Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Strawberry Acres by Grace S. Richmond

Part 5 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

"You won't be all the evening about it?" he questioned, with suspicion,
for her attitude suggested flight.

"How can I tell?" The old mischief looked out of her eyes.

He took a step toward her. "Come and get the first wet off by the
fire," he urged.

But, laughing, she fled up the stairs.

"I didn't know he was such a distinguished-looking person," she was
owning to herself as she ran along the upper hall. "Why, he's grown so
much heavier and handsomer I'm actually afraid of him--it doesn't seem
like the same Jarvis Burnside I've known so long. He's--he's--what
Dorothy Chase would call stunning! I never supposed that farming would
have that effect on anybody."

Then she rushed into her own room to find it in spotless order, with
evidences of Joanna's recent presence in a brisk little fire burning in
the small bedroom fireplace, the freshest of appointments everywhere, and
a trimly bright lamp upon the old cherry dressing-table which had come
from New Hampshire among Uncle Timothy's furniture.

"My trunk isn't here--what in the world shall I put on?" was her first
anxiety. She opened the door of her closet, to find all her last
summer's frocks newly "done up" and hanging there in inviting
daintiness. She caught at the lilac muslin, now faded by many washings
into a mere tint, but looking so like home and good times that it seemed
the fitting thing to don, in the absence of her heavier dresses, even
upon an April night.

A half-hour later, her hair crisply dried by the fire and curling
blithely from its recent bath, herself sweet with the soap-and-water and
clean-clothes freshness which is the only fragrance worth cultivating,
Sally stole on tiptoe to the top of the stairs and peeped down. She
beheld Jarvis pacing up and down the hall, and as she looked saw him take
his watch out and scan its face as if he had an appointment to keep. She
stood still, her pulses beating rather quickly. This was not exactly the
sort of home-coming she had planned, this reception by one person. But it
was nearly ten o'clock already, she had managed to consume so much time
upstairs. Also, upon Joanna's return to her room to inquire if there were
anything else she wanted, the young mistress of the house had
imperatively commanded the presence in the living-room of the middle-aged
housekeeper until such time as Max and the boys should arrive. Joanna,
with her neat black dress and smooth hair, was certainly fitted in
appearance for the duties of duenna, and Sally had felt no hesitation
whatever in requiring her to assume that role.

So Joanna now waited in the living-room--rather reluctantly, it must be
admitted, for it seemed to her that this was carrying chaperonage
unnecessarily far. But Jarvis was in the hall, and the door had been
closed between. Sally did not realize this latter fact until she had
almost reached the bottom of the stairs, where Jarvis, the moment that he
had caught sight of her, had advanced to meet her. She looked at the door
with a startled expression. It was ordinarily kept open, except in very
cold weather.

"Yes, I know it's shut," said the young man at the foot of the stairs,
with a smile. "Awful situation, isn't it? But you can escape back up the
stairs--if you are quick. I warn you that you'll have to be very quick!"

"Will you give me sixty seconds' start?"

"Not I. You've had five months' start--that's enough. Now you are
back--how well you are looking!"

She stood still, two steps above him. Even so, she had not much the
advantage of him in height.

"So are you," she retorted. "But we don't need to stay out here to tell
each other that. Let's--"

"Are you so eager to see Joanna again? She's looking very well also--for
Joanna--but she can wait a minute or two to hear it."

"Joanna has been so good--she's cleaned the whole house for me. She--"

"I know. She's a treasure--but I haven't time to think about her now. All
I can think of is that--I'm looking at you again! I told you in my last
letter that I wanted to tell you how I felt about your coming home. Do
you care to know?"

"Are you really glad?" Sally tried to ask it as she would have done a
year ago, in the old friendly time when it was a matter of course that
she and Jarvis should be glad to see each other.

"Am I? What do you think?"

"I should be very disappointed if you were not, of course. I want
everybody to welcome me home--I've missed it so."

