----" assented Mr. Bruce.
"He surely is the most winning little chap I ever saw with his keen blue
eyes and that sort of light on his forehead," said the woman.
"I've noticed that," put in the man.
"Yes," she said, "anybody would see that almost the first thing. So I
thought he was the boy I was to mother coming, and I went right at the
job. He told me quick enough that I was mistaken, but I could see he was
in trouble. Someway I'd trust him with my character or my money, but I got
to be perfectly sure before I trust him with my children. You see I have
three, and if ever any of them go wrong, I don't want it to be because I
was _careless_. I thought I'd like to have him around some; my oldest boy
is bigger, but just about his age. He said he might be out this way with
you this summer and I wanted to ask him in, and do what I could to
entertain him; but first I wanted to inquire of you----"
"I see!" said Douglas Bruce. "I haven't known Mickey so long, but owing to
the circumstances in which I met him, and the association with him since,
I feel that I know him better than I could most boys in a longer time. The
strongest thing I can say to you is this: had I a boy of my own, I should
be proud if Mickey liked him and would consider being friends with him. He
is absolutely trustworthy, that I know."
"Then I won't detain your further," she said.
Mickey, cheered in mind and heart, had walked ahead briskly with his
basket, while as he went he formulated his plans. He would go straight to
the Sunshine Nurse, tell her about the heat and this possible chance to
take Lily to the country for a week, and consult with her as to what the
effect of the trip might be, and what he could do with her afterward, then
he would understand better. He kept watching the clover field beside the
way. When he decided he had reached the finest, best perfumed place, he
saw a man plowing on the other side of the fence and thought it might be
Peter and that Peter would wonder what he was doing in his field, so
Mickey set the basket in a corner and advanced.
He was wonderfully elated by what had happened to him and the conclusions
at which he had arrived, as he came across the deep grasses beside the
fence where the pink of wild rose and the snow of alder commingled, where
song sparrows trilled, and larks and quail were calling. He approached
smiling in utter confidence. As he looked at the man, at his height, his
strong open face, his grip on the plow, he realized why the world of the
little woman revolved around Peter. Mickey could have conceived of few
happier fates than being attached to Peter, so he thought in amazement of
the boy who wanted to leave him. Then a slow grin spread over his face,
for by this time Peter had stopped his horses and was awaiting him with an
answering smile and hand outstretched.
"Why son, I'm glad to see you!" he cried. "How did I come to miss you? Did
you get off at the wrong stop?"
Mickey shook his head as he took the proffered hand.
"You are Peter?" he asked.
"Yes, I'm Peter," confirmed the man.
"Well you're making the same mistake your pleasant lady did," explained
Mickey. "She thought I was the boy who had been sent to visit you, so she
gave me the glad hand too. I wish I was in his shoes! But I'm not your
boy. Gee, your lady is a nice gentle lady."
"You're all correct there," agreed Peter. "And so you are not the boy who
was to be sent us. Pshaw now! I wish you were. I'm disappointed. I've been
watching you coming down the road, and the way you held together and
stepped up so brisk and neat took my eye."
"I been 'stepping up brisk and neat' to sell papers, run errands, hop
cars, dodge cars and automobiles, and climbing fire-escapes instead of
stairs, and keeping from under foot since I can remember," laughed Mickey.
"You learn on the streets of Multiopolis to step up, and watch sharp
without knowing you are doing it."
"You're a newsboy?" asked Peter.
"I was all my life 'til a few days ago," said Mickey. "Then I went into
the office of Mr. Douglas Bruce. He's a corporation lawyer in the Iriquois
"Hum, I've been reading about him," said Peter. "If I ever have a case,
I'm going to take it to him."
"Well you'll have a man that will hang on and dig in and _sweat_ for you,"
said Mickey. "Just now he's after some of them big office-holders who are
bleeding the taxpayers of Multiopolis. Some of these days if you watch
your _Herald_ sharp, you're going to see the lid fly off of two or three
things at once. He's on a hot trail now."
"Why I have seen that in the papers," said Peter. "He was given the job of
finding who is robbing the city, by James Minturn; I remember his name.
And you work for him? Well, well! Sit down here and tell me about it."
"I can't now," said Mickey. "I must get back to the road. His car may pass
any minute, and I'm to be ready. Your pleasant lady said I might take a
few clover flowers to my little sick girl, and just as I came to the
finest ones in the field, I saw you so I thought maybe I'd better tell you
what I was doing before you fired me."
"Take all you want," said Peter. "I'd like to send the whole field, larks
and all, to a little sick girl. I'd like especial to send her some of
these clowny bobolink fellows to puff up and spill music by the quart for
her; I guess nothing else runs so smooth except water."
"I don't know what she'd say," said Mickey gazing around him. "You see she
hasn't ever walked, so all she's seen in her life has been the worst kind
of bare, dark tenement walls, 'til lately she's got a high window where
she can see sky, and a few sparrows that come for crumbs. This!"--Mickey
swept his arm toward the landscape--"I don't know what she'd say to this!"
"Pshaw, now!" cried Peter. "Why bring her out! You bring her right out!
That's what we been wanting to know. Just what a city child would _think_
of country things she'd never seen before. Bring her to see us!"
"She's a little bit of a thing and she can't walk, you know," explained
"Poor little mite! That's too bad," lamented Peter. "Wonder if she
couldn't be doctored up. It's a shame she can't walk, but taking care of
her must be easy!"
"Oh she takes care of herself," said Mickey. "You see she is alone all day
from six 'til six; she must take care of herself, so she studies her
lesson, and plays with her doll--I mean her Precious Child."
"Too bad!" said Peter. "By jacks that's a sin! Did you happen to speak to
Ma about her?"
"We did talk a little," admitted Mickey. "She was telling me of the
visitor boy who didn't come, and your son who doesn't think he'll want to
stay; so we got to talking. She said just what you did about wanting to
see how a city child who hadn't ever seen a chicken, or a cow, or horse
"Good Lord!" cried Peter. "_Is_ there a child in Multiopolis who hasn't
ever seen a little chicken, or a calf?"
"Hundreds of them!" said Mickey. "I've scarcely seen a cow myself. I've
seen hens and little chickens in shop windows at Easter time----"
"But not in the orchard in June?" queried Peter.
"No, 'not in the orchard in June!'" said Mickey.
"Well, well!" marvelled Peter. "There's nothing so true as that 'one half
doesn't know how the other half lives.' I've heard that, but I didn't
quite sense it, and I don't know as I do yet. You bring her right out!"
"Your pleasant lady talked about that; but you see bringing her out and
showing her these things, and getting her used to them is _one_ thing;
then taking her back to a room so hot I always sleep on the fire-escape,
and where she has to stay all day alone, is _another_. I don't know but so
long as she must go _back_ to what she has now, it would be better to
_leave_ her there."
"Humph! I see! What a pity!" exclaimed Peter. "Well, if you'll be coming
this way again, stop and see us. I'll talk to Ma about her. We often take
a little run to Multiopolis. Junior wouldn't be satisfied till we got a
car, and I can't say we ain't enjoying it ourselves. What was that you
were saying about my boy not thinking he'll stay?"
"_She_ told me," said Mickey, "about the city bug he had in his system.
Why don't you swat it immediate?"
"What do you mean?" inquired Peter.
"Turn him over to me a week or two," suggested Mickey. "I can give him a
dose of working in a city that will send him hiking back to home and
"It's worth considering," said Peter.
"I know that what I got of Multiopolis would make me feel like von
Hindenberg if I had the job of handling the ribbons of your creamery
wagon; and so I know about what would put sonny back on the farm, tickled
'most to death to be here."
"By gum! Well, I'll give you just one hundred dollars if you'll do it!"
exclaimed Peter. "You see my grandfather and father owned this land before
me. We've been on the plowing job so long we have it reduced to a system,
so it comes easy for me, and I take pride and pleasure in it; I had
supposed my boys would be the same. Do you really think you could manage
"Sure," said Mickey. "Only, if you really mean it, not now, nor ever, do
you want son to _know_ it. See! The medicine wouldn't work, if he knew he
"Well I'll be jiggered!" laughed Peter. "I guess you could do it, if you
went at it right."
