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Strawberry Acres by Grace S. Richmond

Part 4 out of 5

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said. It was so--silly--of me!"

"It was much worse than silly--of us," vowed Donald Ferry, his fine,
freckled face a deep Indian-red with heat and anxiety, his breath still a
trifle laboured with the furious exertion of the rescue.

But in a very short time she was all right again, and sitting up on her
hay throne, watching the wrecked load being pitched back upon the wagon.

The horses had not escaped, for a dozen boys had set after them, headed
by the tall youth, and the boot-blacks and news-boys had proved
themselves decidedly more efficient at stopping runaways than at making
symmetrical hay-cocks.

"If you have any regard for my pride," said Sally suddenly, when the load
was half replaced, "you'll let me drive down to the barn."

The three men stopped and looked at her.

"That's mighty plucky of you, Miss Sally," declared Donald Ferry,
"but--if you have any regard for _our_ feelings--" and he let an
eloquent shake of the head finish his sentence for him.

Jarvis said nothing. But a certain peculiar set of his jaw, as he went on
with his pitching, spoke volumes.

As for Jake Kelly--"Wall, I want to know!" said he. Then he laughed
outright. "I calc'late, miss," said he, "ef you ride on that thar'
load o' hay again to-day it'll be because them two's rendered
incompetent o' action! An' they don't look to me much 'sif paralysis
would set in yit awhile!"



"Oh, dear--who's this coming?--just as we've settled down to accomplish

"It's the Chases. Girls--we simply can't stop work to entertain them!"

"We don't need to stop--this sort of work."

They bent over their sewing--all but Sally, who with inward reluctance
got to her feet as the Chases' big car rolled up the driveway and
approached the porch, where the four girls were sitting, busy with some
extremely important matters. But of course the work had to be put down
for a little when Dorothy Chase actually set foot on the porch.

"Oh, what an energetic crowd!" she cried, "this hot August morning,
too. Sally, where are your men? Neil wants to see some of them while I
talk to you."

Sally pointed off into the distance. "Jarvis and Bob are hoeing potatoes
over there in the field. There's a tree near by, and Neil can sit in the
shade of that. You don't mind going, Neil? They're 'way behind with the

Neil Chase bowed impressively to the group on the porch. "I should much
prefer to stay here," said he gallantly, "but business reasons impel me
to seek that inferno out yonder. What Jarve finds interesting in that
sort of thing is beyond me."

He drove on by the house and over the grass behind, getting as near to
the corn-field as possible, that he might have to walk only the least
necessary distance. Meanwhile his wife sat down and inspected the quality
of the work being done on the porch.

"Are you people sewing for an orphan asylum?" she inquired, after
discovering that red and blue ginghams and white cotton cloth of a
grade only moderately fine were the materials being used for certain
small garments.

"Something like it. One of Mr. Ferry's poor families was burned out the
other day--five children and an invalid mother."

"Of course--the mother's always an invalid, isn't she? I believe they
make themselves invalids on purpose. Well--it makes no difference how
important it is. Those children won't freeze in this weather, if you
don't get these things all done to-night. And I'm in a perfectly awful
difficulty. You all have simply got to help me out."

"What's the matter?" Josephine asked the question calmly, being used to
Dorothy Chase's fashion of putting things. She threaded her needle as she
spoke, as if she had every intention of continuing to work for as long a
period as she had planned to do. The other girls resumed their sewing
also. The cause of their being at work at all certainly was apology
sufficient for going on with it, in spite of the visitor.

"Just listen--and nobody is to say a word till I'm through. It's no use
raising objections--you're to do as I ask, if you care anything whatever
about my friendship." She grasped the ends of the lavender-silk parasol
lying on her lavender-linen lap, nodded her head violently, causing
several lavender plumes to nutter agitatedly upon her lavender-straw hat,
and plunged into her subject.

"I'm entertaining to-night for our new bishop--and he's a distant
connection besides. I made it an evening affair, because it's so hot, and
our new house opens up so beautifully. I planned to have some informal
music--and at this last minute Herr Braun and Madame Hafsky have failed
me. It was a misunderstanding about the date. It turns out they were
engaged for to-day weeks ago by somebody very important--they won't give
it up. I must have music--and everybody is out of town. Now what I want
is to have you four go back with me to luncheon, help me about the
decorations and things this afternoon, and then have Miss Carew sing and
Miss Ferry play for us in the evening. Neil will come back for the men
for the evening. You know I didn't ask you in the beginning only because
I knew you didn't want to be invited. But now--you _must_ come!"

It was precisely like Dorothy Chase. That was all that could be said.
Nobody said it, but Sally and Josephine thought it, and Janet and
Constance told themselves, as they sewed on, that the young matron who
made this decidedly startling proposition must be accustomed to having
things her own way, or she would not have acquired so confident a manner
of making her demands.

Sally was the first to give voice to her astonishment. "Well, Dorothy,"
said she, "you certainly take us off our feet. Here are we, just settled
down to work that absolutely must be done, and in you walk and ask us to
lay it down and go off to help entertain a bishop who's probably wishing
you wouldn't do anything special at all for him this hot weather!"

"Nothing of the sort. He's heard all about Miss Carew's voice--people
that met her last year in Leipsic."

Constance sat up. "Who, please?"

"The Markhams--and the Carrolls. Now will you be good?"

Constance leaned back again, applying herself to her sewing.

"I don't remember anybody of that name," mused Janet, looking at

"Yes, you do--friends of Mrs. Sears--just stopping over a day?"

The two pairs of eyes met. There must have been something in
Constance's--invisible to other beholders--which recalled some incident
or other to Janet, for after staring a minute she suddenly dropped her
eyes, said, "Oh, yes--" and sewed away faster than ever.

"Will you come?" demanded Dorothy Chase.

They tried to get out of it--they pointed out various reasons why it
would be difficult for them to come away. Dorothy overrode all their
objections, and became so persistent that at last the four agreed, but
refused to go until evening. As for the young men of the household, it
would be of no use to ask them.

"Send out for us just in time for your affair, and we'll come," promised
Sally. "But what you want of Jo and me I don't see. We can't perform for
you in any way."

"Oh, but you can help make things go. Sally can talk to the bishop--"

"I can't," cried Sally, dismayed.

"And Jo can be nice to Mrs. bishop. I don't see why your men won't
come. It's so hard to get men for anything except sports in summer.
How perfectly absurd it is for Jarvis Burnside to prefer hoeing
potatoes in this frightful sun to playing society man for an hour or
two in the evening!"

"It's truly incomprehensible, but so it is. Besides, he looks like an
Indian, and in his evening clothes would resemble a fiend. Be satisfied,
Dorothy, now you have us for victims, and let the men stay at home." And
Sally slashed a seam open with shears that clipped like her speech.

But Mrs. Chase was not satisfied, and berated Jarvis roundly, when,
presently he came walking up to the porch with Neil, looking the picture
of well-browned contentment. He took her displeasure lightly enough, and
presently had her laughing in spite of herself.

"Well, I know all about it now," Neil Chase informed the company, as he
got into his car. "We ploughed seven acres and sowed it to buckwheat,
turned the buckwheat under and have now planted the ground to potatoes.
In the end there are to be strawberries on the seven acres--or a good
share of it--and Burnside, Lane & Co. are to become the most successful
strawberry culturists in this part of the country."

"Right you are," agreed Jarvis placidly, sitting down on the edge of the
porch and poking about in Janet Ferry's work-bag until he found a
thimble, which he placed on the only finger it would fit, the smallest
one on his right hand. He had washed the hands before he came to the
porch, but they were so brown that the little gold thimble looked most
absurd in its new position.

"If I sew for you for an hour, Miss Janet," he proposed, as the car
bolted away down the drive, "will you come and hoe potatoes for me until
lunch time?"

"I would gladly hoe potatoes all day if I could be let off from going to
play for Mrs. Chase's friends this evening." The fierce energy with which
Janet pulled out a row of bastings gave emphasis to her words.

Jarvis looked at his sister. "How did you manage not to let me in for
this affair, Sis?"

"I knew you wouldn't go, and Janet knew her brother wouldn't. Sally said
Max would be too used up. Happy boys--we saved you from it at the price
of going ourselves."

"Self-sacrificing girls! We'll have to make it up to you somehow. When I
see Ferry I'll--Hold on, I've an idea. How are you coming home?"

"In Neil's car--as we go."

"We'll see that you come in a better way. Be good little girls, do your
stunts, keep up your courage, and we'll rescue you promptly at eleven
o'clock," and putting down the thimble Jarvis went away, deaf to
entreaties to tell what his interesting plan might be.

"Oh, dear, isn't it horrid?" demanded Sally that evening, running into
Josephine's room in the course of her dressing to have certain
unreachable hooks and eyes fastened. "After sewing all day we deserve
something better than one of the Chases' fussy affairs."

"Stop fuming and stand still. Anybody who looks as pretty as you do in
this white swiss--"

"Poor old white swiss--the same one. I wish Dorothy could forget the
pattern of it. She'll undoubtedly mention that I wore it at her
wedding,--she does, every time."

"Don't you care a bit. Those touches of blue make it seem perfectly fresh
to me, and I've seen it much oftener than Dorothy Chase has."

"You're a comfort. You look like a dream yourself, in that
peach-coloured thing."

"A midsummer day's dream, then--with my gypsy skin. Oh, there's Neil
and his car."

"A nice lot you are," Neil Chase was exclaiming outside, as he drove up
to the porch and eyed the male figures occupying its comfortable
recesses. Max reposed in a hammock; Mr. Timothy Rudd swayed to and fro in
a rocker, reading the evening paper by the sunset light; Alec and Bob,
sitting on the steps, were playing a game of some sort; and Jarvis lay
stretched at full length on a rug, his arms beneath his head, luxuriously
resting after his bath and change of work clothes for fresh flannels,
enjoying the sense of virtue earned by having hoed many rows of potatoes
with a vigorous arm.

"A nice lot," Neil went on. "We have it in for you particularly, Jarve.
Max never was much of a society chap, but you once could be depended upon
to do your duty like a man. Bob, run in and see if those girls are ready.
Dorothy won't be easy till she sees them. One thing I know--you'll soon
tire of this playing at farming. To be the real thing you fellows ought
to work till the sun goes down, doing 'chores.' I'll wager a fiver you
come in and get your bath every night before dinner, eh?"

"We certainly do," Jarvis laughed.

"And you don't sit down in your shirt-sleeves?"