"But you still don't want the welcoming done--'_two and two_'? Sally,
it's a long lane that has no turning. Am I never to come to one?"

"I'm not a very 'long Lane,'" expostulated the girl, laughter on her lips
but her eyes shy.

"That may be. But though you have so many turnings it seems to me as if I
had been kept a good while on the straight stretch. What if you should
let me see just a little way round the corner? You know what I want to
find there! You know how dearly I--love you!"

There was a moment's silence.

"Will you be contented to see a very little way?"

"I can't promise to be contented, but I'll agree to be patient, if I can
get even a glimpse of where my lane may lead in the end."

Sally tried to look frankly at him, in the old way. It proved less easy
than she would have supposed. His whole personality seemed to have grown
so dominant, so compelling. She put out one hand. He grasped it eagerly,
and would have drawn her down to where he stood, but she prevented this
with a warning gesture.

"No, no--" she said quickly--"it's only round the corner you're to look!
That only means--I'm willing to be very good friends--better than we have
been, perhaps. I don't want to be--tied--by any promises. I want to be a
girl yet--only not--perhaps--quite so little a girl as before.
Meanwhile--you're not tied, either."

A short laugh interrupted her. "There's nothing on earth I should
like so much!"

"There's such a lovely girl next door--I've heard--"

"What have you heard?"

Sally did not seem to be willing to tell.

"It makes no difference what you've heard. Ask her herself what
we've talked of most. But, Sally--how long before I may see round
another corner?"

She hesitated. "I don't know. Not--this year, please."

"Not this year! Well--I certainly shall have to cultivate patience. But I
will--if I must. When--?"

Her lips twitched a little. It was the girl he had known a long time
who answered: "When the first strawberries go to market--from
Strawberry Acres!"

"Shades of Job! A year from this June? And till then I must walk on
neutral ground?"

It was harder to resist him--harder to put him off--than she had thought
it would be. But she had made up her mind--and when Sally Lane did that
she could not be easily swayed from her purpose.

"You've seen around the corner," she murmured. "You promised to be
content with that."

"Not content--patient--if I can. I will be. Thank you for that much."

He reluctantly let her draw away her hand, and she came down the two
steps, passed him, and led the way toward the living-room door. With her
hand on the knob he stopped her.



"I can't help liking the look of the lane--beyond the corner!"

Laughing and blushing more brilliantly than before--which was rather
superfluous--Sally threw open the door, regardless of the fact that
Joanna, who possessed a pair of very good eyes, was awaiting her in the
room beyond. But there is such a thing as dazzling people's eyesight so
that they cannot judge perfectly of what they see, and this effect
Joanna's mistress immediately proceeded to produce. For the following
hour, between raptures over being at home, tales of her Southern
experiences--told so vividly that her listeners seemed to see them for
themselves--eager questionings of the home stayers, there was small
chance for anybody to put a finger upon exactly what Miss Sally Lane's
inmost thoughts might be.

Then, quite unexpectedly, a quarter hour earlier than it had been
supposed possible, the tramp of feet was heard upon the porch. Sally
flew toward the hall--then flew back again, leaving the door closed,
and standing still and breathless upon the hearth-rug, in the full
light of the fire. Voices were heard in the hall, and the rattle of
umbrellas in the rack.

"Plaguey poor play," Max was complaining. "Rather stay by the fire any
night than poke to town to bore myself like that. I don't think--"

He flung open the door. Behind him Alec's voice was saying: "I'm as wet
as a rat. You fellows had the big umbrella. The little one isn't big
enough to--"

"Well, I'll be--" Max's exclamation cut his brother short. He stood
still, staring. There was a flutter of lilac skirts, a low cry of joy,
and Jarvis was looking on enviously at an illustration of the privileges
that exist for brothers, who--stupid fellows--do not half appreciate
them. A moment later Alec and Bob had come in for their share of sisterly
greeting, and the three were standing round the returned traveller in a
highly satisfied semi-circle, putting questions, making comments, and
generally behaving as they might have been counted on to do.