"Well you trust me to do it right," grinned Mickey. "Loan me sonny for a
week or two, and you can have him back for keeps."
"Well it's worth trying," said Peter. "Say, when will you be this way
"'Most any day," said Mickey. "And your lady said she'd be in Multiopolis
soon, so we are sure to have a happy meeting before long. I think that is
Mr. Bruce's car coming. Goodbye! Be good to yourself!"
With a spring from where he was standing Mickey arose in air, alighted on
the top rail of the division fence, then balancing, he raced down it
toward the road. Peter watched him in astonishment, then went back to his
plowing with many new things on his mind. Thus it happened that after
supper, when the children were in bed, and he and his wife went to the
front veranda for their usual evening visit, and talk over the day, she
had very little to tell him.
As was her custom, she removed her apron, brushed her waving hair and wore
a fresh dress. She rocked gently in her wicker chair, while her voice was
moved to unusual solicitude as she spoke. Peter also had performed a rite
he spoke of as "brushing up" for evening. He believed in the efficacy of
soap and water, so his body, as well as his clothing, was clean. He sat on
the top step leaning against the pillar where the moonlight emphasized his
big frame, accented the strong lines of his face and crowned his thick
hair, as Nancy Harding thought it should be, with glory.
"Peter," she said, "did you notice anything about that boy, this
afternoon, different from other boys?"
"Yes," answered Peter slowly, "I did Nancy. He didn't strike me as being
_one_ boy. He has the best of three or four concealed in his lean person."
"He's had a pretty tough time, I judge," said Nancy.
"Yet you never saw a boy who took your heart like he did, and neither did
I," answered Peter.
Mickey holding his basket and clover flowers was waiting when the car drew
up, and to Bruce's inquiry answered that a lady where he stopped for a
drink had given him something for Lily. He left the car in the city,
sought the nurse and luckily found her at leisure. She listened with the
greatest interest to all he had to say.
"It's a problem," she said, as he finished. "To take her to such a place
for a week, and then bring her back where she is, would be harder for her
than never going."
"I got that figured," said Mickey; "but I've about made up my mind, after
seeing the place and thinking over the folks, that it wouldn't _happen_
that way. Once they see her, and find how little trouble she is, they're
not people who would send her back 'til it's cool, if they'd want to then.
And there's this, too: there are other folks who would take her now, and
see about her back. Have I got the right to let it go a day, waiting to
earn the money myself, when some one else, maybe the Moonshine Lady, or
Mr. Bruce, would do it _now_, and not put her in an Orphings' Home,
"No Mickey, you haven't!" said the nurse.
"Just the way I have it figured," said Mickey. "But she's mine, and I'm
going to _keep_ her. If her back is fixed, I'm going to have it done. I
don't want any one else meddling with my family. You haven't heard
anything from the Carrel man yet?"
"No," she said.
"My, I wish he'd come!" cried Mickey.
"So do I," said the nurse. "But so far Mickey, I think you are doing all
right. If she must be operated, she'd have to be put in condition for it;
and while I suspect I could beat you at your job, I am positive you are
far surpassing what she did have."
"Well I know that too," said Mickey. "But surpassing nothing at all isn't
going either far or fast. I must do something."
"If you could bring yourself to consent to giving her up----" suggested
"Well I can't!" interposed Mickey.
"Just for a while!" continued the nurse.
"Not for a minute! I found her! She's mine!"
"Yes, I know; but----" began the nurse.
"I know too," said Mickey. "Gimme a little time." He studied the problem
till he reached his grocery. There he thriftily lifted the cloth to peep,
and with a sigh of satisfaction pursued his way. Presently he opened his
door, to be struck by a wave of hot air and to note a flushed little face
and drawn mouth as he went into Peaches' outstretched arms. Then he
delivered the carefully carried clover and the following:
"_I got these from a big, pink field bewildering,
That God made a-purpose for cows and childering.
Her share is being consumed by the cow,
Let's go roll in ours right now._"
"Again!" demanded Peaches.
Mickey repeated slowly.
"How could we?" asked Peaches.
"Easy!" said Mickey.
"'Easy?'" repeated Peaches.
"Just as easy!" reiterated Mickey.
"Did you see it?" demanded Peaches.
"Yes, I saw it to-day," said Mickey. "It's like this: you see some folks
live in houses all built together, and work at selling things to eat, and
wear, and making things, and doing other work that must be done like
doctors, and lawyers, and hospitals; _that's a city_. Then to _feed them_,
other folks live on big pieces of land; the houses are far apart, with
streets between, and beside them the big fields where the wheat grows for
our bread, and our potatoes, and the grass, and the clover like this to
feed the cows. To-day Mr. Bruce didn't play long, so I went walking and
stopped at a house for a drink, and there was the nicest lady; we talked
some and she give me our supper in that pretty basket; and she sent you
the clovers from a big pink field so sweet smelly it would 'most make you
sick; and there are trees through it, and lots of birds sing, and there
are wild roses and fringy white flowers; and it's quiet 'cept the birds,
and the roosters crowing, and the wind comes in little perfumery blows on
you, and such milk!"
"Better 'an our milk?" asked Peaches.
"Their milk is so rich it makes ours look like a poorhouse relation,"
"Tell me more," demanded Peaches.
"Wait 'til I get the water to wash you, you are so warm."
"Yes, it's getting some hot; but 'tain't nothing like on the rags last
summer. It's like a real lady here."
"A pretty warm lady, just the same," said Mickey.
Then he brought water and leaving the door ajar for the first time, he
soon started a draft; that with the coming of cooler evening lowered the
child's temperature, and made her hungry. As he worked Mickey talked. The
grass, the blooming orchard, the hen and her little downy chickens, the
big cool porch, the wonderful woman and man, the boy whom they expected
and who did not come; and then cautiously, slowly, making sure she
understood, he developed his plan to take her to the country. Peaches drew
back and opened her lips. Mickey promptly laid the washcloth over them.
"Now don't begin to say you 'won't' like a silly baby," he said. "Try it
and see, then if you don't like it, you can come right back. You want to
ride in a grand automobile like a millyingaire lady, don't you? All the
swells go away to the country for the summer, you got to be a swell lady!
I ain't going to have you left way behind!"
"Mickey, would you be there?" she asked.
"Yes lady, I'd be right on the job!" said Mickey. "I'd be there a lot more
than I am here. You go the week they wanted that boy, and he didn't come;
then if you like it, I'll see if they won't board you, and you can have a
nice little girl to play with, and a fat, real baby, and a boy bigger than
me--and you should see Peter!"
Peaches opened her lips, Mickey reapplied the cloth.
"Calm down now!" he ordered. "I've decided to do it. We got to hump
ourselves. This is our _chance_. Why there's milk, and butter, and eggs,
and things to eat there like you never tasted, and to have a cool breeze,
and to lie on the grass----"
"Oh Mickey, could I?" cried Peaches.
"Sure silly! Why not?" said Mickey. "There's big fields of it, and the
cows don't need it all. You can lie on the grass, or the clover, and hear
the birds, and play with the children. I'll take a day and get things
started right before I leave you to come to work, like I'll have to. When
I come at night, I'll carry your outdoors; why I'll take you down to the
water and you can kick your feet in it, where it's nice and warm; all the
time you can have as many flowers as your hands will hold; and such bird
singing, why Lily Peaches O'Halloran, there are birds as red as blood, yes
ma'am, and yellow as orange peel and light blue like this ribbon and dark
blue like that--hold still 'til I fix you--and such singing!"
"Mickey, would you hold me?" wavered Peaches.
"Smash anybody that lays a finger on you, unless you say so," said Mickey
"And you'd stay a whole day?" she asked anxiously.
"Sure!" cried Mickey.
"An' if I was afraid you'd bring me back?" she went on.
