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The Golden Road by Lucy Maud Montgomery

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what I had come through. I would rather DIE than have SUCH AN
EXPERIENCE again.

SARA RAY.

TO FELICITY ON HER BERTHDAY

Oh maiden fair with golden hair
And brow of purest white,
Id fight for you I'd die for you
Let me be your faithful knite.

This is your berthday blessed day
You are thirteen years old today
May you be happy and fair as you are now
Until your hair is gray.

I gaze into your shining eyes,
They are so blue and bright.
Id fight for you Id die for you
Let me be your faithful knite.

A FRIEND.

(DAN: "Great snakes, who got that up? I'll bet it was Peter."
FELICITY, WITH DIGNITY: "Well, it's more than YOU could do. YOU
couldn't write poetry to save your life." PETER, ASIDE TO
BEVERLEY: "She seems quite pleased. I'm glad I wrote it, but it
was awful hard work.")

PERSONALS

Patrick Grayfur, Esq., caused his friends great anxiety recently
by a prolonged absence from home. When found he was very thin but
is now as fat and conceited as ever.

On Wednesday, June 20th, Miss Olivia King was united in the bonds
of holy matrimony to Dr. Robert Seton of Halifax. Miss Sara
Stanley was bridesmaid, and Mr. Andrew Seton attended the groom.
The young couple received many handsome presents. Rev. Mr.
Marwood tied the nuptial knot. After the ceremony a substantial
repast was served in Mrs. Alex King's well-known style and the
happy couple left for their new home in Nova Scotia. Their many
friends join in wishing them a very happy and prosperous journey
through life.

A precious one from us is gone,
A voice we loved is stilled.
A place is vacant in our home
That never can be filled.

(THE STORY GIRL: "Goodness, that sounds as if somebody had died.
I've seen that verse on a tombstone. WHO wrote that notice?"
FELICITY, WHO WROTE IT: "I think it is just as appropriate to a
wedding as to a funeral!")

Our school concert came off on the evening of June 29th and was a
great success. We made ten dollars for the library.

We regret to chronicle that Miss Sara Ray met with a misfortune
while taking some violent exercise with a wasps' nest recently.
The moral is that it is better not to monkey with a wasps' nest,
new or old.

Mrs. C. B. Hawkins of Baywater is keeping house for Uncle Roger.
She is a very large woman. Uncle Roger says he has to spend too
much time walking round her, but otherwise she is an excellent
housekeeper.

It is reported that the school is haunted. A mysterious light was
seen there at two o'clock one night recently.

(THE STORY GIRL AND I EXCHANGE KNOWING SMILES BEHIND THE OTHERS'
BACKS.)

Dan and Felicity had a fight last Tuesday--not with fists but with
tongues. Dan came off best--as usual. (FELICITY LAUGHS
SARCASTICALLY.)

Mr. Newton Craig of Markdale returned home recently after a
somewhat prolonged visit in foreign parts. We are glad to welcome
Mr. Craig back to our midst.

Billy Robinson was hurt last week. A cow kicked him. I suppose
it is wicked of us to feel glad but we all do feel glad because of
the way he cheated us with the magic seed last summer.

On April 1st Uncle Roger sent Mr. Peter Craig to the manse to
borrow the biography of Adam's grandfather. Mr. Marwood told
Peter he didn't think Adam had any grandfather and advised him to
go home and look at the almanac. (PETER, SOURLY: "Your Uncle
Roger thought he was pretty smart." FELICITY, SEVERELY: "Uncle
Roger IS smart. It was so easy to fool you.")

A pair of blue birds have built a nest in a hole in the sides of
the well, just under the ferns. We can see the eggs when we look
down. They are so cunning.

Felix sat down on a tack one day in May. Felix thinks house-
cleaning is great foolishness.

ADS.

LOST--STOLEN--OR STRAYED--A HEART. Finder will be rewarded by
returning same to Cyrus E. Brisk, Desk 7, Carlisle School.

LOST OR STOLEN. A piece of brown hair about three inches long and
one inch thick. Finder will kindly return to Miss Cecily King,
Desk 15, Carlisle School.

(CECILY: "Cyrus keeps my hair in his Bible for a bookmark, so
Flossie tells me. He says he means to keep it always for a
remembrance though he has given up hope." DAN: "I'll steal it out
of his Bible in Sunday School." CECILY, BLUSHING: "Oh, let him
keep it if it is any comfort to him. Besides, it isn't right to
steal." DAN: "He stole it." CECILY: "But Mr. Marwood says two
wrongs never make a right.")

HOUSEHOLD DEPARTMENT

Aunt Olivia's wedding cake was said to be the best one of its kind
ever tasted in Carlisle. Me and mother made it.

ANXIOUS INQUIRER:--It is not advisable to curl your hair with
mucilage if you can get anything else. Quince juice is better.
(CECILY, BITTERLY: "I suppose I'll never hear the last of that
mucilage." DAN: "Ask her who used tooth-powder to raise
biscuits?")

We had rhubarb pies for the first time this spring last week.
They were fine but hard on the cream.

FELICITY KING.

ETIQUETTE DEPARTMENT

PATIENT SUFFERER:--What will I do when a young man steals a lock
of my hair? Ans.:--Grow some more.

No, F-l-x, a little caterpillar is not called a kittenpillar.
(FELIX, ENRAGED: "I never asked that! Dan just makes that
etiquette column up from beginning to end!" FELICITY: "I don't
see what that kind of a question has to do with etiquette
anyhow.")

Yes, P-t-r, it is quite proper to treat a lady friend to ice cream
twice if you can afford it.

No, F-l-c-t-y, it is not ladylike to chew tobacco. Better stick
to spruce gum.

DAN KING.

FASHION NOTES

Frilled muslin aprons will be much worn this summer. It is no
longer fashionable to trim them with knitted lace. One pocket is
considered smart.

Clam-shells are fashionable keepsakes. You write your name and
the date inside one and your friend writes hers in the other and
you exchange.

CECILY KING.

FUNNY PARAGRAPHS

MR. PERKINS:--"Peter, name the large islands of the world."

PETER:--"The Island, the British Isles and Australia." (PETER,
DEFIANTLY: "Well, Mr. Perkins said he guessed I was right, so you
needn't laugh.")

This is a true joke and really happened. It's about Mr. Samuel
Clask again. He was once leading a prayer meeting and he looked
through the window and saw the constable driving up and guessed he
was after him because he was always in debt. So in a great hurry
he called on Brother Casey to lead in prayer and while Brother
Casey was praying with his eyes shut and everybody else had their
heads bowed Mr. Clask got out of the window and got away before
the constable got in because he didn't like to come in till the
prayer was finished.

Uncle Roger says it was a smart trick on Mr. Clask's part, but I
don't think there was much religion about it.

FELIX KING.

CHAPTER XXI

PEG BOWEN COMES TO CHURCH

When those of us who are still left of that band of children who
played long years ago in the old orchard and walked the golden
road together in joyous companionship, foregather now and again in
our busy lives and talk over the events of those many merry moons--
there are some of our adventures that gleam out more vividly in
memory than the others, and are oftener discussed. The time we
bought God's picture from Jerry Cowan--the time Dan ate the poison
berries--the time we heard the ghostly bell ring--the bewitchment
of Paddy--the visit of the Governor's wife--and the night we were
lost in the storm--all awaken reminiscent jest and laughter; but
none more than the recollection of the Sunday Peg Bowen came to
church and sat in our pew. Though goodness knows, as Felicity
would say, we did not think it any matter for laughter at the
time--far from it.

It was one Sunday evening in July. Uncle Alec and Aunt Janet,
having been out to the morning service, did not attend in the
evening, and we small fry walked together down the long hill road,
wearing Sunday attire and trying, more or less successfully, to
wear Sunday faces also. Those walks to church, through the golden
completeness of the summer evenings, were always very pleasant to
us, and we never hurried, though, on the other hand, we were very
careful not to be late.

This particular evening was particularly beautiful. It was cool
after a hot day, and wheat fields all about us were ripening to
their harvestry. The wind gossiped with the grasses along our
way, and over them the buttercups danced, goldenly-glad. Waves of
sinuous shadow went over the ripe hayfields, and plundering bees
sang a freebooting lilt in wayside gardens.

"The world is so lovely tonight," said the Story Girl. "I just
hate the thought of going into the church and shutting all the
sunlight and music outside. I wish we could have the service
outside in summer."

"I don't think that would be very religious," said Felicity.

"I'd feel ever so much more religious outside than in," retorted
the Story Girl.

"If the service was outside we'd have to sit in the graveyard and
that wouldn't be very cheerful," said Felix.

"Besides, the music isn't shut out," added Felicity. "The choir
is inside."

"'Music has charms to soothe a savage breast,'" quoted Peter, who
was getting into the habit of adorning his conversation with
similar gems. "That's in one of Shakespeare's plays. I'm reading
them now, since I got through with the Bible. They're great."

"I don't see when you get time to read them," said Felicity.

"Oh, I read them Sunday afternoons when I'm home."

"I don't believe they're fit to read on Sundays," exclaimed
Felicity. "Mother says Valeria Montague's stories ain't."

"But Shakespeare's different from Valeria," protested Peter.

"I don't see in what way. He wrote a lot of things that weren't
true, just like Valeria, and he wrote swear words too. Valeria
never does that. Her characters all talk in a very refined
fashion."

"Well, I always skip the swear words," said Peter. "And Mr.
Marwood said once that the Bible and Shakespeare would furnish any
library well. So you see he put them together, but I'm sure that
he would never say that the Bible and Valeria would make a
library."

"Well, all I know is, I shall never read Shakespeare on Sunday,"
said Felicity loftily.

"I wonder what kind of a preacher young Mr. Davidson is,"
speculated Cecily.

"Well, we'll know when we hear him tonight," said the Story Girl.
"He ought to be good, for his uncle before him was a fine
preacher, though a very absent-minded man. But Uncle Roger says
the supply in Mr. Marwood's vacation never amounts to much. I
know an awfully funny story about old Mr. Davidson. He used to be
the minister in Baywater, you know, and he had a large family and
his children were very mischievous. One day his wife was ironing
and she ironed a great big nightcap with a frill round it. One of
the children took it when she wasn't looking and hid it in his
father's best beaver hat--the one he wore on Sundays. When Mr.
Davidson went to church next Sunday he put the hat on without ever
looking into the crown. He walked to church in a brown study and
at the door he took off his hat. The nightcap just slipped down
on his head, as if it had been put on, and the frill stood out
around his face and the string hung down his back. But he never
noticed it, because his thoughts were far away, and he walked up
the church aisle and into the pulpit, like that. One of his
elders had to tiptoe up and tell him what he had on his head. He
plucked it off in a dazed fashion, held it up, and looked at it.
'Bless me, it is Sally's nightcap!' he exclaimed mildly. 'I do
not know how I could have got it on.' Then he just stuffed it into
his pocket calmly and went on with the service, and the long
strings of the nightcap hung down out of his pocket all the time."

"It seems to me," said Peter, amid the laughter with which we
greeted the tale, "that a funny story is funnier when it is about
a minister than it is about any other man. I wonder why."

"Sometimes I don't think it is right to tell funny stories about
ministers," said Felicity. "It certainly isn't respectful."

"A good story is a good story--no matter who it's about," said the
Story Girl with ungrammatical relish.

There was as yet no one in the church when we reached it, so we
took our accustomed ramble through the graveyard surrounding it.
The Story Girl had brought flowers for her mother's grave as
usual, and while she arranged them on it the rest of us read for
the hundredth time the epitaph on Great-Grandfather King's
tombstone, which had been composed by Great-Grandmother King.
That epitaph was quite famous among the little family traditions
that entwine every household with mingled mirth and sorrow, smiles
and tears. It had a perennial fascination for us and we read it
over every Sunday. Cut deeply in the upright slab of red Island
sandstone, the epitaph ran as follows:--

SWEET DEPARTED SPIRIT

Do receive the vows a grateful widow pays,
Each future day and night shall hear her speak her Isaac's praise.
Though thy beloved form must in the grave decay
Yet from her heart thy memory no time, no change shall steal away.
Do thou from mansions of eternal bliss
Remember thy distressed relict.
Look on her with an angel's love--
Soothe her sad life and cheer her end
Through this world's dangers and its griefs.
Then meet her with thy well-known smiles and welcome
At the last great day.

"Well, I can't make out what the old lady was driving at," said
Dan.

"That's a nice way to speak of your great-grandmother," said
Felicity severely.

"How does The Family Guide say you ought to speak of your great-
grandma, sweet one?" asked Dan.

"There is one thing about it that puzzles me," remarked Cecily.
"She calls herself a GRATEFUL widow. Now, what was she grateful
for?"

"Because she was rid of him at last," said graceless Dan.

"Oh, it couldn't have been that," protested Cecily seriously.
"I've always heard that Great-Grandfather and Great-Grandmother
were very much attached to each other."

"Maybe, then, it means she was grateful that she'd had him as long
as she did," suggested Peter.

"She was grateful to him because he had been so kind to her in
life, I think," said Felicity.

"What is a 'distressed relict'?" asked Felix.

"'Relict' is a word I hate," said the Story Girl. "It sounds so
much like relic. Relict means just the same as widow, only a man
can be a relict, too."

"Great-Grandmother seemed to run short of rhymes at the last of
the epitaph," commented Dan.

"Finding rhymes isn't as easy as you might think," avowed Peter,
out of his own experience.

"I think Grandmother King intended the last of the epitaph to be
in blank verse," said Felicity with dignity.

There was still only a sprinkling of people in the church when we
went in and took our places in the old-fashioned, square King pew.
We had just got comfortably settled when Felicity said in an
agitated whisper, "Here is Peg Bowen!"

We all stared at Peg, who was pacing composedly up the aisle. We
might be excused for so doing, for seldom were the decorous aisles
of Carlisle church invaded by such a figure. Peg was dressed in
her usual short drugget skirt, rather worn and frayed around the
bottom, and a waist of brilliant turkey red calico. She wore no
hat, and her grizzled black hair streamed in elf locks over her
shoulders. Face, arms and feet were bare--and face, arms and feet
were liberally powdered with FLOUR. Certainly no one who saw Peg
that night could ever forget the apparition.

Peg's black eyes, in which shone a more than usually wild and
fitful light, roved scrutinizingly over the church, then settled
on our pew.

"She's coming here," whispered Felicity in horror. "Can't we
spread out and make her think the pew is full?"

But the manoeuvre was too late. The only result was that Felicity
and the Story Girl in moving over left a vacant space between them
and Peg promptly plumped down in it.

"Well, I'm here," she remarked aloud. "I did say once I'd never
darken the door of Carlisle church again, but what that boy
there"--nodding at Peter--"said last winter set me thinking, and I
concluded maybe I'd better come once in a while, to be on the safe
side."

Those poor girls were in an agony. Everybody in the church was
looking at our pew and smiling. We all felt that we were terribly
disgraced; but we could do nothing. Peg was enjoying herself
hugely, beyond all doubt. From where she sat she could see the
whole church, including pulpit and gallery, and her black eyes
darted over it with restless glances.

"Bless me, there's Sam Kinnaird," she exclaimed, still aloud.
"He's the man that dunned Jacob Marr for four cents on the church
steps one Sunday. I heard him. 'I think, Jacob, you owe me four
cents on that cow you bought last fall. Rec'llect you couldn't
make the change?' Well, you know, 'twould a-made a cat laugh. The
Kinnairds were all mighty close, I can tell you. That's how they
got rich."

What Sam Kinnaird felt or thought during this speech, which
everyone in the church must have heard, I know not. Gossip had it
that he changed colour. We wretched occupants of the King pew
were concerned only with our own outraged feelings.

"And there's Melita Ross," went on Peg. "She's got the same
bonnet on she had last time I was in Carlisle church six years
ago. Some folks has the knack of making things last. But look at
the style Mrs. Elmer Brewer wears, will yez? Yez wouldn't think
her mother died in the poor-house, would yez, now?"

Poor Mrs. Brewer! From the tip of her smart kid shoes to the
dainty cluster of ostrich tips in her bonnet--she was most
immaculately and handsomely arrayed; but I venture to think she
could have taken small pleasure in her fashionable attire that
evening. Some of the unregenerate, including Dan, were shaking
with suppressed laughter, but most of the people looked as if they
were afraid to smile, lest their turn should come next.

"There's old Stephen Grant coming in," exclaimed Peg viciously,
shaking her floury fist at him, "and looking as if butter wouldn't
melt in his mouth. He may be an elder, but he's a scoundrel just
the same. He set fire to his house to get the insurance and then
blamed ME for doing it. But I got even with him for it. Oh, yes!
He knows that, and so do I! He, he!"

Peg chuckled quite fiendishly and Stephen Grant tried to look as
if nothing had been said.

"Oh, will the minister never come?" moaned Felicity in my ear.
"Surely she'll have to stop then."

But the minister did not come and Peg had no intention of
stopping.

"There's Maria Dean." she resumed. "I haven't seen Maria for
years. I never call there for she never seems to have anything to
eat in the house. She was a Clayton and the Claytons never could
cook. Maria sorter looks as if she'd shrunk in the wash, now,
don't she? And there's Douglas Nicholson. His brother put rat
poison in the family pancakes. Nice little trick that, wasn't it?
They say it was by mistake. I hope it WAS a mistake. His wife is
all rigged out in silk. Yez wouldn't think to look at her she was
married in cotton--and mighty thankful to get married in anything,
it's my opinion. There's Timothy Patterson. He's the meanest man
alive--meaner'n Sam Kinnaird even. Timothy pays his children five
cents apiece to go without their suppers, and then steals the
cents out of their pockets after they've gone to bed. It's a
fact. And when his old father died he wouldn't let his wife put
his best shirt on him. He said his second best was plenty good to
be buried in. That's another fact."

"I can't stand much more of this," wailed Felicity.

"See here, Miss Bowen, you really oughtn't to talk like that about
people," expostulated Peter in a low tone, goaded thereto, despite
his awe of Peg, by Felicity's anguish.

"Bless you, boy," said Peg good-humouredly, "the only difference
between me and other folks is that I say these things out loud and
they just think them. If I told yez all the things I know about
the people in this congregation you'd be amazed. Have a
peppermint?"

To our horror Peg produced a handful of peppermint lozenges from
the pocket of her skirt and offered us one each. We did not dare
refuse but we each held our lozenge very gingerly in our hands.

"Eat them," commanded Peg rather fiercely.

"Mother doesn't allow us to eat candy in church," faltered
Felicity.

"Well, I've seen just as fine ladies as your ma give their
children lozenges in church," said Peg loftily. She put a
peppermint in her own mouth and sucked it with gusto. We were
relieved, for she did not talk during the process; but our relief
was of short duration. A bevy of three very smartly dressed young
ladies, sweeping past our pew, started Peg off again.

"Yez needn't be so stuck up," she said, loudly and derisively.
"Yez was all of yez rocked in a flour barrel. And there's old
Henry Frewen, still above ground. I called my parrot after him
because their noses were exactly alike. Look at Caroline Marr,
will yez? That's a woman who'd like pretty well to get married,
And there's Alexander Marr. He's a real Christian, anyhow, and
so's his dog. I can always size up what a man's religion amounts
to by the kind of dog he keeps. Alexander Marr is a good man."

It was a relief to hear Peg speak well of somebody; but that was
the only exception she made.

"Look at Dave Fraser strutting in," she went on. "That man has
thanked God so often that he isn't like other people that it's
come to be true. He isn't! And there's Susan Frewen. She's
jealous of everybody. She's even jealous of Old Man Rogers
because he's buried in the best spot in the graveyard. Seth
Erskine has the same look he was born with. They say the Lord
made everybody but I believe the devil made all the Erskines."

"She's getting worse all the time. What WILL she say next?"
whispered poor Felicity.

But her martyrdom was over at last. The minister appeared in the
pulpit and Peg subsided into silence. She folded her bare, floury
arms over her breast and fastened her black eyes on the young
preacher. Her behaviour for the next half-hour was decorum
itself, save that when the minister prayed that we might all be
charitable in judgment Peg ejaculated "Amen" several times, loudly
and forcibly, somewhat to the discomfiture of the Young man, to
whom Peg was a stranger. He opened his eyes, glanced at our pew
in a startled way, then collected himself and went on.

Peg listened to the sermon, silently and motionlessly, until Mr.
Davidson was half through. Then she suddenly got on her feet.

"This is too dull for me," she exclaimed. "I want something more
exciting."

Mr. Davidson stopped short and Peg marched down the aisle in the
midst of complete silence. Half way down the aisle she turned
around and faced the minister.

"There are so many hypocrites in this church that it isn't fit for
decent people to come to," she said. "Rather than be such
hypocrites as most of you are it would be better for you to go
miles into the woods and commit suicide."

Wheeling about, she strode to the door. Then she turned for a
Parthian shot.

"I've felt kind of worried for God sometimes, seeing He has so
much to attend to," she said, "but I see I needn't be, so long's
there's plenty of ministers to tell Him what to do."

With that Peg shook the dust of Carlisle church from her feet.
Poor Mr. Davidson resumed his discourse. Old Elder Bayley, whose
attention an earthquake could not have distracted from the sermon,
afterwards declared that it was an excellent and edifying
exhortation, but I doubt if anyone else in Carlisle church tasted
it much or gained much good therefrom. Certainly we of the King
household did not. We could not even remember the text when we
reached home. Felicity was comfortless.

"Mr. Davidson would be sure to think she belonged to our family
when she was in our pew," she said bitterly. "Oh, I feel as if I
could never get over such a mortification! Peter, I do wish you
wouldn't go telling people they ought to go to church. It's all
your fault that this happened."

"Never mind, it will be a good story to tell sometime," remarked
the Story Girl with relish.

CHAPTER XXII

THE YANKEE STORM

In an August orchard six children and a grown-up were sitting
around the pulpit stone. The grown-up was Miss Reade, who had
been up to give the girls their music lesson and had consented to
stay to tea, much to the rapture of the said girls, who continued
to worship her with unabated and romantic ardour. To us, over the
golden grasses, came the Story Girl, carrying in her hand a single
large poppy, like a blood-red chalice filled with the wine of
August wizardry. She proffered it to Miss Reade and, as the
latter took it into her singularly slender, beautiful hand, I saw
a ring on her third finger. I noticed it, because I had heard the
girls say that Miss Reade never wore rings, not liking them. It
was not a new ring; it was handsome, but of an old-fashioned
design and setting, with a glint of diamonds about a central
sapphire. Later on, when Miss Reade had gone, I asked the Story
Girl if she had noticed the ring. She nodded, but seemed
disinclined to say more about it.

"Look here, Sara," I said, "there's something about that ring--
something you know."

"I told you once there was a story growing but you would have to
wait until it was fully grown," she answered.

"Is Miss Reade going to marry anybody--anybody we know?" I persisted.

"Curiosity killed a cat," observed the Story Girl coolly. "Miss
Reade hasn't told me that she was going to marry anybody. You
will find out all that is good for you to know in due time."

When the Story Girl put on grown-up airs I did not like her so
well, and I dropped the subject with a dignity that seemed to
amuse her mightily.

She had been away for a week, visiting cousins in Markdale, and
she had come home with a new treasure-trove of stories, most of
which she had heard from the old sailors of Markdale Harbour. She
had promised that morning to tell us of "the most tragic event
that had ever been known on the north shore," and we now reminded
her of her promise.

"Some call it the 'Yankee Storm,' and others the 'American Gale,'"
she began, sitting down by Miss Reade and beaming, because the
latter put her arm around her waist. "It happened nearly forty
years ago, in October of 1851. Old Mr. Coles at the Harbour told
me all about it. He was a young man then and he says he can never
forget that dreadful time. You know in those days hundreds of
American fishing schooners used to come down to the Gulf every
summer to fish mackerel. On one beautiful Saturday night in this
October of 1851, more than one hundred of these vessels could be
counted from Markdale Capes. By Monday night more than seventy of
them had been destroyed. Those which had escaped were mostly
those which went into harbour Saturday night, to keep Sunday. Mr.
Coles says the rest stayed outside and fished all day Sunday, same
as through the week, and HE says the storm was a judgment on them
for doing it. But he admits that even some of them got into
harbour later on and escaped, so it's hard to know what to think.
But it is certain that on Sunday night there came up a sudden and
terrible storm--the worst, Mr. Coles says, that has ever been
known on the north shore. It lasted for two days and scores of
vessels were driven ashore and completely wrecked. The crews of
most of the vessels that went ashore on the sand beaches were
saved, but those that struck on the rocks went to pieces and all
hands were lost. For weeks after the storm the north shore was
strewn with the bodies of drowned men. Think of it! Many of them
were unknown and unrecognizable, and they were buried in Markdale
graveyard. Mr. Coles says the schoolmaster who was in Markdale
then wrote a poem on the storm and Mr. Coles recited the first two
verses to me.

"'Here are the fishers' hillside graves,
The church beside, the woods around,
Below, the hollow moaning waves
Where the poor fishermen were drowned.

"'A sudden tempest the blue welkin tore,
The seamen tossed and torn apart
Rolled with the seaweed to the shore
While landsmen gazed with aching heart.'

"Mr. Coles couldn't remember any more of it. But the saddest of
all the stories of the Yankee Storm was the one about the Franklin
Dexter. The Franklin Dexter went ashore on the Markdale Capes and
all on board perished, the Captain and three of his brothers among
them. These four young men were the sons of an old man who lived
in Portland, Maine, and when he heard what had happened he came
right down to the Island to see if he could find their bodies.
They had all come ashore and had been buried in Markdale
graveyard; but he was determined to take them up and carry them
home for burial. He said he had promised their mother to take her
boys home to her and he must do it. So they were taken up and put
on board a sailing vessel at Markdale Harbour to be taken back to
Maine, while the father himself went home on a passenger steamer.
The name of the sailing vessel was the Seth Hall, and the
captain's name was Seth Hall, too. Captain Hall was a dreadfully
profane man and used to swear blood-curdling oaths. On the night
he sailed out of Markdale Harbour the old sailors warned him that
a storm was brewing and that it would catch him if he did not wait
until it was over. The captain had become very impatient because
of several delays he had already met with, and he was in a furious
temper. He swore a wicked oath that he would sail out of Markdale
Harbour that night and 'God Almighty Himself shouldn't catch him.'
He did sail out of the harbour; and the storm did catch him, and
the Seth Hall went down with all hands, the dead and the living
finding a watery grave together. So the poor old mother up in
Maine never had her boys brought back to her after all. Mr. Coles
says it seems as if it were foreordained that they should not rest
in a grave, but should lie beneath the waves until the day when
the sea gives up its dead."

"'They sleep as well beneath that purple tide
As others under turf,'"

quoted Miss Reade softly. "I am very thankful," she added. "that
I am not one of those whose dear ones 'go down to the sea in
ships.' It seems to me that they have treble their share of this
world's heartache."

"Uncle Stephen was a sailor and he was drowned," said Felicity,
"and they say it broke Grandmother King's heart. I don't see why
people can't be contented on dry land."

Cecily's tears had been dropping on the autograph quilt square she
was faithfully embroidering. She had been diligently collecting
names for it ever since the preceding autumn and had a goodly
number; but Kitty Marr had one more and this was certainly a fly
in Cecily's ointment.

"Besides, one I've got isn't paid for--Peg Bowen's," she lamented,
"and I don't suppose it ever will be, for I'll never dare to ask
her for it."

"I wouldn't put it on at all," said Felicity.

"Oh, I don't dare not to. She'd be sure to find out I didn't and
then she'd be very angry. I wish I could get just one more name
and then I'd be contented. But I don't know of a single person
who hasn't been asked already."

"Except Mr. Campbell," said Dan.

"Oh, of course nobody would ask Mr. Campbell. We all know it
would be of no use. He doesn't believe in missions at all--in
fact, he says he detests the very mention of missions--and he
never gives one cent to them."

"All the same, I think he ought to be asked, so that he wouldn't
have the excuse that nobody DID ask him," declared Dan.

"Do you really think so, Dan?" asked Cecily earnestly.

"Sure," said Dan, solemnly. Dan liked to tease even Cecily a wee
bit now and then.

Cecily relapsed into anxious thought, and care sat visibly on her
brow for the rest of the day. Next morning she came to me and
said:

"Bev, would you like to go for a walk with me this afternoon?"

"Of course," I replied. "Any particular where?"

"I'm going to see Mr. Campbell and ask him for his name for my
square," said Cecily resolutely. "I don't suppose it will do any
good. He wouldn't give anything to the library last summer, you
remember, till the Story Girl told him that story about his
grandmother. She won't go with me this time--I don't know why. I
can't tell a story and I'm frightened to death just to think of
going to him. But I believe it is my duty; and besides I would
love to get as many names on my square as Kitty Marr has. So if
you'll go with me we'll go this afternoon. I simply COULDN'T go
alone."

CHAPTER XXIII

A MISSIONARY HEROINE

Accordingly, that afternoon we bearded the lion in his den. The
road we took was a beautiful one, for we went "cross lots," and we
enjoyed it, in spite of the fact that we did not expect the
interview with Mr. Campbell to be a very pleasant one. To be
sure, he had been quite civil on the occasion of our last call
upon him, but the Story Girl had been with us then and had
beguiled him into good-humour and generosity by the magic of her
voice and personality. We had no such ally now, and Mr. Campbell
was known to be virulently opposed to missions in any shape or
form.

"I don't know whether it would have been any better if I could
have put on my good clothes," said Cecily, with a rueful glance at
her print dress, which, though neat and clean, was undeniably
faded and RATHER short and tight. "The Story Girl said it would,
and I wanted to, but mother wouldn't let me. She said it was all
nonsense, and Mr. Campbell would never notice what I had on."

"It's my opinion that Mr. Campbell notices a good deal more than
you'd think for," I said sagely.

"Well, I wish our call was over," sighed Cecily. "I can't tell
you how I dread it."

"Now, see here, Sis," I said cheerfully, "let's not think about it
till we get there. It'll only spoil our walk and do no good.
Let's just forget it and enjoy ourselves."

"I'll try," agreed Cecily, "but it's ever so much easier to preach
than to practise."

Our way lay first over a hill top, gallantly plumed with golden
rod, where cloud shadows drifted over us like a gypsying crew.
Carlisle, in all its ripely tinted length and breadth, lay below
us, basking in the August sunshine, that spilled over the brim of
the valley to the far-off Markdale Harbour, cupped in its harvest-
golden hills.

Then came a little valley overgrown with the pale purple bloom of
thistles and elusively haunted with their perfume. You say that
thistles have no perfume? Go you to a brook hollow where they grow
some late summer twilight at dewfall; and on the still air that
rises suddenly to meet you will come a waft of faint, aromatic
fragrance, wondrously sweet and evasive, the distillation of that
despised thistle bloom.

Beyond this the path wound through a forest of fir, where a wood
wind wove its murmurous spell and a wood brook dimpled pellucidly
among the shadows--the dear, companionable, elfin shadows--that
lurked under the low growing boughs. Along the edges of that
winding path grew banks of velvet green moss, starred with
clusters of pigeon berries. Pigeon berries are not to be eaten.
They are woolly, tasteless things. But they are to be looked at
in their glowing scarlet. They are the jewels with which the
forest of cone-bearers loves to deck its brown breast. Cecily
gathered some and pinned them on hers, but they did not become
her. I thought how witching the Story Girl's brown curls would
have looked twined with those brilliant clusters. Perhaps Cecily
was thinking of it, too, for she presently said,

"Bev, don't you think the Story Girl is changing somehow?"

"There are times--just times--when she seems to belong more among
the grown-ups than among us," I said, reluctantly, "especially
when she puts on her bridesmaid dress."

"Well, she's the oldest of us, and when you come to think of it,
she's fifteen,--that's almost grown-up," sighed Cecily. Then she
added, with sudden vehemence, "I hate the thought of any of us
growing up. Felicity says she just longs to be grown-up, but I
don't, not a bit. I wish I could just stay a little girl for
ever--and have you and Felix and all the others for playmates
right along. I don't know how it is--but whenever I think of
being grown-up I seem to feel tired."

Something about Cecily's speech--or the wistful look that had
crept into her sweet brown eyes--made me feel vaguely
uncomfortable; I was glad that we were at the end of our journey,
with Mr. Campbell's big house before us, and his dog sitting
gravely at the veranda steps.

"Oh, dear," said Cecily, with a shiver, "I'd been hoping that dog
wouldn't be around."

"He never bites," I assured her.

"Perhaps he doesn't, but he always looks as if he was going to,"
rejoined Cecily.

The dog continued to look, and, as we edged gingerly past him and
up the veranda steps, he turned his head and kept on looking.
What with Mr. Campbell before us and the dog behind, Cecily was
trembling with nervousness; but perhaps it was as well that the
dour brute was there, else I verily believe she would have turned
and fled shamelessly when we heard steps in the hall.

It was Mr. Campbell's housekeeper who came to the door, however;
she ushered us pleasantly into the sitting-room where Mr. Campbell
was reading. He laid down his book with a slight frown and said
nothing at all in response to our timid "good afternoon." But
after we had sat for a few minutes in wretched silence, wishing
ourselves a thousand miles away, he said, with a chuckle,

"Well, is it the school library again?"

Cecily had remarked as we were coming that what she dreaded most
of all was introducing the subject; but Mr. Campbell had given her
a splendid opening, and she plunged wildly in at once, rattling
her explanation off nervously with trembling voice and flushed
cheeks.

"No, it's our Mission Band autograph quilt, Mr. Campbell. There
are to be as many squares in it as there are members in the Band.
Each one has a square and is collecting names for it. If you want
to have your name on the quilt you pay five cents, and if you want
to have it right in the round spot in the middle of the square you
must pay ten cents. Then when we have got all the names we can we
will embroider them on the squares. The money is to go to the
little girl our Band is supporting in Korea. I heard that nobody
had asked you, so I thought perhaps you would give me your name
for my square."

Mr. Campbell drew his black brows together in a scowl.

"Stuff and nonsense!" he exclaimed angrily. "I don't believe in
Foreign Missions--don't believe in them at all. I never give a
cent to them."

"Five cents isn't a very large sum," said Cecily earnestly.

Mr. Campbell's scowl disappeared and he laughed.

"It wouldn't break me," he admitted, "but it's the principle of
the thing. And as for that Mission Band of yours, if it wasn't
for the fun you get out of it, catch one of you belonging. You
don't really care a rap more for the heathen than I do."

"Oh, we do," protested Cecily. "We do think of all the poor
little children in Korea, and we like to think we are helping
them, if it's ever so little. We ARE in earnest, Mr. Campbell--
indeed we are."

"Don't believe it--don't believe a word of it," said Mr. Campbell
impolitely. "You'll do things that are nice and interesting.
You'll get up concerts, and chase people about for autographs and
give money your parents give you and that doesn't cost you either
time or labour. But you wouldn't do anything you disliked for the
heathen children--you wouldn't make any real sacrifice for them--
catch you!"

"Indeed we would," cried Cecily, forgetting her timidity in her
zeal. "I just wish I had a chance to prove it to you."

"You do, eh? Come, now, I'll take you at your word. I'll test
you. Tomorrow is Communion Sunday and the church will be full of
folks and they'll all have their best clothes on. If you go to
church tomorrow in the very costume you have on at present,
without telling anyone why you do so, until it is all over, I'll
give you--why, I vow I'll give you five dollars for that quilt of
yours."

Poor Cecily! To go to church in a faded print dress, with a shabby
little old sun-hat and worn shoes! It was very cruel of Mr.
Campbell.

"I--I don't think mother would let me," she faltered.

Her tormentor smiled grimly.

"It's not hard to find some excuse," he said sarcastically.

Cecily crimsoned and sat up facing Mr. Campbell spunkily.

"It's NOT an excuse," she said. "If mother will let me go to
church like this I'll go. But I'll have to tell HER why, Mr.
Campbell, because I'm certain she'd never let me if I didn't."

"Oh, you can tell all your own family," said Mr. Campbell, "but
remember, none of them must tell it outside until Sunday is over.
If they do, I'll be sure to find it out and then our bargain is
off. If I see you in church tomorrow, dressed as you are now,
I'll give you my name and five dollars. But I won't see you.
You'll shrink when you've had time to think it over."

"I sha'n't," said Cecily resolutely.

"Well, we'll see. And now come out to the barn with me. I've got
the prettiest little drove of calves out there you ever saw. I
want you to see them."

Mr. Campbell took us all over his barns and was very affable. He
had beautiful horses, cows and sheep, and I enjoyed seeing them.
I don't think Cecily did, however. She was very quiet and even
Mr. Campbell's handsome new span of dappled grays failed to arouse
any enthusiasm in her. She was already in bitter anticipation
living over the martyrdom of the morrow. On the way home she
asked me seriously if I thought Mr. Campbell would go to heaven
when he died.

"Of course he will," I said. "Isn't he a member of the church?"

"Oh, yes, but I can't imagine him fitting into heaven. You know
he isn't really fond of anything but live stock."

"He's fond of teasing people, I guess," I responded. "Are you
really going to church to-morrow in that dress, Sis?"

"If mother'll let me I'll have to," said poor Cecily. "I won't
let Mr. Campbell triumph over me. And I DO want to have as many
names as Kitty has. And I DO want to help the poor little Korean
children. But it will be simply dreadful. I don't know whether I
hope mother will or not."

I did not believe she would, but Aunt Janet sometimes could be
depended on for the unexpected. She laughed and told Cecily she
could please herself. Felicity was in a rage over it, and
declared SHE wouldn't go to church if Cecily went in such a rig.
Dan sarcastically inquired if all she went to church for was to
show off her fine clothes and look at other people's; then they
quarrelled and didn't speak to each other for two days, much to
Cecily's distress.

I suspect poor Sis wished devoutly that it might rain the next
day; but it was gloriously fine. We were all waiting in the
orchard for the Story Girl who had not begun to dress for church
until Cecily and Felicity were ready. Felicity was her prettiest
in flower-trimmed hat, crisp muslin, floating ribbons and trim
black slippers. Poor Cecily stood beside her mute and pale, in
her faded school garb and heavy copper-toed boots. But her face,
if pale, was very determined. Cecily, having put her hand to the
plough, was not of those who turn back.

"You do look just awful," said Felicity. "I don't care--I'm going
to sit in Uncle James' pew. I WON'T sit with you. There will be
so many strangers there, and all the Markdale people, and what
will they think of you? Some of them will never know the reason,
either."

"I wish the Story Girl would hurry," was all poor Cecily said.
"We're going to be late. It wouldn't have been quite so hard if I
could have got there before anyone and slipped quietly into our
pew."

"Here she comes at last," said Dan. "Why--what's she got on?"

The Story Girl joined us with a quizzical smile on her face. Dan
whistled. Cecily's pale cheeks flushed with understanding and
gratitude. The Story Girl wore her school print dress and hat
also, and was gloveless and heavy shod.

"You're not going to have to go through this all alone, Cecily,"
she said.

"Oh, it won't be half so hard now," said Cecily, with a long
breath of relief.

I fancy it was hard enough even then. The Story Girl did not care
a whit, but Cecily rather squirmed under the curious glances that
were cast at her. She afterwards told me that she really did not
think she could have endured it if she had been alone.

Mr. Campbell met us under the elms in the churchyard, with a
twinkle in his eye.

"Well, you did it, Miss," he said to Cecily, "but you should have
been alone. That was what I meant. I suppose you think you've
cheated me nicely."

"No, she doesn't," spoke up the Story Girl undauntedly. "She was
all dressed and ready to come before she knew I was going to dress
the same way. So she kept her bargain faithfully, Mr. Campbell,
and I think you were cruel to make her do it."

"You do, eh? Well, well, I hope you'll forgive me. I didn't
think she'd do it--I was sure feminine vanity would win the day
over missionary zeal. It seems it didn't--though how much was
pure missionary zeal and how much just plain King spunk I'm
doubtful. I'll keep my promise, Miss. You shall have your five
dollars, and mind you put my name in the round space. No five-
cent corners for me."

CHAPTER XXIV

A TANTALIZING REVELATION

"I shall have something to tell you in the orchard this evening,"
said the Story Girl at breakfast one morning. Her eyes were very
bright and excited. She looked as if she had not slept a great
deal. She had spent the previous evening with Miss Reade and had
not returned until the rest of us were in bed. Miss Reade had
finished giving music lessons and was going home in a few days.
Cecily and Felicity were in despair over this and mourned as those
without comfort. But the Story Girl, who had been even more
devoted to Miss Reade than either of them, had not, as I noticed,
expressed any regret and seemed to be very cheerful over the whole
matter.

"Why can't you tell it now?" asked Felicity.

"Because the evening is the nicest time to tell things in. I only
mentioned it now so that you would have something interesting to
look forward to all day."

"Is it about Miss Reade?" asked Cecily.

"Never mind."

"I'll bet she's going to be married," I exclaimed, remembering the ring.

"Is she?" cried Felicity and Cecily together.

The Story Girl threw an annoyed glance at me. She did not like to
have her dramatic announcements forestalled.

"I don't say that it is about Miss Reade or that it isn't. You
must just wait till the evening."

"I wonder what it is," speculated Cecily, as the Story Girl left
the room.

"I don't believe it's much of anything," said Felicity, beginning
to clear away the breakfast dishes. "The Story Girl always likes
to make so much out of so little. Anyhow, I don't believe Miss
Reade is going to be married. She hasn't any beaus around here
and Mrs. Armstrong says she's sure she doesn't correspond with
anybody. Besides, if she was she wouldn't be likely to tell the
Story Girl."

"Oh, she might. They're such friends, you know," said Cecily.

"Miss Reade is no better friends with her than she is with me and
you," retorted Felicity.

"No, but sometimes it seems to me that she's a different kind of
friend with the Story Girl than she is with me and you," reflected
Cecily. "I can't just explain what I mean."

"No wonder. Such nonsense," sniffed Felicity. "It's only some
girl's secret, anyway," said Dan, loftily. "I don't feel much
interest in it."

But he was on hand with the rest of us that evening, interest or
no interest, in Uncle Stephen's Walk, where the ripening apples
were beginning to glow like jewels among the boughs.

"Now, are you going to tell us your news?" asked Felicity impatiently.

"Miss Reade IS going to be married," said the Story Girl. "She
told me so last night. She is going to be married in a
fortnight's time."

"Who to?" exclaimed the girls.

"To"--the Story Girl threw a defiant glance at me as if to say,
"You can't spoil the surprise of THIS, anyway,"--"to--the Awkward Man."

For a few moments amazement literally held us dumb.

"You're not in earnest, Sara Stanley?" gasped Felicity at last.

"Indeed I am. I thought you'd be astonished. But I wasn't. I've
suspected it all summer, from little things I've noticed. Don't
you remember that evening last spring when I went a piece with
Miss Reade and told you when I came back that a story was growing?
I guessed it from the way the Awkward Man looked at her when I
stopped to speak to him over his garden fence."

"But--the Awkward Man!" said Felicity helplessly. "It doesn't
seem possible. Did Miss Reade tell you HERSELF?"

"Yes."

"I suppose it must be true then. But how did it ever come about?
He's SO shy and awkward. How did he ever manage to get up enough
spunk to ask her to marry him?"

"Maybe she asked him," suggested Dan.

The Story Girl looked as if she might tell if she would.

"I believe that WAS the way of it," I said, to draw her on.

"Not exactly," she said reluctantly. "I know all about it but I
can't tell you. I guessed part from things I've seen--and Miss
Reade told me a good deal--and the Awkward Man himself told me his
side of it as we came home last night. I met him just as I left
Mr. Armstrong's and we were together as far as his house. It was
dark and he just talked on as if he were talking to himself--I
think he forgot I was there at all, once he got started. He has
never been shy or awkward with me, but he never talked as he did
last night."

"You might tell us what he said," urged Cecily. "We'd never
tell."

The Story Girl shook her head.

"No, I can't. You wouldn't understand. Besides, I couldn't tell
it just right. It's one of the things that are hardest to tell.
I'd spoil it if I told it--now. Perhaps some day I'll be able to
tell it properly. It's very beautiful--but it might sound very
ridiculous if it wasn't told just exactly the right way."

"I don't know what you mean, and I don't believe you know
yourself," said Felicity pettishly. "All that I can make out is
that Miss Reade is going to marry Jasper Dale, and I don't like
the idea one bit. She is so beautiful and sweet. I thought she'd
marry some dashing young man. Jasper Dale must be nearly twenty
years older than her--and he's so queer and shy--and such a
hermit."

"Miss Reade is perfectly happy," said the Story Girl. "She thinks
the Awkward Man is lovely--and so he is. You don't know him, but
I do."

"Well, you needn't put on such airs about it," sniffed Felicity.

"I am not putting on any airs. But it's true. Miss Reade and I
are the only people in Carlisle who really know the Awkward Man.
Nobody else ever got behind his shyness to find out just what sort
of a man he is."

"When are they to be married?" asked Felicity.

"In a fortnight's time. And then they are coming right back to
live at Golden Milestone. Won't it be lovely to have Miss Reade
always so near us?"

"I wonder what she'll think about the mystery of Golden
Milestone," remarked Felicity.

Golden Milestone was the beautiful name the Awkward Man had given
his home; and there was a mystery about it, as readers of the
first volume of these chronicles will recall.

"She knows all about the mystery and thinks it perfectly lovely--
and so do I," said the Story Girl.

"Do YOU know the secret of the locked room?" cried Cecily.

"Yes, the Awkward Man told me all about it last night. I told you
I'd find out the mystery some time."

"And what is it?"

"I can't tell you that either."

"I think you're hateful and mean," exclaimed Felicity. "It hasn't
anything to do with Miss Reade, so I think you might tell us."

"It has something to do with Miss Reade. It's all about her."

"Well, I don't see how that can be when the Awkward Man never saw
or heard of Miss Reade until she came to Carlisle in the spring,"
said Felicity incredulously, "and he's had that locked room for
years."

"I can't explain it to you--but it's just as I've said," responded
the Story Girl.

"Well, it's a very queer thing," retorted Felicity.

"The name in the books in the room was Alice--and Miss Reade's
name is Alice," marvelled Cecily. "Did he know her before she
came here?"

"Mrs. Griggs says that room has been locked for ten years. Ten
years ago Miss Reade was just a little girl of ten. SHE couldn't
be the Alice of the books," argued Felicity.

"I wonder if she'll wear the blue silk dress," said Sara Ray.

"And what will she do about the picture, if it isn't hers?" added Cecily.

"The picture couldn't be hers, or Mrs. Griggs would have known her
for the same when she came to Carlisle," said Felix.

"I'm going to stop wondering about it," exclaimed Felicity
crossly, aggravated by the amused smile with which the Story Girl
was listening to the various speculations. "I think Sara is just
as mean as mean when she won't tell us."

"I can't," repeated the Story Girl patiently.

"You said one time you had an idea who 'Alice' was," I said. "Was
your idea anything like the truth?"

"Yes, I guessed pretty nearly right."

"Do you suppose they'll keep the room locked after they are married?"
asked Cecily.

"Oh, no. I can tell you that much. It is to be Miss Reade's own
particular sitting room."

"Why, then, perhaps we'll see it some time ourselves, when we go
to see Miss Reade," cried Cecily.

"I'd be frightened to go into it," confessed Sara Ray. "I hate
things with mysteries. They always make me nervous."

"I love them. They're so exciting," said the Story Girl.

"Just think, this will be the second wedding of people we know,"
reflected Cecily. "Isn't that interesting?"

"I only hope the next thing won't be a funeral," remarked Sara Ray
gloomily. "There were three lighted lamps on our kitchen table
last night, and Judy Pineau says that's a sure sign of a funeral."

"Well, there are funerals going on all the time," said Dan.

"But it means the funeral of somebody you know. I don't believe
in it--MUCH--but Judy says she's seen it come true time and again.
I hope if it does it won't be anybody we know very well. But I
hope it'll be somebody I know a LITTLE, because then I might get
to the funeral. I'd just love to go to a funeral."

"That's a dreadful thing to say," commented Felicity in a shocked
tone.

Sara Ray looked bewildered.

"I don't see what is dreadful in it," she protested.

"People don't go to funerals for the fun of it," said Felicity
severely. "And you just as good as said you hoped somebody you
knew would die so you'd get to the funeral."

"No, no, I didn't. I didn't mean that AT ALL, Felicity. I don't
want anybody to die; but what I meant was, if anybody I knew HAD
to die there might be a chance to go to the funeral. I've never
been to a single funeral yet, and it must be so interesting."

"Well, don't mix up talk about funerals with talk about weddings,"
said Felicity. "It isn't lucky. I think Miss Reade is simply
throwing herself away, but I hope she'll be happy. And I hope the
Awkward Man will manage to get married without making some awful
blunder, but it's more than I expect."

"The ceremony is to be very private," said the Story Girl.

"I'd like to see them the day they appear out in church," chuckled
Dan. "How'll he ever manage to bring her in and show her into the
pew? I'll bet he'll go in first--or tramp on her dress--or fall
over his feet."

"Maybe he won't go to church at all the first Sunday and she'll
have to go alone," said Peter. "That happened in Markdale. A man
was too bashful to go to church the first time after getting
married, and his wife went alone till he got used to the idea."

"They may do things like that in Markdale but that is not the way
people behave in Carlisle," said Felicity loftily.

Seeing the Story Girl slipping away with a disapproving face I
joined her.

"What is the matter, Sara?" I asked.

"I hate to hear them talking like that about Miss Reade and Mr.
Dale," she answered vehemently. "It's really all so beautiful--
but they make it seem silly and absurd, somehow."

"You might tell me all about it, Sara," I insinuated. "I wouldn't
tell--and I'd understand."

"Yes, I think you would," she said thoughtfully. "But I can't
tell it even to you because I can't tell it well enough yet. I've
a feeling that there's only one way to tell it--and I don't know
the way yet. Some day I'll know it--and then I'll tell you, Bev."

Long, long after she kept her word. Forty years later I wrote to
her, across the leagues of land and sea that divided us, and told
her that Jasper Dale was dead; and I reminded her of her old
promise and asked its fulfilment. In reply she sent me the
written love story of Jasper Dale and Alice Reade. Now, when
Alice sleeps under the whispering elms of the old Carlisle
churchyard, beside the husband of her youth, that story may be
given, in all its old-time sweetness, to the world.

CHAPTER XXV

THE LOVE STORY OF THE AWKWARD MAN

(Written by the Story Girl)

Jasper Dale lived alone in the old homestead which he had named
Golden Milestone. In Carlisle this giving one's farm a name was
looked upon as a piece of affectation; but if a place must be
named why not give it a sensible name with some meaning to it? Why
Golden Milestone, when Pinewood or Hillslope or, if you wanted to
be very fanciful, Ivy Lodge, might be had for the taking?

He had lived alone at Golden Milestone since his mother's death;
he had been twenty then and he was close upon forty now, though he
did not look it. But neither could it be said that he looked
young; he had never at any time looked young with common youth;
there had always been something in his appearance that stamped him
as different from the ordinary run of men, and, apart from his
shyness, built up an intangible, invisible barrier between him and
his kind. He had lived all his life in Carlisle; and all the
Carlisle people knew of or about him--although they thought they
knew everything--was that he was painfully, abnormally shy. He
never went anywhere except to church; he never took part in
Carlisle's simple social life; even with most men he was distant
and reserved; as for women, he never spoke to or looked at them;
if one spoke to him, even if she were a matronly old mother in
Israel, he was at once in an agony of painful blushes. He had no
friends in the sense of companions; to all outward appearance his
life was solitary and devoid of any human interest.

He had no housekeeper; but his old house, furnished as it had been
in his mother's lifetime, was cleanly and daintily kept. The
quaint rooms were as free from dust and disorder as a woman could
have had them. This was known, because Jasper Dale occasionally
had his hired man's wife, Mrs. Griggs, in to scrub for him. On
the morning she was expected he betook himself to woods and
fields, returning only at night-fall. During his absence Mrs.
Griggs was frankly wont to explore the house from cellar to attic,
and her report of its condition was always the same--"neat as
wax." To be sure, there was one room that was always locked
against her, the west gable, looking out on the garden and the
hill of pines beyond. But Mrs. Griggs knew that in the lifetime
of Jasper Dale's mother it had been unfurnished. She supposed it
still remained so, and felt no especial curiosity concerning it,
though she always tried the door.

Jasper Dale had a good farm, well cultivated; he had a large
garden where he worked most of his spare time in summer; it was
supposed that he read a great deal, since the postmistress
declared that he was always getting books and magazines by mail.
He seemed well contented with his existence and people let him
alone, since that was the greatest kindness they could do him. It
was unsupposable that he would ever marry; nobody ever had
supposed it.

"Jasper Dale never so much as THOUGHT about a woman," Carlisle
oracles declared. Oracles, however, are not always to be trusted.

One day Mrs. Griggs went away from the Dale place with a very
curious story, which she diligently spread far and wide. It made
a good deal of talk, but people, although they listened eagerly,
and wondered and questioned, were rather incredulous about it.
They thought Mrs. Griggs must be drawing considerably upon her
imagination; there were not lacking those who declared that she
had invented the whole account, since her reputation for strict
veracity was not wholly unquestioned.

Mrs. Griggs's story was as follows:--

One day she found the door of the west gable unlocked. She went
in, expecting to see bare walls and a collection of odds and ends.
Instead she found herself in a finely furnished room. Delicate
lace curtains hung before the small, square, broad-silled windows.
The walls were adorned with pictures in much finer taste than Mrs.
Griggs could appreciate. There was a bookcase between the windows
filled with choicely bound books. Beside it stood a little table
with a very dainty work-basket on it. By the basket Mrs. Griggs
saw a pair of tiny scissors and a silver thimble. A wicker
rocker, comfortable with silk cushions, was near it. Above the
bookcase a woman's picture hung--a water-colour, if Mrs. Griggs
had but known it--representing a pale, very sweet face, with
large, dark eyes and a wistful expression under loose masses of
black, lustrous hair. Just beneath the picture, on the top shelf
of the bookcase, was a vaseful of flowers. Another vaseful stood
on the table beside the basket.

All this was astonishing enough. But what puzzled Mrs. Griggs
completely was the fact that a woman's dress was hanging over a
chair before the mirror--a pale blue, silken affair. And on the
floor beside it were two little blue satin slippers!

Good Mrs. Griggs did not leave the room until she had thoroughly
explored it, even to shaking out the blue dress and discovering it
to be a tea-gown--wrapper, she called it. But she found nothing
to throw any light on the mystery. The fact that the simple name
"Alice" was written on the fly-leaves of all the books only
deepened it, for it was a name unknown in the Dale family. In
this puzzled state she was obliged to depart, nor did she ever
find the door unlocked again; and, discovering that people thought
she was romancing when she talked about the mysterious west gable
at Golden Milestone, she indignantly held her peace concerning the
whole affair.

But Mrs. Griggs had told no more than the simple truth. Jasper
Dale, under all his shyness and aloofness, possessed a nature full
of delicate romance and poesy, which, denied expression in the
common ways of life, bloomed out in the realm of fancy and
imagination. Left alone, just when the boy's nature was deepening
into the man's, he turned to this ideal kingdom for all he
believed the real world could never give him. Love--a strange,
almost mystical love--played its part here for him. He shadowed
forth to himself the vision of a woman, loving and beloved; he
cherished it until it became almost as real to him as his own
personality and he gave this dream woman the name he liked best--
Alice. In fancy he walked and talked with her, spoke words of love
to her, and heard words of love in return. When he came from work
at the close of day she met him at his threshold in the twilight--
a strange, fair, starry shape, as elusive and spiritual as a
blossom reflected in a pool by moonlight--with welcome on her lips
and in her eyes.

One day, when he was in Charlottetown on business, he had been
struck by a picture in the window of a store. It was strangely
like the woman of his dream love. He went in, awkward and
embarrassed, and bought it. When he took it home he did not know
where to put it. It was out of place among the dim old engravings
of bewigged portraits and conventional landscapes on the walls of
Golden Milestone. As he pondered the matter in his garden that
evening he had an inspiration. The sunset, flaming on the windows
of the west gable, kindled them into burning rose. Amid the
splendour he fancied Alice's fair face peeping archly down at him
from the room. The inspiration came then. It should be her room;
he would fit it up for her; and her picture should hang there.

He was all summer carrying out his plan. Nobody must know or
suspect, so he must go slowly and secretly. One by one the
furnishings were purchased and brought home under cover of
darkness. He arranged them with his own hands. He bought the
books he thought she would like best and wrote her name in them;
he got the little feminine knick-knacks of basket and thimble.
Finally he saw in a store a pale blue tea-gown and the satin
slippers. He had always fancied her as dressed in blue. He
bought them and took them home to her room. Thereafter it was
sacred to her; he always knocked on its door before he entered; he
kept it sweet with fresh flowers; he sat there in the purple
summer evenings and talked aloud to her or read his favourite
books to her. In his fancy she sat opposite to him in her rocker,
clad in the trailing blue gown, with her head leaning on one
slender hand, as white as a twilight star.

But Carlisle people knew nothing of this--would have thought him
tinged with mild lunacy if they had known. To them, he was just
the shy, simple farmer he appeared. They never knew or guessed at
the real Jasper Dale.

One spring Alice Reade came to teach music in Carlisle. Her
pupils worshipped her, but the grown people thought she was rather
too distant and reserved. They had been used to merry, jolly
girls who joined eagerly in the social life of the place. Alice
Reade held herself aloof from it--not disdainfully, but as one to
whom these things were of small importance. She was very fond of
books and solitary rambles; she was not at all shy but she was as
sensitive as a flower; and after a time Carlisle people were
content to let her live her own life and no longer resented her
unlikeness to themselves.

She boarded with the Armstrongs, who lived beyond Golden Milestone
around the hill of pines. Until the snow disappeared she went out
to the main road by the long Armstrong lane; but when spring came
she was wont to take a shorter way, down the pine hill, across the
brook, past Jasper Dale's garden, and out through his lane. And
one day, as she went by, Jasper Dale was working in his garden.

He was on his knees in a corner, setting out a bunch of roots--an
unsightly little tangle of rainbow possibilities. It was a still
spring morning; the world was green with young leaves; a little
wind blew down from the pines and lost itself willingly among the
budding delights of the garden. The grass opened eyes of blue
violets. The sky was high and cloudless, turquoise-blue, shading
off into milkiness on the far horizons. Birds were singing along
the brook valley. Rollicking robins were whistling joyously in
the pines. Jasper Dale's heart was filled to over-flowing with a
realization of all the virgin loveliness around him; the feeling
in his soul had the sacredness of a prayer. At this moment he
looked up and saw Alice Reade.

She was standing outside the garden fence, in the shadow of a
great pine tree, looking not at him, for she was unaware of his
presence, but at the virginal bloom of the plum trees in a far
corner, with all her delight in it outblossoming freely in her
face. For a moment Jasper Dale believed that his dream love had
taken visible form before him. She was like--so like; not in
feature, perhaps, but in grace and colouring--the grace of a
slender, lissome form and the colouring of cloudy hair and
wistful, dark gray eyes, and curving red mouth; and more than all,
she was like her in expression--in the subtle revelation of
personality exhaling from her like perfume from a flower. It was
as if his own had come to him at last and his whole soul suddenly
leaped out to meet and welcome her.

Then her eyes fell upon him and the spell was broken. Jasper
remained kneeling mutely there, shy man once more, crimson with
blushes, a strange, almost pitiful creature in his abject
confusion. A little smile flickered about the delicate corners of
her mouth, but she turned and walked swiftly away down the lane.

Jasper looked after her with a new, painful sense of loss and
loveliness. It had been agony to feel her conscious eyes upon
him, but he realized now that there had been a strange sweetness
in it, too. It was still greater pain to watch her going from
him.

He thought she must be the new music teacher but he did not even
know her name. She had been dressed in blue, too--a pale, dainty
blue; but that was of course; he had known she must wear it; and
he was sure her name must be Alice. When, later on, he discovered
that it was, he felt no surprise.

He carried some mayflowers up to the west gable and put them under
the picture. But the charm had gone out of the tribute; and
looking at the picture, he thought how scant was the justice it
did her. Her face was so much sweeter, her eyes so much softer,
her hair so much more lustrous. The soul of his love had gone
from the room and from the picture and from his dreams. When he
tried to think of the Alice he loved he saw, not the shadowy
spirit occupant of the west gable, but the young girl who had
stood under the pine, beautiful with the beauty of moonlight, of
starshine on still water, of white, wind-swayed flowers growing in
silent, shadowy places. He did not then realize what this meant:
had he realized it he would have suffered bitterly; as it was he
felt only a vague discomfort--a curious sense of loss and gain
commingled.

He saw her again that afternoon on her way home. She did not
pause by the garden but walked swiftly past. Thereafter, every
day for a week he watched unseen to see her pass his home. Once a
little child was with her, clinging to her hand. No child had
ever before had any part in the shy man's dream life. But that
night in the twilight the vision of the rocking-chair was a girl
in a blue print dress, with a little, golden-haired shape at her
knee--a shape that lisped and prattled and called her "mother;"
and both of them were his.

It was the next day that he failed for the first time to put
flowers in the west gable. Instead, he cut a loose handful of
daffodils and, looking furtively about him as if committing a
crime, he laid them across the footpath under the pine. She must
pass that way; her feet would crush them if she failed to see
them. Then he slipped back into his garden, half exultant, half
repentant. From a safe retreat he saw her pass by and stoop to
lift his flowers. Thereafter he put some in the same place every
day.

When Alice Reade saw the flowers she knew at once who had put them
there, and divined that they were for her. She lifted them
tenderly in much surprise and pleasure. She had heard all about
Jasper Dale and his shyness; but before she had heard about him
she had seen him in church and liked him. She thought his face
and his dark blue eyes beautiful; she even liked the long brown
hair that Carlisle people laughed at. That he was quite different
from other people she had understood at once, but she thought the
difference in his favour. Perhaps her sensitive nature divined
and responded to the beauty in his. At least, in her eyes Jasper
Dale was never a ridiculous figure.

When she heard the story of the west gable, which most people
disbelieved, she believed it, although she did not understand it.
It invested the shy man with interest and romance. She felt that
she would have liked, out of no impertinent curiosity, to solve
the mystery; she believed that it contained the key to his
character.

Thereafter, every day she found flowers under the pine tree; she
wished to see Jasper to thank him, unaware that he watched her
daily from the screen of shrubbery in his garden; but it was some
time before she found the opportunity. One evening she passed
when he, not expecting her, was leaning against his garden fence
with a book in his hand. She stopped under the pine.

"Mr. Dale," she said softly, "I want to thank you for your
flowers."

Jasper, startled, wished that he might sink into the ground. His
anguish of embarrassment made her smile a little. He could not
speak, so she went on gently.

"It has been so good of you. They have given me so much pleasure--
I wish you could know how much."

"It was nothing--nothing," stammered Jasper. His book had fallen
on the ground at her feet, and she picked it up and held it out to
him.

"So you like Ruskin," she said. "I do, too. But I haven't read
this."

"If you--would care--to read it--you may have it," Jasper
contrived to say.

She carried the book away with her. He did not again hide when
she passed, and when she brought the book back they talked a
little about it over the fence. He lent her others, and got some
from her in return; they fell into the habit of discussing them.
Jasper did not find it hard to talk to her now; it seemed as if he
were talking to his dream Alice, and it came strangely natural to
him. He did not talk volubly, but Alice thought what he did say
was worth while. His words lingered in her memory and made music.
She always found his flowers under the pine, and she always wore
some of them, but she did not know if he noticed this or not.

One evening Jasper walked shyly with her from his gate up the pine
hill. After that he always walked that far with her. She would
have missed him much if he had failed to do so; yet it did not
occur to her that she was learning to love him. She would have
laughed with girlish scorn at the idea. She liked him very much;
she thought his nature beautiful in its simplicity and purity; in
spite of his shyness she felt more delightfully at home in his
society than in that of any other person she had ever met. He was
one of those rare souls whose friendship is at once a pleasure and
a benediction, showering light from their own crystal clearness
into all the dark corners in the souls of others, until, for the
time being at least, they reflected his own nobility. But she
never thought of love. Like other girls she had her dreams of a
possible Prince Charming, young and handsome and debonair. It
never occurred to her that he might be found in the shy, dreamy
recluse of Golden Milestone.

In August came a day of gold and blue. Alice Reade, coming
through the trees, with the wind blowing her little dark love-
locks tricksily about under her wide blue hat, found a fragrant
heap of mignonette under the pine. She lifted it and buried her
face in it, drinking in the wholesome, modest perfume.

She had hoped Jasper would be in his garden, since she wished to
ask him for a book she greatly desired to read. But she saw him
sitting on the rustic seat at the further side. His back was
towards her, and he was partially screened by a copse of lilacs.

Alice, blushing slightly, unlatched the garden gate, and went down
the path. She had never been in the garden before, and she found
her heart beating in a strange fashion.

He did not hear her footsteps, and she was close behind him when
she heard his voice, and realized that he was talking to himself,
in a low, dreamy tone. As the meaning of his words dawned on her
consciousness she started and grew crimson. She could not move or
speak; as one in a dream she stood and listened to the shy man's
reverie, guiltless of any thought of eavesdropping.

"How much I love you, Alice," Jasper Dale was saying, unafraid,
with no shyness in voice or manner. "I wonder what you would say
if you knew. You would laugh at me--sweet as you are, you would
laugh in mockery. I can never tell you. I can only dream of
telling you. In my dream you are standing here by me, dear. I
can see you very plainly, my sweet lady, so tall and gracious,
with your dark hair and your maiden eyes. I can dream that I tell
you my love; that--maddest, sweetest dream of all--that you love
me in return. Everything is possible in dreams, you know, dear.
My dreams are all I have, so I go far in them, even to dreaming
that you are my wife. I dream how I shall fix up my dull old
house for you. One room will need nothing more--it is your room,
dear, and has been ready for you a long time--long before that day
I saw you under the pine. Your books and your chair and your
picture are there, dear--only the picture is not half lovely
enough. But the other rooms of the house must be made to bloom
out freshly for you. What a delight it is thus to dream of what I
would do for you! Then I would bring you home, dear, and lead you
through my garden and into my house as its mistress. I would see
you standing beside me in the old mirror at the end of the hall--a
bride, in your pale blue dress, with a blush on your face. I
would lead you through all the rooms made ready for your coming,
and then to your own. I would see you sitting in your own chair
and all my dreams would find rich fulfilment in that royal moment.
Oh, Alice, we would have a beautiful life together! It's sweet to
make believe about it. You will sing to me in the twilight, and
we will gather early flowers together in the spring days. When I
come home from work, tired, you will put your arms about me and
lay your head on my shoulder. I will stroke it--so--that bonny,
glossy head of yours. Alice, my Alice--all mine in my dream--
never to be mine in real life--how I love you!"

The Alice behind him could bear no more. She gave a little
choking cry that betrayed her presence. Jasper Dale sprang up and
gazed upon her. He saw her standing there, amid the languorous
shadows of August, pale with feeling, wide-eyed, trembling.

For a moment shyness wrung him. Then every trace of it was
banished by a sudden, strange, fierce anger that swept over him.
He felt outraged and hurt to the death; he felt as if he had been
cheated out of something incalculably precious--as if sacrilege
had been done to his most holy sanctuary of emotion. White, tense
with his anger, he looked at her and spoke, his lips as pale as if
his fiery words scathed them.

"How dare you? You have spied on me--you have crept in and
listened! How dare you? Do you know what you have done, girl? You
have destroyed all that made life worth while to me. My dream is
dead. It could not live when it was betrayed. And it was all I
had. Oh, laugh at me--mock me! I know that I am ridiculous! What
of it? It never could have hurt you! Why must you creep in like
this to hear me and put me to shame? Oh, I love you--I will say
it, laugh as you will. Is it such a strange thing that I should
have a heart like other men? This will make sport for you! I, who
love you better than my life, better than any other man in the
world can love you, will be a jest to you all your life. I love
you--and yet I think I could hate you--you have destroyed my
dream--you have done me deadly wrong."

"Jasper! Jasper!" cried Alice, finding her voice. His anger hurt
her with a pain she could not endure. It was unbearable that
Jasper should be angry with her. In that moment she realized that
she loved him--that the words he had spoken when unconscious of
her presence were the sweetest she had ever heard, or ever could
hear. Nothing mattered at all, save that he loved her and was
angry with her.

"Don't say such dreadful things to me," she stammered, "I did not
mean to listen. I could not help it. I shall never laugh at you.
Oh, Jasper"--she looked bravely at him and the fine soul of her
shone through the flesh like an illuminating lamp--"I am glad that
you love me! and I am glad I chanced to overhear you, since you
would never have had the courage to tell me otherwise. Glad--
glad! Do you understand, Jasper?"

Jasper looked at her with the eyes of one who, looking through
pain, sees rapture beyond.

"Is it possible?" he said, wonderingly. "Alice--I am so much
older than you--and they call me the Awkward Man--they say I am
unlike other people"--

"You ARE unlike other people," she said softly, "and that is why I
love you. I know now that I must have loved you ever since I saw
you."

"I loved you long before I saw you," said Jasper.

He came close to her and drew her into his arms, tenderly and
reverently, all his shyness and awkwardness swallowed up in the
grace of his great happiness. In the old garden he kissed her
lips and Alice entered into her own.

CHAPTER XXVI

UNCLE BLAIR COMES HOME

It happened that the Story Girl and I both got up very early on
the morning of the Awkward Man's wedding day. Uncle Alec was
going to Charlottetown that day, and I, awakened at daybreak by
the sounds in the kitchen beneath us, remembered that I had
forgotten to ask him to bring me a certain school-book I wanted.
So I hurriedly dressed and hastened down to tell him before he
went. I was joined on the stairs by the Story Girl, who said she
had wakened and, not feeling like going to sleep again, thought
she might as well get up.

"I had such a funny dream last night," she said. "I dreamed that
I heard a voice calling me from away down in Uncle Stephen's Walk--
'Sara, Sara, Sara,' it kept calling. I didn't know whose it was,
and yet it seemed like a voice I knew. I wakened up while it was
calling, and it seemed so real I could hardly believe it was a
dream. It was bright moonlight, and I felt just like getting up
and going out to the orchard. But I knew that would be silly and
of course I didn't go. But I kept on wanting to and I couldn't
sleep any more. Wasn't it queer?"

When Uncle Alec had gone I proposed a saunter to the farther end
of the orchard, where I had left a book the preceding evening. A
young mom was walking rosily on the hills as we passed down Uncle
Stephen's Walk, with Paddy trotting before us. High overhead was
the spirit-like blue of paling skies; the east was a great arc of
crystal, smitten through with auroral crimsonings; just above it
was one milk-white star of morning, like a pearl on a silver sea.
A light wind of dawn was weaving an orient spell.

"It's lovely to be up as early as this, isn't it?" said the Story
Girl. "The world seems so different just at sunrise, doesn't it?
It makes me feel just like getting up to see the sun rise every
morning of my life after this. But I know I won't. I'll likely
sleep later than ever tomorrow morning. But I wish I could."

"The Awkward Man and Miss Reade are going to have a lovely day for
their wedding," I said.

"Yes, and I'm so glad. Beautiful Alice deserves everything good.
Why, Bev--why, Bev! Who is that in the hammock?"

I looked. The hammock was swung under the two end trees of the
Walk. In it a man was lying, asleep, his head pillowed on his
overcoat. He was sleeping easily, lightly, and wholesomely. He
had a pointed brown beard and thick wavy brown hair. His cheeks
were a dusky red and the lashes of his closed eyes were as long
and dark and silken as a girl's. He wore a light gray suit, and
on the slender white hand that hung down over the hammock's edge
was a spark of diamond fire.

It seemed to me that I knew his face, although assuredly I had
never seen him before. While I groped among vague speculations
the Story Girl gave a queer, choked little cry. The next moment
she had sprung over the intervening space, dropped on her knees by
the hammock, and flung her arms about the man's neck.

"Father! Father!" she cried, while I stood, rooted to the ground
in my amazement.

The sleeper stirred and opened two large, exceedingly brilliant
hazel eyes. For a moment he gazed rather blankly at the brown-
curled young lady who was embracing him. Then a most delightful
smile broke over his face; he sprang up and caught her to his
heart.

"Sara--Sara--my little Sara! To think didn't know you at first
glance! But you are almost a woman. And when I saw you last you
were just a little girl of eight. My own little Sara!"

"Father--father--sometimes I've wondered if you were ever coming
back to me," I heard the Story Girl say, as I turned and scuttled
up the Walk, realizing that I was not wanted there just then and
would be little missed. Various emotions and speculations
possessed my mind in my retreat; but chiefly did I feel a sense of
triumph in being the bearer of exciting news.

"Aunt Janet, Uncle Blair is here," I announced breathlessly at the
kitchen door.

Aunt Janet, who was kneading her bread, turned round and lifted
floury hands. Felicity and Cecily, who were just entering the
kitchen, rosy from slumber, stopped still and stared at me.

"Uncle who?" exclaimed Aunt Janet.

"Uncle Blair--the Story Girl's father, you know. He's here."

"WHERE?"

"Down in the orchard. He was asleep in the hammock. We found him there."

"Dear me!" said Aunt Janet, sitting down helplessly. "If that
isn't like Blair! Of course he couldn't come like anybody else. I
wonder," she added in a tone unheard by anyone else save myself,
"I wonder if he has come to take the child away."

My elation went out like a snuffed candle. I had never thought of
this. If Uncle Blair took the Story Girl away would not life
become rather savourless on the hill farm? I turned and followed
Felicity and Cecily out in a very subdued mood.

Uncle Blair and the Story Girl were just coming out of the
orchard. His arm was about her and hers was on his shoulder.
Laughter and tears were contending in her eyes. Only once before--
when Peter had come back from the Valley of the Shadow--had I
seen the Story Girl cry. Emotion had to go very deep with her ere
it touched the source of tears. I had always known that she loved
her father passionately, though she rarely talked of him,
understanding that her uncles and aunts were not whole-heartedly
his friends.

But Aunt Janet's welcome was cordial enough, though a trifle
flustered. Whatever thrifty, hard-working farmer folk might think
of gay, Bohemian Blair Stanley in his absence, in his presence
even they liked him, by the grace of some winsome, lovable quality
in the soul of him. He had "a way with him"--revealed even in the
manner with which he caught staid Aunt Janet in his arms, swung
her matronly form around as though she had been a slim schoolgirl,
and kissed her rosy cheek.

"Sister o' mine, are you never going to grow old?" he said. "Here
you are at forty-five with the roses of sixteen--and not a gray
hair, I'll wager."

"Blair, Blair, it is you who are always young," laughed Aunt
Janet, not ill pleased. "Where in the world did you come from?
And what is this I hear of your sleeping all night in the
hammock?"

"I've been painting in the Lake District all summer, as you know,"
answered Uncle Blair, "and one day I just got homesick to see my
little girl. So I sailed for Montreal without further delay. I
got here at eleven last night--the station-master's son drove me
down. Nice boy. The old house was in darkness and I thought it
would be a shame to rouse you all out of bed after a hard day's
work. So I decided that I would spend the night in the orchard.
It was moonlight, you know, and moonlight in an old orchard is one
of the few things left over from the Golden Age."

"It was very foolish of you," said practical Aunt Janet. "These
September nights are real chilly. You might have caught your
death of cold--or a bad dose of rheumatism."

"So I might. No doubt it was foolish of me," agreed Uncle Blair
gaily. "It must have been the fault, of the moonlight.
Moonlight, you know, Sister Janet, has an intoxicating quality.
It is a fine, airy, silver wine, such as fairies may drink at
their revels, unharmed of it; but when a mere mortal sips of it,
it mounts straightway to his brain, to the undoing of his daylight
common sense. However, I have got neither cold nor rheumatism, as
a sensible person would have done had he ever been lured into
doing such a non-sensible thing; there is a special Providence for
us foolish folk. I enjoyed my night in the orchard; for a time I
was companioned by sweet old memories; and then I fell asleep
listening to the murmurs of the wind in those old trees yonder.
And I had a beautiful dream, Janet. I dreamed that the old
orchard blossomed again, as it did that spring eighteen years ago.
I dreamed that its sunshine was the sunshine of spring, not
autumn. There was newness of life in my dream, Janet, and the
sweetness of forgotten words."

"Wasn't it strange about MY dream?" whispered the Story Girl to me.

"Well, you'd better come in and have some breakfast," said Aunt
Janet. "These are my little girls--Felicity and Cecily."

"I remember them as two most adorable tots," said Uncle Blair,
shaking hands. "They haven't changed quite so much as my own
baby-child. Why, she's a woman, Janet--she's a woman."

"She's child enough still," said Aunt Janet hastily.

The Story Girl shook her long brown curls.

"I'm fifteen," she said. "And you ought to see me in my long
dress, father."

"We must not be separated any longer, dear heart," I heard Uncle
Blair say tenderly. I hoped that he meant he would stay in
Canada--not that he would take the Story Girl away.

Apart from this we had a gay day with Uncle Blair. He evidently
liked our society better than that of the grown-ups, for he was a
child himself at heart, gay, irresponsible, always acting on the
impulse of the moment. We all found him a delightful companion.
There was no school that day, as Mr. Perkins was absent, attending
a meeting of the Teachers' Convention, so we spent most of its
golden hours in the orchard with Uncle Blair, listening to his

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