"I hope you don't expect us to believe those piteous tales about your
losing flesh and colour with homesickness," declared Max, his hand on his
sister's shoulder, as he turned her full toward the firelight. "Jove, I
never saw you look more like one of those pink peonies you think so much
of, in your garden."

"I didn't write piteous tales!" His sister involuntarily accentuated
the likeness he had suggested by growing pinker than before.

"It was Uncle Tim, then. He got worried about you, and wrote me so. He
must have been off his base. You never looked healthier. But, see here,
miss--you don't do this thing again--understand? We'll never keep house
here another winter without you!"

* * * * *

Sally had come home on Saturday night. On Sunday morning the rain had
ceased, and the sun was shining brilliantly. Before breakfast she was out
in the garden. Spying her there as he looked out of his window, Max
hastened his dressing and went out to join her.

"Looks fairly well in order, eh?" he questioned.

Sally remembered certain information sent her in one of Janet's letters.
"Indeed it does. And you made it so. That pleases me more than I can tell
you, Max."

"How do you know I did?"

"Guessed it from your expression--and a hint I had had. Didn't you rather
enjoy doing it?"

"Much more than I should have expected," he was forced to admit under the
scrutiny of her eyes.

"How I wish you could leave the bank and join the boys in the work
out here. Don't you almost wish so yourself?" she demanded, thrusting
her hand through his arm, as he paced along, his hands in his pockets.
The old garden paths were quite wide enough for two, when they walked
close together.

Max looked down at her. "To tell the truth, I'm beginning to wish so

This, from Max, was a great admission. Sally's eyes sparkled with
pleasure. "Oh, can't you?" she cried.

"I don't see how I can, this year. To be sure, Jarve's paying all the
expenses and taking all the responsibility these first two years,
according to agreement, but I can't lie down on him. Of course it's all
outgo and no income until we get the strawberries to bearing next year.
Meanwhile the family has to be supported, and what timber we've thought
best to sell won't do that, if all of us stop work. It's all right for Al
and Bob to spend this season on the farm, for Jarve would have to hire
somebody anyway, but it's different with me, and my salary is more than
they could earn, both together, at their old jobs. No--I must grind away
another year. But then--"

"Then you'll come?"

"Yes, and be glad to."

"I'm so delighted to hear you say that!"

"I need the change. I realize, at last, what a bear I've been these three
years. I'm tired of being a bear. It's half nerves, I believe--but a
fellow of my age ought not to know he has nerves. Besides--"

He paused, looking off through the pine grove to the gap in the hedge,
through which a glimpse of the white cottage could be had. Sally waited.
It was rarely that her elder brother became confidential, and this mood
seemed more than ordinarily propitious for getting at his best thoughts.
After a little he went on, in a firm tone, speaking after a fashion which
made his sister feel for him a new respect.

"I may as well tell you that in a way I think I'm rather a different
fellow from the one you left last November. I see things differently.
It's his doing--" He nodded toward the cottage, and Sally understood.
Also, she felt infinitely thankful to the influence which had brought
about this change. "I've come to see," he went on more slowly, "what it
means to have a definite purpose in life beyond merely making a living
and having as much of a good time as you can manage to extract. I want to
make a man of myself--the sort of man my Maker intended me to be.

"Ferry's doing it--Jarvis is doing it--even Alec and Bob put me to
shame with the manliness they're developing. If Maxwell Lane can't
swing into line--"

"He can, dear--he will. He's swung already, when he can talk like this."
His sister's hand squeezed his arm tight for a minute, in her happiness.

"It's not going to be a matter of talk, mind you," he said earnestly.
"Don Ferry doesn't talk about his own life--he lives it. I want to do the
same. But I felt as if I'd like you to know--that's all. What's that
coming up in the corner there?"