"Sure! Right away!" he promised.
"An' they wouldn't anybody 'get' me there?"
"'Way out there 'mong the clover?" scoffed Mickey. "Why it's _here_
they'll '_get_' you if they are going to. Nobody out there _wants_ you,
"Mickey, when will you take me?" she asked eagerly.
"Before so very long," promised Mickey. "You needn't be surprised to hear
me coming with the nice lady to see you any day now, and to be wrapped in
a sheet, and put in a big car, and just scooted right out to the very
place that God made especial for little girls. To-night we put in another
blesses, Lily. We'll pray, 'Bless the nice lady who sent our supper,'
"Yes Mickey, and 'fore you came I didn't want any supper at all, and now I
_do_," said Peaches.
"You were too warm honey," said Mickey. "We'll just fix this old hot city.
We'll run right away from it. See? Now we'll have the grandest supper we
Mickey brought water, plates, and forks, and opened the basket. Peaches
bolstered with her pillows cried out and marvelled. There was a quart
bottle of milk wrapped in a wet cloth. There was a big loaf of crusty
brown country bread. There was a small blue bowl of yellow butter, a
square of honey even yellower, a box of strawberries, and some powdered
sugar, and a little heap of sliced, cold boiled ham. Mickey surveyed the
"Now Miss Chicken, here's how!" he warned. "I found you all warm and
feverish. If you load up with this, you'll be sick sure. You get a cup of
milk, a slice of bread and butter, some berries and a teeny piece of meat.
We can live from this a week, if the heat doesn't spoil it."
"You fix me," said Peaches.
Then they had such a supper as they neither one ever had known, during
which Mickey explained wheat fields and bread, bees and honey, cows and
clover, pigs and ham, as he understood them. Peaches repeated her lesson
and her prayers and then as had become her custom, demanded that Mickey
write his last verse on the slate, so she might learn and copy it on the
morrow. She was asleep before he finished. Mickey walked softly, cleared
the table, placed it before the window, and taking from his pocket an
envelope Mr. Bruce had given him drew out a sheet of folded paper on which
he wrote long and laboriously, then locking Peaches in, he slipped down to
the mail-box and posted this letter:
DEAR MISTER CARREL:
_I saw in papers I sold how you put different legs on a dog. I have a
little white flowersy-girl that hasn't ever walked. It's her back. A Nurse
Lady told me at the "Star of Hope" how you came there sometimes, and the
next time you come, I guess I will let you see my little girl; and maybe
I'll have you fix her back. When you see her you will know that to fix her
back would be the biggest thing you ever did or ever could do. I got a job
that I can pay her way and mine, and save two dollars a week for you. I
couldn't pay all at once, but I could pay steady; and if you'd lose all
you have in any way, it would come in real handy to have that much skating
in steady as the clock every week for as long as you say, and soon as I
can, I'll make it more. I'd give all I got, or ever can get, to cure
Lily's back, and because you fixed the dog, I'd like you to fix her. I do
hope you will come soon, but of course I don't wish anybody else would get
sick so you'd have to. You can ask if I am square of Mr. Douglas Bruce,
Iriquois Building, Multiopolis, Indiana, or of Mr. Chaffner, editor of
the_ Herald, _whose papers I've sold since I was big enough._
With vigour renewed by a night of rest Leslie began her second day at
Atwater Cabin. She had so many and such willing helpers that before noon
she could find nothing more to do. After lunch she felt a desire to
explore her new world. Choosing the shady side, she followed the road
toward the club house, but one thought in her mind: she must return in
time to take the car and meet Douglas Bruce as she had promised.
She felt elated that she had so planned her summer as to spend it with her
father, while of course it was going to be delightful to have her lover
with her. So going she came to a most attractive lane that led from the
road between tilled fields, back to a wood on one side, and open pasture
on the other. Faintly she heard the shouts of children, and yielding to
sudden impulse she turned and followed the grassy path. A few more steps,
then she stopped in surprise. An automobile was standing on the bank of a
brook. On an Indian blanket under a tree sat a woman of fine appearance
holding a book, but watching with smiling face the line of the water,
which spread in a wide pool above a rudely constructed dam, overflowing it
in a small waterfall.
On either bank lay one of the Minturn boys, muddy and damp, trying with
his hands to catch something in the water. Below the dam, in a blue
balbriggan bathing suit, stood James Minturn, his hands filled with a big
piece of sod which he bent and applied to a leak. Leslie untied the
ribbons of her sunshade and rumpling her hair to the light breeze came
"Well Mr. Minturn!" she cried. "What is going to become of the taxpayers
of Multiopolis while their champion builds a sod dam?"
Whether the flush on James Minturn's face as he turned to her was
exertion, embarrassment, or unpleasant memory Leslie could not decide; but
she remembered, after her impulsive greeting, that she had been with his
wife in that early morning meeting the day of the trip to the swamp. She
thought of many things as she went forward. James Minturn held out his
muddy hands as he said laughingly: "You see I'm not in condition for our
"Surely!" cried Leslie. "It is going to wash off, isn't it? If from you,
why not from me?"
"Of course if you want to play!" he said.
"Playing? You? Honestly?" queried Leslie.
"Honestly playing," answered the man. "The 'honestest' playing in all the
world; not the political game, not the money game, not anything called
manly sport, just a day off with my boys, being a boy again. Heavens
Leslie, I'm wild about it. I could scarcely sleep last night for eagerness
to get started. But let me make you acquainted with my family. My sister,
Mrs. Winslow, a friend of mine, Miss Leslie Winton; my sons' tutor, Mr.
Tower; my little brother, William Minturn; my boys, Junior and Malcolm."
"Anyway, we can shake hands," said Leslie to Mrs. Winslow. "The habit is
so ingrained I am scandalized on meeting people if I'm forced to neglect
"Will you share my blanket?" asked Mrs. Winslow.
"Thanks! Yes, for a little time," said Leslie. "I am greatly interested in
what is going on here."
"So am I," said Mrs. Winslow. "We are engaged in the evolution of an idea.
A real 'Do-the-boy's-hall.'"
"It seems to be doing them good," commented Leslie.
"Never mind the boys," said Mr. Minturn. "I object to such small men
monopolizing your attention. Look at the 'good' this is doing me. And
would you please tell me why you are here, instead of disporting yourself
at, say Lenox?"
"How funny!" laughed Leslie. "I am out in search of amusement, and I'm
finding it. I think I'm perhaps a mile from our home for the summer."
"You amaze me!" cried Mr. Minturn. "I saw Douglas this morning, and told
him where I was coming, but he never said a word."
"He didn't know one to say on this subject," explained Leslie. "You see I
rented a cabin over at Atwater and had my plans made before I told even
father what a delightful thing was in store for him."
"But how did it happen?"
"Through my seeing how desperately busy Daddy and Douglas have been all
spring, Daddy especially," replied Leslie. "Douglas is bad enough, but
father's just obsessed, so much so that I think he's carrying double."
"I know he is," said Mr. Minturn. "And so you made a plan to allow him to
proceed with his work all day and then have the delightful ride, fishing
and swimming in Atwater morning and evening. How wonderful! And of course
Douglas will be there also?"
"Of course," agreed Leslie. "At least he shall have an invitation. I'm
going to surprise him with it this very evening. How do you think he'll
"I think he will be so overjoyed he won't know how to express himself,"
said James Minturn. "But isn't it going to be lonely for you? Won't you
miss your friends, your frocks, and your usual summer round?"
"You forget," said Leslie. "My friends and my frocks always have been for
winter. All my life I have summered with father."
"How will you amuse yourself?" he asked.
"It will take some time each day to plan what to do the next that will
bring most refreshment and joy; I often will be compelled to drive in of
mornings with orders for my house-keeping, and when other things are
exhausted, I am going to make an especial study of wild-bird music."
"That is an attractive subject," said Mr. Minturn. "Have you really made
"Little more than verifying a few songs already recorded," replied Leslie.
