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´╗┐Title: Rainbow Hill
Author: Lawrence, Josephine, 1897?-1978
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Rainbow Hill" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



  [Transcriber's note: Extensive research found no evidence
  that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]



[Frontispiece:  "THIS THE FIRST TIME YOU'VE BEEN ON A FARM?" HE ASKED.]



RAINBOW HILL


_By_

_Josephine Lawrence_



_Author of_

_ROSEMARY_


_Illustrated by_

_Thelma Gooch_



NEW YORK

CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY



COPYRIGHT, 1924, BY

CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY

_Rainbow Hill_


PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



CONTENTS


CHAPTER

     I  PLANS
    II  LOOKING FORWARD
   III  RAINBOW HILL
    IV  FIRST IMPRESSIONS
     V  DAYS OF DELIGHT
    VI  WINNIE IS NERVOUS
   VII  AN ADVENTURE FOR SARAH
  VIII  STORM SIGNALS
    IX  ONE WISH COMES TRUE
     X  AN EVENTFUL DAY
    XI  ALL SERENE AGAIN
   XII  NAPOLEON BONAPARTE
  XIII  THE GAY FAMILY
   XIV  THE GAY FINANCES
    XV  THE POOR FARM
   XVI  SARAH'S SURPRISE
  XVII  WILLING AND OBLIGING
 XVIII  A NEW FRIEND
   XIX  JACK--HIRED MAN
    XX  A LITTLE GIRL LOST
   XXI  DOWN LINDEN ROAD
  XXII  SARAH HAS AN IDEA
 XXIII  BONY JOINS THE CIRCUS
  XXIV  TRULY A SACRIFICE
   XXV  UP TO MISCHIEF
  XXVI  SOMETHING TO REMEMBER
 XXVII  SUMMER'S END



RAINBOW HILL


CHAPTER I

PLANS

Doctor Hugh leaned back in his swivel chair and looked anxiously at his
mother.

"I don't believe you realize how incessant the noise will be," he
urged.  "Every morning hammering and sawing and the inevitable shouting
and argument that seem to attend all building operations, especially
when the job is one of alteration, like this."

"I shall not mind the noise, dear," said Mrs. Willis tranquilly.  "Let
me see the plans again."

She held out her hand for the blue prints and four interested heads
immediately bent above them, Rosemary being tall enough to look over
her mother's shoulder and Sarah and Shirley pressing close to her side.

"I don't see how anyone can tell a thing from that," Rosemary
complained.  "There's nothing but white lines."

The doctor smiled, but his glance was on the frail, almost transparent
hands which held the roll of paper flat on the desk.

"I suppose you thought that carpenters worked from photographs of
completed interiors, or illustrations in interior-decoration
catalogues," he suggested good-naturedly.  "You see before you,
Rosemary, a most practical conception of two offices and a reception
room.  Mr. Greggs will rip out one side of the house and add them on as
a wing and when the joining is painted over you'll think those rooms
were built when the original house was."

"Well--all right," conceded Rosemary, "I suppose Mr. Greggs knows.
Anyway, it will be fun to have something going on.  Vacation certainly
isn't very exciting."

"I want to see them rip the house," announced Sarah with intense
satisfaction.

"I think I owe it to Mr. Greggs almost as much as to Mother, to have
you at a safe distance before the ripping begins," said Doctor Hugh a
little grimly.  "Somehow I have the feeling, Sarah, that the best-laid
plans of architects may go awry when you're about."

"Huh!" retorted Sarah, abandoning blue prints for her favorite goatskin
rug on which she flopped in an attitude more comfortable than graceful.

Shirley, too, wearying of the unfamiliar, turned to the delights of the
iron wastebasket into which she tried to wedge her plump self with
indifferent success and a great crackling of paper.

Doctor Hugh began to sharpen a pencil with meticulous care, his dark
eyes behind their glasses apparently intent on the task in hand.  But
the more discerning of his patients, and every nurse who had served on
his cases, could have told you that Doctor Willis always saw most when
he appeared to be quite absorbed.

Even an outsider would have been interested in the group gathered in
the young doctor's office that summer afternoon.  The little mother
(she was no taller than her oldest daughter and came only to her tall
son's shoulder) sat at one side of the flat-topped desk, leaning her
head on one hand as she studied the plans for the addition to the
house.  She was very lovely and very appealing, from her wavy dark hair
faintly streaked with gray to her little buckled slippers, and there
was nothing of the invalid about her.  It would have been difficult to
say, off-hand, just why she should inspire the conviction, immediate
and swift, that those who loved her must be constantly on guard to
protect her against physical exhaustion and weakness.  Difficult, that
is, only until one saw her patient, shining eyes and then one knew,
what had never been hidden from Doctor Hugh, that in her body dwelt an
unquenchable spirit that would always outrun her strength.

In Rosemary, leaning above her mother and studying the blue prints so
intently that a little frown gathered between her arched brows, the
spirit and strength were united.  The effect of Rosemary on the most
casual beholder, was always one of radiance.  The mass of her waving
hair was bronze, said her friends; it was red, it was gold, it was all
of these.  Her eyes were like her mother's, a violet blue, but dancing,
drenched in tears or black with storm--seldom patient eyes.  She lived
intensely, did Rosemary, and sometimes she hurt herself and sometimes
she hurt others.  She could be obstinate--wanting her own way with the
insistence of a driving force; that was the Willis will working in her,
Winnie said.  All the Willis children had that trait, Winnie said also.
Rosemary could be sorry and make frank confession.  That, Sarah always
thought, was the hardest thing in the world to do.

The dark and stolid Sarah lying on her stomach on the white goatskin
rug, was "the queer one" of the family.  Sarah's nature was as
uncompromising as her own square-toed sandals and about as blunt.
Demonstrations of affection bored her.  She tended strictly to her
interests and felt small concern in the affairs of her sisters.  You
could reach Sarah--after you had learned the way--and the depths in her
were worth reaching.  But her one passionate devotion was for
animals--she would do anything for her pets, dare anything for them.
Sometimes Doctor Hugh wondered if she would not sacrifice anyone to
their needs.

If one desired a contrast to Sarah, there was Shirley.  Shirley who sat
in the wastebasket and beamed upon an approving world.  Six year old
Shirley was a born sunbeam and her brief fits of temper only seemed to
intensify the normal sunshine of her disposition.  She smiled and she
coaxed answering smiles from the severest mortal; she dimpled and
laughter bubbled up to meet her chuckling mirth.  It was impossible to
remain cross or ill-tempered when Shirley danced into a room and it is
to be feared that her gifts of cajolery bought her off from often
needed reproofs.  It was never easy to scold Shirley.

Doctor Hugh Willis, sharpening his pencil so painstakingly, knew all
this and more.  To his natural endowment of keen-eyed penetration had
been recently added the illuminating experience of a year as sole head
of the household--a year in which the little mother had been absent in
a sanitarium recovering her shattered health and he had been
responsible for the welfare of his sisters.

Not the least interesting figure of that group--Doctor Hugh.
Dark-haired, dark-eyed and tall, his keen, intelligent face could be as
expressive as Rosemary's.  His chin was firm and his mouth could be
grim and smiling, by turns.  His speaking voice was rather remarkable
in the range of its modulations and his manner was incisive as one used
to commanding obedience.  His patients said "Doctor" had a way with him.

"Shall I cut the cake, or put it on whole?" inquired someone blandly on
the other side of the closed door.

"There's Winnie," said Mrs. Willis, lifting her head and smiling.
"Open the door, Shirley."

Five pairs of eyes turned affectionately to the tall, thin woman who
stepped into the room as Shirley obeyed.  This was Winnie without whom
the Willis household would have been lost indeed since for twenty-eight
years she had solved every domestic difficulty for them, shrewdly and
capably.  Loyalty and service were beautiful, concrete things in her
faithful loving eyes.  Dear Winnie!

"About the cake," she said now, smoothing her immaculate apron and
glancing sharply at the circle of rather serious faces.

"Bother the cake," answered Doctor Hugh, secure in the knowledge that
whatever he said would receive Winnie's unqualified approval.  "Have
you seen the plans for the new office, Winnie?"

"That I have not," she replied eagerly and Rosemary yielded her place
while Winnie stared over Mrs. Willis' shoulder at the mysterious white
lines and dots.

"You must be expecting a lot of sick folks, Hughie," she commented
after a moment's study.

"I'll give up the other office," the doctor explained, "and have all my
office hours here."

"When can Mr. Greggs start work, Hugh?" asked his mother, rescuing the
elastic bands from Shirley and moving the ink well back from the small,
exploring fingers.

"Next week, he hopes," Doctor Hugh answered.  "There won't be any
digging to be done, because we are not going to extend the cellar; but
there will be mason work for the foundation and they want to open out
the side of the hall as soon as they start."

"It will be messy," said Winnie, with unmistakable disapproval of
anything "messy."

"It will be messy," agreed the doctor.  "Worse than that, it will be
noisy.  I want Mother and you to take the girls and go away till it is
over.  I don't think anyone should be asked to endure the sound of
constant hammering in the hot weather; I'll be out of the house so much
that I don't count and of course I'll keep the other office till things
are in shape here."

He spoke evenly, but his eyes met Winnie's across Mrs. Willis' shapely
drooping head.

"I think we ought to get out of Mr. Greggs' way," declared Winnie
briskly.  "Carpenters have small patience with women and their
housekeeping habits.  They think we're interfering when we only want to
keep 'em from driving nails in the mahogany tables.  And if they're
going to ruin the hall rug with their bricks and mortar I, for one,
don't want to be here to see it."

"Oh, Winnie, you fraud!" Mrs. Willis spoke merrily.  "You are not
worrying about the hall rug--I know you too well.  You're siding with
Hugh and you are both conspiring to wreck the household budget a second
time.  I had all the luxury one woman is entitled to last year in the
sanitarium--from now on I intend to consider expenses and a summer away
from home isn't to be thought of."

"Your health is worth more than dollars and cents," said Winnie sagely.

"I'm not going to take music lessons this vacation," offered Rosemary.
"That ought to help, Mother."

"If I can arrange it so you can leave the house while the alterations
are being put through and yet keep the living expenses down to your
stipulated level--will you go, Mother?" said Doctor Hugh artfully.

"Can you come, too?" countered his mother.

"Well--part of the time at least," he temporized.

A sudden picture of her orderly quiet home in the hands of the
loud-talking, aggressively cheerful town carpenter and his helpers, the
gash in the hall letting in dirt and flies, with the attendant bustle
and confusion that go with artisan work, flashed across Mrs. Willis'
vision.  Sarah and Shirley must be constantly admonished to keep out of
mischief and danger, Winnie placated when her domain should be
encroached upon.  And the noise of hammers and saws and files!

"I have only two objections to going away, Hugh," said Mrs. Willis
quietly.  "One is leaving you and the other is the expense."

"Then it is as good as settled," declared Doctor Hugh, rolling up the
blue prints and snapping an elastic around them as though he snapped
his ideas into place with the same deft movement.

Rosemary's eyes began to shine.

"Oh, Hugh, tell us!" she begged.  "I know you have some perfectly
lovely plan--tell us what it is."

But the doctor's smile was enigmatic and the two words he vouchsafed a
conundrum to them all.

"Rainbow Hill," was the answer he made to every question.

Winnie, always an ally of the doctor's, appealed to, could give no
help.  "If you studied geography more and cats less, Sarah," she
informed that small girl who insisted on repeated questioning, "you
might be able to tell me.  I've told you before that I know nothing at
all about this Rainbow Hill."

And Rosemary, waylaying her brother with carefully planned nonchalance,
fared no more successfully.

"You can't wheedle any news out of me, my dear," announced Doctor Hugh,
his eyes twinkling.  "All in good time--and after Mother, you'll be the
first to be told.  Patience is a virtue, Rosemary."

And then he ducked to escape the porch cushion she sent whirling toward
him.



CHAPTER II

LOOKING FORWARD

"I don't believe you've heard a word I've been saying, Jack Welles!"

The boy on his knees before the tangled fishing tackle spread out on
the lowest porch step, looked up alertly.

"Sure I heard," he protested.  "Something or other is 'perfectly
adorable.'"

Rosemary laughed.  She had been sitting in the porch swing and now she
came and camped on the middle step, chin in hand, regardless of the hot
sunshine that turned her bronze hair to red gold.

"I suppose I did say that," she admitted.  "But it really is, Jack.  I
don't believe Mother would call it an exaggeration."

Jack Welles frowned at a tangle of line.  "I heard you," he said again,
"but I didn't get where this place is--I saw you and your mother going
off with Hugh in the car this morning," he added.

"I'll untangle that for you," offered Rosemary, holding out her hand
for the line.  "We went to see Rainbow Hill and now Mother is crazy to
go there for the summer.  Hugh is as pleased as pleased can be, for he
wants her to go somewhere before Mr. Greggs starts the work here."

"Where's Rainbow Hill?" asked Jack, watching the slim fingers as they
worked at the waxed silk thread so woefully knotted.

"That's the best part of the whole plan," Rosemary assured him, taking
his knowledge of a plan for granted.  "It's only about eight or nine
miles from here and twelve from Bennington.  Hugh can easily come out
in the car.  You must have seen the house, Jack--it is right on the
tip-top of that hill to the right, the little white clapboarded house
you see as soon as you pass the cross-roads."

"I've seen it," said Jack.

"Well, you may have seen it, but you can't tell how lovely it is until
you go through it," declared Rosemary, winding a free length of line
about her slender wrist for safe-keeping.  "There's no front porch--you
step into the living-room right from the lawn.  But there is a side
porch with awnings and screens that Mother will just love."

"Where are the folks who live there?" demanded the practical Jack.

"They're going to California, to visit their married  daughter,"
Rosemary explained.  "They're patients of Hugh's--Mr. and Mrs. Hammond.
And they wanted to rent the house because they didn't like the idea of
closing it for almost three months with all their nice furniture and a
piano and everything in it.  So--wasn't it lucky--they happened to ask
Hugh if he knew of anyone who would rent the place furnished and he saw
right away it would be just the thing for us."

"Whereupon they insisted that he take it as a gift, with a maid and two
butlers thrown in," recited Jack, who knew in what affection Doctor
Hugh's patients held him.

"Not exactly," dimpled Rosemary, "but they did say that if Mother would
live there during the summer they would consider it a favor and
wouldn't dream of charging rent.  Mrs. Hammond said she knew she
wouldn't have to worry about her things if Doctor Hugh's mother would
be there to look after them.  But, of course, Hugh wouldn't listen to
that--he said business was business and as soon as he and Mr. Hammond
had the rent fixed, Hugh took Mother and me to see Rainbow Hill.  And
it's too lovely for words."

"Any butlers?" suggested Jack.

"Not a butler," answered Rosemary firmly.  "Winnie beats all the
butlers I ever saw--or read about," she emended, remembering that her
actual experience with butlers was limited.

"Winnie won't take kindly to pumping water from the well every
morning," said Jack, sorting fish hooks with a practised hand.

"There's no water to pump," was the prompt and cheerful response.
"It's an old-fashioned house, but the plumbing is new--Hugh found that
out before he even mentioned Rainbow Hill to Mother.  It will be such
fun to show the place to Sarah and Shirley--I can hardly wait."

Jack looked up at the vivid, glowing face above him.

"I can imagine Sarah let loose on a farm," he said drily.  "They'd
better tie up the pigs and nail down the cows--I wouldn't trust that
girl within ten feet of a live animal."

"You think you're smart, Jack Welles!" broke in the wrathful voice of
Sarah as that young person hurled herself around the side of the house
and confronted them indignantly.  "You think you're smart, don't you?"

"'Scuse me, Sarah, I didn't know you were within hearing distance,"
apologized Jack with proper contriteness.  "Don't be mad at me, Sally,
for here you are going away--when are you going?"

"Monday," said Sarah sullenly.

"You're going away Monday," went on Jack, "and you may not see me till
September; can't we part friends, Sarah?"

Sarah regarded him suspiciously, but he surveyed her over his fish
hooks and was apparently quite serious.

"I'll be glad to leave some people in this neighborhood," stated Sarah
with peculiar distinctness.  "I'm going to do just as I please at
Rainbow Hill."

"Then I take it that Hugh won't be there?" said Jack, but Rosemary
hastened to act as peacemaker.

"Don't fuss," she advised them wisely.  "Jack, I may learn how to fish
this summer myself--Mr. Hammond told Hugh that Mr. Hildreth is a great
fisherman."

Jack asked who Mr. Hildreth was and Sarah answered that he was the
tenant farmer.

"And his wife is the tenant farmeress," said Sarah importantly.  "They
live in another house and plant things--Hugh told me."

"Yes'm, I don't doubt it," agreed Jack, when he had assimilated this
remarkable information, "but how come a farmer and a farmeress have
time to give lessons in fishing?"

Rosemary began on the last knot in the line.  "Don't be silly, Jack,"
she begged.  "There'll be two boys there--Mrs. Hildreth says her
husband gets two students from the State Agricultural College to help
him every summer.  They'll want to go fishing and Sarah and I can go
along."

"When you farm, you farm," said Jack sententiously.  "You don't hoe the
potatoes one day and then go fishing for a week.  But I may be wrong at
that and if you find Mr. Hildreth needs an extra hired man, Rosemary,
one to go fishing, I mean, ask him to send for me.  I'll come right up
and fish and look after the garden in my odd moments."

"Hugh's coming to spend two weeks in August," announced Sarah.  "And
he'll come out as many week-ends as he can; will you really come, Jack?"

"I always did yearn to be a hired man," Jack answered earnestly, "and
they tell us there is no time like the present to put one's ambition in
training.  I'm awfully afraid I'll have to earn my living after I leave
school and a nice trade, like that of hired man, might be useful in my
later life.  I'll think it over and let you know, Sarah; but don't let
Mr. Hildreth build on my coming--I can't face his grief and
disappointment in case I fail to turn up."

"You think you're smart!" was Sarah's retort and Rosemary said to
herself that it was impossible to tell when Jack was in earnest.

Winnie came out and told them that lunch was ready just then, and Jack
took his fishing tackle and retreated to his own home which was next
door, first thanking Rosemary fervently for the unknotted line she
handed him.

There were times during the days of preparation for the eventful Monday
when Mrs. Willis wondered whether they were really wise to go to so
much trouble, times when she thought wearily that her own home, noisy
as it might be, would be far preferable to the effort required to adapt
her family to a new environment.

Rosemary put the feeling into words one noon when the doctor came home
to lunch and found her sitting on the floor beside a trunk with a
lapful of rusty keys.

"Nothing fits," complained Rosemary.  "All the keys to everything are
lost.  And I don't see what good a restful summer will do Mother if she
has nervous prostration before she gets off."

Doctor Hugh settled several difficulties in as many minutes--he had a
gift for that--by dispatching Sarah to the locksmith with soft-soap
impressions of the keyless locks and orders to get keys to fit them and
insisting that his mother must stay quietly in her room the remainder
of the day and be served with luncheon and supper there.

"You girls try to talk all at once," he told his three sisters when
they sat down at last to Winnie's rice waffles, "and that is enough to
tire anyone.

"Can't I take the cat, Hugh?" urged Sarah anxiously.  "You can take it
in the car for me and I know fresh country air will be good for poor
Esther."

"Esther wouldn't appreciate Rainbow Hill," said Doctor Hugh with
conviction.  "Cats don't like to change their homes, Sarah.  Besides,
you'll have all the animals you want once you are on the farm.  And
that reminds me I want to say one thing to you."

"I suppose," remarked Sarah plaintively, "you're going to scold."

"Not exactly," said her brother, smiling in spite of himself.  "But
while I want you to have a happy summer, Sarah, and 'collect' snakes
and bugs and insects to your heart's content, I want you to understand
clearly that the menagerie is to be kept outside of the house.  Mother
and Winnie mustn't be expected to get used to finding snakes in boxes
and spiders in bottles, and the place to study a colony of ants is
outside, not in the front hall.  If I find you can't remember this one
rule, you'll have to come back to Eastshore and stay with me during the
week."

Sarah, with an unhappy recollection of the furore she had created the
week before when she had bodily transplanted a thriving colony of ants
to the hall rug, promised to remember.

"Jack Welles said he might come up for a couple of weeks and be a hired
man," announced Rosemary, smiling.

"I hope he does," approved the doctor promptly.  "He'll find it an
endurance test and a particularly valuable one.  Yes, Winnie?"

"I wish you'd step out and look at the canna bed," said Winnie grimly.
"Every single plant pulled out and left dying in the sun."

"Why, I did that," declared Shirley in her clear little voice that
always reminded Winnie of a robin's chirp.  "I thought Mother would
want to take the cannas to Rainbow Hill with us--we can plant them
around the porch there."

Doctor Hugh pushed back his chair, his mouth twitching.

"Whatever happens this summer, Winnie," he said gravely, "something
tells me that you won't be bored."



CHAPTER III

RAINBOW HILL

A white clapboarded house with moss-green shutters and a dark oak
"Dutch" door, the upper half of which swung hospitably open--this was
Rainbow Hill in the light of the late June afternoon sun.  A little
jewel of a house set in the center of a close-cropped emerald-green
lawn and circled by sturdy old trees, elms and maples that had marked
the site of the old homestead and now guarded the "new house" as it had
been called ever since it had been built six years before to replace
the farmhouse destroyed by fire.

"Welcome to Rainbow Hill," said Mrs. Joseph Hildreth, coming out on the
red tiled walk as a car swept up to the door and stopped.

Mrs. Hildreth, the wife of the tenant farmer, was a young woman with
wide-awake blue eyes and an air of capability that struck terror to the
souls of the lazy.  She was known far and wide as "a hustler" and she
had been known to do a large washing and baking in the morning and
drive the hay rake in the field in the afternoon on occasions when her
husband was short of help.  It was a pity her voice was so loud and
rasping, but then not everyone is sensitive to voices.

"I guess you'll find everything about ready for your supper," said Mrs.
Hildreth when Doctor Hugh had introduced Sarah and Shirley and Winnie,
the three members of the party she had not met previously.  "I brought
up a pail of strawberries--they'll be better next week.  Mrs. Hammond
said you were to have half the garden, same as they did.  The butter
may be a little soft, but Joe will get you a piece of ice in the
morning at the creamery.  We weren't sure you'd get here to-day, so I
didn't order it."

With a few more confidences, directed mainly to Winnie, she went back
to her own house--an attractive story and a half bungalow just visible
from the side porch, and the Willis family were free to take possession
of Rainbow Hill.

"Isn't it darling!" Rosemary kept exclaiming.  "Aren't the rugs
pretty--and the white curtains!  Wait till you see the rooms upstairs."

In spite of Winnie's warning that supper would be ready in fifteen
minutes and Doctor Hugh's declaration that he must go back to Eastshore
as soon as the meal was over, it was impossible to refrain from running
upstairs for a peep at the second story.  There was a large and airy
bedroom for the mother, a connecting room which was allotted to
Rosemary and across the hall a smaller room with twin beds which would,
it was instantly decided, "fit" Sarah and Shirley.  Next to this was
the guest room which Doctor Hugh would occupy during his visits, and at
the other end of the hall, next to the shining blue and white tiled
bathroom, a square room with two windows and a narrow balcony that
delighted Winnie.

"There's no nicer place to dry your hair," she explained seriously to
Mrs. Willis.  "I can sit out there and darn stockings while my hair is
drying."

The trunks and one or two boxes, packed with necessary possessions
mostly of a personal nature, had been sent on ahead in the morning and
were already in the halls.  The house was tastefully furnished
throughout and Mrs. Willis assured her son that as soon as she had
rearranged a few trifles and had unpacked her treasures she was sure
she would feel contented and at home.

"I want to go everywhere!" declared Sarah, subsiding into a chair at
the dining-room table with visible reluctance.  "I want to see the
horses and the cows and the pigs.  Say, Hugh, do you think we could
keep pigs when we go home?  There's room in the yard."

"You want to go to bed early and save your exploring until to-morrow,"
advised the doctor.  "I have to be back at the house by eight and
that's bed-time for one little girl I know.  Shirley looks sleepy now."

"I'm not," said Shirley automatically, her invariable remark whenever
the subject was mentioned.

Although the doctor had an appointment waiting him, he seemed to find
it hard to tear himself away from the pleasant picture the mother and
her three daughters made on the spacious side porch after supper that
night.  Winnie had insisted on displaying her convenient kitchen and
though there was no gas range she declared that the oil stove would
fulfill all her requirements except for her weekly baking when she
would build a fire in the range.  There Were electric lights throughout
the house; and the outbuildings, as they learned later, as well as the
tenant house, were also wired.

"Here comes somebody!" said Sarah in a loud whisper.  "It's the
farmeress."

"No it isn't, it's two of them," asserted Shirley, pressing her small
nose against the wire screen and acquiring a plaid pattern on the tip.

"Hush--they'll hear you," said Mrs. Willis, rising and opening the
screen door as two young men came across the lawn.

"Mrs. Willis?" said the taller.  "Mr. Hildreth sent us up to see if you
wanted any help, unpacking.  This is Richard Gilbert," he introduced
his companion, "and I am Warren Baker.  We're working for Mr. Hildreth
this summer."

Doctor Hugh came forward at once and while they were being introduced
the three girls studied the newcomers with interest.  They were both
apparently about eighteen years old, both deeply tanned, both slim and
muscular and wholesome-looking.  Richard  Gilbert was slightly shorter
and heavier than Warren, who was really thin.  The latter had dark hair
and gray eyes, while Richard's hair and eyes were brown.  Both boys
were neatly, if not smartly, dressed and gave a pleasant impression of
cleanliness, coolness and comfort, though they had done a heavy day's
work and their day had started at five that morning.  Rosemary
instantly decided that she liked them both.

So did the rest of the Willis family, and Doctor Hugh delayed his
departure till he declared that one more moment would mean he must
break the speed laws to get back to town.  It had been arranged that he
was to take his breakfast and dinner with the hospitable Welles, a most
convenient plan since their house was the nearest.  He was seldom home
for lunch and his telephone calls would be taken care of at the "Jordan
office" as Eastshore still called the rooms which had been occupied by
the old and popular physician whose practise had been taken over by
Doctor Hugh.

Mrs. Willis watched him drive away, satisfied that his comfort was
provided for; and then, as she had decreed that no unpacking was to be
done that night, Richard and Warren took their leave, after promising
to show the girls the whole farm the next morning.

"If they know what they're about, they'll tie a rope to Sarah," said
Winnie, going about locking doors and windows as though she expected a
siege.

She had managed to "get a good look," as she said, at the visitors and
had approved of them whole-heartedly.

"Nice, ordinary boys," she said to Mrs. Willis at the first
opportunity.  "Not a bit stiff or shy.  did you notice, and yet not any
of these smart Alecs that can't stop talking long enough to listen to
what a body has to say."

"What are you locking up all the windows for, Winnie?" Sarah questioned
her, sitting down on the rug to take off her sandals as a preparation
for the trip upstairs.  "You'll have to open them all in the morning
again."

"Well, maybe I will," admitted Winnie, turning the key in the front
door and sliding both bolts with emphasis, "but I won't come downstairs
and find the parlor full of skunks and owls and bats--we'll be saved
that."

"They couldn't get through the screens," protested Sarah, whose natural
tendency to argue was intensified by weariness.

"You never can tell," was Winnie's answer to this.  "I'm not taking any
chances in the country."

She thought Sarah had gone up to bed and was startled a few minutes
later, when busy in the kitchen, to hear the door open behind her.

"What are you doing, Winnie?" demanded Sarah, her dark eyes instantly
coming to rest on the table where, spread out in imposing array, were
three mousetraps and the cheese with which Winnie intended to bait them.

"If you must know," said Winnie, exasperated, "I'm setting mousetraps."

"Oh!" Sarah gulped.  "Oh, Winnie--the poor little mice!"

"Now, Sarah, don't begin all that," Winnie pleaded.  "I'm dead tired
and I haven't the heart to start a debate with you.  I'll say one thing
and then I'm through; I don't intend and nothing shall induce me, to
have a lot of nasty little mice tramping over my pantry shelves."

"How do you know they will?" asked Sarah.

"Because," said Winnie with terrible finality.

Sarah and Shirley were asleep two minutes after their heads touched the
pillow; and the house was in darkness soon after, for they were all
tired from the events of the day.

In her room, though, Rosemary did not find that sleep came immediately.
After lying quietly in bed, staring into the soft darkness, she felt
more wide-awake than ever.  She slipped softly to the floor, felt for
and found her pretty white dressing gown and slippers--Rosemary was
very fond of white--which were close at hand and, wrapping herself up
comfortably, pattered over to the open window.

It was a moonlight night, warm and sweet, and Rosemary knelt down with
a little gasp at the loveliness spread before her.  She rested her
elbows on the low window sill and leaned forward, drinking in the scent
of new hay and roses and dewy grass.  The shrill, insistent chorus of
insects was music, and when the mournful cry of a distant hoot owl came
out of the woods that rose shadowy and dark across the white ribbon of
road, why that was music, too.  Country nights are no more absolutely
silent than nights in the town or city, but some enchantment weaves the
noises of the countryside into graceful harmony.  The cry of a bird,
the soft stirring of the animals in the barns, the far barking of a
watchful dog--all these Rosemary heard; and the insects filled in the
pauses.

She did not know how long she had been at the window when,
faintly--miles away, she would have said--she heard the notes of a
violin.

"Rosemary!" whispered someone from the doorway.  "Are you awake,
darling?"

Mrs. Willis came across the room and knelt beside her daughter.

"Did you hear it, Mother?  It couldn't be a violin--yes, it is!  But at
this time of night and way out in the country!"

"Listen!" said Mrs. Willis softly.

Rosemary had inherited her passionate love for music from her, and her
delight and wonder were no greater than her mother's as the music came
nearer.  Someone was playing Schubert's "Serenade" in the moonlight.

"I see him!" whispered Rosemary.  "Look, Mother--an old man!"

Sure enough, as they watched, a halting figure came down the road which
the moonlight had changed to a silver ribbon.  They knew he was old for
he was stooped and walked with the shuffling gait that comes from
feebleness.  His head was bent over his violin, and as he walked those
unearthly sweet strains melted into the moonlight and became a part of
the silver mist.  Just as he reached a point opposite the house he must
have stopped.  A tree hid him from the two watching.  Probably he sat
down on the large rock at the side of the road to rest--to rest and
play.  For, hidden from the enthralled listeners, he played the
"Serenade" through twice, lovingly, delicately, with a haunting
yearning that held a touch of genius.  Then, still playing, he shuffled
on.  They caught a glimpse of him as he came out from behind the tree,
saw the light flash on his bow and he was gone.  They listened until
his music had died away in the distance--always the "Serenade," over
and over.

"Oh--Mother!"  Rosemary raised her blue eyes, swimming in tears.

"Yes, dearest--" there was a little catch in Mrs. Willis' tender voice.
"It was very beautiful and very wonderful--but you must go to bed now.
It is late."

Rosemary, turning drowsily to pillow her cheek on her hand after her
mother's kiss, was conscious of a hope that the old violin player might
not lack a comfortable bed and the peace and security of a
home--somewhere.

"It is so nice at Rainbow Hill," murmured Rosemary, drifting off into
delicious slumber.



CHAPTER IV

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

"Aren't you ever going to get up?" demanded Sarah.

Rosemary sat up and regarded her sister sleepily.

"Did you hear the violin?" she asked.

"What violin?" Sarah's surprise was an answer in itself.

While she dressed, hurried by the impatient younger girls, for Shirley
soon joined Sarah, Rosemary told of the music she had heard the night
before.

"Mother heard it, too; we both saw the old man," she asserted when they
were inclined to be skeptical and scoffed that she had been dreaming.

Winnie had evidently risen "with the larks" as she was fond of
declaring (though when pressed by Sarah, intent on the habits and
traits of larks, she had been forced to admit that she had never seen
one) for the windows on the first floor were unlocked and open to the
fresh morning air and the upper half of the Dutch door folded back to
let in a flood of sunshine.

"Breakfast will be ready in ten minutes," Winnie greeted the girls.
"Ten minutes, no more, no less; and you're not to set foot out of the
house until you've eaten, because I don't intend to spend my time
fishing Sarah out of the well and pulling Shirley from under a hay
stack while the muffins are getting cold."

Mrs. Willis, coming downstairs, cool and sweet in a blue linen gown,
laughed at this arraignment but she, too, insisted that the farm should
be seen after breakfast.

"And do be careful about hindering Mr. and Mrs. Hildreth," she
cautioned them as they sat down at the table.  "They are very busy
folk, I know, and you mustn't expect them to answer too many questions.
Richard and Warren will have their work laid out for them and can't be
distracted--you will have weeks to explore Rainbow Hill and I don't
want you to feel that you must be shown everything in one day."

"I'll help you, Mother," promised Rosemary.  "Sarah and Shirley can go
out and play, but I'll help you and Winnie unpack."

However, when Sarah and Shirley dashed out of the house a few minutes
later, Rosemary was with them.  Mrs. Willis had explained that her
eldest daughter could help her more by "looking after" the impetuous
Shirley and that unknown quantity, Sarah, than by remaining in the
house to open the trunks and boxes.

"I am going to do just as much as I can and then stop," the mother
said, smilingly.  "I promised Hugh and Winnie to be temperate and not
tire myself needlessly.  Hugh will probably call up this morning and I
want to be here when he does.  You run along with Sarah and Shirley,
Rosemary--Mother feels safe about them when she knows you are with
them."

Rosemary flushed with pleasure and resolved to be worthy of the
confidence.  She would be more patient than she had ever been before.

"It's just like Rosemary, to offer to stay in and help," said Winnie,
watching the three girls cut across the lawn in the direction of the
barns, "you could see plain she was crazy to go out and look around,
but she never grabs what she wants--that child was born unselfish."

Rainbow Hill was what, in the farming parlance, is known as "an all
around" place.  That meant the owner, Mr. Hammond, believed in general
farming as distinguished from the specialized type such as truck
farming or dairying.  Some oats and wheat were grown at Rainbow Hill,
several acres of tomatoes raised yearly for the cannery, a good crop of
hay harvested; there would be one "field crop" raised for marketing,
generally potatoes or cabbage.  The milk from a small herd of cows was
sold at the local creamery and all food for the animals on the place
was grown on the farm.  How much hard work was bound up in the tilling
of the well-ordered fields, the cultivation of the thrifty orchard and
the healthy aspect presented by the live stock was something the three
Willis girls could not be expected to grasp at once.  Everything was
beautifully neat, from the freshly swept barn floor to the white-washed
chicken houses; not a weed showed its head in the large vegetable
garden and a town-bred girl might easily make the mistake of thinking
that this state of affairs was always to be found on every
farm--something to be taken for granted, like fresh eggs or new milk.

It was in the vegetable garden that they found Warren Baker.  He was
dressed in a clean blue shirt and dark blue overalls and he was on his
knees beside a long row of thin green spikes.

"Good morning," he greeted the visitors politely.  "Out seeing the
sights?  But didn't you forget your hats?"

Warren wore an immense straw hat that shaded the back of his neck as
effectively as his face.

"Oh, we don't want to bother with hats," said Rosemary carelessly.
"Aren't those onions you're weeding?"

"They're onions," answered Warren, "but I'm not weeding them; I'm
thinning them.  If you stayed in one place in the sun as long as I do,
a hat would feel pretty good."

Sarah asked why he was "thinning" the onions and he explained that he
pulled out some to give those left more room to grow.

"This the first time you've been on a farm?" he asked her.

"The first time I ever stayed on a farm," said Sarah with precision.
"I've been to different farms with Hugh--that's my brother; but we only
stayed a little while.  I think, when I grow up, I'll have a farm and
be an animal doctor."

"Sarah loves animals," Rosemary explained.  "We've seen the horses in
the barn and the chickens and the pigs; but we didn't see a cow yet."

"Rich turns them into the lane as soon as he finishes milking," said
Warren, rising from the onion row.  "I'll go down and let them into the
pasture now and you can come and see them, if you like."

"Well--you're sure it won't be a trouble?" hesitated Rosemary.

"Mother says we mustn't bother you," added Shirley primly, speaking for
the first time.

"You can't bother me," said the boy so heartily that he reminded
Rosemary of Jack Welles.

"Then don't you have to work, only when you want to?" suggested Sarah
who unconsciously then and there outlined her ideals of labor.

Warren, leading the way out of the vegetable garden, laughed.