"You're not the real thing--never will be. Look at those girls!" He
pulled off his straw hat as two figures appeared in the doorway. "Nice
farmers' folks they are!"

"We're glad you think we're nice," responded Sally, gathering her white
skirts about her. "Jo, be careful--don't get that peaches-and-cream frill
against the running board."

Jarvis's reposeful posture had become an active one, and he took care
that neither peach-coloured skirts nor white ones fluttered against
anything on the outside of the car that might soil them.

"Here come Constance and Janet. Aren't they imposing society ladies now?"
and Sally stood up to wave at the two coming through the hedge,
accompanied by Janet's brother. Ferry had an eye upon the porch and meant
to spend the evening consoling his friends for the absence of the usual
feminine contingent.

"You exquisite person--may I venture to sit beside you?" whispered Sally,
as Constance, in trailing pale gray with bands of violet velvet, a
shimmering cloak of the same hues enveloping her like a mist, took the
place beside her. "This is the singer, not my friend Constance.
I'm--just--a little--afraid of you!"

"Nonsense!" Constance's warm hand caught Sally's beneath the cloak. "You
know I don't like show singing--or anything that goes with it."

"Don't forget your promise--" Josephine called back, as the big car, with
its rainbow-tinted load rolled away.

An answering shout from the porch, accompanied by the waving of several
arms, conveyed assurance.

"What promise?" asked Janet, turning to the others. Being the smallest of
the party she occupied one of the folding seats which enable a roomy
tonneau to hold five people.

"The boys are coming after us--we don't know how. Doesn't that give you
courage to face the evening?" murmured Josephine, and the expression on
Janet's face became decidedly more hopeful.

"But how can they come? They've only your brother's car!" she said in
Josephine's ear.

"Don't know, and don't care. They'll come--and rescue us from our fate."

They felt, during the following hours, that they needed the cheering
prospect of a merry home-going, to enable them to bear the rigours of
the form of entertainment offered them. It was not that the affair
differed much from affairs of its sort, but the fact that it did not
materially differ might have been what made it seem so tiresome. Possibly
the effect of a summer of out-door, home merrymaking, under the least
conventional of conditions, had been to make formal entertaining under a
roof seem more than ordinarily fatiguing and pointless. The handsome
rooms were hot, in spite of open windows; the guests quite evidently were
making heroic efforts to seem gay. Somehow even Janet's brilliant music
stirred only a perfunctory sort of applause.

"Never played so badly in my life," whispered the performer, when she
regained Josephine's side, after her second number.

"You played perfectly, as you always do."

"I played like an automaton--a 'piano-player.' Don't pretend you don't
know the difference."

"I understand, of course. But, you know, we shouldn't really like to
have you play for the bishop and these people as you do for us on your
own piano."

"The poor bishop! Doesn't he look like a martyr? I'm sure he's
delightful--in his own library, or at his friends' dinner-tables--but he
hates this sort of thing. He's beautifully polite, but he's bored. My
only hope is that Con will revive him. It's her turn next."

If anything could revive a weary bishop, who had that day attended two
funerals and a diocesan convention, it would be both the sight and the
sound of Miss Constance Carew.

"Isn't she _dear_?" breathed Sally, in Josephine's ear, as Constance took
her place, her slender, gray-clad figure and interest-stirring face a
notable contrast to the personality of the professional singer who had
opened the program of occasional numbers, interspersed through an evening
of--so-called--conversation. Sally's hands were unconsciously clasped
tight all through the song, and her eyes left the singer's face only long
enough to observe that the bishop's tired eyes were also fixed upon the
creator of all those wonderful, liquid notes, and to fancy that, for the
moment, at least, he forgot how hot his neck was inside his close,
clerical neckwear.

"That pays me for coming," was the reward Constance had from Sally, whose
praise she had somehow come to value more highly than that of most people
she knew. Sally might be no musician herself, but she was a most
sympathetic listener, and could appreciate the points singers love to
have appreciated, as few people can.

"That pays me!" Constance answered, drawing a long breath. "But, Sally,
will it never end? It's nearly eleven, now."

"Thank heaven! I'd lost all count of time. The boys said they'd be here
at eleven. But Dorothy is not to know they're within five miles of here.
She'd never forgive them."

As she spoke a maid came to her elbow and handed her a note. Retiring to
a secluded corner to read it, Sally returned with triumphant eyes. "We're
to go down the lawn to a gate that opens on the other road. They're
there. Now--to get away from Dorothy."

This proved difficult.

"Not let Neil take you back? Why not? How will you get back? But you're
not going yet?"

"Both the girls have performed twice, with two encores. You don't expect
any more of them this hot night? Your bishop is going to sleep; do let
him off and send him to bed. Yes, we must go now. They've sent for us.
Don't bother about how we're going to get back--Neil will be thankful not
to have to take us."

Thus Sally. And when Dorothy persisted in exclamations and questions her
guests fell into a little gusto of enthusiasm over the stately old house
which Neil had bought after he had to give up the Maxwell Lane place,
and diverted Dorothy's attention. Sally also praised everything she could
honestly praise in relation to the affair of the evening--and not a thing
she couldn't, for Sally was the most honest creature alive. Somehow at
last she got her party away from their hostess, taking advantage of the
bishop's approach to whisper hastily--"Here comes your guest of honour.
Now do attend to him and forget us!"--and so had them all out a side door
and off down the lawn out of range of the lighted windows. As they
hurried along in their airy dresses, they were pulling off long, hot
gloves, and saying, still under their breath, "Oh, isn't it good to get
out?" They were laughing softly, and breathing deep breaths of the warm
summer air, and looking up at the starlit sky.

"Now where is that gate?" They had reached the high fence at the back of
the grounds.

"Here you are--this way," came back a low voice, and a doorway in the
fence swung open. There was a rush of skirts, and the four were out in
the road at the back of the suburban place, a country road on which
stood, most appropriately, a long hay-wagon, cushioned with hay and rugs,
drawn by a pair of farm horses, with Jake Kelly in command. Four other
dark figures were grouped about the back end.

"You splendid things!"

"What a jolly idea!"

"Oh, what a delicious change from a hot music-room!"

"Here's Mother Burnside, tucked away in the corner. How good of you to
come, you patient person!"

"Now tell us all about it," demanded Donald Ferry of Sally, next whom, at
the end of the load, he sat. It may be noted that Jarvis had not been
found, of late, at Sally's elbow. Without a suggestion of seeming
avoidance on her part, or of umbrage on his, the two no longer fell to
each other as a matter of course. Sally's plea had had the effect she
wished for. Both Constance and Janet appeared to like Jarvis immensely,
and Sally could not detect any failure on his part to enjoy their
society. She told herself it was a very good thing that she had been so
frank with him.

"All about it?" She was answering Ferry's question. "Why, I don't need to
tell you. You know, without having been there, exactly how things went."

"More or less, probably. Was it very hot?"

"Stifling! How could it be anything else on an August night? Janet vows
her fingers burned on the keys. But she played beautifully, of course,
and the bishop had a little interval of being glad he was there. Poor
man--I wonder if anything can be warmer than a clerical waistcoat."

"Nothing, except a clerical collar, I believe. Did Constance have a bad
time of it, too? She doesn't like singing in hot rooms."

"She sang like an angel. The bishop opened his eyes and stared at her all
through, and applauded so vigorously it must have made him several
degrees warmer. But she deserved it."

"I don't doubt it. And what did you and Miss Josephine do?"

"Stood about and tried to look pleased and happy. My gloves felt like
furs and a soapstone, and I couldn't think of anything intelligent to say
to anybody."

Ferry laughed. "I wonder if anybody ever does say anything intelligent at
such entertainments. Did Mr. Neil Chase himself rise to the occasion and
play the genial host as he should?"

"I think he mostly spent the evening sitting on the porch rail at the
farthest corner away from the drawing-room."

"The memory of the fellows lounging comfortably on your porch undoubtedly
made his role seem the harder by contrast. I saw a longing look in his
eye as he drove away, and had an idea he might be back. But I suppose he
couldn't get out of it."

"No--their 'country home' isn't much like our 'country home.' Oh, isn't
this air delicious? Do you suppose Constance would be willing to sing in
it? Wouldn't it sound like a part of the summer night out here?"

They were bowling along the quiet country road, only the chirp of many
locusts, the rumble of the wheels, and the sound of their own voices to
break the stillness. Ferry leaned forward. Constance was at the farther
end of the wagon, between Jarvis and Max.

"Constance!" he called softly. Sally thought she would not hear, but she
did. Ferry's voice, even in its subdued tones, possessed that carrying
quality which is the peculiar acquirement of the trained public speaker.

"Yes, Don," she called back, and everybody stopped talking. People had a
way of stopping other talk to listen when either of these two had
anything to say.

"Here's a person, at this end of the chariot, who wonders if people with
drawing-room voices ever venture to test them in the open air."

"What do you think about it?"

"That one of them will, if we ask her. Therefore, we ask."

Constance considered an instant. "Will you and Janet sing 'My Garden'
with me--especially for Sally?"

For answer Ferry tried for the proper key, found it--under his
breath--and began, very softly, and on a low note, to sing. Janet joined
him with a subdued contralto, and the two voices, without words, made
themselves into a harmonious undertone of an accompaniment. Upon this
support, presently, rose Constance's pure notes. It was no "show
singing," this time, and the song did not lift above a gentle volume
which seemed to fit, as Sally had anticipated, into the night. But the
listeners gave themselves to the listening as they had never done before,
even in the many times they had heard this girl. Even Jake Kelly, on his
driver's seat, turned about to hearken with held breath. The farm-hand
drew his horses down to a walk, that not a note might be marred.

"A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot!
Rose plot,
Fringed pool,
Ferned grot--
The veriest school
Of Peace, and yet the fool
Contends that God is not--
Not God! in gardens! when the eve is cool?
Nay, but I have a sign:
'Tis very sure God walks in mine."

The words[A] were familiar to some of them--the music new. Together
words and music were something to remember.

[Footnote A: The words are those of Thomas Edward Brown.]

Certain of these phrases came in over and over, throughout the
song--taking hold of one's heart most appealingly. "_Not God--in
gardens!--when the eve is cool_?" came again and again, till one felt
it indeed to be the word of the fool. Then, in exquisite harmony, fell
the assurance--"_Nay, but I have a sign--a sign--a sign--'Tis very sure
God walks in mine_!"

Everybody but Sally found words in which to tell, in some sort, how the
song had seemed to them, even Alec observing boyishly, "I say, but that's
great. I didn't know you folks could all sing."