"Lilies-of-the-valley--they're almost ready to bud." And Sally let him
lead the conversation away from himself to talk about the garden,
understanding that the little revelation was a great one for him to make,
and that it had cost him a decided effort. But while she talked of the
pruning of the roses and the prospects of the sweet peas, just sown, her
heart was rejoicing over the growth in this "human garden," as Ferry had
called it, so much dearer to her.

"Alec's to go away next winter for a course at an agricultural school,"
Max announced suddenly. "I've made up my mind to that. He shows more bent
than any of us toward making a science of this thing. Odd, isn't
it?--where you consider how set he was against even living here. I tell
you Don Ferry's a great chap. He's done more for us than we can pay back.
I'd like to keep him in the family. Janet too. See here--" he rose
upright from having stooped over certain newly upspringing shoots, and
favoured his sister with a sharp glance. "What's the matter with you and
Don hitting it off? That would leave Jarve to Janet, and make a mighty
nice combination of us--eh? Judging by appearances Don wouldn't object a
bit.--I say--where are you going?"

"Didn't you hear the breakfast-bell?" Sally was walking away from him
toward the house.

"No, I didn't. Neither did you."

But Sally continued to walk, regardless of the fact that both Alec and
Bob had appeared round the corner of the house, coming toward her, hands
in the pockets of their Sunday trousers, feet treading gingerly over the
damp grass in their freshly-polished best shoes. On whatever part of
Strawberry Acres Sally should be descried to-day, it might be safely
prophesied that there her family would be likely to foregather.



"So the great day has come at last! My word, but you've had the courage
of your convictions! What a stretch of 'em!"

"Of convictions? Well, they're certainly embodied in those seven acres,
whether there are any strawberries there or not. Don't you want to get
over the fence and stroll up one of the rows? You may find a specimen or
two of fruit worth setting your teeth into."

Neil Chase, correctly clad in light flannels, eyed the fence critically
before he clambered over it. "I can be trusted to tear myself if there's
a twopenny splinter anywhere," said he. "Must admit it looks rather worth
while over here, though. Hello--Dorothy's over already. Who's that
assisting her? The Reverend Donald--in blue overalls! It's lucky Old
Dutch can't see him now! I say, you've got a lot of pickers. Are they all
members of the firm?"

Jarvis laughed as he followed Chase's glance up the rows. "You've
struck us on our first day," he admitted. "We agreed to make it a
special celebration among ourselves, since only a small part of the
berries are ripe."

"The pink sun-bonnet covers an acquaintance, then," inferred Neil,
watching it approach from a distance. "Hello--it's Sally!" and he pulled
off his hat to wave it in response to a salutation from the pink
sun-bonnet, whose removal had disclosed a fair head whose locks the June
sunshine was turning into gold. "I suppose the blue one conceals Jo
Burnside, the white one Miss Ferry, and so forth. I always said you
people were no farmers--to dress for the part like stage
strawberry-pickers," he added, as Sally came within hearing.

"Why not? Could any stage be set to equal this one?" inquired Sally Lane.
"No, no--you can't shake hands with me--" She held up ten carmine-tipped
fingers. "What could be more appropriate for picking strawberries than a
pink gingham?"

"It's mighty becoming, anyhow," Neil offered tribute. "Jove, Sally, but
farming certainly does agree with you. Talk of roses--Dorothy!" he
called, "come here and look at these cheeks! Full in the sunlight, too.
I'll wager yours couldn't stand such a test."

Sally promptly put on her sun-bonnet. "A strawberry patch is no
place for flattery, Mr. Neil Chase," said she. "Come with me,
Dorothy. I'll show you the biggest berry you ever saw in your
life--and you may eat it, too."

Mrs. Chase gathered her white skirts about her, planted her white-shod
feet recklessly in the wake of Sally's, and arrived in due time at the
point where Sally had been picking. From nearby rows Josephine Burnside,
Janet Ferry, and Constance Carew lifted heads to greet her.