"Sure I have to work," he said good-naturedly.  "If you knew Mr.
Hildreth, you wouldn't ask a question like that; he does two men's work
every day of his life and encourages everyone else to follow his
example.  But you see, I can talk and work, too; it's all right to
talk, if you don't stop work to do it."

"Is it?" queried Sarah doubtfully.

"Not a question about it," declared Warren, taking down two bars for
the girls to go through into a green lane fenced in on either side with
a heavy wire fence.  "Talk and work, mixed, are all right, but all talk
and no work makes Jack a poor hired man--haven't you ever heard that
proverb?"

Sarah puzzled over this until they came up with the cows and then she
forgot it promptly.  There were ten of the sleek, cream-colored
bossies, gentle, affectionate creatures who pressed their deep noses
trustingly into Warren's hands and begged him to open the wide gate
that kept them from the shady pasture.

He swung the gate back and they moved slowly forward, beginning to crop
the grass before they were half way through.

"There's a brook," cried Shirley, catching sight of the water.  "I want
to go wading--come on!"

"Not now," said Rosemary, catching Shirley by her frock as though she
feared that small girl might plunge into the stream head-first, "after
lunch, dear, if Mother is willing."

"We want to do a lot of other things first," Sarah reminded her.  "We
haven't been up to the top of the windmill yet."

Warren turned and looked at her, a twinkle in his eyes.

"You wouldn't like it if you got up there and your sash caught on the
wheel," he told her.  "Think how you would look going round and round
like a pinwheel.  Folks would come to look at you instead of the
circus."

"I wouldn't catch my sash," said Sarah positively.  "There's a little
platform up there and I could stand on that.  And I saw the little iron
stairs that go up inside like a lighthouse."

The twinkle went out of Warren Baker's eyes and his pleasant voice was
serious when he spoke.

"There are just two places on this farm from which you are barred," he
said, his glance including the attentive three before him.  "One is the
windmill; the door is usually locked and I don't know how it came to be
left open this morning.  But locked or not, keep out of it--it is no
place for anyone unless a mechanic wants to oil or repair the machinery.

"The other place is the tool house.  Mr. Hildreth has a bunch of fine
tools and they're the apple of his eye--apples, would be more accurate,
perhaps.  The tool house is usually locked, too, and there are only
three keys; but if you do find it unlocked some fine morning, take my
advice and stay outside.  Or, if you must go in, don't touch a tool.
The rest of the farm is open to you and the four winds--with reasonable
restrictions, I ought to add."

Three pairs of eyes stared at him so solemnly, that he felt
uncomfortable.

"I'm not laying down the law in my own name," he said earnestly.  "Mr.
Hildreth is mighty particular about how things are run at Rainbow Hill
and I thought I could save you future trouble by warning you.  Of
course I only work for him--'hired man' is my title--and very much at
your service."

There was so much boyish honesty in the speech, so much genuine good
will and an utter absence of attempt to strike a pose, not unmixed with
worth-while pride and a desire that his position should be clear to
them from the start, that even Sarah, who was quick to resent real or
fancied efforts to "boss" her, answered his smile with her own
characteristic grin.

"Of course we won't go where we shouldn't," said Rosemary warmly.  "At
least not now, when there is no excuse for not knowing."

But Warren, noting that Sarah became absorbed in the antics of a beetle
crossing her shoe, registered a resolve to see that the windmill door
was kept locked.

"There's your brother," said Shirley, pointing to a figure coming down
the lane.

"Rich isn't my brother--he's my pal," replied Warren.  "And Mr.
Hildreth is with him, so you'll have a chance to meet a real farmer and
a good one."

"Then I can ask him about the insides of cats," was Sarah's rather
disconcerting response.



CHAPTER V

DAYS OF DELIGHT

"You're the doctor's sisters," declared Mr. Hildreth when he was within
earshot.  Then, to Warren, "That row of onions isn't done."

Mr. Hildreth, the girls were to learn speedily, made statements.  He
did not ask questions.  And usually his declarations stood unchallenged.

He was a tall, broad-shouldered man with a rather grim, weather-beaten
face and shrewd blue eyes.  A hard worker, his neighbors said, and
accustomed to demanding, and receiving, the best from his helpers.  He
was intolerant of laziness--"shiftlessness" the country phrase ran--but
he had the reputation of being a just taskmaster and he could be very
kind.

"I'm going back and finish the onions now," said Warren.  "I came down
to let the cows out."

"Rich was late this morning," asserted Rich's employer, "because he
wasted time at the creamery.  We're going to fix the line fence."

Rosemary looked at Richard Gilbert who carried a box of tools.  He did
not seem to mind the accusation brought against him--though, as a
matter of fact, he had waited to get a piece of ice for Winnie and this
had delayed him at the creamery--but then Richard was not easily
offended.  He was inclined to be easy going and was much less apt to
"fire up" than Warren.

"I'm going with Warren," announced Sarah, who liked her new friend very
much and saw no reason for leaving him in doubt of her feelings.

Mr. Hildreth stalked toward the brook, followed by Richard and Warren,
and Sarah started up the lane.  Rosemary, picking a buttercup for
Shirley, was surprised to hear a sudden shout.

"Mr. Hildreth!" yelled Sarah--there is no other word for it--"Mr.
Hildreth!  Can you make violin strings from a cat's insides?"

The farmer, knee-deep in the brook, looked up, startled.  Rosemary
stared and Shirley looked interested.  As for Richard and Warren, they
laughed immoderately.

"A girl in school said you could," went on Sarah, still shouting.
"Violin strings, she said--can you?"

"Sure--haven't you heard cats sing at night?" called back Mr. Hildreth,
having recovered his breath.  "Any cat that's a good singer, will make
good violin strings.  Miss--er--what's her name?" he questioned Richard
who was holding up one end of the sagging wire.

"That's Sarah," said Richard.

"You ask Warren, Sarah," called the farmer.  "He'll tell you."

And as Warren walked on, Sarah, tagging after him, began an exhaustive
and relentless study of cats and violin strings.

Richard held the wire carefully, but his dancing brown eyes suggested
that he was not too busy to talk.

"There was an old man playing the violin last night," said Rosemary.
"Did you hear him?"

Richard nodded.

"Old Fiddlestrings," he answered.  "You'll probably hear him every
moonlight night.  Winter and summer he goes up and down the road
playing his one tune."

"It was the 'Serenade,'" said Rosemary.  "Does he always play that?
Where does he live?  Is he poor?"

"Not so poor as he is crazy," declared Richard sententiously.  "He has
enough money so he never has to work.  He lives in a crazy little cabin
on the other side of the hill and has a garden where he raises herbs
and sells them--they say he does a big business with the city
drugstores."

"Guess you'd call it work, digging in that yard of his," observed Mr.
Hildreth drily.

"Well--what I mean is, he doesn't have to go out and work by the week,"
explained Richard.

"And his music?" asked Rosemary, pulling Shirley back as the
investigating toe of her sandal threatened to dip into the water.

"He only plays when there is a moon," said Richard, his merry face
sobering.  "Seems like he can't rest on a moonlight night.  Sometimes
he walks up and down the road for hours and sometimes he sits out in
his yard and plays; but they say he never goes to bed and he never lays
his violin down till morning."

"He's a good fiddler," said Mr. Hildreth.

"His music was wonderful," glowed Rosemary.  "Mother and I couldn't go
to bed as long as he played.  I'd give anything if I could play like
that!"

"You play the piano just as nice!" chirped Shirley loyally.

"Say, there is a piano in the house, isn't there!"  Richard almost
dropped the wire.  "Can you play?"

"Not as well as my mother," said Rosemary, "but I've studied several
years."

"Can you play 'Old Black Joe'?" demanded Richard.  "That's a song I
always liked."

The contrast between his cheerful, open face and his melancholy taste
in music was so great that Rosemary could not help laughing.  But she
said she could play "Old Black Joe" and promised to play it for him at
the first opportunity.

Those early days at Rainbow Hill were not long enough.  That was the
general complaint.  Mrs. Willis and Winnie, busy in the house, said
evening came before the delightful tasks were half started or the more
prosaic duties completed.  There was the garden to be visited, the
flower vases to be filled, the porch made cool and clean and
comfortable, every morning; Winnie reveled in her kitchen, hung over
the great pans of milk in the speckless pantry and gloated as she
skimmed the heavy cream.  Sarah said she saved all the cream till Hugh
was expected and then served it up to him, whipped stiff in the largest
bowl she could find, with fresh, hot gingerbread, the doctor's favorite
dessert.

The girls roamed the place from one end to the other and knew every
inch of the farm as well as the Hildreths did, in a week's time.  They
came in only to sleep, Winnie declared, but Mrs. Willis insisted, with
a gentle firmness that was effective even with the determined Sarah,
that the most strenuous day should end at five o'clock.  Then, freshly
bathed and dressed, they rested quietly till dinner and spent the short
evening on the porch or in the pleasant living-room.

That living-room proved a magnet to Richard and Warren.  As soon as the
lamp was lighted and Rosemary or her mother sat down at the piano, the
boys seemed irresistibly drawn to the little white house.  Their
evenings with the Hildreths had been dreary in the extreme--both the
farmer and his hard-working wife practised and preached that "early to
bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy and wealthy and wise"--and
they either sat silently in the twilight until nine o'clock when they
went to bed and set the alarm clock for five, or lit a single lamp in
the kitchen and read agricultural papers by its uncertain rays.

"I hope I can be as good a farmer as Joe Hildreth," Warren once
confided to Mrs. Willis, "but I think I'll have one less cultivator on
my farm and a couple more lights in my farmhouse."

No wonder that the shaded lights of that other living-room, which cast
a soft and rosy glow over the simple wicker furniture and cretonne
cushions, the books and magazines and the always open piano, spelled
comfort and cheer to the lonely young fellows miles distant from
relatives and old friends.  Richard Gilbert said it was the books that
drew him, while Warren thought the music lured him.  In reality, it was
the gracious, lovely presence of the mother, gentle Mrs. Willis who
never raised her voice above its soft, even level, who moved
noiselessly about the house and whose step was so light on the stair
that one might easily not hear her cross the hall and enter a room.
But she could not leave it that her absence was not noted and her low
laughter missed.

No wonder that twenty times a day the cry, "Where's Mother?" sounded
through the house.  No wonder that Doctor Hugh called up every morning
and "ran in" as often as his busy schedule would allow, or bore her off
with him to inspect the progress of the building at the Eastshore
house.  No wonder the nervous, driving energy of Mrs. Hildreth's nature
was turned into channels that flowed back to the little lady in the
white house bearing gifts of the garden and dairy.  And no wonder at
all that two boys, who had never known their own mothers, found no
words with which to tell her what her interest and friendship meant to
them.

In time there came to exist a tacit agreement between Richard and
Warren that Mrs. Willis was not to be "worried" and in the effort to
spare her they assumed, unconsciously, a brotherly guardianship over
the three girls for which their mother was silently grateful.  It was
obvious that she could not tramp the fields with them and equally
apparent that they would go wherever their healthy young active
curiosity might lead.  Richard and Warren took upon themselves the
duties of friendly counselors--and had their hands full from the start.

"Country life may be healthy," said Winnie one Saturday when Doctor
Hugh was spending the week-end at Rainbow Hill, "but I don't know as
I'd call it exactly beautifying.  Rosemary has a crop of freckles on
her nose that will probably last all winter and Sarah is about as black
as the automobile curtains.  As for Shirley, between the briar
scratches and the bruises on her hands and arms, she looks more like a
strawberry plant, than a natural, human child."

Winnie was genuinely grieved at the girls' indifference to their looks,
especially Rosemary of whom she was very proud, but Doctor Hugh
declared that he liked to see folk look as though they lived outdoors.

"They live outdoors all right," Winnie informed him, a trifle tartly,
"in fact I don't see why you didn't lug up a couple of tents and turn
'em loose inside.  Rosemary is going to be blown out of the window some
fine night and, to my way of thinking, it's better to start sleeping on
the ground than to land there sudden like, right in a sound sleep."

Rosemary laughed.  She was sitting on the arm of her brother's chair
and, despite the freckles across her nose, presented a charming picture
of a pretty girl in a dull rose frock.

"Fresh air is good for you, isn't it, Hugh?" she demanded.  "Winnie is
always saying I ought to sleep in the 'Cave of the Winds.'"

"I wouldn't say a word, if you'd be reasonable," said Winnie, setting
the table as she talked.  "But it can rain or blow great guns and you
never as much rise up to put the window down; you might think it was
nailed up.  Last night the rain poured in and soaked through to the
hall ceiling and what Mrs. Hammond is going to say when she sees that,
I don't know."

"We must have it repapered for her," said the doctor lazily.  "Shirley
lamb, there seems to be something wrong with your dress--what is that
oozing out of your pocket?"

Winnie glanced at the discomfited Shirley.

"It's an egg--a fresh egg," she said resignedly.  "I sent her out to
get me one for the French toast and I suppose she forgot to give it to
me.  Never mind, Shirley, it's nothing to sit on an egg, dearie; the
mother hen does it every day.  For goodness' sake, what are you
laughing at, Hughie?"



CHAPTER VI

WINNIE IS NERVOUS

When Doctor Hugh went back to the Eastshore house Sunday night, in
order to be ready for an early Monday morning appointment, he took his
mother with him.  There were several things which their brief residence
at Rainbow Hill had demonstrated would be immediately required,
noticeably more frocks for Sarah.  That small girl tore and wore out
and soiled an amazing number of dresses within a day.  Winnie, too, had
a list of necessities and Mrs. Willis had proposed that she go in with
Hugh and gather frocks and utensils; then Hugh would bring them back in
the car and her, too.

"You'll be alone only one night," Mrs. Willis said to Winnie.  "And if
you are the least bit nervous, I'm sure one of the boys will come up
and sleep in the house."

"Now don't you worry about us," was Winnie's reply.  "I guess I can
take care of things all right.  There's nothing to be afraid of--and
anyway I don't see that two women in a house makes it any safer than
one."

Winnie, though she would have been the last to admit it, had been
slightly timid at first about the sleeping arrangements.  She had never
lived in the country in her life and she privately thought the farm a
lonely place, especially at night when, to quote her own words, "there
was nothing nearer than the moon."  As a matter of fact Rainbow Hill
was not an isolated place at all, there were telephone connections to
the outside world and a private system of communication with the tenant
house.  No one ever locked the house doors in that section and
gradually Winnie's unexpressed fears wore away.

Mrs. Willis, in her wholesome nature, was seldom frightened and to her
the country meant peace and seclusion.  All the girls had been trained
from babyhood to regard the dark as "kind to tired people" and each had
been taught to go to bed alone as a matter of course.  They had never
been terrified by foolish stories and silly myths and so were not
afraid.  Rosemary could lock up a house as competently as the doctor
and thought nothing of going downstairs after the lights were out for
the night to see if a window catch had been fastened.

When bed-time came the night following the morning of Mrs. Willis'
departure, Winnie was too proud to ask Warren or Richard to spend the
night in the house.  It is quite probable that either or both might
have offered to stay, but they had returned late from a trip to
Bennington and, driving into the barn at nine o'clock, had decided to
go to bed early.

"Are you going to lock the doors?" asked Rosemary, turning on the piano
bench in surprise as Winnie shut the front door with a bang and slid
the heavy bolt and chain.

"I am that," said Winnie with emphasis.  "I'm responsible for the
rented stuff in this house and I don't aim to have any of Mrs.
Hammond's furniture being carried off."

"Why Winnie, no one will take anything," remonstrated Rosemary.
"Warren says doors are never locked in any of the farmhouses around
here.  There hasn't been a tramp seen this summer."

"And I don't intend to have the record broken--not by me," said Winnie,
shutting the living-room windows with a bang and turning the catches.
"I'm going out in the kitchen now and bolt that door."

Sarah and Shirley had been in bed for an hour and there was only
Rosemary to accompany the determined Winnie on her rounds.  They made a
thorough job of the locking up--Winnie by preference, Rosemary by
compulsion--and then snapped off the lights and went upstairs together.

"I'll leave my door open to-night, Winnie," said Rosemary.  "Then if
you should want anything, you could call me."

"It's going to rain," replied Winnie absently.  "The wind is rising,
too.  Don't let the ceiling get soaked again."

Rosemary kissed her good night--Winnie's arms had been the first to
hold Rosemary when she was born--and went into her own pretty room.

She did not hurry over undressing and even attempted to read as she
brushed her hair.  Of course neither pleasure nor task went forward
very smoothly, but Rosemary enjoyed the sensation of dawdling.  She was
not sleepy and it was pleasant to play that she was a lady of leisure.
Then, before she was ready for bed, she must needs try her hair a new
way and turn on all the lights in the room to get the effect.

"It will be so exciting," said Rosemary, staring with naive
satisfaction at the pink-cheeked girl in the white kimono who stared
back at her from the glass, "it will be so exciting to go to dances and
parties.  If I ever get to high school, I'll be thankful, for then
there is always something happening.  I hope there's a dancing school
that's some good in Eastshore this winter."

At last Rosemary was ready for bed.  She pattered over and felt of the
floor under the two screened windows--quite dry, so the rain, if there
had been rain, had not beat in.

"But it isn't raining," said Rosemary to herself, snapping off the
lights and trying to see out into the darkness.  "When it rains we can
hear it on the tin roof of the porch; it is only cloudy and windy."

Mindful of her promise to Winnie, she opened her door--though as a rule
the Willis family slept with individual bedroom doors closed--and
listened for a moment, peering into the shadowy hall.  There was not a
sound and no light shone under Winnie's door--it must be open and she
was asleep.

"How the wind does blow!" said Rosemary, safe in bed, wondering if she
ought to get up and pin the muslin curtains back for they fluttered
madly.

Before she could act on this thought, she was asleep.  How long she
slept she did not know, but she woke to find Winnie standing beside the
bed.

"Rosemary!" she whispered.  "Rosemary!  There's the most awful racket
you ever heard!"

Rosemary sat up in bed and drew the blanket around her.

"What--what's the matter?" she stammered.

"Hush--don't wake up Shirley and start her crying," warned Winnie who
looked taller than ever in the scant gray dressing gown she had pulled
tightly about her.  "Sarah wouldn't wake if the house caved in--there,
do you hear that?"

Rosemary listened intently.  She shook her head.

"I don't hear anything," she said.

"Then come out in the hall and you will," advised Winnie, stalking
toward the door.

Rosemary followed sleepily.  She didn't want to listen to noises and
she couldn't help wishing that Winnie had been a little harder of
hearing.

"There--hear that?"  Winnie's tone was almost triumphant.

Through the whole house sounded a wail that rose as they listened and
mounted to a shriek.  In spite of her desire to remain cool and calm,
Rosemary shivered.

"It woke me up," whispered Winnie fearfully.  "I never, in all my born
days, heard anything like it."

"What--what makes it?" said Rosemary.

"I don't know, but I'm going to find out," declared Winnie.  "I'm not
afraid of anything, once I know what it is; but when I don't know the
cause, I can be scared as well as the next one."

Winnie was perfectly sincere in this statement.  She might have added
that no matter how badly frightened she was, she could not be kept from
making her investigations.  Now she prepared to go downstairs by
pressing the button that lighted both halls.

"Don't go down, Winnie," begged Rosemary.  "I don't believe it's
anything but the wind."

"We had a high wind one night when your mother was home and nothing
made this kind of racket," was Winnie's retort.  "You sit at the top of
the stairs, Rosemary, and you can see me all the time and you won't
feel alone; there's no use in you prowling around just because I do."

"Hark--it's raining!"  Rosemary had heard the sound of drops on the tin
roof of the porch "I'm coming down with you, Winnie--wouldn't it be
nice if only Hugh were here!"

The wail sounded again, low and hesitating, then it began to rise.  As
Winnie and Rosemary reached the level of the first floor hall the peak
of the shriek sounded in their ears.

"Oh, don't go out in the kitchen!" Rosemary's voice shook with
nervousness.  "Winnie, don't go fussing around; come back in my room
and sleep with me.  We can't hear anything there."

"I aim to find out what--" began Winnie, then stopped suddenly.

Someone was coming up the narrow flagged walk, someone who was
whistling softly.

"Hello!" came a low-voiced hail.  "Hello--don't be frightened--this is
Warren and Rich.  Anything the matter?"

Rosemary promptly turned and fled and then, the second floor gained,
turned and hung over the railing to watch Winnie unchain and unbolt and
unlock the front door and then admit two dripping, but cheerful
figures, in yellow oilskins.

"Raining and blowing great guns," said Warren's voice.  "We got up to
close one of the windows and saw your house lighted--thought maybe
someone was sick."

"You're the best boys who ever breathed," the grateful Winnie informed
them.  "Nothing's the matter except I'm trying to find out what
makes--that!  Listen!"

"You've left the upstair doors open," said Richard promptly.  "There's
something about the way this house is constructed that does it.
Whenever there's a wind of any account, all the second story doors have
to be closed; it's the one drawback.  I suppose Mrs. Hildreth didn't
think to tell you."

"We left our doors open to-night, because we're lonely without Mrs.
Willis," was Winnie's simple explanation.  "Rosemary was down with me,
but she left when she heard you--I daresay she's listening up in the
hall now."

"Of course I am," said Rosemary.  "Ask Warren and Richard to stay,
Winnie; there is the guest room all ready."

"You go up and go to bed this minute," commanded Winnie, whose
invitations, like the queen's, usually brooked no refusal.  "Now I know
the wind makes that howl, I'm not the least bit nervous, but I'd rather
have someone around to ask in case something else turns up."

Nothing more of a disturbing nature "turned up" that night and the
household settled down and slept peacefully, secure in the knowledge
that very real protection, in the persons of the two husky lads, was
close at hand.  Winnie summoned them at five o'clock the next
morning--knowing that Mr. Hildreth would not easily forgive a delayed
morning start--and actually had coffee and her famous waffles ready for
them at that hour.

"Send for us any time," grinned Warren when he saw the table set.

"Any time you need aid, Winnie--or plan to serve waffles."



CHAPTER VII

AN ADVENTURE FOR SARAH

"Do you have to work all the time?" asked Sarah plaintively.

She sat on the top of a fence rail and, her feet hooked around the next
bar, was placidly, if precariously, watching Richard Gilbert tinkering
with a cultivator that had developed a sudden "kink."

"Well, summer is the time to work, on a farm," Richard  answered
good-naturedly.  "You have to cultivate the corn when there is corn to
cultivate, Sarah."

Sarah nodded, her eyes on the horse which stood patiently waiting.

"He's shivering," she said.  "Look--see him shiver, Rich.  And it is
just as hot!"

"That isn't shivering," replied Richard, glancing up from the wheel in
his hand.  "Solomon is twitching to shake a fly off--that's all."

"Did he shake it off?" demanded Sarah with interest.

"I suppose so," answered Richard absently, searching for a screw he had
dropped in the dirt.

"I could get the fly batter and swat flies for Solomon," suggested
Sarah.  "He'd like that, wouldn't he?  I could ride on his back and hit
all the flies, Rich."

"Yes, that sounds like a good scheme," admitted Richard cautiously,
"but something tells me it wouldn't work.  If you didn't frighten
Solomon into fits, or start him galloping, or fall off and break your
neck, you'd be sure to distract me from the work in hand and then Mr.
Hildreth would want to know why I hadn't finished the corn.  I'm
afraid, Sarah, Sol will have to worry along in the same old way.  The
flies aren't bad to-day, anyway."

"Yes they are, he's twitching again," said Sarah.  "He ought to wear a
window screen--or something."

She was secretly relieved that her swatter plan had not been accepted,
for she had a marked aversion to killing flies.  Indeed many a royal
battle had she waged with Winnie over the matter of killing flies that
found their way into the house; Sarah, left alone, would slowly and
painfully have captured each fly alive and unharmed and given him his
freedom via the front door.

"Horses sometimes wear nets--or they used to when they were used for
driving," explained Richard, beginning to pound the wheel in place.
"As a horse ran or trotted, the net hobbled up and down and was
supposed to keep the flies off; that wouldn't be any use when a horse
is walking slowly around a field.  A blanket would keep them away from
Solomon, of course, but he'd die with the heat."

"I'll invent something for him," said Sarah comfortably.

"Where are the other girls?" asked Richard hastily.

A few weeks' acquaintance with Sarah had already taught him the
expediency of keeping her in action.  Sarah on the move might do some
very startling things but a contemplative Sarah presented possibilities
that were limitless.

"Hugh came and took Rosemary and Shirley with him," answered the small
girl balancing on the fence.  "I didn't want to go.  I don't like
automobiles much.  When I grow up, I'm going to have a hundred horses
and pigs and cows and everything."

"That'll be fine," Richard approved.  "There now, I think that will
work.  Have to be moving on, Sarah; you going to wait for me to come
round again?"

"No, that isn't any fun," said Sarah with more frankness than
politeness.  "Guess I'll go out to the orchard."

"Don't go through the upper field," commanded Richard, gathering up the
lines.

Sarah scrambled down from the fence and reached for Solomon's glossy
black tail.

"Why not?" she asked suspiciously.

"Because Mr. Hildreth turned the old ram out to pasture there this
morning, that's why," said Richard.  "Here, what are you trying to do?"

Sarah had grasped a handful of the horse's tail and was pulling on it
wildly.  Old Solomon turned his head around and stared at her
reproachfully.

"I want to get enough hairs to make a ring," explained Sarah.  "The
washwoman is going to show me how next time she comes, but she said I
had to get the hair."

"How many do you think you need?" said Richard, laughing as he released
the tail from the covetous clutch of the small fingers.  "You won't
want more than half a dozen as long as these; Solomon thought you meant
to pull his tail out by the roots, didn't you, Boy?"

"I didn't mean to hurt him," apologized the somewhat abashed Sarah.
"What's a ram?"

"His other name is Mr. Sheep," said Richard, handing her half a dozen
long black wiry hairs.  "And he's old and cross and has been known to
butt people.  I don't think he'd hurt you, but he might frighten you."

"I wouldn't be afraid," boasted Sarah, stuffing her horse hairs
carefully into the pocket of her middy blouse.  "Shirley might, but I
wouldn't.  Shall I bring you a sweet apple, Rich?"

"If you find any," he said, swinging the cultivator back into place and
clucking to Solomon to go ahead.  "I can't eat green rocks, you know,
and you shouldn't."

Sarah, in spite of warnings and orders, insisted on trying to eat
everything in the shape of an apple that tumbled to the ground under
the orchard trees.  No fruit was too green for her palate, no round,
bullet-like sphere too hard for her small white teeth.

She crawled through the fence now, waved a farewell to Richard, who was
well on his way to the corner of the cornfield, and trotted off to
search the orchard for spoils.

Sarah amused herself without much trouble--"though as much can't be
said for the rest of us," Winnie had once remarked when Sarah's efforts
to entertain herself had involved the entire family in explanations
with nervous neighbors who objected to tame white mice--and the life at
Rainbow Hill suited her exactly.  She not only visited the horses and
cows and pigs regularly, made friends with the flock of sheep and
claimed to know every fowl in the poultry yard by name and sight, but
she had a tender word for every bug, spider and grasshopper she met.
Little water snakes were Sarah's delight and not even the ants and
worms were beneath her notice and affection.  Truly, as Doctor Hugh
said, Sarah was certainly intended to live in the country.

"I'd like to see a ram," she said to herself as she scrambled up the
bank to the orchard.  "I never saw one.  It wouldn't do any harm to go
around the upper pasture and look in."

But she had a number of things to do in the orchard first.  Sarah was
noted for her thoroughness in whatever she undertook and now her heart
was set on finding an apple soft enough for Richard Gilbert to eat--and
just a plain apple for Miss Sarah Willis.  Alas, Mrs. Hildreth had been
out earlier in the day and had carefully picked up every windfall.  She
and Winnie were adepts at making delicious apple sauce and the first
summer apples were scarce enough to be carefully hunted for.

So, though Sarah went the rounds of every tree and even shook one or
two cautiously (Mr. Hildreth had intimated that he would "shake" anyone
detected trying to knock down green apples or pears and Sarah had a
wholesome respect for his mandates, so far) but she was forced to go
appleless.

"I think I'd better go look at my apple seed I planted," said Sarah
aloud.

She had borrowed the coal shovel from Winnie a few days previous and
with much effort and earnestness, had planted a plump seed from an
apple in a sunny, open space in the orchard.  The apple was exceedingly
green, but aside from doubtful fertility, the seed was doomed never to
sprout because of the overwhelming curiosity of its small planter.
Sarah had "looked" at that seed each day since planting it.

"If all these trees didn't grow any faster than my seed," mourned
Sarah, scratching around in the soil with an oyster shell, the shovel
having been confiscated by Winnie, "I don't see how people get any
apples to eat."

Then a large--a very large--black ant hurrying up the trunk of a young
pear tree, caught her eye and she stopped to study him.  She thought
for a moment of writing her name and address on a piece of paper and
tying it to him so that at some distant date, say a hundred years
ahead, another little girl might find the ant and read that Sarah had
also known him.

"If a turtle lives sixty years, why can't an ant live a hundred?" Sarah
asked the black crow who sat on a branch and stared at her.  "Only, I
haven't any paper or pencil or thread to tie it on with--so I'll wait."

With this sensible conclusion she turned her attention to the swing
Warren had put up for her and Shirley on a conveniently low limb of an
apple tree.  Sarah did not swing sedately--she must do that as she did
everything else, fast and furiously.  She took out the notched board
that served as a seat and stood up in the loop, jerking herself forward
and backward until she attained the desired speed.  Swooping down in
one of these mad rushes, she caught sight of something moving in the
next field.

"There's the ram!" she thought.  "I'll go see what he looks like"; and
jumping out of the swing she ran over to the wire fence that enclosed
the orchard on three sides.

"He doesn't look cross--you're not, are you?" said Sarah, addressing
the Roman-nosed wooly creature that stood gravely regarding her.

The flock of sheep were up at the other end of the field and the ram
stood alone.  Perhaps he had glimpsed the flashing of Sarah's frock
through the trees as she swung and had come down to see what made the
fluttering.  Sarah was quite enchanted with him and thought he looked
lonely.

She dropped to her knees and crawled through the fence, holding back
the heavy wire strands with difficulty, and sat down on the grass to
pull up her socks, brush her hair out of her eyes and tuck in a handful
of gathers at her waistline where her skirt had torn loose from the
band.

Having made herself neat for the introduction, Sarah advanced
fearlessly to greet the ram.  To her surprise he came toward her with
lowered head, and something in his wicked little eyes made her uneasy.
The next thing she knew, she felt a terrific impact against her legs
and down she went with a thud.  She had presence enough of mind to roll
over and she kept rolling, in a frantic instinct to get out of the way
of that powerful head.  Dizzy and shaken--for she had fallen
heavily--she scrambled to her feet and began to run, the ram coming
after her valiantly.

"Rosemary!  Mother!  Rich--Rich!  Warren!" screamed poor Sarah, running
as she had never run before, "Rich!  Rich!"

It was Warren who heard her and reached her first.  He had been working
in the tomato field which was near the orchard and he had no horse to
consider--Richard could not abandon Solomon in the middle of the
cornfield.  Warren ran in the direction of the cries and, leaping the
dividing fence, came to the rescue.  The ram stopped short as soon as
he saw him and Sarah fled straight into Warren's protecting arms.

"There, there, you're all right--you couldn't run like that if you were
hurt," he soothed her.  "Don't cry, Sarah--see, here comes your Mother;
you've frightened her.  And Winnie, too!  Look up and smile and wave
your hand--don't let your mother be frightened, Sarah."

Mrs. Willis had heard Sarah's shrieks and now she was running across
the field, Winnie imploring her to walk at every step.

"She isn't hurt!" called Warren, trying to relieve the mother's anxiety
at once.  "She's all right, Mrs. Willis."

And then Sarah gained her vocal powers of which, till this minute, she
had been deprived.  Fright and running had taken her breath and she
almost choked with the effort to articulate.  Lifted high in Warren's
arms, the tears running down her face, Sarah managed to put her chief
sorrow into words that reached her mother and Winnie half way across
the pasture and Richard just breathlessly rounding the orchard.

"I lost my horse hairs!" screamed Sarah.



CHAPTER VIII

STORM SIGNALS

Rosemary, seated on the lowest porch step, was outwardly "cool and calm
and collected," to borrow one of Winnie's favorite phrases.  She was
dressed all in white and Doctor Hugh, coming from the shed where he had
put his car, noted appreciatively what a lovely dash of color the blue
wool she was knitting made in the picture.  It just matched her eyes,
he thought.

"Hello, sweetheart!" he greeted her, and then, as she raised her face
to kiss him, "why, what's the matter?"

For the blue eyes were mutinous and stormy and it was easy to see that
Rosemary was unhappy.

"Oh, Hugh!  Don't go in right away--I never get a chance to talk to
you," she said, moving over to give him room to sit on the step.
"Everyone will have a thousand things to tell you--it was that way last
Sunday.  I suppose if we see you only once a week, or every other week,
it's natural, but I wish I could ever talk to you without Shirley or
Sarah asking you questions at the same time."

Doctor Hugh laughed as he took off his hat and dropped down beside his
sister.

"Seems to me you have a good deal of energy for such a warm day," he
commented, running his fingers through his thick dark hair.  "Doesn't
that breeze feel good, though!  Eastshore has been becalmed this week
and the dust from the plastering has settled on everything in the
house--I'm glad Mother can't see it.  And where is Mother, Rosemary?"

"Lying down," answered Rosemary, beginning to purl.  "She didn't expect
you for an hour.  Sarah and Shirley went to town with Warren--he had to
go over and get a bolt or something, so Mother let them go.  How far
has Mr. Greggs got with the building, Hugh?"

"Well, you know he isn't naturally swift," said the doctor cautiously,
"and he and his helper have more labor troubles than any union I ever
heard of--they differ continuously.  But I will say that the lawn is
piled high with lumber and bricks and I never come home at night that I
don't have to chase a dozen boys away--kids who think I'm a grouch
because I won't have them breaking their necks at my front door.  Jack
Welles says I ought to take patients wherever I find them and not be
too particular."

"Tell me about Jack," Rosemary said, smiling.

"Jack is the same old Jack," declared the doctor.  "He works in the
garden, when his father makes him, and he goes fishing as often as the
law allows.  I believe he and half a dozen of the high school boys are
going camping next week and Jack is counting on coming up here in
August when I take my two weeks off.  He's determined to work--asked me
to speak to Mr. Hildreth about a job while I am here."

"Warren and Richard will be glad, if he does come," asserted Rosemary.
"They think Mr. Hildreth ought to have another man all the time--Warren
was grumbling because he had to go after the bolt this afternoon; he
said it would put him back two hours."

The doctor watched the busy needles clicking placidly for several
minutes.  Then--

"And now, as we feel a little more serene," he said quietly, "suppose
you tell me what was the trouble when I came."

"The trouble?" fenced Rosemary.  "What trouble?"

"She thinks she can fool me," said Doctor Hugh, apparently addressing
his remark to the solitary white hen that wandered around a bush on the
lawn at that moment.  "She thinks I don't know the signals--those
famous storm signals.  She thinks I didn't know the moment I looked at
her that she wanted something she couldn't have."

"I had--an argument," admitted Rosemary with hot cheeks.  "It was all
Winnie's fault."

"Yes?" said her brother politely.

"It was, Hugh, honestly it was.  Winnie is as good as gold, but I do
wish she wouldn't try to look after me, as she calls it.  I can look
after myself.  Mother would let me do lots of things, if it wasn't for
Winnie."

"Here, here, you'll have to take out all that knitting, if you're not
careful," warned the doctor, for the blue eyes were stormy again and
Rosemary was knitting furiously.  "What was this particular argument
about?"

"I want to sleep outdoors," explained Rosemary.  "I could take out a
quilt and spread it on the grass and a blanket to cover me--I've never
done it and it would be such fun.  And Winnie says if I must be crazy
can't I wait till I get back to Eastshore?  As if anyone ever slept out
on the grass in town where everyone can see you!"

"No, that wouldn't be exactly the thing to do," agreed Doctor Hugh, his
lips twitching.  "Well, Rosemary?"

"First Mother said I could, and then, after Winnie had talked to her,
she said she thought it wouldn't be best," reported Rosemary.  "Winnie
told her a cow might step on me--and all the cows are in the barnyard
or the pasture at six o'clock and never get out!--or, she said, someone
might come and carry me off!  And where would I be, while they were
carrying me?" demanded Rosemary with intense scorn.  "I'd like to see
anyone carry me off!"