After some minutes had gone by, Donald Ferry bent to speak in Sally's
ear. She was looking off into the night, her hands clasped tight together
in her lap. "I know," he said, very gently.

"You always know," she answered, under cover of the talk, which was now
going on again. "Tell me,"--wistfully--"do you think--He--walks in mine?"

"I know it. He walks in every garden--when He is wanted there."



"If ever I felt weepy over seeing people off, it's this minute!"

"We feel just as weepy over going, Sally Lunn. But cheer up. We shall
come out every other minute, Jarvis and I, and mother will be planning
all winter, I know, how early she can get back in the spring."

Josephine gave Sally a tremendous hug as she spoke, and Mrs. Burnside, in
her turn, took the girl into her motherly embrace.

"I shouldn't have believed," she said warmly, "how reluctant I should be
to go back to town in the fall, after this charming summer--nor how
willing I should be to promise to return in the spring. Sally, dear--do
make use of our rooms all you care to--though they're not half as cheery
as your own, for the winter."

"It _has_ been a lovely summer, hasn't it?" cried Sally, as the Burnside
carriage, fine bay horses and liveried coachman, appeared upon the
driveway, looking suggestively like city life again. "A successful one
too, don't you think, for the boys? They're confident they have improved
the ground so much that their first real crops, next year-will begin to
show what crops ought to be."

"Yes, it has all been a success," agreed Mrs. Burnside, "in spite of the
mistakes they own to and laugh over. Jarvis himself has received a world
of good from his out-door life. I'm hoping that all your brothers will
make the most of next season--especially Max."

"Oh, Max will come round in time," declared Josephine confidently. "I
caught him feeling enviously of Jarvis's arms the other day. When Jarvis
said he felt like a giant, Max said he thought he'd have to begin giant
culture, whether he succeeded in making any squashes grow or not."

This thought cheered Sally through the trying moment of watching her
friends drive away. Their going took place at rather an unfortunate time
for her. Uncle Timothy was off on a visit to his old New Hampshire home;
Constance Carew had departed the week before--though under promise to
return for a long visit the following summer; and Janet was away for a
wedding in which she was to play the part of bridesmaid. Sally's one
consolation was that Joanna was to take the place of Mary Ann Flinders in
the kitchen.

This arrangement had been made by Mrs. Burnside. On just what terms it
had been effected Sally was not permitted to inquire. She had protested
against it, but the argument had ended by the elder woman's saying
gently, "Sally dear, I shall spend a happier winter if I know you have my
good Joanna here. She likes the place, it is a pleasant change for her
from the responsibilities of my entertaining, and her sister is eager to
take her place with me. So let me have my way--at least for this
winter." It was a way of putting the matter which could not be set aside.

When the carriage had disappeared, Sally wandered out to the kitchen to
console herself with the sight of Joanna. There was no doubt that the
presence of that capable, comfortable person, possessed as she was of
intelligence and common sense, would be a real support to the young
mistress of the house. But at this moment even Joanna failed her, for
she had gone to her room, the hour being that of mid-afternoon. Sally
wandered back again into the living-room, feeling too disconsolate even
to make the effort to cheer herself by going for a brisk walk in the
keen late October air, a measure which usually had a prompt effect upon
her spirits.

From the living-room window she saw a messenger boy approaching, and
hurried to the porch door to meet him, hoping he brought no ill news. Two
minutes later she was reading the message, alone in the living-room,
while the boy waited in the hall. Its purport banished all thought of
present circumstances, except to bring the wish that it had arrived a
half-hour earlier. "Mr. Rudd seriously ill anxious to have you come at
once" it read, and was signed by the name of one of Mr. Rudd's old New
Hampshire friends.

After a minute's deliberation, Sally wrote her reply "Will come at once.
Leave to-night if possible," and sent the boy off with it. As he departed
Jarvis came into the hall from the door at the rear. Sally turned with an
exclamation of surprise and relief.

"Oh, I thought you had gone."

"Without saying good-by? You ought to know better. But I'd have been off
when the others went if I hadn't had some unexpected magneto trouble. All
right now, and I'm going at once. What's that?" as he caught sight of the
yellow envelope in her hand. "No bad news, I hope?"

"Uncle Timmy's very sick--up in New Hampshire. I'm going to him as fast
as I can get off."

"Uncle Timmy? Oh, I'm mighty sorry! You're going, you say?"

"Of course. He asked me to come. I was just going to telephone to find
out about trains."

"I'll see to all that--if you must go. But, Sally--have you let
Max know?"

"Not yet."

"Have you sent an answer saying you will come, on your own

Sally's slight figure drew itself up. "Why not? There's nothing else to
do but go--and if there were, I wouldn't do it."

"It will take you at least twenty-four hours to get there."

"Yes. What has that to do with it?"

Jarvis's face looked as if he thought it had a good deal to do with it.
He knew that, dress as quietly as she would--and Sally's dressing for the
street meant always the plainest and simplest of attire--there was that
about her which invariably attracted attention. He understood with just
what a barrier of youthful reserve she would be likely to surround
herself upon such a journey, but he understood also that barriers of
reserve are not all the defences sometimes necessary for a girl who
travels alone. For one moment he felt as if he must go along to take care
of her, in the next that nothing could be more out of the question.

"I'm glad it's no farther, anyhow," he replied to Sally's quick
question. "But hadn't you better let the boys know, before you go at your
preparations? Max wouldn't be pleased at not being consulted, you know."

"Will you tell him, please? But first find out what train I must take, so
you can be definite with him."

"But, Sally--really--shouldn't you ask old Maxy's consent?"


"Well--it's the diplomatic thing to do."

"I don't care one bit about diplomacy. Uncle Timmy's sick and wants me.
I'm going up to get ready. You can telephone what you like." With
something in her voice which sounded suspiciously like a sob, she ran
away up the stairs.

Knitting his brows, Jarvis went into the west wing to the telephone, that
instrument having been promptly installed upon the Burnside family's
arrival for the summer. After considering a minute he called up a railway
ticket-office and learned that the best through train Sally could take
would leave at 5.30 that afternoon. His watch told him that it was then
nearly half after three. There must be rapid work if Sally was to catch
that train. Then he had Max on the wire. Statement, question, and answer
now came back and forth in quick succession.

"What, start to-night?" Max's tone was incredulous.

"So she wants to do--with your permission. I suppose you'll give it. By
the despatch we judge he's pretty ill."

"Well, but--look here. I must say that's asking a good deal for her to go
off up there. Why not wire whoever sent the thing to keep us informed,
and if he gets much worse--"

"Won't do, she's already answered she'll go."

"Well, of all the--see here--but we can't really afford--"

"I'll see to that--don't mention it." Jarvis's tone was curt. He was
beginning to sympathize with Sally's reluctance to consult her elder
brother. He wondered if Max would ever outgrow his habit of objecting to
everything first and unwillingly taking it into consideration afterward.

"I'm awfully busy here--can't do a thing to get her off--can't get away
from the bank before five."

"Don't try. Meet us at the train. I'll engage a berth for her--mustn't
lose more time about it," and Jarvis hang-up his receiver without
waiting to hear anything further. Then he had a wrestle with the
Pullman ticket-office, in the attempt to secure a full sleeping-car
section for Sally.

"Can't do it," came back the answer.

"Too full?"

"No, but we don't give a section to one passenger."

"Not if it's paid for?"

"Not on one ticket."

"On two tickets, then?"

"Why, of course, if you want to pay for two full-fare tickets."

Jarvis considered rapidly. If he secured the section on two tickets,
Sally would be forced to show them both, so she couldn't be kept from
knowing about it--unless he--yes, he could hunt up the Pullman conductor
and give him one ticket. Wait--why not engage a state-room--if he could
get it at this late hour?--though the train was a fast and popular one,
and he knew this was doubtful. But a moment's reflection negatived this
idea. Sally would certainly resent his taking the liberty of paying all
the difference between one ordinary berth and a luxuriously private
state-room. He realized, with a sense of irritation, that it was of no
use. He could not send Sally up into New Hampshire packed in jewellers'
cotton, marked "Fragile and Valuable," a registered package conveyed by
special messenger. But he could make sure that nobody else shared the
section either by night or day, and this he did, and double-tied his
reservation until he could get to town to see about it personally.

Then he ran over to the Ferry cottage, thinking that Sally might be glad,
in the absence of the girls, to have Mrs. Ferry come over and help her
with her hurried preparations. But he found the place locked and silent,
and understood that the mistress of it had probably gone into town for
the day, as she frequently did. So he dashed back and upstairs to
Joanna's room, where he routed her from her sewing with the request: "Go
see if you can be mother, sister, and friend to Miss Sally,
Joanna--there's an angel!" Which intimate form of address may be
comprehended if it is added that Joanna had been in the Burnside family
since Jarvis himself was a small lad in knickerbockers--and the good
woman's especial pride--and that therefore a warm friendship existed
between them.

Joanna made all haste to Sally's room, ready to do her best, but she
found her charge already clad in travelling dress, pinning a veil about
her hat, her gloves and purse laid out, and a bag packed with
necessaries. The mind of the young mistress of the house was concerned
less with her own preparations than with the comfort of those she was to
leave behind.

"You'll take good care of them, won't you, Joanna?" begged Sally. "Give
them the things they like best--_all the time_. And you'll see that the
living-room looks the way I like to have it when they come home, won't
you?--the fire blazing, and the couch pillows plumped up. And you know
they like a nice lot of shiny red apples brought up to eat before they
go to bed!"

"Yes, Miss Sally, I'll remember all the things. Don't you fret yourself.
I can't take your place, but I'll see that the young gentlemen have their
buttons sewed on, and plenty of good food. But I'm hoping you won't be
gone long. Most likely you'll find your uncle better--I hope that, indeed
I do, Miss Sally."

"Thank you, Joanna--indeed I do, too. And--Joanna--I'm so glad you're
here. I don't think I could go away and leave my brothers with just
little Mary Ann to look after them!"

Sally held the big hand tight a minute, looked into the plump, kind face
with eyes which were suddenly like drenched violets--then dashed away
the tears, smiled at Joanna, caught up her belongings, and ran
downstairs, followed by the woman, who felt relieved when she saw Mr.
Jarvis waiting in the hall below. It had suddenly seemed to Joanna as if
she must go with the girl herself. It must not be supposed that Sally
did not possess plenty of the air of capable independence. It was only
that--well--the fair, curly hair, the dark-lashed blue eyes, the
flower-like bloom of the young face, appealed to her, as they did to
Jarvis, as needing protection from the eyes sure to follow her wherever
she went. Looking up at her from below it also occurred to Jarvis that
the plain and unrelieved dark blue of Sally's whole attire somehow
served only to heighten the probable effect of her upon the observant
public, and he longed fiercely himself to double the thickness of that
veil and tie it tight about her head, requesting her not to untie it
till she was safe in Uncle Timothy's presence!