"How awfully busy you all are!" cried Dorothy, consuming a fat berry with
which Sally presented her. "Too busy to greet your friends!"

"This isn't a reception, it's a working affair," Janet replied gayly.
"Guests may help themselves to refreshments, but mustn't expect the
hostesses to stop picking."

"You have no trouble about getting the men at your entertainments,
Sally," observed Dorothy, scanning the field. "They're all here, I
see--even Max. Has he left the bank?"

"Yes, the first of May. This is our third season, you know--but the first
one of bearing. Max is as enthusiastic as anybody, now. When you see him
nearer you'll discover a great change in him. No more banks for him, if
we can make anything like a success with the strawberries."

"How do you know that you will? You're such amateurs at it."

"We're not, if study of the subject amounts to anything," Sally
asserted, with a little air of pride. "Between books and experiment
stations, and Alec's course at an agricultural school last winter, and
Jarvis's visits to practical strawberry-growers, it would be strange if
our methods went all astray. But they're not going astray. Look at these
berries you're eating!"

Down the rows Jarvis was pursuing much the same line of argument with
Neil Chase. "It's not in reason, you know," the visitor objected,
critically selecting choice specimens of fruit along the rows and eating
them with evident relish, "it's not in reason for a lot of fellows like
you, fresh from books and banks, to jump into this sort of thing and make
it go without a hitch."

"Well, you have the evidence of your eyes before you," Jarvis returned
with great good humour, from his knees among the vines where he was now
picking busily again. "To be sure it hasn't gone without a hitch. Last
season we had a long spring drought to fight--and fought it, too, with
irrigation. This spring the shot-hole fungus attacked us, but we overcame
it with spraying. Of course next year a killing frost may come along and
finish the crop for the year--we can't fight that. Such a frost is to
be reckoned with on an average of about once in five years. But on the
other years we expect to make up. Don't you think we can get our prices
for such berries as these? And will you tell me why brains, even amateur
ones, can't solve such problems as we have to face? You lawyers tackle
hard cases and win them, even while you're green--if you possess certain
qualities to begin with. We may be conceited, but we have an idea we
possess the qualities necessary to successful strawberry culture. As a
game, it's certainly a mighty interesting one."

"The average farmer," Neil argued, "isn't a rich experimenter like you.
He can't afford to put good gold into fertilizers and irrigating pumps. I
should think these fellows all around you would hate you for having the
advantage of them."

"On the contrary, as a matter of fact all but one or two are our very
good friends, and much interested in our schemes. They've given us a lot
of valuable advice--not on strawberry culture, because that's not in
their line, but in other ways. They enjoy our mistakes hugely--that's
only human--but they don't do it in an ill-natured way. Last spring when
we sowed clover-seed for millet and didn't recognize it till the crop
appeared, it was worth it to see them laugh at the joke, particularly as
we didn't mind laughing with them. But I can tell you where we're scoring
the biggest success after all, _and the one that would pay if half our
crops turned out failures_. You haven't been out here for a year, at
least. Take a look at Max, Alec, and Bob, when you get close to them, and
tell me if they look like the same chaps you used to know in town."

"You don't, yourself," admitted Chase, somewhat grudgingly. He, himself,
was decidedly slender of limb much to his regret. Also, in spite of
incessant motoring, his face was not that of unexceptionable health. "You
look as rugged as a rock. Never thought you were cut out for an athlete,
either, when you were in college."

"I rather think that siege with my eyes was the best thing that ever
happened to me--though it didn't seem much like it at the time. Look at
that berry." He held out a fine specimen. "That goes in Class
A--specials, all right."

"How many classes do you have?" Neil inquired, making way with the
specimen from Class A in one huge mouthful, and finding it so juicy he
was forced to make prompt use of his handkerchief.

"Two, but we're going to draw a strict line. The big ones are to be big
to the bottom of the basket--and no false bottoms. A reputation is what
we're after--then the prices will take care of themselves."