"I hope this 'argument' didn't degenerate into a clash," said the
doctor seriously.  "You know how it tires Mother to have to hear these
quarrels, Rosemary, and to be constantly called upon to act as
arbitrator."

"I banged the door," confessed Rosemary.  "I can't help it, Hugh, I
always lose my temper when I argue.  And Winnie kept saying the same
thing a hundred times--I don't see why I shouldn't sleep outdoors, do
you?"

"If mother has said 'no,' there's one hard and fast reason," pronounced
her brother.  "But I believe in the value of experience as a teacher,
especially for strong-willed little girls who are slow to learn that
their own way isn't the best in the world.  Good gracious, that isn't
Sarah, is it?"

He broke off abruptly as an energetic figure advanced toward him,
waving two small hands black with grease, in welcome.  It was Sarah, a
Sarah whose socks were down to her ankles and whose dress was torn and
spotted with the same black grease that liberally anointed her face as
well as her hands.  Her dark, straight hair straggled into her eyes and
there was a large bump on her forehead that evidently gave her little
concern.

Behind her trotted Shirley, a little less disheveled, a little less
dirty and quite as radiantly content.

"You look nice," said Rosemary severely.  "I should have thought Warren
would have been ashamed to ride home with you--where is he?  I didn't
see the wagon drive past."

"Mr. Hildreth made him turn into the field, without going to the barn,"
explained Sarah, standing at a safe distance from Doctor Hugh who
would, she was sure, see the bump even under a layer of dirt.  "We had
lots of fun, Rosemary; the wheel came off and I helped Warren put it on
again."

"And I had a chocolate ice cream cone," said Shirley, standing on
tip-toe to kiss her brother and leaving small finger marks on his
collar as visible marks of her affection.

"I'd better go and get washed up," announced Sarah blandly, though to
her hearers' knowledge this was the first time on record she had made
such a suggestion voluntarily.

"Come here, Sarah," said Doctor Hugh quietly, "I want to look at that
bruise on your forehead."

"That isn't anything," Sarah assured him, backing off.

"Come here and let me see it," the doctor repeated and, as Sarah
reluctantly approached him, "how did you get it?"

"I was under the wagon," said Sarah, wincing slightly as Doctor Hugh
felt of the bruise with firm, practised fingers, "and I heard Warren
coming and I jumped up and hit my head."

She did not think it necessary to add that Warren had requested her to
stay in the road and not crawl under the broken wagon.

"All right, the skin isn't broken," announced the doctor.  "But it
aches a little doesn't it, dear?"

"A little," nodded Sarah, winking to keep back the tears.

He put an arm around her, heedless of the dirt and grease.

"That won't last long," he promised, "and if you and Shirley will go in
and get washed and dressed without dawdling, I'll take you for a little
drive before dinner."

"Rosemary, too?" asked Shirley, balancing like a butterfly on the top
step.

"Rosemary, too."

Forgetting her aching bump, Sarah followed Shirley into the house with
a shout, and the sound of their feet clattering up the open stairway
proclaimed their intentions of not wasting a minute.

"Here comes Mrs. Hildreth," said Rosemary in a low voice.  "I wish I
could fix her just once--she doesn't know how to be pretty."

Rosemary, with uncanny penetration, had hit upon the truth.  Mrs.
Hildreth did not know how to be pretty.  She would have said she had
not the time to "fuss with her looks," but it would have taken little
extra time to have done her really abundant hair in a becoming style
instead of the tight knot into which she invariably twisted it.  And
surely, if she could don that clean, starched dark calico dress in five
minutes, it would have taken no longer to put on a pretty light-colored
frock.

"I thought your brother would be out to spend Sunday," said Mrs.
Hildreth capably, in her high-pitched, nervous voice, "so I brought up
two extra bunches of asparagus.  Winnie told me the doctor liked it."

"Winnie has my likes and dislikes down pat," declared Doctor Hugh,
rising and shaking hands.  "Will you come in, Mrs. Hildreth?  My mother
will be down in a minute."

Rosemary took the asparagus and seconded the invitation.

"No, thanks, I can't stay," said Mrs. Hildreth, rather regretfully.  "I
have to tend to the chickens and get the milk pans and strainers ready
and do a lot of little chores before I get supper.  You use your porch
a lot, don't you?"

"Yes," said Rosemary who, she had once told her mother, always felt as
though Mrs. Hildreth's sharp eyes condemned her as lazy.  "We all love
to be out of doors."

"I'm outdoors most of the time," said Mrs. Hildreth, "but I don't have
time to sit on the porch, unless it is Sunday afternoons."

She went back to her work and Rosemary, returning from delivering the
asparagus to Winnie, found her mother and an immaculate Sarah and
Shirley entertaining Doctor Hugh.  He brought the car around presently
and they went for the promised drive to Bennington, the pretty county
seat, and back.

After dinner that evening Rosemary, quite restored to good humor, was
surprised to have a question put to her.

"How would you like to try sleeping outdoors to-night, Rosemary?" asked
Doctor Hugh placidly.



CHAPTER IX

ONE WISH COMES TRUE

Rosemary answered her brother's question characteristically.

"Oh, Hugh!  I'd love to."

"Well, don't tell Sarah or Shirley," he cautioned, "because I don't
want a riot--wait till they have gone to bed and then at nine o'clock,
if you really want to try the experiment, you may."

"Won't Mother care?" asked Rosemary doubtfully.

"I've talked it over with Mother, and she is willing to let you try the
plan while I am here," said the doctor.  "It is a clear warm night and
too early in the season for heavy dews, so there could not be a better
time.  You'd find it harder to go to sleep if there were a moon, so
that's in your favor, too."

"I wouldn't want to sleep outdoors on a moonlight night," declared
Rosemary decidedly.  "Old Fiddlestrings--Warren says everyone calls him
that--would be walking up and down the road, playing the 'Serenade.'
I'd rather sleep outdoors in the dark--as soon as you are used to it,
it isn't dark at all and I love to see the stars."

It seemed to Rosemary that Sarah and Shirley must have turned back the
hands of the clock to delay their bed hour.  They monopolized their
brother, seated on either side of him in the porch swing while the
summer dusk slowly deepened and Mrs. Willis rested in the big chair
which had an arm strong and broad enough to hold Rosemary who knitted
with outward calm and inward fever.  Were those children never going to
bed?

Winnie had gone over to the bungalow with Mrs. Hildreth, who was
delighted to have someone with whom to exchange household lore, and
Warren and Richard had tactfully betaken themselves to Bennington,
knowing instinctively that Doctor Hugh would like to have his family to
himself for one brief evening, after a week's separation.

"Too dark to knit, Rosemary," he said at last.  "And don't turn on the
light, dear; can't you be content to do nothing for a little while?"

"Time for bed, Shirley," announced Mrs. Willis.  "Run along and see how
nearly undressed you can be before Mother comes up."

Shirley obediently clambered down and looked at them wistfully.  Her
bed hour was half-past seven and Sarah had the privilege of staying up
till eight o'clock.  She clung jealously to this prerogative and as a
rule nothing would induce her to go to bed when Shirley did.  She might
fall asleep on sofa or rug, but she would protest vigorously, if sent
upstairs before the eight strokes of the clock were heard.  Thirty
minutes at bed-time marked the difference to Sarah between six and nine
years old.

"I'll come up with you to-night, honey," said Doctor Hugh.  "I don't
believe I've forgotten how to put you to bed.  Sit still, Mother."

"Are you going to tell a story, Hugh?" asked Sarah anxiously.  "Are
you, Hugh?"

"Will you, Hugh?" begged Shirley.  "Tell about the little boy in the
hospital who wouldn't eat his supper?  Will you, Hugh?"

"All right, I will," promised the doctor, "if you'll march upstairs
this minute."

"I'm coming, too," announced Sarah.  "I was up early this morning,
wasn't I, Mother?"

"Yes indeed you were," agreed her mother, catching her as she scrambled
past and holding her tightly--Sarah usually had to be caught or pursued
if one wanted to kiss her.  "Kiss Mother good night, dearest."

Mrs. Willis understood perfectly that Sarah was saving her pride when
she spoke of being up early that morning--some excuse had to be made to
explain her willingness to go to bed when Shirley did.

"If Sarah had known I'm going to sleep outdoors to-night, she would
have been wild to come, too," said Rosemary, when she and her mother
were left alone.

"Are you sure you want to try it, dear?" asked Mrs. Willis.

"Why Mother, I've always wanted to sleep outdoors!" cried Rosemary
earnestly.  "I'm so tired of ordinary beds and houses--and--and things.
It will be perfectly lovely to lie under a tree and see the stars over
my head and pretend I am out on the desert.  I'd like to sleep outdoors
every night."

When Doctor Hugh came down to report that both little girls were
asleep, he found his mother and sister knitting under the shaded porch
light.

"I don't approve of night work for women," he informed them gravely.
"Especially for those who have had as active a day as you have had.
You don't want to knit, do you, Mother?"

She put down her work at once and smiled.

"I'll play for you," she said quickly and went in to the piano.

Doctor Hugh sat down in the swing and patted the pillows invitingly.
Rosemary, fastening her needles securely in place, put down her work a
little reluctantly and crossed over to the swing.  But when he put his
arm about her and she leaned back against the cushions, her head on his
comfortable shoulder, she gave a little tired sigh of relief.  A big
brother was nice!

And as the music drifted out to them--all the sweet old melodies the
doctor loved best, played as only Mrs. Willis could play them--Rosemary
felt her impatience and hurry slipping away.  She who had been so eager
to have nine o'clock come, so anxious to get the evening over so that
she might be free to put her wish into practise, began to wish that she
could stay up later than usual.

"Ten minutes after nine," said Doctor Hugh, all too soon.  "I must help
you get your sleeping outfit together."

"Oh, I'll just take a quilt and spread it out and then roll myself up
in it," planned Rosemary.

But Doctor Hugh insisted on a rubber sheet, to go under the heavy quilt
and insure positive protection from dampness; and blankets, he
declared, would be indispensable.  He arranged the quilt under a maple
tree--the tree most distant from the house--which was Rosemary's
choice, carried out a pair of light blankets and parried Winnie's
volley of questions good-naturedly when she came in from visiting Mrs.
Hildreth and discovered what he was doing.

"Well, Rosemary, I see you're going to have your own way and I only
hope you don't regret it," was Winnie's greeting when Rosemary danced
out, a dark kimono over her gown and moccasins on her feet.

"I won't," Rosemary replied confidently.

"Of course I won't," she said to herself stoutly, when she was curled
up on a quilt, under the blankets.  "This is heaps of fun!"

She could see the light from the porch lamp which made a golden shaft
through the wire netting into the darkness of the night.  Over her head
the stars twinkled and the leafy branches of the maple spread out like
a network.

Pouf!--Rosemary scrambled to her feet, brushing at her face frantically.

"Something fell on me!" she gasped.  "A bug--I'm almost sure it was a
bug!"

But after feeling around on the quilt and finding nothing that felt
like a bug, she decided that after all it might have been a leaf.  She
didn't mind the thought of a leaf tumbling down on her nose, so she
carefully smoothed out the tumbled quilt, shook the blanket and laid
them straight and went to bed again.

Usually she fell asleep readily, but to-night she did not feel sleepy.

"I wonder what time it is?" she meditated, turning sideways so that if
another leaf--or bug--should drop it would not fall on her face.  "I
wish I'd brought my little clock."

Presently she heard the sound of horse's hoofs on the road, soon saw
the winking white light turn into the drive that led to the barn.  She
watched it moving slowly forward, saw it stop and knew that Richard and
Warren were harnessing outside the barn.  In another moment the light
flickered out as Warren backed the runabout into the shed and Richard
led the horse to a stall.  The hollow echo of the barn door as Richard
slammed and bolted it, came next.  She thought she could see the dim
outline of two figures walking toward the bungalow but that might have
been imagination.

Rosemary sighed and twisted about uneasily to face the other way.  The
porch light was out!  That meant her mother and Hugh had gone to bed
and she was utterly alone on the lawn.  She felt inexplicably
abandoned--Hugh might have whistled to her, to see if she were asleep,
before he turned off the light.  That, thought Rosemary, would not have
been much to do.

She decided to lie flat on her back for a while.  In that position she
might begin to feel sleepy.  It was not a pitch-black night, indeed the
darkness seemed half luminous--the kind of light in which, after the
eyes have grown accustomed to it, it is possible to make out the
outlines of objects quite plainly.  Rosemary knew she could not be
mistaken when she saw a shadowy form on the other side of the lawn.

She sat up with a jerk, staring.  Yes, something was certainly moving.
Frantically she recalled her arguments that all animals slept at night.
How foolish she had been to advance a statement of that sort.  Vividly
now she remembered stories heard and read of night marauders--foxes,
weasels--skunks!  These prowled about at night and she wouldn't care to
come in contact with any of them.

"Snakes!" whispered Rosemary with a sudden prickling of her scalp.  "Do
they go around at night, I wonder?  Sarah would know."

But Sarah, the naturalist, was safely asleep in her own bed.  Rosemary
suddenly envied both her sisters.  She remembered that Mrs. Hildreth
had spoken of the warfare she waged against rats which tried to carry
off the young poultry at night--Rosemary, in imagination, could picture
a procession of rats running over her as she slept, on their way to the
hen houses.

She got gingerly to her feet, straining her eyes to see the moving
object.  What could it be?  Something brushed past her, close to her
face.  Instantly Winnie's horror of bats came to the girl's nervous
mind.

"If the screen door is unlocked, I'm going in," whispered Rosemary,
gathering her kimono tightly about her.  "Sarah may like animals but I
don't."

She started as the mournful cry of a hoot owl sounded in the
distance--and then something cold and wet touched her hand!  With one
bound Rosemary cleared the quilt and ran like a deer across the grass.
The shadowy object she had seen came toward her, moving slowly.
Rosemary dodged, tripped on her kimono and fell.

She was up again in a moment and running again, her breath coming in
little sobbing gasps.  Jack Welles had once said that she did not
"happen to be the screaming kind of girl" and though terrified now she
made no outcry.  She gained the porch step, tugged frantically at the
screen door and felt it open in her grasp.  She pitched forward,
striking her knee against a chair and felt herself caught in a strong,
firm clasp.  For a moment she struggled furiously and silently and then
realization came to her.

"Oh, Hugh!" she cried.  "Hugh!  There's something out there!"



CHAPTER X

AN EVENTFUL DAY

Doctor Hugh snapped on the porch lamp, carefully turning the shade to
shield Rosemary's eyes from the sudden light.  He was fully dressed and
had evidently been dozing in the swing.

"Hush--don't wake Mother!" he said warningly.  "What frightened you,
dear?"

Rosemary's face was quite white and her wide, startled eyes gave
eloquent testimony that she had been alarmed.

"Something wet touched me--wet and cold," she whispered.  "And there
was something else moving around, too.  I ran as fast as I could."

"Some of the farm animals out for a stroll," said Doctor Hugh with a
quiet assurance that his sister found most comforting.  "What do you
say to going to bed now, dear, and investigating in the morning?"

"Oh, yes," agreed Rosemary.  "Is it nearly morning, Hugh?"

The doctor consulted his watch.

"It is just eleven o'clock," he said quietly.  "Try not to make a noise
as you go upstairs for I hope Mother is asleep.  I'll turn the lamp so
that it will light you as far as the landing."

So she had been out there only two hours, thought Rosemary as she
tumbled into her own bed.  Two hours!

"It seemed like two years!" she murmured, drifting off into a peaceful
sleep almost instantly.

She woke in the morning to find the others downstairs, breakfast over
and all traces of her couch under the maple tree removed.

"I know Hugh did that," she said to herself gratefully as she dressed.
Her first act had been to run to the window to see if the quilt was
spread out on the grass.  "He'll never give me away, either.  And I
know, too, he would have stayed out on the porch all night, if I hadn't
come in, just so he would be on hand to help me when I needed him.
Hugh is so dear to me!"

She said something of this to him late that afternoon, following him
out to the barn when he went to get the car, preparatory to making the
trip back to Eastshore.  Sarah and Shirley had remained in ignorance of
the brief experiment and Winnie had proved extremely tactful, asking no
questions at all.  Rosemary had learned, from the conversation of
Warren and Richard, that a cow had strayed from the pasture and a blind
old sheep had cropped the grass all night.  It had been the wet nose of
the cow that touched her hand and she had clumsily dodged the sheep.

"You're so good, Hugh," said Rosemary, pretending to polish the
foredoor handle.  "But I won't want to sleep outdoors ever again--did
you know I wouldn't?"

Doctor Hugh smiled a little.

"We'll all go camping some day and you'll 'love' sleeping outdoors, as
you say," he declared.  "My dear little sister, I would be the last
person to try to discourage you in that effort.  But Mother knew and
Winnie knew and I knew that, for a number of reasons, it isn't
practical for you to try to sleep outdoors here; neither practical nor
necessary.  It wasn't a matter of sleeping outdoors, Rosemary--it was
just the same old question, 'Why can't I have my own way?'  Now wasn't
it?"

Rosemary blushed, but her eyes met his honestly.

"Yes, I guess it was," she admitted.  "But I'm sorry I was so
obstinate--truly I am, Hugh."

Doctor Hugh leaned forward from behind the wheel and kissed her.

"You'll make the Willis will an aid and not a hindrance yet," he
declared.  "All I want to do, dear, is to save you from learning these
lessons the most painful way.  Hop in and I'll drive you around to the
house," he added cheerfully.

The next morning was naturally a most busy one at Rainbow Hill.  Monday
morning is apt to be a busy time anywhere, but Mrs. Hildreth, who would
sooner have dreamed of starting the day without breakfast than starting
the week without washing, saw to it that not one idle moment was
unaccounted for as far as her jurisdiction extended.  She rose at four,
instead of the customary five, and Warren and Richard, alternating,
helped her with filling and emptying the tubs and lifting the heavy
boiler.  Mrs. Hildreth scorned the modern washing machine and did her
clothes in the old-fashioned laborious way.

Winnie had a woman to help her wash--a Mrs. Pritchard who cheerfully
walked two miles each way--but the temptation to bleach the household
linens on the lawn in the hot sunshine appealed powerfully to the
housewifely instincts of Winnie, and Mrs. Willis declared that she
washed everything she came to, regardless of its state of cleanliness.
Certainly one would have thought that her normal wash of light summer
dresses for three girls and two women would have contented Winnie, but
the combination of soft water, soap, floods of sunshine and the washing
machine left by Mrs. Hammond proved well nigh irresistible to Winnie.
She may have been said to fairly revel in wash.

"Let's go wading, Rosemary," coaxed Shirley this Monday morning, soon
after breakfast.

"I can't--not now," said Rosemary.  "I want to help Mother first and
then I must practise.  Ask Sarah."

"Sarah's cross," complained Shirley.  "She brought the cat in from the
barn and put her to sleep in the clothes basket and Winnie tipped her
out."

"Yes, that would make Sarah cross," agreed Rosemary.  "Where is she
now?"

"I don't know," said Shirley and her tone indicated that she didn't
particularly care.  "Come on and let's go wading, Rosemary."

"Rosemary is going to make the beds for Mother," interposed Mrs.
Willis.  "Winnie is so busy this morning she hasn't time.  Don't you
want to pick up the papers on the porch, Shirley and put the cushions
straight in the swing and bring in some fresh flowers for the glass
jar?  Then, when you have it all in order, I'll come out there and sit
and make a new dress for your doll."

"Oh, yes, that will be nice!" beamed Shirley, trotting off busily.

In all that hive of industry, represented by the farm, Sarah was the
one idle figure.  She sat on the fence commanding a view of the pig
pen--not the pleasantest prospect Rainbow Hill afforded, it must be
confessed--and dangled her feet moodily.  She was still resentful at
the summary ejection of the barn cat from the clothes basket and, in
addition, had been worsted in an argument with Warren whose turn it was
to cultivate the corn.  Sarah had wished to ride on the cultivator,
preferably in the driver's seat or, failing that, on the horse's back.
Warren had endeavored to dissuade her as tactfully as possible but
finding that tact made small impression on Sarah, had been obliged to
come out with a flat refusal.

"What a funny chicken!" said Sarah aloud, turning her attention from
the grunting pigs before her to a solitary chicken behind her, a feat
which nearly cost her her balance.

"I do b'lieve it's sick!" she declared, jumping down and walking over
to the limp-looking fowl which stared at her coldly from a glassy eye.

Sarah, in the few weeks she had spent on the farm, had really learned a
good deal about the care of the stock.  To her natural love for animals
and aptitude for handling them, she had added a store of knowledge
gleaned by asking questions of the boys and Mr. Hildreth and observing
them as they went about the barns.  She had faithfully tagged Mrs.
Hildreth, who took care of the poultry too, and had often seen her pick
up a chicken and examine it.

So now she picked up the apathetic bird and felt of his crop with
exploring little brown fingers.

"You're hungry, I'll bet," she informed him.  "You probably didn't feel
well this morning and the other hens knocked you away from the corn.
Don't you care, I'll get you some breakfast, all for yourself."

Sarah knew where the grain bins were in the barn and she went in and
opened them all.  Using her dress as an apron she selected a handful of
wheat, another of cracked corn, some buckwheat, a generous scoop of
"middlings" and a double handful of the meat scraps bought especially
for the ducks.  Then out she dashed and spread the feast before the hen
who really did brighten up and eat a good deal of the grain.  No one
hen could have eaten it all--and survived--and of course the other
chickens spied the feast in time, but not before the invalid had been
revived somewhat.

"Now I'll put you in a coop till you feel better," said Sarah, "so
nothing can pick on you."

She stuffed her patient into one of the feeding coops in the poultry
yard, gave her a pan of water and then, feeling more cheerful herself,
decided to go wading.

She glanced toward the house, reflected that if she went back to get
Shirley her mother might object to the wading plan or, worse yet,
Winnie set her at some useful task, and made up her mind to amuse
herself alone.

"Going wading?" called Warren cheerfully, as she skirted the cornfield
where he sat on the swaying cultivator pulled by the plodding Solomon,
both horse and boy protected from the blazing sun by straw hats.

Sarah refused to reply.  She had no intention of resuming friendly
intercourse so soon after the painful episode of the morning.

"He needn't think he can boss me," she scolded, sitting down by the
brook to take off her shoes and stockings.  "Ow, the water's cold!"

Like a great many older people, Sarah preferred to think a long time
before she committed herself to an icy flood.  She tucked her feet
under her comfortably and gave herself up to thought.

In the grass beside her a hundred busy little ants ran to and fro and
Sarah's speculations led her to wonder whether they had ever made a
trip by water.

"I'll build them a little boat," she planned, "and give them a little
ride."

Actuated by the kindest of motives, she fashioned a rude sort of ferry
boat from a leaf and then spent twenty minutes catching passengers for
it.  In her energy and haste she squashed several of the little
creatures and alas, when she finally sent a dizzy half dozen on their
voyage the leaf capsized and the passengers were drowned.  This
effectually discouraged Sarah and she turned again to the prospect of
wading.

The water was so cold that the soft green grass seemed more inviting
and Sarah began to walk along the brook's edge, wincing a little now
and then as her foot struck a sharp stone.  Then, without warning, she
stepped into a hole and sharp, darting tongues of fire attacked her
ankles.

"Yellow jackets!  Wasps!  Bees!" shrieked the unfortunate child,
flinging her shoes into the brook and her stockings clear on the other
side as she started to run.  "Get away--leave me alone!"

She had stepped into a nest of yellow jackets and stirred up great
wrath.  Her feet and ankles suffered the most stings, though one
furious insect lighted on her elbow and another on her wrist while a
third punctured her cheek.  Running madly and crying with pain, Sarah
finally succeeded in distancing the yellow jackets, but her shoes and
stockings, as far as she was concerned, were a total loss.  Nothing,
she was positive, would induce her to go back and get them.

She limped sadly to the orchard and climbed her favorite wide-branching
apple tree, to take count of her injuries.  Angry, white puffy
swellings showed where each sting had exacted toll.

"There must be a million," said the suffering Sarah.

But it was cold comfort, counting the wounds, and she longed for
sympathy.  Glancing through her leafy screen she saw Richard skirting
the orchard fence on his way to the barn.  She turned to scramble down
and in the descent struck her elbow on the bark, the poor elbow already
tender from a vicious sting.  Sarah cried out in pain, let go hastily
and tumbled to the ground.

Richard had heard her cry and he came running to pick her up.

"Good grief, you are a wreck!" he ejaculated when he saw her.  "There,
there, Sarah!  You haven't broken any bones--I'll brush you off and
you'll be as good as new.  Don't cry like that--please don't!"



CHAPTER XI

ALL SERENE AGAIN

"I think," said Richard, judiciously, "I'll carry you up to the barn
and wash you off; your mother might think you were permanently
disfigured if she saw you now."

Sarah was truly a forlorn-looking object, but he tucked her under his
arm and set off for the barn, trying in vain to soothe her as they
went.  Sarah wept continuously and only stopped when she was put down
on the barn floor.  She stopped then because someone was making more
noise than she could possibly make.

"I don't want to hear another word," Mr. Hildreth was saying in a cold,
loud voice.  "Not another word.  You left those grain bins open and the
least you can do is to admit it like a man."

"I did not leave them open!"  Warren's voice was as passionate and
shaken as the other's was cold.  "I tell you I did not!  I haven't been
in the barn this morning, except once to get the oil can.  I wasn't
near the bins."

Richard was pumping water into a basin and Sarah was glad he was not
looking at her; She had forgotten to put the lids of the grain bins
down!  The door of the small washroom was jerked violently open and
Warren strode in.  Mr. Hildreth had evidently terminated the argument
by leaving the barn.

"Hello, you look about as amiable as a thunder storm," Richard greeted
his chum.  "Got a clean handkerchief handy?"

Warren grimly extended a clean square.

"What's the matter with Sarah?" he asked curiously.

"Oh, she's had a hard morning--thought I'd wash off some of the worst
of it before she scared everyone at the house into fits," explained
Richard, beginning gently on Sarah's face, with the clean handkerchief
dipped in water.  "What was the row?"

Warren's face darkened.  He bit his lip.

"Mr. Hildreth found the whole flock of hens having a Thanksgiving
dinner out of the grain bins this morning," he said in a tone which he
strived to make light and even.  "He insists I left the lids up and I
am just as sure I didn't.  In a moment of madness I might leave one up,
but I never had all the bins open at the same time since I've worked
here."

"If Mr. Hildreth had a grain of sense," pronounced Richard, looking
dubiously at Sarah who still presented a sad appearance notwithstanding
his ministrations, "he'd know better than to accuse you.  Of course
some of these children have been fooling around the bins."

Sarah jumped at this uncanny penetration.  She wanted nothing in the
world so much as to get out of that washroom, away from Richard's
straightforward gaze.

She edged carefully toward the door--but there was to be no escape.

"Sarah, were you in the barn this morning?" asked Richard.

Her answer was a look that Doctor Hugh would have been able to
instantly interpret--it meant that Sarah had retreated into one of her
obstinate, sulky silences and had made up her mind not to be forced
into speech.

Richard turned and shot the bolt across the door.

"Were you in the barn this morning?" he repeated.  "Answer me--but I
know you were; and you must have left the grain bins open."

Sarah remained silent.  Richard took a step toward the obdurate little
figure, but Warren's voice halted him.

"Quit it, Rich," he said quietly.  "Open that door.  Run along, Sarah,
and next time you climb an apple tree, have a pillow on the ground
ready to catch you."

Sarah stepped over the sill, turned around, seemed about to speak and
then went silently out of the barn.  She heard Richard say something
and Warren's reply:

"Oh, what difference does it make, if she did?"

Mrs. Willis knew what to do for the yellow jacket stings and she knew
how to cure scratched hands and arms and soothe aching little heads.
She knew, too, the signs of a hurt heart--when it was Sarah's.  Shirley
thought her sister was merely "cranky" when she pushed her out of the
swing and Rosemary decided to let Sarah severely alone when that small
girl hurled her music from the piano rack and began a violent
performance of "chop sticks."  But Mrs. Willis waited patiently.

It can not be denied that Sarah made the remainder of the day a
veritable "blue Monday" for her family.  Secure in the privileges
accorded her as an invalid, she quarreled with Shirley and Rosemary,
drove Winnie to distraction with repeated requests for cookies and
lemonade and answered Mrs. Hildreth snappishly when that good woman
stopped in for a moment's chat and generally behaved, as Winnie put it
"like all possessed."

And yet, when Rosemary announced at supper that Richard and Warren were
going to walk to the "Center" to see a man at the creamery and that
they would be back before dark and had said the girls might go with
them, Sarah's refusal to go immediately convinced her sisters that she
must be really ill.

They set off as soon as the meal was over, Rosemary and Shirley and the
two boys, and Sarah curled herself, a disconsolate little heap, in the
porch swing.  And there her mother found her and in less than two
minutes had the whole story, from the pathetic beginning.  "The hen was
awfully sick, Mother," down to the "queer feelings" Sarah had
experienced when Richard, always so good-natured and kind, had turned
into an entirely different person.

"And I'm afraid of Mr. Hildreth," wailed Sarah, the tears flowing again
as she ended her recital.  "He'll yell at me, if I tell him, the way he
did at Warren."

"Why no," said Mrs. Willis, in the most matter-of-fact tone.  "Why no,
he won't, Sarah.  Certainly not.  And you're not one bit afraid of him.
He'll he sitting out on the porch now, smoking his pipe and quite ready
to listen to whatever you have to tell him.  You don't want Mother to
go with you, do you?"

"Of course not," said Sarah, almost as matter-of-factly.  "I'll go now,
before the boys get back, Mother."

And away she marched to the bungalow, confidently, if not cheerfully.
She had meant to ask her mother whether it would be necessary to
confess that she had been the one who left the bins open, but Mrs.
Willis had so evidently taken for granted that Sarah meant to do this
at once, that the question had never been asked.  Well, if Mr. Hildreth
wasn't going to yell at her and if she wasn't afraid of him--and her
mother had said he wouldn't and she wasn't--there was no earthly reason
why she should not admit that she had been careless.

It all happened exactly as Mrs. Willis had said.  Mr. Hildreth was
sitting on his porch, smoking comfortably and resting after a hard day.
He was surprised to see Sarah, but he did not yell at her.  Instead he
listened silently while she stammered out that she had been to blame
for the hens feasting in the bins.  She told him about the sick hen and
she outlined her eventful day, culminating in the tumble from the apple
tree and Richard's attempt to render first aid in the washroom.

"Well," Mr. Hildreth spoke for the first time, when she had finished.
"Well, I'm glad you came to me and told me--though that's the natural
thing to do.  Own up when you're wrong--isn't it?"

"Is it?" asked Sarah doubtfully.

"Only square thing to do," the farmer assured her.  "I'll tell Warren
before I turn in to-night, then we'll be above board all around.  You
like animals, don't you?" he added suddenly.

"When I grow up," she announced, "I'm not going to do a thing but take
care of animals.  I'm going to have a farm, like yours, Mr. Hildreth,
and I'm going to have seven automobiles with men to drive 'em.  They'll
go through all the cities and take the poor sick horses and dogs and
cats and--and birds and things and bring 'em back to my farm.  Then
I'll doctor them up and cure them."

"So you think you'll be a doctor, hey?" said the farmer lazily.

"An animal doctor," Sarah affirmed.  "I won't take care of sick folks,
'cause they're cross; Shirley is going to be that kind of a doctor
maybe.  Animals are never cross, no matter how sick they are.  Did you
know that, Mr. Hildreth?"

"Come to think of it, I do," Mr. Hildreth admitted, enjoying the
conversation immensely.  "But where'll you get money to run this farm,
Sarah?  Don't you think you ought to raise some crops?"

Sarah pondered.

"Rich and Warren can do that," she decided easily.  "They'll be through
agricultural college by then and perhaps they'll like to run my farm.
But Warren will have to buy a tractor, because I won't let my horses
plow.  None of the animals are going to work, when I take care of them."

Mr. Hildreth glanced at her queerly.

"You're just like the rest," he said grimly.  "You think of work as
something to side-step, don't you?  Let me tell you, Sarah, that unless
you give these animal friends of yours something to do and train them
to do it regularly, you will have to spend all your days dosing them."

"You mean they'll be sick?" asked Sarah, worried at once.

"Of course they'll be sick," declared Mr. Hildreth.  "Animals and
people need work to keep them well.  Ask your brother."

"Then I'll let my animals work just enough," said Sarah thoughtfully.
"Not too much, but just enough.  And maybe I'll let Warren plow with
the horses."

"I would, if I were you," agreed Mr. Hildreth.  "You work pretty hard
yourself, don't you, Sarah?"

Sarah stared at him suspiciously.  Apparently he was serious.

"Of course," continued Mr. Hildreth, "you call it play.  But when I see
you flying over this farm and trying to be in two places at once and
cram half a hundred experiences into one short day, I think you work as
hard as I do.  Maybe harder.  Don't you ever get tired, Sarah?"

"When I go to bed," responded that active person.  "But I'm not tired
when I first go," she added hastily.  "Mother or Hugh or Winnie are
always making me go to bed before I'm sleepy.  I want to study the
insects on the lawn, but how can I when I have to go to bed?"

"You're not the first person who has wanted to turn night into day,"
said Mr. Hildreth calmly.  "It's lucky for some of us that you're not
successful.  If we had to keep an eye on you all night, Sarah, as well
as during the waking hours, think how little else we'd get done."

Sarah had a shrewd suspicion that he was laughing at her.  She turned
to go.

"Wait a minute--wouldn't you like a pet?" said the farmer quickly.

"Oh, yes!" replied Sarah.

"I was thinking you might like a baby pig," Mr. Hildreth informed her.
"There's one in the last litter that isn't getting a fair chance.  He's
a runt and crowded out.  If you want to take him and bring him up on a
bottle, you can have him for your own."

"I'll take him," said Sarah quickly.  "I can learn how to feed him,
can't I?  And he can sleep with me--or at least in my room--I knew a
girl who had a little puppy and he slept in her doll's bed.  Thank you
ever so much, Mr. Hildreth."

So it was arranged that Sarah was to have her pig in the morning and
she and Mr. Hildreth parted excellent friends.

She did not go back to the house but, instead, started off down the
road over which, she knew, Warren and Richard, Rosemary and Shirley,
must come.  She had walked perhaps half a mile, when she saw them.

Sarah became unaccountably shy.  She walked more and more slowly and,
reaching Rosemary, who was ahead, she found she had nothing to say.

"Hello, dear," Rosemary greeted her, wondering why Sarah had changed
her mind and come to meet them.  "Do you feel better?"

"Come back and walk with me, Sarah," said Warren pleasantly, for he had
determined to put Sarah at her ease about the grain bins.

"A fuss like that is nothing to worry about," he had told Richard, "and
I don't like to see a kid unhappy over such trifles."

Sarah waited till the other three were a little ahead and then she
slipped a confiding hand into Warren's.

"I told Mr. Hildreth," she whispered, "and he wasn't cross one bit; and
I'm going to have a baby pig for my own and bring it up on a bottle."

Warren's face was as bright as the one she lifted to his.

"Why Sarah Willis!" he said joyfully.  "Why Sarah!  You went to Mr.
Hildreth about those silly grain bins?  You needn't have done that--I
meant to tell you not to worry.  But, of course, I'm glad you did tell
him."

"What are you talking about?" demanded Shirley, looking back.  "Did
Sarah tell Mr. Hildreth something?"

Richard's glance rested sharply on Sarah.  He smiled, grasping what had
happened with his usual quickness.

"You're a brick, Sarah!" he complimented her.  "A brick--that's what
you are."

But Sarah was eager to tell about her pig and Warren wished to change
the topic so no more was said then.  Instead Richard addressed himself
to the three Willis girls collectively.

"I think you've about explored Rainbow Hill," he announced, "at least
Sarah has.  She's exhausted its possibilities, if I'm a fair judge.  I
think you need some new interests."

"Yes," agreed Shirley with perfect gravity and not the slightest idea
of his meaning, "yes we do, Richard."

They all laughed, but Richard was not to side-tracked.

"There's the Gay family," he said.  "You don't know them, but some of
the children must be about your own age."

Rosemary thought "Gay" a pretty name and said so while Sarah reproved
her.  "Gay isn't a name, silly; it means they always have a good time.
Doesn't it, Richard?"

"Well no, not in this case," replied Richard, "but I'm going over there
to-morrow morning and, if you like, you may come along and get
acquainted."