But all he said was: "Ready? You're a quick one--wouldn't have thought
any girl could make such time. This all your baggage? Come on--the car's
at the door."

Outside he spoke hurriedly: "Sally, you haven't given me a chance to ask
you about funds for this trip. One can't always lay one's hand on just
the amount--and Max is busy, so--"

But Sally answered with assurance. "It's all right, thank you, Jarvis.
I've a little fund of my own. There isn't any need to bother Max. I'm so
glad of that. How lucky for me you hadn't gone with the car! I should
have been so flurried, trying to catch the trolley with my bag and

She took her place and in a minute they were off. And there had been
nobody but Joanna on the big porch to wave good-by at Sally Lane!

Then came a fast drive to town, during which neither of them talked much.

"I wish there were time to take you up to the house to see mother and
Jo," Jarvis said, as they came into the down-town streets. "But Jo may be
at the station. I telephoned the house, but they'd evidently driven
somewhere else before going home. I left word, so I'm hoping Jo will get
it. She'll be heart-broken if you get off without her seeing you."

But Josephine was not at the station. Alec and Bob were there, however,
and they told Sally that Max would come in time to see her off.
Personally they were much upset at the outlook.

"I don't see why you have to be the one," protested Alec. "Uncle Timothy
must have some ancient sister or cousin or aunt to see to him, without
sending for a girl like you."

Jarvis had rushed away to the ticket-office, and Sally had her brothers
to herself for the time. She made the most of it.

"But he hasn't, Alec," she explained. "I simply have to go. But I want
you boys not to mind my being away. Joanna will take beautiful care of
everything, and you must have your friends out, and crack nuts and pop
corn and roast apples in the evenings, and be just as jolly as if--"

"Oh, _wow_!" cried Bob. "Sally, what do you take us for? What we'll do
will be to moon around the fire and wonder what you're doing. We--"

"No, no! It will be winter soon, and you must go tobogganing--"

"Why, you aren't going to stay away all winter, are you?" Alec grew
wrathful. "Look here--I won't stand for anything like that--neither will
the rest. You've got to--"

"Listen, dear. I may be back in a--well--in a very short time, if Uncle
Timothy gets on. But you know how it was a few years ago when he had
pneumonia--he was a long time getting about. He's older now, and--"

"Yes, but we've first right to you. Besides, you'll use yourself all up
trying to nurse--"

"No--I'm strong and well, Alec--I won't use myself up. But Uncle Timmy is
all we have left--and--oh, please don't talk about it!--I'm so anxious
lest I can't do anything for him when I get there." She conquered a
constriction in her throat, while they waited, for that last phrase had
silenced them. They were all fond of Uncle Timothy--they didn't want to
lose him. In a minute Sally went on cheerfully: "If you'll only write to
me I can stand anything. Tell me all about everything. Oh, here's Max!"

She turned to meet him. He was looking gravely disapproving, as was to
have been expected, but something in the sight of his sister's face made
him refrain from reproaching her for not having consulted him, as he had
intended to do. Besides, the hands of the clock were pointing too nearly
to the time of her departure for him to feel like thrusting upon her the
weight of his displeasure.

Jarvis came back, tickets in hand, and gave them to Sally with the little
purse she had handed him. Announcing that there was no time to lose he
then convoyed the whole party through the door to the trains, using some
influence which he possessed with the blue-capped official thereat to
obtain the favour. So the passengers already in the crowded sleeper were
treated to the somewhat unusual spectacle of a particularly charming girl
being brought aboard her train by a party of four quietly solicitous
young men, even the youngest of them, by virtue of his height and broad
shoulders, counting as a male "grown-up."

Jarvis went off for a hasty interview with the Pullman conductor then
hunted up the porter of Sally's car, the "Lucatia," and gave him certain
instructions, accompanied by a transfer of something which brought a
broad grin to that person's dusky face, with the assertion, "Suah,
sah--I'll make the young lady comf'able--thank you, sah."

He got back to the "Lucatia" only in time to hear the call of "all
aboard," from outside, to see the blue veil surrounded by three
leave-taking brothers bestowing hurried but hearty testimonials of their
affection and bidding her "Take care of yourself," "Write often," and
"Don't kill yourself working," and to push past them as they made for the
door, to say his own good-by. It was easy for the interested
fellow-travellers to see that this young man evidently was not a brother,
for his farewell consisted only of a somewhat prolonged grip of the hand,
his hat off, his eyes searching the blue ones lifted to his with the
expression of one who cannot quite trust her lips to speak. Then, without
a word on either side, Jarvis had dropped Sally's hand and was rushing to
the door, for the train was under way.

Remembering suddenly that this happened to be the last car on the train
when she came in, Sally hurried through it to the rear. There they were,
lined up in a solid row, and as she appeared, their hats came off and
were waved in the air. Beneath the bright electric lights of the station
she could see their cheerful smiles, and she smiled back, waving her
handkerchief as long as she could see them. From their point of view the
picture was quite as absorbing as from hers, for her slender figure
holding to the brass rail of the platform against the background of the
car looked both girlish and solitary, and as they watched it recede into
the distance they were all of them hoping that it would not be long
before they could welcome her back into that same great dingy station.

"If you have any pity on us, Jarve, come back to the house, and don't go
home to stay in town till she comes. We shall be bluer than tombstones."

This was Max's double tribute to the homemaking qualities of his sister
and to the partnership qualities of his friend, and Jarvis responded
readily, for, truth told, it was the very thing he wanted to do most. It
seemed to him that while he should not miss Sally less in the house whose
every corner would be eloquent of her absence, there would be a certain
consolation in being there. He had a queer feeling that she had not gone
for a speedy return, and that more than one moon would change before they
should see her again. Meanwhile, it occurred to him that she would like
to have him there for her brothers' sake, since they wanted him.

Alec and Bob eagerly echoed Max's plea.

"Bachelors' hall? Well, I don't know that I mind, since my stuff
hasn't gone back yet. Mother and Jo have company asked for next week,
and will expect me to help entertain, but I can be out at Strawberry
Acres more or less. Come up to the house in the car with me, while I
explain; then we'll drive out. Al and Bob can ride on the running
boards, if they like."

They jumped on, feeling that to stay together was to mind things less.
It was odd how low of spirit they all were already. Surely, one would
think that four strapping fellows might contemplate getting on for a
space without one slim young person who was accustomed not only to
humour them, but to make three of them toe certain well-defined marks in
the matter of clean linen, fresh cravats, and carefully parted hair. Yet
not one of them was really willing to go home till the others should be
coming along too.

In front of the fireplace, later, when Joanna had given them so good a
dinner that it would seem as if their content could hardly be preyed upon
by any contemplation of the future, Bob suddenly voiced the general
sentiment. He was lying on his side upon the hearth-rug, his round face
fiery from his proximity to the blaze.

"Why does it feel so different when you know people are miles away and
getting farther every minute than when you know they've just gone to
town for a party?" he queried, thoughtfully. "They're away just the
same--they aren't here, I mean. Why isn't being away the same thing as
_being away_?"

At any other time this somewhat involved statement of conditions would
have provoked jeers from the company. But no jeers were forthcoming. Max
grunted, lying flat on his back on the couch--whose pillows Joanna had
carefully plumped up--his heels on the arm at the end. Alec, standing at
the window with his hands in his pockets, staring out into the frosty
night, turned about and remarked that on a train averaging sixty to
seventy miles an hour Sally must already be out of the state.

"Wonder if she's asleep," speculated Bob. "She used to like sleeping on
sleepers, when father and mother used to take us around so much. Say, she
had a whole section to herself--at least till we left, and nobody was
coming aboard then. Hope she has the luck to keep it. Funny! The car was
crowded, and so was the next one. I looked in."

"Plenty of people may get on before midnight." reflected Alec.

Jarvis picked up a magazine. "Suppose I read aloud this article on
railroading," he proposed. The company consented and he began. He had not
read two pages before he ran, so to speak, into a series of frightful
railway wrecks. But, wishing he had chosen something else, he kept on
till suddenly Bob interrupted with a fierce: "Cut it! I've got her
knocked into five thousand pieces now--I'll dream of those confounded
smash-ups and Sally in the midst of 'em, if you don't drop that

The others murmured a somewhat sheepish assent, and Jarvis turned
willingly enough to a tale of adventure at sea. A snore from the couch
interrupted him in the middle of a most thrilling crisis, and only the
appearance of Joanna with a big dish of shiny apples prevented Bob from
following suit.

"Jove, Joanna, you're a good one. How did you come to think of it?" asked
Alec, selecting a beauty and setting his teeth into it with a sense of

"Miss Sally said I was not to forget anything she usually did, Mr. Alec,"
replied Joanna.

"If you remember everything she usually does you'll be a brick, Joanna,"
cried Bob, rousing to his opportunity and getting up on his knees to
accept his apple.

"There's one thing she does, that nobody can possibly do for her,"
thought Jarvis as, consuming the crisp, cool specimen Joanna had bestowed
upon him with a motherly smile for the boy she had known so long, he
paced up and down the room, passing the piano at the end with a vivid
recollection of how Sally was accustomed to play what she called "little
tunes" upon it in the firelight.

"And that's to fill one small corner of her place in the home she has
made here."



Sally's first letter home was a short one, stating merely that Uncle
Timothy was very ill, very glad to see her, and that she was extremely
thankful she had come. The second letter, two days later, showed strong
anxiety. The illness was pneumonia, although not in its severest form;
but Mr. Rudd's age was an important factor in the case. For a week
bulletins were brief, then came a long letter, telling of improvement.

"The minute he is well out of danger she ought to come home," was
Max's opinion.

"She won't, though," Alec predicted. "She'll stay till she can bring him
with her."

"Not if she listens to me," and Max set about writing a reply which would
indicate to his sister in no uncertain terms the course he thought she
should pursue.

Her answer was prompt. "I want to come home just as much as you want to
have me, Max dear, but it is so much to Uncle Timmy to have me with him
I can't think of leaving."

Max frowned over this. "She seems to consult me precious little about
anything lately," he observed to Jarvis.

"You must admit she's grown up and can think for herself. Besides, much
as I'd like to see her back, I think she's right," was Jarvis's opinion.

"Of course you'd side with her against me every time. But I think her
brothers are a trifle nearer to her than her uncle."

"She'd undoubtedly think so too, if you were in bed with pneumonia. Since
you're all in vigorous health she imagines you can get on without her.
But she's not having a very jolly time of it, I should judge. Cheer her
up with a lively letter, not a peevish one," was Jarvis's advice.

"You can do that."

"I'm not writing."

"Not?" Max was surprised. "You and Sally haven't quarrelled, have you?"

"Not at all. But I've no reason to think she would care to hear from me.
You fellows are undoubtedly telling her all the news."

Jarvis flung a fresh log on the fire as he spoke, then took his place on
the hearth-rug with his back to the blaze and his face in the shadow.
Max stared at him interestedly, and was about to begin a discussion of
the subject when his companion abruptly opened up a new line of
conversation, in relation to plans for the farm, and the moment for
asking certain questions did not occur again.

The days went by, brief letters from Sally arriving at frequent
intervals. They reported very slow improvement in the invalid, with a
return of strength so tardy that she still felt she should not leave him.
The home in which they were was not that of relatives, and she was
unwilling to leave the responsibility of Mr. Rudd's care to those who had
expected to have him with them only for a brief visit. A month passed,
and then, just as her brothers were making up their minds that the limit
had certainly been reached and her duty done, came a letter which gave a
blow to their hopes. It read:


"Doctor Wood has ordered Uncle Timmy South. The doctor says he positively
must get out of this wretched climate, and he must not think of coming
back before spring--and spring well advanced. If you could see what a
shadow of himself the poor dear is you would understand that I simply
must do what I have agreed to do--go with him. He will pay all my
expenses. I think he must have quite a bit more property than we have
known of, the matter of finances seems to trouble him so little. Of
course I know how you will feel about this--and I want you to believe
that I feel a thousand times sorrier than you possibly can. But I know
there is nothing else to do. He can't possibly go alone, and I can't see
mother's only brother have to hire some stranger to be with him when he
has a niece who loves him dearly and owes him for a deal of love he has
always lavished on her. It isn't as if you needed me in ways that Joanna
couldn't supply--for actual food and drink, I mean. Of course I hope--I
know--you all miss your little sister. I'm afraid I should feel very
badly if I thought you didn't!

"We plan to start Thursday evening, December third. We can't make quite
as good connections as I did in coming, so, according to Doctor Wood's
figuring with the time-tables, we shall go through the home city at one
o'clock on Saturday morning. We shall be in the station twenty minutes,
being switched around, and--well, I don't like to ask anybody to stay up
till that hour, but--I shall be up, and looking out--and--and--I'm almost
afraid that if I didn't see anybody, I should shed just a tear or two!
You see I haven't really cried once yet--and I don't want to break my

"Your Sally."

It really is not necessary to report what was said in Sally's home upon
the receipt of this announcement. There was a good deal of excited
talking done, and a number of statements were made to the effect that it
was out of the question for Sally to be spared all winter, that she
should have waited for the consent of her family before deciding on such
an absence, and that it absolutely must not be allowed. Yet, after all,
when it came to forbidding it, nobody seemed to have quite the authority
to do that. Even Max, protesting that the thing was out of all reason,
and going so far as to take his pen in hand to write his refusal to
permit it, found himself brought to a halt by the remembrance that Sally
was showing more and more evidences of possessing a will of her own, and
of being perfectly competent to carry out its dictates when they seemed
to her right. Clearly she did not want to go South with Uncle Timothy--or
with anybody else. There was a homesick touch in more than one line of
the stoutly written letter--unquestionably Sally would not be doing this
thing if she were not persuaded of her duty.

At one o'clock in the morning of Saturday a party of people stood in the
great electric-lighted station. Again the offices of Mr. Jarvis Burnside
had taken the group past the usual hindrances and established them on a
certain platform, nearly in the centre of the rows of tracks, where the
Southbound Limited would come in. This time their numbers were
considerably augmented by the presence of Mrs. Burnside and Josephine,
Donald and Janet Ferry. Various packages encumbered the arms of each
member of the party, and appearances certainly boded well for the
reception of the young traveller who at the moment was watching eagerly,
as the train rolled through the familiar streets, for the first sign of
approach to the station.

"Here she comes!" Bob was the first to cry, pointing to a brilliant
headlight just rounding into view on the distant track. "Jolly, I'll bet
Sally's wide awake, if she ever was in her life!"

"I expect we're going to find out now how dreadfully short twenty minutes
can be," said Janet Ferry to Jarvis, beside whom she stood, an
attractively put-up basket of hot-house grapes in her hand.

He nodded, watching the great headlight grow all too slowly bigger and
bigger. "Even the twenty minutes will probably be cut short. The train's
considerably overdue now."

The long line of sleepers came to a stand-still beside them, and they
scanned the cars anxiously for the first sign of Sally. Far down the
track could be seen a coloured porter waving in their direction, and the
next instant a girl in dark blue jumped off the step of the Pullman and
ran toward them. They ran to meet her, Bob and Alec outstripping the
rest, and when the others arrived all that could be seen of Sally Lane
was the top of a bright head on Bob's shoulder, both blue arms about his
neck, his affectionate hand patting her back.

Then they had her in their midst, and everybody was trying to greet her
at once. Josephine's arm was about her, and Sally was regarding the group
with a radiant smile, crying girlishly; "Oh, how good you people do look!
How dear of you all to come down! If I only could stay just a little
longer! We don't stop but ten minutes, instead of twenty, the train is so
late. Uncle Tim doesn't know you are here--I was afraid he would be too
excited to sleep the rest of the night, and he's only just dropped off.
Oh, how are you all? You look perfectly fine--I don't believe you've
pined away a bit, missing me! Let me look at you."

She studied each in turn, missing nobody. Her clear gaze, the blue eyes
black beneath the shadowing thick lashes, met each answering pair of eyes
with a steady scrutiny which did not once waver.

"That was a review one would be sorry not to be able to stand," said
Ferry to Josephine, as Sally ended by thrusting her arm through Max's and
leading him off by himself. "Miss Sally put us all to the test in that
minute, didn't she? She gives the impression of demanding the best one
has--rather an unusual characteristic in a girl of her age."

"She does demand the best--and gets it," answered Josephine warmly.

Ten feet away Sally was speaking hurriedly: "The thing I wanted most to
see you for, Maxy, was to make sure you weren't really angry with me for
taking my own way about this."

Her hand pressed his arm. She was looking up into his face. He returned
the gaze. "I was angry, Sis," he admitted. "But, somehow, now that I see
you, I can't seem to get up steam to tell you so. I suppose you're
right--but the place is mighty lonesome without you. If it wasn't for
the Ferrys--"

"Are they over much?"

"We get them over as often as we can. I say, I've been noticing that
Jarve and Janet seem to hit it off pretty well."

"Do they? That's very nice. You like Janet yourself, don't you?"

"She's the belle of the ball, now you're away, and a mighty jolly girl to
have around. If you don't look out your old friend J.B. will slip away
from you."

Sally's head went up, her cheeks bloomed a deeper colour. "If I weren't
going to leave you in a minute I should punish you for that piece of
brotherly impertinence," said she, with spirit. "Have I ever laid hands
on anybody to keep him, for you to talk of 'slipping away'?"

"No--you're not that sort," conceded Max, with a laugh which certainly
carried a hint of brotherly admiration.

Sally walked straight over to Janet, at whose other side stood Jarvis.
"Janet," said she, "Max says you are the life of them all. I'm so
glad--and it's so kind of your mother and brother to bring you over to
make the evenings pleasant. You'll keep on being good to them all winter,
won't you?"

"Sally"--Janet caught hold of both her hands--"let me give you an
illustration of how nobly and completely I fill your place. The last time
we were over I played for them--played my best, too. I ended with my most
brilliant performance of Liszt. Two minutes afterward, when I had gone
back to the fire, I heard somebody very softly doing a one-finger
melody, picking it out note by note. I listened, and presently made out
one of your favourite 'little tunes'--'A Red, Red Rose.' I looked around
the group to see who was missing. It was not Bob. It was not Max. It was
not Alec. It was not Don. It was not--"

"Anybody. It was--a ghost," supplied Jarvis. He was looking intently at
Sally, but she was smiling back at Janet, and the colour in her face was
not less than it had been a moment before.

"My ghost, probably," she said lightly. "I'm sure if it were with you
all by that fire as often as I think about you, it would be playing
little tunes for itself, most of the time. Now I must spend my next
minute with Alec," and she was away again.

The minutes certainly were flying.

Janet looked after her. "There's something perfectly irresistible about
her, isn't there?" she suggested to her companion. He did not answer and
she glanced at him. He had pulled out a card-case from his pocket and was
writing something on one of the cards. He slipped the card into the big,
green paper-box he held.

"Suppose I take all our packages to the porter and have him put them in
her berth while she is off with Alec. Then she'll not have to bother with
them, getting on," he proposed. Janet assented, and in a minute Jarvis,
laden with packages, approached the porter. Retaining half his burden he
followed the porter into the car. He did not immediately return
therefrom, and when, three minutes afterward, the signal came for the
departure of the train, he was not in the group of whom she took leave.

"Has Jarvis gone? Say good-by for me to him, please, Jo," she whispered
as she embraced her friend. Waving the others back Max escorted her into
her car. In the passage they met Jarvis. Over her head the two young men
looked at each other.

"Good-by, sister," said Max, and kissed her, "I see Jarve wants me to cut
it short." With which tactful brotherly explanation he abruptly retraced
his steps to the vestibule, where he waited.

In the half-lit narrow passage Jarvis made the most of his minute of
grace, although Sally's hand was already extended, and a friendly
good-by, with a frank smile, was on her lips.

"Are you in such a hurry to be rid of me?" said he, taking the hand. "You
make me feel somehow as if you didn't care even for the old friendship.
Is that so, Sally?"

"Not at all. I care very much. It seems so good to see you all."

"To see 'us all' doesn't flatter me much." He smiled a little. "Sally,
may I write to you?"

"Do. Tell me all about everybody."

"Will you answer?"

"Now and then."

"You are--" He stopped, with a half impatient movement of his broad

"I'm Sally Lane." She said this very distinctly, even though both were
speaking under their breath. Then she laughed, with a delicate touch
of defiance.

"You certainly are," he agreed. "No doubt in the world of that. But I
want you to know I'm Jarvis Burnside, and that stands for something
too--something positive--and permanent. My letters will be signed by
that name."

"Mine--if I write any--now and then--will be signed by mine--The train is
moving. Good-by--old friend!"

She was a slim maid to oppose so colossal a resistance as she did to
anything in the least suggestive to sentiment in the leave-taking. Oppose
it, however, did the small hand which drew itself away with decision, the
pretty lips which smiled again that coolly friendly smile, the blue-black
eyes which were steady as ever in their straight look. Max, peering in
upon the two to tell Jarvis to come along, saw his sister break down in
her self-command, but only at sight of himself. As Jarvis turned away she
ran after him to reach beyond him and clutch her brother's arm for one
quick pressure, with the low cry, "Oh, Max--_please--please_--write to
me often!"

As Max jumped off, Jarvis turned again. Sally was upon the platform.
"That almost makes me wish I were a brother," said he rapidly, from the
bottom step, looking straight up at her. He prepared to drop off. "_But
not quite_" he added--and swung himself off and out of sight.

Back in her berth, the little electric side-light on, Sally opened her
bundles. Their contents made her feel like laughing and crying both
together, all by herself, there on the fast train flying southward
through the night. Janet's superb grapes, Mrs. Ferry's preserved Canton
ginger, Donald Ferry's little book of verse, with the ribbon mark opening
it at "My Garden," all pleased her greatly, each in its way. Then there
was a fascinating little traveller's work-box from Josephine, a letter
writing-case from Mrs. Burnside, an ink-pencil from Max, a package of
current magazines from Alec, a box of chocolates from Bob. The cards and
merry messages accompanying these remembrances made pleasant reading, and
Sally put them all together in her handbag, that she might look them over
many times.

Jarvis's box she did not open till the last. Why, might be a subject for
speculation. Does one leave the most interesting letter or package till
the last--or does one eagerly open it first? When everything else had
been disposed of Sally's fingers untied the cord slowly, she lifted the
cover with apparent reluctance, she drew aside the sheltering sheets of
green tissue as if she feared to disclose that which they protected. But
then, when the bright light at her side shone in upon fresh tints of
pink and white and lilac, she drew one deep breath and buried her face
in the mass.

"Sweet peas!" she murmured, and shut her eyes and thought of her garden,
lying forsaken and desolate in the December frost.

Then she picked up the card. On its back she read, in vigorous

"A ghost from the garden, sent by the ghost who tried to pick out the
'little tune.' There seem no other tunes in the world worth listening

The next morning Mr. Timothy Rudd had many questions to ask his niece.
He sat comfortably among pillows and rugs, his breakfast brought in
from the dining-car and served in his section by a waiter who was ready
to show him every attention, to oblige the young lady whose smile he
liked to win.

"You say they were all down, Sally? This breakfast looks very nice, my
dear--I wish I could eat more of it." He laid down a half slice of toast
and brushed his thin fingers.

"Uncle Timmy, are you sure you can't manage just a little more? Two
spoonfuls of boiled egg, half a slice of toast, and a cup of
coffee--that's no breakfast at all. If I tell you all about it, won't you
eat just half the egg?"

"I'll try, child, but--really--the old fellow who is wearing my
clothes--and not half big enough for them--doesn't seem to be able to
summon much of an appetite."

"If you don't eat a good breakfast I shall feel more than ever guilty
for not telling you they were coming--though of course I didn't dream
of their _all_ coming. But if you had seen them you wouldn't have
slept a bit."

"No, like enough I shouldn't. I'll be satisfied if you tell me how they
all looked. The boys--Max?"

"Very well, indeed--he's a trifle heavier than when I went away. Joanna's
cooking is beginning to tell. I think she pampers them, don't you?--I'm
so grateful to her for that."


"Just as usual. He was wearing a new overcoat, and looked a glass of
fashion! He says as long as Mr. Ferry lives in the country in the winter
he's willing to stand it there. Isn't it lucky they're staying at least
one more year? By another winter the demands on Mr. Ferry in town may be
so heavy he can't take time to go back and forth."

"Yes, I should say it was a very good thing for Alec to be as much
under the influence of such a man as could be brought about, until he
is where he can do his own thinking along the right lines. How is my
nephew Robert?"

"Oh, Bob's cheeks are so round and red they look like a very large
infant's. Dear Bobby--think he misses us most. He ran in and peeped
into your berth while the train stood there. I think he rather hoped to
wake you."

"Bless the lad--I wish he had." Mr. Rudd took another spoonful of egg
under the stimulus of the wish, forgetting that he had not meant to take
up that spoon again.

"Mrs. Burnside and Jo looked their own dear selves--every line of them.
It struck me afresh, as it always does when I see them after an interval,
how beautifully yet quietly dressed they are, and how their photographs
might be taken at any minute with delightful results. 'Portrait of a Lady
and her Daughter' it would be." And Sally sighed a little sigh of a quite
feminine sort, looking down at her own blue travelling attire and
wondering how the same material would have looked if made up by Mrs.
Burnside's tailor.

"And Jarvis--how is he? I am very fond of Jarvis. I suppose he has lost
some of the summer's tan?"

"If he has it's been put back again by the frosty winds, for he's the
image of health. Mr. Ferry and Janet are very much themselves, too. And
they all sent you something." Sally reached under the berth and drew out
a big florists' box, signalled the waiter to remove the remains of the
breakfast, and then spread forth the cards which accompanied the great
bunch of crimson roses, enjoying Mr. Rudd's almost boyish pleasure in the
remembrance of his friends.

"These must be for you too, Sally," said he, burying his nose in one fine
half-open bud.

"Not a bit of it."

"No flowers for you, child?"

"Fruit and chocolates and writing-tablets and other delightful things.
You must have some of the grapes, Uncle Timmy--I ought to have thought of
them for your breakfast."

"These roses are as good as a square meal--but they should have been for
you, not for an old fossil like me."

"Don't you dare call yourself an old fossil, Uncle Timmy. Now look at all
these pretty gifts," and Sally brought them forth, exhibiting them well
concealed from the other passengers. Uncle Timothy looked and exclaimed
and admired, and did not note that one person seemed to be unrepresented
by any remembrance. Neither did he guess that tucked far away under
Sally's berth was a box containing a mass of sweet peas which had that
morning been carefully sprinkled, but which were destined never to be
seen again by mortal eye except her own.



During a winter which seemed, in spite of all the beauties of the far
South, the longest she had ever known, Sally was kept well in touch with
affairs at home by the letters. If it had not been for these she thought
she could hardly have waited for the spring to come. Mr. Rudd had gained
slowly but positively throughout the winter, yet it was not thought best
for him to come home until the spring should be well advanced. The first
of May was the date set, and proved a judicious choice, for April was a
cold and rainy month. There was just one odd fact about this month of
April--during its course Sally received at least one letter from every
member of her own family and from each one of those other two families
most closely connected with her history. In an idle hour one day, just
before she went home, she carefully selected one letter from each of
these correspondents, in the order received, and tied them in a bunch,
labelling them "April North to April South." Whatever may have happened
to other letters, this packet remained in her possession for many years.

The first of them arrived on April fourth, and was in the round,
school-boy hand of young Robert Lane.


"This is April Fool's Day, and I've had a great old time fooling
everybody. Sewed down the knives and forks to the breakfast-table, tied
the chairs to the legs, salted the coffee, and did quite a few little
every-day stunts like that. Max got maddest when he ran onto a big lump
of cayenne in his oatmeal, but Joanna gave him another dish right away
and another cup of coffee. She's awfully soft over old Max. The best
lining I did was the way I fooled Jarve on a letter from you. I knew he
had had one from you sometime in March, so I looked in his coat-pocket
while he was up in the timber lot with a sweater on. I found it--pretty
much used up with being carried around--suppose he forgot to take it out.
Got a fresh thin envelope, put the old one inside, traced the address
through, pasted on a postmark from your last one to me, and put three
heavy sheets inside to make it fat--a lot fatter than the one I got out
of his pocket. Stuck on old stamps--two of 'em--overweight, you know.

"When he came in to luncheon he found the letter with his other mail. I
had my eye on him--I was pretending to read the morning paper. He read
all his other letters, but he put that one in his pocket. He got terribly
jolly after that--cracking jokes and everything. The minute luncheon was
over he went off to his room, and I cut for out-of-doors. Didn't let him
get a sight of me for hours. When I did come in I thought maybe he'd have
got over being fussed, but--pitchforks and hammer handles!--if the
minute I hove in sight he didn't get after me! He must have put on a lot
of muscle chopping wood and hoeing, for I thought a cyclone had struck
me. I'm resting up now, but I feel pretty sore yet--in spots. That's why
I'm writing to you. I think you'd better write him once in a while, so
that getting what he thinks is a letter won't go to his head like that.

"It'll be the first of May in one month more, and you'll be home!
Jolly!--that seems good to think of.

"Heaps of love from BOB."

On the following day came a letter from Janet Ferry. It was a letter of
several sheets, and the last two pages ran thus:

"The boys think you ought not to know about it, and intend it for a
surprise, but I am so sure that it will do you even more good to hear
while you are waiting to come home, I'm going to tell you. Alec and Bob
have been rolling the lawn with a roller they were at great pains to get
from the Burnside place in the city! You should have seen them at it,
encouraging each other to do the thing thoroughly. Afterward they
scattered wood ashes in all the thin places; Bob said they had been
saving them all winter from the fireplace. I didn't know Alec could be so
interested in out-door labour, but this winter seems to have given him an
impetus toward following Mr. Burnside's example--and Don's--for I think
Don has had a hand in waking him up.

"Speaking of Don--I found him out in your garden yesterday, pruning your
old rose-bushes--the ones that you inherited with the garden. He says you
are particularly fond of the many-leaved pink ones that smell so much
sweeter than any hot-house rose that ever grew.

"Mr. Burnside has been busy all through March, and already has garden
peas in. It seems absurdly early, but he prophesies that there'll be no
more frosts that they can't stand, and promises us peas on the table
three weeks earlier than our neighbours. He is nothing if not daring. He
reads and reads in those books and magazines and papers of his, and then
starts out, armed for action. He and Jake spend much time arguing over
details, but I believe he usually carries his point.

"Don says that while he was finishing his work in your garden your
brother Max came home and strolled out to see what he was doing. Don
mentioned the fact that it would soon be time for the whole garden to be
dug and raked and put in spring order, and Mr. Lane answered that he
would see that it was done--in fact he thought he should do it himself. I
don't exactly understand why this should seem to give Don so much
satisfaction, but it does. He told me to be sure to tell you."