Neil strolled down the row. He had information enough. He wanted to
inspect the strawberry-pickers, one at a time. It was not every day that
one could meet distinguished young clergymen, accomplished pianists, and
singers of unusual promise, between rows of strawberry vines.

The Chases had not been invited to be present at this special celebration
of the first day of the strawberry picking, but they unhesitatingly
accepted the invitation to stay to luncheon offered them as the hour for
that meal drew near. When the party left the field for the house it was
discovered that Joanna, assisted by Mrs. Burnside and Mrs. Ferry, had
moved the luncheon-table from the dining-room to the big porch.

"Well, of all the romantic, impractical farmers!" ejaculated Neil Chase,
as he beheld this arrangement at close range, the table set with old
blue-and-white china, a great bowl of Sally's old-fashioned pink roses
in the centre. "Don't you know that fried salt-pork and potatoes, in
the kitchen, in your shirt-sleeves, is your only consistent meal, in
the work season?"

"If you will insist on our living up to your notion of the real thing, we
can set a special table for you in the kitchen. I've no doubt we can
borrow some pork somewhere. You can take off your coat and eat your noon
meal there, if you like, sustained by your sense of what is fitting,"
offered Alec. "As for me, I'm going in to wash up, put on my coat, and
eat about twelve square inches of the strawberry-shortcake Joanna's
building for this table. There won't be any of that served in the
kitchen, I warn you, Mr. Chase."

"Thank you, I'm not pointing out my course of action, but criticizing
yours," retorted Neil, surveying with favour a vine-wreathed platter of
broiled chicken, and eyeing hungrily a large salad-bowl filled with a
compound which he knew by experience to be one of Joanna's choicest. "I
say, to be consistent--"

But he found himself delivering his views to Mrs. Burnside alone, for the
rest had trooped in to make themselves presentable.

"You people certainly do manage to get a lot of fun out of your
farming," observed Dorothy Chase, as she watched Sally splashing her
round arms in a vain effort to remove the tan. "We live just as far out
from town as you do, but nothing could be more different than our way of
living from yours."

"Well, if we depended on tennis, golf, and bridge for our fun we'd be
just like you. As we like hayfields, strawberry-patches, and pine groves
better--with tobogganing in winter--we continue to be different."

"I should say golf and tennis were just as healthy exercise as haying and
picking strawberries."

"No doubt they are--but the company isn't so select," declared Sally
audaciously, towelling her wet face so briskly that it emerged looking
more than ever like the roses to which Neil had that morning compared it.

"You impertinent girl! What do you mean by that?"

"I mean that Tom Westlake isn't to be spoken of in the same breath with
Donald Ferry. Billy North is an idiot compared with Jarvis Burnside.
There aren't two girls among all your society friends who can equal Janet
and Constance, and--"

"And Sally Lane, as a hostess, is infinitely superior to Dorothy Chase!"

"Don't put words into my mouth." Sally came close and laid a warm pink
palm on either of Dorothy's cheeks. "Sally Lane is such a bad hostess
she says insulting things to her guests. Don't mind her. She's so excited
and happy to-day over her strawberry acres she's not responsible for what
she says. Come, let's hurry down."

"You people look more like a set of golfers at a summer hotel than you do
like farmers," began Neil Chase, still harping on the theme which seemed
to cause him so much unrest, as the party sat down.

Max opened his mouth for a retort. But, with one look at Donald Ferry,
who sat across the table, he closed it again. He met an amused glance of
comprehension. Then Ferry also opened his lips to speak. But before the
words found breath Mr. Timothy Rudd rose to the occasion.