CHAPTER XII

NAPOLEON BONAPARTE

The entire household was startled to be awakened at three o'clock the
next morning by the mad ringing of an alarm clock.  Shirley wept, Mrs.
Willis and Rosemary were sure it was the telephone and Winnie scolded
vigorously and, still scolding, traced the noise to Sarah's bed.

Sure enough, the clock was there and Sarah admitted that she had set it.

"I wanted to be sure and get up early," she explained.  "I have to get
my pig and go and see the Gay family."

But she further conceded that she had not meant to rise at the witching
hour of three A. M.  Her intention had been to set the alarm for
half-past five and her mistake was due to the fact that she had not set
an alarm clock before.

"And never will again," commented Winnie, bearing the offending clock
away with her for safe-keeping.  "Not if I have anything to say, will
you ever touch an alarm clock."

Breakfast was half an hour later than usual, in consequence of this
performance, and Sarah was in a fever of impatience to reach the pig
pens.  When finally excused from the table, she shot through the door
and was back before her mother and sisters had left the dining-room.

Loud sounds of altercation in the kitchen proclaimed her return.

"You can't bring that in here--go away, Sarah Willis!" came Winnie's
voice.  "Where did you get that dirty beast?"

"He's mine--he's a pig," countered Sarah, who always assumed that
Winnie was intensely ignorant in matters of natural history.  "Mr.
Hildreth gave him to me."

There was the noise of a scuffle, the slam of a door and then Sarah's
wail:

"Oh, you've hurt him!  And he's sick--you're the most cruel woman I
ever knew and I'll tell Mother so!"

Mrs. Willis opened the swinging door into the kitchen and Rosemary and
Shirley pressed close behind her.  Sarah stood on the back porch, a
young pig in her arms, and Winnie occupied the center of the kitchen
floor.

"We don't keep our pigs in the parlor--not in this house," said Winnie
firmly.  "Nor yet in the kitchen--as long as I'm in it."

Rosemary thought then, as she had often thought before, how easily her
mother settled differences and with how few words.  It took scarcely
five minutes for Mrs. Willis to examine the pig and praise his
possibilities to Sarah; to suggest a comfortable box in the woodshed as
his logical home--where he might have fresh air in abundance and yet be
close to Sarah if he needed her attention; and to enlist the sympathies
of Winnie--whose bark was always loud and whose bite had never
materialized yet--to the extent that she provided a piece of soft
flannel to line the box and warm milk to comfort the interior of the
little pig.

His pigship was a runt, as Mr. Hildreth had said, and deprived of his
fair share of nourishment was bony and far from prepossessing.
Rosemary had no desire to touch him, but Shirley was fascinated and she
and Sarah put him to bed in the box and covered him up with all the
care and devotion they had hitherto showered on dolls.  As Richard
observed, when he came to tell them he was starting for the Gay farm,
even a pig could be killed by kindness.

"Mother said she'd get me a bottle for him," babbled Sarah as she
emerged clean and damp from Winnie's polishing and joined Richard on
the step.  "Hugh is going to take her to Bennington this morning and
she'll buy it then.  And I can bring him up by hand and teach him
tricks.  His name is--what is a good name for him, Richard?"

"Napoleon Bonaparte," supplied Richard with mischievous promptness.
"You can call him 'Bony' for short, you know."

The practicality of this suggestion charmed Sarah beyond words, and the
pig was immediately christened.  "Bony" he became in that hour and
"Bony" he remained, with the use of his full name on state occasions,
long after he was as plump as any of his more fortunate brothers and
sisters.

"Where do the Gays live?" asked Rosemary, when she and Shirley had
joined the two sponsors and they were all walking over the field that
led to the back road.

"Their land joins Rainbow Hill," returned Richard, "and if I had my
way, we'd be better neighbors.  The Gays are hard up and proud and the
Hildreths are busy and like to keep to themselves.  I don't know now
whether Louisa and Alec will be glad to see me bringing three strangers
to meet 'em, but my honest opinion is they need someone to say 'Hello'
and be friendly without prying."

Rosemary looked at him speculatively.

"Perhaps Mother had better go to see Mrs. Gay first," she suggested,
with a little touch of her mother's own generalship.

"There isn't any Mrs. Gay," said Richard soberly.  "They're
orphans--all six of 'em.  And Warren and I have it figured out that
grown people frighten them--Louisa and Alec shut up like clams when
they meet anyone in town.  They won't think you and Sarah and Shirley
mean to boss their affairs.  Maybe they'll be friends with you."

The three girls drew closer to Richard as they approached a
tumbled-down fence.  Six year old Shirley expressed, in a measure,
their feelings when she stopped Richard as he attempted to lift her
over, with the observation that she had never seen an orphan.

"An orphan hasn't any mother or father, you know, Shirley," said
Richard, smiling.  "You'll find Kitty Gay a little girl very much like
yourself.  Show her how lovely a little girl named Shirley Willis can
be."

"We'll know eight orphans then, in a minute," declared Sarah, her
statistical mind functioning even as she helped to replace the fence
bars.  "The Gays are six and you and Warren are two; so you did see an
orphan before, Shirley."

"For mercy's sake, forget the orphan part of it," begged poor Richard.
"Don't say 'orphan' once--I didn't bring you up here to look at the
Gays.  They're no side show."

Rosemary laughed, then sobered instantly as a turn in the lane brought
them face to face with a tow-headed lad, carrying two pails of water.
He was about the age of Jack Welles, she decided, but infinitely
thinner and lacking Jack's solid build.

"'Lo, Dick!" he said cordially.  "Want me?"

Richard introduced the three girls with more ease than Rosemary had
expected.  Alec Gay was undeniably shy, but he asked them to come to
the house and meet his sister, Louisa.  Richard took one pail and Alec
the other, and they went on.

"Louisa!" shouted Alec as they came in sight of a weather-beaten house
set in a fenced enclosure of rank grass where a cow grazed peacefully.

A girl appeared in the doorway, a tow-headed girl with blue eyes like
her brother's, and thin shoulders, like his, too.  She wore a faded
blue dress and a black apron and looked clean and neat.

This was Louisa Gay and noting that she glanced uncertainly into the
doorway, after Richard had introduced them, Rosemary tactfully
suggested that they sit on the stoop.

"We can't stay long and it is too nice to go indoors," she said
sincerely.

"The house doesn't look very nice this morning," apologized Louisa, "to
tell the truth, everything is in a mess; but if we stay out here, the
children will come hunting for me and they're a mess, too.  There isn't
much choice, either way."

She sat down beside Rosemary who kept fast hold of Shirley lest she
start an exploring tour of her own.

"Where's the Kitty girl?" asked Shirley frankly.

As she spoke a stream of children poured out of the house--or it seemed
like a stream, though when they were counted they were but four.  Each
and every one of them had light hair and blue eyes like Alec and
Louisa, all were tanned and freckled and all were shouting madly.  The
youngest was a baby, the oldest a year or so older than Sarah.  Two
were boys and two girls.

"Jim, Ken, Kitty and June," said Alec glibly.  "For goodness' sake, do
keep still," he admonished the children.  "Can't you see we have
company?"

Richard, who evidently felt at home, had gone on into the kitchen with
the pail of water and came out in time to hear Alec's remark.

"We're not company," he said quickly.  "We're neighbors."

Shirley, after staring a few seconds at Kitty, began to talk to her as
though she were an old friend.  Sarah went over to look at the cow and
Jim and Ken followed her.  The baby, June, climbed into Rosemary's lap
and sat quietly there.

"She never goes to strangers," marveled Louisa, leaning over to
straighten out the crumpled little skirts.  "Look Alec, she likes her."

Alec was looking and so was Richard.  Rosemary made a pretty picture
there in the sunlight, her lovely vivid face turned to Louisa, her arms
about the tousled little figure on her knees.

"It's so nice to have a girl of my own age to talk to," Louisa said
appreciatively.  "I never have time to go down to town any more and I
don't see the girls I used to know."

"But in the winter?" suggested Rosemary, "You go to school, winters,
don't you?"

Louisa's lips tightened.

"I didn't last winter and I don't intend to this," she announced with
curious defiance.  "There's no one to take care of the children except
Alec and me.  We tried taking turns staying home, but neither one of us
could learn much that way so we gave it up."

Richard had come over, so he said, to borrow a file and presently he
declared he must get back to work.  June was handed back to Louisa,
Sarah summoned from her lecture on pigs--to which the boys were giving
rapt attention, and Shirley, with difficulty, detached from Kitty and a
dilapidated rope swing.

"You'll come over and see us, won't you?" said Rosemary eagerly.

"No," interposed Alec, standing straight and tall beside his sister.

The monosyllable sounded ungracious but Rosemary, looking at Alec, saw
that he did not mean to be discourteous.  He looked a little unhappy, a
little shy, a bit afraid, even.  And Louisa's blue eyes were wistful.

"Then we'll come see you," promised Rosemary gravely.

"I'm glad you said that," approved Richard, leading the way down the
road.  "Alec never goes anywhere that he doesn't have to and Louisa is
getting to be just like him.  First thing those kids know, they'll be
queer."

"Am I queer?" asked Sarah in sudden alarm.

"Not yet, but you want to be mighty careful," Richard warned her.
"Lots of people get queer, thinking too much about pigs, I've heard."

"I won't talk about any pig but my darling Bony," declared Sarah.  "I
won't get queer talking about him."



CHAPTER XIII

THE GAY FAMILY

As Richard had foreseen, the Willis girls formed the habit of wandering
over to the Gay farm nearly every day.  Rosemary liked Louisa and the
taciturn Alec, and the younger children were companionable in age and
tastes for Sarah and Shirley.

It was Warren who explained something of the conditions under which the
Gay children worked and lived, one evening when the girls were in bed
and Winnie was busy setting bread in the kitchen.  Warren treasured
these rare half hours on the porch with Mrs. Willis and he had once
declared to Richard that ten minutes' uninterrupted conversation with
"Rosemary's mother" could make him forget the hardest and longest day.

"The way I figure it out," said Warren, his lean, brown face showing
earnest lines even in the shaded light from the porch lamp, "the way I
figure it, Mrs. Willis, the Gays will help Rosemary and Sarah and
Shirley and they will certainly help them.  Alec is fifteen and Louisa
is just Rosemary's age--and yet they have the burden of supporting and
bringing up four younger children."

"And my girls have such a happy, sheltered life," struck in Mrs.
Willis.  "Yes, Warren, I can see what you mean; it won't hurt them to
learn of the existence of poverty and hard work.  But what happened to
the parents of these children?"

"They died a couple of years ago--within three months of each other, I
believe," said Warren.  "All they left was these few acres--sixty, I
think Alec told me.  There's a mortgage and most of the stock has been
sold off--Alec does wonders for his age, but he can't get the work done
alone.  I helped him some last year and I'd help him more, but he is
too proud to take much."

"But they can't go on like this," Mrs. Willis protested.  "It is
unthinkable--to allow six children to struggle alone for a living on a
barren little farm.  Doesn't anyone take an interest in them--the
Hildreths or any of the people who live near and who knew their father
and mother?"

Warren settled deeper into his comfortable chair.

"If the house burned down, I suppose they'd be taken in by some of the
neighbors," he said a trifle bitterly.  "Or if they all came down with
the plague, someone might drop in to offer advice.  But either of these
calamities would have to happen in winter at that, to attract
attention; the farmers of this community can't be disturbed in summer
when they're up to their elbows in work."

"You don't mean that, Warren," the little lady opposite him smiled
confidently.

"I mean at least half of it," asserted Warren doggedly.  "Of course
when Mr. and Mrs. Gay died, everyone pitched in and helped the
children; I suppose they did, though I wasn't here to see.  But I do
know that now when they need advice and practical help, they're
apparently forgotten.  Their attendance at school last winter was a
farce and yet the authorities let an investigation slide; Mr. Hildreth
promises vaguely to 'look after them' in the fall--and there they are,
six fine American children left to bring themselves up."

"Someone must be responsible," said Mrs. Willis firmly.  "I'll speak to
Hugh--he will know what to do."

Warren shook his head.

"I wouldn't--that is not yet," he declared.  "It is rather difficult to
explain and--well, I suppose I haven't been quite fair in my
statements, either.  Alec and Louisa do not invite friendship--they are
extremely proud and shy and so reserved as to be almost repellant to
strangers.  I think every allowance should be made, under the
circumstances, for them, but the neighbors who tried to do for them at
first were miffed, I suppose, and take the attitude that if they want
to keep to themselves, they may.

"Alec is close-mouthed, too, and I fancy he has resented attempts to
publicly discuss their financial affairs.  There is a mortgage on the
farm, of course--what would a farm be without a mortgage?" Warren
digressed for a moment but was instantly serious--"and I suppose the
interest keeps Alec awake nights figuring.  Both he and Louisa have
given up going anywhere--they send one of the children to the Center
for the few things they have to buy.  It's simmered right down to
this--they're avoiding everyone and if they don't look out they'll be
as queer as--as the dickens!"

"Like some of those mountaineers I saw when Hugh took me over the back
road to that little settlement at the foot of the hills," said Mrs.
Willis.  "The women peep out of the windows furtively and the children
run if they see a stranger--all because they have lost the habit of
meeting folk."

"That's it," agreed Warren eagerly.  "That's what I mean.  And I think
it is a shame, for the Gays are nice kids--clean and honest and
wholesome.  You know I would never have taken the girls over there if
there was the slightest possibility of the Gays setting them a bad
example in any way.  I have a cousin who is a teacher and she is always
preaching that children pick up the bad traits they see in others
quicker than they do the good ones."

"I'm not so sure of that," smiled Mrs. Willis.  "But I am glad you are
so thoughtful, Warren.  They are very precious to me--my three
daughters."

"If I had three sisters like them--" Warren's voice faltered.

He began again, hurriedly.

"What the Gays need," he said earnestly, "is human contacts--I think
that's the phrase I want.  They need to know normal, happy children
their own age.  It isn't the poverty that will hurt them--Rich and I
have been as poor as church mice and are still; but we have battled our
way through school and mixed with fellows and met people.  In some ways
Louisa and Alec are ten years beyond their time--they run the farm and
train and punish those four youngsters and figure out expenses like a
couple of old stagers.  Give 'em one more year and they'll forget how
to laugh and be hopelessly mixed on the true values."

"I think I know what you are trying to bring about," observed Mrs.
Willis sagely.  "You think they'll trust the girls and make friends
with them and, later, an older person will be able to gain their
confidence.  An older head will be needed soon, if that farm is the
only source of income.  Well, Warren, I believe you are right and it
will work out nicely in the end.  I'm glad to have the girls see
something of lives that are different from theirs and I know they will
all three learn a great deal that will be helpful to them.  I did plan
to go over and see the Gays but now I'll wait, for a time at least."

"She's a wonder!" said Warren to himself, walking back to the bungalow
a few minutes later.  "She can see just what is in a fellow's mind and
sort it out for him.  Funny how Rich and I puzzled over what made those
three girls so different from any girls we ever knew--they do just as
many crazy things and Winnie says they have tempers and wills of their
own, but they have something that sets them apart--Rich said it was
ideals and I called it fine standards and, in a measure, I suppose
we're both right.  But just two words will explain everything--their
mother!"

It must be confessed that Bony, the pig, claimed a large share of
Sarah's time and attention.  She let Rosemary and Shirley go over to
see the Gays very often without her.  There were the pig's meals to be
served, his toilet to be made and his manners and training carefully
considered.

"My conscience, Sarah Willis, you're not going to wash that pig, are
you?" demanded Winnie the first morning Sarah made known her ideas on
the question of cleanliness in connection with Bony.

"I certainly am," announced Sarah with appalling firmness.  "Hugh says
you can't be well, 'less you are clean.  I don't suppose I can wash
Bony in the bathtub?"

"Now Sarah, if I didn't love you, you would have driven me crazy years
ago," said Winnie, who was a famous general when she minded to be.
"You know washing a pig in the bathtub is out of the question.  I
wouldn't wash him in the laundry tubs, either; we have to be nice to
Mrs. Pritchard for if she deserts us like as not there'll be no more
clean clothes this summer; you can't pick and choose your washwoman in
the country."

"Where'll I wash him then?" asked Sarah.

"Take him out to the barns--there must be tubs there," directed Winnie.
"I'll give you a piece of soap and an old towel.  Don't bring the towel
back, either."

"I'll hang it on a bush to dry," promised Sarah amiably.  "But I have
to have some hot water, Winnie; Bony is delicate and I can't give him a
cold bath."

"Then he'll have to wait till to-morrow for his bath," said the wily
Winnie.  "The tea kettle is empty and I can't be lighting the stove to
heat water just now."

"Well, I'll try the cold water," Sarah decided reluctantly, "but if
Bony catches cold, you'll be sorry--that's all."

The pig under one arm and the towel and soap under the other, Sarah
made for the barn and reached the big tub where the horses were
watered, when Warren saw her.

"What are you going to do with that pig, Sarah?" he asked suspiciously.

"Wash him," said Sarah, beginning to weary of being questioned.

"Not in that horse tub," declared Warren.  "I've just filled it for the
team.  That's a drinking trough, not a bathtub."

Brief experience had already taught Sarah, as it had Rosemary and
Shirley, that while Richard might be cajoled or persuaded, Warren was
firmness itself.  If he said that pigs could not be washed in the
watering tub, that settled the matter.

"The brook is the best place to wash a pig, anyway, Sarah," suggested
Warren helpfully.  "You take this stiff brush and put Bony in the
middle of the brook and scrub his back and he'll be the happiest little
pig you ever saw.  But if that is a good dress you have on, take my
advice and stay away from water," he added.

"I won't get wet," said Sarah indifferently.  "Well, I guess I'll have
to wash Bony in the brook.  I never saw such a fussy bunch of people."

She scrubbed the pig thoroughly, soaking herself to the skin in the
process, and dried him neatly with the towel.  Then she took him back
to his box, fed him a nursing bottle of warm milk--he had readily
learned to take the bottle--covered him up and hung the soiled wet
towel on the rose bush by the front door.  Leaving the scrubbing brush
in the porch swing and the jellied remains of the soap on a gingham
pillow, Sarah retired to put on a dry frock, feeling that she had
accomplished one task successfully.

"That pig," said Winnie, when she came upon the soapy trail of his
bath, "that pig will drive us crazy yet.  You mark my words!"



CHAPTER XIV

THE GAY FINANCES

Sarah continued to bathe her pig every day.  In fact she omitted no
slightest detail that could contribute to his health and comfort; and
the amount of care and affection she lavished on "that porker," as Mr.
Hildreth referred to Bony, would have amazed anyone unacquainted with
Sarah's trait of exceeding thoroughness.  Whatever she found to
do--providing it was to her liking--this small girl did with all her
might.

But naturally the most interesting of pigs could not occupy all her
time.  Bony was young and he craved sleep.  It was during his rest
periods that Sarah would consent to accompany her sisters to the Gay
farm.  Once there, she was like the boy who, led protestingly to the
party, had to be dragged home.

"Oh, dear, I'm sorry you have to find the house in such a mess," Louisa
Gay apologized one morning, across the table filled with dirty dishes
and pots and pans piled high in confusion.  "I was helping Alec in the
field all day yesterday and just let the dishes pile up.  This morning
I meant to wash everything in sight--I was too tired to touch a plate
last night."

"We'll help," said Rosemary sympathetically.  She knew that the four
younger Gays were forbidden to light a fire in Louisa's absence--she
and Alec were most strict about this--and that, for this reason, they
could not heat water and wash the dishes for their sister.

"We'll help," repeated Rosemary cheerfully.  "I have washed tons of
dishes in cooking class; and Sarah will dry them for us."

"I will, if Kitty will," qualified Sarah, hastily, having no mind to be
tied down to domestic duties while someone else played.

"Kitty is in bed," said Louisa severely.  "I told her to make the beds
yesterday and she never touched one.  She said she forgot.  So now she
has to stay in bed till dinner time to make her remember."

"I'm going to get up now, Louisa!" shrilled the wrathful voice of Kitty
from the upstairs hall.

"You go back to bed and stay there, till I tell you you can get up,"
directed Louisa.  "Unless you want to be locked in your room and your
dinner."

Kitty retreated--they heard the door of room slam--and Louisa went on
with her plate scraping.

"There's the baby!" Louisa started nervously.  "Kenneth must have
stopped rocking her."

At that moment Kenneth appeared in the kitchen doorway, looking
distinctly cross.

"I don't see why I always have to rock the baby!" he grumbled.  "Alec
wants me to stake Dora down by the brook and when am I going to get any
time to help him if I have to keep June quiet?"

"Let me rock her," said Shirley.  "I can rock just as nice--can't I,
Rosemary?"

"Well, I think you could," admitted Rosemary, smiling.  "You must touch
the cradle very gently, you know, Shirley--don't rock June as though
she were in a boat at sea."

She went in to the darkened room off the kitchen with Shirley and
showed her how to sway the old-fashioned cradle with a soothing motion.
When she came back to Louisa, Kenneth had disappeared and Sarah with
him.

"I declare, sometimes I get so discouraged, I don't know what to do,"
confided Louisa, filling the heavy tea kettle at the sink and lifting
it to the stove.  "We do everything the wrong way and yet I don't see
where we can take time to do them any better.

"For instance, there's June.  I know she shouldn't be rocked to
sleep--but the one day I tried to break her of the habit and make her
go to sleep quietly by herself, I didn't get a thing done.  The other
children got into mischief, Alec was hurt trying to pitch hay and
manage the team without help and, after all, June didn't learn a thing.
She acted worse the next day, so I had to give it up and go back to the
cradle rocking."

"I suppose it is hard because she is used to the cradle now," said
Rosemary, busily clearing a place on the table for the clean dishes.

"Yes, that's the reason," agreed Louisa.  "And we spend a lot of time
staking Dora around in different places--she was in the front yard that
day you came over with Richard.  She was there because the front yard
has the one decent piece of fencing left on the farm.  She would give
more milk if we could let her go free in the pasture--but Kenneth has
to stake her with a staple and rope because the fences are so
poor--where there are any--that the only way to keep her home is to tie
her."

"You're tired," said Rosemary quickly.  "You worked too hard yesterday,
Louisa.  I wish you'd go off somewhere--find a nice, cool place--and
rest; I'll do these dishes."

Louisa did look tired.  More than that, she looked discouraged.  She
had not taken pains to brush her hair as carefully as usual and it was
"slicked back" in the tightest possible knot.  Her dress was perfectly
clean, but so faded and mended that it would have taken a merry-hearted
girl to have been quite happy in it.  Louisa was far from merry-hearted.

"But the potatoes will bring in some money, won't they?" urged
Rosemary, who now knew a great deal about the Gay finances.

"They will, if they're not all sunburned, before Alec gets them into
the barn," responded Louisa gloomily, pouring hot water over a pan of
dishes.  "Last year the yield was poor, too.  Ken and Jim try to help,
but neither Alec nor I can bear to keep such little boys working in the
hot sun all day long.  It isn't right."

Louisa was not given to complaint and Rosemary guessed something of the
pressure the slender shoulders must be enduring.

"I wish I had a million dollars!" burst out Rosemary, putting her arm
about Louisa.  "I'd give it all to you!"

To her distress, Louisa began to cry.  She was standing near the
kitchen table and she just put her head down on her arms and "let go"
as Rosemary later told her brother.  Shirley, who had ventured to leave
the cradle, after several cautious tests to determine the depth of
June's slumbers, peered in aghast.  Rosemary motioned to her to go on
and Shirley dashed out into the sunshine, glad to escape.

"You're so sweet to me!" choked Louisa, raising her tear-stained face.
"And you're so pretty--I never saw a girl as pretty as you are.  I wish
I could look the way you do and have the clothes you do!"

So the faded dress had had something to do with it, after all.

Rosemary had always taken her pretty summer frocks for granted.  Now
she looked from her own blue and white gingham to Louisa's old dress
and remembered the freshly-ironed linens and ginghams hanging in her
closet.  Not many, perhaps, but dainty and pretty, every one, and
neither old-fashioned nor faded.

"I wish you'd let me give you a couple of mine," said Rosemary
impulsively.  "We're almost the same size and you would look so nice in
blue, Louisa.  I wouldn't tell a single soul."

Louisa dried her eyes and reached for the dish mop.

"I'm ashamed of myself," she declared briskly.  "I don't know what made
me cry like that--Alec and the boys would think I had lost my mind.
No, I couldn't take a dress from you, Rosemary--I don't really need it,
anyway.  Thank you, just the same.  We need so many things that I vow
there is no place to begin to replenish; a dress would be a drop in the
bucket."

They both laughed a little at Louisa's mixed metaphor and the laughter
cleared away the last trace of the tears.  As they washed and dried the
mountains of dishes, Louisa explained that what was really troubling
her, was the interest.

"The interest on the mortgage, you know," she said earnestly.  "It is
due the first of September.  Mr. Greenleaf holds the mortgage and Alec
is desperately afraid he will foreclose."

Rosemary's experience with mortgages dated from that minute, but she
sensed the importance of the interest.

"Perhaps the potatoes--" she suggested hopefully, having great faith in
Alec's main crop.

"We owe for the seed and the fertilizer," answered Louisa.  "And last
year's taxes are not paid; and if we do manage to scrape together
enough to pay the interest, I don't see what we're going to live on the
rest of the year."

Rosemary had to admit that the outlook was discouraging.  She scoured a
paring knife thoughtfully and polished it off before she ventured a new
suggestion.

"Why doesn't Alec go to this Mr. Greenleaf, and tell him that he is
having a hard time?" Rosemary proposed.  "Ask him to wait a little
longer for his money.  Hugh waits when people can not pay him; I heard
Winnie say that he never collects a bill, but waits for the money."

Louisa looked graver than ever.

"The one thing we must never do, and you must never, never tell," she
said impressively, "is to go to Mr. Greenleaf.  Just as soon as it is
known in town that we are having a hard time to get along, do you know
what will happen?  They'll take the farm away from us and send us to
the poor farm--probably bind Alec and me out and separate the family
for good and all.  My father and mother would rather have us dead than
paupers."

"Could anyone take the farm away from you and do that?" asked Rosemary,
much shocked.

"Of course--it's often done," said Louisa, her light blue eyes gazing
intensely at her friend.  "They'd take us to the poor farm in a minute,
if they knew we couldn't hold the farm."

"Perhaps it is pleasant at the poor farm," Rosemary was trying to find
the cloud's silver lining.  "You might like it there; did you ever see
it?"

"No, and I never want to," retorted Louisa with finality.

Then Rosemary asked what it was to be "bound out" and Louisa told her
that children old enough to work were bound out to families who agreed
to give them their board and clothes and send them to school in return
for their services.

"It would mean that until we are eighteen we'd never have a cent to
call our own," declared Louisa.  "We couldn't do a thing for the
younger children and, worst of all, we should be separated."

It was a very sober Rosemary who helped with the remainder of the work
that morning.  She spread dish towels to bleach, she swept the porch,
made the beds--visiting for a brief moment with the unrepentant Kitty
who clamored to be allowed to get up and finally was released a half
hour ahead of time on her promise to pick the "greens" for dinner--and,
at Louisa's request, showed her how a simple soup was made in cooking
class at the Eastshore school.  But she was unusually silent while she
did all this.

Walking home across the fields at noon--they steadfastly refused to
burden the harassed family with three extra mouths to feed--Sarah
noticed her sister's abstraction.

"What's the matter, Rosemary?" she asked curiously and Shirley echoed
the question.

"Oh--I'm thinking," said Rosemary.



CHAPTER XV

THE POOR FARM

Rosemary thought a great deal about the Gays in the days that followed.
Louisa had asked her to promise that she would tell no one the
precarious state of their finances--"no one can help and I won't be
discussed like the 'cases' they bring up at the sewing circle," said
Louisa passionately.

"They'd be 'running up' clothes for June and Kitty," she said another
time, "and fitting us out to go to the poor farm looking respectable.
I'd rather stay here and look any old way."

Sarah was extremely observant for her years and she surprised Rosemary
and Louisa with a shrewd comment or two, until the latter deemed it
expedient to take her into the inner circle of confidence.  Sarah could
be loyal and she could be silent.  From that day she and Rosemary were
leagued with Louisa and Alec to circumvent the town authorities.

Not that authority, in any guise, was ever manifested.  At least it had
not been so far.  Rosemary, on the beautiful moonlight nights when "Old
Fiddlestrings" wandered again up and down the road, playing the
"Serenade" with his soul in his fingers, found it hard to believe that
there could be such ugly things in the world as poverty and fear.  She
was sure that Louisa and Alec must be mistaken--or else the money would
come from somewhere--it must.  There could not be such music and such
moonlight and such heavenly scented breezes on an earth that was
anything but wholly lovely, wholly kind.

"My dear child, you must go to bed," Mrs. Willis remonstrated on the
third night when she came in to find Rosemary's room flooded with
moonlight and Rosemary herself kneeling at the window.  "You can hear
the music just as well in bed and I don't like to have you lose so much
sleep."

And then she brought a light comfortable from the bed and, wrapped in
that, knelt with Rosemary at the window till the player and his violin
walked wearily away out of sight.  After all, what was the loss of a
little sleep as compared with such playing?

"Heard Old Fiddlestrings again last night," said Mr. Hildreth, drawing
up before the kitchen door the next morning while Richard carried in
the piece of ice they had brought from the creamery for Winnie.  "I
declare it's a mercy we don't have full moon more than once a month; no
one would get a fair night's sleep.  Does he bother you?"

"_Bother_ us?" echoed Rosemary in astonishment.  "Bother us?  Why, it
is the loveliest playing we have ever heard!"

Richard judged this an excellent time to ask a question.

"How would you like to go over to the poor farm?" he suggested, pulling
Shirley back from the dusty wheel and taking a firm grip on Sarah with
the other hand to prevent her from crawling under the horse--for what
reason she alone knew.

"The poor farm?"  Rosemary's mind immediately leaped to the Gays.

"Oh, Richard, do let's go!" she cried, her enthusiasm kindling.  "I've
always wanted to see the poor farm."

"Well, your brother goes there often enough," said Mr. Hildreth drily.
"It's thanks to him that the new Board of Freeholders put in decent
plumbing all through the place."

Richard climbed back into his seat and took the reins.

"Well, be ready in about fifteen minutes," he directed.  "It's thanks
to Mr. Hildreth that the poor-farm folks are going to get some early
tomatoes."

"I've a good mind to cuff you," said the exasperated Mr. Hildreth who
had never been known to raise his hand against anyone.  (Warren had
once remarked that when he raised his voice he needed no further
reinforcements.)  "It's a pity when we have the first tomatoes and more
than we can use, not to send those poor creatures a few."

The "few" tomatoes proved to be six peach baskets full and they made a
crimson splash in the back of the light spring wagon Warren presently
drove around harnessed to the useful Solomon.

"Mother says do you want to take us all?" cried Shirley, balancing
herself on the lowest step and eyeing Richard anxiously.  "I hope you
want all of us, Richard, because no one wants to stay home."

Her mother, coming out in time to hear this speech, laughed.

"Have you room for three, Richard?" she asked.  "The girls have had a
great many rides lately and I'm sure one or two will stay home without
grumbling, if necessary."

"Room for everybody," Richard assured her.  "Don't you want to go, Mrs.
Willis?  I'll tip the girls over with the tomatoes and you may have the
whole front seat, if you'll come."

"Thank you no," she answered him smiling.  "Winnie and I have a busy
day ahead of us.  You know the doctor and Jack Welles are coming up
next week to stay two weeks and Winnie and I want to have as much done
ahead as we can.  Have a good time and bring me home some wild flowers
if you pass any growing along the road."

It was a warm morning, but no one minds that in July.  Besides, as
Sarah pointed out, there was now and then a breeze.  Sarah and Shirley
were seated in the middle of the single long seat with Richard at one
end and Rosemary the other.

As usual Sarah and Shirley both wanted to drive and, also as usual,
Richard settled the argument diplomatically by allowing each to hold
the reins in turn, stipulating fixed distances for each, using the
trees which could be seen ahead as boundary marks.

Rosemary was less interested in the driving than in their destination.
She plied Richard with questions about the poor farm.  Who lived there?
How many people?  How poor did one have to be before he was compelled
to live on the poor farm?  Did one, once sent there, ever save enough
money to go somewhere else?  Were there any children and what did they
do?

"Good grief!" ejaculated the harassed Richard, at last rebelling.  "I
never lived on a poor farm, Rosemary.  I don't know a great deal more
about it than you do."

"Is it a nice place?" persisted Rosemary.

"Depends on what you call nice," answered Richard.  "It is a large farm
and the house looks comfortable.  I'll tell you one thing--if I had to
be a county charge, I'd rather be sent to a country poor farm than to a
city almshouse; in the country you at least have something green to
look at."

"Would you like to live at this poor farm?" said Rosemary.

Louisa and Alec, Kitty, Ken, Jim and June--they were in her mind.  She
would, perhaps, have some comforting news to take them about the poor
farm.  She was totally unprepared for the violence of Richard's reply.

"Like to live at the poor farm?" thundered he.  "Not if it was the most
magnificent place on earth!  Do you think for one moment that I'd have
charity handed out to me?  I'd rather wash dishes for a living--what do
you take me for, anyway?"

Three pairs of astonished eyes stared at him.  Then Rosemary laughed
and, after a moment, Richard laughed with her.

"Guess I got too eloquent," he admitted a little shamefacedly.  "But
honestly, Rosemary, I pity those poor souls who have to live at the
poor farm, more than I pity any other people of whom I've ever heard.
There is nothing worse, to my mind, than to be deprived of your
independence and ability to work."

"How do you come to live in the poor house?" inquired Rosemary.  "Sit
still, Sarah; no, it isn't your turn to drive yet."

"Oh, sometimes you're old and haven't saved any money," said Richard
absently.  "Sometimes you're old and sick and have to stop earning.
Lots of people lose those who would have supported them--say their
children.  And now and then parents die and leave a family of kids who
must be brought up as wards of charity."

Rosemary hardly noticed when he took the reins from Shirley and turned
Solomon into a beautiful tree-lined road in perfect condition.  She was
thinking that "wards of charity" did not sound half as happy as when
one said "the Gay children."

"Here we are!" announced Richard, stopping before a handsome red brick
building with a great white front porch and a fine stretch of lawn
before it.  "How do you do, Mrs. Carson?  Mr. Hildreth thought you
might like some early tomatoes for supper."

A stout gray-haired woman had come out from the beautifully paneled
door and Richard performed the introductions.  Mrs. Carson was voluble
in her thanks and suggested that the "young ladies" might like to go
through the buildings.

"If you'll come, too," whispered Rosemary to Richard, pressing closer
to him.

Mrs. Carson was a rather handsome woman and there was efficiency and
competency in every crisp fold of her immaculate gingham dress and
every neat coil of her iron-gray hair.  No doubt the Board of
Freeholders was to be congratulated on its choice of a matron for the
poor farm--but it was awe she inspired in the minds of the three girls
before her.  Not for worlds would they have left the safe companionship
of sunny, kind-hearted Richard and gone on a tour alone with this
formidable personage.

"Where are the people who live here?" whispered Sarah, when they had
been led through spotless corridors, glistening with varnish and
covered with bright linoleum, into orderly rooms stiffly furnished and
showing no signs of use and out again on to the porch tiled in red and
supported with white columns.

It was a question Rosemary had been debating, too.

"Oh, they're out back--there's a porch there they can use," said Mrs.
Carson carelessly.  "Some of 'em spend the time in their
dormitories--just puttering around.  The old ones are so messy I can't
have them out here or it would never be clean; and the young ones work
in the kitchen, mornings.  Now if you'll come upstairs, I'll show you
the bathrooms your brother had installed for us."

Richard had explained that they were Doctor Hugh's sisters and Mrs.
Carson was determined to show them every courtesy.  They saw the large
kitchen at last, with three young girls, in blue dresses made exactly
alike, scraping carrots, and four old women peeling potatoes, and then
went out to the back lawn where half a dozen old people dozed in the
glare of the hot sun.

"You needn't bother to speak to them," said Mrs. Carson.  "Most of them
are deaf."

But Rosemary, catching several indignant glances darted at the speaker,
doubted this.

"I hope you'll come over again," Mrs. Carson said, walking with them to
the wagon after they had, as she expressed it, "seen everything."

"Tell Mr. Hildreth he'll be a popular man tonight when we have those
tomatoes for supper," she added.  "The old folks would rather have
something they like to eat than any other kind of gift; and our
tomatoes are late this year."