Clearly it gave Sally satisfaction also, for she read this particular
paragraph a second time, smiling to herself, before she put the
letter aside.

On the seventh of April came a screed from Alec of quite surprising
length--for Alec, and it interested his sister more than any letter she
had had from him during the winter.


"Haven't time to write much. Have hired out J.B. as a farm hand, and he
keeps a fellow some busy. For two weeks, now, we've been clearing up the
old wood in the timber lot and getting out new stuff for fence posts,
etc. Evenings he gets me at books. Am reading up on soil now, surprised
to find it quite interesting. J.B. and I talk plans a lot more than Max
does, though I think the old boy is going to get into it in time all
right. Maybe you'd like to know what our plans are. Well, here goes:

"Cut off the suckers in the orchard, plough, and later spray--before the
leaves come. That means hustle--but we're nearly through with the
pruning. Bob and Mr. Ferry are at that.

"Then we'll plough five acres of what we let go to hay last year, and
plant it to corn, with half an acre of potatoes. The other five acres
we'll let grow to hay. Next year we'll have alfalfa where we have corn
this year. J.B. is daft on alfalfa, and I'm beginning to see why. The
five acres of hay, with the corn, will be enough for the two cows, and
we'll keep the pasture over beyond the orchard for them. Miss Janet says
as long as she lives there she wants to see those cows--or other
ones--come down the lane by the orchard at milking time--only she wishes
there were more of them and a collie to drive them. Think I'll have to
get a collie, to satisfy her, though Cowslip and Whitenose are at the
bars regular as a clock, all by themselves.

"The seven acres where we had the buckwheat and afterward the potatoes
last year are to be set with strawberries this May. I tell you, here's
where the real serious business comes in. J.B. hasn't done a thing this
winter but study the soil in that seven acres and figure out what kind of
berries to plant. He's given a lot of thought to what sort of fertilizers
to use, and I tell you if there's any such thing as improving soil, the
soil in that strawberry land is going to be improved. Tons of stuff are
going into it and it's going to be well mixed in, too. Then if
cultivating and irrigating and all the rest of it can bring us big fruit,
we'll get it. J.B.'s idea is the more we put in the more we'll get out,
and the better quality. Of course it's lucky for us we have him to pay
out the money for getting things going, but I believe Strawberry Acres
will support itself some day and bring us in good returns.

"Anyhow, I must say I'm beginning to like the whole thing, though it's
hard work and plenty of it. Never was so hungry in my life. Joanna sets
it up to us in good shape, but we'll be glad to see you back. House seems
sort of empty, in spite of four fellows tumbling over each other in it.

"With love, your brother, ALEC.

"P. S. The old asparagus bed is trying so hard to show signs of life
we've given it a good salting. The Ferrys' crocuses are up, grass all
full of them--look mighty pretty."

This was certainly very satisfactory, when one considered that Alec had
been in the beginning only second to Max in scoffing at the idea of
living on a farm, not to mention working on one. More than any of the
boys Alec had preferred life in the city, had been the one who cared most
about his personal appearance, and had prided himself upon doing things
in the urban way. For him to be willing to put on old clothes and rough
boots, and soil his hands with manual labour, indicated a change of
thought and ideals hardly to have been expected so soon. Sally put away
the letter, rejoicing at these indications of growth, for growth it
surely was, in his case. His work in the office where he had been
employed had been work likely to lead no further, nor to promise any
promotion to a position of greater honour. But on Strawberry Acres it
seemed to Sally that, with Jarvis Burnside for a leader, Alec might
develop qualities as yet only to be guessed at.

The most interesting part of Josephine's long letter, which reached Sally
on the ninth, was, as is usually the case in feminine letters, toward its
close. After every other subject had been touched upon, Sally's
correspondent remarked:

"You may care to know that I have been much surprised of late to receive
two calls, here at home, from Mr. Ferry. One was in March, but I didn't
mention it, for I thought probably it was the first, last, and only one
he would ever make, and I wouldn't crow about it. It was on one of
mother's Thursdays, and of course a lot of other people were here. I was
busy with the tea things, so couldn't give him much attention. He was
very nice, and everybody seemed much interested to see him here. When he
went away he came over and said to me that he should like to come again
when we were not "At Home," only at home! Of course I said he might, and
mother asked him specially, too. So just yesterday evening--it was
Tuesday--he came again. Mother was out until just before he went. We had
a delightful time in the library over a box of new books Jarvis had just
had sent up--not farm books, this time. Mr. Ferry found something which
specially pleased him, and read several pages to me--sitting on the edge
of the library table--I mean that he was sitting on the edge of it--not
I! I was most properly disposed in a chair--and congratulating myself
that I had on a little new home frock of dull green with bands of blue
and gold embroidery that had just come home--the most becoming thing
Celeste has ever made me. I think he had a good time--anyhow, he stayed
much longer than he need have done if he didn't--I meant that if he
wasn't having a good time!--I don't seem to be able to write lucidly. We
talked much of you, and of how good it would seem to have you back, and
of the garden, and the coming summer. He wanted to know if mother and I
were coming out to spend the season again, and I said yes. He asked if I
didn't think we ought to be there by the latter part of April, so as to
welcome you when you come the first of May. It seemed rather a good idea
to me--what do you think of it? Mother has set the fifteenth, but I
really do want to see the first spring things coming up. Jarvis brought
home a great bunch of daffodils yesterday. I wanted to send them on to
you, but he thought they wouldn't last out the journey."

The thought of the daffodils made Sally long intensely for her garden.
There was a long row of them at the farther end, and another clump at the
edge of the lawn, with stray ones here and there through the grass which
she had not been willing to have removed. She thought about them many
times until the arrival of the next letter, on the eleventh, which was
from Joanna, and which turned her thoughts into housewifely channels.

"Dear Miss," it began, in a cramped hand upon a large sheet of ruled
paper. "I suppose you would like to know what has been done about the
house cleaning. You wrote me to wate till you come, but I never like to
wate later than March, and so I did what was nesessary myself, peice by
peice, as I could find time. Mr. Max and Mr. Alec and Mr. Bob seemed to
think the house didn't need cleaning, but Mr. Jarvis being used to my
ways and his mothers said you would want it right. He spared me Jake
Kelly to clean the rugs and peices of carpet, and I did the rest. I think
there is no dirt in the house now. Fireplaces makes lots of dust but I
should say the way they are enjoyed makes up for it. I have tryed to do
as you wanted about the pillows and apples and good food and I don't
think the young gentlemen are any liter in wate than when you went away.

"Hoping you will come home soon,

"Respectfully yours,


Nobody but a housekeeper, and a young one at that, could appreciate what
a load of anxiety this letter lifted from Sally's mind. She wanted to
have the house immaculately clean, but--the garden was waiting for her.
Now she could give her undivided thought to plans for the box-bordered
beds, blessing Joanna for a maid-servant of priceless value.

Mrs. Ferry's letter, arriving on the thirteenth, made Sally smile with
the lilt of its lines:

"Come, Sally dear, the spring is here, the air is mild and warm; showers
happen by, but cause no sigh, they're needed on the farm. The garden
waits, and stirs, and shakes the sleep from out its eyes, and gently
sets the violets to blooming in surprise. The grass grows green, a lark
is seen, a robin calls "It's Spring!" And everywhere, in earth and air,
rejoices everything. We want you near, we need you here to share each
day's delights; so hasten home, come soon, dear, come, _we miss you so
o' nights_!"

"Sweet little lady," the girl, thought affectionately, "to take the
trouble to think it out in rhyme for me."

On the sixteenth of the month a rather interesting coincidence occurred;
letters from Donald Ferry and from Jarvis Burnside arrived on that day.
Sally studied the superscriptions with interest, wondering what the
handwriting might have indicated to her of the character of the writers,
had she known nothing of either. Opening the envelopes, she laid the
sheets side by side.

Jarvis wrote a rather small but very black and regular hand, the result
being serried rows marching like a regiment down the page, the hand of
the man who is accustomed to do everything in an orderly and masterful
way, and who can no more allow his words to straggle over a sheet of
paper than he can permit his books to stand upside down upon the shelf,
or the affairs of his every-day life to fall into confusion. Ferry wrote
a more dashing hand, the penmanship of the man whose ideas flow faster
than his pen can put the words upon paper, and who cares less about the
appearance of his page than for what can be fixed there before it shall
escape him. This letter, therefore, appeared less easy to read than the
other, and this may have been why Sally attacked it first:

"Dear Lady Of The Garden (it began whimsically):

"I am sure that no one has told you--and that no one will tell you unless
I do--that the chickweed is looking exceedingly fresh and spring-like
between the box-borders. Further--a patch of small white violets is to be
discovered in the sunny spots beyond the sweet pea trellis. I have a
bunch of them pinned on my coat at this moment, purloined by my own hand,
and smelling like spring itself. The daffodils are gorgeous, and a small
blue flower which gives forth a modest and unobtrusive odour all its own
is to be found in clumps in several places.

"Alec tells me he has written you all about the progress of the early
spring work, but you may possibly be still more interested in the human
culture going on upon Strawberry Acres, in which he is bearing an
important part. To-day he and Burnside, protected by blue jeans and
looking highly disreputable, have been spraying the apple orchard. A
disagreeable job it looks to be, from the standpoint of cleanliness,
although a necessary one. But whenever I appeared, as an interested
spectator on the scene, Alec was toiling away with the greatest good
humour, which did not fail him when the apparatus suddenly stopped
working properly, and had to be nursed and tended through at least the
final third of the operation.

"I believe your brother Max is beginning to long to leave the bank and to
begin his life upon the farm. In spite of his somewhat satirical comments
upon the probable folly of Alec's having taken this step, I am confident
he himself would like to try it. Another spring will see him burning his
bridges, or I am no prophet.

"No one, Miss Sally, could be thrown, as your brothers are with such a
fellow as Jarvis Burnside, without being stimulated to action. He is the
most thoroughly alive recent college graduate I know of in any line of
work. It's a refreshing sight to me, to see a man with all the instincts
for a literary life, but handicapped by the necessity for taking care of
his eyesight, throw himself with such ardour into labour which would have
seemed the very last he would have been likely to care for. On my word, I
don't know when I admire him most--when, in his careful dress he sits
down to his books and journals in the evening, getting Alec to read aloud
to him when he has reached the limit of safety for his own eyes, talking
to the lad in a way to wake the boy up--as he is most certainly doing--or
when I see him at such a job as he tackled to-day, putting into it the
care and precision of your true scientist and experimenter with intent to
get the full result of the best directed effort possible. Wherever you
put him, he's a man worth knowing--and I'm glad I know him and have him
for a friend."