"Mr. Chase," said he, "since a rose by any other name would smell as
sweet, let me suggest that you call us strawberry gardeners. Not that we
object in the least to being called farmers, for we consider the title
one of honour. But I am confident that you will then be able to reconcile
our having luncheon on the front porch, our coming to the table with our
coats and collars on, and our having strawberries to eat in spite of the
fact that we raise them ourselves, with the indisputable truth that we
make--or are attempting to make--our living off the soil. We profoundly
respect the desire of a member of the legal profession for exactness, not
only in the use of terms, but in the conformity of facts to those terms.
I trust, however, that the compromise I suggest--"

But he got no further. A burst of appreciative laughter, in which Chase
himself was forced to join, bore witness to the effectiveness with which
the cynical critic had been politely answered. However it might be on
after occasions, for to-day Chase became content to enjoy his broiled
chicken and strawberry-shortcake without further comment on the
inconsistency of their appearance upon the table at Strawberry Acres.

* * * * *

It was late in the afternoon. The Chases had reluctantly taken their
departure, bearing with them gifts of strawberries and roses. In the
strawberry-patch sunshine and silence reigned undisturbed, except by the
light June breeze which rustled the leaves enough to show beneath them
the fruit which by day-after-to-morrow would be ripe enough to pick. The
first picking had been a small one, and had gone wholly to neighbours and
friends and to consumption upon the home table. In two days more the
gathering of the harvest would begin in earnest. It may not have been
strictly business-like, this opening of the season by feasting and
bestowal, but it had pleased the "Lady of the Garden" so to elect, and
there had been no dissenting voice--not even that of her brother Max.

Everybody else, it may be presumed, had retired to rest and dress for the
evening, which was always spent, when the weather was fair, upon the
porch, when Sally, alone, slipped quietly out of the door at the back of
the hall and betook herself over the grass, through the garden, to the
path which led up the slope to the woods. The path wound past the
orchard, past the strawberry field, and by the side of the pasture where
Cowslip and Whiteface were already turning their faces toward the bars.
Its appearance was an example of the fashion in which utility and
sentiment were likely to find themselves mixed upon the farm called
Strawberry Acres.

Along its borders ran a riot of vines, wild bushes, even of weeds, only
such of the latter having been cut as were pests of the sort which
scatter their seeds to the winds. Trim and workmanlike as was the
clearing up of the ground just beyond the lane, on either side the lane
itself was very nearly in a state of nature. It was, therefore, a
picturesque roadway enough, and Sally walking along it bareheaded, clad
still in the pink gingham of the morning, found it so to an unusual
degree. Yet it must be admitted that it would have been an object ugly
indeed which would have seemed devoid of all beauty to Sally Lane, on
this, the sixteenth of June.

She kept on, straight up the winding lane, to the border of the woods.
When she had reached the first trees, a fine group of oak and chestnut,
lifting stately limbs, long uncut, far into the summer air, she turned
and paused to look back. From this point she could see far, and the whole
of her family's possessions lay before her, outspread in all the beauty
of June at its bonniest. Impulsively she stretched out her arms.

"Sally Lane," she said softly to herself, with her eyes scanning it all,
"if there's a happier girl than you in the world to-day, she must be
entirely out of her senses with joy."

After a little she sat down, her back against a tree-trunk, her face
toward the distant view.... Presently a big green oak leaf fluttered down
past her eyes, and fell into her lap. "That's odd," she thought, and
looked up. Nothing could be seen but the great limbs, rugged with years,
of the oak beneath which she sat. She looked off again at the view.
Another leaf came swirling down past her, lighting on the ground. "It's
probably a squirrel," she explained to herself, concerning this
phenomenon of falling leaves in June, and tried again to descry its
source, without success. When, however, a shower of the green missiles
came down together, she got to her feet, and walked around the tree.

"They had to come, thick as leaves in Vallombrosa," remarked a familiar
voice from far above her, "before you would pay attention. I fired for at
least ten minutes before you would so much as look up. Will you come up,
or shall I come down?"

"I'd like to come up," Sally replied, smiling up into Jarvis's brown
face, as she espied him, sitting astride a limb well up in the branching
foliage. "But I don't think it's practical."