"I hear smatterings and snatches, but they are elusive, while I'm not
always sure of the identity of the bird. But the subject is thrillingly
"It surely is," conceded Mr. Minturn. "I could see that Nellie was alert
the instant you mentioned it. Come over here to the shade and tell me how
far you have gone. You see I've undertaken the boys' education. Malcolm
inherits his mother's musical ability to a wonderful degree. It is
possible that he could be started on this, and so begin his work while he
thinks he's playing."
Leslie walked to the spot indicated, far enough away that conversation
would not interrupt Mrs. Winslow's reading, and near enough to watch the
boys; she and Mr. Minturn sat on the grass and talked.
"It might be the very thing," said Leslie. "Whatever gives even a faint
hope of attracting a boy to an educational subject is worth testing."
"One thing I missed, I always have regretted," said Mr. Minturn, "I never
had educated musical comprehension. Nellie performed and sang so well, and
in my soul I knew what I could understand and liked in music she scorned.
Sometimes I thought if I had known only enough to appreciate the right
thing at the right time, it might have formed a slender tie between us; so
I want the boys both to recognize good music when they hear it; but they
have so much to learn all at once, poor little chaps, I scarcely see where
to begin, and in a musical way, I don't even know how to begin. Tell me
about the birds, Leslie. Just what is it you are studying?"
"The strains of our famous composers that are lifted bodily for measures
at a time, from the song of a bird or indisputably based upon it,"
"Did you and Nellie have any success?"
"Indeed yes! We had the royal luck to hear exactly the song I had hoped;
and besides we talked of many things and Nellie settled her future course
in her mind. When she went into the swamp alone and came out with an
armload of lavender fringed orchids she meant to carry to Elizabeth, and
her heart firmly resolved to begin a new life with you, she told me she
felt like flying; that never had she been so happy."
Leslie paused, glancing at James Minturn. He seemed puzzled: "I don't
understand. But nothing matters now. Tell me about the birds," he said.
"And it is what you admit you don't understand that I must tell you of,"
said Leslie. "I've been afraid, horribly afraid you didn't understand, and
that you took some course you wouldn't have taken if you did. What
happened in the swamp was all my fault!"
"The birds, Leslie, tell me of the birds," commanded James Minturn. "You
can't possibly know what occurred that separated Nellie and me."
"No, I don't know your side of it; but I do know hers, and I don't think
you do," persisted Leslie. "Now if you would be big enough to let me tell
you how it was with her that day, and what she said to me, your mind would
be perfectly at rest as to the course you have taken."
"My mind is 'perfectly at rest now as to the course I have taken,'" said
Mr. Minturn. "I realize that a man should meet life as it comes to him. I
endured mine in sweating humiliation for years, and I would have gone on
to the end, if it had been a question of me only, but when the girl was
sacrificed and the boys in a fair way to meet a worse fate than hers, the
question no longer hinged on me. You have seen my sons during their
mother's regime, when they were children of wealth in the care of
servants; look at them now and dare to tell me that they are not greatly
"Surely they are!" said Leslie. "You did right to rescue them from their
environment; all the fault that lies with you so far is, that you did not
do from the start what you are now doing. The thing that haunts me is
this, Mr. Minturn, and I must get it out of my mind before I can sleep
soundly again--you will let me tell you--you won't think me meddling in
what must be dreadful heartache? Oh you won't will you?"
"No, I won't," said Mr. Minturn, "but it is prolonging heartache to
discuss this matter, and wasting time better used in the building of a sod
dam--indeed Leslie, tell me about the birds."
"I will, if you'll answer one question," said Leslie.
"Dangerous, but I'll risk it," replied Mr. Minturn.
"I must ask two or three minor ones to reach the real one," explained the
"Oh Leslie," laughed Mr. Minturn. "I didn't think you were so like the
"A large number of men are finding 'the average woman' quite delightful,"
said Leslie. "Men respect a masculine, well-balanced, argumentative woman,
but every time they love and marry the impulsive, changeable,
"Provided she be endowed with truth, character, and common mother instinct
enough to protect her young--yes--I grant it, and glory in it," said Mr.
Minturn. "I can furnish logic for one family, and most men I know feel
qualified to do the same."
"Surely!" agreed Leslie. "You were waiting for Nellie the night she came
from the tamarack swamp with me, and she told me you had a little box, and
that with its contents you had threatened to 'freeze her soul,' if she had
a soul. I'll be logical and fair, and ask but the _one_ question I first
stipulated. Here it is: did you wait until you made sure she had a soul,
worthy of your consideration, before you froze it?"
James Minturn's laugh was ugly to hear.
"My dear girl," he said. "I made sure she had _not_ three years ago."
"And I made equally sure that she had," said Leslie, "in the tamarack
swamp when she wrestled as Jacob at Peniel against her birth, her
environment, her wealth, and triumphed over all of them for you and her
sons. I can't go on with my own plan for personal happiness, until I know
for sure if you perfectly understand that she came to you that night to
confess to you her faults, errors, mistakes, sins, if need be, and ask you
to take the head of your household, and to help her fashion each hour of
her life anew. Did she have a chance to tell you all this?"
"No," said Mr. Minturn. "But it would have made _no difference,_ if she
had. It came too late."
"You have not the right to say that to any living, suffering human being!"
"I have a perfect right to say it to her," said Mr. Minturn. "A right that
would be justified in any court in the world, either of lawyers or
"Then thank God, Nellie gets her trial higher. He will understand, and
"You don't know what she did," said Mr. Minturn. "What she stood before me
and the officers of the law, and admitted she did."
"I don't care what she did! There were men forgiven on the cross; because
they sincerely repented, God had mercy on them, so He will on her, and
what's more, He won't have any on _you_, unless you follow His example and
forgive when you are asked, by a woman who is as deeply repentant as she
"Her repentance comes too late," said Mr. Minturn with finality. "Her
error is _not reparable_."
"There is no such thing as true repentance being too late," insisted
Leslie. "You are distinctly commanded to forgive; you have got to do it!
There is no error that is reparable. Since you hint tragedy, I will
concede it. If she had been directly responsible for the death of her
child, it was a mistake, criminal carelessness, but not a thing purposely
planned; so she could atone for it by doing her best for you and the
"Any mother who once did the things she did is not fit to be trusted
"What nonsense! James Minturn, you amaze me!" said Leslie. "That is a
little too cold masculine logic. That is taking from the whole human race
the power to repent of and repair a mistake."
"There are some mistakes that cannot be repaired!"
"I grant it," said Leslie. "There are! _You are making one right now!_"
"That's the most strictly feminine utterance I ever heard," said Mr.
Minturn, with a short laugh.
"Thank you," retorted Leslie. "The compliment is high, but I accept it. I
ask nothing better at the hands of fate than to be the most feminine of
women. And I've told you what I feel forced to. You can now go on with
your plans, knowing they are exactly what she had mapped out, hastily, but
surely. She said to me that she must build from the foundations, which
meant a new home."
"You are fatuously mistaken!" said Mr. Minturn.
"She said to me," reiterated Leslie forcefully, "that for ten years she
had done exactly what she pleased, lived only for her own pleasure, now
she would do as _you_ dictated for a like time, live your way--I never was
farther from a mistake in my life. If you think it doesn't take courage to
tell you this, and if you think I enjoy it, and if you think I don't wish
I were a mile away----"
"I still maintain I know the lady better than you do," said Mr. Minturn.
"But you are wonderful Leslie, and I always shall respect and honour you
for your effort in our behalf. It does credit to your head and heart. I
envy Douglas Bruce. If ever an hour of trial comes to you, I would feel
honoured for a chance to prove to you how much I appreciate----"
"Don't talk like that!" wailed Leslie. "It's all a failure if you do!
Promise me that you will _think this over_. Let me send you the note
Nellie wrote me before she went away. Won't you try to imagine what she is
suffering to-day, in the change from what she went to you hoping, and what
she received at your hands?"
"Let me see," said James Minturn. "At this hour she is probably enduring
the pangs of wearing the most tasteful afternoon gown on the veranda of
whatever summer resort suits her variable fancy, also the discomfiture of
the woman she induced to bid high and is now winning from at bridge. I am
particularly intimate with her forms of suffering; you see I judge them by
my own and my children's during the past years."
"Then you think I'm not sincere?" asked Leslie.
"Surely, my dear girl!" said Mr. Minturn. "With all my heart I believe
you! I know you are loyal to her, and to me! It isn't _you_ I disbelieve,
child, it is my wife."
"But I've told you over and over that she's changed."
"And I refuse to believe in her power to undergo the genuine and permanent
change that would make her an influence for good with her sons, or
anything but an uncontrollable element in my home," said Mr. Minturn. "Why
Leslie, if I were to hunt her up and ask her to come to my house, do you
think she would do it?"
"I know she would be most happy," said Leslie.
"Small plain rooms, wait on herself, children over the house and lawn at
all times--Nellie Minturn? You amuse me!" he said.
"There's no amusement in it for me, it is pitiful tragedy," said Leslie.
"She is willing, she has offered to change, you are denying her the
"You don't think deeply enough!" said the man. "Suppose, knowing her as I
do, I agreed to her coming to my house. Suppose I filled it with servants
to wait on her, and ruin and make snobs of the boys; it could only result
in a fiasco all around, and bring me again to the awful thing I have been
through once, in forcing a separation. The present is too good for the
boys, and now they are my first consideration."
"So I see," said Leslie. "Nellie isn't getting a particle and she _is_
their mother, and once she really awakened to the situation, she was
hungry to mother them, and to take her place in their hearts. I don't know
where she is, but feeling as she did when we parted, I know she's not at
any summer resort playing bridge at this minute."
"You are a friend worth having, Leslie; I congratulate my wife on so
staunch an advocate," said James Minturn. "And I'll promise you this: I'll
go back to the hateful subject, just when I felt I was free from it. I'll
think on both sides, and I'll weigh all you've said. If I see a
glimmering, I will do this much--I will locate her, and learn how genuine
was the change you witnessed, and I rather think I'll manage for you to
see also. Will that satisfy you?"
"That will make me radiant, because the change I witnessed was genuine. I
know that wherever Nellie is to-day and whatever she is doing, she is
still firm as when she left me in her desire for reparation toward you and
her sons. Please think fast, and find her quickly."
"Leslie, you're incorrigible! Go bring Douglas to his surprise. He has a
right to be happy."
"So have you," insisted Leslie. "More than he, because you have had such
deep sorrow. Good-bye."
Then Leslie took leave of the others, returned to the cabin, and hurried
to her room to dress for her trip to bring her lover. Douglas Bruce was
waiting when she stopped at the Iriquois and his greeting was joyous. Mr.
Winton was cordial, but Douglas noticed that he seemed tired and worried,
and inquired if he were working unusually hard. He replied that he was,
and beginning to feel the heat a little.
"Then we will drive to the country before dinner to cool off," said
Leslie, seeing her opportunity.
Both men agreed that would be enjoyable. After a few minutes of casual
talk they relaxed while making smooth passage over city streets and the
almost equally level highways of the country. At the end of half an hour
Douglas sat upright, looking around him.
"I don't recognize this," he said. "Have we been here before, Leslie?"
"I think not," she answered. "I don't know why. It is one of my best loved
drives. Always before we have taken the road to the club house, or some of
They began a gentle ascent, when directly across their way stretched the
blue water of a lake.
"Is here where we take the plunge?" inquired Douglas.
"No indeed!" answered Leslie. "Here we speed until we gather such momentum
that we shoot across the water and alight on the opposite bank without
stopping. Make your landing neatly, Rogers!"
"Why have we never been here before?" marvelled Douglas. "I don't remember
any other road one-half so inviting. Just look ahead here! See what a
beautiful picture!" He indicated a vine of creeping blackberry spreading
over gold sand, its rough, deeply serrated leaves of most artistic
cutting, with tufts of snowy bloom surrounding dark-tipped stamens in
"Isn't it!" answered Mr. Winton. "You know what Whitman said of it?"
"I'm not so well read in Whitman as you are."
"Which is your distinct loss," said Mr. Winton. "It was he who wrote, 'A
running blackberry would adorn the parlours of Heaven.'"
"And so it would!" exclaimed Douglas. "What a frieze that would make for a
dining-room! Have you ever seen it used?"
"Never," answered Leslie, "or many other of our most exquisite forms of
"What beautiful country!" Douglas commented a minute later as the car sped
from the swamp, ran uphill, and down a valley between stretches of tilled
farm land on either side, sloping back to the lakes now growing distant,
then creeping up a gradual incline until Atwater flashed into sight.
"Man! That's fine!" he said, rising in the car to better admire the view,
at which Leslie signalled the driver to run slower. "I don't remember that
I ever saw anything quite so attractive as this. And if ever water invited
a swimmer--that white sand bed seems to extend as far into the lake as you
can see. Jove! Wasn't that a black bass under that thorn bush?"
Leslie's eyes were shining while her laugh was as joyous as any of the
birds. He need not say more. There was a bathing suit in his room; in ten
minutes he could be cleaving the water to the opposite shore and have time
to return before dinner. The car sped down where the road ran level with
the water. A flock of waders arose and circled the lake. On the right was
the orchard, the newly made garden, the tiny cabin with green lawn,
hammocks swinging between trees, Indian blankets spread, and the odour of
cooking food in the air. The car stopped, Douglas sprang out and offered
his hand as he saw Leslie intended descending. She took the hand and kept
it in her left. With her right she included woods, water, orchard and
"These are my surprise for you," she said. "I am going to live here this
summer, and keep house for you and Dad while you run and reform the world.
Welcome home, Douglas!"
He slowly looked around, then at Mr. Winton.
"Do you believe her?" he asked incredulously.
"Yes indeed! Leslie has the faculty of making good. And I'm one day ahead
of you. She tried this on me last night. Hurry into your bathing suit;
we'll swim before dinner, and then we'll fish. It was great going in this
morning! I'm sure you'll enjoy it!"
"Enjoy it!" cried Douglas. "Here is where the paucity of our language is
Too happy herself for the right word, Leslie showed Douglas to his room,
with its white bed, and row of hooks, on one of which hung the bathing
suit; then she went to put on her own, and they hurried to the lake.
"You are happy here, Leslie?" asked Douglas.
"Never in my life have I been so happy as I am this moment," said Leslie,
skifting the clear water with her hands while she waited for her father
before starting the swim to the opposite shore. "I've got the most joyous
thing to tell you."
"Go on and tell, 'Bearer of Morning,'" he said. "I am so delighted I'm
"Right over there, on the road to the club house, while 'seeking new
worlds to conquer' this afternoon, I ran into James Minturn wearing a
bathing suit, to his knees in mud and water, building a sod dam for his
"You did?" cried Douglas.
"I did!" said Leslie. "Here's the picture: a beautiful winding stream, big
trees like these on the banks, shade and flowers, birds, and air a-plenty,
a fine appearing woman he introduced as his sister, a Minturn boy catching
fish with his bare hands on either bank, the brother Minturn must have
adopted legally, since he gave him his name----"
"He did," interrupted Douglas. "He told me so----"
"I was sure of it," said Leslie. "And an interesting young man, a tutor,
bringing up more sod; the boys acted quite like any other agreeably
engaged children--but Minturn himself, looking like a man I never saw
before, down in the sand and water building a sod dam--a sod dam I'm
"I notice what you are telling me," cried Douglas. "It is duly impressing
me. 'Dam' is all I can think of."
"It's no wonder!" exclaimed Leslie.
"What did he say to you?" queried Douglas.
"It wasn't necessary for him to say anything," said Leslie. "I could see.
He is making over his boys and in order to do it sympathetically, and win
their confidence and love, he is being a boy himself again. He has the
little chaps under control now. There are love and admiration in their
tones when they speak to him, while they _obey_ him. Think of it!"