Yes, she meant to be kind--one could see that, thought Rosemary,
mechanically holding on to Shirley as Solomon speeded up in his haste
to reach the home barn.

She was very silent during the return drive and busied with her own
thoughts.  Richard's quizzical announcement, "This car doesn't go any
further--end of the line, lady," woke her from her dreaming to find
that they were home.

As she lightly jumped to the ground, she put the gist of her
meditations into words:

"No," said Rosemary with conviction.  "No, I wouldn't want to live at
the poor farm!"

Sarah remained untroubled by any idea of living at the poor farm, but
at the supper table that night she had an individual announcement to
make.

"All those people weren't deaf," she said placidly.

"How do you know?" Rosemary asked in astonishment.

"I found out," Sarah answered, buttering her mashed potato lavishly.

"But how?" insisted Rosemary, not without anxiety.  One never knew what
Sarah would do next.

That small girl grinned impishly.

"I asked one old lady," she replied.  "She said she wasn't.  And that's
how I know."



CHAPTER XVI

SARAH'S SURPRISE

Winnie folded up a pair of stockings and dropped them into the
capacious bag which hung on the arm of her chair.

"It beats me," she said conversationally, "where Sarah runs to every
afternoon.  It's been going on now for three weeks and she shuts up
like a clam when I ask her any questions."

Winnie and Mrs. Willis were seated in the cool, shaded living-room with
their mending.  It was an intensely warm afternoon and several degrees
cooler inside the house than on the porch.  Winnie insisted on helping
with the darning--she would have felt hurt had she been denied the task
of mating and sorting and mending the stockings and socks for the
family each week--and she took pride in assisting Mrs. Willis to keep
Doctor Hugh's belongings in perfect order.

"Mother!"  Rosemary hurried in, her hair a tangle of waves and ringlets
dampened from heat and perspiration, her cheeks like scarlet poppies
and her eyes glowing with enthusiasm.  "Mother, I've thought of
something!"

"Rosemary leads an exciting life," Jack Welles had once declared in
Mrs. Willis' hearing.  "She can get all worked up about anything she
happens to be thinking about."

Rosemary's mother remembered this speech now, smiling a little at the
recollection.

"Richard and Warren are down in the tomato field, working their heads
off in this broiling sun," said Rosemary more picturesquely than
accurately.  "And Mother, couldn't I make lemonade and take it down to
them?"

"We have lemons," put in Winnie.

Mrs. Willis nodded approval.

"Make plenty, dear," she said cordially.  "Don't put in too much sugar,
for the boys don't like it so sweet; but why not wait an hour until it
is cooler?"

"Oh, Mother, let me do it now--they'll like it when they're working
hard.  Where's Shirley?  She could carry the cups," and Rosemary paused
in her flight kitchenwards.

"Shirley is asleep--don't wake her," cautioned the mother.  "Ask Sarah
to help you, dear; she is out in the barn.  And do keep out of the sun
as much as you can, dear."

"Yes'm," promised Rosemary obediently, disappearing.

"I'll go crack the ice," said Winnie, rising.  "There's no use in
making the kitchen look like Niagara Falls, if a little forethought can
prevent it."

Rosemary was a quick worker and a neat one, when she didn't have to
chop ice, and she soon had a shiny white enamel pail half filled with
delicious cold lemonade.  She poured out two generous glasses for her
mother and Winnie and carried them in with her compliments and then set
off expeditiously, carrying pail, dipper and three cups, a feat that
required her closest attention.

"Sarah!" she called when she reached the barn.

"What?" called back Sarah, not very graciously.

"Please come help me take some lemonade to the boys?"

Sarah put her head out of the barn door and eyed the pail thirstily.

"Let me have some?" she begged.

"If you'll help me carry these things," said Rosemary.  "I brought
three cups and there's enough lemonade for everyone."

"Well--all right, I'll help you," decided Sarah, "but I'm thirsty now."

"The ice will melt if you're going to talk all day," said Rosemary, the
blazing sun making her more impatient than usual.  "Come help me first
and drink your lemonade after we get down to the tomato field."

Sarah darted back into the barn and reappeared in a moment with Bony,
the pig, under her arm.

"Sarah Willis!  You can't carry that filthy pig and help me lug this
pail, too--put him down," scolded Rosemary.

"Bony isn't filthy--he's had a bath this morning!" flared Sarah.  "He's
just as clean as any person, so there.  And I want to show Richard and
Warren what he can do."

"You know what Hugh would say if he saw you fussing with a pig and then
coming around food without washing your hands," Rosemary reminded her.
"If there is one thing Hugh won't stand, it's to have you handle pets
and then come to the table without scrubbing your hands.  You know
that, Sarah."

"I'm not coming to any table," insisted Sarah.  "Besides Bony is clean,
I tell you.  If I can't bring him I won't come at all."

The walk down to the tomato field was long and hot, and Rosemary could
not hurry unless she had someone to share the weight of the pail which
would, she knew, grow heavier at each step.  She capitulated.

"But keep Bony on the other side of you," she commanded Sarah.  "I
don't see why he can't walk; do you carry him everywhere he goes?"

Sarah tucked the pig under one arm and gave the other hand to the
handle of the pail.

"Bony can walk, but I am saving his strength," she remarked with a
dignity worthy of Winnie.  "You wait till you see what a smart pig he
is, Rosemary; no one appreciates him except me."

Warren and Richard, bending over the long rows of tomatoes,
straightened up in surprise as Rosemary's clear call came down to them.

"Stay up by the fence--you'll get your dress stained!" shouted Warren.
"We'll come over."

"Ye gods, lemonade!" ejaculated Richard when he was near enough to hear
the inviting tinkle of ice.

"And a pig!" grinned Warren.  "Isn't Bony too heavy to cart around on a
day like this, Sarah?"

Sarah shook her head in negation, but remained silent.

"You must be baked!"  Rosemary looked with sympathy at the two flushed
faces.

Both boys looked warm and tired, but they averred stoutly that no one
minded the heat "after they were used to it."  They declared that
nothing had ever tasted as good as the lemonade.

"What made you think of bringing us it?" asked Warren, sitting down on
an overturned crate after his second cup and mopping his face with his
handkerchief.

"Oh, last winter Jack Welles and the high school boys were shoveling
snow, we took them hot coffee and doughnuts," said Rosemary carelessly.
"I suppose I must have remembered how much they liked something warm to
drink--and you like something cold just as much, don't you?"

"We sure do," agreed Richard warmly.  "This Jack Welles is coming up
next week, isn't he?  Mr. Hildreth is counting on him for two weeks."

Rosemary moved the pail beyond the reach of Sarah who seemed to have
developed an excessive thirst.

"Jack and Hugh are both coming next Sunday," she answered.  "You'll
like Jack, Warren, and so will you, Richard.  He lives next door to us,
you know."

"Well, I only hope he's used to hard work," said Richard.  "How old is
he, Rosemary?  Almost sixteen?  I don't suppose he has ever picked
tomatoes from sunup to sundown, but the cannery opens next week and
we'll be picking steadily until it closes.  Mr. Hildreth is shipping
some crates to-day, but the real picking starts when the cannery opens.
We're counting on Jack to make a third hand."

"He'll want to go fishing," declared Sarah.

"Jack doesn't care how much he hurts the poor fish, jabbing hooks into
them."

Sarah and Jack had had more than one violent argument over this
question.

"It isn't cruel to go fishing," said Rosemary impatiently, thinking how
tired Warren looked.

"I haven't been this year," announced Richard, "though they say there
are several good streams near here.  Sundays I seem to lack ambition
and during the week, of course, there isn't time."

Sarah edged a little nearer the pail.

"You wouldn't catch fish would you, Warren?" she asked coaxingly.

Warren looked at her and grinned.

"Not only would I catch them," he told her, "but I'd eat them; if we
are to have fish to eat, Sarah, someone must catch them for us.  The
same way with roast chicken for Sunday dinner and roast pork, you know;
they don't grow on bushes."

Sarah's eyes turned to Bony, now lying comfortably sprawled across her
lap.  She was sitting on the ground and Rosemary beside her.

"I never would eat Bony!" she said in horror-stricken tone.

"No, of course not," Richard put in quickly, "but you'd eat a pig you
were not acquainted with, wouldn't you?"

Sarah was most uncomfortable.  She liked roast pork and in winter was
fond of little sausages.  And now here was Richard telling her that
pigs--like Bony--had to be killed before one could have roast pork to
eat.

"Never mind, Sarah," said Rosemary, taking pity on her sister.  "You
don't have to think about what you eat--just don't try to make everyone
see your way and don't argue so much and eat what Winnie gives you and
you'll have nothing to worry about."

Warren laughed and held out his cup as Rosemary lifted the dipper
invitingly.

"In other words, Sarah," he counseled, "don't be so valiant a reformer."

"What's a reformer?" demanded Sarah, eyeing the pail anxiously.

"You're one when you try to stop your friends from going fishing,"
Warren informed her.  "That's the whole trouble with reform--no one is
willing to improve himself and let his neighbor alone; for all you
know, Sarah, you drive Jack Welles fishing in self-defense.  Perhaps,
if you let him alone, he wouldn't go at all."

Sarah stared, but Rosemary nodded.

"I don't know about Jack," said Rosemary, "but I do know that as soon
as someone says it isn't right to do such and such a thing, I always
want to do it.  And it may be something I never thought of before."

"Like coasting down hill backward," contributed Sarah.

Rosemary dimpled and Warren, who had been uneasily thinking they ought
to go back to the vines, resolved to wait a few minutes longer.

"Did you coast backward?" asked Richard with interest.  "What happened?"

"Oh, I ran into another sled and cut my wrists and nearly broke the
legs of the two boys on the other sled," Rosemary recited.  "The
trouble was I never would have thought of it, if it hadn't been for
Miss Johnson.  She's a woman who lives in Eastshore and she's forever
scolding about girls--the way they 'carry on,' she calls it.  I
happened to hear her say that no nice, well-brought up girl would make
herself conspicuous on a coasting hill."

"So you thought up the most conspicuous way of getting down the hill
and did it?" suggested Richard.

"Well, it turned out more conspicuous than I intended," Rosemary
acknowledged.  "I never intended to tangle up three or four sleds and
have the news get around that there had been an accident on the hill.
Mother was so frightened when she heard of it--remember, Sarah?"

Sarah remembered.  But she was more interested in the lemonade.

"There's some left, Rosemary," she tactfully declared.

"You've had enough," said Rosemary.

Richard rose to his feet at a significant glance from Warren.  It was
pleasant to rest a few moments, but the driving force of waiting work
had not relaxed, merely slowed down.

"I wish I could help you," said Rosemary, simply and sincerely.

"What do you call it you've just been doing?" answered Warren.
"Picking tomatoes isn't so hard, but it is monotonous; giving us a
little break in the day is something that counts big, Rosemary."

"Well, anyway, Jack will be here to-morrow to help you," said Rosemary.
"Then perhaps you won't have to work so hard--many hands make light
work, Winnie says."

"Now what," said Richard thoughtfully, "should you say was troubling
the small Sarah at this moment?"

Sarah, cut off from the supply of lemonade, had turned her back on the
others and was busily disgorging an assortment of articles from her
blouse.  When she whirled around upon the astonished group it was
apparent that she had secreted upon her small person a pair of baby
shoes, a doll's dress and a small parasol.  In these her pig, Bony, was
now arrayed.

"You want to look at my pig!" she announced in clarion tones.  "He can
do tricks!"

"Tricks!" echoed Richard, while Rosemary rapidly identified the dress
as belonging to Shirley's largest doll, ditto the parasol, and the
shoes as a pair of Sarah's own carefully treasured for years by Winnie.

"What kind of tricks?" demanded Warren.

"You wait and see--"  Sarah was so excited her voice trembled.  "I
taught him lots of things.  I've been teaching him every afternoon in
the barn--he is a naturally bright pig."

Her audience was inclined to share her opinion, after watching Bony
perform.  The pig walked up and down before them in the absurd costume,
twirling the parasol and bowing to each in turn as he passed.

He danced, very mincingly, to a tune Sarah played for him on the
harmonica--Rosemary wondered how many other treasures Sarah's blouse
could hold--and though Richard said that no pig, no matter how highly
educated, could hope to identify that tune, it was admitted that Bony
was a graceful dancer.

"He can wear spectacles and read a book, too," declared Sarah proudly,
"but I couldn't bring them!"

Like all managers of celebrities she had begun to experience the
tyranny of the "props."

"Well, you must have had a heap of patience," commented Warren
admiringly.  "Can he do anything else, Sarah?"

"Jump through a hoop," enumerated Sarah, "push a doll carriage and walk
around carrying a doll like a baby--I broke two of Shirley's china
dolls, teaching him that trick, but she doesn't know it yet.  And, oh,
yes, he can sweep--with a toy broom--and play a toy piano."

"So that's where all Shirley's toys have gone to!"  Rosemary tried to
speak severely, but she ended by laughing.  "Shirley has been missing
her playthings, one after the other," Rosemary explained to the boys.
"And we thought she took them outdoors to play with and forgot where
she left them."

"After supper to-night," said Sarah, calmly ignoring this disclosure,
"I'll give an exhibition in the barn."



CHAPTER XVII

WILLING AND OBLIGING

Sarah was as good as her word.  She not only assembled the entire
Rainbow Hill family in the barn that evening and put Bony through his
paces, but she continued to give "exhibitions" whenever and wherever
she could assemble an audience of one or more.  Eventually she took
Bony over to the Gay farm and delighted the children there who thought
he was absolutely the most clever pig they had ever seen and Sarah the
most wonderful trainer.

The fame of Bony spread abroad and gradually Sarah's family grew
accustomed to having a horse and wagon drive in, usually with a couple
of empty milk cans rattling around in the back showing that the driver
was on his way home from the daily trip to the creamery; and to hearing
a knock at the door, followed by a voice asking, "Is the little girl
in--the one with the pig?"

Answered in the affirmative, the inevitable request would be: "Do you
think she would mind letting me see him do tricks?  They tell me, down
to the creamery" (or at the store or the postoffice) "that he is sure a
smart pig."

These requests pleased Sarah immensely.  She, would sally forth
importantly and rout Bony out of his comfortable box, present him as
one would introduce a famous artist and put him through his program.
The audience never failed to be pleased and grateful and to be generous
with praises.  Warren declared that there was small danger of Bony ever
forgetting his accomplishments for hardly a day passed that he wasn't
"billed to appear."

But before Bony attained this place in the limelight, Doctor Hugh and
Jack Welles arrived for their promised two weeks' visit and vacation.
Even her marvelous pig could not hope to compete with these arrivals
and Sarah's interest in Bony slackened slightly though she kept him
rigorously in training.

The doctor and Jack came in the former's car.  It was difficult to say
whose disappointment was keenest when Jack announced that he intended
to sleep at the bungalow and eat at Mr. Hildreth's table--Mrs. Willis,
Winnie and Rosemary were equally dismayed.

"Jack dear, I thought of course you'd live with us," protested Mrs.
Willis.  "You know we'll love to have you and I'm afraid you won't be
comfortable at the bungalow."

"It won't be any kind of a vacation for you," declared Rosemary.
"You'll have to get up at five o'clock because they have breakfast at
six; and Mrs. Hildreth won't let you put a book or a paper out of
place--Richard says so."

"I'm not saying anything against her cooking," pronounced Winnie,
through the screen door, where she had been drawn by the argument.
"But I tell you this in all honesty, Jack Welles; Mrs. Hildreth puts
too much salt in her oatmeal, to my way of thinking, and she skimps on
the shortening in her pie crust."

Jack glanced across the porch at Doctor Hugh, who was seated in the
swing with Rosemary.

"This isn't a vacation, you know," said Jack mildly.  "I've hired out,
at wages, and I'm to go to work to-morrow morning.  And it is in the
agreement that Mr. Hildreth is to 'board and lodge' me."

"Well, you can work for him and live here with us, too," suggested
Rosemary comfortably.  "Can't he, Mother?"

"It's ever so nice of you to want me," said Jack, "but you see, I've
figured out that I want the complete experience; I want to get up when
the other hired men do and eat breakfast when they do--Winnie wouldn't
like to get me a six o'clock breakfast for the next two weeks--and I
wouldn't let her, if she did."

"Richard doesn't think you'll stick it out for the whole two weeks,"
offered the placid Sarah, looking up from the book she was sharing with
Shirley on the grass rug.  "He said so."

Jack flushed, Doctor Hugh looked annoyed and Mrs. Willis sighed.
Sarah's remarks usually aroused varied emotions.

"I think Jack is quite right," said the doctor firmly, before anyone
could speak.  "He wants to see this thing through and while he knows
I'd like first rate to have him stay here at the house, I think he'd be
handicapped from the start.  There'll be the evenings left him, anyway,
and Sundays--two of them at least."

"You must come to us for Sunday dinner," planned Mrs. Willis instantly.
"I'll ask Richard and Warren, too; Winnie has wanted me to for some
time, but there never seemed to be a mutually convenient time."

So Jack took his suit case over to the bungalow and was introduced to
the little room next to the one shared by Warren and Richard.  He had
met Mr. and Mrs. Hildreth on one of his trips to Rainbow Hill with
Doctor Hugh, but he had not seen Warren and Richard till this afternoon.

The three boys shook hands pleasantly.  Jack was the youngest by a
couple of years and not so deeply tanned; though, being an active lad
and fond of outdoor sports, he had acquired a coat of brown since the
closing of school.  But he felt, looking at the other two, that he
lacked their muscular advantage and a certain hardness that bespoke
sturdy endurance.

"I'm ready to go to work," said Jack, in response to a question from
Mr. Hildreth.  "I've brought overalls and I'm said to be willing and
obliging."

Richard grinned and Warren's gray eyes smiled.

"Well, I hope you'll tumble up early in the morning," observed the
farmer, his mind busy already with the next day's work.  "We're going
to start picking tomatoes for the cannery."

There wasn't much thrill about the persistent ringing of the alarm
clock the next morning and Jack turned over with a groan.  The dial
said five o'clock, though he was sure he had not been asleep longer
than two hours.

"Morning," was Mr. Hildreth's brief greeting when he met his new hand
at the back door.  "Glad to see you made it.  Warren's your boss--he
knows what has to be done.  You'll find him out in the barn, milking."

Even a careless observer--and Jack was not that--would have been struck
with the dewy freshness of the grass and shrubbery and the magnificent
splendor of the Eastern sky; and Jack, on his way to the barn, drew a
deep breath of something like contentment.

"Not so bad," he thought, beginning to whistle.  "Not so bad, after
all."

Warren glanced up from his milking, his eyes cordial, his busy hands
continuing their task.

"Mr. Hildreth said you're my boss," said Jack directly.  "What do you
want me to do?"

"You can't milk, can you?" replied Warren.  "No, of course, you haven't
been around cows.  Richard is feeding and cleaning the horses--you
might help him."

Jack was inclined to remember the remark Sarah had attributed to
Richard, but five minutes spent in that cheerful youth's company were
enough to dispel any faint resentment he might feel.  Richard liked to
chatter and he liked to sing and whistle; and while he showed Jack what
constituted a proper breakfast for a horse and how these useful beasts
should be groomed, he kept up a running fire of comment and
good-natured musical effort that made up in volume what it lacked in
depth.  By the time Warren's pails were full and the barn work done,
the three boys were on a friendly footing and they marched into
breakfast to the tune of "There Were Three Crows Sat in a Tree."

Jack could have found it in his heart to wish that Mrs. Hildreth might
think less of time and more of passing comfort.  The dining-room of the
bungalow was fully furnished, but the farmer's wife used it only on
state occasions.  It made less work, she said, to eat in the kitchen
and she could "get through" a meal more rapidly and take fewer steps
when those to be served were close to the stove.

It fell to the lot of Jack to be close to the stove this morning and he
gave a momentary sigh for the coolness and order and daintiness that he
knew would give atmosphere to the breakfast in Mrs. Willis' household.
Not that he minded eating in the kitchen--he and his mother often did
that when his father was away and thought it a lark; but he did mind
the heat and the haste and the silence in which this, his first meal
with the Hildreths, was consumed.

"Ready?" said Warren briefly, when they had finished, leading the way
to the barn.

They had been working in the barnyard and vegetable garden for an hour
and were on their way to the tomato field--it was necessary to wait for
the heavy dew to dry before they began to work among the vines--when
the Willis family gathered for their breakfast at the round table set
on the porch this warm morning in Doctor Hugh's honor.

"Hugh, will you come watch me wade in the brook?" asked Shirley, eating
her cereal as though hypnotized and quite forgetting to protest that
she didn't see why she had to drink milk.

"You wait till you see Bony, Hugh," Sarah told him.  "He's the best pig
you ever saw.  He's bright."

"I wish, if you have time, Hugh," said Rosemary, "you'd show me what is
the matter with the camera.  Every picture I take is overexposed."

"For mercy's sake, let your brother rest," Winnie admonished them,
bringing in a plate of fresh Parker House rolls.  "He only gets a bit
of a breathing spell and he doesn't want to race from one end of this
farm to the other.  Take that large brown one, Hughie."

Mrs. Willis, behind the silver coffee pot, smiled at her son.

"Best rolls I ever ate, Winnie," he said appreciatively.  "I'll bet if
Mr. Greggs' wife could make rolls like these he'd be a sweeter-tempered
carpenter.  I'm going to have the finest of vacations and rest
thoroughly by going everywhere with everybody.  I'll watch you wade,
Shirley; and I'll give Sarah my opinion of this remarkable pig;
Rosemary and I will 'snap' the whole farm.  But I wish it distinctly
understood that Mother and I have an unbreakable engagement to take a
drive every afternoon, or just after dinner, as she prefers."

"And won't you have to go see any sick people at all?" demanded
Shirley, almost upsetting her glass of milk in the excitement of having
a brother with time to spare.

"I left word with Mrs. Welles that I'd answer emergency calls, of
course," explained Doctor Hugh, answering his mother's unspoken
question.  "I've arranged it so I won't have to go the hospital and,
barring the unforeseen, I can count on a free fortnight.  So we'll hope
there won't be any sick people to go see, Shirley."

"Where are you going, Rosemary?" the doctor hailed her as she and Sarah
started down the lawn after breakfast was over.

"We thought we'd go down and see Jack," called Rosemary.

Doctor Hugh pushed open the screen door and came down the steps.

"Let Jack get his bearings first," he advised.  "There is bound to be a
number of new experiences for him this initial day and I think it will
be kinder to let him get adjusted to his job.  He'll be up this evening
and you and Mother can play for him and cheer him up generally."

"Why--why--will he need cheering up?"  Rosemary looked so startled that
her brother laughed.

"Not precisely cheering up, perhaps," he said, "but a mental and
physical rest.  Jack is bound to have sore muscles, after a long day
bending over tomato crates; he thinks he knows what it means to work,
but he has never worked in his life as he will now.  And I don't know,
but I suspect, he may have a sore mind; Jack has never worked for
anyone and he must learn to be 'bossed.'  All in all, Rosemary, I'd put
off going down to the tomato field till to-morrow."

"Well--all right," agreed Rosemary reluctantly.  "I do think he might
have stayed with us and then he would have had a better time."

"If we're not going down to the field, I'll go get Bony and take him
down to the brook," said Sarah, quick to seize her advantage.  "I can
wash him while Shirley goes wading."



CHAPTER XVIII

A NEW FRIEND

They spent the morning down at the brook.  Shirley was enchanted to be
allowed to help build a dam--the height of his ambition, Doctor Hugh
whimsically told them.  Shirley paddled around in the brook and brought
him stones and he laid them in a chain that made a crude dam, both
getting very warm and very wet and having a thoroughly enjoyable time
of it.

Rosemary had brought the camera and snapped a dozen poses of the
sunny-haired Shirley as she gamboled about with her skirts tucked up to
her waist, looking like a particularly chubby elf.  Doctor Hugh had
done something to the camera that would, Rosemary was sure, correct her
tendency to overexpose a film and the results fully justified her
faith; whether it was due to his manipulation of the "innards" of the
camera or his instructions to her, the prints were exceptionally good
and clear.

Sarah, of course, devoted her morning to scrubbing the pig.  The
doctor's shouts of laughter could not persuade her to curtail the
ceremony in the slightest detail.  She had brought soap and towels and
brush with her and she gravely scrubbed and rinsed and dried Bony and
put him out in the sun to dry.

"He'll bake," protested Doctor Hugh, when, the pig's bath finished,
Sarah arranged him on a dry towel in the sun.  "You'll have roast pork,
Sarah, if you're not careful."

"No I won't," answered Sarah confidently, straightening the pig's legs
for him since he did not offer to move.

"Can't he even grunt?" demanded Doctor Hugh who had never seen an
animal so willing to be waited upon.

"Of course he can grunt--"  Sarah was indignant.  "He can do anything."

"When the sun dries him on that side, she'll turn him over on the
other," whispered Rosemary.  "You'll see."

The dam was built, the roll of films used up and Bony dry and
immaculate by the time Winnie rang the bell to tell them that lunch was
ready.

"We must have a picnic," said Doctor Hugh as they went up to the house,
he carrying Shirley, who objected to putting on her socks and sandals,
and Sarah carrying the pig with almost as much care.  "I haven't been
to a picnic in years."

That afternoon he carried his mother off for a drive in the car, and
the three girls were left to their own devices.  Rosemary's natural
inclination was to find Jack and ask him how his day was going, but
mindful of her brother's advice, she resolved to wait.  She was playing
jack stones with Shirley and Sarah when Mrs. Hildreth came hurrying
across the lawn.

"Rosemary," she said, fanning her flushed face with her apron, "I
wonder if you'd do me a favor.  All the men are busy and I couldn't ask
them to drop their work for such a trifle; and I have to grease the
chickens for lice, so I can't go myself."

Mrs. Hildreth always seemed to choose the hottest days for the most
unlovely tasks, reflected Rosemary, but Sarah held a different opinion.

"I'll come hold 'em for you, Mrs. Hildreth," she offered, rising in
such haste that she almost knocked Shirley off the step.  "I love to
see you grease chickens!"

"All right, I do need somebody to help me," said Mrs. Hildreth
gratefully.  "Rosemary, Miss Clinton telephoned me this morning she
wanted a dozen fresh eggs--why do they always say 'fresh eggs'?" she
broke off irritably.  "'Tisn't likely I'd go out and get her a dozen
stale eggs, even if I could find 'em.  Well, she wants them this
afternoon and I hate to disappoint her.  She's kind of used to getting
what she wants and everybody feels sorry for her.  I know you like to
walk and when I saw your mother and brother going off in the car, I
says, 'Maybe she won't mind walking over there for me, having nothing
else to do.'"

"I'll go," said Rosemary pleasantly, "but where does this Miss Clinton
live?"

Mrs. Hildreth gave minute directions for finding the house.  It was
close to the road, the same road that went past the Gay farm, but in
the opposite direction.  It wasn't over a quarter of a mile and
Rosemary was to knock on the door and when someone called "Come in" to
lift the latch and enter.

"I'll take Shirley with me," said Rosemary, "and you'll tell Winnie,
won't you, Mrs. Hildreth?  She went down to the mail box at the
cross-roads to mail a letter and she'll wonder where we are when she
comes back."

Mrs. Hildreth promised to tell Winnie and she and Sarah departed to
begin their war on the chicken pests while Rosemary and Shirley set off
to follow the back road to the little yellow house where Miss Clinton
lived.

They found it without difficulty, knocked and heard someone call "Come
in," just as Mrs. Hildreth had predicted.

"How do you do?" said the same voice when they stepped directly into a
large square room.  "I'm very glad to see you."

A very tiny old lady sat in a wheel chair in the center of the room.
Her skin was almost as yellow as the paint on the house and
considerably more wrinkled.  She had bright black eyes that reminded
Rosemary of a bird and little, eager claw-like hands that were
strangely bird-like, too.  She beamed at the girls, plainly delighted
to have company.

"I'm glad you came," she said when Rosemary had given her the eggs and
explained they were from Rainbow Hill.  "Mrs. Hildreth told me the
Hammonds rented their house this summer.  Sit down and we'll talk.  Let
the little girl play with the toys in the cabinet--she won't hurt 'em."

The cabinet stood in one corner of the room and was well stocked with
toys, some new, some well-worn.  Shirley sat down on the floor and
amused herself contentedly while Miss Clinton kept up a running fire of
comment till Rosemary's wrist watch showed half-past four.

"I wish you'd come see me again," said the old lady wistfully.  "I get
lonesome for someone to talk to.  I get around pretty good in this
chair and I have lots of books and papers to read; but I like to talk
and summers everyone is so busy they don't think to drop in."

"I'll drop in," promised Rosemary impulsively.  "Mother would come to
see you, too, but she couldn't walk this far; perhaps Hugh, my brother,
will bring her some day."

"Let me have my knitting, if you're really going," said Miss Clinton
regretfully.  "It's there in that basket beside you.  That's my sixth
bedspread, or will be, when I get it finished."

"What beautiful work!" exclaimed Rosemary as the old lady spread the
knitted square over her knee.  "How fine it is--isn't it very
difficult?"

"Not a bit," Miss Clinton assured her.  "I do it when my eyes get tired
of reading print.  I'll teach you how to make a spread, if you'll come
see me now and then," she offered quickly.  "They tell me they're worth
seventy-five dollars apiece but I never sell mine; I give them to
relatives and friends."

Rosemary and Shirley said good by and were half way down the path when
the door was opened and Miss Clinton called after them:

"Bring the little girl with you, too; I'll get her something new to
play with when she gets tired of the cabinet toys."

"Rosemary," said Shirley, skipping happily--she seldom walked, her
brother said, but ran or hopped her way along--"Rosemary, what is
there?"

"Where?" said Rosemary, puzzled.

"_There,_" insisted Shirley, pointing behind her.

"Why, nothing--except Miss Clinton's house--you know that, Shirley,"
replied Rosemary.

"No, not Miss Clinton's house," said Shirley, shaking her head.  "Next
to that, Rosemary."

"You mean around the curve?" asked Rosemary, for the road curved
sharply beyond the big maples that marked the line of Miss Clinton's
property.

Shirley nodded.

"What is there?" she repeated.

"I don't know, dear," Rosemary admitted.  "I've never been that far.
Do you want to go and see?  We have time, I think."

Shirley slipped a small hand into her sister's.

"Let's go," she said eagerly.

Rosemary had often felt a curiosity to know what was beyond a bend in a
road, but she never remembered making a deliberate attempt to gratify
that feeling.  Shirley, having been made curious, had no mind to go
away unsatisfied.

They turned and walked back, Rosemary hoping the little old lady might
not see them.  But she was nowhere in sight and was, in all
probability, absorbed in her knitting.

"Maybe the three bears live around the corner," suggested Shirley,
beginning to regret her curiosity as they neared the turn.

"The Big Bear and the Middle Bear and the Little Bear?" said Rosemary.
"I wonder if they do?  In a cunning little house, Shirley, with three
beds and three porridge bowls--wouldn't that be fun?"

Shirley pressed closer.  She preferred to hear about the three bears,
rather than meet them face to face.

A few minutes' walk brought them to the curve and around it--and there
was a vegetable stand; almost a small market, with fruits and garden
produce attractively displayed and a number of boldly painted signs
announcing that fresh eggs and dressed poultry were for sale on
specified days of the week.

"Is it a store?" asked Shirley, much interested.

"It's like a store," Rosemary told her.  "I remember Hugh was telling
Mother something about this plan the other night.  He said that down on
the shore road he saw lots and lots of stands, when he spent his
summers at Seapoint.  And he was wondering why some of the farmers
inland didn't do this--sell to people who have automobiles."

"Do people come and buy?" asked Shirley, staring at the tomatoes as
though she had never seen that homely vegetable before.

"Yes, they come out in their cars, from Bennington and further away, I
suppose," said Rosemary.  "And they buy all this stuff fresh and take
it home with them.  I wonder who takes care of the stand?"

A sharp, thin, freckled face rose slowly from behind the tiers of
baskets and a reedy voice announced, "I do--want to buy anything?"

Rosemary jumped.  She had not known there was anyone near.  Now she saw
the owner of the freckled face was a girl, a few years older than
herself.

"Do you take care of the stand?" Rosemary asked, smiling her friendly
smile.

The freckle-faced one nodded.

"That's my job summers," she confided.  "Winters I'm studying.  I'm
going to be a school teacher.  What are you going to be?"

Rosemary pulled Shirley back from a contemplated investigation of a
basket of early pears.

"Why--I don't believe I know," she answered the question.  "I've
thought of being a nurse--my brother Hugh is a doctor; or I might be a
music teacher."

"I'm going to teach school," the other girl declared again.  "I'm going
to have some pretty dresses and go to the city every Saturday, if I
have a mind to.  What's your name?"

"Rosemary Willis," Rosemary answered meekly.  "This is my sister,
Shirley."

"I'm Edith Barrow," the girl announced.  "I don't live here, except in
summer.  I help Mr. and Mrs. Mains--know them?"

Rosemary shook her head.

"We're here for the summer," she replied.

"Renters," said Edith Barrow as though that catalogued the Willis
family as perhaps it did.  "Well, when I'm going to school I live with
my aunt.  She boards students.  I don't suppose you're in high school
yet?"

"Don't touch those onions, Shirley," Rosemary warned.  "No, I'm not in
high school--not for a year.  In June I'll graduate from the Eastshore
grammar school," she explained.

"Do you like keeping store?" asked Shirley, who had kept still longer
than usual.  She may have thought it was her turn to ask questions.

"This isn't a store--it's a stand," Edith corrected her.  "Yes, I like
it well enough.  I took in twelve dollars yesterday.  You have to be
good at arithmetic to make change; that's why Mr. Mains likes me to be
out here.  Mrs. Mains can't tell how much money to give back when she
gets a bill from a customer."

"Have you any candy?" was Shirley's next query.

"Not a bit," Edith Barrow answered.  "Only things that are good for you
to eat.  Candy makes you sick.  Did you know that?"

Rosemary couldn't help thinking that, young as she was, Edith already
talked like a school teacher.

"Like the fussy kind," Rosemary emended to herself.

"Here comes a car now," said the young saleswoman suddenly.  "They're
going to stop--I know them.  I hope they'll want tomatoes today.  We
haven't much else."

"We'll have to go," Rosemary declared hastily.  "Good by--say good by,
Shirley."

"She isn't looking at me," complained Shirley and indeed Edith was
centering her attention on the coming car and her thoughts were
evidently all for the approaching sale.

"Jack would say she was chasing success," Rosemary told herself smiling
as she took Shirley's hand and led her away.

Doctor Hugh and his mother were on the porch when Rosemary and Shirley
reached the house, but Sarah was nowhere in sight.  When a few minutes
later she walked out among them, radiantly clean, attired in fresh tan
linen, her shining dark hair neatly brushed, her family welcomed her
with delighted surprise.

"How nice you look!" said her mother appreciatively.

"I wish you could have seen her half an hour ago," announced Winnie
from the doorway.

Her words were in direct opposition to her desire, for she went on to
say that she had met Sarah as the latter came from the chicken yard.

"She was grease from head to foot," pronounced Winnie, while Sarah sat
down on the rug and looked innocent.  "You'd have thought, to look at
her, that Mrs. Hildreth had been greasing her and not the chickens;
there were feathers in her hair and dirt ground into her face and
hands, and she must have been sitting in the dust pile where the
chickens scratch.  I had to give her a bath and change every stitch of
her clothes, because I was afraid you wouldn't know her.  And if dinner
is late to-night, you can thank Sarah Baton Willis."

"I'll come set the table." offered Rosemary, jumping up.

As she laid the knives and forks, she told Winnie about her visit to
Miss Clinton.

"I know her," declared Winnie, slicing bread--she had fastened back the
communicating door between the kitchen and the dining-room.  "At least
I know of her; Mrs. Hildreth was telling me the other day.  She's a
woman who likes company--that's all she wants and all she doesn't get,
summer times at least.  I never saw a neighborhood like this one--I
don't believe any of the farmers dare die in July or August for fear
their friends couldn't stop farming long enough to come to the funeral."

Rosemary giggled.

"Is she poor, Winnie?" she asked with frank curiosity.

"My, no, not that I have heard tell of," answered Winnie.  "She has an
income of her own and plenty of relatives, scattered hereabouts.  I
believe a niece comes and stays with her during the winter months--her
brother's daughter.  Mrs. Hildreth was telling me that she writes
hundreds of letters--though I guess she can't write as many as
that--and she wheels herself out to the mail box and back in that chair
and washes dishes and everything, sitting in it.  But summers she gets
fearfully lonesome.  The neighbors run in a good deal in the winter and
hold sewing-circle meetings there, but they haven't time to bother in
the growing season."

"She had toys in a cabinet--Shirley played with them and she said she'd
get her some more if she tired of those," said Rosemary, placing the
chairs.  "Do many children go see her, Winnie?"

"Mrs. Hildreth told me she keeps those toys to amuse the children who
may come visiting with their mothers," explained Winnie.  "Miss Clinton
figured that if the children had something to play with they wouldn't
be in a hurry to go home.  Downright pathetic, I call it, to be so
hungry for someone to talk to that you try to bribe people to stay a
little longer."

"I'm going to see her," Rosemary said, as she filled the water glasses.
"I told her I'd come--it isn't far to go and I have plenty of time.
Can I do anything more, Winnie?"

"Nothing except to tell your mother dinner is ready," was Winnie's
grateful reply.  "You are the handiest child, sometimes, Rosemary, and
I declare I don't know how I should have got dinner on the table
to-night without a bit of a lift.  I hate to be late, too, when Hughie
is here."

"I hope Jack comes up to talk to-night," said Rosemary as they sat down
at the table.  "I want to know if it is fun to earn your own living.
I'm going to try it myself some day."



CHAPTER XIX

JACK--HIRED MAN

It wasn't all fun, Jack assured her when, soon after dinner, he came
toiling up the grass path and mounted the porch steps wearily.

"I never was so tired in my life," he declared.  "Gee, I thought I was
'hard' enough--I've been fishing lots since school closed and that
isn't a lazy man's work especially if you wade upstream.  I've hiked
miles and I've worked in the garden at home; but at this minute I have
three hundred and ninety-eight muscles creaking in my machinery that I
never knew before existed."

Doctor Hugh tossed him an extra sofa cushion and Jack stuffed it behind
his back as he sat in one of the comfortable wicker chairs.

"Where's Richard and Warren?" demanded Sarah.  "I want to tell them
about greasing the chickens.  Jack, did you ever grease chickens?"

"Now look here, Sarah," protested Doctor Hugh hastily, "we've listened
to the unsavory details of that process once and not even for Jack's
sake can we go through it again.  Besides, Jack has a recital of his
own; you come sit with me and we'll listen to an agricultural lecture."

Sarah and Shirley both rushed to accept the invitation and after some
skirmishing managed to squeeze into the one big chair.

"Warren and Richard have gone down to the brook," reported Jack.  "Mr.
Hildreth thinks someone from town is gigging there nights and they want
to keep a watch.  I haven't enough ambition to catch a worm, let alone
a gigger."

"What's gigging?" cried Sarah, twisting about so that she placed her
feet in Rosemary's lap.

"Gigging is fishing at night," said Jack briefly.  "I'll show you
sometime--when I can bend my knees again."

Doctor Hugh adroitly shifted the wandering feet by turning Sarah back
to her original position.

"The first day is always the hardest," he said encouragingly.  "You
will live through to-morrow, if that's any comfort, Jack."

"Well, of course, I'm not complaining," Jack declared.  "I don't expect
to pick roses--ouch!--and I won't grunt.  But that tomato field must be
twenty miles long!"

Rosemary played for him presently and Mrs. Willis brought out the drop
cakes she had "saved" for him, and before it was nine o'clock--his
self-imposed bed-time--Jack felt more cheerful in spirit if not in
muscle.

But the days that followed tested his spirit severely.  It was, as
Doctor Hugh had said, an entirely new experience for him to work for
anyone else and to work straight through a hot summer day with a brief
noon hour and no free time planned.  There were even a number of chores
to be done after supper.  "Vacation" to Jack had hitherto meant long,
cloudless days with leisure to read lazily in the hammock, or go
swimming when he pleased and license to grumble when his father
suggested that a little weeding would do the garden no harm.

It had not occurred to Jack, when he so blithely decided to hire out to
Mr. Hildreth, that he was contracting to give six days of labor--and
part of the seventh--as a week's work; he had not thought much about
it, but somewhere in the back of his mind there had been a hazy scheme
of affairs that included a day or two off, when it should be convenient
for him--free days which he would spend fishing with Doctor Hugh and
"playing around" with Rosemary and Sarah and Shirley.  He was surprised
to find that fishing and kindred sports had no place on Warren and
Richard's schedule; work was a serious thing to them and in their
experience money was not to be easily earned.

Jack said little, but an undercurrent of friction began to develop
between him and Warren though to do him justice Warren was more than
ordinarily thoughtful and ready to make every allowance for Jack's
inexperience.  But naturally the issuing of orders fell to him and he
was made responsible for the volume of work accomplished each day.  Mr.
Hildreth permitted no excuses for failure in tasks set and though
extremely just he had a shrewd and accurate knowledge of the time
required for each chore and the amount of finished work to be turned
out each hour.

Jack and Richard "hit it off together" very well, too well, in fact;
they began to "fool," to skylark and, insensibly, waste time.  When
Warren interfered it was in the role of kill-joy, a character he did
not fancy.  When, on his return from driving a load of tomatoes to the
cannery one afternoon, instead of finding filled crates ready for a
second trip, he discovered that neither boy had picked a tomato and
that they had broken several crates and mashed a quantity of ripe
tomatoes in good-natured tussling.  Warren spoke sharply and to the
point.  He sent Jack to one end of a row and Richard to the other and
kept them separated the remainder of the afternoon.

The team was another grievance.  Jack was sure he could be trusted to
drive Solomon and his mate to the cannery and back and this hauling
afforded a welcome break in a monotonous day.  But Mr. Hildreth flatly
refused to allow Jack to handle the horses and either he or Warren made
the twice a day trip to the Center.

"I'll quit to-morrow," said Jack desperately, night after night.

And in the morning he would decide to stick it out another day.

Twice he went to sleep in his chair on the porch of the little white
house, waking to find that Mrs. Hildreth and the girls had gone to bed
and left Doctor Hugh, reading quietly under the lamp, to keep him
company.

"Nothing to be ashamed of," said the doctor when Jack stammered his
apology.  "After a day of honest toil, Nature's going to exact her
toll.  You'll be as hard as nails, Jack, if you keep this up."

The girls soon accepted the idea that Jack was not free to go about
with them and made their plans without including him.  Rosemary went
nearly every day to see Miss Clinton, on some pretext or other, and
Shirley often accompanied her.  Rosemary was rapidly learning to knit
the blocks for a bedspread with which she intended to surprise her
mother.  Sarah gave most of her time and attention to Bony, but she
also visited the Gays though, in the excitement and pleasure of having
Doctor Hugh at their beck and call, it is to be regretted that the Gay
family were left more to themselves than Rosemary or her sisters
intended.

Jack's irritation culminated in the second week of his contract.  True
to her promise, Mrs. Willis had asked the three boys to Sunday dinner
and, under the mellowing influence of Winnie's best cooking and the
friendly atmosphere of the little white house, the tension had relaxed
and the afternoon spent on the porch had been restful for at least
three of the group and happy for all.

"I'm going fishing to-morrow," announced Doctor Hugh, a night or two
later.  "The alarm clock is set for four and I'm coming home when the
last nibble plays me false."

"Care if I go along?" said Jack impulsively.  "I haven't had a bit of
fishing since I've been here.  I brought my rod and tackle in case I
had a chance, but I haven't unpacked them yet."

The creak of the swing ceased suddenly.  Warren had been swaying back
and forth gently in the darkness.

"Why--no--come along, if it's all right," said the doctor, after a
moment's hesitation.

"I'll meet you at the barn," promised Jack.  "Gee, it will seem good to
take a day off."

Still Warren said nothing.  The three boys had said good night and
walked almost to bungalow before he spoke.

"Are you really planning to go fishing tomorrow, Jack?" he asked
quietly.

"Of course," said Jack shortly.

"What about the work?"

"One day out won't wreck the crops," hazarded Jack.

"Don't stand here arguing all night," urged Richard.  "Come on--I'm
going to bed."

Warren paid no attention and continued to address Jack.

"If you don't turn out in the morning I'll know you've quit," he said.

"I'm not fired till Mr. Hildreth says so," angrily retorted Jack.

"You work to-morrow, or you're through," declared Warren, a steel edge
to his voice.  "I'm bossing this job and it doesn't happen to be one
that can wait anyone's personal convenience."

They tramped upstairs to their rooms, Jack inwardly seething.  He took
off one shoe and hurled it across the bed as a relief to his feelings.

He'd show Warren Baker!  It was a pity if a fellow had to ask him every
time he wanted a few hours to himself--he didn't have to have money,
anyway--he'd let the old job slide.  He had come up voluntarily to
"hire out" and he didn't intend to be treated like a day laborer.

The other shoe followed the first.

Richard had said he wouldn't "stick it out" for two weeks.  Perhaps he
ought not to quit with the time so nearly gone.  Mr. Hildreth would, of
course, uphold Warren.  He would hate to be left short-handed in such
beautiful picking weather, but he would not condone a fishing trip.
And there was his record--Jack was secretly rather proud of that; he
and Richard were keeping count of the number of crates each picked
daily and Jack had high hopes of outdistancing Richard before the end
of the week.  Maybe he might stay his week out--just to show Richard!

Doctor Hugh waited twenty minutes for Jack the next morning, then
rightly concluded that he had changed his mind.  Warren, meeting Jack
in the barn at the usual hour, said "good morning" pleasantly, but Jack
merely gave a curt nod.  He might be working, but there was no reason
why he should pretend to like it, he said to himself childishly.

He went about his chores jerkily, still "sore" as Richard described it
and, as industrial statistics demonstrate, ill temper lowers our guard;
another time Jack might have been more careful, but this morning he
caught his finger on a nail in the harness room and tore an ugly gash
down its brown length.

He said nothing about the accident, washed the cut as well as he could
and went doggedly to work after breakfast at the interminable rows of
tomatoes.

Doctor Hugh and his car returned with a most respectable "catch" about
four o'clock that afternoon and the lucky fisherman suggested that
company be asked to dinner to enjoy the fish.

"I never saw such acting boys--never!" scolded Rosemary, who had
volunteered to be the messenger.  "They won't any of them come!  Warren
said he was too tired to talk to anyone and Jack said 'No'--just like
that--he is too cross for words!  And then Richard said if they were
going to act like ninnies he wasn't going to come and make excuses for
them, so he said 'No thank you,' too."

"Jack has a sore finger," said Sarah wisely.  "I heard Richard tell him
he ought to take care of it and Jack told him to mind his own affairs."

"Well, it's been a warm day and perhaps they're entitled to be cross,"
said Doctor Hugh pacifically.  "We'll send Mrs. Hildreth three of the
fish and if she fries them as well as Winnie does, there may be a peace
treaty signed."



CHAPTER XX

A LITTLE GIRL LOST

Mrs. Hildreth may not have been as good a cook as Winnie.  Whatever the
reason, no one came whistling up from the bungalow after dinner to
suggest "Let's hear 'Old Black Joe,'" or to offer to play a game of
croquet.  Presently Doctor Hugh announced that he was going to walk
down to see Jack, and Rosemary went with him.  Sarah and Shirley were,
with some difficulty, persuaded to remain behind.

"Nobody home," was Richard's disconsolate greeting as he rose from the
porch railing.  "Mr. Hildreth has gone across fields to borrow some
more crates and Mrs. Hildreth is setting bread in the kitchen.  Warren
has gone to the Center and Jack is nursing a grouch upstairs."

"Well, I came to see Jack," said the doctor.  "I'll go up in a minute."

"He and Warren are on the outs," declared Richard frankly.  "Each one
thinks he is a Roman candle."

"How perfectly horrid of Warren!" said Rosemary hotly.

"Warren?" echoed the bewildered Richard.  "What has Warren done to you?"

"He hasn't done anything to me--"  Rosemary's color began to rise.
"But I don't think he is one bit fair to Jack."

Before Richard could argue this, the door opened and Jack came out.  He
had heard voices and perhaps wished to discourage the intention of the
doctor to come up and see him.  He sat down on the opposite side of the
step from Rosemary and her brother and put one hand carelessly behind
him.

"Hello!" he said grumpily.

"Say, those fish were fine," declared Richard, feeling his
responsibility as host, since Jack did not seem moved to speech.  "They
were so fresh, I could almost see 'em leaping out of the brook.  You
must have had good luck."

"First-rate," said the doctor.  "Sorry you couldn't come up to the
house for dinner, Rich."

"Well, I could have come," admitted Richard cautiously, "but I'm no
good presenting regrets for others.  Warren and Jack were peeved--"

"You needn't make any excuses for me," interrupted Jack coldly, holding
up a throbbing hand behind his back.

"See?" said Richard with a gesture of despair.  "What could a fellow
do?  And I'll bet Winnie cooks fish so you never forget it."

"She's a good cook," Doctor Hugh conceded.

Richard sighed.  He wished Rosemary felt more talkative.  In his
anxiety to entertain his guests, he stumbled on a sore subject.

"I used to go fishing pretty often myself," he said pleasantly.  "The
first year we were in college, Warren and I went off by ourselves
nearly every Saturday afternoon.  We made friends with the State
wardens and they told us a lot of useful things.  Once we saw them
stock a stream--that was great.  Ever see that, Jack?"

"No," snapped Jack, "and I'm not likely to; the only thing I'll know by
the end of this summer will be how many cans of tomatoes the Goldenrod
Canning Company has packed this year."

"How do they stock a stream?" asked Rosemary, her curiosity unloosening
her tongue.

"Oh, they have thousands of baby fish and they ladle 'em out like so
much fine gold," said Richard.  "And we saw them net a pond once for
carp--I wish I had more time to play around.  Perhaps when Warren and I
get our own farm we can carry out a few ideas of ours."

"What's that you're going to do when you get your own farm, Richard?"
asked Mrs. Hildreth, coming out on the porch, looking warm and tired.
"I declare, every summer I say I'll have the baker stop here," she
added.  "I get so sick of baking my own bread when it's warm."

She did not sit down, but stood poised on the top step.  Jack who had
risen with the rest, kept one hand stiffly away from his body.

"What were you saying, Richard?" asked Mrs. Hildreth again.

"Oh, I was day-dreaming I guess," Richard answered.  "I said that when
Warren and I have our own farm, perhaps we'll have time to do some of
the things we have always wanted to do."

Mrs. Hildreth mopped her flushed face with a handkerchief of generous
size.

"Well, you won't," she prophesied.  "I never knew anyone who lived on a
farm to have a minute's time for anything but the hardest kind of work.
Even in winter when the crops are in, there's wood to get out and cut
and the animals to be fed and bedded down and the fires to look after
and paths to be opened and the milking to be done.  It's one thing
after another, all the year round."

Richard put one arm around the porch pillar.

"It could be different," he insisted.  "For instance, you could buy
bread--you just said so.  That would save you some time."

"Which I should feel duty-bound to use in canning more fruit,"
countered Mrs. Hildreth promptly.  "I'm not so keen on work, but the
way I'm made, I feel guilty if I waste a half hour."

"It isn't wasting time to have a little enjoyment and leisure," Richard
declared doggedly.  "Is it, Jack?"

Jack a moment before had struck his hand against the porch railing, a
light tap, scarcely to be noticed.  But his face was white as he turned
savagely on Richard.

"Work is the only thing that counts and you know it," he said fiercely.
"The crops and the crops alone, are to be considered.  If you kill
yourself getting them in, that's a small matter; next year someone else
will plant 'em again and perhaps kill himself, too."

"Dear me, Jack, maybe you have a little touch of the sun," said Mrs.
Hildreth.  "I think the doctor had better give you something to make
you sleep.  You will, won't you, Doctor Willis?" the good woman urged
anxiously.

"I'm all right," said Jack.

"Well, I'm sure I hope so," she returned in a voice that was far from
sounding convinced.  "Mr. Hildreth had a brother who had a sunstroke
once and he wasn't right for years.  Were you working in a blaze
to-day, Jack?"

"He wore a hat," said Richard quickly, fearful that Jack's scant supply
of patience would be utterly exhausted.  "Besides, there was a breeze
in the afternoon.  It wasn't a bad day at all, Mrs. Hildreth."

"Don't you want to sit down, Mrs. Hildreth?" suggested Rosemary,
wondering how anyone could remain standing so long, after being on her
feet virtually all day.

"No, I'm going down the road in a minute," Mrs. Hildreth answered.  "I
want to ask Mrs. Tice about some new kind of rubber rings she got for
her jars.  How much fruit did Winnie put up so far, Rosemary?"

"Why--I don't believe I know," said Rosemary with a little laugh.  "She
made jelly, I remember and she's been canning nearly every week; but I
don't know how many quarts or pints she has.  Do you, Hugh?"

"Never counted," acknowledged the doctor lazily.  "I'll warrant Winnie
can tell you right off the reel, Mrs. Hildreth.  She's proud of her
success--I heard her tell my mother so."

"I'll step over and look at her shelves some day," promised Mrs.
Hildreth.  "Dear me, I'm tired.  But if I don't go to Bertha's now,
I'll never get there.  Tell Mr. Hildreth I'll be right back, if he asks
you where I am."

She went heavily down the steps and disappeared across the lawn.

Richard dropped with an exaggerated thud.

"Another minute and my ankles would have given out!" he declared.  "And
she thinks it is work that tired her out."

"Well, it is," said Rosemary.  "She works from five in the morning till
nearly ten at night."

"But she could rest, if she only knew how," Richard protested.

"Ah, now you have it, Rich," said Doctor Hugh.  "There's a great deal
in knowing how to rest."

"There's no use in knowing how, when you can't rest if you want to,"
Jack complained bitterly.

"That isn't a very clear sentence, Jack," said the doctor.  "Explain a
little, won't you?"

"Oh, I'm tired," Jack declared ungraciously, "and there's nothing to
explain, anyway."

The desultory conversation that followed was almost wholly between
Rosemary and Richard.  Jack was curiously silent and Doctor Hugh, too,
seemed content to listen.  Finally he rose.

"We must be getting back," he said.  "First though, I'll take a look at
your hand, Jack."

"There's nothing the matter with it," countered Jack gruffly.

"You act remarkably like Sarah," was Doctor Hugh's response to this.
"Come in where I can have a light and don't be foolish."

Jack followed him sulkily and Rosemary and Richard watched while the
doctor unwound the cloth that bound the injured finger.  The cut was an
angry-looking one.

"Needs attention," Doctor Hugh commented briefly.  "Do you want to come
up to the house with me, or shall I send Rosemary for the iodine
bottle?"

Jack elected to remain where he was, and Rosemary sped away to get
bandages and antiseptics.  Mrs. Hildreth's tea kettle was requisitioned
for a supply of hot water and then the doctor washed and dressed the
cut, Jack enduring the process gamely.

"I won't knock off," he said defiantly as the last gauze fold was
fastened in place.  "I'm going to pick tomatoes, if I have to do it
with my left hand."

"You can use your hand, if you'll keep the bandages in place," the
doctor assured him.  "I'll dress it again for you in the morning--and
don't let me have to send for you.  When you have had breakfast, come
and get your hand attended to, before you go into the field."

"He'll feel better now," he said to Rosemary as they walked slowly down
the road, extending their walk to enjoy the beauty of the summer
evening.  "His finger was throbbing and beginning to fester and must
have given him great pain all day."

"Here comes Warren," whispered Rosemary.

Warren looked warm and tired.  He stopped when he saw them and Rosemary
would have walked on with a short "Hello!" had not her brother's hand
upon her arm held her.

"You've been down to the bungalow?" said Warren, after he had thanked
them for the fish and congratulated the fisherman on his luck.  "I'm
sorry I missed you."

"We went to see Jack," Rosemary informed him pointedly.  "He's sick."

"Jack sick?"  Warren looked surprised and, though she would not have
admitted it, concerned.

"Not sick--but he has rather a nasty cut on one finger," corrected
Doctor Hugh.  "He'll be all right, if he follows directions."

Warren's eyes were troubled.

"I'm afraid he's having a tough time," he said regretfully.  "I'm
sorry, but--" he left the sentence unfinished.

The storm signals in Rosemary's expressive face were easily interpreted
by her brother.  He said good night to Warren and they resumed their
walk.

"Why didn't you say something, Hugh!" burst out Rosemary, hardly
waiting till they were beyond earshot.  "Why didn't you tell him that
Jack is our friend and that Warren needn't think he can treat him like
that!"

"I don't know that Jack is being treated 'like that,'" protested Doctor
Hugh whimsically.  "You looked so like a thunder cloud, Rosemary, that
there was nothing left to be said."

Rosemary jerked her arm free and faced him tempestuously.

"I believe you're taking Warren's part!" she accused him.  "How can
you?  Anyway, I don't care what you do--Jack Welles is my friend!"

"Jack is to be envied," said Doctor Hugh gently.  "Though I wish, dear,
that you would learn to reason a little more quietly.  You know I am
very fond of Jack--he is a splendid lad in many ways.  So is Warren.
This quarrel between them will blow over--why Rosemary, you and Jack
have half a dozen quarrels a year and none of them are serious."

But the next day matters remained in much the same uncomfortable state.
Jack reported obediently to have his finger dressed and refused--with
more vigor than courtesy--Warren's offer to release him from picking
for that day.  Rosemary had a hot argument with Sarah, who perversely
upheld Warren's cause, and then quarreled with her brother, who would
not admit that Jack was a martyr.

"We won't discuss it any further, Rosemary," he said at last.  "As far
as I can judge, Warren is in the right and Jack is acting like a young
and obstinate donkey."

The following afternoon Mrs. Willis went in to spend the night at the
Eastshore house and choose the wall paper for the new suite of rooms.
Doctor Hugh drove her in and was to drive her out the next morning.
Jack had just finished bedding down the horses that night, and was
wondering whether he had the energy to dress and go up to the little
white house, when he heard Rosemary's voice outside the barn.

"Jack!  Jack, where are you?"

"Here!"  Jack hurried into sight.  "What's the matter?" he demanded
when he saw her face.

"Sarah!" gasped Rosemary.  "She didn't come in to supper and none of us
have seen her the entire afternoon.  Winnie wanted to telephone Hugh,
but I am so afraid it will worry Mother."

"Don't telephone!" commanded Jack.  "She's somewhere on the place and
has forgotten to come in; let her get hungry and she'll turn up.  But
we'll go find her and remind her it's after six o'clock."

Jack's cheerful matter-of-fact acceptance of Sarah's absence was the
surest way to relieve the anxiety Winnie, as well as the girls, felt.
At once they assured each other that Sarah was playing somewhere on the
farm and had forgotten to come home.  The discovery that Bony was also
missing bore out Jack's theory; Sarah and the pig were having a
beautiful time together.

Leaving Winnie and the two girls to search the barn and outbuildings,
Jack hurried off to get reinforcements.  He thought of Warren as a
tower of strength, cool, level-headed Warren who could manage any
situation.

Warren and Richard had finished the last chore and were beginning to
change, when Jack burst unceremoniously into their room.

"Warren!" he hurdled the wall of misunderstanding that had grown up
between them in one agile leap.  "Warren, they say Sarah Willis is
lost.  She didn't come home to supper.  Mrs. Willis is in Eastshore
with Hugh to-night and we have to find Sarah without letting her mother
know."

Warren agreed that Rainbow Hill was to be searched from one end to the
other.  He and Richard and Jack went in different directions and Mr.
Hildreth took a fourth.  Winnie stayed at the house, in case the lost
one returned, and Rosemary and Shirley went down to Miss Clinton's to
ask if Sarah had perhaps been there that afternoon.  She had not and
when they came back Winnie put Shirley to bed for it was past her bed
hour and she was tired and sleepy.

No trace of Sarah was found on the farm and no better luck was
encountered at the Gay farm, whither Jack went, or at the two nearest
neighbors, queried by Warren and Richard, cautiously, lest the alarm
spread and be relayed by the garrulous and unthinking to the little
mother.

"Say, Warren," Jack stopped him as he was setting out again.  "Old
Belle isn't in her pasture."

"Old Belle!"

"And the light runabout and one set of single harness is gone--I
looked."

"That kid couldn't harness without help and get off this place--don't
tell me!"  Warren's tone was half skeptical, half alarmed.

"Sarah can do anything you don't expect her to do," declared Jack.
"Take it from me, that's what she has done this time.  But how are we
to find out the direction she took?"

"She'd go to Bennington," said Warren quickly.  "If she had gone toward
Eastshore someone who knew her would have been sure to spot her;
besides, she is crazy about Bennington, always teasing to go with Hugh."

Old Belle was the oldest horse on the farm, a shambling, half-blind
creature whose days of work had long been over.  In summer she reveled
in clover pasture, and the warmest box stall and choicest oats were
hers in winter.  Sarah had ridden her around the pasture a number of
times, but it had never occurred to anyone that she would attempt to
drive her.  Indeed the boys had not known that Sarah knew how to
harness.

Three pairs of willing hands quickly backed "Tony," Mr. Hildreth's
light driving horse, into the shafts of the buggy and, telling the
anxious Winnie and Rosemary that they would have good news for them
soon, they drove off toward Bennington, the county seat.

They said little, but they were more worried than they cared to admit.
The highway was a state road and automobiles ran in both directions,
two fairly steady streams.  It was dark by now and the glare of the
headlights might easily confuse an old, enfeebled horse and a little
girl whose driving skill was of the slightest.

Warren drove and presently he pulled in the horse and gave the reins to
Jack.

"I want to look at the road," he said, leaping lightly over the wheel
and turning his pocket flash light full on the dusty macadam.



CHAPTER XXI

DOWN LINDEN ROAD

"What is it?" asked Richard eagerly.

"Yes, what is it?" urged Jack.

Warren stooped and picked up something from the road.

"A horse shoe," he said briefly.  "One of Belle's--hers were old and
thin, you know, Rich.  And over here--" he walked a few steps to a
crossroad--"Sarah must have turned off.  You can see the marks."

"Well," sheer relief spoke in Richard's voice, "that's one thing to be
thankful for; if she turned off from the main road, she wouldn't meet
many cars.  But how far do you suppose she can have gone down the
Linden road?"

Warren climbed back into the buggy and turned Tony's head down the
Linden road.

"She hasn't gone far, not with Belle," he asserted confidently.  "The
old horse couldn't stand a long trip; I don't know whether there are
any places for Sarah to drive in down here, but I hope some kind farmer
has her safely housed."

The Linden road was very dark and there was no moon to help out the two
twinkling buggy lights.  Suddenly Tony whinnied.

"Pull in, pull in!" cried Richard excitedly.  "I think I see something!"

With a sharp "Whoa!" Warren brought the buggy to a standstill.

"Unscrew one of the lights," he directed Richard, at the same time
jumping out and running to Tony's head with the rope and weight, a wise
precaution for the horse might take fright easily in that strange place
and start to run.  "Come on, Jack."

They had to go only a few rods.  Then the buggy lamp and the pocket
flash showed them the runabout, with something dark and small curled up
on the seat.  The mare was down between the shafts and she raised her
head inquiringly as the lights flashed into her patient eyes.

"Sarah--asleep!" whispered Jack.  "And the pig, too!"

"Belle fell down and Sarah couldn't get her up," said Warren, realizing
at once what had occurred.  "The poor kid--she must have been
frightened stiff."

Jack pulled himself up on the runabout step and leaned over Sarah.  The
tears were not dry on her cheeks and as he looked she opened her dark
eyes with a little cry.

"You're all right, Sarah," he said soothingly.  "Warren and Richard and
I have come to take you home."

To his astonishment, Sarah, who hated demonstration of any kind, threw
her arms about his neck and burrowed her face on his shoulder.  Bony
rolled protestingly to the floor and squeaked sharply as he hit the
dashboard in his descent.

"The horse fell down," sobbed Sarah, "and she wouldn't get up.  And it
got darker and darker and there weren't any houses anywhere.  Is Belle
dead, Jack?"

"Not a bit of it," said Jack stoutly.  "She was tired, because she is
an old horse and isn't used to traveling far."

"Now that she is rested, we'll have no trouble getting her home," put
in Warren.  "You stay where you are, Sarah, till we get her up."

But Sarah had had enough of the runabout and she insisted on climbing
down while the boys got Belle to her feet and went over the harness.

"It's a wonder it didn't slide off her," declared Warren as he cinched
belts and snapped unfastened buckles.  "I'll give you a lesson in
harnessing some day, Sarah, for you still have a few points to learn."

It was an odd procession that drove into Rainbow Hill lane an hour
later.  They dared not hurry the old horse and Sarah flatly refused to
be taken home in the buggy with Tony, leaving Belle and the runabout to
be driven in at a slower pace.  Jack would have bundled her off
unceremoniously but Warren, while admitting that she had "made enough
trouble and ought to consider the feelings of other people once in a
while" would not force the issue.

"She's dead tired and she's been badly frightened," he said quietly.
"After all, it will mean a difference of not more than half an hour.
We'll wait for old Belle."

So Jack and Richard, driving the runabout and the old mare, set the
pace and Sarah and Bony in the buggy with Warren followed behind Tony.

Rosemary and Winnie and the Hildreths came running out to greet the
prodigal, who had to be awakened to answer their eager questions--and
Winnie bore Sarah off to bed while Rosemary flew to the kitchen and
began making sandwiches to serve with the ginger ale she knew was in
the ice box.  Excitement has a way of making people hungry and the boys
especially were appreciative of the refreshments.

Doctor Hugh read his small sister a severe lecture the next morning
when, upon his return with his mother, he heard the story, and
extracted her promise that hereafter she would not leave the farm
without explicit permission.  A subdued Sarah made a shamefaced apology
to Mr. Hildreth for taking his horse and runabout and for as much as
three days she slipped about like a meek little shadow.

"Jack told me you found the horse shoe, Warren," said Rosemary, meeting
Warren that next morning as he came from the creamery.  "So you really
found Sarah for us--and I think you are very quick and clever."

"Any one of us would have found her," declared Warren lightly.  "You
can't really lose a little girl and a horse--you're bound to fall over
them sometime, sooner or later."

"Sarah might have had to spend the night on that lonely road," insisted
Rosemary.  "Hugh says so, too.  And Mother thinks just as we do."

She turned, with a little determined nod of her pretty head.

"Rosemary!"  Warren's voice halted her.

He made no motion to drive on to the barn but sat in the wagon, holding
the reins, and looking at her steadily.

"You're not angry with me now?" he said.

Rosemary was perplexed.

"Of course not."

"But you were a night or two ago--when I met you and Doctor Hugh?"

The tell-tale color rose under Rosemary's smooth skin.

"Well--" she hesitated.  "Perhaps I was then--just a little.  But I get
mad so easily, Warren, it doesn't count."

"I'd prefer," said Warren composedly, "to always be good friends with
you."

The impulsive Rosemary took a step forward that brought her close to
the wagon.

"We _are_ friends," she assured Warren eagerly.  Then, mischief welling
up in her blue eyes, "When you've known me a little longer you'll find
out that I often quarrel with my friends."

"I don't," said Warren soberly, but he drove away to the barn whistling
merrily.

The few days remaining of Doctor Hugh's vacation and Jack's agreement
with Mr. Hildreth, passed quickly and pleasantly.  The three boys
worked together in perfect harmony and Jack began to enjoy a sense of
power and ease that came with the hardening of his muscles.  The sun
might be hot, but the rays no longer made him uncomfortable--the rows
of vines were as long as ever, but he swung down them easily and picked
the ripe tomatoes almost automatically.

"I don't see why you don't finish out the month," Mr. Hildreth said to
him the night before his two weeks were over.  "I'd like to have you
first rate and it seems a pity to leave just when you're broke in."

Somewhat to his surprise, Jack heard himself agreeing to stay.  Warren
and Richard heartily applauded his decision and Doctor Hugh agreed to
carry back an approved report to Mrs. Welles.

"It will do you good, in many ways, Jack," said the doctor seriously.
"And if you are going to try for the football team this fall, you'll be
in the pink of condition."

The next day Doctor Hugh went back to resume his regular schedule
though, he promised his disconsolate family, he would try to spend the
week-ends, or Sundays at least, with them.

"But I hope you realize that the summer is almost over," he told
Rosemary who was riding with him down to the cross-roads where she
expected to get out and walk back.  "School opens next month and we
must be safely moved back to Eastshore before that important day.  You
have not more than four weeks left to spend at Rainbow Hill, young
lady."

"I'll go over and see Louisa," said Rosemary to herself, as she reached
the back road that led to the Gay farm, after leaving her brother.
"Mother won't expect me back till lunch time, for I told her I might
stop in and see Miss Clinton.  But I've seen Louisa only once since
Hugh came."

The Gay farm looked more dilapidated than ever to Rosemary's eyes and
the little attempt at a flower bed, in the center of the long, dried
grass before the house, only made the general effect more hopeless.

Rosemary walked around to the back door and knocked.  Louisa answered,
carrying June in her arms.

"I thought maybe you'd gone back to Eastshore," said Louisa dully, "but
Sarah and Shirley said no, your brother was visiting for his vacation."

"Yes, Hugh did come," answered Rosemary honestly, "and we went
somewhere with him nearly every day, if only over the farm.  I would
have liked to bring him to see you and Alec, but I was afraid--I
thought--"

"Mercy, I'm glad you didn't!" the idea seemed enough to frighten
Louisa.  "I wouldn't want a stranger coming here."

"Louisa, do you know Miss Clinton?" asked Rosemary suddenly.  "She
lives all by herself and she is so lonesome."

She had a hazy thought of suggesting that Louisa might be willing to go
and see Miss Clinton--Louisa needed friends as badly as the little
wheel-chair woman did--but the girl's answer was not encouraging.

"She lives in that little yellow house," said Louisa.  "She may be
lonely, but she has enough money to live on and no one need be pitied
who can keep out of debt."

"Oh, Louisa!"  Rosemary drew nearer in concern.  "Haven't you the money
for the interest?"

"Not a cent," said Louisa bitterly.  "The little we did have saved
toward it, we had to spend on a pump.  The old one gave out and you
can't get along without water, no matter what else you can do without."

Rosemary glanced toward the shining new pump--so obviously new and
shiny that it made everything else in the kitchen look shabbier by
contrast.

"There ought to be _some_ way to get money when you need it," she said
earnestly.

"There isn't," Louisa informed her.  "Don't you suppose I've thought
and thought?  No matter how much you need it, there isn't any money to
get--and if there was, you wouldn't need it because it would be there
to get," and Louisa laughed rather hysterically.

"That may not make good sense," she added, "but I can't help that; it
is true."



CHAPTER XXII

SARAH HAS AN IDEA

Rosemary walked home slowly.  Louisa, worn out by worry and work, had
yielded to the luxury of a good cry and though, when she had wiped her
eyes, she declared she felt much better and more cheerful than for a
week.  Rosemary was not convinced.  A glimpse of Alec, thin and brown,
with the same worried look in his nice clear eyes, had not helped to
convince her.  It was plain that both Louisa and Alec were expecting
the foreclosure of the mortgage on the farm and anticipating the
separation of the family.

"I couldn't stand it," said Rosemary earnestly to a chipmunk, who shook
his head in sympathy.  "I couldn't stand it, if Sarah and Shirley and I
had to go live in different houses.  Suppose we didn't have Mother and
Hugh and Winnie!"

The realization of her own blessings only emphasized the hard position
of the Gays without a father or mother.  By the time she had come to
the Rainbow Hill orchard, Rosemary was feeling very blue indeed.

"Come on up!" two sweet little voices called to her.  "Come on up,
Rosemary!"

Rosemary peered at the trees, and giggles floating from one gnarled old
apple tree revealed where Sarah and Shirley were hidden.

"What's the matter?" asked Shirley instantly, when Rosemary had swung
herself up to a seat beside them.

"I've been to see Louisa Gay," explained Rosemary, "and they haven't a
cent of money for the interest on that awful mortgage.  It's due the
first of September and Louisa says the man will take the farm and
they'll all be on the town!"

"I thought you had to go and live in the poor house, if folks took your
farm," objected Sarah.

"It's all the same," said Rosemary impatiently.  "Louisa says so.  When
you're 'on the town' that means the town supports you and you live at
the poor farm.  Girls, we just have to get some money for the Gays!"

"Ask Hugh," suggested Shirley, as her favorite way out of money
difficulties.

"We can't," Rosemary told her.  "Louisa and Alec don't like strangers
and Hugh is a stranger to them.  We mustn't even tell grown-up people
about them, because if they know the Gays are poor, they'll come and
take them to the poor farm, anyway.  Alec says they don't even go to
the Center any more because he doesn't want people to ask him
questions."

When Winnie rang the bell to signal that lunch was ready, the three
girls had not succeeded in forming any definite plan to help the Gays.
They had made up their minds that money must be obtained, but the way
was anything but clear.

"You see," said Rosemary, taking up the question again after lunch, "we
can't ask Warren or Richard for any money.  They are saving all they
earn to get them through agricultural college and Hugh told me they
have to do some work in the winter to get enough.  Jack never has any
money of his own--he will have some at the end of the month, but he's
set his heart on buying his mother something lovely with the first
money he has ever really earned.  There doesn't seem to be anybody to
help Louisa and Alec, except us."

"And we haven't a cent, except the five-dollar gold pieces Aunt Trudy
sent us Fourth of July," said Sarah practically.

"We must think," declared Rosemary solemnly.  "You think _hard_, Sarah,
and you, too, Shirley.  And I'll think with all my might."

Such concentration of thought should have produced some result, but the
next morning each had failure to report.  Then Richard announced that
Solomon must be shod and offered to take anyone over who felt free to
spend the morning in Bennington.

"I have to make up my lost practising," said Rosemary, "and Hugh is
going to take Mother and Shirley with him--he telephoned he'd stop for
them.  Sarah would like to go--she was wailing that everyone went to
places and left her home."

Sarah climbed happily into her place by Richard and they drove off to
Bennington, at a slower pace than usual for Richard wished to "favor"
the shoeless foot.

"Ph, look!" the rather silent Sarah kindled into animation at the sight
of a gay-colored poster tacked to a telegraph pole along the road.
"What's that, Richard?"

"Circus!" he answered smilingly.  "Coming next month.  See the lions,
Sarah?  How would you like one of those to play with, eh?"

He obligingly pulled in the willing Solomon, and Sarah studied the
poster with intent, serious dark eyes.  Driving on, Richard found her
curiously self-absorbed.  She answered him in monosyllables and was
apparently deep in a brown study.

"A penny for your thoughts?" he offered, wondering what she could be
pondering over.

But Sarah refused to sell and continued to be silent.

Richard would have been surprised indeed, could he have seen what was
going on in that active little brain.  The circus poster had shown
Sarah, besides the wonderful lions, a marvelous performing bear,
dancing on his hind legs.  A crowd of people laughed at him and
applauded.

"Bony can do that!" Sarah had thought with pride, and then, like a
flash, followed the thought: "I could sell Bony to the circus and give
the money to Louisa!"

The rest of the way to Bennington was occupied, as far as Sarah was
concerned, in selling Bony to the owner of the bear, who promised to
give the pig a kind home and explain to him frequently why his mistress
had consented to let him leave Rainbow Hill.

Sarah had reached the moment when she put her precious pig into the
bear man's hands (she innocently assumed that he must have charge of
all the circus animals) just as Richard drew up before the blacksmith's
shop.

"You don't want to hang around here," said Richard authoritatively,
lifting her down from the seat.  "I'll have to give some orders about
shoeing Solomon and you wait for me on the side porch of the hotel.  I
won't be long."

He led Sarah unprotestingly--though at any other time she would have
teased to be allowed to stay and watch the fascinating work of the
smithy--across the street and to the steep little flight of steps that
led to the pleasant, vine-covered side porch of the country hotel.

"Good morning, Mrs. King," he said, lifting his hat as a gray-haired
woman peered over the railing at them.  "This is Sarah Willis--I want
to have her wait here while I'm over at the shop."

"She'll be all right," answered Mrs. King kindly.  "She can sit here
and rest; it's nice and shady."

Mrs. King was shelling peas, and Sarah sat down in the cretonne-covered
rocking chair next to her.  There was one other person on the porch--a
stout gentleman, stretched out in an arm chair, sound asleep.  His face
was covered with a white silk handkerchief which partially hid his
round, bald head.

"Do you like the country?" asked Mrs. King, glancing toward her small
visitor while her clever, quick fingers sent a continuous shower of
peas rattling into the pan in her lap.

"Oh, yes, I like it," nodded Sarah with enthusiasm.  "I like it lots
better than Eastshore and going to school.  I wouldn't mind living in
the country for always."

"But you'd have to go to school if you lived in the country," said Mrs.
King mildly.  "You can't get away from lesson-books, no matter where
you go."

"Not in Africa?" suggested Sarah who never disdained an argument.

"I've never been in Africa," Mrs. King replied, "so I can't tell you
positively.  But my guess is all the children who aren't natives, have
to be educated."

"What do the children who are natives do?" asked Sarah.

Mrs. King considered.

"I imagine they go around without any clothes on and the tigers eat
them," she decided, recalling to mind several doleful pictures she had
seen in an old geography.

Sarah shivered, not in sympathy with the scantily clad children, but
because of the tigers mentioned.

"I wouldn't want to be eaten by a tiger," she declared, rocking
violently back and forth, "but I would love to have a baby tiger to
play with me."

"Look out you don't go over backward," warned the landlady.  "Don't you
know a baby tiger would grow up to be a fierce, wild animal and
probably end up by eating you?" she added.

"He wouldn't eat me, if I brought him up tame," said Sarah.  "Baby
tigers are like kittens--I saw some pictures of them once.  I'd keep
mine to guard my farm and I'll bet no robbers would come if they knew a
live tiger was roaming around."

"No, robbers wouldn't come, or your friends, either," Mrs. King said
grimly.  "And the butcher would be afraid to turn up, for fear the
tiger might think he was the meat ordered for his dinner.  You and your
tiger would get lonely after a while."

"I have a tiger cat home," volunteered Sarah.  "But she isn't very
exciting.  I like big animals.  Maybe a baby elephant would be more
fun."

"Than a tiger?" said Mrs. King, pausing to admire a freshly opened pod
in her hand.  "Seven perfect peas," she murmured.

"Yes, I could use a baby elephant," Sarah informed her.  "They are very
strong.  I have an animal book that tells all about them.  Even baby
elephants are strong.  I saw a picture of one pulling a tree over."

"My land, a farm won't be big enough for you," commented Mrs. King.
"What you ought to do is to go out West and start a place in the middle
of the desert.  But the snakes would probably send you back home before
long."

She was quite unprepared for Sarah's cry of rapture.

"Snakes!" repeated that small girl in a voice of ecstasy.  "Are there
snakes in the desert?"

Mrs. King shook her pan vigorously in the effort to find a stray pod
that had slipped through her fingers.

"I've heard that the place is full of snakes," she answered.  "Man or
beast isn't safe from them.  Rattlesnakes and all kinds--sometimes,
I've heard folks say, if the nights are the least bit chilly, the
rattlers crawl under the blankets to get warm.  Imagine waking up in
the morning and finding a snake in bed with you!"

"He wouldn't hurt you, if you didn't provoke him," Sarah asserted.
"Snakes are polite and they'll let you alone if you let them do as they
please.  I think snakes are the most interesting things to see!"

"I don't!" said Mrs. King.  "I'd run a mile before I'd face one.  There
is nothing, to my mind, more disgusting than a wriggling snake."

Sarah looked grieved.

"That's the same way my Aunt Trudy talks," she observed.  "She is
scared to death of little, tiny snakes.  Even water snakes.  And a
water snake never hurts anyone."

"Don't show me one," said Mrs. King hurriedly.  "I don't care what kind
of a snake it is, they're all alike as long as they can move.  I never
want to see one on the place."

Sarah wisely concluded that another topic would be welcome and
unconsciously the huge gray cat that climbed over the porch railing and
leaped heavily to the floor, provided it.

"What a darling cat!" cried Sarah, abandoning her chair in such haste
that it narrowly missed falling backward.  "Is it yours, Mrs. King?"

"Yes, he's mine," said the landlady.  "He used to be a right handsome
cat but lately he's getting too fat.  The girls in the kitchen feed him
all the time.  I don't believe he has caught a mouse or a rat for six
weeks."

"He wouldn't catch mice," Sarah declared feelingly.  "Would you,
darling?  He's too nice for that," and she sat down in the
cretonne-covered rocker again, holding the cat in her arms.

"No cat is worth his board, to my way of thinking, who _doesn't_ catch
mice and rats," retorted Mrs. King.  "Garry used to be a famous mouser."

"I guess the poor mice want to live," Sarah protested, stroking the
thick fur of the purring cat with a practised hand.

"It's a question of human beings living, or the mice," declared Mrs.
King.  "Of course if you want the mice to move into your house and you
move out, that's another matter.  Till I get ready to do that, I'm
going to set traps in the pantry every night and leave Garry shut up in
the kitchen."

"Just like Winnie," murmured the hapless Sarah.

"Seems to me you ought to run a zoo," said Mrs. King glancing curiously
over her spectacles at the small girl rocking the fat cat.  "Though how
you're going to keep the mice and the cats and the snakes and the
tigers all happy and contented together, is more than I'm able to
figure out."

"I could make 'em love each other," said Sarah confidently.

"I don't know about that," argued Mrs. King.  "Even in the circus they
can't bring that about.  Mr. Robinson would tell you that," and she
pointed to the stout man who was still asleep in his chair.

"Who's that?" whispered Sarah, wondering why anyone should want to
sleep with a handkerchief over his face.

"That's Mr. Robinson, dearie," replied Mrs. King, her swift fingers
never pausing in their work.  "He's advance agent for the circus."

Sarah sat up with a jerk.

"Does he own the circus?" she asked eagerly.

"Bless you, no," said Mrs. King smiling, "he doesn't own it, though he
has a good deal to do with it, in one way or another.  He comes every
year to see that the posters are put up and to arrange for space for
the tents and some extra help, if it's needed.  He goes around to all
the towns, ahead of the circus, you see, and tells folks it is coming;
and in the winter he does considerable buying of animals and whatnot
and hiring of performers, they tell me."

Sarah stared at the silk handkerchief in spellbound fascination.  One
more question struggled for utterance.

"What is whatnot?" she demanded, her eyes still on the fat man asleep
in his chair.

"Whatnot?"--Mrs. King was puzzled.

"You said he bought whatnot for the circus."

"My land alive, didn't you ever hear of whatnot?  It doesn't mean a
thing--it's just a phrase," poor Mrs. King protested.  "I meant Mr.
Robinson buys little tricks and novelties and small side-show stuff
like that."

Sarah nodded absently, though she had no very clear idea of the good
lady's meaning even then.  When Mrs. King went away presently,
murmuring that it was time to put the peas on to cook, Sarah sat
quietly in her chair, her gaze riveted to the silk handkerchief.

Suddenly, as she watched, a large and noisy fly also discovered the
handkerchief.  He decided to investigate, experience probably having
taught him that handkerchiefs may be used to conceal a set of sensitive
features.

Cautiously he alighted and began to crawl--swat! the stout gentleman
slapped sleepily, narrowly missing the tormentor.

Up rose Sarah and bore down upon the scene.

"Don't swat him!" she begged.  "He won't hurt you--flies only tickle.
Anyway, if you'd use a palm leaf fan, no flies would ever bother you."

The circus agent snatched the handkerchief from his face and sat up in
astonishment, revealing a very kindly, very good-humored face fringed
with white hair and lighted by a pair of twinkling eyes.

"Bless me!" he cried when he saw the determined small girl.  "What's
all this?"

"The fly!" explained Sarah seriously.  "You tried to kill him.  And he
doesn't even bite."

"Well, I may have been hasty," apologized Mr. Robinson, his eyes
twinkling more than ever.  "I don't always think when I am half asleep."

Sarah's mind was already running on what she wanted to say to him.  She
was more direct by nature than tactful as her next remark showed.

"You're a circus man, aren't you?" she said, making it more a statement
of fact than a question.

"I'm advance agent, yes," Mr. Robinson admitted.

He was totally unprepared for the next query.

"Then," said Sarah gravely, "wouldn't you like to buy a very fine pig?"



CHAPTER XXIII

BONY JOINS THE CIRCUS

Mr. Robinson, recovered from his first surprise, proved to be an
excellent listener.  Sarah told him of Bony and that animal's
accomplishments and he admitted that his circus did not have a trained
pig.  He was interested, too, to hear how she had taught the pig these
tricks and Sarah, quite carried away by this flattering evidence of
understanding, told him a great deal more.  In fact, unconsciously, she
presented him a picture of the family at Rainbow Hill and, before she
had finished, of the Gay family, too.  This last, to do her justice,
was quite unintentional.

"I didn't mean to tell you about the Gays," she cried in quick remorse.
"Rosemary said we must never tell a stranger about them; when a
grown-up person knows how poor they are, the town will take them to the
poor farm."

"Now don't you be sorry," Mr. Robinson comforted her.  "Don't you be
sorry for one thing you've told me.  I won't let it go any
further--least ways not among the town folk.  I'm glad you told me
about this family, downright glad.  I've known what it is to live on a
farm with a mortgage hanging over your head."

"Have you?" asked Sarah humbly, much relieved.  "Then maybe Louisa
won't care if you do know about their mortgage."

"I've been thinking," said Mr. Robinson slowly, "that it would be a
good thing if I went with you this morning and saw the pig you've told
me about; mind you, I can't promise to buy it, till I've seen it.  But
I'd like to look at it.  And I'd like to see this Gay farm--maybe that
will turn out to be something I can use."

Sarah did not see how he could use a farm in a circus, but she wisely
refrained from asking.  Richard returning for her at this juncture, she
introduced him to the circus agent and explained that he wanted to go
back to Rainbow Hill with them.

Richard was surprised, but cordial, and as Solomon, brave in a new shoe
and three tightened old ones, trotted them homeward, Sarah and Mr.
Robinson together explained their plans.

Sarah's was comparatively simple.  She wanted to sell Bony to the
circus and give the money to Louisa.  The pig was the most valuable
possession she owned and would surely bring more money than anything
else she might part with--even her five-dollar gold piece.  Yes, she
admitted, in response to Richard's questioning, she was fond of
Bony--but she thought he would like living with a circus.

Mr. Robinson's plan was more complicated.  "For some time past," he
said to Richard, a little breathlessly, for he was stout and the wagon
jolted him considerably, "for some time past, I've been on the lookout
for new winter quarters for the circus.  My idea has been to get a farm
in a good section of the country, but of course we can't afford to pay
a price a place in a good state of cultivation would bring; what we
want is acreage and buildings in fair shape.  This Gay farm the little
girl tells me about, may fill the bill, providing they are willing to
sell."

"They would sell, all right," Richard declared thoughtfully, "but I
don't see where they can go.  The place won't bring enough to keep a
family of six very long."

"We can talk that over, after I see the place," said Mr. Robinson.
"You can trust me to be fair to a parcel of kids--I lived on a farm and
I was bound out on a farm."

Eager as Sarah was to exhibit her pig, she had to wait.  It was "dinner
time" at the farmhouse and lunch time for the Willis family when
Richard stopped before the barn.  Mrs. Willis and Shirley had
returned--Doctor Hugh had dropped them at the crossroads and gone on to
the hospital in Bennington--and while at the table Sarah made no
mention of her plans.  She had a habit of taking no part in the general
conversation, unless personally interested, and her silence created no
wonderment.

After the hospitable manner of the countryside, the circus agent was
asked to dinner by Mr. Hildreth who took it for granted that he had
asked a lift of Richard on his way from one town to another.  And, the
meal over, Richard piloted him to the barn, where Rosemary and Shirley
and Sarah and the pig awaited him.

"Come on and watch," said Sarah cordially, but Richard, declaring he
was too busy, went on to his work.

Sarah was a little fearful lest Bony develop "temperament," of which he
had his share, and refuse to act, but he happened to be in the best of
humors, thanks to a peaceful morning free from interruptions, which had
allowed him to enjoy a full-length nap.

Sarah put him through his paces and change of costumes with pride.  He
danced, he marched, he went through his acrobatics; he wheeled the doll
carriage and poured afternoon tea; he played the piano and read,
wearing a pair of glassless spectacles and turning the printed page
with a graceful air of interest.  He grunted "Yes" and he squeaked "No"
to half a dozen questions.  And finally, seated in a doll's rocking
chair, he fanned himself as though the exactions of his art were
wearing in the extreme.

"I ought to sign _you_ up with the circus," said Mr. Robinson
admiringly, when Sarah announced that Bony had displayed the extent of
his accomplishments.  "You must have a gift, to be able to train an
animal like that.  Of course he is a clever pig, but you have developed
him and made it easy for us to teach him fancier tricks.  Do you want
to sell him?"

Sarah looked at Rosemary, who, with Shirley, had come out to witness
the performance.

"Yes," said Sarah, after a minute.  "Yes, I want to sell him."

"You can't change your mind, you know," announced the circus agent
warningly.  He wanted the pig but he wished to be fair.

Sarah's chin went up in the air.

"I won't change my mind," she declared.  "I won't sell Bony and then
ask for him back.  You may have him--now."

"Can't take him till to-morrow morning," said Mr. Robinson.  "Don't you
have to ask any older person--your mother, for instance?"

Rosemary shook her head.

"Mr. Hildreth gave the pig to Sarah," she explained.  "It is all hers.
And you mustn't tell anyone about buying it--that is, that the money is
for Louisa."

Mr. Robinson looked perplexed, as well he might.

"But little grasshoppers!" he ejaculated, scratching his head.  "You
can go just so far with a secret, you know; if I buy this Gay farm a
heap of people will have to know about it."

"Oh, who?" said Rosemary in quick distress.

"Well, the guardian, or whoever holds the estate for them," said Mr.
Robinson.  "Then the lawyer who draws the deed and all the folks at the
Court House who have anything to do with the searches and like that."

"I don't understand," declared Rosemary, while Sarah and Shirley began
to fold up the dresses Bony had worn.  "But I am sure there is no
guardian.  Louisa would have said something about it."

"Never mind," said the circus agent kindly.  "Plenty of time to find
out all that later.  Now if the little girl really wants to sell the
pig--"

He named a figure that surprised them all.  Whether, as Doctor Hugh
suspected when he heard the story, Mr. Robinson wanted to help the Gays
too, and added more as a practical way to assist them; or whether, as
Sarah was firmly convinced, Bony was the smartest pig he had ever seen
and he recognized his value, does not really matter.  There, before
three pairs of wondering eyes, he counted out a little heap of soiled
bills and gave them to Sarah.

"I'll take the pig in the morning," he said, folding up the remainder
of his money and fastening the roll with an elastic.  "I expect to put
up with the Hildreths to-night and one of the boys will take me back to
town after breakfast.  You look after the pig for me till then, won't
you?"

Sarah promised and then, as she did not seem to know what to do with
the money, he suggested that she run into the house and give it to her
mother to put away.

The three girls were anxious to go over to the Gay farm with Mr.
Robinson, but he explained that he thought he could talk better to Alec
and Louisa alone.

"I'm just going to wander over there and tell 'em that Richard Gilbert
sent me," he said.  "I'll say he heard I wanted to buy a small place
and that I thought they might be in the market.  I'll tell you all
about it, soon as I get back."

They watched him start "across lots" to the Gay farm and then Sarah
went into the house to ask her mother to put away the money.

"You've sold Bony, dear?" echoed Mrs. Willis when she heard the news.
"And for all this money?  Who bought him, Sarah?  When did you sell
your pig?"

Sarah told her about Mr. Robinson, and Rosemary and Shirley listened
eagerly for they had not heard the details, nor learned how Sarah had
met the circus agent.

"I always said Bony was a smart pig!" wound up Sarah, watching her
mother counting the money into a little black tin box, fitted with a
lock and key.

"But Sarah dear, I thought you were very fond of Bony," said Mrs.
Willis.  "Why did you want to sell him--and what are you planning to do
with all this money?"

"It's a secret," declared Sarah, setting her lips tightly.

"Oh, lamb!  Don't you want to tell Mother?"

Sarah shook her head so violently her black hair whipped across her
eyes.

"Nobody must ever tell--never, never, never!" she asserted and,
catching Shirley by the hand, she ran out of the room, dragging her
small sister with her.

Rosemary's beautiful blue eyes turned to her mother's troubled ones.

"It's all right, Mother," she urged.  "Really it is; the man wanted to
buy the pig--he told Rich it was very cleverly trained.  And what Sarah
wants to do with the money won't be a secret after the first of
September.  She'll tell you then."

"I'll have to hold it for her until she does tell me," said Mrs. Willis
quietly.  "I don't see how Sarah could bring herself to part with Bony,
Rosemary; she has been devoted to him."

Rosemary wanted to tell of the motive that had prompted Sarah's
sacrifice, but thought she was in honor bound not to.  So she went
downstairs to her practising, wondering what Louisa and Alec were
saying to Mr. Robinson and whether he would buy the farm from them.

Sarah and her pig disappeared till dinner time and if during the meal
the former seemed more silent than usual it might easily have been
because she was tired.

Mrs. Hildreth came for one of her rare chats with Mrs. Willis after
dinner that night and then the girls felt free to slip down to the
bungalow to hear what Mr. Robinson had to tell them.

Eager as they were to learn what had been done for the Gays, they were
not to go directly to the bungalow for half way across the lawn Mrs.
Hildreth called to them.

"Miss Clinton sent me word to-day, Rosemary," she said, "that she'd
like very much to see you; the letter-man told me.  I thought maybe
you'd go down there this evening."

"Don't go," whispered Sarah.  "We want to see Mr. Robinson."

Rosemary stopped uncertainly.  It was still light and Mrs. Willis would
not object if they were back before dark.

"We were going to see the boys," said Rosemary.  "There was something I
wanted to ask them--"

"Oh, you can see them when you come back," Mrs. Hildreth answered.
"I'd go see Miss Clinton if I were you; she gets lonely and it isn't
very nice to disappoint an old lady.  She hasn't so many interests as
you have."

Rosemary looked at the speaker a trifle resentfully.  Mrs. Hildreth,
like many busy people, was an adept at pointing out duties for other
folk.

"Shall we go, Mother?" she asked doubtfully.

Now Mrs. Willis knew nothing of Mr. Robinson's all important visit to
the Gay farm and she saw no special reason for a visit to the bungalow.

"Why I don't see why not, darling," she answered.  "If you are not too
tired.  Don't stay long, because you want to be home before dark.  As
Mrs. Hildreth says, the old lady is probably lonely."

Rosemary went on and Sarah began to scold.

"I don't see why you said you'd go," she complained.  "We never plan to
go anywhere that someone doesn't spoil it.  Why didn't you say you'd go
when you got ready and not before?"

"Because that would have been disrespectful and rude and you know it,"
retorted Rosemary tartly.  "You and Shirley go on and see Mr. Robinson
and I'll see Miss Clinton.  I don't mind going alone."

"I'll go, too," said Shirley.

"I'm not going to hear what he has to say and let you wait," announced
Sarah gruffly.  "What do you suppose Miss Clinton wants?"

"Company, probably," said Rosemary.  "We'll tell her we can't stay
long, because Mother doesn't like us out after dark; we can stop at the
bungalow on the way back and the boys will walk back with us."

They found Miss Clinton, sitting in her chair, in the center of the
doorway.  Then they were glad they had come, for it was easy to picture
her sitting like that a whole dreary evening, watching and waiting.

"I hoped you'd come this evening," the old lady greeted them.  "Is that
Sarah with you?  My, my, I don't often have you for a visitor, my dear."

Sarah looked pleased.  She appreciated cordial welcome as much as
anyone.

"I told the letter-man to tell Mrs. Hildreth I wanted to see you,
Rosemary," went on Miss Clinton, "because I have a letter I can't read
and I don't want to trust it to anyone around here.  They are such
gossips!" she added a little harshly.

"But can I read it?" asked Rosemary, surprised.  "I mean will I be able
to?"

"Oh, it's written in English, all right," laughed the old lady, her
bright bird-like eyes twinkling.  "I'm not asking you to translate a
French or Spanish letter.  I don't believe it will take you very long,
because you are bright."

"We mustn't stay till dark," murmured Rosemary, wondering what kind of
a letter it could be that Miss Clinton was unable to decipher.

"You'll have it done long before dark," Miss Clinton assured her.  "Let
me see, where did I put it?  Oh yes--look in that jar on the cabinet
shelf."

Rosemary lifted the lid of the Canton ginger jar.  It was apparently
empty but feeling around in it, her fingers found some scraps of paper.

"That's the letter," said the old lady placidly.  "I put it down on a
pile of old papers this morning when it first came and then when I went
to start a fire this noon, I carelessly tore the papers across and with
them the letter.  Fortunately I discovered what I had done in time to
save the scraps, but I can't put them together again.  I thought you
could."

Rosemary emptied out the pieces of paper on the table and, instructed
by Miss Clinton, found the paste and a large sheet of paper on which to
paste the bits.  Shirley and Sarah sat down on the floor and began
playing with the toys in the cabinet.

"Adelaide has real good sense," remarked Miss Clinton as Rosemary
studied the pieces attentively, "she never writes on more than one side
of the paper.  I'd be in a pretty fix, if she had."

Rosemary privately thought that she was in a fix as it was, for the
scrawled writing made no sense whatever, as far as she could see.  She
arranged it tentatively, scattered the pieces again and laboriously
pieced them together in another combination.

"Did it begin, 'Dear Aunt'?" she asked desperately.

"Mercy no."  Miss Clinton looked up brightly from her crocheting.
"Adelaide calls me 'Clintie' and always has.  Usually she begins,
'Clintie dear.'"

Rosemary worked feverishly, anxious to please the old lady and even
more anxious to be on her way.  She wanted to know what the circus
agent had done about the farm and she was curious to know if Louisa was
displeased that their straits had become known to a stranger.

"There!" she said, after almost an hour's work.  "I think I have it all
right--it makes sense, anyway.  But there's a corner missing."

"I don't mind a corner, as long as you have the gist of it," returned
Miss Clinton gratefully.  "I didn't want to write to Adelaide that I'd
destroyed her letter before I'd even read it.  I'm sure I don't know
how to thank you, Rosemary!"

She wanted the girls to stay and have some of her sponge cake--baked
that afternoon--but they were in a fever of impatience to be gone.
When they finally found themselves out in the lane that took them to
the Hildreth house, Sarah was the first to speak.

"If she'd had a telephone we could have asked her what she wanted and
then we wouldn't have gone," she declared.

"Yes we would," smiled Rosemary.  "That wasn't much to do--or it
wouldn't have been, if we weren't going to hear about the Gays.  Miss
Clinton didn't know that."

"I see Mr. Robinson!" chirped Shirley as they came in sight of the
house.



CHAPTER XXIV

TRULY A SACRIFICE

"Did you buy the farm?" asked Sarah bluntly.

Richard and Warren and Jack and the circus agent sat on the top step
and below them were ranged Rosemary, Shirley and Sarah.  Mr. Hildreth
had considerately gone into the kitchen to read.

"No," answered Mr. Robinson, "I didn't buy the place."

Three faces fell.

"But I've rented it," he went on, "and paid a quarter's rent in
advance."

"Is that just as good?" inquired Rosemary respectfully.

Mr. Robinson laughed and Warren nodded.

"Alec was over at milking time and he was feeling as gay as his name,"
said Warren.  "I guess their troubles are over for a time."

Then Mr. Robinson explained what he had done and why and never did a
speaker have a more attentive audience.

"I won't bother you with the legal end of it," he said good-naturedly,
"but these children are under twenty-one and when their parents died a
guardian should have been appointed for them.  If I tried to buy the
farm there would have to be a guardian appointed and even then I doubt
if he could give me a clear title.

"So, for many reasons, it is much simpler to rent the farm from them
and better, I am firmly convinced, for the children.  They are to stay
on in the house and this winter I and my wife will come out and make
our headquarters there.  Alec can lend me a hand with the animals and
Mother will see that that plucky girl gets her schooling.  I'll stable
most of the circus horses out here and as nearly as I can tell it's
just the kind of a place we need."

He told them a great deal more about Alec's surprise and Louisa's
delight and something of the plans for the winter which should include
the attendance at school of the five Gays old enough to go.

The boys walked back with Rosemary and Shirley and Sarah, and Warren
told them further details.

"Mr. Robinson is a brick!" he declared heartily.  "He's renting the
farm because he discovered in what desperate straits the Gays are; if
he tried to buy it, it would take months to get their affairs
untangled--there would be miles of red tape and court hearings and dear
knows what all.  Instead he has paid them cash down for a quarter and I
understand from Alec he is paying a generous rental, besides offering
Alec employment this winter.  He's put out because the town hasn't done
anything--and now, he says, he and his wife will look after them and
Bennington can save its legal snail tracks."

"But Alec and Louisa didn't want the town to know anything about them,"
protested Rosemary.

"Well, they're too young to manage their own affairs," said Warren
curtly.  "Somebody should have been responsible long before this."

It was odd, but Jack, Warren and Richard separately, each took Sarah
aside and asked her if she had wanted to sell her pig.  Each offered to
return the money to the circus agent for her and get Bony back.

"I wanted to sell him," said Sarah stolidly, three times.

In the morning she kissed Bony good by and watched him drive away with
Richard and Mr. Robinson.  Then she went out to the barn, refusing
Rosemary's invitation to go over to the Gays'.  Shirley went in her
stead and they were greeted by a radiant Louisa who declared that her
troubles were at an end and that now she had hopes of being able to
keep the family together and even educate them.

"Of course we have to be careful," she said, smiling as though that
would be comparatively easy.  "The quarter's rent Mr. Robinson paid
won't quite meet the interest, but Alec thinks he can scrape the rest
together somehow.  And of course we will have to pay for the potato
fertilizer and the store bill is overdue; but we'll manage."

It was on the tip of Rosemary's tongue to tell her about the money
Sarah had, but she stopped in time and sent Shirley a warning glance.
That pleasure belonged to Sarah and no one should take it from her.

"Will you come upstairs a moment, Rosemary?" asked Louisa, "I want to
show you something.  Let Shirley play with Kitty in the yard."

The two girls went up the steep, straight stairs and Louisa took her
guest into one of the front rooms.

"Mr. Robinson said his wife would be out to get acquainted with us
soon," Louisa explained, "and of course she'll have to stay all night.
And where, I ask you, Rosemary, is she to sleep?"

"Why I don't know, dear," replied Rosemary, smiling.  "What is the
matter with this room?"

She looked about it as she spoke.  It was a large, square room, very
clean and, it must be confessed, very bare.  There was a bureau, one
leg missing and the lack supplied by a brick; one chair, the bed and a
little table (not large enough to be useful and not small enough to be
dainty) completed the furnishings.

"It looks so awful," said poor Louisa.  "And of course I can't buy
material for curtains; Mother used to say that curtains softened a room
and helped to furnish it.  But I certainly am thankful for one thing."

"What?" Rosemary asked.

"That I've always saved one pair of Mother's good sheets and her best
light blankets and two pillow cases, real linen ones," said Louisa.
"When the linen began to wear out, I patched it and darned it as well
as I could, but our sheets last winter were made of flour sacks,
stitched together.  They're white as snow for I bleached them, but I
wouldn't want to have Mr. Robinson's wife sleep on flour sack sheets."

"Oh, my, of course not," said the sympathetic Rosemary.

"She won't have to," declared Louisa with satisfaction.  "Much as I
have wanted to use these sheets and the blankets, I've kept them put
away.  They are linen Mother had when she was married and I never could
afford to buy any like it now."

"That's fine," said Rosemary, a trifle absently.

She was studying the windows, three placed close together on one side
of the room.

"Do you know, Louisa," she said slowly, "I believe we could make
curtains for those windows--just straight side-drapes, you understand,
with a plain valance across the top."

"I've seen pictures," Louisa admitted, "but I haven't any material."

"I could get it," Rosemary began, but Louisa shook her head.

"It's a silly idea, anyway," she declared resolutely.  "I haven't any
business to be thinking about curtains when the whole house is as
shabby as my old winter coat.  If Mrs. Robinson does come and see new
curtains she'd know right away that I'd spent money I couldn't afford
on them.  She might even get the idea that I was trying to make an
impression."

"You have a perfect right to try and make a pleasant impression!"
flared Rosemary hotly.  "Of course you have.  And I'll tell you how to
make new curtains and they won't cost a cent--except money you have
already paid.  Use the blue and white gingham!"

Louisa stared.  She had bought, almost as soon as Alec had told her the
good news of the farm's rental, a dozen yards of neat blue and white
checked gingham to make Kitty and June some much-needed frocks and
herself an apron or two.

"But I never heard of gingham curtains!" Louisa protested.

"They're very fashionable for bedrooms," Rosemary assured her.  "We
have some at Rainbow Hill--I can show you those.  And Mother has a
magazine with heaps of pictures in that show checked casement curtains.
You'll love them when you see them made and hung, Louisa."

"Well--the children can wait for the dresses, I suppose," said Louisa.

And, with Rosemary's help, the curtains were made and hung before the
circus agent's wife paid her promised visit.  They were a great success
and Louisa was inordinately proud of them.

Now they went back to the kitchen to look again at the gingham.

"I wish there was some way I could earn a little money," said Louisa
wistfully.

The knitted face cloth on the back of the kitchen chair was responsible
for Rosemary's idea.

"You could knit a bedspread, Louisa!" she said with enthusiasm.  "I'll
show you how; Miss Clinton told me they sell for lots of money and
Warren has a cousin who is a domestic science teacher in a large city;
he said she was out here last summer and offered to get orders for Miss
Clinton, but she wouldn't agree to sell her spreads.  She doesn't need
the money, but you do."

Louisa was as excited as Rosemary and before an hour had passed the two
girls had, in imagination, knit four elaborate spreads and disposed of
them for eighty dollars apiece.

Then Louisa came down to earth and spoke more practically.

"It will take a long time to do a full-sized spread," she said, "but I
will have plenty of time to knit this winter.  You show me how and Miss
Clinton will help me, if I get stuck in the middle of a pattern.  You
are too lovely, Rosemary, to think of something I can do!"

"I wish I could earn some money for the Gays," sighed Shirley, trotting
home beside Rosemary when they had left the cheerful Louisa.

"Well, you're a pretty little girl to earn money, darling," Rosemary
told her, "but I'll try to think of something you can do.  We'll ask
the boys; they know more about money than we do, Warren and Rich
especially."

Her intuition proved to be right, for Warren, consulted, suggested that
Shirley might pick herbs, wild ones, and get the Gay children to help
her.

"Old Fiddlestrings buys wild herbs and sells them, along with those he
raises in his garden, to city druggists," explained Warren.  "I'll see
him to-night and find out what he wants right now.  Then I'll help you
till you learn to know the different leaves and after that it will be
easy."

Warren was as good as his word and in a few days Shirley and Jim,
Kenneth and Kitty Gay were earnestly hunting herbs.  They made a few
mistakes at first, but soon learned and as it was wholesome work and
did not take them off the farm, they were encouraged to go herb picking
every day.  Warren acted as selling agent and the little heap of
pennies and dimes and nickels in the pink china bank grew steadily.

That, however, was after Sarah had presented her offering to Louisa.
For one anxious half day it seemed that there might be no presentation,
for Sarah disappeared completely after saying good by to Bony; and
diligent search on the part of her sisters failed to produce her.

"Sarah didn't come to lunch, and Mother is worried," announced
Rosemary, meeting the wagon as it returned from the cannery with Warren
driving and Jack sitting on the empty crates in the back.

Warren reined in the horses and looked anxious.

"She hasn't taken Belle again, has she?" he asked.

"No, I looked and Belle is in the pasture," replied Rosemary.  "I've
looked everywhere and Winnie came and helped me and Shirley, too.  And
Hugh telephoned he would be out for dinner--where can she have gone?"

Jack spoke suddenly.

"I'll tell you what I think," he said.  "I think she is crying
somewhere about Bony.  You know Sarah--she would run a mile before she
would let anyone see her cry.  And I'll bet seeing Bony go just about
broke her heart.  She was crazy about that pig."

"Yes, she was," agreed Rosemary.  "Poor little Sarah!  She was
determined to sell him and give the money to Alec and Louisa--and all
the time she must have cared so much!"

"You go help Rosemary find her, Jack," said Warren.  "Rich and I will
get up the next load.  Think where she would be likely to run and hide
and then look for her there."

Jack jumped down from the wagon and faced Rosemary anxiously.

"Where shall we look?" he asked.

"In the woods," answered Rosemary, after a moment's thought.  "There's
a place there we call the cave--four rocks around in a ring.  You can
climb over them and drop down on the moss and it feels as though you
really were in a cave.  Let's go look there."

The woods were some distance away and the sun was hot, but Rosemary and
Jack ran nearly all the way.  Rosemary was almost crying, for the more
she thought about Sarah, the more plausible it seemed that she must be
heart-broken over the loss of her beloved pet.

"You go look," whispered Jack, when they reached the four large rocks
Rosemary had described.  "Peek over and see if she is there."

Cautiously Rosemary crawled over the rocks--long afterwards she
remembered how cool and damp they felt to her fevered hands and
knees--and peered down into the green hollow they formed.  A little
figure in a crumpled tan frock was huddled against one of the stones.

"Sarah!" called Rosemary softly.  "Sarah dearest!  You must be starved!"

"Go away!" said Sarah crossly.

That was all she would say, though Rosemary told her how worried they
had all been, urged that Doctor Hugh was coming to dinner and pleaded
with her to come home at once and have something to eat.

"Come on, Sarah--that's a good girl," begged Rosemary.  "Jack is here,
too, and he wants to get back to work."

"Tell him to go, then," muttered Sarah.  Jack climbed over one of the
boulders and gazed down at the obdurate little person whose unhappy
brown face lacked its usual life and color.  Sarah did not look like
herself.

"Look here, Sarah," said Jack with directness, but not unkindly.  "Your
mother is worried stiff about you and you're coming back with us and
coming now.  If you don't want me to climb down there and pull you out,
you'd better scramble up this minute."

Suddenly Sarah climbed up the rock furthest from Jack and dropped to
the ground.  She refused to take Rosemary's hand and scuffed on before
them silently, like a small Indian in a very bad temper.

"She does care," whispered Rosemary to Jack.  "She always acts like
this when she wants to cry and is too proud."

With Rosemary to the left of her and Jack on her right and no possible
avenue of escape open, Sarah mounted the porch steps.  Someone all in
white, fragrant and dainty and sweet, gathered her, dirt-stained and
disheveled as she was, into loving arms.  Sarah began to cry.

"There, my precious," said Mrs. Willis softly, "tell Mother all about
it--she wants to hear."

Rosemary and Jack slipped away.



CHAPTER XXV

UP TO MISCHIEF

Once more a flood of moonlight and a night or two when "Old
Fiddlestrings" wandered up and down the road playing the "Serenade" and
then the first of September was blazoned on the calendar and on the
fields of Rainbow Hill.  The summer was virtually over.

Jack went away hilariously for a brief fishing trip with his father
before the Eastshore schools should open; and to the delight of his
mother and sisters, Doctor Hugh came out to stay till they were ready
to go back with him, a matter of ten days or so, for school would be in
session by the middle of the month.

Finding Sarah in a sad state from violent crying on his arrival the day
of Bony's departure, Doctor Hugh was soon in possession of the Gays'
story; and he not only succeeded in persuading Louisa and Alec to
accept the money Sarah's sacrifice had obtained, but he also managed to
give them a more wholesome outlook on the world in general.  Although
Alec and Louisa were naturally reluctant to accept Sarah's money, when
they were finally persuaded, their relief was plain.  Now they had
enough cash in hand to meet the dreaded interest payment.  Alec
insisted that the money from Sarah was to be regarded as a loan and
Doctor Hugh agreed to this.

"All right," said Sarah when this arrangement was explained to her,
"but I don't want to see Bony--not ever any more."

Alec had told her that the pig would probably be brought to the farm to
spend the winter and had offered to drive to Eastshore some day and
bring her back to see her pet.  Sarah's refusal was unmistakable; the
parting once made, she was not minded to harrow her feelings again.

Rosemary found Louisa a diligent pupil and the knitted spread was soon
under way.  Louisa's pet ambition was to buy a good flock of hens and
raise chickens.  The money earned from the spread, or spreads she might
make, she confided to Rosemary, was to be saved toward this venture.

"We haven't had our picnic yet," said Doctor Hugh one morning at the
breakfast table.  "We must have one before we go back to town.  Let's
ask the Gays and the Hildreths and Warren and Richard--next week will
be a good time."

And then for a few days a round of emergency calls kept him so busy he
forgot that such things as picnics were ever held.

Bringing the car around a few mornings later, intending to take his
mother and Winnie in to look at the remodeled house, he found Sarah and
Shirley placidly seated behind the wheel when he came out from
breakfast.

"You can't go this time--there isn't room," he informed them
pleasantly.  "Hop out--here come Mother and Winnie."

"You said we could go next time and this is next time," insisted Sarah.

There were tears of disappointment in Shirley's eyes, but she climbed
out of the car in response to a second look from Doctor Hugh.  Sarah,
however, clung to the wheel and had to be lifted out bodily.

"You're too old to act like this," said her brother sternly.  "It is
important that Mother and Winnie go with me this morning--they were
going yesterday and then I had to put them off to go in to the
hospital; suppose Mother scowled the way you do, Sarah, when things
didn't go to suit her."

Rosemary came out to see them off and Mrs. Willis and Winnie waved as
though nothing had happened.  Doctor Hugh suddenly swooped down upon
Sarah, lifted her high in his arms and kissed her.  With another swift
kiss for Shirley, he was back in the car before the angry Sarah could
recover from her astonishment.  The car rolled down the road and left
her standing glaring after it.

Sarah was exceedingly put out and she did not attempt to disguise her
state of mind.  Rosemary, finding it impossible to win her to a more
reasonable point of view, went indoors to finish the odds and ends of
work Winnie had had to leave undone.  This left Shirley to Sarah, and
Sarah was like the disgruntled sailor who deliberately incites mutiny.

"I want to be _bad_!" she told Shirley passionately.  "Let's think of
something awful and go do it!"

Shirley could not think of anything, unfortunately, that is
unfortunately from Sarah's point of view.

"I know!" cried that small sinner, after a moment's thought.  "We can
go in the tool house."

Sarah had remembered what Warren had said when they first came to the
farm--that the tool house was forbidden ground.  He had also warned
them against going into the windmill.

"Come on, Shirley," cried the naughty Sarah.  "We'll look at the old
tools--we won't hurt 'em."

She found she had reckoned without the canny Mr. Hildreth, when she
reached the tool house.  It was securely locked and no amount of
tampering could make any impression on the stout padlock.

"Come on, we'll go up in the windmill," said Sarah, not to be balked.

She would have found it hard to explain what satisfaction disobeying
Mr. Hildreth and Warren gave her, when her anger was really directed
toward her brother.  However, she may have reasoned that doing
something she knew was wrong was one sure way to plague Doctor Hugh.

Shirley obediently trotted after her sister to the graceful red
shingled tower that enclosed the iron framework of the windmill.  Alas,
for once in his busy life, Mr. Hildreth had inspected the pump and left
the door unlocked.  Sarah had merely to open it and fold it back and
the interior of the mill was revealed to her.

"We'll play it's a robbers' cave, Shirley," suggested Sarah.  "It's
nice and dark."

She was minded to climb the enticing iron ladder, but fearful lest
Shirley develop an obstinate streak and refuse, she had decided to
begin with a milder amusement.

"I'll be the robber chief, Shirley," she went on--Sarah had a fondness
for such plays and her brother often said that she would have had a
wonderful time as a boy.  "I'll be the robber chief," she repeated,
"and you drag in the loot."

"What's loot?" asked Shirley hopefully, having a vague idea that it was
something one ate.

"Loot is what we steal from the noble lords and ladies," Sarah asserted
with a faint memory of old firelight stories.

"But where do we get it?" the literal-minded Shirley demanded.

"Oh, we go out and hunt for it," said Sarah.  "Don't let anybody see
you--remember we're robbers."

And she opened the windmill door cautiously and peered out.

There was no one in sight and the two little girls crept out and sped
to the nearest tree with a delicious sense of excitement.  If they had
turned around and seen someone chasing them, they would not have been
surprised.

"Take a stone," said Sarah.  "Take a stone for loot.  A little one,
Shirley--that one by your foot."

Shirley picked it up and dropped it immediately with a little cry.

"Did you drop it on your foot?" asked Sarah.

"What's the matter?"

"Horrid, nasty little bugs under that," Shirley announced, pointing
with a dainty pink forefinger at the stone she had sent crashing back
to earth.

"Well, a few bugs never hurt anyone," proclaimed Sarah.  "I only hope
you haven't mashed any; when will you learn not to be afraid of bugs,
Shirley?"

Shirley refused to look as Sarah carefully turned the stone over.
There were numerous little crawling creatures beneath it and several
white slugs.

"I suppose you've murdered a hundred, but I can't see them," Sarah
reported.  "If I had something to scrape them up with, I could save
some."

"Don't play with bugs, Sarah," pleaded Shirley, who knew too well the
fatal attraction of all creeping and crawling things for her sister.
"I don't like bugs.  Leave them alone."

"All right, I will," said Sarah with surprising amiability.  "We'll go
back to the cave; I'll take this stone and you needn't take any."

Back to the windmill they went and nothing would please Sarah but
closing the door again.  She liked the dark, she said.

"What's that?" cried Shirley, starting.  "I heard a noise, Sarah."

Sarah had heard it, too.

"It's the clanking chains," she declared with relish.

"What clanking chains?" whispered Shirley fearfully.

"The chains we put on our prisoners," said Sarah whose imagination was
stimulated by the dark pit in which she found herself.

"What prisoners?" asked Shirley, fascinated in spite of herself.

"Prisoners we robbed," said Sarah solemnly.  "We put long chains on
them and they have to walk up and down and they can't get out."

"Oh--Oh--I don't like them to have on long chains," Shirley wailed.  "I
want you to take them off, Sarah.  Please, Sarah."

"Well," Sarah considered.  "Perhaps I will.  We might as well let the
prisoners go, anyway.  They make too much noise.  Now the chains are
off, Shirley."

Just as she said that, the noise sounded louder than before.

"Clank!  Clank!  Clank!"

"You said you took 'em off!" wept Shirley.  "You said so, Sarah."

"I thought I did," admitted Sarah.  "Wait till I get the door open and
I'll see what made that last noise."

She had latched the door of the windmill and in the darkness it took
her some time to find it.  At last she got it open and the light
streamed in, showing Shirley's face streaked with tears.

"I see what made the noise!" proclaimed Sarah triumphantly.  "It's the
jigger-thing pumping up and down."

The wings of the mill had turned lazily and the iron rods, jerked up
and down, had made the clanking noise.

"I don't want to play that any more," said Shirley with more decision
than she usually showed.

"We'll play we are firemen and climb the ladder," said Sarah, pointing
to the narrow iron ladder that led to the top of the mill.

And she actually helped the confiding Shirley to start the long upward
climb and followed close behind her.

Half way up, the inky darkness--for the narrow windows were few and far
between, frightened Shirley and she begged to go back.  Sarah cajoled
and bullied her into continuing and the two children managed to make
the steep climb and reach the platform at the top of the mill.  As they
stepped out on the boards a gust of wind caught the big fan-like sails
and the pump began to sound with a loud clanking noise.  This and the
sensation of being high among the clouds terrified Shirley and she
clung to Sarah, screaming.

Sarah would have liked to scream too.  Her face was quite white under
the tan and she grasped the framework tightly.  As she looked far
across the fields and felt the dizzy sensation of floating with the
clouds that seemed near enough for her hand to touch, one awful thought
came to her--"How are we to get back?"  She was sure they could never
go down that narrow ladder--it had been hard enough to climb up and
going down would be impossible.

She sat down, close to the frame, and Shirley hid her face on her
shoulder.  And there Rosemary found them--having heard from Mrs.
Hildreth that they had been seen going down to the brook.  The quickest
way to reach the brook was past the windmill.

Rosemary called as she came through the field and Sarah heard her.  She
stood up and shouted and, because the wind had died down and it was
very quiet and still, Rosemary, too, heard.  Kneeling down, Sarah could
see her sister through a knot hole in the platform.

Rosemary's first impulse was to run and get help--someone to bring the
girls down, but Sarah implored her "not to tell."

"Everyone will scold and tell Hugh," said Sarah, shouting her plea.
"You come get us, Rosemary--please don't tell."

Both she and Shirley were confident that Rosemary could rescue them
alone and unaided.  As the older, Rosemary was accustomed to helping
Sarah out of tight places and, it must be confessed, shielding her from
the consequences of her own wrong-doing.  She promised not to tell
"this time."

Setting her teeth, Rosemary began the climb and accomplished it with
fair ease.  Her nerves were steady and she was strong and vigorous.
But when it came to getting Shirley down, all her powers of endurance
were taxed to the utmost.

Shirley was rigid with fright.  She wanted to hang on to Rosemary and
it was necessary to force her to face the ladder and come down step by
step, Rosemary just below her steadying her with a light touch and
constant words of encouragement.  Shirley cried piteously, she stopped
often and refused to take another step.  Rosemary had to plead, to
scold, to stimulate, everything but pity--that would have been fatal.
Long before they reached the floor of the mill, Rosemary's face and
hands were dripping with cold perspiration.

Shirley safe on the ground at last.  Rosemary detached her clutching
little fingers and went back for Sarah.  Gone was Sarah's bravado, lost
her courage completely.  She hung back and cried and only started the
descent when Rosemary threatened to leave her.  Twice Sarah lost her
footing and shrieked and Rosemary's heart raced madly.  The climb
seemed interminable and all the time, down in the darkness below, they
could hear Shirley crying to herself.

A great wave of thankfulness surged over Rosemary as she felt her foot
touch the ground and lifted Sarah from the ladder.  They were safe!

"Come away, quick!" said Rosemary, her voice sounding hoarse and
unnatural in her own ears.  "Don't ever come here again!"

They stumbled over the doorsill, the strong sunlight blinding their
eyes after the darkness of the windmill interior.  So it happened that
none of them saw Warren till he was close to them.

"Rosemary!" he cried in quick alarm.  "Is anything the matter?  You're
as white as a sheet!"

Rosemary tried to smile, but she swayed as she stood.  He put an arm
around her and led her to an overturned tomato crate under a tree.
"Sit down," he said commandingly.  "Do you feel faint?"

"I'm not!"  Indignation sent the color flying back to Rosemary's
cheeks.  "I'm never faint."

But to her disgust, she began to tremble uncontrollably.  She shook
from head to foot and her lips were blue.

"I was afraid!" she whispered.  "So afraid--" and then she could have
bitten her tongue.

Sarah and Shirley were dismayed--never had they seen Rosemary like
this.  They crept close to her and she leaned her head against Sarah,
closing her eyes.  All the horror of the dizzy climb and descent
pressed in upon her, tenfold stronger.

Warren's quick eyes went from face to face.  All three were white and
strained.  Plainly something had happened.  Sarah and Shirley had torn
their dresses and there were great dust and oil stains on Rosemary's
white skirt.

Warren wheeled and looked back.  The windmill door swung slowly in the
breeze.

"Rosemary!" he spoke so sharply that she jumped.  "Rosemary, have you
been in the windmill?  Have you been hurt?"



CHAPTER XXVI

SOMETHING TO REMEMBER

Warren stood a moment in indecision.  Rosemary's pallor frightened him
and she was evidently concealing something.  Sarah and Shirley glanced
at him hostilely as though, he thought resentfully, he was in some way
to blame.

He turned on his heel and ran over to the mill, shutting the door with
a resounding slam.  In a trice he had snapped the padlock and had come
back to the three girls huddled under the tree.

And then a cheerful whistle sounded and down the lane came the one
person Rosemary least desired to see at that moment--Doctor Hugh.

"Got through early!" he called, vaulting the fence and striding toward
them.  "Why, Rosemary!  What's wrong?"

Rosemary made a desperate effort to recover her self-control.  She
managed a shaky smile, but she did not dare try to stand.

"Perhaps you can find out," said Warren grimly.  "I found her like this
a few minutes ago and Shirley and Sarah looking as though they'd seen a
ghost; and not a word will any of 'em say."

Very coolly, very quietly, very firmly, Doctor Hugh lifted Sarah aside
and took her place beside Rosemary on the crate.  He rested the tips of
his fingers for a moment on the slender wrist nearest him.  Then--

"What frightened you.  Rosemary?" he asked evenly.

The touch of his skilled fingers seemed to slow down her hammering
pulse.  Rosemary's troubled gaze swept the circle of faces surrounding
her, Sarah's and Shirley's expressive of their anxiety lest she be
"sick," Warren's baffled and worried, and came back to the steady,
understanding dark eyes behind the doctor's glasses.  In that moment
Hugh became a tower of refuge to her and she suddenly knew what she
would do.

"I don't know what made me act like this," she apologized, a little
tinge of color creeping into her white face.  "I'm sorry, because I am
afraid I have made you think it is worse than it is."

She stopped and looked at Sarah who stared at her in a puzzled way.

"You won't want me to tell, Sarah dear," went on Rosemary, still
calmly, "but this time I think I'd better; because--well, because if
there should be a next time and you should hurt yourself, I should be
to blame.  Besides, there is Shirley."

Warren drew a deep breath and Doctor Hugh sent a look toward Sarah that
made that young person decidedly uncomfortable though she pretended to
be absorbed in the antics of a beetle and sat down, cross-legged, to
consider it.

"Then it was the windmill?" asked Warren.

"Yes, it was the windmill," nodded Rosemary, putting her arm around
Shirley who was beginning to feel that her adored older sister had for
once deserted her.

And then she told them, graphically and in detail, how she had found
the two children on the platform and of the climbs she had made to
bring them down safely.

"That part wasn't so bad, really it wasn't," she explained earnestly.
"Though when Sarah's foot slipped--"

Warren looked at Doctor Hugh.

"But I keep thinking of that awful platform!" cried Rosemary, hiding
her face against her brother's shoulder and tightening her arm about
Shirley.  "Every time I close my eyes I can see them there--and it is
such a narrow space and they could have fallen off so easily--"

"Stop!" said Doctor Hugh sternly.  "Stop that at once, Rosemary.  You
are letting your imagination run away with you.  Closing your eyes and
thinking what might have happened, will not do at all.  You'll get the
better of your nerves, if you try.  Don't think what has happened and,
above all, don't talk about it.  Tag around after Warren and Rich
to-day and keep so busy you haven't time to think--you'll find the
worst is over now that you have told us."

Rosemary lifted her head.  She was quite herself, her blue eyes told
Warren.  Under her arm, Shirley peeped uncertainly at her brother.

"Come around here where I can see you, Shirley," he commanded.

She obeyed disconsolately.

"You were there when Warren said that you must not go in the windmill,
weren't you?" said Doctor Hugh.  "And now you see what happens when you
disobey him.  I understand that Sarah suggested this disobedience, but
that doesn't excuse you, Shirley; there have been plenty of times when
you have refused to do as Sarah asked you to.  You didn't have to be
naughty because she was, did you?"

Shirley shook her head.

"I know you're sorry," her brother went on.  "Then tell Warren so--and
next time, Shirley, have a mind and will of your own when you are asked
to do something you know is wrong."

Warren accepted Shirley's apology gravely and then made a suggestion.

"I'm going over to the mill with the heavy wagon," he said, "and if you
want to come along, I'll take you.  I'll harness up now and let the
team stand till after dinner."

Sarah scrambled to her feet with the evident intention of including
herself in the invitation.

"Run along, Rosemary," directed Doctor Hugh, "and take Shirley with
you.  But I want to talk to you, Sarah."

Rosemary glanced back as she walked away with Warren.

"Poor Sarah!" she said.  "I'm so sorry and I know Hugh is going to
scold.  But oh, Warren, I think I did right."

"Sure," agreed Warren tersely.  He had been more shaken by her recital
than he cared to admit.

"I couldn't have given Sarah away like that, if it hadn't been for
Shirley," said Rosemary, her eyes now on the infinitely dear little
figure dancing ahead.  "Sarah asked me not to tell and I said I
wouldn't--and I never have before.  Once she lost Aunt Trudy's ring and
we all got in an awful mess, but we wouldn't tell.  Hugh said then it
was wrong and not being truly kind to Sarah.

"I didn't see it that way--then," confessed Rosemary.  "But
to-day--well, to-day, Sarah frightened me so!  And I thought that if I
kept still and said nothing, next time she might hurt herself or
Shirley--when she makes up her mind, she can persuade Shirley to do
anything.  And Sarah goes a little bit further every time, unless she
is stopped."

"If you are fretting about whether you did the right thing or not,
forget it," Warren advised her seriously.  "In the first place, your
brother would have had the truth from you in five minutes and in the
second place shielding Sarah when she is in a fair way to break her
neck unless someone interferes, isn't far from wicked, to my way of
thinking."

"But she trusts me," urged Rosemary.  "Suppose I have lost her
confidence?"

"You haven't," said Warren with conviction.  "More likely, you've
gained her respect."

Sarah was never to forget the talk with Doctor Hugh that morning.  He
sat down beside her on the grass and gravely and kindly, without
raising his voice or threatening punishment, made her see what she had
done.

"You were angry at me and you wanted to do something to 'get even,'
Sarah," he began.  "And to satisfy that miserable little desire to get
even, you would have let serious injury, perhaps worse, come to Shirley
and Rosemary--Shirley who would follow you anywhere and Rosemary who
loves you so much she would dare anything for you."

Ignoring her tears and protests, he spoke to her of the responsibility
of an older sister for a younger one and explained the far-reaching
consequences of temper and disobedience.

"You have frightened Rosemary and you have disappointed me," he said
sadly.  "We both thought that head-strong and willful and reckless as
you are, you would always take care of Shirley.  How can we ever trust
her to you again?"

"I didn't think she would get hurt," wept Sarah.  "I do take care of
her."

"My dear little sister--" Doctor Hugh took her in his arms and the
stolid Sarah clung to him crying as though her heart would break.  "My
dear, dear little sister, it is because I want you to always think
first, before you do something wrong, that I am talking to you like
this.  Shirley admires you--when you do the right thing, she will try
to imitate you even more readily than when you do wrong.  You are
constantly setting her an example."

He let her cry a little while and then supplied her with his clean
pocket handkerchief.  With her flushed face pressed against his coat,
Sarah listened while he explained gently the old, old lessons and laws
that govern us all.

"Remember this, Sarah," he concluded earnestly, "you may think, when
you do wrong, that you will take all the punishment yourself, but you
can not; no one can bear the consequences of a misdeed wholly alone.
Every time you do wrong you hurt someone else, two or three others,
perhaps, and usually those who love you most."

Sarah was only nine years old, but she understood.  Doctor Hugh had a
faculty for making people understand him.  He slipped his hand under
Sarah's chin now and lifted the little brown face till the shamed dark
eyes met his.

"Am I to trust you again, Sarah?" he asked gravely.

The little brown face grew vivid, resolution and love contending for
possession of the dark eyes.

"I will be _just_ as good!" promised Sarah.  "Truly I will, Hugh."

And they sealed the compact with a kiss.



CHAPTER XXVII

SUMMER'S END

"Keep away from that coffee pot!" said Warren for the sixth time in as
many minutes.

Rosemary laughed and pulled Shirley back from the fire.

After twice fixing a day for the picnic, only to have Doctor Hugh
summoned by telephone and obliged to remain away till early evening,
the suggestion of a picnic supper had been suggested and accepted.

"A good idea, I call it," Winnie had approved.  "We won't have to start
till around four o'clock and by that time Hughie ought to have a couple
of hours off, anyway.  I'm not crazy about eating outdoors, but if a
body can have something hot, it isn't so bad as it might be."

Warren and Richard had promised to build the fire and make the
coffee--they assured Winnie that even she would praise their brew--and
Doctor Hugh had insisted on the "hot dogs" without which no properly
conducted supper--so he said--could be arranged.  He was sharpening a
stick to serve Sarah as a toaster now.

Winnie's hospitable soul rejoiced in the groups gathered about the
glowing fire, built on an improvised stone hearth between two tree
stumps.  Winnie had put her best efforts into the food and she liked to
be assured that the quantity, as well as the quality, would be
appreciated.

They were all there--the six from the Willis household, Mr. and Mrs.
Hildreth, Richard and Warren; and the six Gays with roly-poly little
Mrs. Robinson and her husband who had come up to introduce his wife to
the farm and leave her there while he finished "the season" on the
road.  Mrs. Willis had been delighted to have this opportunity to meet
the people who were to live with the Gay children and who would, she
reasoned, have more or less influence over them.  Mrs. Robinson had
been three days at the farm and already she had won the friendship of
Louisa and Alec, not an easy matter to bring about.  The younger
children were devoted to her and it was apparent that the motherless
household unconsciously welcomed her wealth of tact and wisdom and
sympathy.

"They need you so," said Mrs. Willis when she had a chance to speak
confidentially to the wife of the circus agent.

"Not more than I need them," responded Mrs. Robinson.  "They have no
mother and I have no children."

And if the payment of the quarter's rent in advance had "turned the
luck," as Alec insisted, it was the coming of Mrs. Robinson that turned
the Gays back to normal, happy living.

Rosemary had stipulated that the "grown-ups" were to visit and leave
the preparation of the supper to the children.  Most of the preparation
was confined to setting the table--on a flat rock--and to boiling the
coffee and toasting the meat.  Richard and Warren were in charge of the
fire and Louisa and Rosemary undertook to set out the eatables, while
Alec carried fresh water from the spring, fished out ants from the milk
pitcher and endeavored to keep the younger fry from tasting everything
left unguarded.

Sarah's insistence on toasting her own "hot dog" led to a general
clamor for sticks and Doctor Hugh obligingly whittled a dozen wands.
taking care to make them long as a precaution against a too eager
approach to the fire.

The table looked very pretty when Rosemary summoned them, for a bouquet
was in the center and tiny wreaths of flowers circled the paper dishes.
Warren's coffee was pronounced delicious and Winnie received so many
compliments on her stuffed eggs and the potato salad that she told Mrs.
Hildreth it would serve her right if the cake should turn out to be
soggy.

"Then," declared Mrs. Hildreth neatly, "I should know it was no cake of
your baking!"

But one distressing incident interrupted the serene progress of that
wonderful supper--when the paper cup of ants and bugs and beetles and
flies that Sarah had captured before sitting down, upset directly into
her saucer of home-made ice cream.  Even that catastrophe could not mar
the general enjoyment, though Sarah retired to fish out the bugs
carefully by hand with the forlorn hope of "drying them off and saving
them."

When the supper was over and everything cleared away, Warren built up
the fire again and they gathered around it.  The day had been warm but
a slight chill was in the air--the early touch of fall.

"It doesn't seem as though we were going home to-morrow," remarked
Rosemary pensively.  "And school opens next week."

"The summer has gone so swiftly," said Mrs. Willis.  "I can scarcely
realize that this is September.  The Hammonds have started--Hugh had a
letter yesterday."

"I think it's been a long summer," declared Sarah, trying to hide a
yawn.

"Well, I'm glad it's over," said Louisa bluntly.

Then the baby June was discovered asleep in Alec's lap and Mrs.
Robinson offered to take her back to the house and put her to bed.
Louisa decreed that bed-time had arrived for the other Gays and they
all turned homeward, promising to say good by to the Willises in the
morning.

"And remember you've promised to bring Rosemary out to see us this
winter, Doctor Willis," Louisa reminded him.

"You come along, Sarah, and see the new tricks I've taught your pig,"
said Mr. Robinson with the kindest intention in the world.

Sarah made no reply.  She had never voluntarily mentioned Bony since
the morning she had watched him driven off the farm and gradually her
mother and sisters had forgotten him.  Not so Sarah.  She never forgot
but nothing ever induced her to go and see the pig though she had
plenty of opportunities later, had she so desired.

The twilight shut down and Warren added more fuel to the fire.  Shirley
pressed close to her mother, hoping to hide the fact that she, too, was
getting sleepy.

"I don't think it was a long summer," she chirped, "I would like more
summer to get herbs in; Mr. Fiddlestrings likes us to get them for him."

"You don't call him that, do you?" asked Rosemary, shocked.

"Everyone does," retorted Shirley.  "Only they say 'Old Fiddlestrings'
and we don't--do we, Sarah?"

"He has a stuffed snake," said Sarah who seldom troubled herself to
answer questions that failed to directly interest her.  "Rich, you said
you'd show me how to stuff a snake and you never did."

"Well, I never got around to it," Richard apologized.  "I'm one who
found the summer too short."

Mr. Hildreth grunted.

"Guess you don't need a stuffed snake, Sarah," he said humorously.  "A
stuffed chicken seemed to be too much for your family."

Sarah looked disgusted, while the others laughed at the recollection of
that chicken.  Sarah, a few weeks before, had found a dead chicken
under the carriage house and had decided it to be a Heaven-sent
opportunity to practise her theories of taxidermy.  She had stuffed the
carcass with a variety of available materials--grass and hay and
pebbles, mixed with small sticks and cakes of mud--and, her task
completed, had hidden the treasure in a cupboard in the pantry.  For
some reason she deemed the sympathy of her family doubtful and she made
no mention of the experiment to anyone.

It was not long before Winnie complained of an unpleasant odor in her
always thoroughly aired pantry.  She stood it for one day, grumbling.
The second day she began to talk about "country plumbing" and the third
morning she started in to scrub and scour and disinfect vigorously.
Her activities led her to the dark corner where Sarah had stowed her
chicken and the subsequent interview was brief and to the point.  Sarah
buried the unfortunate fowl, using the cake turner which she was later
to bury also on command of Winnie, and this, to date, had been her sole
experience with "stuffing" anything.

Rosemary leaned forward, smiling at the fire.

"What are you thinking of, Rosemary?" asked her brother, dexterously
shifting Sarah's position so that she could not kick the fire with her
shoes--a feat she was anxious to accomplish.

"Oh, ever so many things," said Rosemary.  "About Louisa and Alec and
the circus.  And the poor farm, too."

Warren was watching the fire closely, too.

"I drove past the poor farm the other day," he said slowly, "and the
lawns have all been ploughed up and seeded.  There's no place now for
the folks to sit, except on the back porch.  Not till the new grass has
a good start."

"I don't see why Sarah is always planning a farm for animals," Rosemary
declared a little passionately.  "If I ever have a farm it is going to
be a home for people who haven't any other home.  People like the Gays
and old men and women who have no one to take care of them."

"I'll have a poor farm, too," cried Sarah, wide awake in an instant.
"I never thought of that.  I'll have a place for sick animals, too, but
I'll have a real poor farm for old horses and cows and pigs and
things--when they're too old to work, like old Belle."

Warren and Richard laughed and Doctor Hugh patted his small sister's
energetic dark head.

"I wish you and Rosemary could do all you plan," he said with a half
sigh.  "There's room enough for that help and more."

Mrs. Hildreth, her busy hands for once idle, stared at the blazing
fire.  She had told her husband earlier in the day that she hardly knew
how to behave at a picnic, it had been so long since she had allowed
herself such a frivolous pleasure.

She sat now, between Winnie and Mrs. Willis, tense and upright, unable
to relax, but resting nevertheless.

"It's been a nice summer," she said slowly.  "I don't know when I've
had time go so fast.  Young people in the house and outside do brighten
things up amazingly.  And Warren and Rich have made me so little
trouble--I never knew two boys who needed less waiting on; yes, I've
had a nice summer.  I can say that."

Warren's tanned face flushed a little and Richard stirred uneasily.
Both recalled moments of impatience, fortunately suppressed, and
remembered small kindnesses they might have easily performed.  Poor
Mrs. Hildreth, so utterly unable to take life easily, was something of
a taskmaster like her husband.  She prided herself on asking no more of
anyone than she was willing to do herself and the result was nerves
strung up to concert pitch and a volume of work turned out that was the
wonder of a neighborhood famed for its industry.  Warren and Richard
felt guiltily that they might have made more positive contributions to
her "nice summer," but they were thankful for the little they had done
to lighten the good woman's labors.

"How about you, Mother?" said Doctor Hugh mischievously.

"I?  Oh, I have learned to love Rainbow Hill," was Mrs. Willis'
response.  "I could ask no more of any summer than these weeks have
given me--love and happiness and health.  And to-morrow we're going
home!"

Rosemary smiled across the fire at her mother.  She, too, liked to
think of going home.

"I only hope the smell of the paint will be out of the house," remarked
Winnie who could never, under any circumstances, be accused of being
sentimentally inclined.

"And the gas stove," went on Winnie dreamily.  "If that Greggs has been
mixing messes on it and dropping his glue on the enamel, I'll give him
a piece of my mind.  I left that kitchen like wax and it's my hope to
find it like that, but I have my doubts."

Doctor Hugh laughed and put back a brand that slipped from the glowing
embers.

"Ah, Winnie, you know you can hardly wait to get to the straightening
up part," he accused her.  "You're already turning the rooms inside out
in your mind's eye for a grand cleaning.  I had thought of getting
someone to come in and have it all in order for you and then I was
afraid you might not like it so I changed my mind."

"Hughie, if a strange person lays hand on a thing in that house," began
Winnie solemnly and then she stopped as she saw the smiling face.

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself to be teasing me," she scolded.

"Shirley's asleep and so is Winnie," said Doctor Hugh suddenly.

"I am not!" protested Shirley indignantly as usual.

"Eh?"  Winnie jerked her eyes open with a start.  "For mercy's sake, do
we have to stay out here all night?" she demanded crossly.  "I can
stand a picnic supper, if I have to, but it's no picnic for me to have
to sleep out on damp grass."

Doctor Hugh laughingly declared that after that gentle hint there was
nothing to do but go in.  He helped the boys cover the fire and stamp
out every vestige of an ember and then led the way to the house,
carrying Shirley and leading Sarah who pretended to be very wide-awake
but whose feet lagged unaccountably.

"I declare, I can't get used to having no dinner dishes to wash," said
Winnie when they had reached the porch.  "I'm going in now and see if I
left the kitchen in good order."

She disappeared and Mrs. Willis took Shirley and Sarah up to bed, while
Doctor Hugh snapped on the reading light.

"I want to look over the paper," he said comfortably.  "Don't go,
Warren--it's early yet, Rich."

Rosemary found her favorite low rocker and the boys chose the swing.

"We'll miss this," said Warren slowly.

"Yes, we haven't any swing at Ag State," declared Richard with a grin.

"You know what I mean, well enough," retorted Warren.  "Confabs,
music--being inside a home."

Richard was silent.  He knew.

"Mother says she asked you to write to her," broke in Rosemary.  "She
says we'll never forget this dear little house at Rainbow Hill and the
friends we've made this summer."

"Have you found your pot of gold, Rosemary?" asked Richard, watching
the light which threw the outline of the girl's pretty head into relief.

Rosemary laughed a little.  Early in the summer Mrs. Hildreth had
explained that the name "Rainbow Hill" had been given the farm by Mrs.
Hammond because the first time she had seen the house its roof had been
spanned by a beautiful rainbow.  The Willis girls had waited hopefully
two months for a glimpse of a rainbow, but none had been vouchsafed
them.  Sarah, for one, believed the rainbow to be as mythical as the
pot of gold Mrs. Hildreth had told her was always to be found at its
end.

"I don't believe I've found any pot of gold," said Rosemary wistfully.

"Oh, yes, you have," contradicted Warren.  "Look at the Gays--you
helped them find their pot of gold; look at Miss Clinton--you gave her
many happy hours; look at Mrs. Hildreth--she says she never knew a
summer to go so quickly and it's all because she has had someone
cheerful to talk to her.  Look at Rich and me--"

"Oh, Warren!" Rosemary protested.  "Sarah did more for the Gays than
ever I did.  And Mother and Winnie talked to Mrs. Hildreth.  I haven't
done anything."

"It's your pure joyousness, I think," went on Warren as though he had
not heard her.  "I don't believe enough people are simply happy in this
world.  That's your pot of gold, Rosemary--happiness.  And you share it
with everyone you meet.  It makes a fellow feel--well, as though he
were standing on a mountain top in the morning, just to look at you."

"Oh!" said Rosemary softly, astonished at quiet Warren and yet oddly
pleased, too.  "Oh!"

"You're even glad to go back to school, aren't you, Rosemary?" asked
Richard with a half unconscious sigh.  Going back to school for him,
and for Warren, meant much hard work and more anxiety.

The dreamy light went out of the girl's eyes.  Her lovely, vivid face
glowed with characteristic enthusiasm.  It might be said of Rosemary
that no future was ever else than rosy to her ardent gaze.

"Of course I'll be glad!" she answered eagerly.  "It will be my last
year in grammar school, you know.  And it's sure to be exciting--in
spots.  Besides I just love going ahead!"

Across his lowered paper, Doctor Hugh smiled at the two boys in the
swing.

"And that," he said whimsically, "explains why Rosemary is Rosemary."



THE END





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