"I like to hear one man praise another like that," commented Sally to
herself, as having finished the letter, which recounted briefly what Mrs.
Ferry and Janet were doing and conveyed messages from both, she turned
back to re-read the whole. Then she took up Jarvis's letter, wondering if
he might chance to refer to Donald Ferry in as high terms as those in
which he had himself been mentioned.

Jarvis had a crisp, clear style of composition all his own. The letter
was not a long one, but it brought the writer vividly before his reader:


"One of the apple-wood fires you like so well is blazing on the hearth.
Across the table, in the lamplight, sits Alec absorbed in a column of
experiences in strawberry culture contributed by experts from all parts
of the country. You may not readily believe me, but in a quite upright
position on the end of the couch, where the firelight illumines the
page, Max is deep in a concise and practical treatise on the same
subject. Bob stands on the hearth rug, drying out, after a run home from
the Ferry cottage through a brisk shower. So you have us. Is it a
satisfactory picture?

"According to Alec you have been told all our plans for the season, and
Ferry said to-day that he meant soon to write you precisely what is
happening in your garden. If he does you will have a masterpiece of a
description, for he's a writer of distinction. He's everything else
that's worth while as well, by the way--the finest ever. I never liked
a man so well with so good reason. Other men say the same sort of
thing of him, but I fancy I am getting to know and appreciate him
better then most.

"Before I forget it--Joanna wishes me to state that she has spoken for a
kitchen garden which shall contain parsley, summer-savoury, lettuces,
radishes, and mint. With Bob's help she has even concocted a small
hot-bed in which she will begin operations at once. These subjects having
been disposed of, you may forgive me for becoming slightly personal.

"Do you know that you haven't answered my last letter? I had one sheet
from you in January, one in early March, and a post-card a week ago. The
post-card was very attractive, but it hardly took the place of a letter.
Was it intended to do so?

"But you are coming home soon, and you must expect to answer these
questions for me then. I assure you there are long arrears for you to
make up with us all, in one way and another. Bob is counting the days
till your return. Max has reached the limit of his patience. Alec
declares this thing must never happen again. Joanna--but it would be a
breach of confidence to reveal Joanna's feelings. "There's na luck aboot
the hoose," she is confident, with its mistress away.

"As for me--do you care to know how I feel about your coming home? But I
would rather tell you that than write it. You have kept me at arm's
length all winter. Won't you just bend your rigid little elbow a trifle
at the joint when you shake hands with me the first of May?

"As ever I am

"Yours, JARVIS."

It remained for Max to put the crowning touch to Sally's rather
complicated thoughts about going home, with the following characteristic

"DEAR SISTER: This thing is played out. I want you to understand that the
first of May is the first of May, and you are to get here on it, not
leave there that day--nor the day after. Bachelors' Hall is well enough
in its way, but not for a lifetime. You'd better be on hand mighty soon
and sudden if you want to keep J.B. to yourself. J.F's running you a
close second, and she's liable to pass you in sight of the wire. Take a
brother's advice. I don't suppose either of them has written you a word
about the other--but if they haven't that's just as bad a sign as if
they'd kept you in full knowledge of the way they get on--like a basket
of chips. Come home--come home!

"Your affec. brother,




Joanna Marshfield, left alone in charge of the house at Strawberry Acres,
on the evening of the twenty-ninth of April, stood in the front doorway,
looking out into the rain. The air was mild but like a wet sponge in the
feel of it against her cheek.

"I hope to goodness 'twill clear off before the folks come," said she to
herself. "Here's Mrs. Burnside coming out most a month sooner than she
wanted to and Miss Sally looking forward to seeing things well under way
in that old garden she sets such store by. If May Day would just be nice
and sunshiny for 'em all 'twould please me. Well, now--who can that be?"

A figure was approaching on the drive-way, carrying an umbrella and a
tag, and walking rapidly. As it neared Joanna could see, in the light
thrown out from the hallway and the front windows, that the figure wore
skirts of dark blue. The next instant the umbrella was tilted back at a
reckless angle, and a voice called guardedly out of the mist:

"O Joanna--is that you? Hush--don't answer out loud!"

"Miss Sally!" Joanna, amazed, crossed the porch to meet her young
mistress. "Who'd ever have thought of seeing you to-night? Why--we
wasn't expecting you till day after to-morrow. And where's Mr. Rudd?"

"Joanna dear!--don't speak so loud. I want to surprise them," came back
the laughing whisper, and the next minute Sally's bag and umbrella were
on the porch, and she was wringing both her housekeeper's plump hands in
her own. "How do you do, Joanna! I'm so glad to see you again. Uncle
Timothy stopped off for a week in Washington, and I couldn't wait, so
came on alone. Is everybody well?"

"They're well enough, Miss Sally, but--you'll be pretty disappointed. You
see they wasn't expecting you, so--"

"Oh, are they _away_? They can't be _all_ away! Where are they?"

"Well, you see they was getting sort of restless, waiting for the first
of May, and Mr. Max took them into town to some show. It's too bad.
They'd rather have seen you than any show, I reckon."

"But they'll be back to-night?"

"I expect they will--near eleven."

"Oh, well--I can wait." Sally drew a long breath. "I've waited months--I
can stand it a few hours longer."

"It's a shame." Joanna picked up the bag and umbrella and led the way
into the hall. "The Burnsides are coming the day after to-morrow." She
pointed toward the open door into the west wing, the hall light shining
in a short distance among the shadows and showing a room in order. "It's
awful too bad they didn't get here to-day."

"Never mind--it's a great deal just to be at home again. How pleasant it
all looks--and how fresh!"

Joanna led on into the long living-room where a light fire blazed on the
hearth. "It's as fresh as I could make it," she admitted, "but there's
some ways it can be made fresher that you'll see right away. Them red

Evidently the pillows had been on Joanna's mind ever since she had been
put in charge of them upon Sally's departure. Sally gave them one glance
and burst into appreciative laughter.

"Pillow-fights, Joanna--and being sat on around the fire, and used for
acrobatic performances--yes, I see. I'll re-cover them right away. I'd
do it to-night while I wait if I had the stuff--if I could sit still long
enough. I want to go all over the house--and if it wasn't raining I'd go
out in the garden and through the pine grove and over into the orchard.
Oh, here's a new picture of Alec, on the chimney-piece--why didn't he
send it to me?"

"I could go over and let the Ferry people know you're here," suggested
Joanna, watching Sally eye the small snap-shot likeness hungrily, so that
it seemed a matter of charity to present some human creature to her gaze.

"No, no, thank you--I'd rather see my own family first. I can wait.
I'll go up and get off these travelling things and unpack my bag--that
will take up a little time," and Sally prepared to put her suggestion
into action.

"Just let me go up first, Miss Sally," urged Joanna. "Not expecting you
so soon the room's no linen in it--it won't look like home to you. I
won't be ten minutes. It's too bad--Miss Josephine was going to have the
house all trimmed up with flowers for you."

Seeing that to refuse to allow this would disappoint Joanna, Sally
submitted and went out to the open front door again, to stand looking off
into the wet night where a row of distant lights glimmering vaguely
through the mist outlined the course of the trolley connecting Wybury
with the city.

"Anyhow, I'm at home," she consoled herself. "I might be content with
that, for an hour or two, but it does seem as if I could never wait. If I
could only see my garden--"

She went to the end of the porch and tried to make out some sign that
would indicate its presence, but the mist was too thick. Yet the light
from the living-room windows shone directly down that way. "I believe
if I were out there I could see something," she reflected. "I'm going
to change my clothes--I might as well soak them a little more." She
ran back into the hall, caught up her blue coat, and pulling it on
flew out again and plunged off the porch into the darkness, the April
rain, more mist than drops, falling on her fair curls. The grass was
long and wet, but she cared for nothing now, and dashed on till she
came to the first box-border, lying distinct in one of the shafts of
light from the windows.

Hunting expectantly about she explored the whole garden, laughing softly
to herself at the absurdity of the performance, for she was growing
wetter every minute. She felt of the ground where she could not see it,
exulting in the discovery of ranks of tulips, where she had planted their
bulbs last fall, just breaking into bud.

"You dear things," she said, under her breath, "how enchanting of you to
be out to welcome me home, when you had never met me before!--Over
there's the sweet pea trellis--I wonder if Bob put the seeds in as I
wrote him? Can I tell by the feel of the ground? Oh, the light falls
there--I can see."

She was so absorbed in this entertaining exploration that she did not
hear the distant closing of a door beyond the pine grove, nor the
footsteps which presently came that way and paused, just beyond the
orchard. Neither did she guess at the quiet approach of a tall figure
through the mist, until it stood upon the edge of the garden. The first
she knew of its presence was the sound of a familiar voice, speaking
quietly so that it might not startle her, yet with a note of joy plainly
perceptible through its control.

"Can I believe my eyes--or am I dreaming that I see you, Sally Lane?"

"Oh, Jarvis!" The cry was a startled one, in spite of his precaution.
Then the blue figure flew toward the gray one in the shadow, both hands
out, as Sally forgot everything except that here at last was one who
seemed to belong to her own household.

"My dear girl! When did you come? Have we missed getting a message?"
Jarvis, meeting her more than half way, held the small hands tight,
stooping to try to see into her face.

"No, no--I didn't send any--I wanted to surprise you all. Uncle Tim
decided to stop off in Washington for a week, and I couldn't bear to
wait. He is perfectly well now, and said I might come on. So I came. I
never dreamed that every one would be away."

"It's a confounded mischance," his lips said heartily, but his thoughts
added--"_for everybody but me_." He went on quickly, "You mustn't stay
out here. How long have you been out?" He touched her hair. "Why, it's
soaking wet. Come in, child."

He kept firm hold of one hand and drew her with him in a rapid progress
to the porch. The moment the light fell on her face he was expectantly
studying it, and when he had her in the hall under the stronger rays he
stood still and looked at her as if he wanted to make up for months of
deprivation. She turned a rosy red under his scrutiny, her cheeks looking
like moist but vivid flowers, drops of rain sparkling in her hair and
clinging even to her lashes.

"Come in by the fire and dry your hair," he commanded.

She shook her head and drew away her hand. "No, I'll run up and dry
everything at once."

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