"It is something worth thinking of," said Douglas. "He was driven to
action, but his methods must have been heroic; for they seem to have
"Yes, for him and the boys," said Leslie, "but they are not all his
"The remainder of his family always has looked out for herself to the
exclusion of everything else in life, you have told me; I imagine she is
still doing it with wonderful success," hazarded Douglas.
"It amazes me how men can be so unfeeling."
"So you talked to him about her?"
"I surely did!" asserted Leslie.
"And I'll wager you wasted words," said Douglas.
"Not one!" cried the girl. "He will remember each one I spoke. If I don't
hear of him taking some action soon, I'll find another occasion, and try
again. He shall divide the joy of remaking those boys with their mother."
"She will respectfully--I mean disdainfully, decline!"
"You don't believe she was in earnest in what she said to me then?" asked
"I am quite sure she was," he answered, "but a few days of her former life
with her old friends will take her back to her previous ways with greater
abandon than ever. You mark my words."
"Bother your words!" cried Leslie emphatically. "I tell you Douglas, I
went through the fire with her. I watched her soul come out white. Promise
me that if ever he talks to you, you won't say anything against her."
"It would be a temptation," he said. "Minturn is a different man."
"So is she a different woman! Come on Dad, we are waiting for you," called
Leslie. "What kept you so?"
"A paper fell from my pocket, so I picked it up and in glancing at it I
became interested in a thought that hadn't occurred to me before, and I
forgot. You must forgive your old Daddy; his hands are about full these
days. Between my job for the city, and my own affairs, and those of a
friend, I have all I can carry. Now let me forget business. I call this
great of the girl. And one of the biggest appeals to me is the bill of
fare. I had a dinner for a king last night. What have we to-night?"
"But won't anticipation spoil it?" she asked.
"Not a particle," he declared.
"It's the fish we caught last night, baked potatoes, cress salad from
Minturn's brook, strawberries from Atwaters, cream from our rented cow,
real clover cream, Mrs. James says, and biscuit. That's all."
"Glory!" cried Mr. Winton. "Doesn't that thrill you? Let's head for the
tallest tamarack of the swamp and then have a feast."
On the opposite bank they rested a few minutes, then returned to dinner.
Afterward, with Rogers rowing for Mr. Winton, and Leslie for Douglas, they
went bass fishing. When the boats passed on the far shore Leslie and
Douglas had three, and Mr. Winton five. This did not prove that he was the
better fisherman, only that he worked constantly; they lost much time in
conversation which interested them; but as they enjoyed what they had to
say more than the sport, while Leslie only wished them to take the fish
they would use, it was their affair. The girl soon returned to the
Minturns and secured a promise from Douglas that if Mr. Minturn talked
with him, at least he would say nothing to discourage his friend about the
sincerity of his wife's motives. Leslie's thoughts then turned to the
surprise Douglas had mentioned.
"Oh, that pretty girl?" he inquired casually.
"Yes, Lily," she said. "Of course Mickey took you to see her! Is she
really a lovable child, and attractive? Could you get any idea of what is
Douglas carefully reeled while looking at Leslie with a speculative smile.
"You refuse to consider an attractive young lady of greater beauty than I
have previously seen?" he queried.
"Absolutely! Don't waste time on it," she said.
"You'll have to begin again and ask me one at a time," he laughed. "What
was your first?"
"Is she really a lovable child?" repeated Leslie.
"She most certainly is," said Douglas. "I could love her dearly. It's
plain that Mickey adores her. Why when a boy gives up trips to the
country, the chance to pick up good money, in order to stand over, wash,
and cook for a little sick girl, what is the answer?"
"The one you have given--that he adores her," conceded Leslie. "The next
was, 'Is she attractive?'"
"Wonderfully!" cried Douglas. "And what she would be in health with flesh
to cover her bones and colour on her lips and cheeks is now only dimly
"She must have her chance," said Leslie. "I was thinking of her to-day.
I'll go to see her at once and bring her here. I will get the best surgeon
in Multiopolis to examine her and a nurse if need be; then Mickey can come
out with you."
"Would you really, Leslie?" asked Douglas.
"But why not?" cried she. "That's one of the things worth while in the
"I'd love to go halvers with you," proposed Douglas. "Let's do it! When
will you go to see her?"
"In a few days," said Leslie. "The last one was, 'Could you get any idea
of what is the trouble?'"
"Very little," said Douglas. "She can sit up and move her hands. He is
teaching her to read and write. She had her lesson very creditably copied
out on her slate. She practises in his absence on poems Mickey makes."
"Doggerel," explained Douglas. "Four lines at a time. Some of it is
pathetic, some of it is witty, some of it presages possibilities. He may
make a poet. She requires a verse each evening, so he recites it, then
writes it out, and she uses it for copy the next day. The finished product
is to have a sky-blue cover and be decorated either with an English
sparrow, the only bird she has seen, or a cow. She likes milk, and the
pictures of cows give her an idea that she can handle them like her
"Oh Douglas!" protested Leslie.
"I believe she thinks a whole herd of cows could be kept on her bed, while
she finds them quite suitable to decorate Mickey's volume," said Douglas.
"Why, hasn't she seen anything at all?"
"She has been on the street twice in her life that she knows of," answered
Douglas. "It will be kind of you to take her, and cure her if it can be
done, but you'll have to consult Mickey. She is his find, so he claims
her, belligerently, I might warn you!"
"Claims her! _He has her?_" marvelled Leslie.
"Surely! In his room! On his bed! Taking care of her himself, and doing a
mighty fine job of it! Best she ever had I am quite sure," said Douglas.
"But Douglas!" cried Leslie in amazement.
"'But me no buts,' my lady!" warned Douglas. "I know what you would say.
Save it! You can't do anything that way. Mickey is right. She _is_ his. He
found her in her last extremity, in rags, on the floor in a dark corner of
an attic. He carried her home in that condition, to a clean bed his mother
left him. Since, he has been her gallant little knight, lying on the floor
on his winter bedding, feeding her first and most, not a thought for
himself. God, Leslie! I don't stand for anything coming between Mickey and
his child, his 'family' he calls her. He's the biggest small specimen I
ever have seen. I'll fight his cause in any court in the country, if his
right to her is questioned, as it will be the minute she is taken to a
surgeon or a hospital."
"How old is she?" asked Leslie.
"Neither of them knows. About ten, I should think."
"How has he managed to keep her hidden this long?"
"He lives in an attic. The first woman he tried to get help from started
the Home question, and frightened him; so he appealed to a nurse he met
through being connected with an accident; she gave him supplies,
instructions and made Lily gowns."
"But why didn't she----?" began Leslie.
"She may have thought the child was his sister," said Douglas. "She's the
loveliest little thing, Leslie!"
"Very little?" asked Leslie.
"Tiny is the word," said Douglas. "It's the prettiest sight I ever saw to
watch him wait on her, and to see her big, starved, scared eyes follow him
with adoring trust."
"Adoration on both sides, then," laughed Leslie.
"You imply I'm selecting too big words," said Douglas. "Wait till you see
her, and see them together."
"It's a problem!" said Leslie.
"Yes, I admit that!" conceded Douglas, "but it isn't _your_ problem."
"But they can't go on that way!" cried Leslie.
"I grant that," said Douglas. "All I stipulate is that Mickey shall be
left to plan their lives himself, and in a way that makes him happy."
"That's only fair to him!" said Leslie.
"Now you are grasping and assimilating the situation properly," commented
When they returned to the cabin they found Mr. Winton stretched in a
hammock smoking. Douglas took a blanket and Leslie a cushion on the steps,
while all of them watched the moon pass slowly across Atwater.
"How are you progressing with the sinners of Multiopolis?" asked Mr.
Winton of Douglas.
"Fine!" he answered. "I've found what I think will turn out to be a big
defalcation. Somebody drops out in disgrace with probably a penitentiary
"Oh Douglas! How can you?" cried Leslie.
"How can a man live in luxury when he is stealing other people's money to
pay the bills?" he retorted.
"Yes I know, but Douglas, I wish you would buy this place and plow corn,
or fish for a living."
"Sometimes I have an inkling that before I finish with this I shall wish
so too," replied he.
"What do you think, Daddy?" asked Leslie.
"I think the 'way of the transgressor is hard,' and that as always he pays
in the end. Go ahead son, but let me know before you reach my office or
any of my men. I hope I have my department in perfect order, but sometimes
a man gets a surprise."
"Of course!" agreed Douglas. "Look at that water, will you? Just beyond
that ragged old sycamore! That fellow must have been a whale. Isn't this
"The best of life," said Mr. Winton, stooping to kiss Leslie as he said
good-night to both.
_A Safe Proposition_
When Mickey posted his letter, in deep thought he slowly walked home. That
night his eyes closed with a feeling of relief. He was certain that when
Peter and his wife and children talked over the plan he had suggested they
would be anxious to have such a nice girl as Lily in their home for a
week. He even went so far as the vague thought that if they kept her until
fall, they never would be able to give her up, and possibly she could
remain with them until he could learn whether her back could be cured, and
make arrangements suitable for her. In his heart he felt sure that Mr.
Bruce or Miss Leslie would help him take care of her, but he had strong
objections to them. He thought the country with its clean air, birds,
flowers and quiet the best place for her; if he allowed them to take her,
she would be among luxuries which would make all he could do
"She wasn't born to things like that; what's the use to spoil her with
them?" he argued. "Course they haven't spoiled Miss Leslie, but she wasn't
a poor kid to start on, and she has a father to take care of her, and Mr.
Bruce. Lily has only me and I'm going to manage my family myself. Pretty
soon those nice folks will come, and if she likes them, maybe I'll let
them take her 'til it's cooler."
Mickey had thought they would come soon, but he had not supposed it would
be the following day. He went downtown early, spent some time drilling his
protege in the paper business, and had the office ready when Douglas Bruce
arrived an hour late. During that hour, Mickey's call came. He made an
appointment to meet Mr. and Mrs. Peter Harding at Marsh & Jordan's at four
"Peter must have wanted to see her so bad he quit plowing to come,"
commented Mickey, as he hung up the receiver. "He couldn't have finished
that field last night! They're just crazy to see Lily, and when they do,
they'll be worse yet; but of course they wouldn't want to take her from
me, 'cause they got three of their own. I guess Peter is the safest
proposition I know. Course he wouldn't ever put a little flowersy-girl in
any old Orphings' Home. Sure he wouldn't! He wouldn't put his own there,
course he wouldn't mine!"
"Mickey, what do you think?" asked Douglas as he entered. "I've moved to
Mickey stared. Then came his slow comment: "Gee! The cows an' the clover
gets all of us!"
"I can beat that," said Douglas. "I'm going to live beside a lake where I
can swim every night and morning, and catch big bass, and live on
strawberries from the vines and cream straight from the cow----"
"I thought you'd get to the cow before long."
"And you are invited to go out with me as often as you want to, and you
may arrange to have Lily out too! Won't that be fine?"
Mickey hesitated while his eyes grew speculative, before he answered with
his ever ready: "Sure!"
"Miss Winton made a plan for her father and me," explained Douglas. "She
knew we would lose our vacations this summer, so she took an old cabin on
Atwater, and moved out. We are to go back and forth each morning and
evening. I never was at the lake before, but it's not far from the club
house and it's beautiful. I think most of all I shall enjoy the swimming
"I haven't had experience with water enough to swim in," said Mickey. "A
tub has been my limit. You'll have a fine time all right, and thank you
for asking me. I think Miss Winton is great. Ain't it funny how many fine
folks there are in the world? 'Most every one I meet is too nice for any
use; but I don't know any Swell Dames, my people are just common folks."
"You wouldn't call Miss Winton a 'Swell Dame,' then?"
"Well I should say nix!" cried Mickey. "You wouldn't catch her motoring
away to a party and leaving her baby to be slapped and shook out of its
breath by a mad nurselady, 'cause she left it herself where the sun hurt
its eyes. She wouldn't put a little girl that couldn't walk in any
Orphings' Home where no telling what might happen to her! She'd fix her a
Precious Child and take her for a ride in her car and be careful with
"Are you quite sure about that Mickey?"
"Surest thing you know," said Mickey emphatically. "Why look her straight
in the eyes, and you can tell. I saw her coming away down the street, and
the minute I got my peepers on her I picked her for a winner. I guess you
"I certainly did," said Douglas. "But it is most important that I be
perfectly sure, so I should like to have your approval of my choice."
"I guess you're kidding now," ventured Mickey.
"No, I'm in earnest," said Douglas Bruce. "You see Mickey, as I have said
before, your education and mine have been different, but yours is equally
"What shall I do now? 'Scuse me, I mean--what do I mean?" asked Mickey.
"To wait until I'm ready for you," suggested Douglas.
"Sure!" conceded Mickey. "It's because I'm used to hopping so lively on
"Do you miss the streets?" inquired Douglas.
"Well not so much as I thought I would," said Mickey, "'sides in a way I'm
still on the job, but I guess I'll get Henry's boy so he can go it all
right. He seems to be doing fairly well; so does the old man."
"Have you got him in training too?" asked Douglas.
"Oh it's his mug," explained Mickey impatiently. "S'pose you do own a
grouch, what's the use of displaying it in your show window? Those things
are dangerous. They're contagious. Seeing a fellow on the street looking
like he'd never smile again, makes other folks think of their woes, so
pretty soon everybody gets sorry for themselves. I'd like to see the whole
"Mickey, what makes _you_ so happy to-day?"
"I scent somepin' nice in the air," said Mickey. "I hear the rumble of the
joy wagon coming my way."
"You surely look it," declared Douglas. "It's a mighty fine thing to be
happy. I am especially thinking that, because it looks like this last
batch you brought me has a bad dose in it for a man I know. He won't be
happy when he sees his name in letters an inch high on the front page of
"No, he won't," agreed Mickey, his face dulling. "That _comes in my line_.
I've seen men forced to take it right on the cars. Open a paper, slide
down, turn white, shiver, then take a brace and try to sit up and look
like they didn't care, when you could see it was all up with them. Gee,
it's tough! I wish we were in other business."
"But what about the men who work hard for their money, not to mince
matters, that these men you are pitying steal?" asked Douglas.
"Yes, I know," said Mickey. "But there's a big bunch of taxpayers, so it
doesn't hit any _one_ so hard. It's tough on them, but honest, Mr. Bruce,
it ain't as tough to lose your coin as it is to lose your glad face. You
can earn more money or slide along without so much; but once you get the
slick, shamed look on your show window, you can't ever wash it off. Since
your face is what your friends know you by, it's an awful pity to spoil
"That's so too, Mickey," laughed Bruce, "but keep this clearly in your
mind. _I'm not spoiling any one's face_. If any man loses his right to
look his neighbour frankly in the eye, from the job we're on, it is _his_
fault, not _ours_. If men have lived straight we can't find defalcations
in their books, can we?"
"Nope," agreed Mickey. "Just the same I wish we were plowing corn, 'stead
of looking for them. That plowing job is awful nice. I watched a man the
other day, the grandest big bunch of bone and muscle, driving a team it
took a gladiator to handle. First time I ever saw it done at close range
and it got me. He looked like a man you'd want to tie to and stick 'til
the war is over. If he ever has a case he is going to bring it to you. But
where he'll get a case out there ten miles from anybody, with the bluest
sky you ever saw over his head, and black fields under his feet, I can't
see. Yes, I wish we were plowing for corn 'stead of trouble."
"You little dunce," laughed Douglas. "We'd make a fortune plowing corn."
"What's the difference how much you make if something black keeps ki-yi-
ing at your heels 'bout how you make it?" asked Mickey.
"There's a good strong kick in my heels, and the 'ki-yi-ing' is for the
feet of the man I'm after."
"Yes, I know," said Mickey, "but 'fore we get through with this I just got
a hunch that you'll wish we had been plowing corn, too."
"What makes you so sure, Mickey?" said Douglas.
"Oh things I hear men say when I get the books keep me thinking," replied
"What things?" queried Douglas.
"Oh about who's going to get the axe next!" said Mickey.
"But what of that?" asked Douglas.
"Why it might be somebody you know!" he cried. "When you find these wrong
entries you can't tell who made them."
"I know that the man who made them deserves what he gets," said Douglas.
"Yes, I guess he does," agreed Mickey. "Well go on! But when I grow up I'm
going to plow corn."
"What about the poetry?" queried Douglas.
"They go together fine," explained Mickey. "When the book is finished, I'd
like clover on the cover better than the cow; but if Lily wants the live
stock it goes!"
"Of course," assented Douglas. "But when she sees a real cow she may
change her mind."
"Right in style! Ladies do it often," conceded Mickey. "I've seen them so
changeful they couldn't tell when they called a taxi where they wanted to
be taken." "Mickey, your observations on human nature would make a better
book than your poetry."
"Oh I don't know," said Mickey. "You see I ain't really got _at_ the
poetry job yet. I have to be educated a lot to do it right. What I do now
I wouldn't show to anybody else, it's just fooling for Lily. But I got an
address that gives me a look-in on the paper business if I ever want it. I
ain't got at the poetry yet, but I been on the human-nature job from the
start. When you go cold and hungry if you don't know human nature--why you
_know_ it, that's all!"
"You surely do," said Douglas. "Now let's hustle this forenoon, and then
you may have the remainder of the day. I am going fishing."
"Thank you," said Mickey, "I hope you get a bass as long as your arm, and
I hope the man you are chasing breaks his neck before you get him."
Mickey grinned at Douglas' laugh, and went racing about his work, then he
helped on his paper route until four, when he hurried to his meeting with
Nancy and Peter.
"When everybody is so nice if you give them any show at all, I can't
understand where the grouchers get their grouch," muttered Mickey, as he
hopped from one toe to the other and tried to select the car at the curb
which would be Peter's.
"Hey you!" presently called a voice from one of them. Mickey sent a keen
glance over a boy who had come up and entered the car.
"Straw you!" retorted Mickey, landing on the curb in a flying leap.
"Is your name Mickey?" inquired the boy.
"Yep. Is your father's name Peter?" asked Mickey.
"Yep. And mine is Peter too. So to avoid two Peters I am Junior. Come on
in 'til the folks come."
Formalities were over. Mickey laughed as he entered the car and
straightway began an investigation of its machinery. Now any boy is proud
to teach another something he wants to know and does not, so by the time
the car was thoroughly explained any listener would have thought them
acquaintances from birth.
"Hurry!" cried Junior when his parents came. "I want to get home with
Mickey. I want him to show me----"
"Don't you hurry your folks, Junior," said Mickey, "I'll show you all
"Well it's about time I was seeing something."
"Sure it is," agreed Mickey. "Come on with me here, and I'll show you what
real boys are!"
"Say father, I'm coming you know," cried Junior. "I'm tired poking in the
country. Just look what being in the city has made of Mickey."
"Yes, just look!" cried Mickey, waving both hands and bracing on feet wide
apart. "Do look! Your age or more, and about _half_ your beefsteak and
"But you got muscle. I bet I couldn't throw you!"
"I bet you couldn't either," retorted Mickey, "'cause I survived
Multiopolis by being Johnny _not_ on the spot! I've dodged for my life and
my living since I can remember. I'm champeen on that. But you come on with
me, and I'll get you a job and let you try yourself."
"I'm coming," said Junior. Then remembering he was not independent he
turned to his mother. "Can't I take a job and work here?"
Mrs. Harding braced herself and succumbed to habit. "That will be as your
Junior turned toward his father, doubt in his eye, to receive a shock.
There was not a trace of surprise or disapproval on the face of Peter.
"Now maybe that would be the best way in the world for you to help me
out," he said. "You see me through planting and harvest and then I'll
arrange to spare you, and you can see how you like it till fall. But you
are too young to give up school and I don't agree to interrupting your
Mrs. Harding entered the car. "Now Mickey," she said as she distributed
parcels, "you sit up there with Peter and show him the way, and we will go
see if we want to undertake the care of your little girl for a week."
"Drop the anchor, furl the sail, right here," directed Mickey when they
reached Sunrise Alley. "You know I told you dearest lady, about how scared
my little girl is, having seen so few folks and not expecting you; so I'll
have to ask you to wait a few minutes 'til I go up and get her used to
your being here and then I'll have to sort of work her up to you one at a
time. I 'spect you can't hardly believe that there's anything in all the
world so small, and so white, that's lived to have the brains she has, and
yet hasn't seen the streets of this city but for a short ride on a street-
car twice in her life, and hasn't talked to half a dozen people. She may
take you for a bear, Peter; you will be quiet and easy, won't you?"
"Why Mickey," said Peter, "why of course, son!"
Mickey bounded up the stairs and swung wide his door. Again the awful heat
hit him in the face. He swallowed a mouthful, hastily shutting the door.
"It's hard on Lily," was his mental comment, "but I guess I'll just _save_
that for Mr. and Mrs. Peter. I think a few gulps of it will do them good;
it will show them better than talking why, once she's _out_ of it, she
shouldn't come back 'til cold weather at least, if at all. Yes I guess!"
"Most baked honey?" he asked, taking her hot hands.
"Mickey, 'tain't near six," she panted.
"No it's two hours early," said Mickey. "But you know Flowersy-girl, I'm
going to take _care_ of you. It's getting too hot for you. Don't you
remember what I told you last night?"
"'Bout laying on the grass an' the clover flowers?"
"Exactly yes!" said Mickey. "'Fore we melt let's roll up in this sheet and
go, Lily! What do you say?"
"Has--has the red-berry folks come?" she cried.
"They're downstairs, Lily. They're waiting."
Peaches began climbing into his arms.
"Mickey, Mickey-lovest, hold me tight," she panted. "Mickey, I'm scairt
"Wope! Wope lady! None of that!" cried Mickey aghast. "The place where
you're going there's a _nice little girl_ that never said such a word in
all her life, and if she did her mammy would wash the badness out of her
mouth with soap, just like I'll have to wash out yours, if you don't
watch. You can't go in the big car, being held tight by me, else you
promise cross your heart never, not never to say that again."
"Mickey, will soapin' take it out?" wailed Peaches.
"Well my mammy took it out of _me_ that way!"
"Mickey get the soap, an' wash, an' scour it all out now, so's I can't
ever. Mickey, quick before the nice lady comes that has flower fields, an'
red berries, an' honey 'lasses. Mickey, hurry!"
"Oh you fool little sweet kid," he half laughed, half sobbed. "You fool
little precious child-kid--I can't! There's a better way. I'll just put on
a kiss so tight that no bad swearin's will ever pop out past it. There,
like that! Now you won't ever say one 'fore the nice little girl, and when
I want you not to so bad, will you?"
"Not never Mickey! Not never, never, never!"
"The folks can't wait any longer," said Mickey. "Here quick, I'll wash
your face and comb you, and get a clean nightie on you, and your sweetest
"Then it's pink," declared Peaches, "an' Mickey, make me a pretty girl,
so's the nice lady will like me to drink her milk."
"Greedy!" said Mickey. "How can I make you pretty when the Lord didn't!"
"Ain't I pretty any at all?" queried Peaches.
"Mebby you would be if you'd fatten up a little," said Mickey judicially.
"Can't anybody be pretty that's got bones sticking out all over them."
"Mickey, is the girl where we are going pretty?"
"I don't know," said Mickey. "I haven't seen her. She's a fine little
girl, for she's at home taking care of her baby brother so's that her
mammy can come and see if you are _nice enough_ to go to her house and not
_spoil_ her children. See?"