"Why be practical? Nobody is practical on Strawberry Acres, according
to a certain brilliant but skeptical attorney from town. Your
greatest aim has been to remain a girl as long as possible. Girls
climb trees. _Ergo_--"

He began to descend. "Wait!" cried Sally, as he set foot on the lowest
limb, a matter of ten feet above her head, and paused to look down at
her. "Stay there, please--Do you really want me to come up?"

"Very much. It's entirely possible. Set your foot on that knob, reach up
your arm, I'll let myself down far enough to get hold of your hand, and
the next thing you know you'll be sitting beside me here."

"Then what will happen?"

"Then--we'll have a little talk I've been waiting for all day. I began
to think I couldn't get it till evening fell, when the garden might
help me out."

"I think the garden is a very nice place for conversation." Sally put
both hands behind her back, looking up at him.

"Better than the limb of an oak tree? I admit it--for some sorts of
conversation. Up here I should be forced to hold on with one arm. But
there would be compensation in that, for with the other arm I should be
forced to hold you on!"

His laughing eyes looked down at her. She shook her head. "If I came up
the tree I should prove that I am still a girl. If I am still a girl--"

"Are you still a girl? Is that still your greatest desire?" He leaned
forward, and the smile suddenly left his lips. His eyes searched hers.

The face she bravely lifted to him was a girl's for youthful beauty, but
into it had come something very sweet and womanly, which at last gave him
the leave he had waited so long for. "No--I think I've grown up." she
said, quite clearly.

With an exclamation, the sinewy figure in the tree made short work of
the ten feet to the ground, swinging itself off from the limb by both
hands and dropping lightly down.

"I don't think I could have waited a day longer," said Jarvis Burnside.
Then, with the sheltering trunk of the great oak shutting off all
possible vision from the far distant house, he drew Sally Lane into his
eager arms.

* * * * *

"Why so late?" Maxwell Lane looked up to ask, as his sister Sally came
somewhat hurriedly in to dinner, when the rest of the household were
half through.

"Please excuse my pink gingham," apologized Sally, as she dropped into
her chair. She glanced from Mrs. Burnside in cool white to Josephine in
crisp blue.

"Nothing could be more becoming," Josephine asserted, always ready to
defend her friend.

"There's a strawberry stain on her right sleeve," Bob pointed out.

"Where's Jarve?" asked Alec.

"I saw him as I came in. He was on his way," replied Sally, lifting a
glass of water to hide a pair of lips which wanted to laugh.

Jarvis appeared. He also was in the garb be had worn all day. The pair
seemed oddly similar in the nonchalance they could not quite
successfully carry through.

"Look here!" Alec scanned both faces. "You two have been up to

"I've been up a tree," Jarvis replied.

"Have you been up a tree too?" Alec questioned his sister.

"Not at all."

"Did you get him up one?"

Sally attempted to answer, but the merriment upon her lips would not be
controlled. She gave way to it. Her eyes, in spite of themselves, met
Jarvis's. He was laughing too. His face, red showing beneath the tan,
was too radiant with his happiness for him to be able to help Sally with
any further effort at concealment.

"Don't you think we may as well own up?" he questioned her.

"Own up!" cried Alec. "Do you people flatter yourselves there's anything
for you to own up to, that we don't already know?"

"Good for you!" And Max rose up to shake Jarvis's hand.

"It's nothing new, but it's great!" roared Bob, and patted his
sister's shoulder.

"My dear!" said Mrs. Burnside. She rose, and Sally ran to her. Josephine
followed eagerly, pausing to embrace her brother on the way.

"I don't see," said Uncle Timothy, "but that I am the one to say the
only fitting thing. Therefore I say it--from my heart." He seized
Jarvis's hand. Sally turned from Josephine to put her arm about his neck.

"God bless you, my children," said Uncle Timothy.

Book of the day: