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Title: Green Valley
Author: Reynolds, Katharine
Language: English
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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.

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GREEN VALLEY

by

KATHARINE REYNOLDS

Frontispiece by Nana French Bickford



[Frontispiece: They came to her hand in hand and said not a word.]



Grosset & Dunlap
Publishers ------ New York
Copyright, 1919,
by Little, Brown, and Company.
All rights reserved



  Dedication

  TO ALL THE LITTLE ONE-HORSE TOWNS WHERE
  LIFE IS SWEET AND ROOMY AND OLD-FASHIONED;
  WHERE THE DAYS ARE FULL OF SUNSHINE AND
  RAIN AND WORK; WHERE NEIGHBORS REALLY
  NEIGHBOR AND MEN AND WOMEN ARE LIFE-SIZE



AUTHOR'S NOTE

This book was written to cure a heartache, to ease a very real and bad
case of homesickness.  I wrote it just for myself when I was very
nearly ten thousand miles away from home and knew that I couldn't go
back to the U. S. A. for two long years.  It is a picture of a little
Yankee town, the town I tried so hard to see over ten thousand miles of
gray-green ocean.

When I was sailing from New York for South America that sunny June
morning in 1913, about the last thing the last friend hurrying down the
gangplank said was this:

"Of course you are going to be homesick.  But it's worth it."

And I laughed.

But before that long stretch of gray-green ocean was plowed under I
knew--oh, I knew--that I was going to be most woefully homesick for the
U. S. A.

A certain tall Swede from New Jersey and I discovered that fact about
the same minute Fourth of July morning.  We were standing on the deck,
staring miserably back over the awful miles to where somewhere in that
lost north our town lay with flags fluttering, picnic baskets getting
into trains and everybody out on their lawns and porches.

We didn't look at each other after that first glance--that Swede and I.
And we said the sunlight hurt our eyes.

Three months later I was sitting under the velvet-soft, star-sown night
sky of the Argentine cattle country.  I had seen volcano-scarred
Martinique and had watched the beautiful island of Barbados rising like
a fairy dream out of a foamy sea.

I had marveled at the endless beauties of Rio lying so picturesquely in
its immense harbor and at the foot of its great, shaggy, sun-splashed,
smoke-wreathed mountains.  I had tramped through unsanitary Santos and
loved it because it looked like Chicago in spite of its mountains and
banana trees.  I had witnessed a wonderful fiesta in Buenos Aires and
had churned two hundred miles up the La Plata when it was bubbling with
rain.  And I had had a tooth pulled in Paysandu, the second largest
city in Uruguay.

All that in three months! And there were still a million wonders to
see.  I loved and shall always love these radiant, sun-drenched
uncrowded lands.  But my heart was heavy as lead.  For I was homesick.
My eyes were tired of alien starshine, of alien, unfamiliar things, and
my heart cried out for the little home towns of my own country.

But I could not go back for many, many months.  So I learned Spanish
and hobnobbed with wonderfully wise and delightful Spanish
grandmothers.  I grew to love some darling Indian babies.  I
interviewed interesting South American cowboys and discussed war and
socialism with an Argentine navy officer.  I exchanged calls and true
blue friendships with soft-voiced Englishwomen.  And I took tea and
dinner aboard the ships of Welsh sea captains from Cardiff.

I had a wonderful time.  I filled my notebook, took pictures and
collected souvenirs.  I laughed and told stories.  Folks down there
said I was good company.

But oh!  In the hush of a rain-splashed night, when the fire in the
grate dozed and dreamed and a boat siren somewhere out on the inky La
Plata wailed and moaned through the black night, my heart flew back
over those gray-green waves to a little town that I knew in the U. S.
A.  And to ease my longing I wrote Green Valley.

KATHARINE REYNOLDS.



CONTENTS


CHAPTER

     I  EAST AND WEST
    II  SPRING IN GREEN VALLEY
   III  THE LAST OF THE CHURCHILLS
    IV  A RAINY DAY
     V  CYNTHIA'S SON
    VI  GOSSIP
   VII  THE WEDDING
  VIII  LILAC TIME
    IX  GREEN VALLEY MEN
     X  THE KNOLL
    XI  GETTING ACQUAINTED
   XII  THE PATH OF TRUE LOVE
  XIII  AUTUMN IN GREEN VALLEY
   XIV  THE CHARM
    XV  INDIAN SUMMER
   XVI  THE HOUSEWARMING
  XVII  THE LITTLE SLIPPER
 XVIII  THE MORNING AFTER
   XIX  A GRAY DAY
    XX  CHRISTMAS BELLS
   XXI  FANNY'S HOUR
  XXII  BEFORE THE DAWN
 XXIII  FANNY COMES BACK
  XXIV  HOME AGAIN



GREEN VALLEY

CHAPTER I

EAST AND WEST

"Joshua Churchill's dying in California and Nanny Ainslee's leaving
to-night for Japan!  And there's been a wreck between here and Spring
Road!"

Fanny fairly gasped out the astounding news.  Then she sank down into
Grandma Wentworth's comfortable kitchen rocker and went into details.

"The two telegrams just came through.  Uncle Tony's gone down to the
wreck.  I happened to be standing talking to him when Denny came
running out of the station.  Isn't it too bad Denny's so bow-legged?
Though I don't know as it hinders him from running to any noticeable
extent.  I had an awful time trying to keep up so's to find out what
had happened.  I bet you Nan's packing right this minute and just
loving it.  My--ain't some people born lucky?  Think of having the
whole world to run around in!"

The telephone tinkled.

"Yes, Nan," Grandma smiled as she answered, "I know.  Fanny's just this
minute telling me.  Yes, of course I can.  I'll be over as soon as my
bread's done baking.  Yes--I'll bring along some of my lavender to pack
in with your things."

"Land sakes, Grandma," exclaimed Fanny, "don't stop for the bread.
I'll see to that.  Just you git that lavender and go.  And tell Nanny
I'll be at the station to see her off."

Up-stairs in a big sunny room of the Ainslee house Grandma Wentworth
looked reproachfully at a flushed, busy girl who was laughing and
singing snatches of droll ditties the while she emptied closets and
dresser drawers and tucked things into four trunks, two suitcases and a
handbag.

"Nanny, are you never going to settle down and stay at home?" sighed
Grandma.

"Yes, ma'am," Nanny's eyes danced, "some day when a man makes me fall
in love with him and there are no more new places to go to.  But so
long as I am heartfree and footfree, and there's one alien shore
calling, I'll have the wanderlust.  I declare, Grandma, if that man
doesn't turn up soon there will be no new places left for a honeymoon!"

Grandma smiled in spite of herself.  There were things she wanted very
much to say and other things she wanted very much to ask; but the
trunks had to get down to the station and already the afternoon sun was
low.

The two women worked feverishly and almost in silence so that when the
packing was done they might get in the little visit both craved before
the months of separation.

Nanny finally jumped on the trunks, snapped them shut, locked them and
watched the expressman carry them down and out into his waiting dray.
Then she sat down with a trembling little laugh.

"There--it's over and I'm really going!  I have been to just about
every country but Japan.  I believe father would rather have skipped
off alone this time.  It seems to be some suddenly important
international crisis that we are going over to settle.  That's why we
are going East the roundabout way.  We must stop at Washington for
instructions, then again at London and Paris."

"Nanny," mused Grandma, "there's a good many years difference in our
ages but there's only one woman I ever loved as I love you.  I think I
might have loved your mother but she died the very first year your
father brought her here.  And she was ailing when she came.  The other
woman that meant so much to me used to go traveling too.  I always
helped her with her packing.  Then one day she packed and went away,
never to come back."

"Was that Cynthia Churchill?" Nan asked gently.

"Yes--Cynthia.  She was dearer than a sister to me, and neither of us
dreamed that a whole wide world would divide us."

"Why did she go, Grandma?"

"Because a Green Valley man well-nigh broke her heart."

"A Green Valley man did--_that_?  Oh, dear!  And here I have been
hoping that some day I might marry a Green Valley man myself."

"Nanny, I expect I'm old and foolish but I've been hoping and hoping
that you'd marry a home boy and fearing you'd meet up with some one on
your travels who would take you away from us forever.  It would be hard
to see you go."

The last sunbeam had faded away and golden twilight filled the room.
Outside little day noises were dying out.

"Grandma dear, don't you worry about me.  I intend to marry a Green
Valley man if possible.  But even if I didn't I'd always come back to
Green Valley."

"No, you wouldn't.  You couldn't, any more than Cynthia could.  Cynthia
loved this town better even than you love it.  Yet she is lying under
strange stars in a foreign land, far from her old home.  Her father,
they say, is dying in California.  I suppose the old Churchill place
will go now unless Cynthia's son comes back to take it over.  But that
isn't likely."

"Why--did Cynthia Churchill leave a son?" wondered Nanny.

"Yes.  He must be a few years older than you.  He was born and raised
in India.  'Tisn't likely he'd come to Green Valley now that he's a man
grown.  Still, if Joshua Churchill dies out there in California, that
boy will come into all his grandfather's property."

"Well," Nanny stood up and walked to the window from which she could
see the fine old home of the Churchills, "if any one willed me a lovely
old place like that Churchill homestead I'd come from the moon to claim
it, let alone India."

"Nanny, are you sure there's no boy now in Green Valley who could keep
you from roaming?  I thought maybe Max Longman or Ronny Deering--"

"No--no one yet, Grandma.  I like them all--but love--no.  Love, it
seems to me, must be something very different."

"Yes, I know," sighed Grandma.

When Uncle Tony returned from viewing the wreck he assured his townsmen
that it was a wreck of such beautiful magnitude that traffic on the
Northwestern would be tied up for twenty-four hours.  It was feared
that Mr. Ainslee would not be able to get his train and would have to
drive five miles to the other railroad.

However Uncle Tony was reckoning things from a Green Valley point of
view.  As a matter of fact the wreckage was sufficiently cleared away
so that the eastbound trains were running on time.  It was the
westbound ones that were stalled.  The Los Angeles Limited Pullmans
stood right in the Green Valley station.  They were still standing
there when Nanny and her father came to take the 10:27 east.

Perhaps nothing could explain so well Nanny Ainslee's popularity as the
gathering of folks who came to see her off.

Fanny had stopped at the drug store and bought some headache pills.

"This excitement and hurry and you not scarcely eating any supper is
apt to give you a bad headache.  They'll come handy.  And here's some
seasick tablets.  Martin says they're the newest thing out.  And oh,
Nanny, when you're seeing all those new places and people just take an
extra look for me, seeing as I'll never know the color of the ocean."

Uncle Tony was tending to Nanny's hand luggage and in his heart wishing
he could go along, even though he knew that one week spent away from
his beloved hardware store would be the death of him.

It was a neighborly crowd that waited for the 10:27.  And as it waited
Jim Tumley started singing "Auld Lang Syne."  He began very softly but
soon the melody swelled to a clear sweetness that hushed the laughing
chatter and stilled the shuffling feet of the Pullman passengers who
crowded the train vestibules or strolled in weary patience along the
station platform.

Then the 10:27 swung around the curve and the good-bys began.

"So long, dear folks!  I shall write.  Don't you dare cry, Grandma.
I'll be back next lilac time.  Remember, oh, just remember, all you
Green Valley folks, that I'll be back when the lilacs bloom again!"

Nanny's voice, husky with laughter and tears, rippled back to the
cluster of old neighbors waving hats and handkerchiefs.  They watched
her standing in the golden light of the car doorway until the train
vanished from their sight.  Then they drifted away in twos and threes.

From the dimmest corner of the observation platform a man had witnessed
the departure of Nanny Ainslee.  He had heard Jim's song, had caught
the girl's farewells.  And now he was delightedly repeating to himself
her promise--"I'll be back when the lilacs bloom again."

Then quite suddenly he stepped from the train and made his way to where
the magenta-pink and violet lights of Martin's drugstore glowed in the
night.  He bought a soda and some magazines and asked the druggist an
odd question.

"When," asked the stranger, smiling, "will the lilacs bloom again in
this town?"

Martin, who for hours had been rushing madly about, waiting on the
thirsty crowd of stalled visitors, stopped to stare.  But he answered.
Something in the mysteriously rich face of the big, brown boy made him
eager to answer.

"From the middle of next May on into early June."

The stranger smiled his thanks in a way that made Martin look at his
clerk with a mournful eye.

"Jee-rusalem!  Now, Eddie, why can't you smile like that?  Say, if I
had _that_ fellow behind this soda counter I'd be doing a rushing
business every night."

When the Limited was again winging its way toward the Golden West and
train life had settled down to its regular routine, one dining-car
waiter was saying to another:

"Yes, sah--the gentleman in Number 7 is sure the mighty-nicest white
man I eber did see.  And he sure does like rice.  Says he comes from
India where everybody eats it all the time.  I ain' sure but what that
man ain' a sure-enough prince."



CHAPTER II

SPRING IN GREEN VALLEY

Traveling men have a poor opinion of it.  Ministers of the gospel have
been known to despair of it.  Socially ambitious matrons move out of it,
or, if that is not possible, despise it.  Real estate men can not get
rich in it.  And humorless folk sometimes have a hard, sad time of it in
Green Valley.

But Uncle Tony, the slowest man in town but the very first at every fire
and accident, says that once, when the Limited was stalled at the Old
Roads Corner, a crowd of swells gathered on the observation platform and
sized up the town.

One official, who--Uncle Tony says--couldn't have been anything less than
a Chicago alderman, said right out loud:

"Great Stars!  What peace--and cabbages!"

And another said solemnly, said he, "This is the place to come to when
you have lost your last friend."  And there was no malice, only a hungry
longing in his voice.

The stylish, white-haired woman who, Uncle Tony guessed, must have been
the alderman's wife, said, "Oh--John!  What healing, lovely gardens!"

There's always a silly little wind fooling around the Old Roads Corners
and so you get all the sweet smells from Grandma Wentworth's herb garden
and all the heavenly fragrance that the flower gardens of this end of
town send out.

Standing there you can look into any number of pretty yards but
especially Ella Higgins'.  Of course Ella's yard and garden is a wonder.
It's been handed down from one old maid relative to another till in
Ella's time it does seem as if every wild and home flower that ever
bloomed was fairly rooted and represented there.  It's in Ella's garden
that the first wild violets bloom; where the first spring beauty nods
under the bushes of bridal wreath; where the last chrysanthemum glows.

Everybody in town got their lilies-of-the-valley roots and their yellow
roses from Ella.  Her peonies and roses, pansies and forget-me-nots are
known clear over in Bloomingdale and bespoken by flower lovers in Spring
Road.  And as for her tulips, well--there are little flocks of them
everywhere about, looking for all the world like crowds of gayly dressed
babies toddling off to play.

The only time that poor Fanny Foster came near making trouble was when
she said that of course Ella's place was all right but that it had no
style or system, and that you couldn't have a proper garden without a
gardener.  Ella had scolded Fanny's children for carelessly stripping the
lilacs.

Fanny Foster is as wonderful in her way as Ella's garden, though not so
beautiful at first sight.  Of course Green Valley loves Fanny Foster.
Green Valley has reason to.  Fanny did Green Valley folks a great service
one still spring morning.  But strangers just naturally misunderstand
Fanny.  They see only a tall, sharp-edged wisp of a woman with a mass of
faded gold hair carelessly pinned up and two wide-open brown eyes fairly
aching with curiosity.  You have to know Fanny a long time before the
poignant wistfulness of her clutches at your heart, before you can know
the singular sweetness of her nature.  And even when you come to love her
you keep wishing that her collars were pinned on straight and that her
skirts were hung evenly at the bottom.  There are those who remember the
time when Fanny was a beautiful girl, happy-go-lucky but always
kind-hearted.  Now she is famous for her marvelous instinct for news
gathering and her great talent in weaving the odds and ends of
commonplace daily living into an interesting, gossipy yarn.  Green Valley
without Fanny Foster would not be Green Valley, for she is a town
institution.

However, before going any further into Green Valley's special characters
and institutions it would be well to get a general feel of the town into
one's mind.  For it is only when you know how cozily Green Valley sets in
its hollows, how quaintly its old tree-shaded roads dip and wander about
over little sunny hills and through still, deep woods that you can guess
the charm of it, can believe in the joyousness of it.  For Green Valley
is a joyous, sweetly human old town to those who love and understand it.

Take an early spring day when the winter's wreck and rust and deadness
seem to be everywhere.  Yet here in the Green Valley roads and streets
little warm winds are straying, looking for tulip beds and spring
borders.  The sunshine that elsewhere looks thin and pale drops warmly
here into back yards and ripples ever so brightly up and down Rabbit's
Hill, where the hedges are turning green and David Allan is plowing.

The willows back of Dell Parsons' house are budding and all aquiver with
the wildly glad, full-throated warblings of robins, bluebirds, red-winged
blackbirds and bobolinks.  While somewhere from the swaying tops of last
year's reeds, up from the grassy slopes of Churchill's meadow, comes the
sweet, clear call of meadow larks.

In the ditches the cushioning moss is green and through the brown tangled
weeds along Silver Creek the new grass is peeping.  The sunny clearing
back of Petersen's woods will be full of mushrooms as the days deepen.
And already there are big golden dandelions in Widow Green's orchard.

In these still, warm noons you can hear through the waiting, echoing air
the laughing shouts of playing children and the low-dropping honk of the
wild geese that in a scarcely quivering line are sailing northward across
the reedy lowlands which the gentle spring rains will turn into soft,
violet, misty marshes.

The last bit of frost has thawed out of the old Glen Road and in the
young sunshine it seems to laugh goldenly as it climbs up, up to Jim
Gray's squatty, weathered little farmhouse.  The eastern windows of this
little silver-gray house are gay with blossoming house plants and across
the back dooryard, flapping gently in the spring breeze, is a line of
gayly colored bed quilts.  For Martha Gray has begun her house-cleaning.

The woodsy part of Grove Street, the part that was opened up only five
years ago and is called Lovers' Lane because it curves and winds
mysteriously through a lovely bit of woodland, is already shimmering with
the life and beauty of spring.

Down on Fern Avenue, which is a wide, grassy road and no avenue at all,
Uncle Roger Allan is carefully painting his chicken coops.  Roger Allan
is a tall, twinkling, smooth-shaven old man, and he lives in a house as
twinkling and as tidy as himself.  He is a bachelor, but years ago he
took little David from the dead arms of an unhappy, wild young stepsister
and has brought him up as his own.  People used to know the reasons why
Roger Allan had never married but few remember now.  Here he is at any
rate, painting his chicken coops and standing still every now and then to
stare off at Rabbit's Hill where his boy, tall, sturdy David Allan, is
plowing the warm, black fields.

Up in a narrow lane, at the side window of a blind-looking little house,
sits Mrs. Rosenwinkle.  She is German and badly paralyzed and she
believes that the earth is flat and that if you walked far enough out
beyond Petersen's pasture you would most certainly fall off.  She also
believes that only Lutherans like herself can go to heaven.  But to-day,
beside the open window, with a soft, wooing, eiderdown little breeze
caressing her face, she is happy and unworried, her eyes busy with the
tender world and the two chubby grandchildren tumbling gleefully about in
the still lane.

In his little square shoe shop built out from his house Joe Baldwin is
arranging his spring stock in his two modest show windows.  Joe is a
widower with two boys, a gentle voice, a gentle, wondering mind, and a
remarkable wart in the very center of his left palm.  His shop is a
sunny, cheerful room with plenty of benches and chairs.  The little shop
has a soft gray awning for the hot days and a wide-eyed competent stove
for cold ones.  Nobody but Grandma Wentworth and such other folks like
Roger Allan ever suspect the real reason for all those comfortable
sitting-down places in Joe's shop.  And Joe never tells a soul that it is
just an idea of his for keeping his own two boys and the boys of other
men under his eye.  In Joe's gentle opinion the hotel and livery barn and
blacksmith shop are not exactly the best places for young boys to
frequent.  But of course Joe never mentions such opinions out loud even
to the boys.  He just makes his shop as inviting and homelike as
possible, keeps the daily papers handy on the counter and a basket of
nuts or apples maybe under his workbench.  He is never lonely nor does he
miss a bit of news though he seldom goes anywhere but to the barber shop
on Saturdays and to church on Sundays.

Out on her sunny cellar steps sits Mrs. Jerry Dustin, sorting onion sets
and seed potatoes.  She is a little, rounded old lady with silvery hair,
the softest, smoothest, fairest of complexions, forget-me-not eyes and a
smile that is as gladdening as a golden daffodil.  Few people know that
she has in her heart a longing to see the world, a longing so intense, a
life-long wanderlust so great that had she been a man it would have swept
her round the globe.  But she has never crossed the State line.  She has
big sons and daughters who all somehow have inherited their father's
stay-at-home nature.  Her youngest boy, Peter, however, is only seventeen
and on him she has built her last hopes.  He, like herself, has a gipsy
song in his heart and she often dreams of the places they will visit
together.

And while she is waiting for Peter to grow up she travels about and
around Green Valley.  She wanders far up the Glen Road into the deep
fairy woods between Green Valley and Spring Road.  Here she strays alone
for hours, searching for ferns and adventure.

Once a week she rides away to the city where she spends the morning in
the gay and crowded stores and the afternoon in the Art Institute.  She
never wearies of seeing pictures.  She never, if she can help it, misses
an exhibition, and whenever the day's doings have not tired her too much
this little old lady will steal off to the edge of the great lake and
dream of what lies in the world beyond its rim.  She often wishes she
could paint the restless stretch of water but though she knows its every
mood and though she is a wonderful judge of pictures she can not
reproduce except in words the lovely nooks and beauty spots of her little
world.

Perhaps it is this knowledge of her limitations that causes that little
strain of wistful sadness to creep into her voice sometimes and that
sends her very often out beyond the town, south along Park Lane to the
little Green Valley cemetery.

She loves to read on the mossy stones the unchanging little histories, so
brief but so eloquent, some of them.  The stone that interests her most
and that each time seems like a freshly new adventure is the simple shaft
that bears no name, no date, just the tenderly sweet and pathetic little
message:

    "I miss Thee so."

Mrs. Jerry Dustin knows very well for whom that low green bed was made
and who has had that little message of lonely love cut into stone.  But
she longs to know the rest of the story.

Sometimes she has a real adventure.  It was here at the cemetery one day
that she met Bernard Rollins, the artist.  He was out sketching the
fields that lie everywhere about, rounding and rolling off toward the
horizon with the roofs of homesteads and barns just showing above the
swells, with crows circling about the solitary clusters of trees, and men
and horses plodding along the furrows.

No artist could have passed Mrs. Jerry Dustin by, for in her face and
about her was the beauty that she had for years fed her soul.  So Rollins
spoke to her that summer day and they are friends now, great friends.
She visits his studio frequently and he tells her all about France or
Venice or wherever he has spent his busy summer.  And she sits and
listens happily.

Rollins bought out what used to be in Chicago's young days an old tavern
and half-way house.  It was a dilapidated old ruin, crumbling away in a
shaggy old orchard full of gnarled and ancient apple trees, satin-skinned
cherry trunks, some plums and peaches, and tangled shrubs of all kinds.

With the aid of his wife Elizabeth, some dollars and much work, Rollins
transformed the old ruin into the sort of a country place that one reads
about and imagines only millionaires may have.  They say that when Old
Skinflint Holden saw the transformation he stood stock-still, then tied
his team to the artistic hitching post under the old elms and went in
search of Rollins.  He found him in the orchard in the laziest of
hammocks literally worshipping the flowering trees all about him.  Old
Skinflint Holden was awed.

"Jehohasaphat!  Bern, how did you do it?"

"Oh," smiled the artist, "we cleaned and patched it, put on a new bit
here and there and sort of nursed it into shape.  Doc Philipps gave us
bulbs and seeds and loads of advice and then Elizabeth, I guess, sort of
loved it into a home."

"Well--I guess," mused Skinflint Holden.  "Must have cost you a pretty
penny?"

"Why, no, it didn't.  I'm telling you it wasn't a matter of dollars so
much as love.  If you use plenty of that you can economize on the money
somewhat.  Of course, it means work but love always means service, you
know."

Old Skinflint Holden couldn't understand that sort of talk.  It was said
that love was one of the things he knew nothing about.  His great star
was money.  He had had a chance to buy the old tavern but had seen no
possibilities in it of any kind.  So he had passed it up and now a man
whose star was love and home had made a paradise of the hopeless ruin.

"And I'll be danged if he didn't have a whole small field of them there
blue lilies that the children calls flags, over to one corner looking so
darn pretty, like a chunk of sky had dropped there.  I'd a never believed
it if I hadn't saw it.  I guess Doc Philipps didn't give him them."

Rollins is a great crony of Doc Philipps who almost any day of the year
may be caught burrowing in the ground.  For Doc Philipps is a tree maniac
and father to every little green growing thing.  He knows trees as a
mother knows her children and he never sets foot outside his front gate
without having tucked somewhere into the many pockets about his big
person a stout trowel, some choice apple seeds, peach and cherry stones
or seedlings of trees and shrubs.  In every ramble, and he is a great
walker, he searches for a spot where a tree seedling might grow to
maturity and the minute he finds such a place off comes his coat, back
goes his broad-rimmed hat and out comes the trowel and seed.  Travelers
driving along the road and catching sight of the big man on his knees say
to each other, "There's Doc Philipps, planting another tree."

Up in the big, prim old Howe house sits Madam Howe.  She is called Madam
to distinguish her from her daughter-in-law, Mrs. George Howe.  She is a
regal old lady of eighty-three and spends most of her time in her room
up-stairs where are gathered the wonderful heirlooms,--older, far older
than she.

There is the mellow brown spinning wheel, and armchairs nearly two
hundred years old and a walnut table that was mixed up in countless
weddings and a beautifully carved old chest and a brocade-covered settee.
There are old, old books and family portraits and there is the wonderful
Madam herself, regal and silver-haired.  If she likes you she will take
you to her great room and tell you about the Revolutionary War as it
happened in and to her family; and about her great ride westward in the
prairie schooner; about the Indians and the babyhood of great cities, and
the lovely wild flowers of the virgin prairie; about the wild animals,
the snakes, the pioneer men and women of what is now only the Middle West.

She will take from out that age-darkened, beautiful chest dresses and
bits of lace and samplers like the one that hangs framed above her
writing desk and tells how it was stitched by one,

      ABIGAIL WINSLOW PAGE,
          Age 13.

There is one thing you must always remember if you wish to stand in
Madam's good graces.  You must never sit down on the brocade-covered
settee with the beautiful rose wreath hand-carved on its gracefully
curving walnut back.  Some day when she gets to know you very well she
will tell you of the wonderful love stories that were enacted on that
settee.  She will begin away, away back with some great-great-grandmother
or some great-grand-aunt and come gradually down to her own time and
history; and as she tells of the young years of her life, her eyes will
go dreaming off into the past and she will forget you entirely.  And you
will slip away from that great room and leave her sitting there, regal
and silver haired, her face mellow and sweet with the golden memories of
far, by-gone days.

You can wander in this happy, aimless fashion all about Green Valley, go
in and out its deep-rooted old homes, stroll through its tree-guarded old
streets, and at every turn taste romance and adventure, revel in beauty
of some sort.  Even the old, red-brick creamery, ugly in itself, is a
thing of beauty when seen against a sunset sky.

The people who pass you on the streets all smile and nod, stranger though
you are.  And if you happen to be at the little undistinguished depot
just as the 6:10 pulls in, you will see pouring joyously out of it the
Green Valley men, those who every day go to the great city to work and
every night come thankfully back to their little home town to live.

They hurry along in twos and threes, waving newspaper and hand greetings
to the home folks and the store proprietors who stand in their doorways
to watch them go by.

There is a fragrant smell of supper in the air and a slight feel of
coming rain.  Here and there a mother calls a belated child.  Doors slam,
dogs bark and a baby frets loudly somewhere.  In somebody's chicken coop
a frightened, dozing hen gargles its throat and then goes to sleep again.
The frogs along Silver Creek and in Wimple's pond are going full blast,
and in her fragrant herb garden stands Grandma Wentworth.  She is looking
at the gold-smudged western sky and watching the sweet, spring night sift
softly down on Green Valley.

She stands there a long time sensing the great tide of new life that is
flushing the world into a new, tingling beauty.  She sees the lacy
loveliness of the birches, the budding green glory of her garden.  Then
she smiles as she tells herself:

"It won't be long now till the lilacs bloom again.  Nanny will be here
soon now.  And who knows!  Cynthia's boy may come back to live in his
mother's old home."



CHAPTER III

THE LAST OF THE CHURCHILLS

Even in beautiful Los Angeles days can be rainy and full of gnawing
cold and gloom.

On such a day Joshua Churchill lay dying.  He could have died days
before had he cared to let himself do so.  But he was holding on grimly
to the life he no longer valued and held off as grimly the death he
really craved.  He was waiting for the coming of the boy who was so
soon to be the last of the Churchills.

He meant, this grim old man, to live long enough to greet the boy whom
he remembered first as a baby, then as a little chap of ten, and later
as a shy boy of seventeen.

Joshua Churchill had been to India several times.  But he had never
stayed long.  He said that no man who had spent the greater part of his
life in Green Valley could ever be happy or feel at home anywhere else.

Joshua Churchill went to India to see his daughter and grandson; but
mostly to coax that daughter's wonderful husband to give up his
fanatically zealous work among the heathen of the Orient and come and
live in peace and plenty in a little Yankee town where there was a drug
store and a post office and a mossy gray old stone church with a mellow
bell in its steeple.

The wonderful and big son-in-law always listened respectfully to his
big Yankee father-in-law.  Then he would smile and point to the little
brown babies lying sick in their mothers' arms.

"Somebody," he would say gently, "must help and heal and neighbor with
these people."

As there was no answer that could be made to this the Yankee
father-in-law said nothing.  But the very last time he was in India he
looked sharply at his daughter and then said wearily and bitterly:

"Sinner and saint--we men are all alike.  We each in our own way kill
the women we love.  Cynthia is dying for a sight of Green Valley and
Green Valley folks."

At that Cynthia's husband cried out.  But Joshua Churchill did not stay
to argue.  He went away and never came back.  He wanted of course to go
back to Green Valley.  But he could not bear to live alone in the big
house where he had once been so happy.  So he went instead into exile.
And now he was dying in California.

As for Cynthia's husband, he discovered when it was too late to do any
good that while he had been saving the souls and the children of alien
women and men he had let the woman who was dearer to him than life die
slowly and unnoticed.  Saints have always done that and they always
will.

Joshua Churchill meant to stay alive long enough to explain the
shortcomings of both saints and sinners to the boy who was the last of
the Churchills.  He had half a mind to exact a promise from the boy.
He meant too to tell him a long and a rather strange story and implore
him to beware of a number of things.

But when Cynthia's son,--tall, bronzed and serene, smiled down on the
old man who even in death had the look of a master, the warnings, the
bitterness melted away and Joshua Churchill smiled back and sighed
gratefully.

"Well, son,--I don't know as that saint father of yours and your
sinning granddad made such a mess of things after all.  It's something
to give the world a man.  Go back home to Green Valley and marry a
Green Valley girl."

And without bothering to say another word Joshua Churchill died.

Nanny came back to her valley town when the budded lilacs dripped with
rain and the wooded hillsides were blurred with spring mists.

But Green Valley rain never bothered Nanny Ainslee.  Those who were not
out to greet her telephoned as soon as they heard she was back home
again.

And just as she had gone to help pack, Grandma Wentworth came to help
unpack.  There were three trunks besides those Nanny had taken, from
Green Valley.  Nanny laughed and chuckled as she explained.

"The joke's on father.  We met up with a nice American chap on our
travels.  He was so likable that father, who was pretty homesick by
that time and would have loved anything American, fell in love with
him.  I can't quite understand why I didn't lose my head too.  I came
mighty near it once or twice.  But the minute I'd think of that boy
here in Green Valley I'd grow cool and calm.  That's all that saved me,
I believe.  But father was quite taken with him and being a man he felt
sure that I must be.  He was so sure that my maiden days were over that
he dared to be funny.  One day he sent up these three brand new trunks
to the hotel.  Said I might as well get my trousseau while I was
gadding about this time.  Well--I was pretty mad for a minute.  But I
concluded that father wasn't the only one in our family who is fond of
a joke.  So I just blushed properly and went off shopping.  And I tell
you, Grandma, Green Valley will just grow cross-eyed looking at the
pretties that I have in these treasure chests.  I showed Dad every
mortal thing I bought and asked his advice and was oh, so shy--and
wondered if he just _could_ let me spend so much; and Dad just laughed
and said he guessed an only daughter could be a bit extravagant, and to
just go ahead.  So I smiled again shyly and demurely and went ahead.
And when not so much as a bit of ribbon or a chiffon veil could be
squeezed in anywhere I shut those trunks and sat on them and swung my
feet and bet Dad that I wouldn't marry that boy after all.  And he was
so sure that he was rid of me at last and that he could start out on
his next trip blissfully free and alone that he bet me Jim Gray's
Gunshot that I'd be married in six months to the gentleman in question.
Of course it was a disgraceful business, the two of us betting on a
thing like that, but somehow we never thought of that, we were so busy
teasing each other.  Well, of course Dad lost.  I refused that nice
chap three times in one week.  And here I am, heart-free still, with
three trunks of booty and the finest, blackest, and swiftest little
horse in the county--mine.  This has certainly been a profitable trip!
Poor Dad, he's so delightfully old-fashioned.  He does so believe in
early marriages and husbands and wedding veils.  And he thinks that
twenty-three is absolutely a grewsome age.  Poor Dad!  And he says too
that for what I have done to him in this trunk deal I shall be duly
punished.  That the good Lord who looks after the fathers of willful,
old-maidish daughters will see to that.  Why, he has gone so far as to
say that he wouldn't be surprised if I wound up by marrying some weird
country minister.  Fancy that!  Why, that from father is almost a
curse.  And he's worried sick about my riding Gunshot.  But I shall
manage.  So expect to see me dash up to your gate in great style any
day now."

"Nanny," warned Grandma, "I don't trust that horse either.  You'd
better be mighty careful.  That horse isn't mean but it's young and
scary."

Nan however laughed at fear and rode all about and around Green Valley
town.  And then one evening when she was least watchful and tired from
the long day's sport, a glaring red motor came honking unexpectedly
around the corner.  So sudden was its appearance, so startling its body
in the sunset light, so shrill its screeching siren, that the young
horse reared.  And Nan, caught unprepared, was helpless.

From the various groups of people standing about figures detached
themselves and shot across the square.  But before any one could reach
her or even see how it happened, a tall stranger was holding the daring
girl close against his breast with one arm, and the quivering young
horse with the other.

He was reassuring the frightened animal and looking quietly down at the
girl's face against his breast.  Under that quiet look Nan's blue-white
lips flushed with life and she tried to smile gratefully.  When he
smiled back and said, "So you _did_ get back by lilac time," Nan was
well enough to wonder what he meant.  And the little crowd of rescuers
arrived only just in time to hear Nanny thanking him.

But when he asked her where in Green Valley town Mary Wentworth lived
everybody stared and listened.  Even Nan came near staring.  But after
the puzzled look her face broke into a smile.

"Oh--you mean Grandma Wentworth?"

He smiled too and said, "Perhaps.  I am a stranger in Green Valley.
But my mother was a Green Valley girl.  She was Cynthia Churchill and
Mary Wentworth was her dearest friend."

"Then you are--why, you must be--" stammered Nanny.

"I am Cynthia Churchill's son."

"From India?" questioned Nan.

"From India," he said quietly.

From out the group of Green Valley folks, now dim in the May twilight,
a voice spoke.

"You may come from India but if you are Cynthia Churchill's son you are
a Green Valley man and this is home.  So I say--welcome home."

Roger Allan, straight and tall and speaking with a sweetness in his
voice those listening had never heard before, stepped up to the young
man with outstretched hand.

The young stranger looked for a moment at the dimming streets, into the
kindly faces about him, and then shook hands gladly.

"It is good to be home," he said, "but I wish I had mother here with
me."



CHAPTER IV

A RAINY DAY

On a rainy day Green Valley is just as interesting as it is in the
sunshine.  Somehow though the big trees sag and drip and the wind sighs
about the corners there is nothing mournful about the streets.

The children go to school just as joyously in raincoats and rubber
boots.  Their round glad faces, minus a tooth here and there, smile up
at you from under big umbrellas.  After the school bell rings the
streets do get quiet but there is nothing depressing about that; for as
you pass along you see at doors and windows the contented faces of busy
women.

Old Mrs. Walley sits at her up-stairs front window sewing carpet rags.
Grandma Dudley at her sitting room window is darning her
grandchildren's stockings and carefully watching the street.  Whenever
anybody passes to whom she wants to talk she taps on the window with
her thimble.  She is a dear entertaining old soul but hard to get away
from.  Women with bread at home waiting to be put into pans and men
hungry for their supper try not to let Grandma Dudley catch sight of
them.

Bessie Williams always makes cinnamon buns or doughnuts on rainy days.
She always leaves her kitchen door open while she is doing this because
she says she likes to hear the rain while she is working--that it
soothes her nerves.

So as you come up from around Bailey's strawberry patch and Tumley's
hedge you get a whiff of such deliciousness as makes your mouth water.
And more than likely Bessie sees you and comes running out with a few
samples of her heavenly work.  As you dispose of those cinnamon buns
you forget that Bessie's voice is a trifle too high and too sweet, and
that she is inclined to be at times a bit overly religious and too
watchful of what she calls "vice" in people.

Over in front of the hotel Seth Curtis is standing up in his wagon and
sawing his horses' mouths cruelly.  Seth has been so viciously
mistreated in his youth that he now abuses at times the very things
that he loves.  He has paid two hundred and fifty dollars apiece for
those horses and is mighty proud of them.  But Seth's temper is never
good on a rainy day.  Rain means no teaming and a money loss.  Seth is
a mite too conscious of money.  At any rate, the loss of even a dollar
makes him a sullen and at the least provocation an angry man.  He isn't
liked much except by his wife and children.

In his home Seth is gentle and kind.  Maybe because here he finds the
love and trust that all his life he has craved and been denied.  Few of
his neighbors know how he laughs and romps and sings with his children
and what wonderful yarns he tells them, all made up out of his own head.

He is known to come from York State and has a Yankee shrewdness that
some people say can at times be called something else.  He is wide and
square-shouldered though short, has a round stubborn head of reddish
hair with a promising bald spot, close-set blue eyes and an annoying,
almost an insulting habit of paying all his bills promptly and asking
odds and favors of nobody.

To-day he was to have taken a load of stones, granite niggerheads of
all sizes, up to Colonel Stratton's place.  The Colonel is going to
make a fern bed around his summer house.

Colonel Stratton is a real military colonel.  He wears burnsides and
they are very becoming.  He has the most beautifully located residence
in Green Valley and like Doc Philipps has some of the most beautiful
trees in town.  The great silver-leaf poplar guarding the wide front
lawns and the magnificent hardwood maples are the pride of the
colonel's heart.

The colonel has a cultivated garden that keeps his gardener pretty
busy.  But the wild-flower garden along the rambling old north fence
the colonel tends himself.  In June it is a hedge of lovely wild roses
followed a little later by masses of purple phlox.  Then come the
meadow lilies and the painted cup and so on, until in late October you
can not see the old fence for the goldenrod, asters and gentians.

Today the colonel hoped to work on his fern bed but the weather being
what it is he takes instead from his well-filled book shelves "The
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" and settles down to a day of
solid joy.

In the big, softly stained house that stands in the solemn shade of
immense pines, just diagonally across from the colonel's house, lives
and labors Joshua Stillman, a man with the most wonderful memory, the
readiest tongue when there is real need of it, a little man brimful of
the most varied information and the sharpest humor.

For forty years and more he has been Green Valley's self-appointed
librarian.  He draws no salary except the joy of doing what he loves to
do and he squanders, as his friends truly suspect, much secret money of
his own on it.  The library is housed in the old church in a room so
small and dark that it hides the big work of this little man.

Joshua Stillman must be old but nobody ever thinks of what his age
might be, he is so very much alive.  He goes to the city every day and
comes back early every afternoon.  As he so seldom talks about himself
nobody knows exactly what he does except that it has to do with books
and small print.

Like Madam Howe, Joshua Stillman comes from the Revolutionary War
district and has great family traditions to uphold.  He upholds them
with great humor.  Not only is he full of old war and family lore, but
he has been mixed up with things literary.  He has known men such as
Lowell and tells yarns about Emerson and Oliver Wendell Holmes.

He too came West in a prairie schooner and remembers all its wildness,
its uncouthness, its railroadless state.  And he tells marvellous
stories about snakes, Indians and the little Chicago town built out on
the mudflats.  He remembers very well indeed the steady stream of
ox-teams toiling over the few crude state roads.  And he has in his
house rare volumes, valuable editions of famous works.  He lets you
examine these if he thinks you are trustworthy and have a gentle way
with books.

There is another rare soul, the Reverend Alexander Campbell, who must
be introduced this rainy spring day.  He is a retired Green Valley
minister and is full of humor and wisdom.  He is an easily traced
descendant of the Scottish Stuarts.  On a rainy day you will always
find him busy writing up the history of his family.  Not that he
himself cares a fig for his genealogy.  He is writing the book because
it gives him something to do and earns him a little peace from the
women folks.

He is a man whom the Lord has seen fit to try with a host of female
relatives, all family proud.  He can fight the Devil and has done so
quite gallantly in four or five volumes of really good old-fashioned
sermons, "books," as he will tell you with a twinkle in his eye, "that
nobody could or would read nowadays."  But he can not fight the women
of his family, so with a mournful chuckle he sits down every rainy day
and labors mightily on this great "historical work."

On sunny days he goes about his grounds, petting his trees and his
chickens, and working in his garden.  He has several ingenious methods
of fighting weeds and raises the earliest, best and latest sweet corn
in Green Valley.

But men like the Colonel and Joshua Stillman and the Reverend Alexander
Campbell are representatives of Green Valley's leisure class.  They
give Green Valley its high peace, its aristocratic flavor.  But they
are a little remote from the town's workday life, being given to dreams
and memories and scholarly pursuits.  They know little of the doings
and talks that go on in Billy Evans' livery barn, or the hotel.  They
do, of course, go to the barber shop, the bank and the postoffice, and
always when abroad give courteous greeting to every townsman.  But they
have never sat in the smoky, red-painted blacksmith shop or among the
patriarchs and town wits who in summer keep open-air sessions on the
wide, inviting platform in front of Uncle Tony's hardware store, and in
winter hold profound meetings around the store's big, glowing stove.

Uncle Tony's is the most social spot in town and is from a
news-gathering point of view most ideally situated.  Sitting in one of
the smooth-worn old armchairs that Uncle Tony always keeps handy, you
can view the very heart of Green Valley's business life.  Without
turning your head scarcely you can keep an eye on Martin's drug store,
keep tab on the comings and goings of the town's two doctors, and the
hotel's arriving and departing guests.  If a commotion of any kind
occurs in front of Robert Hill's general store you see all the details
without losing count of the various parties who go in and out of Green
Valley's new bank.

Twice a day the active part of Green Valley dribbles into the
post-office where friends instantly pair off and mere acquaintances
stand idly by and discuss the weather.  Besides its mail, Green Valley
usually buys two cents' worth of yeast and a dozen of baker's buns and
then goes down the street and orders its regular groceries at Jessup's.

Jessup's has been the one Green Valley grocery store ever since the
flood or thereabout, so venerable an establishment is it.  Green Valley
would as soon think of changing its name as permitting a new grocer to
open up a rival store.  And nobody dreams of disloyalty when buying
trifles at the post-office.  In fact housewives are openly glad that
Dick, the postmaster, has taken to keeping strictly fresh yeast for
their leisure days and nice bakery things for times of stress and
unexpected company.

Dick Richards is a small, smiling, curly-headed man who looks older
than he should.  This is because he wears a big man's mustache and is a
self-made boy.  His parents died when he was barely old enough to
realize his loss and since then he has fought the world without a
single weapon unless cheerfulness and a giant patience can be called
weapons.  Small, ungifted, he early learned to be content with little.
But side by side with this cheerful content is always the giant hope of
great things to come.  And so though Green Valley buys only its yeast
and buns over his little counter he is happy and wraps each purchase up
carefully.  And all the time he is thoughtfully, carefully setting out
other handy things and aids to the harassed housewife.  For with his
giant patience Dick is waiting,--waiting and planning for a time that
is coming, that he knows must come.  He talks these matters over with
no one except Joe Baldwin.  He and Joe are great friends.  Joe's little
shop is such a restful, hopeful place and Joe himself a gentle rather
than a loud and swearing man.  One can talk things over joyfully with
Joe and feel sure of having one's confidence understood and kept.  Like
Joe, Dick shrinks a little from the noisy, wholly earthy atmosphere of
the livery barn and blacksmith shop.  He and Joe often go together of a
Saturday to the barber shop.  They usually stay after closing hours for
the barber is their mutual friend.

This barber, John Gans, is a talker, a somewhat fierce and vehement
little man who lectures on many subjects but mostly on human rights and
politics.  Joe and Dick, both silent men, look with awe at John's great
mental and discoursive powers.  And because his views are theirs they
listen with something like joyful gratitude to hear their own thoughts
so clearly and fearlessly expressed.

The fiery little barber is thought by some to be a German anarchist and
by others a Russian socialist.  Joe and Dick have been repeatedly
warned against him.  But they are his loyal friends at all times.  This
three-cornered friendship is little understood by the town and
ridiculed as a childish thing by the great minds that foregather at
Uncle Tony's.

But Grandma Wentworth remarked one Saturday afternoon, right in the
heart of town too, when Main Street was so crowded that everything that
was said aloud would be told and retold at church the next moraine and
repeated through the countryside the week following,--pointing to Joe,
Dick and John who all three happened to be going to the bank for
change,--"There go Green Valley's three good little men.  And that
makes me think.  I have another letter from Nanny Ainslee from Italy
enclosing foreign stamps for John."

Now until then nobody knew that John Gans was collecting stamps.  But
that's Grandma Wentworth.  She always knows things about people that
nobody else knows.  And when any Green Valley folks go a-traveling they
sooner or later write to Grandma Wentworth.  Sooner or later they get
homesick for Green Valley and they write for news to the one person
who, they know, will not fail to answer.

Of course some of them, like Jamie Danby, get into trouble.  Jamie ran
away from home with a third-rate show.  The show got stranded somewhere
in the western desert and Jamie wanted to come home.  He knew that his
mother would be glad to see him but he wasn't at all sure of his
father.  So he wrote to Grandma Wentworth, begging her to fix things
up.  And she did.

And there was Tommy Dudley who went away home-steading somewhere out
West and who writes regularly to Grandma Wentworth in this fashion:

". . . for heaven's sake send me your baking-powder biscuit recipe and
how do you make buckwheat pancakes, and send me all kinds of vegetable
seeds and what's good for chicken lice and a sore throat, and tell
Carrie Bailey I ain't forgot her and that as soon as I've got things
going half-way straight here I'll come back and get her.  Just now the
dog, the mules and chickens and a family of mice and I are all living
peacefully together in the one room but we're awful healthy if a good
appetite is any kind of a sign.  I can't write to Carrie because her
folks open all her letters and they'd nag her into marrying that old
knock-kneed, squint-eyed, fat-necked son-of-a-gun of an Andrew Langly,
if they thought she was having anything to do with a worthless heathen
cuss like me.  And say, Grandma, throw in some of your flower seeds,
those right out of your own garden, you know, the tall ones along the
fence and the little ones with the blue eyes and the still white ones
that smell so sweet.  You don't know how lonesome I get off here.  I've
got that picture of you in the sunbonnet right where it's handy, but
how I wish I had a picture of you without the sunbonnet so's I could
see your face, and say, Grandma, since I've been alone out here I've
come to see the sense in praying now and then, and tell Freddy Williams
I'll knock the stuffin's out of him when I hit town which will be in
about two years at the latest.  He knows what for.  Is Hank Lolly still
talking his way into three square meals a day and drinks, and is all
the news still ground over at Uncle Tony's gossip factory and is Mert
Hagley as big a tightwad as ever and is it true that Billy Evans
married a red-headed girl from Bloomingdale and started a livery barn,
and has Green Valley got a minister yet that's suitable to you and
Uncle Roger Allan?  I'll have to stop and run out to the mail box with
this.  The nearest one is twenty-five miles away but that's near in
this country and now for pity's sake, Grandma, don't forget . . ."

She didn't forget a thing.  The messages were all delivered, the seeds
sent off and every question fully answered.  Grandma did more than
that.  She had Nanny Ainslee take pictures of the various Green Valley
institutions while going full blast.  How Tommy laughed at the familiar
faces in Uncle Tony's armchairs and at Hank Lolly leaning up against
the livery barn, and how homesick he grew as he looked at the crowd
getting off at the station, and the school children playing in the old
school yard where he used to play.  The picture of Grandma Wentworth
and Carrie standing on Grandma's front porch hurt his throat and shook
him strangely.  That was Tommy Dudley.

And there was Susie Melton.  Grandma saved and remade Susie that time
she went to New York to see the world.  Susie had taught a country
school for twenty years, ever since she was sixteen, and that trip to
New York was her first vacation.  Susie was an innocent soul and the
very second day in the great city some heartless thief took everything
out of her purse but a two-cent stamp.  Susie was panic-stricken and
the only thing she could think of was Grandma Wentworth's face.  So she
took that stamp and sent a letter to Green Valley and it was Grandma
Wentworth who really managed that vacation though to this day nobody
but she herself knows how and she won't tell.  Susie came back so
rejuvenated, with such color in her cheeks, such brightness in her
eyes, and so much snap and spunk in her system that Jake Tuttle up and
married her two months after she came home.  And he's been happy ever
since for in spite of her school-teaching handicap Susie has turned out
to be a born cook and housewife.  And as if to make up to her those
twenty colorless years Providence sent Susie twin boys at the end of
her first year and twin girls at the end of the third.

This blossoming out of little drab Susie Melton was a shock to Green
Valley.  But Grandma Wentworth wasn't a mite surprised and said she
knew that Susie would come into her own some day.  As for Jake, he is
so in love with his rosy little wife and his four good-looking children
that he just goes on raising bumper crops without hardly knowing how he
does it.  And he says he doesn't hanker much after heaven; that home is
plenty good enough for him.  And when he goes to town Jake takes care
to tie his team in front of Billy Evans' place instead of the hotel.

"Not that I can't take a drink or two and stop," he explained to Billy,
"but I have good cider and buttermilk and Susie's grape juice to home
and the smartest of us ain't any too wise while we stand beside a bar.
And I'd ruther go home dead than go back to Susie and the children the
least bit silly with liquor.  When the Almighty sends a man like me a
family like mine He's got something in His mind and I ain't agoing to
spoil things just for a drink or two of slops."

So on rainy days Billy's office is the gathering place for such men as
find the atmosphere in the hotel and blacksmith shop a little too
fragrantly spirited for their eventual domestic happiness.

Not that Billy is a teetotaler.  No, indeed.  He has his drink whenever
he wants it.  And he good-naturedly permits such staggering wretches as
the hotel refuses to accommodate to sleep it off in his barns.  And he
is the only man in Green Valley who ever seriously hired Hank Lolly and
kept him sober twelve hours at a stretch.  The other business men make
considerable fun of Billy's hired help; the trifling boys he hires,
boys that everybody else has tried and sent packing.  Billy says
nothing though he did explain fully to Grandma Wentworth once.

"You see it's like this, Grandma.  I ain't fixed to pay fancy wages
just yet and those kids that everybody runs down ought to be off the
streets doing something.  Of course some of them _are_ trifling.  But I
ain't such a stickler for sharp-edged goodness myself nor in any way at
all virtuous.  I'm terrible easy-going myself and I know just how kids
like Charlie Pinley feel working for a man, a careful, exact man like
Mr. James D. Austin.  By gosh! if I had to work a whole week for Mr.
Austin I'd kill myself.  Never could stand too much neatness and
worrying about time being money and human nature too full of meanness.
No, sir,--I can't live like that.  I guess maybe it's because I'm kind
of no-account myself that I understand these kids and they understand
me.  They all like horses same as me and I pay them all I can afford
and will do more for them when things pick up and grow.

"Now there's people as laugh about me hiring Hank Lolly.  I guess it's
the first time Hank has ever held a job longer than a week.  But I tell
you, Grandma, I like Hank and I understand him.  And I don't ever think
I'm fit enough myself to be forever preaching at him about reforming.
I figure that what a man eats and drinks is none of my business in a
way.  But I did explain to Hank that if he would come and work for me
I'd furnish him with so many drinks every day and meals and a
comfortable place to sleep.  I showed him that it was better to be sure
of a few drinks every day than to get blind drunk on a week's wages and
then go weeks maybe without a decent spree, without decent meals, maybe
without underwear and an overcoat.  And Hank saw the sense of that.  He
gets his meals up at the house.  My old woman (Billy's wife was a
pretty girl of twenty-three and still a bride) sides in with what I'm
doing and she sets Hank down every day to three square meals.  And a
man just can't hold so much liquor on a comfortably filled stomach.
Anyhow, Hank is doing fine and I'm putting a few dollars in the bank
unbeknownst for him.  I can't trust him just yet with any noticeable
amount of cash.  But I'm never down on him for his drinking.  No, sir!
Every time he feels that he must get drunk or die why he just comes up
and tells me and I get him whatever he thinks he needs for his jag and
let him get full right here where I can watch him.  Why--Grandma, Hank
has an easier life than I have.  He doesn't need to worry about
anything and he knows it.  And I'll be goshed if I don't think he's
improving.  He don't need a jag near so often as he used to and I can
trust him now with any kind of work.  Why, only last week I gave him a
moving job, a big one, and sent him off twenty miles with my two best
teams.  And he brought those loads of furniture back O. K., dry and
without a scratch, though I couldn't sleep all night listening to the
buckets of rain dashing against the house and thinking of Hank drunk
out there in it with the furniture and wagons in splinters and the
horses dead maybe.  And honest, when I saw him pull up into the barns,
I just hauled him off that seat and--well--I just said things, told him
what I thought of him and how I appreciated what he'd done.  'And now,
Hank,' I says, 'you can have the greatest old jag you've ever planned
on for this.'

"And I'm goshed if he didn't laugh out kind of funny and says he,
'Billy, I'm so goldarned wet right now that I couldn't stand another
drop of wetness anywhere.  But all these five hours that the rain was
a-sloshing me I kept thinking of them there apple dumplings with cream
that Mrs. Evans makes (Hank always calls the old woman Mrs. Evans).
So, Billy, if it's all the same to you and I could get full on them
there apple dumplings, why, them's my choice.'

"Well--say, I just jumped to the telephone and I guess the old woman
was making apple dumplings before I got through talking.  Anyway, Hank
filled up so that he said he felt like a flour barrel with an apple
tree a-sprouting out of it.  And Doc Philipps says it's a good sign,
Hank liking sweet things that way, because a man soaked in alcohol
can't abide sweets.

"And so that's Hank.  Now this week I hired that little spindle-legged
Barney boy.  I hired him to keep this dumbed office clean so's my old
woman wouldn't raise such hell every time she steps in here.  I'm
goshed if this here stove don't get fuller of ashes quicker than any
other stove in Green Valley.  And you know the boys who come in here do
spit about careless like and that dumbed screen door is always open and
the calendars do get specked up considerable.  And the old woman is
just where I don't want her being upset about anything.

"Well, I hired that Barney boy to keep the place clean.  You know that
So-and-So (we won't mention any names) fired him because he said the
kid stole money.  Well, now--Grandma, you know that's a hard thing to
start out a boy in life with in a town of this size, especially a
little spindle-legged one at that.  I felt real sorry for the young one
so I calls him in here day before yisterday and I says:

"'Look here, Barney, could you keep this place clean?'

"'Sure,' he says.

"'All right, then sail in now.  The broom's right behind the door
somewheres and scarcely used and there's sawdust and rags somewheres in
the barn.  Ask Hank about them.  And Barney,' I says, 'here's the money
in this right-hand drawer.  Sometimes people come in when everybody's
out and you might have to make change.'

"The boy kind of flushed but I didn't let on I noticed.  I only said,
'You know, Barney, I'm just beginning this business and I'm poor so you
keep a sharp eye on the change and help me get this business going
lickety-split so's we'll all be rich together.  For when the profits go
up here the wages are going up.  It isn't just my livery barn, Barney,
but yours, too, so just you go to it and if ever you want anything or
make a mistake just you come and tell me and it'll be all right.'

"Now, Grandma, that's all I said to that young one and I'll be goshed
if I don't think that kid's turning out to be the best bet I've made.
But, of course, I always think that about every one of them.  But,
honestly, Grandma, Barney has brought in five new customers and last
week he kept chinning and holding on to a sixth man that come in here
until I came in and made the deal.  Never let go of him a minute and
just entertained him to kill time and give me a chance to get here.
And I'm going to buy some books to learn myself and Barney bookkeeping.
We can't none of us keep books here and that dumbed account book is
lost every time you want it and I've got the poorest memory.  Of
course, now and then a party comes in and tries to get out of paying
but the boys usually settle him and so I don't lose much that way.  But
the old woman wants me to do this slick and proper and her word goes.
So Barney and I are going to study.

"I'm telling you all this, Grandma, because you always did understand
my crazy way of doing things ever since that time when you sent me to
the store for that can of molasses and I give the money to the tramp
instead.  Remember?"

Billy laughed heartily at the memory and Grandma Wentworth laughed,
too, laughed so hard that she had to wipe her eyes.  And she smiled all
the way home.

"Some day," said Grandma Wentworth to her old friend and neighbor,
Roger Allan, "I'll ask some minister to preach a sermon on 'God's
Humor.'  I suppose that the Almighty gets so tired running things just
so and listening to petitions for sunshine and petitions for rain and
to prayers for automobiles and diamonds and interest on mortgages and
silk stockings, death and babies that some days he just gets tired of
being a serious God and shuffles things up for a joke.  And, mark me,
Roger, that boy, Billy Evans, is just one of God's tender jokes.  If
only people would see that and laugh.

"Now, Billy has no money sense, no business ability.  That's what the
real business men like George Hoskins and all the old blessed Solomons
at Uncle Tony's say.  Yet Billy is making money.  His business is
growing just because without knowing it Billy has got hold of the
biggest force in the world to run his business.  He's just using
love,--plain, old-fashioned love,--and love is making money for Billy.
He's picked out of the very gutters all the human waste and rubbish
that the others, the wise business men, threw there and with the town's
worst drunkard and half a dozen mistreated, misborn, misunderstood boys
he's playing the business game and winning.  He's got the knack of
making his help feel like partners and he's so square and sensible in
his dealings with them that they are all ready to die for him.  Now if
that isn't the greatest kind of a business gift I want to know.

"And every time I think of smiling, untidy Billy Evans with a pretty
wife as neat as wax, living in a house that she has made as sweet and
pretty as a picture--well--I just laugh.  Nobody but God could have
arranged things and balanced them up like that.  Talk about any of us
improving things in this world!  If we'd only learn to mind our own
business as well as God minds His."

But very few besides Grandma Wentworth understood Billy and his livery
barn.  Even Joe Baldwin failed to see just what Billy was doing in his
droll, unconscious, warm-hearted way.  Still Joe liked Billy.  In fact,
everybody liked Billy.  And he was welcomed everywhere and nowhere more
than in George Hoskins' blacksmith shop.

Next to the bank building George Hoskins was considered the most solid
thing in town.  He was the brawny blacksmith and people said a very
rich man.  He was big in every way.  Big in body, big in temper, big in
his friendships, big in his drinks.  He was indeed so big a man that he
did not know how to be mean or little in any way.  He did not know his
own great strength nor think much of the weakness of his fellows.  His
grand proportions and great simplicity were what attracted men to him.
Women did not know and so could not like him.

To them George Hoskins was a great, grimy ogre.  George, big in all
things, was big in his love for the tiny woman who was his wife.  Other
women George did not see though he spoke to them on the street.  He had
pleaded on bended knees for the love of his tiny woman and when he got
her all other women became just strange shadows.  So only his wife and
Doc Philipps knew how tender a heart was his.

Green Valley housewives caught glimpses of this man's great figure
towering above the roaring forge and saw the crowd of lesser men, their
husbands, gathered about him.  They went home and told each other that
George Hoskins was a big, rude brute, that he drank like a fish and
would bring the town to ruin, for he was the village president.

And while they were saying these things about George Hoskins he was
perhaps throwing out of his shop some smug traveling man who had
stepped into it to get in out of the rain and had mistakenly tried to
make himself at home there by telling a filthy yarn that sullied all
womanhood.

These then are a few of the many human attractions of Green Valley.
They are listed here to give the right sort of setting and the proper
feel to this story of Green Valley life.



CHAPTER V

CYNTHIA'S SON

So Cynthia's son came home and Green Valley took him to its heart and
loved him as it had loved his mother long ago.  Everywhere he was
spoken of as Cynthia's boy and no one seemed to remember that he was
born in heathen India instead of in the old porticoed house on the
Churchill farm.

Green Valley knew that very first week, of course, that Cynthia's son
was very nearly twenty-eight years old and that his full name was John
Roger Churchill Knight.  But what it did not know for some weeks was
that among other interesting things Cynthia's son was a minister, a
duly certified preacher of the gospel.  It was remembered in a general
way that Cynthia's husband had been some sort of a wonderful foreign
missionary or something; but a man who was Joshua Churchill's only
grandchild and heir needed no other ancestor.  So Green Valley was
astounded one Sunday morning, when the Reverend Campbell was
unexpectedly ill, and the Reverend Courtney off somewhere answering a
new call, and Green Valley without a pastor, to have Cynthia's boy
quietly offer to take charge of the services.

If Green Valley was astounded to hear that Cynthia's son was a minister
it was too awed to speak in anything but an amazed whisper of that
first sermon that the tall young man from India talked off so quietly
from the pulpit of the old gray stone church.

To this day they tell how without a scrap of paper to look at, without
raising his voice in the slightest, this boy made Green Valley listen
as it had never listened before.  For an hour he talked and for that
length of time Green Valley neighbored with India, saw it as plainly as
if it was looking over an unmended, sagging old fence right into
India's back yard.

With the simplicity of a child this boy with Cynthia Churchill's eyes
and smile and voice told of Indian women and children and Indian homes.
The colors, the smells, the mystic beauty and the dark tragedy of it he
painted and then very gently and easily he told of his trip back to his
mother's home town and so without a jar he landed his listeners,
wide-eyed, breathless and prayerfully thankful for their manifold
blessings back in their own sunlit and tree-guarded streets.

For no reason at all seemingly Green Valley began to wipe its eyes and
come out of its trance.  Neighbor looked at neighbor and strange things
were seen to have happened.

Old man Wiley, the aged and chronically sleepy janitor was actually
sitting wide awake.  Old Mrs. Vingie, who for years annoyed every Green
Valley parson by holding her hand to her right ear and pretending to be
deafer than she really was, was sitting bolt upright, both ears and
hands forgotten.  For once Dolly Beatty forgot to fuss with her hat or
admire her hands in the new lavender gloves two sizes too small.  The
choir even forgot to flirt and yawn and never once looked bored or
superior.

Jimmy Rand, after having carefully inserted in his hymn book a copy of
Diamond Dick's latest exploits, forgot to read it.  And the row of
little boys whose mothers always made them sit in the very first pew
never so much as thought of kicking each other's shins or passing a
hard pinch down the line or even quietly swapping lucky stones and fish
hooks for a snake skin or a choice piece of colored glass.

Why, it was even reported that Mert Hagley so far forgot himself as to
absent-mindedly drop a bill into the basket when it came by.  Some
said, of course, that Mert was after the repair work on the old
Churchill homestead but those nearest Mert swore that this could not
be, that Mert had looked as surprised as those around him when he saw
what he had done.  Green Valley laughed and said a miracle had
happened.  And even Seth Curtis got curious and remarked that he had
half a mind to go and hear the boy himself, that anybody who could peel
a bill off of Mert Hagley's roll was surely a curiosity.

Cynthia's son had walked with Roger Allan through the twilight of his
first real day in Green Valley to Grandma Wentworth's cottage and the
three had sat talking until the small hours.  Then Grandma had taken
Cynthia's tall son up-stairs into the large airy guest room.  She came
down a little later to find Roger gazing at a framed photograph of a
long gone day.

She came and looked too at the group of young faces.  At herself, then
a girl of eighteen; at the boy beside her who later became her husband;
and at Cynthia, lovely Cynthia Churchill, laughing out at life in her
sweet yet serious way.

"Well, Roger," Grandma spoke softly with a hint of tears in her voice,
"we have waited years, you and I, for a message from her, a heart
message.  And now it has come--it has come.  She has sent us her boy."

"Yes," breathed Roger Allan, "she has sent us the message--she has sent
me her son."

They knew, these two, why he had come.  It may be that even the tall
young man whose father and mother were sleeping the long sleep in
far-off India may have guessed why in the end the frail but still
lovely mother had begged him to go back to Green Valley, to its sweet
old homes and warm-hearted folk.  To bring comfort and find it--that
had been the little mother's plan.

He believed he would find it.  The loneliness that had tired him so
ever since his mother slipped away was no longer a sharp, never silent
pain, a great emptiness, but rather a sweet sorrow that was almost a
friend.

He slept in the big airy room with its patchwork quilt of blue and
white, its rugs and curtains to match, and looked at pictures of his
mother.  From the windows he watched the sun rise and shine on the
merry little hills and the yellow road that wound up to his mother's
old home.  As he breathed in the wine of the spring mornings he
comprehended the great hunger, the wild longing, that at times must
have overwhelmed the little mother in those last days in India.  And he
thought he understood those last words of hers.

"Son, you must stay with your father as long as he needs you.  But when
that duty is over you must go back to the little green town on the
other side of the world.  Your father and I brought a message to India.
You must take one back to my people.  Oh, you will love it--you will
love it--the little dear town full of friends and everywhere the
fragrance of home.  Oh, there are many there who will love you for my
sake and who will make up to you for--me."

Her hand caressed his hair and her voice trailed off into a sigh for
she knew what he didn't, wouldn't believe--that she was never to see
that little green town across the gray-green ocean waves.

At the very last she had whispered:

"Oh, Boy of Mine, when you go home greet them all for me.  And if ever
you go to rummaging about in the attic remember you must never open the
square trunk with the brass nail heads unless Mary Wentworth is there
to explain.  Tell Mary I love her and that I am not sorry.  She will
understand."

So as he looked out of Grandma Wentworth's upstairs windows he
remembered those last talks and understood that yearning for home.
When he had been in Green Valley only a few weeks the old life began to
grow vague and unreal.  The mother was real and near.  But the splendid
figure of his father was fading into a strange memory.  He was a father
to be proud of, that strong, cool, selfless man who had asked nothing
of life but to take what it would of him.

He had seemed so towering, so enduring, that preacher father.  Yet when
the frail mother went the strong man followed within a year.  So then
there was nothing to do but go home to Green Valley.  He went.  And the
spirit of the vivid little mother seemed to have come with him.  Every
day that he spent in the town that had reared her seemed to bring her
nearer.  He could picture her going about the sunny roads and friendly
streets and stopping to chat and neighbor with Green Valley folks.

So he too roamed over the town and chatted and neighbored as he felt
she would have done.  That was how he came to know every nook and
cranny, every turn of the happily straying roads and all the lame, odd,
damaged and droll characters that make a town home just as the
broken-nosed pitcher, the cracked old mirror in an up-stairs bedroom,
and the sagging old armchair in the shadowy corner of the sitting room
make home.

Not only did he come to know these people but he understood them.  For
his was the quick eye and interpreting heart willed him by a great
father and an equally great mother.  And because he came into Green
Valley with a fresh mind and a keen appetite for life nothing escaped
him, not even old Mrs. Rosenwinkle sitting in paralyzed patience beside
the open window of her little blind house.

He was strolling one day up the little grassy lane, thinking that it
led into the cool, thick grove back of the little house that stared so
blindly out into the green world.  He had been following a new bird and
it had darted into the grove.  So he came upon the little house and the
still grim old soul who sat at the open window as if to guard that
little end of the world.

It was a snug, still spot, that little green lane, and was so carpeted
with thick grasses and screened with verdure that the harsh noises of a
chattering, working world could not ruffle its peace and serenity.
Cynthia's son filled it and the still, lonely old woman was fascinated
with his bigness, his merry gladness, but most of all with his
understanding friendliness.  She told him all her story, her past
trials and present griefs.  And he told her strange things about people
he had seen in other parts of the world, blind people living in foul
alleys instead of sunny lanes, crippled ones with neither home nor kin
of any kind.  He told her much but made no effort to convince her that
the earth was round, and when he went he left with her the very fine
pair of field glasses with which he had been tracking the wonderful
song bird that had escaped him.  He showed her how to use them and for
the first time in fifteen years old Mrs. Rosenwinkle forgot that she
was paralyzed.

When he came in to his supper that evening Cynthia's son wanted to know
why old Mrs. Rosenwinkle couldn't have a wheel-chair, one of those that
she could work with her hands.  He said that he thought she must be
pretty tired sitting beside that window even if it was open.  And why
couldn't she have a window on each of the other sides of her room?

Grandma stared.

"My stars--boy!  There's no reason that I know of why that old body
can't have a wheel chair or more windows.  Only Green Valley hasn't
ever thought of it.  She's always been so set in her notions and so out
of the way of things that I expect we have forgotten her."

The third time that Cynthia's son brought little Jim Tumley home
because the little man's wandering feet could not find their way to
shelter, he wanted to know why little Jim was not in the choir.  So
Grandma told him, and it was his turn to be puzzled.

"But I don't understand.  The church is for the weak, the needy, the
blind, maimed and foolish who don't know how to seek happiness wisely.
The happy, strong, sensible people don't, as a matter of fact, need
looking after," said Cynthia's son.

"My!" laughed Grandma, "I believe I've heard that or read that
somewhere.  Do they really practice that kind of religion in aged
India?  In these parts the churches are still built by the good for the
good and the unfit have to shift for themselves."

But when he asked why Jim Tumley didn't have a piano to take up his
spare time and keep him out of harm's way, Grandma was a bit
scandalized.

"Why, people in Jim Tumley's circumstances don't own pianos.  It
wouldn't be proper.  A second-hand organ is all they have any right to
be ambitious for.  Why, Mary Tumley would no more think of touching her
savings, of buying a piano, than I would think of buying a second black
silk or a diamond ring.  So much style would be wicked."

"But if it would help to save the little man--if--"

"Well," smiled Grandma, "I'll mention it to Mary the very next time I
see her."

"Do.  And while you are about it you might ask Jim to sing a solo for
us both Sunday morning and evening.  If little Jim Tumley doesn't sing
I won't talk," said the Reverend John Roger Churchill Knight.

So Joshua Churchill's rich grandson, Cynthia's son, traveled the high
roads and low roads and had all manner of experiences and adventures
and he discovered many stray, odd facts which later came in mighty
handy.

He rode out into the country districts with Hank Lolly, sitting beside
that worthy on the high wagon seat and listening most carefully to the
description of every farm, its inmates, the barn dimensions and
contents, the depth of the well, cost of the silo, number of pigs,
sheep, the amount of tiling, and the make of the family graphophone.

Sometimes busy farm wives came hurrying out from the back or side
doors, wiping their hands on their aprons, to ask Hank to take a mess
of peas or beans to a less fortunate neighbor or to carry a basket of
dishes over to the next farm where the thrashers were going to be for
supper; and "Hank, just bring me a setting of turkey eggs from Emily
Elby's.  I've 'phoned and she has them all ready."

Mrs. Tooley, up the Elmwood road, entrusted the obliging Hank with the
following message:

"Tell Doc Mitchell that if he don't get my new set of teeth ready for
the thrashing I'll hev the law on him for breaking up my happy home.
Two of my old beaux're coming to the thrashing and if they was to see
me without my teeth they'd jest naturally make Jim miserable and me a
divorcee."

Mrs. Bodin was sending her daughter, Stella, some little overalls made
over for the twins from their grandpa's and a bottle of home made cough
medicine "and one of my first squash pies for Al.  And here's a pie for
your trouble, Hank, and a few of these cookies you said you like."

Hank stowed everything carefully away, with no show of nervous haste,
and when they were well started remarked to John Churchill Knight:

"You know the best part of staying sober is that you get taken in on so
many things and almost you might say into so many families.  People
tell you things and ask your help and advice and by gum after awhile
you get to feeling that maybe you're somebody too instead of jest a
mess of miserableness.  Why, I've got friends jest about everywhere, I
guess.

"There's them as asks me sarcastic like if I don't find this kind of
work dry and lonesome but I jest ask them to come along and see.  Why,
do you see that there house yonder?  Those folks are relatives of Billy
Evans' and as soon as ever I turn this corner, Mollie, that's the
youngest girl, will start the graphophone going with my favorite piece.
The last time I come by I found a box of candy on the mail box for me.
That was from Winnie, the oldest, for bringing home her new dress from
the dressmaker's.

"Yes, sir, it's jest wonderful how human and pleasant everybody is.
Why, if I jest keep on a-being sober and associating with folks like
this--why--I'm jest naturally bound to be kind of decent myself.  And
when you think of what I was--well--there's no use in talking--I was
low--jest low.  Ask anybody but Billy Evans and they'll tell you fast
enough.  Of course Billy's naturally prejudiced and his word ain't
hardly to be credited.

"And here I am on a nice summer morning riding with the minister and
with the whole country acting as if I'd always been decent."

Maybe it was Hank who first called him the minister.  It may of course
have been that old Mrs. Rosenwinkle, who, not knowing his name for some
time, explained him to her daughter as "the new preacher of the lost."

At any rate, when Fanny Foster came to make her periodical report it
was found that to the lonely, the outcast and the generally unfit
Cynthia's son was "the new minister."  And his influence was already
felt by those who as yet regarded him as just a Green Valley boy who
was helping out.  Fanny Foster voiced this sentiment in Joe Baldwin's
shop when she was paying for the four patches Joe had just put on her
second best pair of shoes.

"Well--I shouldn't wonder if Green Valley hadn't got a minister to its
taste at last.  He hasn't been regularly appointed and I guess he don't
realize himself that he's it but I'm pretty sure that the minute Parson
Courtney steps out that's just what's going to happen.  Of course
there's them that says it can't.  Mr. Austin says it would be a
terrible mistake, that he's too young; and Seth Curtis says no rich man
would be fool enough to pester himself with a dinky country church.
But I guess people like Seth and Mr. Austin ain't the kind of people
that have much to say.  He's doing regular minister's work, comforting
the sick and picking up the fallen and pacifying the quarrelsome, and
it's work like that that'll elect him.

"And he's getting mighty popular, let me tell you, even with them that
no other minister could please or get near.  There's old Mrs.
Rosenwinkle.  She loves him just because he never tried to tell her
that the earth was round.  Why, she says he's as good as any Lutheran.
And Hank Lolly said that maybe when that new suit Billy's ordered him
out of the new mail-order catalogue gets here, he'll go hear him
preach.  It seems the minister's been driving around with Hank all over
creation and Hank says he can get along with him as easy as he does
with Billy.

"And did you hear what he did for Jim Tumley?  It seems the minister
told Grandma Wentworth what a fine voice Jim had and what an ear for
music.  And he was most surprised that Jim never even had a second-hand
organ of his own in the house but had to go over to his sister's, Mrs.
Hoskins, for to play a little tune when the fancy took him.  He said it
was an awful pity that a man who wanted music so badly and was always
so obliging at weddings and funerals and entertainments should be
without a proper instrument.  And Grandma just said, 'My land, nobody's
ever thought of that but I'll speak of it.'

"Well, she did and the consequence is that Mary Tumley is so nervous
she can't sleep.  She says if she takes the savings out of the bank
there won't be enough money for a Keeley cure, or a respectable funeral
for Jim in case he dies.  She's struggled and struggled but come to the
conclusion that it wouldn't be right and would set an awful example to
the Luttins next door, who are extravagant enough as it is.

"But it's my notion that Jim Tumley will get his organ and maybe a
piano.  I saw him going in with Frank Burton on that early morning
train and it means something.  Besides, Grandma told me that Frank
fairly hates himself for not thinking of it before and waiting like a
born idiot for a boy to come all the way from India and tell him what
to do for his best friend.

"Agnes Tomlins says she's got a good mind to go and see the minister
about Hen.  She says that if Hen don't quit abusing her and tormenting
her she's going to leave him; that her sister Mary over in Aberdeen has
a big up-stairs bedroom all aired and waiting for her.  It seems that
Hen's more than contrarily stubborn lately.  He's contradicted Agnes
publicly time and again and gone against her in private till Agnes says
there's no living with him.

"But she says she would overlook everything except Hen's keeping a
secret drawer in his chiffonier.  It seems Hen has gone and locked that
bottom drawer and Agnes can't either buy or borry a key that will open
it.  And she can't find where Hen has hid his, try as she may.  And
when she mentions that drawer to Hen, saying she wants to red up, he
lets on like he don't know what she's talking about but he does,
because he told Doc Philipps, when he went to see about his liver, that
if he couldn't wear a soft collar or a soft hat like other men and keep
a dog and smoke in the house, and eat strawberries or whistle or go to
ball games on Sundays and prize fights on the sly, why, there was one
thing he could do and would have and that was a drawer, a whole
chiffonier drawer, all to himself.  And that he bet there weren't many
men in Green Valley that could say as much.  Hen just swore that he
intends to have something all his own and that nobody'll open that
drawer except over his dead body.

"Dolly Beatty was sitting in the waiting room and heard him.  Of
course, she's a great friend of Bessie Williams and told her and Bessie
told Laura Enbry and of course it got to Agnes.  So she's going to
speak to the minister and maybe get a divorce, which will be the first
divorce scandal in Green Valley.

"Now that's the sort of thing that goes on in Green Valley.  And if the
new minister is supposed to calm these troubled waters he's got my
sympathy.  Joe, I think you're charging me ten cents too much for these
patches.  They're not as big as the ones you put on the other pair and
those were fifty cents."

So without a conscious move on anybody's part Cynthia's son became
Green Valley's minister.  All the necessary rites gone through, Green
Valley accepted him as it accepted the sunshine and rain, the larks and
wild roses, and all the other gifts that heaven chose to send.

Roger Allan and Grandma Wentworth began to call him John.  But Nanny
Ainslee always spoke of him and addressed him as Mr. Knight.  And he
discovered after a time that for some strange reason he did not like
this.

One day he mentioned the matter.  He was walking home from church with
her.  Mr. Ainslee had invited him up for Sunday dinner and the party of
them were chatting pleasantly as they walked along together.

In asking him a question Nan addressed him as Mr. Knight.  Then it was
that he stopped and made his startling request.  He addressed them all
but he meant only Nan.

"I wish," he said suddenly, "you would not call me Mr. Knight."

Mr. Ainslee and Billy hid a smile, said nothing and walked on.  But Nan
stopped in amazement.

"Why not?" she asked a little breathlessly.

"Nobody else does.  I was never called that in India.  It makes me feel
lonely, and a stranger here."

"But," Nanny's voice was colorless and almost dreary, even though a
wicked little gleam shot into her eyes, "what in the world shall I call
you?  I can't call you--_John_.  And 'parson' always did seem to me
rather coarse and disrespectful."

He had stopped when she did and now was looking straight down into her
eyes.  Before the hurt and surprise and bewilderment in his face the
wicked little gleam retreated and a deep pink began to flush Nanny's
cheeks.  The suspicion crossed her mind that this tall young man from
India with the unconquered eyes and the directness of a child might be
a rather difficult person to deal with.

He just stood there and looked at her and said never a word.  Then he
quietly turned and walked on up the road with her.

For the first time in her life Nanny felt queer in the company of a
man, queer and puzzled and almost uncomfortable.  She was not a flirt
and her remark was commonplace and trivial.  Yet this new chap was
taking it seriously and making her feel insincere and trifling.  She
told herself that she was not going to like him and kept her eyes
studiously on the road and wayside flowers.

They mounted the front steps in silence but before he opened the door
to let her pass in he paused and waited for her to raise her eyes to
his.  She did it much against her will.  He spoke then as if they two
were all alone in the world together.

"It is true that you have not known me long.  But I have known you for
some time.  I saw you leave Green Valley one summer night last year and
I came from the West two months before I should have just to see if you
got safely back at lilac time."

At that Nanny's eyes lost all their careful pride and he saw them
lovely with surprise.  So he explained.

"I was standing on the back platform of the Los Angeles Limited the
night you went East with your father."

Then a smile that the Lord gives only now and then, to a man that He is
sure He can trust, flitted over the tall boy's face as he added:

"And the very first evening I came back to Green Valley I held you in
my arms--rescued you."

He laughed boyishly, plaguing her.  But she stood motionless with
amazement,--too angry to say a word.  When that smile came her anger
faded.  Through her heart there flashed the mad conviction, through her
mind the certain knowledge, that for her in the time to come the height
of bliss would be to cry in this strange man's arms.

Then she recollected herself and flamed with shame so bitter that her
lower lip quivered and she hoped he would ask her again to call him
John so that she could make him pay for her momentary madness.

But he never asked again.  It seemed he was not that kind of a man.



CHAPTER VI

GOSSIP

The last and surest sign of spring's arrival in Green Valley is gossip.
The mornings may be ever so full of meadow larks, the woods moistly
sweet and carpeted with spring's frail and dainty blossoms, but no one
dreams of letting the furnace go out or their base burner get cold
until they see Fanny Foster flitting about town at all hours of the day
and behold the array of shiny armchairs standing so invitingly in front
of Uncle Tony's hardware store.

When these two great news agencies open up for business Green Valley
laughs and goes to Martin's drug store to buy moth balls and talks
about how it's going to paint its kitchen woodwork and paper its
upstairs hall and where it's buying its special garden seed.

Then the whole town wakes up and comes outdoors to work and talk.
There are fences to be mended and gardens to be planted and houses to
be cleaned and all the winter happenings to be gone over.  All the
doctor cases have to be discussed critically and the winter invalids,
strong once again, come out to visit one another and compare notes.
Letters from special relatives and former Green Valley souls are passed
around and read and all new photographs and the winter's crop of fancy
work exhibited and carefully examined.

Everybody talks so much that nobody listens very carefully, only half
hearing things.  And when the spring madness and gladness begin to
settle and people start to repeat the things they only half heard
strange and weird tales are at times the result.  And from these spring
still more fantastic rumors and versions that ripple over Green Valley
like waves of sunshine or cloud shadows, sometimes causing much joy and
merriment and sometimes considerable worry and uneasiness.

And all these rumors come eventually to Uncle Tony's where they are
solemnly examined, edited and frequently so enhanced and touched up in
color and form as to sound almost new.  Then they are sent out again to
begin life all over.  Many of them die but some live on and on, and
after a sufficient test of time become a part of the town chronicles.

Everybody, of course, takes a hand at helping a yarn get from house to
house but nobody makes such a specialty of this sort of social work as
Fanny Foster.  There are some Green Valley folks who attribute Fanny's
up and down thinness to this wearing industry yet both men and women
are always glad to see her and her reports always drive blue cares away
and provoke ripples of sunny laughter.

Everybody in town has tried their hand at hating Fanny and despising
her and ignoring her and putting her in her place.  But everybody has
long ago given it up.  Stylish and convention-loving newcomers are
always disgusted and keep her at arm's length.  But sooner or later
such people break an arm or a leg right in the midst of strawberry
canning maybe and it so happens that nobody sees them do this but
Fanny.  And when this does happen they don't even have to mortify
themselves by calling her.  She just comes of her own accord,
forgetting the cruel snubbings.  She fixes that stand-offish person as
comfortable as can be, makes them laugh even, and telephones to the
doctor.  Then she rolls up her sleeves and without so much as an apron
has those strawberries scientifically canned and that messy kitchen
beautifully clean.

And the curious, the pitifully, laughably incomprehensible part of it
is that in her own house Fanny absolutely never can seem to take the
least interest.  Her own dishes are always standing about unwashed.
Her kitchen is spoken of in horrified whispers; her children,
buttonless, garterless, mealless, stray about in all sorts of improper
places and weather.  The whole town is home to them but they generally
feel happiest at Grandma Wentworth's.  She sets them down in her
kitchen to a hot meal and then makes them sew on their buttons under
her watchful eye.  Sooner or later, usually later, Fanny comes as
instinctively as her children to Grandma's door to report Green Valley
doings.

This particular spring things promised to be unusually lively.  But the
rains, though gentle, had been persistent and Fanny was a full two
weeks behind with her news schedule.  But if late, her report was
thorough.  She dropped wearily into Grandma's soft cushioned kitchen
rocker, slipped her cold feet without ceremony into the warm stove oven
and began:

"Good land!  I never see such a town and such people and such weather!
Jim Tumley's drunk again and as sick as death and Mary's crying over
him as usual and blaming the hotel crowd.  She says he's a good man and
don't care for liquor at all and that their liking to hear him sing
ain't no reason for getting him drunk and a poor way of showing their
thanks and appreciation, and that they all know that he can't stand it,
him being weak in the stomach that way, like all the Tumleys.  Mary's
just about ready to give up everything and everybody, she's that
discouraged.

"Well--that's one mess and now there's Uncle Tony in another.  It seems
Uncle Tony sold Seth Curtis a hand axe for a dollar and ten cents.  Of
course Seth paid for it like he always does--right away.  But you know
how forgetful Uncle Tony is getting.  Well, it seems he clean forgot
about Seth paying and sent in a bill for a dollar.  And now Seth's
hanging around, wanting his ten cents back and saying mean, smart
things.

"And that lazy, gossiping crowd of worthless men folks was just killing
themselves laughing and making fun of poor Uncle Tony, sitting right in
his very own chairs and warming their lazy feet at his comfortable
fire.  Uncle Tony happened to be out and those loafers just started in
and what they said about that kind old man made my blood boil.  They
were all mean enough, with Seth egging them on every now and then about
that dime that he was cheated out of.  But Mert Hagley was the worst.
Of course, everybody knows Mert's just dying to hog Uncle Tony's
business along with his shop, as if the stingy thing wasn't rich enough
already.  Well, when Mert heard about that ten-cent mistake he said it
was about time there were a few business changes in Green Valley, that
a few business funerals would help a lot and freshen up things; that
Uncle Tony was no business man, and a lot of that sort of stuff.  And
of course Hughey Mason, being a smart Aleck, pipes up and says, 'That's
so, Uncle Tony is no business man.  Why, Tom Hall says that when you
find Uncle Tony's emporium locked at eleven o'clock of a winter morning
you can bet your bottom dollar Uncle Tony's home shaking down the
furnace, and if it's closed at four of a summer afternoon Uncle Tony's
sneaked off home to mow the lawn.'

"Well, those idiots and old hypocrites were talking just like that,
goodness knows how long.  They never took the trouble to see if Uncle
Tony was really around or not.  But all of a sudden I looked around the
corner of the middle row of shelves and there was that poor old man
sitting as still as death in his cashier's cage and looking sick to
death.  You know he wouldn't cheat a soul, and as for that store, he'd
die without it.  It's all the family he has.  Well I had stepped in
there to buy a couple of flat-irons.  The children mislaid mine.  But I
walked right out for I didn't want to call him out to wait on me.

"I was so mad I just walked around the block till I met Mrs. Jerry
Dustin right at Simpson's corner and I told her the whole thing.  She
was as hurt about it as Uncle Tony and kept holding on to Simpson's
garden fence and saying, 'Dear me, Fanny, we must do something.  I have
a message for Tony, anyway, and this is just the time to deliver it.'

"So back we went and we met Uncle Tony stepping in at the front door
too.  He must have sneaked out the back way and come around the front
so's not to let on he'd heard anything.  He was kind of white and
miserable about the mouth and his eyes looked out kind of blind.  But
he smiled when Mrs. Jerry Dustin said, 'Good morning, Tony.'  I
wonder," Fanny digressed, "if it's true that Uncle Tony wanted to marry
Mrs. Dustin once.  Sadie Dundry says so but you know how unreliable
Sadie is about what she knows.

"Well, anyhow, those miserable men things around that stove just smiled
at Uncle Tony like so many Judases and all commenced talking at once.
But Mrs. Dustin didn't give them much chance.  She just took up all
Uncle Tony's attention and time.  She bought and bought, being real
careful of course to ask only for the things she knew he had; and to
top it all she bought four quarts of robin's-egg blue paint.  You know
that's Uncle Tony's favor-ite woodwork paint and nobody goes in there
for paint but what he's trying to get them to buy robin's-egg blue.
Seems his mother's kitchen on the old farm was done that way and Uncle
Tony's never been able to see any other color.

"Well, I thought those four cans of paint was about the highest kind of
good luck but when Mrs. Dustin give her message I nearly fell dead, and
as for them old he-gossips they were about paralyzed, I guess.  Why
even you, Grandma, couldn't hardly guess what that message was;" here
Fanny pulled up a sagging stocking and hurried on lest she should be
interrupted.

"It was nothing more nor less than that Bernard Rollins, the artist,
wants to paint Uncle Tony's portraiture.  'And, of course, Tony,' said
Mrs. Dustin in that sweet way of hers, 'you won't refuse, will you?'
And I declare the lovely way she looked at him and he at her I come
near believing Sadie might be right by accident.  But, land--in this
town everybody has growed up with everybody else and somebody is always
saying that somebody is sweet on somebody else or was when he or she
were young.

"So there's that portraiture to look forward to.  And now there's that
yarn that some careless busybody started about Nanny Turner being left
a fortune of eighteen thousand dollars.  Everybody's been crazy,
praising her luck to her face and envying her behind her back.
Everybody most but Dell Parsons.  Dell felt sick when she heard it
because she and Nanny have been such friends and Dell just knew that no
matter how they'd both try to keep things the same there'd always be
that eighteen-thousand-dollar difference between them when now there's
nothing dividing them but a little low honeysuckle fence with a gate
cut through it.  And there would, of course.  Nanny'd be on one side,
cutting aprons out of nice new gingham, and Dell'd be on the other,
cutting _her_ aprons out of Jim's old shirt backs.

"But as soon as Nanny heard it she up and told everybody it wasn't so,
that she and Will wouldn't thank anybody for a fortune now that they've
paid for their home and garden.

"I met Jessie Williams in the drug store.  She was buying dye to do
over her last year's silk and she says Nanny was a fool to contradict a
fine story like that.  That she should have said nothing and used the
rumor to her social advantage.  Jessie says that story alone would have
brought that uppish Mrs. Brownlee that's moved into that stylish new
bungalow next to Will Turner's to time and sociability.  Though the
daughter isn't uppish a bit, so Nanny and Dell says, and visits right
over the fence and just loves the children.  But she don't know
anything seemingly--the daughter don't.  Wears fancy caps and
high-heeled shoes to work in mornings and was caught planting onion
sets root up and doing dishes without an apron and drying them without
scalding them first.  But they say she's awful sweet and pretty, in
spite of her terrible ignorance.

"Old Mr. Dunn told me this Mrs. Brownlee was a bankrupt's widow, that
when the husband died there was nothing left but this Green Valley lot,
which he bought absent-mindedly one day, and his life insurance which
though was a good one.  And the widow having no money didn't want to
stay amongst her rich city friends and so she's come here.  They say
she hates Green Valley like poison but that the girl Jocelyn thinks
it's fun living here, even though her hands are blistered and there's
no place to go evenings.  I heard that David Allan's been plowing up
the Brownlee garden lot and helping the girl set things out.

"And now, Grandma, what of all things do you suppose has happened?  Old
man Mullin's back.  Nobody can hardly believe it.  He's been gone these
ten years and nobody blamed him a mite when he left that miserly,
nagging wife of his and went off to California.  Why, they say she
nearly died giving him a ten-cent piece every week for spending money
and that he used to work on the sly unbeknownst to her to get money for
his tobacco and then didn't dare smoke it where she could see him.  And
he's come back.  Some say he's got so much money of his own that she
can't worry him and that he's got to be so deaf besides that he's safe
more or less.

"And as if that wasn't enough, there's talk of Sam Ellis's selling the
hotel and going out of business.  It seems since the two boys and the
girl came back from college they've talked nothing but temperance and
prohibition.  Not that they are a mite ashamed of Sam.  But not one of
them will step into the hotel for love or money.  And Sam's beginning
to think as they do, seems like.  For they say he was awful mad when he
heard about Jim Tumley getting so full he was sick.  Sam was out that
afternoon and he says Curley Watson, his barkeeper, is a danged
chucklehead.  And that ain't all.  They're saying that Sam told George
Hoskins to let up on the drinks the other night, that maybe he could
stand it but other men couldn't.  And Sam the hotel keeper, mind you!
Of course Sam is well off but still the men haven't got over it yet.
They say you could have heard a pin drop and that George stood with his
mouth open for five full minutes.

"Somebody told John Gans that there was going to be another barber shop
in town and so he's excited.  And Mr. Pelly and Mrs. Dudley had their
first fight this year over their chickens.  Mr. Pelly swears she lets
them out a-purpose before he's awake in the morning and Mrs. Dudley
says that if he don't mend his fence and hurts a feather of a single
one of her animals she'll have him before Judge Hewitt.

"Of course, Marion Travers is spending every cent of her husband's
salary on new clothes, trying to get in with the South End crowd.  And
Sam Bobbins has given up trying to raise violets to make a sudden
fortune.  He's changed his mind and gone to raising mushrooms down in
his cellar.  Simpson's gray horse is dead, the lame one, and one of the
White twins cut his head pretty bad on a toy engine and Benny Smith's
wife is giving strawberry sets away.  Jessups are all out of tomato
plants and onion sets and won't get any more, but Dick has them,
besides a real tasty looking lot of garden seed.  Ella Higgins actually
found that Dick had two kinds of flower seed that she'd never grown or
heard of.

"Mrs. Rosenwinkle's full of rheumatism with all joints swelled and says
the world is coming to a terrible end.  I guess she figures though that
she and those two grandchildren of hern will be about all that's left
after the thing blows over.  My land, ain't some folks ignorant!
And--what was I going to say--oh, yes, of course Robinson ain't
expected to live--and well--what _was_ it I was going to say--something
that begins with a c--good land, there's the 6:10 and I bet John's on
it.  He never misses his train twice in a year's time.  Get out of
here, children.  You know your father wants to see you all at home when
he gets there."

There was a scramble for the door and Grandma Wentworth's heart ached
for John Foster, the big, silent, steady man who brushes his girls'
hair every Sunday morning and brings them fresh hair ribbons and who
somehow manages to get them to Sunday School looking half respectable.
John never says a word scarcely to any one, from one week's end to the
other.  He never spends a free hour away from home, he never invites a
man to his house, and he seldom smiles except at the children or when
visiting with Grandma Wentworth or Roger Allan, his two friends and
nearest neighbors.  Sometimes he goes for long walks with his girls and
little Bobby.  Most people think him a fool and he knows it.

Grandma Wentworth sighed a little as she thought of John Foster.  Then
she put fresh wood on her fire and poked at the stove grate till it
glowed.  She smiled as she remembered Fanny's report.

"Well, spring is here for certain.  Now we'll have a wedding and some
new babies.  They always come next."

Then sitting there beside her glowing stove Grandma fell to dreaming of
Green Valley and the Green Valley folks of other days, Green Valley as
it used to be in the springs of long ago.  Of the days when Roger Allan
was a young, strength-mad fellow and Richard Wentworth was his chum and
her lover.  And she remembered too how right Sadie Dundry was.  For
Uncle Tony, in the springs of long ago, had loved the girl who was now
Mrs. Jerry Dustin.

They were such wander-mad dreamers, Tony and Rosalie, and exactly alike
in those days.  They used to go together to watch an occasional picnic
train or election special go through the station, and they thought
because they were so exactly alike they would most surely marry.  But
life, that wisely and for posterity's sake mates not the like but the
unlike, brought Jerry Dustin on the scene,--good, practical,
stay-at-home Jerry Dustin.  And the girl who used to sit with Tony on
the station bench and watch the trains pull out into the wide big world
left her childhood friend sitting alone and went to Jerry, answered his
smile and call.

So Tony sits alone, for he still visits the station on sunny
afternoons.  But now he doesn't sit on the bench but perches on the top
rail of the fence and curls his toes about the lower one.

Bernard Rollins caught him sitting so once, day-dreaming over the past.
It was Tony's face as Rollins saw it then,--full of a young, boyish
wistfulness and sweet pain, unmarred dreams and unstained, unbroken
illusions,--that Rollins wanted to paint.  Rollins knew that Mrs.
Dustin was a great friend of Tony's and that she would be the best
person to coax a consent from the shy, gentle old man.

Life, mused Grandma, was a matter full of sweet and incomprehensible
things,--things that now, after long years when the stories were almost
finished, seemed right and just enough but that at the time were cruel
and hard to bear.  There was Roger Allan and that lonely stone in the
peaceful cemetery.  It still seemed a cruel tragedy.  Like Mrs. Jerry
Dustin she wondered often about it.

The soft spring night was full of memories and the wood fire sang of
them sadly, sweetly and softly.  Grandma rose and mentally shook
herself.

"I declare, I believe I'm lonely or getting old or something," Grandma
chided herself; "here I am poking at the bygone years like an old maid
with the heartache and here's the whole world terribly alive and
needing attention.  And here's Cynthia's boy back from India, and a
real Green Valley kind of minister, I do believe; a straightforward
chap to tell us of life, its miracles and mysteries; of God and
eternity as he honestly thinks, but mostly of love and the little happy
ways of earthly living.  A man who won't be always dividing us into
sheep and goats but will show us the sheep and the goat in ourselves.
This is a queer old town and it almost seems as if a minister wouldn't
hardly have to know so much about heaven as about fighting neighbors
and chickens, gossiping folks like Fanny and drunken ones like Jim
Tumley.  Well, maybe,--"

But just then she looked up and found David Allan laughing at her from
the doorway.

"Stop dreaming and scolding yourself, Grandma," laughed David.
"There's a little city girl living up on the hill back of Will Turner's
who needs you most awful bad.  I offered to bring her down here but she
thinks it wouldn't be proper.  She says you haven't called and she
wants to do things right and that maybe you wouldn't want to know her.
She's mighty lonely and strange about Green Valley ways of doing
things.  I most wished to-day that I was a woman so I could help her.
Her mother's been sick more or less since they come here and she's
looking after things herself.  I'd like to help her but there's things
a man just can't tell a girl or do for her.  Uncle Roger sent me over
here to tell you to come across and talk about some church matters with
him.  But I think this little girl business ought to be tended to right
away."

"Rains and gossip and new girls and first violets.  I declare, it _is_
spring, David.  And Nanny Ainslee is back.  Of course, I'll see about
that little girl.  You tell her I'm coming to call on her the day after
tomorrow.  Tell her I'll come up the woodsy side of her garden and I'll
be wearing my pink sunbonnet and third best gingham apron."

Grandma took up a pan of fresh light biscuit, rolled them up in a crisp
linen cloth and started out with David.

Outdoors she stopped and breathed deeply.

"I declare, David, I was almost lonesome before you stepped in but now
I feel--well, spring mad or something.  I do believe we'll have a
wedding soon and a real old-fashioned springtime."



CHAPTER VII

THE WEDDING

Grandma Wentworth got her wedding but not just the kind of a wedding
she had expected.

"Though, when you stop to think of it, an elopement is about as proper
a spring happening as I know of.  It's due mostly to this weather.  We
had too much rain in April and nothing but sweet sunshine and mad
moonlight ever since."

Most Green Valley courtships and weddings are conducted in a more or
less public and leisurely fashion and elopements are rare.  Green
Valley was at first inclined to be a little shocked and resentful about
this performance.  Weddings do not happen every day and Green Valley
was so accustomed to knowing weeks beforehand what the bride was going
to wear, and how many of the two sets of relatives were to be there,
and who was giving presents and what, and what the refreshments were
going to cost, and just how much more this was than what the bride's
mother could afford to spend, that there was a little murmur of
astonishment, resentment even, when it was found that just a bare, bald
marriage had been perpetrated in the old town.  Green Valley did not
resent the scandal of the occurrence.  It was the absence of details
that was so maddening.  But gradually these began to trickle from
doorstep to doorstep and by nightfall Green Valley was crowding out of
its front gates with little wedding gifts under its arms.

It seems that little, meek, eighteen-year-old Alice Sears had eloped
with twenty-one-year-old Tommy Winston.  She explained her foolishness
in a little letter which she left on the kitchen table for her mother.
The letter ran something like this:


Dear Mother:--

It's no use waiting any longer for any of the good times or new dresses
you said I'd have by and by.  We never have any good times and I'm
tired waiting for a real new hat.  Tommy's going to buy me one with
bunches of violets on it and he don't drink, so it's alright and you
don't need to worry.  I'll live near and be handy and don't you let
father swear too much at you because I did this.

    Your loving child,
      ALICE.


When Mrs. Sears found the letter she read it six times, over and over
till she knew it by heart.  It wasn't the first such letter she had
ever had.  When Johnny went off to Alaska or somewhere away off,
because his father took the twenty-five dollars that the
nineteen-year-old boy had saved so prayerfully for a bicycle, Johnny
had left just such a letter.  When Jimmy went away he left a letter
that sounded very much like it on the top of his mother's sewing
machine.

It wasn't a bicycle with Jimmy.  It was chickens.  Jimmy was wild over
chickens.  He was a great favorite with Frank Burton.  He helped Frank
about the coops and was so handy that Frank paid him regular wages and
gave him several settings of eggs.  And in no time the boy had a
thriving little chicken business that might have grown into bigger
things.  But Sears sold the whole thing out one day when he wanted
money worse than usual.  And Jimmy, white to the very roots of his
reddish-brown hair, cursed his father and left home.  He wandered
about, the Lord knows where, but eventually joined the army.  He wrote
home once to tell his mother what he had done and to say that he
intended to save all his pay for the three years and start a chicken
farm with it somewhere.

And now gentle, little, eighteen-year-old Alice was gone too.

Mrs. Sears sat down and cried in that patient, helpless, miserable way
of hers.  She didn't know just what she was crying for, herself or the
children.  Life was a hopeless, unmanageable tangle that seemed to give
her nothing and take her all.  So Mrs. Sears sat and cried.  It was a
habit she had.

Fanny Foster came along just then.  She had run over to see if she
couldn't borrow a cake of yeast.  She was going to town in an hour, she
said, but she wanted to set her bread before she went and she'd bring
yeast back with her and--

"Why, for pity's sake alive, Mrs. Sears, what's the matter?"

That was just Fanny's luck or perhaps her misfortune, her happening on
events first-hand that way.  She read the letter of course, sympathized
with Mrs. Sears, patted her check and told her not to worry, that
everything would be all right and to set right still, that she'd be
right back to do the dishes and stay with her.

And Fanny hurried to town, talking all the way.  She came back in
record time but by the time she had her hands in Mrs. Sears' dishpan
Green Valley was already buzzing with astonishment.  Some were shaking
their heads in utter unbelief, some were smiling and one or two who had
slept badly were saying something like this:

"Well, did you ever!  And you never can tell.  Those meek, quiet little
things are usually deep.  And the dear Lord only knows what the true
state of things is.  And poor Mrs. Sears!  Of course, she's done her
best, but isn't it too bad to have a batch of children turn out so kind
of disappointing and her so meek and patient and hard-working!"

In three hours the news had gotten out to the out-lying homes and
Sears, the little bride's father, heard it as he was nailing siding on
one of the two new bungalows that were being built in that part of
Green Valley.

When Sears heard the rumor he put down his hammer and quit work.  He
was a man who made a practice of quitting work at the least
provocation.  He said what a man needed most was self-respect and he,
Will Sears, would have it at any cost.  He had it.  In fact, he was so
respectful and thoughtful of himself that he never had time to respect
the rights of any one else.

Green Valley saw him going home and because Green Valley knew him well
and respected him not at all it took no pains to hush its chatter, and
so he heard a good deal that it may have done him good to hear.  At any
rate, it sort of prepared him for what came later.

He stamped into the house and wanted to know why in this and that he
hadn't been told about all this before he went to work, and what in
this and that she meant by such doings and goings on.

And Mrs. Sears, whose greatest daily trial was getting her husband off
to work on such mornings as he felt so inclined, said tearfully:

"Why, father, you know that when I'm getting you off of a morning I
wouldn't see a twenty-dollar gold piece if it was right before my eyes
on the table.  I never found the piece of paper with Alice's letter on
it till you'd gone and I'd set down for a cup of coffee."

For thirty years Milly Sears had called her husband "father" and now
that he had fathered all his children away from home she still called
him "father."  Poor Mrs. Sears had no sense of humor.

After her pitiful little explanation Mrs. Sears sank down into her
rocker and went back to weeping.  It was her way of taking life's
sudden turns.

Sears tore through the house and every once in a while he'd walk back
to the kitchen and swear.  Sears was not in any way a likeable man.
Though so self-respecting, he had all his life been careless about his
language and his breath.  That was probably the reason why his children
never got the habit of running out to meet him or bringing their thorns
and splinters for him to pull out with his jackknife.  He was a man who
never stopped in the front yard to see how the clover was coming up,
who never hoed around his currant bushes or ever found time to prune
his fruit trees.  He was in short a mean, selfish man who was yet
decent enough to know himself for what he was but not decent enough to
admit it and mend his ways.  It may be that he did not know how to go
about this.

At any rate, here he was, pacing back and forth in his still, empty
house, swearing and threatening all manner of terrible things.  That
was his way of showing his helplessness.

And all about this helpless, incompetent father and patiently sobbing
mother the Green Valley world buzzed and the prettiest kind of a May
day smiled.  All their life was a muddle with this dreary ending but
the world outside was as young, as bright, as promising as ever.
Something of this must have come to these two for Mrs. Sears' sobs
quieted and out in the front room Sears sank into a chair and grew
still.

And then it was that Fanny Poster, who had been flitting about like a
very spirit of help and curiosity, flitted down the road to Grandma
Wentworth's.  For Fanny felt that somebody had to do something and
Fanny knew that nobody could do it so efficiently as the strong, sweet,
gray-eyed Grandma Wentworth who, for all her sweetness, could yet
rebuke most sternly and fearlessly even while she helped and advised
wisely.

Green Valley had its generous share of philosophers and helpful spirits
but Grandma Wentworth towered above them all.  And every soul in the
village, when in trouble, turned to her as naturally as flowers turn
their faces to the sun.

Her little vine-clad cottage sat just beyond the curve where the three
roads met at Old Roads Corners.  Her back garden was full of the
choicest vegetables and sweetest-smelling herbs and there was a
heavenly array of flowers all about the front windows.  The neighbors
said that Grandma Wentworth's house and garden looked just like her and
ministers usually sent their spiritually hopeless cases to her because
she dared and knew how to say the soul-necessary things that no
bread-and-butter-cautious minister can find the courage to say.

The path to Grandma's house was worn smooth by the feet of the many who
came for advice, encouragement and for sheer love of the woman who
lived in that little garden.

And so Fanny went flying to Grandma now, perfectly, childishly
confident that Grandma would and could fix up everything.  She began to
talk as soon as she opened the door.  But what she saw in Grandma's
kitchen sent the words tumbling down her throat.

For there sat little Alice, eating a late breakfast with Grandma.  She
looked a little scared around the eyes but smiley round the mouth and
there was a gold ring on her left hand.

When Grandma caught sight of Fanny she smiled.

"Come right in, Fanny.  I've been expecting you.  But first let me make
you acquainted with Mrs. Tommy Winston.  That rascal of a boy run away
with her last night as far as Spring Road, where Judge Edwards married
them.  And then Tommy brought her here to me to spend the night while
he went and rented that funny little box of a house just back of that
stylish Mrs. Brownlee.  And that's where the wedding supper's going to
be to-night.  Of course you're invited.  I'm going right now to see
Milly Sears about what we must cook up and bake.  I was going over to
get you too to help out.  The little house'll need overhauling but I
know I can depend on you, Fanny.  Do your very best and there'll be--"

But by this time Fanny found her voice and began to tell about how
Sears was going on.  But Grandma only smiled and said, "Yes, of course,
I know.  But don't worry about that.  I'll attend to Will Sears.  You
two just skip along now to the house and start the wedding."

Grandma walked over to the Sears cottage without any show of worry or
hurry.  But she wasn't smiling.  Those gray eyes of hers were sparkling
with something very different.  And when Will Sears saw her coming in
the gate he was both relieved and uncomfortably uneasy.

She came right in and just looked at that desolate couple for a few
seconds.  Then:

"Will Sears," she asked briefly, "what are you aiming to do about this?"

Sears, who couldn't do anything, didn't know how to do anything about
it but swear, said pompously:

"What any decent, respectable, hard-working man would do,--bring back
the girl and horsewhip that whippersnapper."

Then Grandma, who knew just how much this sort of bluster was worth,
let herself go.

"Will Sears, if you honestly have an idea that you are a decent,
respectable, hard-working man, hold on to it for the love of heaven,
for you're the only human in this town that has any such notion."

"I work," Sears began defiantly.

"Oh, yes, Will, you work in a sort of a way; though I can remember the
time when Green Valley folks thought you were going to be a big
contractor.  You promised well but somehow you never worked hard
enough.  You work at things now to keep your own miserable self alive,
I guess, because when you get through using your week's wages there's
hardly enough left to keep bare life and decency in your family."

"I'm not a drunkard," Sears muttered, "and you know it."

"No, you're not a drunkard, Will Sears, more's the pity.  When it comes
to choosing between a man who gets openly drunk and staggers down Main
Street in drunken penitence to his wife and children and the man who
drinks just enough to be a surly, selfish brute and yet look half-way
respectable on the outside, why, give me the drunk every time.

"You don't get drunk, only just full enough to have your family afraid
and ashamed of you.  You have made life a hateful, shameful, miserable
existence for your wife and children.  You've robbed them of every
right and what pitiful little possessions, hopes and plans they'd been
able to find for themselves.  That's why John's in Alaska, Jimmy in the
army and Alice an eighteen-year-old wife.  A precious father you've
been to make your children choose the bitter snows, the jungle and a
doubtful future with a stranger to life with you, their father."

"I've fed my children and clothed them," again muttered Sears.

"Yes, Will, you have.  But--man, man--it takes more than just blood,
three begrudged meals a day and a skimpy calico dress to prove real
fatherhood.  But I'm not blaming you any more than I'm blaming this
wife of yours.

"For thirty years, Milly Sears, you've been so busy trying to be a
doormat saint that you had no time to be a strong, useful mother.  When
you married Will he was no worse than the average fellow.  He had
faults aplenty but he had goodnesses too, and hopes and dreams.  And
you, you Milly, let all the hopes and dreams die and the faults grow
and multiply.  Just by letting Will backslide, forget and grow careless.

"Somebody told you that patience was a pretty ornament.  It is if it's
the genuine article and properly used.  But letting a man spend his
wages hoggishly on himself and robbing his children and driving them
from their lawful home and cheating you out of every right and even
your self-respect is nothing to be patient about.  As for tears, they
have their uses, but they never mended wrongs that I know of.  It's
fool, weeping, patient women that make selfish, mean men.  It's plain,
honest, righteous anger that brings about the reforms in this world.

"If the first time that Will got ugly drunk or swearing cross about
nothing you had stood up for yourself and the children and reminded him
sharply of the decencies instead of crying softly and praying for
patience, you wouldn't be sitting here, the two of you, in an empty
house with your children God knows where.

"I've known you since before you were married and I'm sorry for you
because I know--"

Then it was that Grandma Wentworth began to talk as only she knew how.
She forgot nothing.  She recalled to that man and woman all the beauty
and the wonder of the beginning; the new furniture, the summer
moonlight when their home was young and they were waiting for their
first baby; his coming; his blue eyes and Jimmy's brown ones and little
Alice's gentle ways.  All the past sweetness that had been theirs and
was not wholly forgotten she brought back, and in the end when they
sobbed aloud she cried a bit with them, for they were of her
generation.  And then she rose to go.

"Well, now that I've had my say I'll tell you that I really came to
invite you to your daughter's wedding supper to-night.  Tommy Winston's
married your Alice sure enough, but he's a good boy even if he is
motherless and fatherless and has sort of shifted for himself in odd
ways.  He brought Alice to me last night all properly married and she's
been with me ever since, so everything is all right and respectable,
for which you may thank the dear Lord on bended knees.  Tommy's been
and rented the little Bently place over on the hill and is getting it
into shape with a few pieces of furniture.  It's such a doll house it
won't take much to furnish it.  I've found half a dozen things up attic
and, Milly, if you look around, you'll find plenty here to help start
the little new home in fair shape.  Thank heavens, life in Green Valley
is still simple enough so's people can every now and then marry for
love and not much of anything else.  Though Tommy's got a little
besides his horse and wagon.  He's already bought Alice a new hat and
fixings and he's going down to Tony's hardware store this afternoon to
order up a good cook stove.  So you see--"

But at this point Sears woke up and hoarsely, defiantly and a little
tremulously announced:

"He'll do no such thing.  I'm going down right now to buy that there
cook stove."

So that was settled and a new home peaceably, respectably started as
every home should be.  And it would have been hard to say who was the
busiest and happiest of all the people who helped make a wedding that
day.

By three o'clock, however, everything was about done and there were
only the final touches to be put on.  Grandma engineered everything
over the telephone and Green Valley responded whole-heartedly, as it
always did to all her work.

Fanny Foster had found time to run down to Jessup's and buy the bride a
first-class tablecloth and some towels.  Fanny was always buying the
most appropriate, tasty and serviceable things for other people and the
most outlandish, cheap and second-hand stuff for herself.  The
tablecloth was extravagantly good, as Grandma sternly told her.

But, "La--what of it!  I was saving the money to buy myself a silk
petticoat," Fanny defended herself.  "I wanted to know just once before
I died what and how it felt like to rustle up the church aisle instead
of slinking down it on a Sunday morning.  But I just think a silk
petticoat isn't worth thinking about when a thing like this happens."

So Grandma smiled and as she laid out her best black silk she made a
mental note of the fact that Fanny Foster was to have, sometime or
other, a silk petticoat, made up to her for this day's work and
self-sacrifice.  For Grandma was one of those rare practical people who
yet believed in respecting the foolish dreams of impractical humans.

So it came about that everybody who could walk was at Tommy's and
Alice's wedding.  The bride wore a beautifully simple dress that came
from Paris in Nan's trunk.  And there were roses in her hair and Tommy
hardly knew her, and her father and mother certainly did not, so dazed
were they.

The little doll house was already a home, with all of Green Valley
trooping in to leave little gifts and stopping long enough to shake
Tommy's hand and wish him luck and health and maybe twins.

Indeed, Alice Sears' elopement and wedding became a part of Green
Valley history, so great an event was it, what with the suddenness of
it and the whole town being asked and Nan Ainslee coming home so
providentially, and Cynthia's son making a speech.

The crowd was so great and so merry that the little Brownlee girl,
having tucked her fretful mother up in bed, stole out to the garden
fence and watched the doings with all a child's wistful eyes.  David
Allan, who happened to drift out that way, found her there and they
visited over the fence.  It took David quite a while to tell her what
it all meant, for she was of course a stranger to Green Valley and
Green Valley ways.

Grandma watched her town folk a little mistily that night and expressed
her opinion a little tremulously to Roger Allan.

"Roger, did you ever see a town so chockful of people that you have to
laugh over one minute and cry over the next?"

Nan's father, walking home with her through the quiet streets, stopped
to light a cigar.  When it was burning properly he remarked innocently
to his daughter:

"I don't know when I've met so unusually good-looking and likeable a
fellow as this minister chap, Knight."

Nan looked at her father with cold and suspicious eyes and her voice
when she answered was scornful.

"You thought, Mr. Ainslee, that you met the handsomest and most
likeable chap on earth in Yokohama--if you remember," she reminded him
icily.

"Yes, of course--I remember.  But I have come to believe that I was
somewhat mistaken in that boy in Yokohama.  He lacked something that
this chap has--an elusive quality that is hard to put a name to but
which is one of the big essentials that makes for success."

"Ministers," drawled Nanny wickedly, "have never been noticeably
successful in Green Valley."

"No," admitted her father, "they haven't.  And of course it's too bad
the boy's a minister.  He's badly handicapped, naturally.  Still, I
never remember when I'm with him that he is a parson.  It may be that
women feel the same way.  And you noticed that he had the good sense
not to wear a frock coat to this informal little wedding.  I can't
recall that he has ever worn a frock coat since he's been here.  I
think you'd like ministers, Nanny, if they weren't so given to wearing
frock coats.  In fact, I'm willing to bet that you are going to like
this wonderful boy from India immensely."

Nanny stood still and faced her father.

"I loathe ministers--in any kind of a coat," she explained firmly.
"And I'll bet no bets with you.  Such offers are unseemly in a man of
your years and already apparent grayness.  They are, moreover,
detrimental to my morals.  I should think you'd be ashamed,--and also
mindful of your former losses and mistaken prophecies."

"Oh," her father assured her, "I admit my losses and mistakes.  But I
have by no means lost hope or faith.  You never can tell.  I'm bound to
guess right some day.  And I'm rather partial to this minister chap.
It would be so natural and fitting a punishment for an irreverent young
woman.  For Nanny," the father added with teasing gentleness, "sweet as
you are and lovable, a little reverence and religion wouldn't hurt you."

"I've always heard it said," demurely recollected Nanny, "that girls
generally take after the father."

"That may be," agreed this particular father.  "In that case I should
think you'd be willing to marry a little religion into the family for
my sake, if not your own."

Nanny's patience was beginning to feel the strain.

"Mr. Ainslee," she warned him sternly, "if this was snowball time
instead of springtime in Green Valley, I'd snowball you black and blue."



CHAPTER VIII

LILAC TIME

To the knowing and observant and the loyal Green Valley is dear at all
times.  But what most touches and wakens a Green Valley heart is lilac
time.

There are on the Green Valley calendar many red-letter days beside the
regularly recurring national holidays, but lilac time, or Lilac Sunday,
is Green Valley's very own glad day.  It is in the spring what
Thanksgiving is in the fall and wanderers who can not get home for
Thanksgiving and Christmas ease their homesick hearts with promises of
lilac time in the old town.

On this particular Lilac Sunday, Nan, radiant and dressed in the sort
of clothes that only Nan knew how to buy and wear, was on her way to
church.  She was early and decided to pass the Churchill place.  She
always did at lilac time, for then it was fairly embedded in fragrance
and flowery glory.  She had cut the blooms from her own bushes and sent
them on.  She carried only a few of her most perfect sprays.  She saw
that the Churchill gardens too had been trimmed but plenty of beauty
remained.

She stopped a moment to admire the wonderful old red-brick house
glowing through the tender greens of spring.  Her eyes drank in its
beauty and then fell on two huge perfect lilac plumes on the bush
nearest her.  They were larger and lovelier than her own.

With a little smile Nan reached out to gather them.  She broke off the
first and was about to gather the other when Cynthia's son came slowly
and laughingly from around the bush.

"Let me get it for you.  You will soil your glove."

Nan was startled and unaccountably embarrassed.  She flushed with
something like annoyance.

"Mercy!  I had no idea you were anywhere about.  I suppose I'm greedy
but these did seem lovelier than mine.  This is Lilac Sunday and I
thought--perhaps nobody told you--that as long as you had so many you
wouldn't mind--I hope you don't think--"

She was so very evidently bothered over the whole affair, so
disconcerted, she who was always so coolly dignified, that he laughed
with boyish delight.

"Oh--don't explain, I understand," he begged.

The red in Nan's cheeks deepened.  She stiffened and half turned away.

"Goodness," she exclaimed to no one in particular, "how I _do_ dislike
ministers.  They always understand everything.  You just can't tell
them anything.  How I loathe them!  They're insufferable."

It was his turn to look a little startled and embarrassed.

"But you don't have to like me as a minister.  I don't want to be
_your_ minister."

She looked up to see just what he meant.  But he seemed to have
forgotten her, for the smile had gone from his eyes and though he
looked at her she knew that he didn't see her; that he was looking
beyond her at some one, something else.  When he spoke it was with a
winning gravity and a wistfulness that Nanny tried not to hear.

"I miss my mother more than any one here can guess.  Grandma Wentworth
is wonderful.  She is so wise and good and I love her.  But my mother
was young and gay and very beautiful.  She played and laughed and
talked with me.  She was the loveliest soul I ever knew.  You are very
much like her.  I have wanted you for a friend.  I never had a sister
but if I could have had I should have asked for a girl like you."

Oh, Nanny sensed the pitiful, childish loneliness of that plea!  The
wistfulness of the boy stabbed through her really tender heart.  But
Nanny Ainslee was a joyous, laughter-loving creature.  And the idea of
this boy whom already she half loved asking her to be his _friend_, his
_sister_!  Oh, it was childishly funny.  How her father would chuckle
if he knew that she who had dismissed so many suitors with platonic
friendliness and sisterly solicitude was now being offered that same
platonic friendliness and brotherly love.  It was too much for Nanny's
sense of humor!

So Nanny giggled.  She giggled disgracefully and could not stop
herself,--giggled even though she knew that the tall boy beside her was
flushing a painful red and slowly freezing into a hurt and painful
silence.  But she could not save herself or him.

"You had better let me cut you a few more sprays," he said at last
curtly.

She let him lay them in her arms and they walked to church in absolute
silence.  Nanny never knew that any living man could be so stubbornly
silent.  She was sorry and she wanted to tell him so.  But he gave her
no chance.  It seemed he was a young man who never asked for things
twice.  Nanny was sorry but she was also, for some incomprehensible
reason, angry.  And the sorrier she grew the angrier she became.
Cynthia's son seemed not to notice.  He walked straight on into the
church but Nanny stayed outside and held open court under the big horse
chestnuts in front of the church door.

She had left the olive groves and almond groves, the thick roses and
the blue waters of Italy, in order to be at home in time to see her
native town wrapped up in its fragrant lilac glory.

She stayed out now, her arms full of lilac plumes, watching the little
groups of her townspeople coming down the village streets toward the
church whose bell was tolling so sweetly through the warm, spring air.

Here came Mrs. Dustin with Peter and Joe Baldwin with his two boys and
Colonel Stratton with his sweet-faced wife.  From the opposite
direction came the Reverend Alexander Campbell with his wife in black
silk, his sister in gray silk, his elderly niece in blue silk and his
wife's second cousin in lavender.  There was Joshua Stillman and his
quiet daughter, Uncle Tony and Uncle Tony's brother William, with his
four girls and Seth Curtis' wife, Ruth.

Seth never went to church, having a profound scorn for the clergy.  But
he always fixed things so his wife could go.  He said ministers were
poor business men, selfish husbands and proverbially poor fathers, from
all he'd seen of them.  Somehow Seth was a singularly unfortunate man
in the matter of seeing things.  But there was no denying the fact that
he was an unusual husband.  He had been caught time and again by his
men friends and neighbors on a Sunday morning with one of his wife's
aprons tied about him, holding the baby in one arm, while he stirred
something on the stove with the other, and in various other ways
superintending his household while Ruth was at church.  But neither
jeers nor sympathy ever upset him.

"No, I can't say that I've ever hankered for sermons much.  They don't
generally tally with what I've seen and know of life.  But Ruth now can
get something helpful out of even a fool's remarks and comes home
rested and cheerful.  I figure that a woman as smart as Ruth about
working and saving sure earns her right to a bit of a church on Sunday
if she wants it.  And furthermore, I aim to give my wife anything in
reason that she wants.  It doesn't hurt any man to learn from a little
personal experience that babies aren't just little blessings full of
smiles and dimples but darn little nuisances, let me tell you.  This
little kid is as good as they make them but he gives me a backache all
over, puts bumps on my temper and ties my nerves up in knots.  And I've
discovered that just watching bread or pies or pudding is work.  And
when a man's peeled the potatoes and set the table and sliced the bread
and filled the water glasses and opened the oven a dozen times and
strained and stirred and mashed and salted and peppered, he begins to
understand why his wife is so tired after getting a Sunday dinner.  And
when he thinks of other days, washing days and ironing and baking and
scrubbing and sewing days, why, if he's anyway decent he begins to
suspect that he's darn lucky to get a full-grown woman to do all that
work for just her room and board.  And when he stops to count the times
she's tied his necktie, darned his socks and patched his clothes,
besides giving him a clean bed, a pretty sitting room to live in,
children to play with and brag about, and a bank book to make him sleep
easy on such nights as the storms are raging outside, why, a man just
don't have to go to church to believe in God.  He's got proofs enough
right in his kitchen.  It's the wife who ought to go if it's only to
sit still for an hour and get time to tell herself that there is a God
and that some day the work will let up maybe and her back won't ache
any more and Johnny won't be so hard on his shoes and Sammy on his
stockings.  Why, I tell you I'm afraid to keep Ruth from church, afraid
that if she loses her belief in a married woman's heaven she'll leave
me for somebody better or get so discouraged that she'll just hold her
breath and die."

So Ruth Curtis went to church every Sunday.  And Seth saw to it that
she always looked pretty.  This particular Lilac Sunday she was wearing
the sprigged dimity that Seth bought her over in Spring Road at
Williamson's spring sale.

Softly the bell tolled and the last stragglers came hurrying leisurely,
every soul carrying the lovely fragrant plumes so that the church would
be sweet with the breath of spring.  Later, these armfuls of beauty
would be packed into huge boxes and shipped to the city hospitals to
gladden pain-racked bodies and weary hearts.

Nanny Ainslee was still outside waiting for Grandma Wentworth.  Lilac
Sunday Nanny always waited for Grandma and always sat with her, because
of a certain story that Grandma had told her once when the lamps were
not yet lit and the soft summer moonlight lay in windowed squares on
Grandma's sitting room floor.  Nanny began to inquire of the last
comers.  But Tommy and Alice Winston, still bridey and shy, said they
had seen nothing of her, and even Roger Allan supposed of course that
she must be in her favorite pew, known to the oldtimers as Inspiration
Corner.  For it had been observed that all ministers sooner or later
delivered their discourses to Grandma Wentworth.  They were always sure
of her undivided attention.  Other people's eyes and minds might
wander, some might be even openly bored, but Grandma's uplifted face
was always kindly and encouraging, even though the sermon was
hopelessly jumbled.  She was the surest, severest critic and yet each
man preached to her feeling that with the criticism would come
kindliness and the sort of mother comfort that Grandma somehow knew how
to give to the meanest and most blundering of creatures.  Indeed, it
was the least successful of Green Valley's ministers who had designated
Grandma's seat as Inspiration Corner.  And then had in a final burst of
wrath told Green Valley that like Sodom and Gomorrah it was doomed,
that no mere man preacher could save it, that its only hope lay in
Grandma Wentworth, who alone understood its miserable, petty orneriness.

He meant to leave town a sputtering, raging man, that minister,--full
of what he called righteous wrath.  But he went to say good-by to
Grandma and experienced a change of heart.

He began his farewell by unburdening his heart and soul of all the
ponderous doctrines that sunny, joyful Green Valley had refused to
listen to.  He spoke earnestly of the world's terrible need of
salvation, the fearful necessity for haste and wholesale repentance and
the awful menace of God's wrath.  And the fact that he was a man
entering his forties instead of his thirties made matters worse.

But Grandma listened patiently and when he was emptied of all his
sorrows and worriments she took him out into her herb-garden, seated
him where he could see the sunset hills and then she preached a
marvellous sermon to just this one man alone.  No one but he knows what
she told him but he went forth a humble, tired, quiet man, filled to
the brim with a sudden belief in just life as it is lived by a few
hundred million humans.  Five years later word came to Green Valley
that this same man was a much loved pastor somewhere in the mountains.
And Green Valley, perennially young, unthinking, joyous Green Valley,
laughed incredulously as a sweet-hearted but wrongly educated child
always laughs at a true fairy tale or a simple miracle.

"If I had the making and raising of ministers," Grandma was heard to
say, apropos of this clergyman, "about the first thing I'd set them to
learning would be to laugh, first at themselves and then at other
people.  And as for this repentance and exhortation business I believe
it is worn out.  Humans have gotten tired of that 'last call for the
paradise express.'  They like this world and its life and they know
they could be pretty decent if somebody would only explain a few little
things to them.  It isn't that they hate religion but they want to be
allowed to grow into it naturally and sanely.  Religion getting ought
to be the quietest, happiest process, just pleasant neighboring like
and comparing of ideas, with every now and then a holy hush when men
and women have suddenly sensed some big beauty in life.  All this noise
is unnecessary, for every living soul of us, barring idiots, repents
several times a day even though we don't admit it in so many words.
And as for righteous wrath--it's a good thing and I believe in it, but
like cayenne pepper it wants to be used sparingly and only at the right
place and on the right person.  Any one would think to hear some
ministers talk that the Almighty was a combination of Theodore
Roosevelt, the Kaiser and a New York Police Commissioner working the
third degree.

"I wonder what the colleges can be thinking of, turning loose such
stale foolishness and old canned stuff on a mellow, sunny little home
town like Green Valley that's full of plain, blundering but
well-meaning, God-fearing people who work joyfully at their business of
living and turn up more religion when they plow a furrow or make over
the wedding dress for the baby than these ministers can dig up out of
all their musty books.  I've prayed for all kinds of qualities in
ministers but I've come to the point where I ask nothing more of a
preacher than a laugh now and then, some horse sense and health.

"I used to think that only mature men ought to be sent out but now I
shall be glad to see a boy in the pulpit to show us the way to
salvation,--a boy it may be with a head full of foolish notions that
old folks say are not practical and some of which won't of course stand
wear; but a boy, with a glad young face, eyes full of faith and dreams
and the sort of insane courage and daring that only the young know.
Such a boy needs considerable education in certain earthly matters, of
course, but he's lovable and teachable and will in time grow into a
real, God-knowing, truth-interpreting man."

Oh, Grandma Wentworth was an authority on ministers--ministers and
babies.  And it was a baby that had kept her away from church this
Lilac Sunday; a little, merry, red-headed boy baby that had come in the
early morning to make glad the heart of unbusinesslike Billy Evans and
his neat businesslike wife.  For several hours Doc Philipps and Grandma
had despaired of both baby and mother, but when the pink dawn came
smiling over the world's rim Billy's little son was born alive and
unblemished and Billy's wife crept back from the Valley of the Shadow
and smiled a bit into Billy's white, stricken face.  And Billy looked
deep down into the brown eyes of the girl and the terrible numbness
went out of his muscles and the icy hardness from around his heart and
he slipped out into the morning world to thank the Great Spirit that
moved it for His mercy and wonderful gift.  He just stood on his front
doorstep and, looking about his pretty home and remembering the miracle
within the house, poured a great prayer into the heart of the glad
morning.

Billy's house was one of the most picturesque of the many pretty homes
in Green Valley.  It had been a ramshackle, tumbled-down old cabin lost
in a tangle of bushes and hidden from the road by a shabby, unsightly
row of old willows.  Billy was going to rent it for temporary barn
purposes but his wife, who had a nimble and a prophetic eye, made him
buy it.  Then, under her supervision Billy enlarged and remodeled it
and Billy's wife waved some sort of a fairy wand over it, for it became
over night a lovely, story-book home.  When everything was ready she
had the unsightly willows cut, revealing a gently rising stretch of
mossy sward ending in a cluster of old trees from which the cozy house
peeped roguishly, tantalizingly.  Two old walnuts guarded the little
footpath to the door and two huge lilac bushes screened the porch from
the too curious gaze of travelers on the road below.  Indeed, so
altogether taking and fascinating a bit of property did it become after
its transformation that it was said that two of Green Valley's real
estate men never went down that road without doing sums in their heads
and calling themselves names for overlooking such a bargain.  It takes
constructive imagination to be successful in real estate.

And now around this cozy home spot Billy wandered deliriously,
aimlessly.  It was the tolling of the church bell and the smell of the
lilacs that recalled to him the significance of the day.

"Why, he was born on Lilac Sunday and he's red-headed just like Her.
Gosh--I must a bin born lucky!"

Billy looked once more all about his story-book home and then his eyes
strayed away to Petersen's Woods, fairy green and already full of deep
shadowed aisles, full of fretted beauty and solemnity.  Beyond them lay
the creek, a pool of silver draped in misty morning veils.

"Gosh--I wish to God I was religious!" suddenly, contritely murmured
Billy Evans.  In high heaven the angels, and in Billy's kitchen Grandma
Wentworth, overheard and smiled.

When Hank Lolly came up from the livery barn for a late breakfast, his
face drawn and eyes full of fear for the man and woman who had been
family and home to him, Billy went down the footpath to meet him.

"It's all right, Hank!  He's here, red hair and all," Billy informed
him in the merest breath of a whisper.  Hank wiped his face in limp
relief and sat down quite suddenly on the grass beside the path.
Instinctively Billy sat down with him.

They said nothing for a time, just looked and looked at the wide blue
sky, the green sweet world, tried for perhaps the millionth time to
sense Eternity and the what-and-why-and-how of it all and then gave it
up and like children accepted the day, the little new life, the whole
wonder of it as happy children accept it all, on faith and with
untainted joy.  It was just good to be there and there was no doubting
the perfect May day.  So they sat reverently until Billy, looking again
at that mass of shimmering greens and into those church-like aisles,
said:

"Hank, some one of us had ought to go to church to-day.  I wish to God
I had kep' up going to Sunday school.  Mother got me started but she
died before she could get me started in on church.  So I never went.
It's a terrible thing for a man not to learn religion along with his
reading and writing and 'rithmetic.  I used to think it was nobody's
business whether I had any religion or not after mother died.  I knew
that where she was she'd understand.  But I see now it was a terrible
mistake thinking that way and not laying in a supply of religion.  A
man thinks he owns himself and that certain things are nobody's
business, but by-and-by along comes a wife or a red-headed baby and
things happen different from what you've ever expected, things that you
just got to have religion for, and gosh--what are you going to do then
if you ain't got any?"

This terrible situation being beyond the mental powers of Hank, that
soul just sat still until Billy puzzled a way out.

"Somebody'd ought to go to church from out this house to-day," went on
Billy in a low voice.  "Grandma Wentworth can't go on account of Her
and It.  I can't go because--gosh--I'm so kind of split, my head going
one way and my legs another, that as likely as not I'd wind up in the
blacksmith shop or the hotel or fall in the creek.  I ain't safe on the
streets to-day, Hank.  And, anyway, I've got to keep up fires and water
boiling and them dumb'd frogs under the willows from croaking so's She
can sleep to-night.  That leaves nobody but you, Hank."

Billy hesitated, realizing the enormity of the request he was about to
make.

"Hank--I wish to God, you'd go and sort of settle the bill up for me.
Just go, Hank, and tell Him, that's the Big Boss, how darned thankful
we all are about what's happened to-day and that we'll do right by the
little shaver and that we'll try to run the livery business so's He
won't find too many mistakes when He gets around to looking over the
books Barney and you and me's keeping.  And you might mention how we've
always made it a point to treat our horses well but will do better in
the future.  And tell Him I'll see that the Widow Green's spring
plowing is done sooner after this.  It was a darn shame her being left
last like that but that she never asked me, me being so easy-going and
she so neat, until the rest of them left her in the lurch.  And tell
Him I'll take the sheriff's job, though if there's one thing I can't do
it's watching people and jumping on them.  Just talk to Him that way,
Hank.  Put in any little thing you happen to think of and go as far as
you like in promises and subscriptions.  The business is moving and
what promises you and I can't keep She'll find a way to pay off.  And
here's a ten-dollar gold piece to drop in the hat when it comes around.
You--"

But Hank was standing now and looking at his employer with such terror
in every line of his weather-beaten face that Billy paused again.

"My God--Billy!  You ain't asking me--_me_--to--to--to--to go to
_church_?"  Hank's voice fairly squeaked and stuttered with the horror
that clutched him.

"Hank, if there was any one else--"

But Hank, shaking in every joint and muscle of his still flabby body,
wagged his head in utter misery.

"Billy, I'll do anything else for you and Mrs. Evans and little
Billy--anything but that.  I'll jump into Wimple's pond, get drunk,
sign the pledge--anything but that.  What you're a-wanting, Billy,
ain't to be thought of.  You're forgetting, Billy, what I was and what
I am.  Why, Billy, that there church belongs to the best people in this
town and it ain't for the likes of me to go into such vallyable places,
a-tramplin' on that there expensive carpet we both of us hauled free of
charge last September.  There's Doc Philipps and Tony and Grandma
Wentworth and any number of good friends of mine in there.  And do you
think I want to shame them and insult them by coming into their church,
disturbing the doings?  You just let things be and when Mrs. Evans is
up and around again she'll go like she always does when she's got
enough vittles cooked up for us men folks.  I'm a miserable, no-account
drunk, that's what I am, Billy Evans, and I ain't no proper person to
send on an errand to the Lord.  Why, church ain't for the likes of
me--it's--it's--"

But at this point language failed Hank entirely, and the enormity of
the proposed undertaking once more sweeping over him, Hank searched for
his bandanna and wiped the beads of cold sweat from around his mouth
and the back of his stringy neck.

Billy was silent.  He knew that Hank was right and that he had asked an
impossible service of his faithful helper.  Still there in the morning
sun glistened the green grove and through the holiness of the spring
morning tolled the old church bell.  So Billy rose and walked slowly
and a little sadly up the narrow path.  And Hank walked up with him.

It was in silence that they sat down to their late breakfast.  But in
the act of swallowing his tenth cornmeal pancake dripping with maple
syrup Hank had a sudden inspiration.  The misery in his face gave place
to a grim determination.

"Billy," he offered remorsefully, "I can't go to church for you, but
I'll tell you what I'll do.  I'll go to the dentist's and have these
bad teeth fixed that Doc and Mrs. Evans and you have been at me about.
Next to going to church that's the awfullest thing I know of and I'll
do it.  Doc says that bad teeth make a bad stomach and a bad stomach
makes a bad man and it may be so.  And as for that ten-dollar gold
piece, I don't see why you can't send that by Barney, same as you'd
send him to the bank for change or to Tony's to pay the gas bill.  When
I go back now I'll just send Barney along with it, and then I'll go see
Doc Mitchell and let him kill me with that there machine of his."

That's how it happened that a little thin hand caught Nanny Ainslee's
just as she was entering the church door and Barney of the spindle legs
begged frenziedly for assistance.

"Aw, Nan--look at this!" and he held out the gold piece.  "Billy Evans'
got a little baby down to his house and he's clean crazy.  Grandma
Wentworth's bossing the baby show and she says for you to take the
minister home to dinner.  And Billy's sent this here and wants me to
put it in the collection box and I don't dast.  Why, say, old man
Austin that passes the collection plate would have me pinched if he saw
me drop that in it.

"And, anyhow, I ain't been liked around here ever since last Christmas
when I got three boxes of candy by mistake.  And, gee--Nan, I don't
know what to do about it.  Billy Evans is the best man in this here
town and I'd do most anything for him, but he's such a good guy himself
he don't see that church ain't any place for a kid like me and that it
was a mistake to send me with this coin."

Nan's amazement gave way to sudden enlightenment.  She knew now why
Grandma Wentworth had not put in an appearance, and knowing Billy Evans
well, she instantly comprehended the situation.

"Barney, what in the world are you talking about, saying this church is
no place for you.  This is just the place for a boy who gets several
boxes of Christmas candy by mistake.  You come right along with me."

"Aw, Nan, why can't you drop it in for me?  I just ain't got the nerve.
I'd rather get all my teeth pulled like Hank is going to do.  Why, say,
Nan, just the sight of old Austin makes my hair curl.  I tell ya he
don't like me and I'll be pinched--"

But Nan had already drawn Billy's spindle-legged assistant inside and
as no man yet had been known to show anything but quiet pride when
escorting Nanny Ainslee, Barney straightened manfully and with an
outward serenity that amazed even himself he gracefully slid into a
seat, having first gallantly stepped aside to permit his gracious lady
to be seated.  And life being that morning especially a thing of tender
humor, they had no sooner settled themselves comfortably when Fanny
Foster, the last comer, sank down beside them, breathing heavily.

Fanny Foster was always late for church, not from any notion that a
late entrance was fashionable but because of some hitch in her domestic
affairs.  She always explained to the congregation afterward just what
had caused her delay and the congregation was always ready to listen to
her excuses, for they were as a rule highly original ones.

Fate was always sending Fanny the most thrilling experiences at the
most improper times.  The children were always falling into the cistern
or setting the barn afire as she was about to start out somewhere.  And
such things as buttonhooks and hairpins had a way of disappearing just
when she was in the greatest hurry.  Not that the lack of these toilet
necessities ever stopped Fanny from attending any town function.

If the buttonhook could not be found she set out with her shoes
unbuttoned, borrowing the necessary implement on the way.  If she had
no hairpins she put her hair up temporarily with two knitting needles
or lead pencils or anything like that that came handy, stopped at
Jessup's, bought her hairpins, and while reporting news in Mrs. Green's
kitchen did up her hair without the aid of brush, comb or mirror.

This trait Fanny came by naturally.  She had had a droll grandmother.
It was authentic history that once at the very moment when she was
getting ready to attend a Green Valley funeral this grandmother's false
teeth broke, leaving her somewhat dazed.  But only for a moment, for
she was a woman with a perfect memory.  She suddenly remembered that
the wife of the deceased had an old emergency set; so, slipping through
the back streets, she arrived at the house of grief, borrowed the new
widow's old teeth and wept as copiously and sincerely, albeit a little
carefully, over the remains as any one else there.

Now, scarcely waiting to regain her breath, Fanny turned to Nanny with
the usual explanations, only stopping to exclaim over Barney--"Land
sakes, Barney, what are you doing here!"  A breath and then in sibilant
whispers:

"Well--I thought I'd never get here.  When I come to dress I found the
children had cut up my corset into a harness for the dog and Jessup's
said they hadn't anybody to send up with a new one and John said he
couldn't go because his foot's bad, him having stepped on the rake
yesterday afternoon and not wanting to irritate it, so's he could go to
work tomorrow as usual.  And Grandma's up to Billy Evans' trying to
keep him from going crazy or I could have borrowed one of hers.  So I
'phoned Central to see if she couldn't hunt up somebody to bring me
that new corset from Jessup's.  Well, who does she get hold of but
Denny, just as he's going past with a telegram for Jocelyn Brownlee.
He brought the corset with the string gone and the box broken and asked
me to help him figure out what that telegram meant.  It said,

"'Coming better call it phyllis
      BOB.'


"There's few men that can write a proper letter.  We had to give it up.
And as if that wasn't enough, when I got to the creamery I met
Skinflint Holden and he told me there was a lot of disease amongst the
cattle and the men all got together and had a meeting and made Jake
Tuttle deputy marshal or something.  It's a wonder Jake wouldn't say
something.  I suppose he thinks the few old cows we have here in town
ain't worth saving.

"Well, anyhow, I was hurrying along so's not to be late and just as I
turned Tumley's hedge didn't Bessie come out with her face swollen so
she looked homelier than Theresa Meyer.  It seems she had a birthday
and Alex brought her a big box of chocolates and they give her the
toothache.  She went to Doc Mitchell but he put her off because he was
regulating and pulling every tooth in Hank Lolly's head.  She was just
sick to think she had to miss Lilac Sunday and Mr. Courtney's last
sermon, but she told me to be sure and listen and if he let on he was
sorry he was leaving not to believe him, because he's had everything
except the parlor furniture crated for a month.  They've been eating
off tin plates and drinking out of two enamel cups on the kitchen
table.  Bessie thinks that for a minister he's full of sin and
self-pride.  But I say even a minister--"

But at this point the hymn singing was over, the congregation settled
itself in comfortable attitudes, and the careful Mr. Courtney rose to
deliver his farewell sermon.

It was a sermon that stirred nobody.  Green Valley was as glad to see
the Reverend Courtney departing as he was to go.  His one cautious
reference to their pastorless state, for he did not know that Green
Valley had already selected its new minister, brought not a line of
worry to the faces turned so politely to the pulpit, for on Lilac
Sunday and to a farewell sermon Green Valley was ever polite.

Green Valley, listening, thought with relief of the Sundays ahead and
felt very much the way a hospitable housewife feels when an uncongenial
guest departs and the home springs back to its old cheery order and
family peace.

When the services were over Green Valley strolled out into the May
sunshine in twos and threes and stood about as always in little groups
to exchange the week's news.  Billy Evans' new happiness, the
ten-dollar gold piece and all its attending incidents were duly talked
over.  Under the horse chestnuts Max Longman was telling Colonel
Stratton how the day before Sam Ellis had at last leased the hotel to a
Chicago man.  It was reported that there was to be no new barber shop,
but that over on West Street a poolroom, also run by a city stranger,
was already doing business.  Several people had passed it that morning
on their way to church and all said it had a peculiar appearance.

"Looks like one of those woebegone city dens, with its green plush
curtains so you can't see what's going on inside.  All it needs is fly
specks on the windows and a strong smell at its side door.  That'll
come with time.  I hear you can play billiards and pool in there and
there's some slot machines for those too young to take a hand at cards."

So said Jake Tuttle, who now that he was a deputy sheriff on the watch
for diseases threatening his and his neighbors' cattle, suddenly
realized that there might be such a thing as a deputy sheriff to look
out for the physical and moral health of humans.

Green Valley listened to Max Longman's announcement and Jake's comment
and made up its mind to go around and see.  Sam Ellis' withdrawal from
business made Green Valley folks a little uneasy.  The hotel in other
hands might become a strange place.  For a moment an uncomfortable
feeling gripped those who heard.  Sam, an old friend and a neighbor,
with his genial good sense and old-fashioned hotel was one thing.  A
stranger from the big and wicked city was another.

Green Valley almost began to worry a bit.  But on the way home this
feeling wore off.  How could things change?  Why, there were the
Spencer boys taking turns at the ice-cream freezer on the back porch.
There was Ella Higgins coming out with a saucer of milk for her cat.
Downer's barn door was open and any one could see by the new buggy that
stood in it that Jack Downer's brother and family had driven in from
the farm for a Sunday dinner and visit.  Williamson's dog, Caesar, was
tied up,--a sure sign that Mel and Emmy had gone off to see Emmy's
folks over in Spring Road.  The chairs in Widow Green's orchard told
plainly that her sister's girls had come in from the city for the
week-end.  On the Fenton's front porch sat pretty Millie Fenton,
waiting to put a flower in Robbie Longman's buttonhole.  While
everybody knew that just next door homely Theresa Meyer was putting an
extra pan of fluffy soda biscuits into the oven as the best preparation
for _her_ beau.

So Green Valley looked and smiled and went joyously home to its
fragrant, old-fashioned Sunday dinner.  New elements might and would
come but this smiling town would absorb them, mellow them to its own
golden hue and go on its way living and rejoicing.

Cynthia's son went to dinner with the Ainslees.  He walked with Mr.
Ainslee while Nan and her brother went on ahead.  Nan was almost
noisily gay but no one seemed to be at all aware of it.

The dinner was delicious and went off without the least bit of
embarrassment.  At the table Nan was as suddenly still as she had been
noisily gay.  She let the men do the talking while she scrupulously
attended to their wants.  Once she forgot herself and while he was
talking studied the face of Cynthia's son.  Her father caught her at it
and smiled.  This made her flush and to even up matters she
deliberately put salt instead of sugar into her father's after-dinner
cup of coffee.  Whereupon he, tasting the salt, made an irrelevant
remark about handwriting on the wall.



CHAPTER IX

GREEN VALLEY MEN

Close on the heels of Lilac Sunday comes Decoration Day.  And nowhere
is it observed so thoroughly as in Green Valley.

The whole week preceding the day there is heard everywhere the whir of
sewing machines.  New dresses are feverishly cut and made; old ones
ripped and remade.  Hats are bought, old ones are retrimmed.  Buggies
are repainted and baby carriages oiled.  Dick does a thriving business
in lemons, picnic baskets, flags, peanuts and palm-leaf fans, these
being things that Jessup's chronically forget to carry, regarding them
as trifles and rather scornfully leaving them to Dick, who makes a
point of having on hand a very choice supply.

This fury of work gradually dies down, to be followed by such an
epidemic of baking that the old town smells like a sweet old bakery
shop with its doors and windows wide open.  There is then every evening
a careful survey of the flower beds in the garden, a rigid economy of
blossoms and even much skilful forcing of belated favorites.

The last day is generally given over to hat buying, the purchasing of
the last forgotten fixings and clothes inspections.  From one end of
the town to the other clotheslines, dining-room chairs, porch rockers
and upstairs bedrooms are overflowing with silk foulards, frilled
dimities, beribboned and belaced organdies, not to mention the billows
of dotted swiss and muslin.

On short clotheslines, stretched across corners of back and side
porches or in the tree-shaded nooks of back yards, may be seen hanging
the holiday garments of Green Valley men.  But what most catches the
eye are the old suits of army blue flapping gently in the spring breeze
with here and there a brass button glinting.  There are a surprising
number of these suits of army blue just as there are a surprising
number of graves in the little Green Valley cemetery over which, the
long year through, flutters the small flag set there by loving hands
each Decoration Day.

There are all manner of cleaning operations going on in full view of
anybody and everybody who might be interested enough to look.  For
there is no streak of mean secretiveness in Green Valley folks.

This is the one time in the year when Widow Green takes off and "does
up" the yellow silk tidy that drapes the upper right-hand corner of her
deceased husband's portrait which stands on an easel in the darkest
corner of her parlor.  This little service is not the tender attention
of a loving and grieving wife for a sadly missed husband but rather a
patriotic woman's tribute to a man, who, worthless and cruel as a
husband, had yet been a gallant and an honorable soldier.

As the widow sits on the back steps carefully washing the tidy in a
hand basin and with a bar of special soap highly recommended by Dick,
she looks over into the next yard and calls to Jimmy Rand and asks him
whether he's going to march with the rest of the school children and
will there be anything special on the programme this year.  And he
tells her sure he's going to march.  Ain't he got a new pair of pants,
a blouse, a navy blue tie and a new stickpin?  And as for the
programme, he warns her to watch out "fur us kids because we're going
to be fixed up for something, but I dassent tell because it's a
surprise the teachers got up."

This is the one day in the year when Jimmy Rand polishes his
grandfather's shoes with scrupulous care and without demanding the
usual nickel.  He takes his payment in watching the blue army suit
swaying on the line under the tall poplars and in hearing the crowds on
Decoration Day shout themselves hoarse for old Major Rand.

It is the one time too when Old Skinflint Holden gets from his fellow
citizens and neighbors a certain grave respect, for they all know that
on the morrow among the men in blue will be this same Old Skinflint
Holden with a medal on his breast.

Though every preparation has seemingly been made days ago, still that
last night before the event is the very busiest time of all.

Joe Baldwin's little shop is crowded.  Jake Tuttle is there with the
four children, buying them the fanciest of footgear for the morrow.
The two Miller boys, who work in the creamery until nine every night
but have special leave this day to purchase holiday necessities, are
standing awkwardly near Joe's side door and waiting patiently for
Frankie Stevens and Dora Langely, better known as "Central," to depart
with their black velvet slippers, before making any effort to have Joe
try his wares on their awkward feet.  Little Johnny Peterson comes in
to inquire if Joe has sewed the buttons on his, Johnny's, shoes, and
Martha Gray has a hard time trying to decide which of two pairs of
moccasins are most becoming to her youngest baby.  Any number of youths
are hanging about waiting for Joe to get around to selling them a box
of his best shoe polish and some, getting impatient, wait on
themselves.  Joe, with his spectacles pushed up into his hair, is
rushing around from customer to customer and through it all is dimly
conscious of the fact that outside under the awning Dolly Beatty is
waiting anxiously for the men folks to get out before she ventures in
to buy her Joe's special brand of corn salve and bunion plaster.

And so it is all the way down Main Street.  In the gents' furnishings'
corner of Peter Sweeney's dry-goods store Seth Curtis is buying a new
hat, a little jaunty hat that seems to fit his head well enough but
doesn't somehow become the rest of him.  Seth looks best in a cap and
always wears one except, of course, on such state occasions as the
coming one.  He asks the Longman boys how he looks in the brown fedora
Pete has just put on his head and Max Longman laughs and wants to know
what difference it makes how a married man with a bald spot looks.
Then he turns away to pick out carefully the kind of tie that will make
him most pleasing in Clara's sight on the morrow.

In the ladies' department of that same store Jocelyn Brownlee is asking
for long, white silk gloves.  A little hush falls on the crowd of
feminine shoppers as Mrs. Pete gets the stepladder, mounts it and
brings down with a good deal of visible pride a pasteboard box
containing six pairs of white silk gloves that Pete bought three years
ago in a moment of incomprehensible madness, a thing which Mrs. Pete
has never until this minute forgiven him.

Jocelyn, pretty, eager, unaffected, selects the very first pair and is
wholly unconscious of the stir she has made.  It is only when David
Allan comes up and asks her if she is ready that she becomes confused
and conscious of the watching eyes of the other buyers.

She has promised to go to the Decoration Day exercises with David and
has hurried to buy gloves for the occasion not knowing, in her city
innocence, that gloves aren't the style in Green Valley, leastways not
for any outdoor festival.

David watches the gloves being wrapped up and that reminds him that it
wouldn't hurt to buy a new buggy whip, one of the smart ones with the
bit of red, white and blue ribbon on its tip that he saw standing in
Dick's window.

So he and Jocelyn go off together to get the whip.  It is the first
time that Jocelyn has been out in the village streets after nightfall
and she looks about her with eager eyes.

"My--how pretty the streets look and sound!  It's ever so much prettier
than village street scenes on the stage!" she confides to David.  And
David laughs and takes her over to Martin's for a soda and then,
because it is still early, he coaxes her to walk about town with him
and as a final treat they stop in front of Mary Langely's millinery
shop.

Mary Langely's shop stands right back of Joe Baldwin's place on the
next street.  Mary is a widow with two girls.  Dora is the Green Valley
telephone operator and Nellie is typist and office girl for old Mr.
Dunn who is Green Valley's best real estate and lawyer man.  He sells
lots, now and then a house, writes insurance and draws up wills,
collects bills or rather coaxes careless neighbors to settle their
accounts, and he absolutely does not believe in divorce or woman
suffrage.  These two matters stir the gentle little man to great wrath.
His wife is even a gentler soul than he is.  She is the eldest of the
Tumleys, sister of George Hoskins' wife and to Joe Tumley, the little
man with a voice as sweet as a skylark's.

You go to Mr. Dunn's office through a little low gate and you find an
old, deep-eaved, gambrel-roofed house with a hundred little window
panes smiling at you from out its mantle of ivy.  You love it at once
but you don't go in right away, because the great old trees won't let
you.  You go and stand under them and wonder how old they are and lay
your hand caressingly on the fine old trunks.  And then you see the
myrtle and violets growing beneath them and near the house clumps of
daisies and forget-me-nots.  And then you spy the beehives and the
quaint old well and you walk through the cool grape arbor right into
the little kitchen, where Mrs. Dunn, as likely as not, is making a
cherry pie or currant jell or maybe a strawberry shortcake.  She is a
delicious and an old-fashioned cook.  Why, she even keeps a giant
ten-gallon cooky jar forever filled with cookies, although there are
now no children in this sweet old manse.  Nobody now but Nellie Langely
who goes home every night to the millinery shop where she helps her
mother make and sell the bonnets that have made Mary Langely famous in
all the country round.

Green Valley folks have never quite gotten over wondering about Mary
Langely.  When Tom Langely was alive Mary was a self-effacing, oddly
silent woman.  People said she and Tom were a queer pair.  Tom had
great ambitions in almost every direction.  He even made brave
beginnings.  But that was all.  Then one day, in the midst of all
manner of ambitious enterprises, he grew tired of living and died.  And
then it was that Mary Langely rose from obscurity and made Green Valley
rub its eyes.  For within a week after Tom's death she had gathered
together all the loose ends of things that he had started, clapped a
frame second story on the imposing red brick first floor of the house
Tom had begun, converted this first floor into a store, and inside of a
month was selling hats to women who hadn't until then realized they
needed a hat.

There were more electric bulbs and mirrors in Mary's shop than in any
three houses in Green Valley.  That was why it was always the gayest
spot in town on the night preceding any holiday.

It was interesting and pleasant to watch through the brightly lighted
windows and the wide double glass doors the women trying on the gay
creations and hovering over the heaps of flowers and glittering
ornaments heaped upon the counters.

Jocelyn and David stood in the soft shadow of an old elm and while they
watched David explained the customers going in and coming out.  He told
her that the tall straight woman buying the spray of purple lilacs for
her last year's hat was the Widow Green.  The short, waddly woman
trying on the wide hat with the pink roses was Bessie Williams.  The
tall girl with the pretty braids wound round her head was Bonnie Don,
big Steve Meckling's sweetheart.  Steve, David explained, was so
foolishly in love that he was ready to commit murder if another lad so
much as looked at Bonnie.

The tall quiet man buying hats and ribbons for his girls was John
Foster.  And the little bow-legged one, with the hard hat two sizes too
big, was Hen Tomlins who always went shopping with his wife.

So Green Valley made its purchases and hastened home to pack its lunch
basket and lay out all its clothes on the spare-room bed.  Even as
David and Jocelyn walked home through the laughing streets, lights were
being winked out in the lower living rooms only to flash out somewhere
up-stairs where the family was wisely going to bed early.  No one even
glanced at the sky, for it was taken for granted that Green Valley
skies would do their very best, as a matter of course.


When the last star began to fade and the first little breath of a new
morning ruffled the soft gray silence a sudden sharp volley rang out.
It was the Green Valley boys setting off cannon crackers in front of
the bank.  And it must be said right here that that first signal volley
was about all the fireworks ever indulged in in Green Valley.  This
little town, nestling in the peaceful shelter of gentle hills and
softly singing woods, naturally disliked harsh, ugly sounds and was
moreover far too thrifty, too practical and sane a community to put
firearms and flaming death into the hands of its children.  Green
Valley patriotism was of a higher order.

At that sharp volley Green Valley awoke with a start and a laugh and
ran to put flags on its gateposts and porch pillars and loop bunting
around its windows.  And when the morning broke like a great pink rose
and shed its rosy light over the dimpling hills and lacy, misty
woodlands the old town was a-flutter with banners, everybody was about
through with breakfast and certain childless and highly efficient
ladies were already taking their front and side hair out of curl papers.

At eight o'clock sharp the school bell summoned the children.  Then a
little later the church bell summoned the veterans.  And by nine the
procession was marching down Maple Street, flags waving, band playing
and every face aglow.

First came the little tots all in white, the boy babies bearing little
flags and the girl babies little baskets of flowers, with little
Eleanor Williams carrying in her tiny hands a silken banner on which
Bessie Williams, her mother, had beautifully embroidered a dove and the
lovely word, "Peace."

Then came the older children, a whole corps it seemed of Red Cross
nurses, followed by a regiment of merry sailor boys.  There were
cowboys and Boy Scouts, boys in overalls and brownies.  There were
girls in liberty caps, crinolines and sunbonnets.

So grade after grade Green Valley's children came, a proud and happy
escort for the men in blue who followed.  Nanny Ainslee's father led
the veterans, sitting his horse right gallantly.  Nanny and her father
were both riding and so was Doc Philipps.

There were plenty of people on horseback but most of the town marched,
even The Ladies Aid Society, every member wearing her badge and new hat
with conscious pride and turning her head continually to look at the
children, as the head of the procession turned corners.  The young
married women with babies rode in buggies, from every one of whose
bulging sides flags drooped and fat baby legs and picnic baskets
protruded.

Everything went smoothly, joyously along, though a few incidents in
various parts of the procession caused smiles, gusts of laughter and
even alarm.

Jimmy Rand had a few anxious moments when the four fat puppies he
thought he had shut safely into the barn came yelping and tumbling
joyously into the very heart of the marching crowds.

Jim Tumley was down on the day's programme for several numbers.  But as
the line swung around the hotel and the spring winds stained with the
odors of liquor swept temptingly over him he half started to step out
of line.  But Frank Burton guessed his trouble and ordered Martin's
clerk, Eddie, to bring the little chap an extra large and fine soda
instead.

Mrs. Hen Tomlins upset things by ordering Hen back home to change his
shirt.  It seems that Hen had deliberately put on a shirt with a soft
collar and in the excitement of getting under way and trying to
remember which way her new hat was supposed to set Mrs. Hen had failed
to notice the crime until, her fears set at rest by Mary Langeley, she
turned around to see if Hen looked all right.

Uncle Tony was in a great state of excitement.  He was continually
leaving his place in The Business Men's Association to have a look from
the side lines at the imposing spectacle.

Here and there mothers close enough to their offspring were suggesting
a more frequent use of handkerchiefs and calling attention to
traitorous garters and wrinkled stockings.  Tommy Downey had forgotten
what his mother had told him about being sure to put his ears inside
his cap and those two appendages, burned and already blistered by the
hot May sun, stood out in solemn grandeur from his small, round,
grinning face.  The school teachers were keeping anxious eyes on their
particular broods and insisting that the eager feet keep solemn step to
the music.

Sam Ellis' new greenhorn hired girl, Francy, was sitting in the back
seat of the buggy, holding down the brimming baskets and leaning out as
far as possible so as not to miss anything that might happen at either
end as well as the middle of the procession.  She had been utterly
unable to pin on her first American hat with hatpins, so had wisely
tied it to her head with a large red-bordered handkerchief which she
had brought over from the old country.

Jocelyn Brownlee, sitting beside David in his smart rig, had begged him
to go last so that she could see everything.  This was her first
country festival and no child in that throng was so happily, wildly
eager to drain the day to the very last drop of enjoyment.

Jocelyn and David however did not end the procession.  Behind them,
though quite a way back, was Uncle Tony's brother William.  William was
driving his span of grays so slowly that the pretty creatures tossed
their heads restlessly, impatiently, lonely for the companionship of
the gay throng ahead.

But though their owner knew what they wanted he held them back sternly.
But he looked as wistfully as they at the fluttering flags and listened
as keenly to the puffs of music that the wind dashed into his face
every now and then.

Every Decoration Day Uncle Tony's brother William rode just so, slowly
and alone at the end of the gay procession.  On that day he was a
lonely and tragic figure.  Loved and respected every other day in the
year, on this he was shunned.  For he was the only man in all Green
Valley who, when conscripted, would not go to the war but sent a
substitute, one Bob Saunders.

Bob was killed at Gettysburg and nobody mourned him, not even his very
own sister though Green Valley was duly proud of the way he died.  Only
on this one day did Green Valley remember the man whose death was the
one and only worth while deed of a misspent life.  But on this one day
too Green Valley shunned the man who sent him to his death.

So every Decoration Day William came alone to put a wreath on Bob's
grave and watch the exercises from a distance.  When it was over he
went home--alone.  And Green Valley let him do it year after year.

He was never known to murmur at Green Valley's annual censure nor did
he ever seem to hope for forgiveness.  Green Valley had asked him once
why he had done it and he said that he would have been worthless as a
soldier because he did not believe in killing people and was himself
horribly afraid of being butchered.

Green Valley was appalled at this terrible confession, at the absence
in one of its sons of even the common garden variety of courage.  It
did its best for a while to despise William.  But it is hard work
despising an honest, quiet, just and lovable man.  So gradually William
was allowed to come home into Green Valley's life.  And it was only on
this one holiday that he was an outcast.  Neither did any one ever
remind William's children of what years ago their father had done.  But
of course they knew.  Their father had told them himself.  They were in
no way cast down.  They were all girls who loved their father and did
not believe in war.

In that fashion then, and in that order, Green Valley marched down Main
Street, up Grove, through lovely Maple and very slowly down Orchard
Avenue so that Jeremy Collins, who was bedridden because of a bullet
wound suffered at Shiloh, could see his old comrades with whom he could
no longer march.

All the way down Park Lane the band played its very best and loudest as
if calling from afar to those comrades who lay sleeping beneath the
pines and oaks of the little cemetery.  And just as the Green Valley
folks came in sight of the white headstones the Spring Road procession
came tramping over the old bridge, and Elmwood, with its flags and
band, was coming up the new South Road.  The three towns met nicely at
the very gates of the cemetery and together made the sort of sound and
presented the sort of sight that lingers in the heart long after other
things have faded from one's memory.

Then the bands grew still and there was quiet, a quiet that every
minute grew deeper so that the noisiest youngster grew round-eyed and
the fat sleek horses moved never a hoof.  And then, sweet and soft
through the waiting, hushed air, came the notes of Major Rand's cornet.
He was playing for his comrades as he had played at Shiloh, at
Chickamauga and many another place in the Southland.  He played all
their old favorites and then very, very softly the cornet wailed--"We
are tenting to-night on the old camp ground"--and somewhere beside it
little Jim Tumley began to sing.

From the high blue sky and the softly stirring tree-tops the words seem
to drop into little hearts and big hearts and the sweet, melting
sadness of them misted the eyes.  When the last feathery echo had died
away the men in blue passed two by two through the cemetery gate.
Reverend Campbell, who had been their chaplain, said a short prayer.
At its end the children, with their arms full of flowers, crowded up
and the men in blue stopped at every grave.  The little boys planted
their flags at the head and the little girls scattered the blossoms
deep.

From beyond the gates Green Valley and Spring Road and Elmwood watched
its heroes and its children.  In David Allan's smart rig sat a little
city girl, her face crumpled and stained like a rain-beaten rose.  She
was saying to no one in particular, "Oh--my daddy was a soldier too but
I know that he never had a Decoration Day like this."

The bands played again and each class went through its number on the
programme with grace and only a very few noticeable blunders.  Tommy
Downey, ears rampant, a tooth missing and a face radiant with joy and
absolute self-confidence, mounted the bunting and flag-draped stage and
in a booming voice wholly out of proportion to his midget dimensions
and in ten dashing verses assured those assembled that the man who wore
the shoulder straps was a fine enough fellow to be sure, but that it
was after all the man without them who had to win the day.

The old country roads rippled with applause and Tommy's mother,
forgetting for once Tommy's funny ears which were her greatest source
of grief, drew the funny little body close and explained to admiring
bystanders that Tommy "took" after one of her great-uncles, a soul much
given to speech making.

So number after number went off and then there came the speech of the
day.  It had been decided at the last moment that Doc Philipps must
make this, because the specially ordered and greatly renowned speaker,
one Daniel Morton from down Brunesville way, had at the last moment and
at his ridiculous age contracted measles.

Now Green Valley knew how Doc Philipps hated to talk about almost
everything except trees.  But Green Valley also knew that Doc could
talk about most anything if he was so minded.  He was, moreover, as
well known and loved in Spring Road and Elmwood as he was in his own
town.  So Green Valley folks leaned back, certain that this speech
would be worth hearing.

The bulky figure in army blue stepped to the edge of the platform and
for a silent minute towered above his neighbors like one of the great
trees he so loved.  Then, without warning or preface, he began to talk
to them.

"War is pretty--when the uniforms are new and the band is playing.  War
is glorious to read about and talk about--when it's all over.  But war
is every kind of hell imaginable for everybody and everything while
it's going on!  And they lie who say that it ever was, is, or can be
anything else.  Every soldier here to-day above ground or below it will
and would tell you the same.

"And they are fools who say that wars cannot be prevented.  War is the
rough and savage tool of a world as yet too ignorant to invent and use
any other.  But here and there, in odd corners of the world, an
ever-increasing number of men are recognizing it as a disease, due to
ignorance, as possible to cure and wipe out, as any other of the
horrible plagues of mankind.

"When I was twenty-three I too believed in war.  I liked the uniform, I
liked the excitement of going, I liked the idea of 'fighting for the
right.'  I was too young and too ignorant to realize that older, better
men than I on the other side felt just as right as I did.  In those
days war was the only tool and we thought it right, and some of us went
hating it and some of us went shouting like fools.  I went for the lark
of it, for I knew no better.  I marched away in a new uniform with the
band playing and the flags snapping.  And on the little old farm my
father gave me I left a nineteen-year-old wife with my one-year-old
baby.

"Next door to that wife and baby of mine lived a man who did not
believe in war, a man who, even when conscription came and he was
called, refused to go to war.  He hired a substitute and stayed at
home.  And for that Green Valley has marked that man a coward and every
year sits in judgment upon him.

"Yet the man who would not go to war stayed at home to plough my fields
and plant them.  He it was who saw to it that that wife of mine and the
wives of other war-mad boys did not want for bread.  He stayed at home
here and minded his business and ours as well.  He wrote letters and
got news for our women when they got to fretting too hard.  He
harvested our crops, tended our stock, and mended our fences because he
is so made that he cannot bear to see things wasted, neglected, ruined.

"As a soldier that man was worthless, for the business of a soldier is
to kill, to burn, to waste, to maim.  He knew that and he knew that
being what he was he could serve his country better doing the things he
liked and believed in.

"I came out of that war a physical wreck but with a heart purified.  I
saw such a hell of evil, such destruction, such misery that to-day I am
a doctor and a planter of trees.  When I saw men torn to rags and
lovely strips of woodland ripped to splintered ugliness I vowed that if
I ever came through that madness I would make amends.  I swore I would
go through the world mending things.  So terribly did those war horrors
grip me.  And I have tried to keep my promise.  For every tree I saw
splintered I have tried to plant another somewhere.  I have been able
to do this because of that old neighbor of mine.

"When I came home a wreck and said that I wanted to be a doctor, people
laughed at the idea.  But the man who does not believe in war came to
me at night and offered to help me through the medical school.  It was
that man who made a doctor of me.  He had the courage to believe and
trust when every one else laughed.

"Yet that is the man Green Valley has been punishing all these years.
You have been counting that man a coward when you know he is no coward.
When Petersen's fool hired man let that bull out of its stall to rage
through Green Valley's streets it was Green Valley's coward who caught
him at the risk of his life.  When Johnny Bigelow was sick with
smallpox it was the coward who nursed him.

"You know all that.  Yet, because of outlived and mossy tradition, you
let that man ride alone, keep him out of a Green Valley day, you who
count yourselves such good neighbors.

"I tell you we men in blue and gray are dead and our tool of war is a
poor and clumsy thing of the past.  Ours was a brave enough, great
enough day.  But it has passed, its story is over and done with.

"It is the new brand of courage that the new generations want and will
have.  And no old soldier here but is glad to feel that the days of
bloodshed are over, that somewhere in the days ahead there is coming
the dawn of peace, a world peace forevermore."

As suddenly as he began he stopped, for a long second there was a
strange silence.  For just the space of ten heart flutters there was
amazement at this new style of address.  No old soldier had ever talked
to them in that fashion.  But when they saw him striding over that
stage and headed straight for William the storm broke and eddied out to
where William sat, holding in the grays, not even dreaming that at last
he was understood and forgiven.

After the last songs were sung the sun stood high.  So then the great
gathering broke into little family groups that strolled off up the
roads in every direction.  Here in shady spots tablecloths were spread
and soon everybody seemed to be opening a basket and the feast was on.

In half an hour all manner of things had happened.  The Whitely twins
fell into some strawberry pies, and supposedly hard boiled eggs were in
many cases found to be extremely soft boiled.  Boys of all sizes were
beginning to be smeared from ear to ear and two of Hen Tomlin's wife's
doughnuts were found to be quite raw inside, a discovery that so
stunned that careful lady that she never noticed Hen had taken off his
stiff linen collar, opened his shirt and tucked both it and his
undershirt into a very cool and comfortable décolleté effect.

In another half hour fat babies fell asleep where they sat, their
little fat hands holding tight to some goody.  Boys old enough to
wonder about the contrariness of things mortal looked sadly at the
still inviting tables and marveled that a thoughtful and farseeing
Providence should have made a boy's stomach in so careless and
penurious a fashion.

They made as many as a dozen trials to see if by any chance some corner
of the said organ could be further reenforced.  But when even ice-cream
and marshmallows refused to go down they gave up and dragged themselves
away to some spot where a more lucky or efficient comrade was still
blissfully busy.

The married men openly loosened their belts and looked about for a
quiet and restful spot.  The unmarried ones went sneaking off where
their mothers and their best girls couldn't see them smoking their
cigarettes.

In the general relaxation Dolly Beatty slipped off her tightest shoe,
one bunion and four corns clamoring loudly for room.  And though nobody
saw her do it, everybody knew that Sam Bobbins' wife had gone behind
some convenient bush and taken off her new corset.

In this quiet time old friends searched each other out and sat
peacefully talking over old times.  The married women kept their eyes
on the strolling couples, hoping to see a lovers' quarrel or discover a
new and as yet unannounced affair.  Little by little news was
disseminated and listened to that in the elaborate preparations of the
past days had been overlooked or unreported.

David and Jocelyn were in the crowd of merrymakers and yet not of it.
They had selected a fine old tree a little removed from the thick of
things and here Jocelyn spread their luncheon.

"It's a lucky thing," she explained shyly, "that Decoration Day doesn't
come earlier in the year or I'd never have dared to go to a party like
this and be responsible for lunch.  About all I knew how to make when
we came to Green Valley was fudge, fruit salad and toasted
marshmallows.  And before Annie Dolan came to teach me how to do things
I nearly died trying.  I was all black and blue from falling down the
cellar and scarred and blistered from frying things.  But now I know
ever so much.

"I can make two lovely soups and biscuits and apple pie and gravy.  And
I know how to clean and stuff a turkey.  Only last week Annie taught me
how to make red raspberry and currant jell.  And my burns are nearly
all healed except this one.  It was pretty bad, but I was ashamed to go
to the doctor's so it's not quite healed yet.  That's why I just had to
have gloves to cover the bandage.  But nobody else seems to be wearing
elbow gloves so I guess I'll take mine off and be comfortable.  Would
you mind putting them in your pocket for me?"

David caught the silken ball she tossed him and carefully tucked it
away.  He insisted on seeing the burn but Jocelyn waved him aside,
declaring that her hunger was worse just then.

So they ate and then sat and talked quietly of everything and nothing.
All about them people laughed and chattered.  Every now and then some
one called to them and they answered correctly enough, yet knew not
what they had said.  For as naturally as all the simple unspoiled
things of God's world find each other, so this sweet, unspoiled little
city girl and the big, unspoiled country boy had found each other.  And
a great content possessed them.  They did not know as yet what it was
but knew only that the world for them was complete and every hour
perfect that they spent together.

They sat under their tree even after the games and races had begun and
were rather glad that in the excitement over the afternoon's programme
they two were forgotten and free to roam about.

They went down to the creek where the burned arm was unbandaged.
Jocelyn was rosily pleased to see David frown at the ugly raw scar.  He
gathered the leaves of some weed strange to her and when he had pounded
them to a cool pulp he laid them on the burn and once more bound up the
arm.  He was as glad to do it as she was to have him and each knew how
the other felt.

They strolled through the now deserted cemetery and read the epitaphs
on the mossy stones and yet nothing seemed old or sad or caused them
the least surprise.  They saw Nanny Ainslee standing with Cynthia's son
before a stone that had neither name nor date but only the love-sad
words:

    "I Miss Thee So."


But they thought nothing of it.  The world was far away and they were
serenely happy in a rarer one of their own.

Slowly the golden afternoon was waning.  Little children were beginning
to pull on their stockings, mothers began packing up the baskets and
fathers were harnessing the horses.  Soon everybody was ready and Green
Valley, Spring Road and Elmwood, with many waves of flags and hands,
each started down its own road toward home.

It was a tired, happy town that straggled down Main Street just as the
sun was gilding it with his last rays.  Green Valley mothers were
everywhere hurrying their broods on to bread and milk and bed.  In the
sunset streets only the little groups of grown-ups lingered to talk
over the day and exchange last jokes before going on toward home and
rest.



CHAPTER X

THE KNOLL

There were whole days when Cynthia's son did nothing but loaf,--whole
days when he went off by himself into the still corners of his world
and let the whole wide universe talk and sing to him and awe him with
its mystery.

He would lie for hours in some cool, shady fern nook under a sheltering
road hedge or in the shade of some giant tree friend.  At such times he
scaled the thinking, wondering part of himself and opened wide his
heart to the great whisper that rippled the grain, to the sweet song
that swelled the throat of the oriole and lark, to the beauty that dyed
the heavens and the earth, to the glad struggle for life everywhere.

In this way he had always healed all his griefs, freed his soul from
doubts and stilled the many strange longings that made his heart ache
for things whose name and nature he knew not.

He had discovered many of these still, restful corners from which to
watch life as it went by.  But his favorite spot was right on his own
farm.

At the very end of the Churchill estate, as if thrown in for good
measure, was a little knoll, smooth and grassy and crowned with a
little grove of God's own planting.


For there were gathered together big gnarled oaks, maples, old hickory
trees and many poplars.  There were on that knoll three snowy, bridal
birches, the rough trunks of horse-chestnuts and a few solemn pines.
As if that were not enough, in the very heart of this woody temple were
two shaggy old crab-apple trees and one stray wild plum.

In the spring here was fairyland.  And into it Cynthia's son retired at
every fair opportunity.  Here he sat and looked off at the dimpling,
rippling farmlands, the wandering old roads and at Green Valley roofs
nestling so securely in their setting of rich greens and dappled
sunshine.

From his seat beneath an oak he could see Wimple's pond with its circle
of trees and through the far willow hedges caught the glittering sheen
and sparkle of Silver Creek.  And there before and below him lay the
mellow old farm that his grandfather had left him.

The warm brick walls with their wide brick chimneys already had a
welcoming look.  For the tenant was gone and the old home was being
repaired for its owner.  But from the knoll no sound of hammer or sight
of workmen marred the soft silence and sunny peace of the day.  So
Green Valley's young minister sprawled comfortably down, closed his
eyes and let the earth music wrap him round.

He was not even day dreaming the day Nan Ainslee stumbled on him there
under the oaks and pines.  She had discovered the knoll when she was
six years old and claimed it for her very own, sharing its beauties
with no one, not even her brother.  When she grew to young ladyhood she
often left Green Valley for wonderful trips to the ends of the world.
But she always came back to the lilacs and the seat under the great oak.

At every return she hastened out to see anew her home valley as it
looked from her grove.  So it was with something very close to
annoyance that she looked at the sprawling figure of the usurper.

"Well, for pity sakes!  What are you doing here?" she demanded.

He opened his eyes slowly and looked at her.  She fitted in so well
with the velvet whisper of the wind, the cool blue of the sky and the
world's fresh beauty that he took her appearance as a part of the
picture and was silent.  It was only when she repeated her question
rather sharply that he sat up to explain.

"Why, I found this spot months ago!  It is the stillest, most heavenly
nook in Green Valley.  I come up here whenever I'm tired of thinking."

"Well--I found this place years and years ago," Nanny complained.

"What's the matter with us both using it?" he said very civilly.

"But," objected Nan, "this is the sort of a place that you want all to
yourself."

"Yes, it is," he agreed and did not let the situation worry him
further.  He didn't offer her a seat or give her a chance to take
herself off gracefully.  And Nanny was beginning to feel a little
awkward.  She wasn't used to being ignored in this strange fashion.

"Are you very old?" the minister asked suddenly and looked up at her
with eyes as innocent and serene as a child's.

"I'm twenty-three," Nan was startled into confessing.

"Why aren't you married?"

As she gasped and searched about for an answer he added:

"In India a girl is a grandmother at that age."

"This isn't India," smiled Nan good-naturedly, for she saw quite
suddenly that this big young man knew very little about women,
especially western women.

"No--this isn't India."  He repeated her words slowly, little wrinkles
of pain ruffling his face.  For his inner eye was blotting out the
Green Valley picture and painting in its stead the India of his memory,
the India of gorgeous color, the bazaars, the narrow streets; the India
that held within its mystic arms two plain white stones standing side
by side and bearing the inscriptions "Father" and "Mother."

Nan, not guessing what was going on in his heart, took advantage of his
silence to get even.

"How old are you?"

"Twenty-eight."

"Why aren't you married?"

"Why in the world should I be?" he wanted to know.

"Green Valley men are usually the fathers of two or three children at
your age," she informed him calmly.

"Oh," he smiled frankly, "of course I shall marry some day.  But a man
need never hurry.  He, unlike a woman, can always marry.  And I intend
to have children--many children, because one child is always so lonely.
I know because I was an only child."

This astounding piece of confidence kept Nan's tongue tied and for a
few seconds all manner of funny emotions fought within her.  She wanted
to laugh, to get angry at the lordly superiority of the idea that a
woman must hurry to the altar.  She felt that she ought to feel
embarrassed but the innocent sincerity with which it was all uttered
kept her from blushing and her eyes from snapping.  She told herself
instead that of all man creatures she had ever encountered, this boy
from India was certainly the weirdest.  And she wondered what a woman
not his mother could do with him.

After a while she tried again.

"Don't you feel rather guilty loafing here in the sunshine?"

"No.  Why--what should I be doing?"

"These beautiful afternoons you ought to be devoting to pastoral calls."

"But I attended to all the day's work this morning.  I helped Uncle
Roger Allan build a fence and doctored up David's pet horse, Dolly.  I
spaded up a flower plot for Grandma Wentworth and visited little Jimmy
Trumbull who's home from the hospital.  Doc Philipps says he won't be
up for some time yet, so to cheer him up I've promised him a party.  I
also drove to the station with Mrs. Bates' ancient horse and brought
home her new incubator.  While I was there Jocelyn Brownlee came down
to get a box she said she had there.  Some teasing cousin sent her a
little live pig and when she found out what was in the box she didn't
know what to do.  So I put the pig beside the incubator and sat Jocelyn
beside me and we proceeded on our way.

"That horse belonging to Mrs. Bates is certainly a solemn, stately
beast but Jocelyn's little pig was anything but stately.  We made an
interesting and a musical spectacle as we went along, and I know that
one little red-headed boy in this town was late for school because he
followed us halfway home.  We passed the Tomlins place and Hen was
sitting at the window, propped up with pillows.  It was his first day
up and we made him laugh so hard that his wife was a little worried, I
think."

"Agnes is rather good to Hen these days, isn't she?" Nan ventured to
ask, for the whole town knew how Agnes had gone to the minister with
her domestic troubles and how in some mysterious fashion this young man
had worked a miracle.  For both Agnes and Hen were as suddenly and
happily in love with one another as though they were newly married
instead of being a middle-aged and childless couple.

But that was all the town did know about the matter.  For strange to
say Agnes, who had talked loud enough and long enough before about her
unhappiness, now was still, with never a word to say about what made
her so contented and happy.  Green Valley saw her look at Hen as if he
were suddenly precious and smooth his pillow and wait on him.  And
Green Valley wanted to know all about it.  But so far nobody knew but
Agnes, Hen and the new minister and he didn't seem inclined to speak
about it.  Not even to satisfy Nanny Ainslee's curiosity.

Once more Nanny was embarrassed and a little angry.  She swung up her
sunshade and started to go.  This minister man with his ignorance of
women and his knowledge of Hen's domestic affairs was, she told
herself, a crazy, impossible creature and he could sit in his little
grove on his little knoll till he died for all she cared.  She'd take
mighty good care never again to stray into his domain.

But just as she really got up speed the big chap under the oak stood up
and spoke.

"Don't go, Nan."

The shock of hearing him say that stopped her and turned her sharply
around, so that she looked straight at him and found him looking at her
in a way that made the whole green world suddenly fade away into misty
insignificance.  Something about that look of his made her walk back.

But she trailed her sunshade a little defiantly and kept her eyes down
carefully.  She was a little frightened too.  Because for the first
time in her life she was conscious of her heart.  She felt it beating
queerly and almost audibly.  With every step that she took back toward
him she grew strangely happy and strangely angry.

He silently arranged a seat for her beside him and she sat down, folded
her hands in her lap, looked off at the village roofs and waited.

He looked at her a long time.  For Nanny was good to look at.  Then he
began to talk in an odd, quiet way as if they two were at home alone
and the world was shut out and far away.  And he told her the story of
that locked drawer in Hen Tomlins' chiffonier.

That drawer and Hen's growing stubbornness, due no doubt to the gradual
coming on of his serious illness, had very nearly been the death of
poor, dictatorial Agnes Tomlins.  She had always picked out Hen's
shirts, bought his ties and ordered his suits and Hen had never
rebelled openly.  Nor did he, so far as she knew, ever dare to have a
thought, a memory or a possession of which she was not fully informed.

But this last year Hen had become secretive, openly rebellious,
strangely despondent, with now and then flashes of a very real and
unpleasant temper.  Agnes, baffled, curious, hurt, angry and afraid,
had at last taken her burden to the boyish minister and then went in
trembling triumph to Hen and told him what she had done.

"Yes," Hen told her quietly, "I know.  He was in here when you went to
the drug store and told me.  He advised me to open that drawer and let
you see what's in it.  And I'll do it to please him.  But I won't open
it myself and he's the only one I'll let do it.  So just you send for
him.  As long as you told him, I want him to see there's nothing in
that drawer that I need to be ashamed of."

At this point in the story Cynthia's son paused and looked so long at
the sun-splashed village roofs that.

Nan stirred impatiently.

"Well--what was it that Hen was guarding so carefully from Agnes?" she
wanted to know.

"Oh--just odds and ends--mostly trifles.  There was a dance programme,
a black kid glove of his wife's, some letters from a chum that's dead,
an old knife his grandfather once gave him when he was a boy, the last
knit necktie his mother had made him and a box of toys, beautiful,
hand-carved toys.

"It seems that the Tomlinses had a baby a long time ago and all the
time they were expecting it Hen was carving it these beautiful toys.
It was a boy and, lived to be a year old, just old enough to begin to
play with things.  Then it died.  And nobody, it seems, knew how Hen
missed that baby, not even his wife.  But he had kept that box of toys
in his tool shed all those years and in the last year had put it in the
drawer with a few other treasures which he had had hidden in odd
crannies without anybody suspecting.  It was all he had, he said, that
was his very own.  And he showed me the handle of the little hammer
where the baby's playing hands had soiled it."

It seems that Hen explained the other things too.  The dance programme
he saved because that was where he first knew that his wife cared about
him.  She had selected him for the lady's choice number.  The other
things Hen kept because they were given to him by people who had all
sincerely liked him.

"You see," Hen had said, "nobody knows how hard it is to be a little
man.  Nobody respects you.  Your folks always apologize and try to
explain your size or tell you not to mind.  And strangers and friends
poke fun at you.  After a while, of course, you learn to laugh at
yourself on the outside and folks get to think that it's all a joke for
you too and that you don't mind.  But you never laugh on the inside or
when you're by yourself.  And you get awful tired of looking up to
other people all the time and you begin to wish somebody'd look up to
you once in a while.

"I used to think Aggie thought a heap of me even if I wasn't as tall as
other men.  Grandfather and mother and Bill Simons cared a whole lot
and they didn't mind showing it often.  I banked an awful lot on that
baby.  And he did sure like me.  He followed me all around and minded
me better than Aggie.  It was me that always put him to bed and took
him up in the morning.  And he'd look up at me and raise his little
hands to me and--"

Cynthia's son looked steadily at Nan.

"Do you want to hear any more?" he asked gently.

"No--no--I don't.  Oh, you shouldn't have told me.  I'm not good enough
to be trusted with things like that," Nanny said brokenly and winked
and winked her long lashes to shake off the tears.

"You wanted to be told.  You were going away because I didn't want to
tell you," he reminded her quietly.

"I know, but I'm just naturally spoiled and mean and wicked.  But oh,
won't I be nice to poor Hen Tomlins after this!"

"I'm going to have him take charge of a class in wood-carving as soon
as we can get one together.  He's a master hand at that sort of work
and there are any number of boys in this town who will love it and look
up to Hen," said the man who did not understand women.  The sun was
slipping low in the west, pouring a flood of mellow gold over the
landscape.  It caught the attic windows of the old brick farmhouse that
was so nearly ready for its new and young owner.

"Look," exclaimed Nan, pointing down toward it, "there is fairy
treasure in your attic."

"Yes," he smiled, "there is.  There are trunks up there full of all
manner of things that five generations of Churchills could not bear to
burn or give away.  Some day when the rain is drumming on the roof and
the gutters are spouting and all the birds are tucked away in dripping
trees and the world is misty with tears, I'm going up there and just
revel in second-hand adventure, dead dreams and cobwebs."

"Oh, my gracious, how I'd like to be there too," enviously cried Nanny
Ainslee and the next moment crimsoned angrily at herself.

"If you won't mind coming to my house in the rain," said the man who
did not understand women--but Nanny wasn't listening.  The setting sun
flared into a last widespread glory that bathed every grass blade in
Green Valley and in this strong and golden light Nan saw the 6:10
pulling in and Fanny Foster hurrying home.  Jessup's delivery boy,
driving back from his last trip, was larruping his horse and careful
Ellen Nuby was taking in her clotheslines.

On the back porch of the Brownlee bungalow Jocelyn was shaking a white
tablecloth, for the Brownlees had supper early.  Jocelyn flapped and
flapped, then folded the cloth neatly as she had seen Green Valley
matrons do.  That done, she waited.

David Allan was coming home over the hills with his team and Jocelyn
was waiting till he came closer before she waved to him and greeted
him.  All Green Valley knew of these sunset greetings and approved.

So now Nan, with a smile of understanding sympathy, watched and waited
too.  She could almost see Jocelyn's happy, eager child face.  David
slowly drew nearer.  But after one careless look at the little figure
on the porch, his fine head drooped and he went on without a word and
left Jocelyn standing there.

From her tree shelter Nan could see the little city girl standing very
still, staring after David.  Then slowly the little figure went down
the steps and into the back garden.  There it stood motionless again,
staring into the fading sky as if seeking an explanation for David's
strange conduct.

But up on the hilltop Nanny beat her hands softly and cried out in pain
for Jocelyn.  For Nanny knew her Green Valley and she knew that the
story of Jocelyn's morning ride with the minister in the Bates' ancient
carryall had already gone the rounds, even finding David in the furrows
of the fields.  And now the big boy was worried and wretched and
perhaps angry at the little city girl whom he had so openly courted.

"Oh, dear!"  Nanny began to speak her mind but stopped abruptly.  For
how could she tell this young man from India that he had that morning
spoiled forever perhaps a lovely romance.  She knew that he was
innocent, as innocent as Jocelyn.  And she knew that Green Valley meant
no harm.  It was nothing.  And yet so often trouble, sorrow and
heartache start in just that kind of nothingness.  Out of playful
little whirlwinds of careless laughter cruel storms are born.

When Cynthia's son turned to walk home with her Nanny waved him back
and spoke curtly.

"My goodness--no!  You mustn't.  I never let anybody escort me about
this foolish little town."

Then she hurried home alone and left John Knight standing on his
hilltop.



CHAPTER XI

GETTING ACQUAINTED

Nobody but a Green Valley man would have dared to do the things that
the new minister did in those first months, when even the most daring
of reverend gentlemen is apt to be a bit careful and given to the
tactful searching for the straight and narrow path which is the earthly
lot of pastors.

Cynthia's son however was one of those unconsciously successful men who
are so simply true to life and life's laws that the world joyously
meets them halfway.  And then too his was a rich heritage.

From his great preacher father he had the power of seeing visions and
dreaming dreams and the still greater gift of making and persuading
other people to see them too.  From his mother he had the comrade smile
and warm intuitive heart that brought him close to even little souls.
And from old Joshua Churchill came that rock-like determination, the
uncompromising honesty and, better than all else, that rare common
sense touched with humorous shrewdness without which no man can greatly
aid his fellows or enjoy life.

All this the new Green Valley minister had, besides bits of very
valuable and legal papers and the old porticoed homestead dozing on a
hill and waiting for the touch of a young hand to wake it into vigorous
and new life.  Such parts of Green Valley as failed to appreciate the
more spiritual qualifications of the tall young man from India were
properly impressed with his worldly possessions.

So it was that armed with these advantages Cynthia's son went his way,
smashing hoary precedents and the mossy conventions that will spring up
and grow fibrously strong even in so sunny a spot as Green Valley.

Nobody was surprised, of course, to see little Jim Tumley in the choir;
nor to hear that the minister was giving him lessons on the new piano
whose arrival the prophetic soul of Fanny Foster had predicted.  People
passing the Tumley house did however stop beside the hedge and listen
in amazement to the minister playing, for he played surprisingly well.
When complimented on this accomplishment he explained that his mother
had had a piano in India and had taught him how.

But nobody in Green Valley dreamed of seeing old Mrs. Rosenwinkle
marketing right in the madly busy heart of town all on a Saturday
morning.  But there she was in her wheel chair, with the minister
alongside to see that the road was safe and clear.

And they say that every little while, right in the midst of her
bargaining, she would look around and say:

"My, but the world is big and pretty."

And when somebody reminded her of her belief that the world was flat
and ended on the far side of Petersen's pasture she never argued the
matter fiercely, as was her wont, but said instead that it _had_ ended
for her with Petersen's pasture until the day the new minister came.

And her daughter told how the paralyzed old body prayed day and night
for this new minister's salvation, he being other than a Lutheran.
Somebody thought that too good a joke to keep and told Cynthia's son
how hard old Mrs. Rosenwinkle was praying for his soul.  They expected
him to laugh.  But he didn't.  He looked suddenly serious just as his
mother used to do when something touched the deep down places in her
heart.

All he said was that no man could ever have too many women praying for
him and that he was grateful as only a man whose mother was sleeping
thousands of miles away in a foreign land could be grateful.

He had his mother's trick of letting people look quite suddenly into
that part of his soul where he kept his finest thoughts and emotions.
And people looked and saw and then usually tiptoed away in puzzled awe
or a dim sympathy.  And he had such a habit of turning common sense and
daylight on matters which seemed so baffling until he explained them.

It was just the minister's plain, common sense that finally got Hank
Lolly into the church.  When the minister first suggested that Hank
ought to attend church services that worthy stared in amazed horror at
his new friend.  And he gave his perfectly good reasons why the likes
of him had no right to step on what was Green Valley's sacred ground.

"Hank, you are entirely mistaken.  I have seen you go into Green Valley
parlors and every other room in the house.  I watched you move that
clumsy old sideboard of Mrs. Luttins down that narrow stairway and then
through the little side gate.  You never chipped a bit of plaster or
trampled a flower beside the walk.  Why, you never even tore a bit of
vine off the gate.  And yesterday I saw you walking your horses ever so
carefully to the station because inside the van little Jimmy Drummond
was lying on stretchers, going to the hospital.  And I was told that
Doc Philipps said he wouldn't have trusted another driver with Jimmy."

"But," groaned Hank, "people like me don't go to church."

"Hank, most ministers don't ride around the country on a moving dray.
But I rode out with you many a time and I sort of feel that you might
come along with me now and then and see the people and things along my
route.  You've given me a good time and I'd like to pay back.  You'll
like the music and I'm sure you'll understand it all, because I talk
English you know.  And anyhow, things get as lonesome sometimes for a
minister in the pulpit as the roads get for a dray driver and I'd
appreciate it to have a friend like you along.  I never know when I'll
need a lift and a little help that you could give.  Sometimes we have
to move the Sunday-school organ about and there are windows that stick
and all manner of things about a church that only a practiced mover and
driver could do.  You know the janitor is rather old and infirm and as
for me--well, Hank, when you come down to it, that's about all we
ministers are, just movers.  Our business is to help find just the
right and happiest places for people, to show them their part in the
game of life and keep them from bruising themselves and others.  I'm
doing about the same sort of work as you are; that's why I'm asking you
to come along with me."

"Well--if you put it that way,--" murmured Hank, still miserable, "why,
maybe I could drop in.  Billy's ordered me a new suit and so--"

"That settles it then, Hank.  For there's no sense in getting a new
suit unless you go out in it.  And there's no sense in going out unless
you have some definite place to go to.  Why, half the people get
clothes just to go to church and the other half go to church just to
wear their clothes.  I'll expect you.  You can sit comfortably in the
back and watch things and tell me later what you think of the way
things are managed here.  You'll see things from the door that I never
see from the pulpit."

Hank went to church in a pair of shoes that squeaked agonizingly and a
suit of clothes that was a marvel of mail-order device.  He also wore a
Stetson hat that was new when he entered the church door but which,
through nervous manipulation, aged terribly in that first half hour.

He came early because he felt that he could not endure the thought of
entering a crowded church and then suffered torment as one by one the
congregation nodded to him or addressed him in sepulchral whispers.
When, however, Grandma Wentworth sat down beside him and visited
comfortably before services, and Nan Ainslee stopped to thank him for
something or other he had done for her the week before, he felt better.

As soon as Jim Tumley began to sing and the minister to talk Hank
forgot about himself and became absorbed in the proceedings.  He told
the minister later that he'd meant to keep an eye on things for him but
that he got so interested he'd forgotten.  About all that he had
observed was that Mrs. Sloan passed her handkerchief a little too
frequently and publicly to the little Sloans.  Hank said he thought
they were old enough to have handkerchiefs of their own.  He also felt
sure, he said, that Mrs. Osborn and Mrs. Pelham, Jr. were on the outs
again, because of the fact that though Mrs. Pelham's switch was falling
loose and Mrs. Osborn sitting right behind her saw it, she made no
effort to repin it or tell the unfortunate woman about it.  Hank
further informed the minister that that second Crawley boy was a limb
and closed his observations by asking the Reverend John Roger Churchill
Knight if he didn't think Nanny Ainslee was the prettiest girl in
church?  Whereupon the minister promptly agreed with him.

That, then, was Hank Lolly's introduction to a proper and conventional
religious life.  Hank, as soon as he felt sure that he was going to
survive the experience, became wonderfully interested and the next
Sunday reappeared with Barney in tow.  It seems that Barney also had
been provided with a new suit and accessories and Hank had promptly
demanded his presence in church.

"You ought to go once, Barney, if only to show the minister that you're
rightly grateful to him for showing you about them there books and
figures and a-pointing out your mistakes to you.  And anyhow, if you
don't go, you'll be hanging out in that there pool-room, and first
thing you know you won't be decent and respectable and Billy'll have to
fire you."

"What do you know about that there poolroom, Mr. Lolly?" demanded
Barney.

"Never mind.  I know what I know.  You're trying to be smart and I'm
surprised.  I've heard of your kid doings in that place and I'm
surprised, that's what I am.  You don't see Billy Evans trying to make
money in cute ways over night.  No, sir!  He does a day's work for a
man and throws in a little for good measure before he takes a day's
wages.  And he don't do business behind closed doors and thick
curtains, neither.  So just you keep out of that there poolroom or I'll
take you over to Doc Mitchell's and have every one of them there
crooked teeth of yourn straightened out."

"All right, Mr. Lolly, I'll do just as you say and go to church.  It
ain't as hard as it sounds, that ain't.  Because, honest, Hank, ain't
that there minister a fine guy?  He's as good, I believe, as Billy.  He
asked me to come on and be in his Sunday-school class and get in on
some fun.  And he says to wait until he gets his barn fixed; that he'll
show us boys something.  And I bet he will.  Why, say, Hank, maybe he
kin do all sorts of circus stunts.  You know he's from India and that's
where all the snake charmers and sword swallowers come from, ain't it?"

In this perfectly simple and artless fashion Cynthia's son went about
the creation of his own special Sunday-school class and when he got
through the result was startling.  It was the largest and somebody said
the weirdest Sunday-school class ever seen in Green Valley.  Indeed,
when Mr. James D. Austin, who was about the most respectable man in
town, saw it he grew quite distressed and suddenly very tired.

He had tried, since the age of ten when he had formally and publicly
joined the church on the very crest of a great religious wave, to do
his part towards making and keeping the Green Valley church on a high
spiritual plane.  He felt at times that he was close to success and now
here from the very ends of the earth came a boy to upset all his plans.

So Mr. Austin suddenly felt ill and old and he went to see Doc Philipps
about a tonic.  Doc Philipps, who could have been as good a lawyer as
he was a doctor, asked a few questions about politics, religion and
Mrs. Austin's lumbago and knew exactly what was the matter with James
D. Austin.  The next time he ran across Cynthia's son he hailed him.

"Look here, Knight, what you been doing to James D. lately?
Been turning his nice little church all upside down, ain't
you?  Driven him right into a fearful case of grouch and an
I-am-through-with-the-things-of-this-world attack, that's what you
have."

Cynthia's son looked very soberly and very directly at his friend the
doctor and turned on his heel.

"Doc, I'm going to see that poor man right now," said he and Doc
Philipps, in telling Nan Ainslee about it afterwards, swore that not
only the minister's two eyes but his very voice twinkled.

Cynthia's son found Mr. Austin in his proper and neat office.  He went
straight to the point.

"Mr. Austin, I've just heard that you were not feeling well, that you
were seriously ill from overwork.  I can readily believe that.  You
need rest and a change and freedom from wearisome responsibilities.  I
think I know just how you feel.  Sort of tired and listless.  Mother
used to get that way in India.  Even father used to say sometimes that
things did every once in a while look mighty hopeless and useless, but
that they'd look bright again after a week or two in the hills.  So
then we went off for a vacation.  That's just what's the matter with
you.  You need a vacation.  And in so far as I can I want to help you
get one.  You work too hard for the church.  Keeping track of accounts
and generally managing church matters is always a trying matter.
Father always found it so.

"So I have been thinking of getting you an assistant, some one to look
after things while you take a rest.  Why, they tell me you have
shouldered church responsibilities since you were a child."

"Yes," modestly admitted the most respectable Mr. Austin.  "I have
worked for the church these many years and I do need a vacation.  But
who is there to attend to these matters?  I know of no one in Green
Valley who could fill my place."

So in complacent, pathetic self-conceit said poor Mr. Austin.  And he
was utterly unprepared for what followed.

"Why," said Green Valley's new minister without so much as winking an
eyelash, "I've been thinking of Seth Curtis for the place.  I have been
wondering just how I could interest Seth in his town church, how to
make him see that its business is his business, and this is my
opportunity.  Seth, they tell me, is very good at figures.  Somebody
said that Seth could figure to live comfortably on nothing if he found
he had to.  Now most churches are perilously near the place where they
have to live on nothing and so, if any one can steer our finances in an
exact and careful manner, Seth can.  And it is the only, absolutely the
only way in which he can be interested."

"But," the horrified Mr. Austin found his voice at last, "Seth Curtis
is impossible.  Even if he joined the church he would be an unbeliever.
I have heard him criticize churches.  Why, it can't be thought of!
Why, what would people say if you were to put a man like that right
into church work?  It would be sacrilege."

There was a little pause and when the minister spoke again there was
the unmistakable ring of cool authority in his voice.  Mr. Austin
suddenly realized that he was speaking to his pastor, the Reverend John
Roger Churchill Knight.  And as Mr. Austin himself worshipped authority
and always saw to it that in his little sphere his own slightest word
was obeyed, he listened respectfully.

"I think, Mr. Austin, you are mistaken about Seth Curtis.  Seth does
not make fun of religion.  He merely criticizes churches and their
management.  Seth is what in these times we call an efficiency expert.
And it always makes such a man impatient to watch waste of money and
effort.

"Seth must think well of the church for he sends his wife and children.
And no sane man sends what is dearest to him to a place he does not
approve of.  Besides, Seth has a very high opinion of you, Mr. Austin."

Which of course had nothing to do with the case.  Yet it may have been
this irrelevant, human little touch that settled it.  For after a
little more talk Mr. Austin gave in and, figuratively speaking, turned
his face to the wall and hoped to die.  And the minister went off to
persuade Seth Curtis that his church needed his services.

And that was not nearly as difficult a matter as Green Valley thought
it was.  For Seth had sense and a love of order and economy and the
minister talked to all that was best and wisest in Seth.  Though Seth's
head was growing bald and Cynthia's son was just a youngster, yet the
boy seemed to take Seth's heart right into the hollow of his hand and
talk to it as no one but Seth's wife Ruth talked.  So to the amazement
of himself and family and all of Green Valley Seth Curtis went into the
church for the very quality in his make-up that his neighbors were in
the habit of ridiculing.

It was amazingly funny, Seth's conversion.  But when Green Valley heard
how the minister got acquainted with Frank Burton Green Valley laughed
and laughed and forgot to eat its meals in telling and retelling it.

Frank Burton, besides being, according to his neighbors, a hopeless
atheist, was unlike other Green Valley men in that he had to take a
much earlier train to the city mornings and came home two trains later
than the other men.  Grandma Wentworth always said that it was that
difference in Frank's train time that made him so bitter at times.

Frank did, however, have his Saturday afternoons and Sundays, and these
he spent almost entirely with his chickens and garden and strange
assortment of books.  He was a man who did his own thinking, never gave
advice, never took it and believed in all creatures tending strictly to
their own affairs.

Every once in a while, perhaps from a sudden heart hunger, Frank would
select from a whole townful of human beings some one soul for
friendship.  Frank never got acquainted accidentally.  He picked out
his few friends deliberately and loved them openly and forever.

Of course, Frank's oldest and dearest friend was Jim Tumley.  People
said they were born friends.  Their mothers had been inseparable, the
boys were born within a few days of each other and seemed to be marked
with a passion of loyalty for one another.  Only in their love for
music were they alike however.

Frank was a big, square, burly man who went his way surely,
confidently, though a little belligerently.  Jim was little and fair
and ever so gentle.  There was never a harsh word in Jim's mouth or a
bitter thought in his heart against the world that often bruised him
because of his gentleness and frailty.  Jim had had only one fight in
his life.

When he and Frank were about twelve years old, strange to say, Jim was
the taller and stronger.  And it was then that Jim fought and
vanquished a bully who for months had been making Frank miserable.

Frank never forgot that one fight of Jim's.  He shot head and shoulders
over his friend and filled out beyond all recognition and took his turn
at fighting.  And most of his battles then as now were over little Jim
Tumley.

To Frank, Jim was the one great friend life had given him.  To very
many people in Green Valley Jim was just a gentle, frail little chap
with a beautiful, golden voice and a miserably weak stomach.

When the new minister put Jim in the choir, Green Valley was mildly
surprised though it quickly saw the common sense of the arrangement.
But Frank Burton was for the first time, to Green Valley's certain
knowledge, wholly pleased.  And he showed his pleasure by never once
saying one single, scathing, cynical thing, even when told that Seth
Curtis was keeping the church books and getting religion on the side.
And he could have said so much.

What he did say was that he wouldn't mind seeing this kid minister from
India.  For though months had passed since Cynthia's son arrived Frank
had never seen him.  His unfortunate train time and his home-staying
habits kept him from meeting the newcomer.  He pictured him as a rather
immature, likable, enthusiastic young person whom it might not be a
trial to meet once and then forget.  And Frank made up his mind that if
he ever ran into the boy he would be sincerely courteous to him in
payment for his kindness to Jim.  Then he promptly forgot everything in
his plans for a new chicken house.

He was reading his favorite poultry journal on the train one night when
the tall stranger accosted him.  Frank didn't remember meeting the man,
but the stranger seemed to know him, so without hardly knowing why or
how Frank began to talk.  And it was surprising how much the stranger
knew about chickens, pheasants and wild game.  Indeed, he knew so much
that five stations from the city Frank was showing him diagrams of his
new chicken house and explaining how anxious he was to get at it before
the fall rains commenced but that he had so little time, only his
Saturday afternoons and Sundays.

"Let me give you a hand then Saturday, Mr. Burton.  I need outdoor work
and I'd enjoy building a chicken house and neighboring properly with
you Green Valley folks.  You know I'm new to Green Valley and as long
as I intend to spend the rest of my life here I've a lot to learn."

"Well, there are worse places than Green Valley," admitted Frank,
thinking that the man must be the occupant of some one of the new
bungalows that had gone up that spring and summer.

"Green Valley," continued Frank, "has its faults and its fools and bad
spots here and there in the roads and entirely too much back-fence and
street-corner gossip.  But I've seen days here in Green Valley that
just about melt all the meanness out of one, they're so fine; and
moonlight so soft and pure and holy that you wouldn't mind dying in it.
And Green Valley folks are ornery enough on top and when things are
going smoothly for you.  But just let there be a smash-up or a stroke
of bad luck and their shells crack and humanness just oozes out of
them.  They're about as decent a lot as you'll find anywhere."

This, after a hard day and on an empty stomach, was a remarkable speech
for Frank Burton.  He was not much given to voicing his real feelings
and showing his heart to light-hearted Green Valley and usually covered
his deeper sentiments with a sturdy flow of fault-finding.

But there was something magnetic about the young stranger and to his
own growing surprise Frank talked on and enjoyed doing it.  The two men
left the train together and parted at Martin's drug store with the
understanding that if it didn't rain they would on the coming Saturday
start on that chicken house.

And they did.  Frank came home that evening in unusually fine spirits
and asked his wife about the various new people.  He told her of his
meeting with the stranger who seemed to know him but whom he did not
remember ever seeing before.

Jennie guessed him to be, "Mrs. Hamilton's husband.  I've never seen
him either but they say he's such a pleasant man.  They're both
Christian Scientists or something like that and she's ever so nice a
woman.  They've only been here a few months but everybody likes them."

"Well," spoke up Frank, still thinking of the pleasant passing of what
was usually a tiresome train trip, "if Christian Science makes a man as
likable and neighborly as that I, for one, approve of Christian
Science.  What did you say his name was--Hamilton?"

It was because Frank was so willing to let every man worship his God in
his very own way that Green Valley, that is the religiously watchful
part of it, had decided that Frank was an atheist.  For, said these
cautious children of God, "He who is willing to believe in all things
believes in nothing."

But it wasn't religion that the two men talked that Saturday afternoon.
The sun was warm, the lumber dry, the saws sharp and with the work
going smoothly along there was plenty of time for talk, talk on all
manner of subjects.

Frank's wife had gone over to Randall's to a special meeting of the
sewing society.  Not only were the women going to cut out and make up
little aprons and dresses for the inmates of the nearest orphanage but
they intended to discuss several new social problems that confronted
Green Valley.  The two most vital being "What do you make of that new
saloon keeper and his wife?" and "What goes on behind those poolroom
curtains, especially nights?"

Not that there was in Green Valley any interfering Civic League or any
such thing as a Pure Morals Society.  Green Valley had never had to
resort to such measures.  It had hitherto trusted human nature, Green
Valley sunshine and neighborliness to do whatever work of social
mending and reforming had to be done.

But something had happened to the big city to the east, some new mayor
or some new civic force had stirred things up in that huge caldron of
humanity and slopped it over so that it had begun to trickle away into
such quiet little hollows as Green Valley.  It trickled so slowly and
was as yet so thin a stream that the little towns were hardly aware of
it as yet.

Green Valley was only just beginning to itch and wiggle and search and
wonder what the matter could be.  It was the women, the mothers, who
scented trouble first.  The men were still placidly doing the same old
Saturday afternoon tasks, mowing lawns, talking road improvements,
swapping yarns and brands of tobacco or, like Frank Burton, doing
various building jobs about their premises.

Frank and his helper were certainly enjoying themselves.  When the
skeleton of that hen house was half up Frank thought it was about time
to call a halt for refreshments.  He went to the ice-box and brought
out a nice home-boiled ham, commandeered a golden loaf of fresh bread,
searched about for pickles, mustard, preserves and butter.  Then they
sat down.  And as he ate Frank again waxed talkative.

"I've heard people," he said, "both men and women, talk about marriage
being slavery and a lottery and not worth the price folks have to pay
for it.  But I'm freer as a married man than ever I was single.  Why,
where I boarded before I married Jennie, you couldn't get a slice of
bread and butter or a toothpick between meals even if you'd been a
growing kid.  And in those days I was always hungry.  And I've always
hated restaurants where food is cooked in tanks instead of nice little
home kettles in a blue and white kitchen.  And I hate restaurant
dishes.  There's never anything interesting about them.  And most
waitresses are discouraging sort of girls.  I just kind of existed in
those days.

"But ever since I've married Jennie I've lived.  Jennie never talks
much about what she's cooking.  But she'll let you come in the kitchen
and lift the kettle lids if you want to and poke around and never once
let on that you're a nuisance.  And she never gets angry if you dig
into the fresh bread or crack the frosting on the new cake.  So take it
all in all I've always considered all this talk about married life
being nothing but self-sacrifice just so much rot--why--hello, Sammy!"

This to a little overall-clad figure that was pressing itself
insinuatingly against the back gate.

"Want to come in and help with the tools?" called Frank, well knowing
that that jar of Jennie's preserves was perfectly visible from that
back gate.

Sammy said hello and sure he'd come in and help, and did with
remarkable speed.  When he came up to the two men he looked shyly at
Frank's assistant and said, "Hello!  What are _you_ doing around here?"

And the tall stranger laughed and said he was helping with the tools
too.

And then Frank asked Sammy if his mother allowed him to eat between
meals and Sammy said, "Oh, sure--I kin eat any time at all--it never
hurts me."  So Frank got him nicely started.

In no time at all however two other figures appeared and swung
themselves up on the back fence.  They sat quietly, at first waiting
for some one to discover them.  Both men had their backs to the fence
now and Sammy, though perfectly aware of the new arrivals, was
selfishly busy.

So presently two pair of bare feet began to swing harder and harder and
a careless but piercing whistle began to challenge a selfish world's
attention.

Frank winked at his helper and said nothing nor moved.

The whistle became shriller.  And then came a sudden suspicious silence
that evidently made Sammy a little uncomfortable.  He knew just about
what was coming.

"Hello--Pieface," came one gentle greeting.

"Hello--Dearie," chirped the owner of the second pair of bare feet.

"Look at Mother's Darling feeding his face!"

"Isn't he cunning!  Isn't he cute!"

A third figure swung itself to the top of the fence.

"Don't fill your little tummy too full, Sammy dear," it contributed
dutifully.

At the malice and scorn that fairly dripped from the words Sammy raised
resentful eyes from his slice of bread and jam.  Frank smiled hopefully.

"Oh, Frank, Sammy goes to Sunday-school he does."

"Every Sunday--don't ya, Sammy?"

"Bet he goes to Sunday-school just to sponge.  Bet he's a grafter--bet
he--"

But at this point Frank's helper turned about and faced the fence.  And
a strange thing happened.  The three little figures sitting in a row
gave one look, one shout of, "Holy gee--it's _him_!" and vanished as
suddenly as they had come.

Frank laughed and then grew puzzled.

"Some friends of mine and Sammy's.  I wonder what made the little imps
bolt like that.  They usually sit on that back fence till every bit of
language is used up.  Why, they hadn't got more than started and Sammy
here hadn't even begun.  What ailed you, Sammy?"

"Oh, I rather think I frightened them," said Frank's assistant.  "But I
think that before long they will feel enough at home with me to come
and sit on my back fence."

Sammy was left to clear up while the men went back to work.  Both
hammers were merrily ringing when old man Vingie strolled by and
stopped to visit.  He went on presently but before he was out of sight
Bill Trumbull and Old Peter Endby came up.

There was a worried look in Bill's large florid face and the light of
utter unbelief in Peter's eye.  They both laid their arms neighbor
fashion along the fence and watched the toilers silently for a few
seconds.  Then Peter spoke up in grieved tones:

"Seems like you might have asked old neighbors to give you a hand,
Frank.  I had no notion you was in any such turrible hurry to start
this here new chicken house of yourn.  It don't look respectable or
kindly, you acting that way, neglecting to tell old neighbors--"

"It's a slander on this here neighborhood, that's whot it is, Frank,"
Bill Trumbull complained.  "Here's Peter and me both old-time
carpenters, full of energy and advice and ripe years and experience,
and you don't drop so much as a hint.  Why, I remember the time when we
put up barns with wooden pegs and durn good barns they were and are,
for there's some of them still standing as strong as the day they were
built.  There's the Churchill barn.  That's our work, Peter's and mine.
Seems you've forgotten considerable, Frank.  Why, your father wouldn't
have thought of starting a chicken house without first talking it over
with us."

When they had passed on, Bill supporting Peter's left elbow so's to
case the rheumatism in his partner's left knee, Frank turned amazed
eyes to his assistant.

"Now what in time," he wanted to know, "is the matter with those two
precious old lunatics?  Why, Pap Trumbull and Dad Endby are both over
eighty.  Dad's so twisted with rheumatism that he couldn't bend to pick
up his pipe if he dropped it.  And Pap's got asthma so bad that it's
all he can do to draw his breath on the installment plan.  Why, I've
never consulted them in all my born days though I always let them come
over and criticize my work to their heart's content.  But something's
eating them to-day."

"Perhaps they're surprised at seeing me, a comparative stranger here,
helping you.  They may even be a bit jealous, you know."

Frank's assistant volunteered this explanation wonderingly as if he too
were puzzled about something.

"Well--it gets me," murmured Frank, then added under his breath, "well,
by jinks--if here ain't old Knock-kneed Bailey and Shorty Collins going
by.  And they're looking this way.  And by the Lord Harry--there's
Curley Anderson.  Why, Curley hasn't been over on this side of town
since he sold that little house of his that he built all by himself,
working nights, with nothing but an old saw and a second-hand hammer.
His wife was left a fortune right after and made Curley sell and build
her a cement block villa over on Broadway.  She won't even let Curley
walk down this way, though they say he hates her villa and just hankers
for this little bit of a home he built himself here ten years ago.

"Well--by the holy smoke--look yonder!  I'm seeing things to-day.  Why
there's Dudley Rivers and James D. Austin, that holy man, and he's
actually bowing to me.  Now what do you know about that?  What's going
on in this town to-day, anyhow?  It must be something unusual to bring
out a crowd like that."

Frank's lower jaw suddenly dropped.  Sudden suspicion leaped into his
gray-blue eyes.  He turned to the man who all afternoon had been
helping him build his chicken house.

"Say--who in hell--are you anyhow?"

And Cynthia's son mopped his thick hair and looked as suddenly
dumfounded.  After that he grinned.

"For pity sakes--don't you know me?  Why, you were pointed out to me
the very second week I came as the town atheist.  I supposed of course
I had been pointed out to you.  I'm Cynthia Churchill's son.  I buried
father and mother in India and then came home, as they wanted me to.
And I'm glad I came.  It's home and these Green Valley folks are my
people.  They have made me feel welcome.  I supposed everybody knew me
from seeing me about town."

For a long while Frank said nothing.  With the explanation his
momentary anger and amazement died away.  He was remembering,
remembering Cynthia Churchill.  Why, he remembered as though it was
yesterday that when she was twenty he was ten.  And he had loved her
because she had once helped him to tie up his pet chicken's broken leg.

And so this tall big chap with the glad eyes was Cynthia's son!  Years
ago the mother had tied up his pet hen's leg.  And to-day her son had
helped him build his most pretentious hen house.

"No," said Frank at last, "I didn't know you were the chap from India.
I thought you belonged up in one of those new bungalows.  Of course,
that accounts for the crowd.  Why, we've been making history here in
this back yard this afternoon.  The atheist and the preacher building a
chicken coop!  Oh, say, John, Green Valley will be talking about this
fifty years from now.  Let's have some buttermilk.  This thing has just
about knocked me over."

When they had had two glasses apiece Frank again inspected his
assistant.

"But say--do ministers in India do such darn common things as building
chicken houses?  I can't remember ever seeing a minister mixing so
carelessly with us low-down sinners or standing around in public with
his sleeves rolled up and his frock coat off.  Aren't you a queer breed
of parson?"

"Maybe," Cynthia's son admitted, "but so was father.  He could help
bring a baby into the world, could wash and dress it, cure it if it was
sick, bury it if it died.  He could teach a woman how to cook a meal
and cut out a dress.  He knew how to heal a horse's sore back and how
to help a man get over needing whisky.  He used to brush my mother's
hair nights when her head ached and make whistles for me and tell the
little brown children stories, study the stars with the old men and
coax the women into using his medicines instead of their charms."

"For heaven's sake!  When did your father get time to talk religion?"
wondered Frank.

"Oh, he never talked religion much.  He just sort of lived and
neighbored with his people and just laughed most of the time at mother
and me.  He was always busy and never took care of himself.  Just
before he died he explained things to me.  He said:

"'Son, I came out of the West to bring a message to the East.  You go
back to the West with a message from the Orient.  Tell them back home
there that hearts are all alike the world over.  And that we all, white
men, black men, yellow men and brown men, are playing the very same
game for the very same stakes and that somehow, through ways devious
and incomprehensible, through honesty and faith, failure and
perseverance, we find at last the great content, the peace that passeth
understanding.'

"So I have come home to preach that.  But I haven't had time as yet to
do much.  I've been getting up a Sunday-school class and getting Seth
Curtis interested in the church finances and getting acquainted with
Hank Lolly and Mrs. Rosenwinkle and--atheists."

"Yes--and among other things you've put Jim into the choir."

"Oh, that was easy--just common sense.  It's going to be ever so much
harder though to get at Jim Tumley's generous friends and convince them
that Jim's stomach won't stand their friendly donations.

"I don't know how I'm going to show them that if they love him they
must protect him from themselves.  It's going to be hard work.  But
he's worth saving, that little man with the lark's voice and the gentle
heart."


When Jennie, hearing the news, hurried home from the other end of town,
really frightened for the first time in her married life, the young
minister was gone and Frank was sitting out on the back porch staring
at nothing.

"Frank," Jennie began breathlessly, "is he gone?"

"Yes--he's gone."

"Frank--you--I hope you didn't get mad at him.  He's different--not
like other ministers--and he's really a boy in some things."

"Jennie," and Frank reassured her, "you're darn right that boy is
different.  He's so darn different from all the rest of them I've met
that I'm going to church next Sunday.  James D. and Dudley and others
of that stripe will probably die of shock but just you press your best
dress, Jennie, for we're surely going.  Why that man's no minister.
Don't slander him.  He's a human being."

Jennie's eyes grew a bit misty, for with no babies to love, Frank was
her all in all and her one great sorrow was that so few people knew the
real Frank.

"And come to think of it, Jennie," Frank mused, "you weren't so far
wrong in thinking that it was a Christian Scientist who was coming.  I
guess that's just about what he is--a Christian scientist."



CHAPTER XII

THE PATH OF TRUE LOVE

Nanny was cross.  She had lost her bubbling merriment and her family
wondered.

"Sis, I believe you will be an old maid, all right.  I'm beginning to
see the signs already," her brother lazily told her one day when to
some innocent remark of his she made a snapping answer.

Mr. Ainslee laughed.

"You aren't reading the signs correctly, Son," he said.  "Nan's
crossness can be interpreted another way.  It's my private opinion that
Nanny's in love."

Whereupon Mr. Ainslee dodged for he fully expected that Nanny would
hurl a pillow his way.  But Nanny didn't.  She turned a little white,
caught her breath a little hurriedly and then stood looking quietly at
the two men.  When she left the room her father was a little worried
and her brother a little uncomfortable.

"I guess we'd better let up on the teasing, Dad," the boy suggested in
the serious, soft voice that had been his mother's, the mother who had
never teased.

"I wouldn't hurt Nanny for the world," penitently murmured Mr. Ainslee.
"I had no idea--oh, Son," he suddenly groaned, "I wish your mother was
here to look after us all."

And the great diplomat who was known and welcomed at the courts of
great nations was suddenly only a plain man, crying out his heart's
need of the loved woman he had lost so many years ago.

And because the boy was the son of the woman for whom his father
grieved he knew how to sympathize and comfort the man.

"I've missed her too--lots of times--even though, Dad, you've been the
most wonderful father two kids ever had."

The man stared out into the sunny world outside the windows and all
unashamed let the tears fill his fine eyes.

The boy, seeing those tears, all at once remembered now many times,
when he was an unheeding youngster, he had seen this same father
sitting at the departed mother's desk with his head pillowed in his
arms.

"Dad," the boy's awed voice questioned, "is love a thing as big and
terrible and lasting as that?"

The man wiped his eyes and smiled.

"Yes, Son, love is as wonderful and lasting and in a way as terrible as
that.  It was wrong of me to tease Nanny.  But I have been worried
about my motherless girl.  I'd like to see her happily settled.
Somehow I've never worried about you."

"No," and the boy smiled an odd little smile that showed just how he
had missed a mother's petting, "it's always mothers that worry about
the boys, isn't it?"

At this second revelation and blunder Mr. Ainslee was so startled that
he forgot to go in search of Nanny.

As a matter of fact Nanny had left the house.  She wanted to go to the
knoll and think over carefully certain matters that had been puzzling
her of late.  But she dared not go to the grove on the hilltop.  For
only half an hour before she had seen Green Valley's young minister
walking up to her old seat under the oaks.  Perhaps if her father had
not said what he did--Nanny frowned impatiently, then sighed and walked
down the road to Grandma Wentworth's.  She told herself that she was
going down to visit Grandma and tell her the week's news.  But she was
really going to find heartease and because at Grandma's she would hear
oftenest the name that now had the power to quicken her heart beats and
bring her a pain that was strangely edged with joy.

Grandma was weeding her seed onions and very sensibly let Nanny help.
Nanny's fingers flew in and out and because she dared not tell her own
heart troubles she told Grandma about Jocelyn and David and the foolish
bit of gossip that had come between them.

"I think, Grandma, somebody ought to do something about it.  Can't
you--"

Grandma shook her head.

"Nanny," Grandma mourned, "I'm afraid to meddle in things like that.
Love is a wonderful strange thing for which there are no rules.  And
the hearts of men and women must all have their share of sorrow.  For
it's only through pain and endless blunders that we human folks ever
learn.  I've seen strange love history in this town and lots of it.
And I've learned one thing and that is that each heart wants to do its
loving in its own way without help or hindrance from the rest of the
world.  So we'd best say nothing and let David and Jocelyn find a way
out of their trouble and misunderstanding."

But Nanny, with all the impatience of youth, rebelled.

"It's foolish," she stormed, "when just a dozen frank words would
straighten it out."

"Yes--a dozen words would do it," sighed Grandma, "But think, Nanny,
what it would cost David to say those dozen words--or Jocelyn."

"Conventions are foolish.  Honesty is better."

"Yes, honesty is always best.  But truth is something that lovers find
hardest to manage and listen to.  And you know, Nanny, even a happy
love means a certain amount of sorrow."

"Does it?" the girl wondered.

"Yes," said Grandma softly, "it does, as I and many another woman can
testify.  I'm only hoping that a love great and fine will come to
Cynthia's boy and that it won't cost him too much."

"Why," asked Nanny carelessly, "should life be easier and richer for
him?"

"Because long before he was born his mother paid for his birthright and
happiness with part of her own, and if God is just and life fair then
her courage and sorrow ought to count for something and her loss be his
gain."

"Hadn't you better tell me the whole story, Grandma?" begged Nan.

"It isn't exactly all mine to tell.  But some day I dare say I shall."

Grandma rose and glanced mischievously at the girl.

"Nanny, I'll tell you the day you come to me and tell me you're in
love.  Not engaged, you understand, but in love."

Again Nanny whitened and caught her breath and then looked quietly at
Grandma in a way that made the dear old soul say hurriedly:

"There, there, child, I didn't mean to meddle or hurt."

To herself she added, "We're all blundering fools at times.  And why is
it that youth always thinks that all the world is blind and stupid?"

Grandma's penitent mind then recalled the box of pictures that
Cynthia's son had brought down to show her the night before.  It still
stood on the living-room table.  So the wise and tender soul sent Nanny
in to fetch it.

They sat on the back steps and looked at pictures of Cynthia in her
far-away home in India.  There were pictures of her husband and the
brown babies and of their neighbors.  But mostly the pictures were of a
boy, a drolly solemn little fellow.  Nanny exclaimed again and again
over these and the one of the boy holding a pet hen in his arms she
fairly devoured.

"What a darling kiddy he was," she laughed tenderly.  "No wonder his
mother loved him so."

"He ought to be a fine boy.  His mother paid a big price for him,"
Grandma told her.

But Nanny didn't hear.  She had just discovered that there were two of
those boy and hen pictures and she wondered if--

Just then Grandma spied a hen in her lavender bed and went off to shoo
her out.  And while her back was so providentially turned Nanny
Ainslee, an honorable, world-famous diplomat's only daughter, coolly
and deliberately tucked the picture of a little boy and his pet hen
down into the bosom of her gown.

Shortly after Nanny said she guessed she'd have to be going, that it
was getting late and that she had had an argument with her father just
before she came and had been short an answer.  But that she had just
this minute thought of something to say.

Grandma let her go without a word because she thought that, like
herself, the girl had seen Cynthia's boy coming down the hill and
wished with girlish shyness to be out of the house when he came.  But
Nanny had not seen him, had not been watching the roads, so taken was
she with her guilty secret.  Her surprise when she almost ran into him
was genuine enough.

His face lighted at sight of her.

"I spent the afternoon up on the hill.  I thought maybe I should find
you there.  It was rather lonesome."

He had evidently forgotten and forgiven her rudeness on the hilltop
that day when they had been up there together.  Nanny was suddenly so
happy and confused that she could think of nothing to say except to
make the formal little confession:

"I have been visiting Grandma Wentworth and looking at pictures of you.
You were a mighty nice little boy in those days."

The new softness in her words made him look at her wistfully for a
second but the hint of laughter that went with it made him cautious.
This lovely, laughing girl had hurt him several times and had laughed
at him.  He meant to be careful.  So he said gravely and politely:

"Did you see the pictures of my mother?"

"Yes.  She must have been a wonderful and an adorable mother."

That made him happy.  He wanted very much to turn and walk back with
her, this girl whose presence always brought him such pleasure.  But
she had forbidden him to do this.  It seemed that in his home land
women were wonderfully independent creatures.

So he let her go on alone and with a disappointed heart.  For Nanny had
hoped that he would ask and she had meant to let him.  With the
disappointment came the taunting memory of her words to Grandma
Wentworth: "Honesty is best.  A dozen words would do it."

That evening when her father clumsily tried to make amends Nan said
carelessly:

"Never mind, Dad.  I _am_ in love--with a little boy and his pet hen."

But she had the grace to blush.  And that night as she slipped the
picture under her pillow she said a little defiantly:

"Well--what of it?  All is fair in love and war."



CHAPTER XIII

AUTUMN IN GREEN VALLEY

Joe Baldwin was standing in front of his little shop.  He was
bareheaded and that meant that he was worried.  For it was only in
moments of mental distress that Joe laid aside the black cap that gave
him the look of a dashing driver of the Twentieth Century Limited.

In the autumn dusk a chilly little wind played about the street corners
and wailed softly through the thinning tree-tops.  The big lamp above
Joe's workbench was unlighted so the little shop was in darkness except
for the fitful wavering of the ruddy wood fire in the big stove.

The streets were empty and quiet.  It was an hour after supper and
Green Valley was indoors sitting about its first fires and talking of
the coming winter; remembering cold spells of other years; thanking its
stars that the coal bin was full and wondering whether it hadn't better
put on its heaviest underwear.

Joe knew just about what Green Valley was thinking and saying.  From
where he stood he could see what a part of Green Valley was doing.  For
this early in the evening Green Valley never pulled down its shades.
So when the lights flared out in the Wendells' west front up-stairs
window Joe saw Mrs. Wendell go to the clothes closet and bring out
various newspaper parcels.  Joe knew very well that those parcels
contained furs.

Furs and ferns were Mildred Wendell's two passions.  She had furs of
all sizes and colors and weights, beginning with the little muff and
tippet her favorite aunt had given her long ago when she was only five
to the really beautiful and expensive set her son, Charlie, had given
her for her last birthday.  As for ferns, she had so many that Green
Valley always went to her for its wedding and funeral decorations.  And
she was only too happy to lend her collection of feathery beauty.

From where he stood on his doorstep Joe could look down three streets
and see Green Valley in its shirt sleeves and slippers and its gingham
apron, so to speak.  He could look over the white sash curtains right
into Mert Hagley's kitchen for Mert lived behind his store.  Joe saw
Mary, Mert's wife, turning the pages of the evening paper and studying
the advertisements.  And he knew as well as he knew his own name that
Mary was talking to Mert about a new heater, begging him to buy a nice
new hard-coal heater instead of the second-hand hot blast stove he was
thinking of buying from some man in Spring Road.

John Henderson had another one of his bad headaches for Joe saw him
lying on the dining-room couch.  His wife was applying cold-water
bandages and tenderness to that bald pate of his when she knew better
than any one that what he needed was a stiff dose of salts and castor
oil and a little self-control on the nights she had ham and cabbage for
supper.

Over in the Morrison cottage Grandma Whitby was knitting stockings for
the little Morrisons at a furious rate and every once in a while
sending one of the children out for more wood or a fresh pail of water
or some more yarn.  Joe could see the children sitting around the
dining-room table with their books and games and arguing with each
other every time the grandmother made a new request.

Grandma Whitby was a dictatorial old soul.  She not only was eternally
busy herself but she kept everybody around her forever on the jump.
Mrs. Morrison was her only child and once in a moment of bitterness
said that her eight children seemed like a houseful until they got to
running errands for mother and that then she realized that eight wasn't
anywhere near enough.  And the Morrison's second boy, John William,
once explained to Joe that he wore out his shoes, "running errands for
Granny."

Alice Richards' baby was ailing again.  Joe could see Allie walking the
floor, could almost hear her comforting the restless mite in her arms.

Somebody came hurrying down the street and as they passed a street lamp
Joe saw that it was Mrs. Downey, taking Tommy to the dentist.  Doc
Mitchell was a nice enough chap but as Joe watched Tommy's legs saw the
air he thought the doctor might be a little mite gentler with the boy
orator.  But Doc was getting old and he was probably tired.  These
first autumn days before the snap and sparkle and snowy gleam of real
winter sets in always told on the older folks.  They sort of seemed
tired and worried and sad.

So Joe stood there, looking at the purple and green and magenta-pink
lights of Martin's drug store, the sleepily winking lights of the
little station and the mellow golden glow of Sophie Forbes' yellow
parlor lamp.  Then he turned and looked straight down his own street,
past the post-office, the tin shop, the dry-goods store to the spot
where a faint light seeped through drawn curtains and faint rowdy
noises came from behind closed doors.

It was what he guessed was behind those closed doors that had brought
Joe out of his shop bareheaded and caused him to feel as Doc Mitchell
maybe felt--a little old and sad and tired and even a bit helpless.

Usually on this first night of autumn Joe's shop was crowded with noisy
feet and voices of all sizes that squeaked one minute in a shrill
soprano and in the next sank to a ragged bass.  Joe's shades were never
drawn and all the world could see the boys playing Old Maid and Rummy,
shooting caroms or sitting on the counter, swinging their feet, eating
apples and cracking nuts for themselves and Joe who was questioning
them about the day's happenings.

But to-night--involuntarily Joe turned and looked back into the soft
darkness of his little shop where the firelight flickered softly,
tenderly through the gloom.  His heart cramped.  Then he looked again
to the place where heavy curtains were drawn over dirty windows.  He
caught again that muffled rough noise of young voices.  And his mind
was made up.

He stepped back into his shop, turned on all the lights, put the basket
of ruddy apples on the counter, straightened the pile of old magazines
and pulled out the carom board, the box of chess and checkers.  He took
a last housewifely look around, then put on his hat and coat and
started out.  There was pain and anger and a terrible determination in
his usually gentle face.

But as he stepped to the door it opened, admitting Mrs. Jerry Dustin.
That sweet-faced little woman looked about with anxious eyes, then
turned to the little shoemaker.

"Joe--I'm looking for Peter.  Wasn't he here with you?  He said he was
coming here to see the boys."

"He was here and he saw the boys.  They all went off together."

"Joe"--fear and worry leaped to the lovely corn-flower eyes,
"Joe--not--surely they didn't go--they aren't down _there_?"

"That's just where they are.  I was just going after them."

For still seconds this father and mother of boys looked at each other
in misery.  Both were thinking the same thing, both shrank from what
was before them, but even as Joe squared his shoulders Mrs. Dustin
straightened hers.

"I'm going with you, Joe."

So down the autumn street went these two.  Joe, because he had promised
Hattie when she was sick unto death that he would always watch over the
boys, would love and cherish and guard them.

Mrs. Dustin was going because Peter was her baby, her strange, weird
duckling, full of whimsical fancies and fantastic longings.  He was a
sort of dream child for whom she alone felt wholly responsible.  All
the others were good, understandable children.  But Peter was odd and
nobody but his blue-eyed mother knew how to handle him.

"Rosalie, I've never whipped those boys of mine.  Some way I couldn't
with Hattie gone and them having no one but me.  But maybe it was a
mistake."

"No, it wasn't, Joe.  The Greatest Teacher that ever lived used only
truth and gentleness and look at the size of His school now.  No--this
trouble isn't in the children exactly.  It must be in us.  We're stupid
and don't know how to do for the children.  People say that young folks
must be young folks.  And we let our boys and even our girls flounder
through a lot of cheap foolishness before we expect them to settle down.

"But it's my opinion, Joe, that letting them flounder all alone through
these raw years of their life is plain wickedness.  Peter has a good
home and he's loved and he knows it.  Yet he's got to the place now
where he wants something that I and the home can't seem to give him.  I
don't know just what it is.  But this place, Joe, bad as it is, must
have the thing that our half-grown children want and that's what brings
them here even against our will.  And I'm going to-night to find out
what it is."

"It can't be good for them, Rosalie, when it drives them into lying and
stealing.  Why only to-day Josie Landis sent Eddie to me with fifty
cents for the shoes I mended for her.  And he gambled that fifty cents
away in the slot machine and came and told me a lie!"

"Little Eddie Landis!  Why--Joe, he's just a baby."

"Well--that's what the place is doing to the babies.  I don't like it.
It's dirty and sneaky and it's working hand in hand with the saloon.
It has no business in this town."

"But, Joe, it must have something that this town wants or it wouldn't
be doing business.  It can't be all pure wickedness."

But Joe's anger was rising in leaps and bounds so that his very hands
shook.  Mrs. Dustin stopped and laid a soothing hand on the little
shoemaker's arm.

"Joe, whatever you do don't get angry in there.  Hold on to your temper
and don't let yourself even look mad if you can help it.  We mustn't
humiliate the children for they'd never forgive.  You better let me do
all the talking at first."

Joe nodded and with that they came abreast of the curtained windows and
stood still for a second to gather up their courage.  Then Mrs. Dustin
very quietly opened the door and stepped in with Joe.

She stood smiling at the door and at sight of her the noise stopped as
if by magic.  Every child there knew the lovely, blue-eyed little
mother of Peter Dustin.  The only one who did not know her was the
proprietor standing in stupid wonder behind his counter.  But she
pretended not to see his astonishment as she made her laughing
explanations.

"We got lonesome, Joe and I.  You know these first autumn nights do
chill us older folks a bit and make us sad.  We want bright fires and
lots of children racketing around to keep us from feeling old and
frightened.  And I guess the children get the blues from us for I
notice that that's just the time they want to get off by themselves for
a good time.  We're all trying to forget that the year is dying, I
expect, and we're crowding together to cheer each other up.  That's
what's making the streets so lonely to-night.  As I came along I felt
so bad that I thought I'd just drop in on Joe and get cheered up with
the children.  They're usually there.  But Joe was standing on his
doorstep as lonely as I was.  He was missing the children too.  We saw
your light and heard the children laughing, and we just thought we'd
come in and see if we couldn't feel young again.  We didn't come in to
spoil your fun, so just you go on with it.  Joe and I'll watch and
maybe join in.  You were dancing, weren't you, Mollie?"

Mrs. Dustin asked this of a little russet-haired girl of fourteen who
in her sudden amazement at the visitors was still standing in the
middle of the floor with her arms about Peter, who had a mouth organ in
his mouth.  She was a graceful little thing and she had been teaching
Peter how to dance.  But now she stood stiff with fright and
embarrassment.

"Why, don't be afraid of my mother, Mollie," Peter said gently, for he
himself was in no way frightened at his mother's appearance.

So when Mrs. Dustin repeated her question, Mollie said shyly: "Yes,
ma'am, we were trying to dance."

"Bless me," laughed Mrs. Dustin.  "Why, I never realized that Peter was
old enough to want to dance.  You should have told me, Peter Boy.  Why,
you should have all told me, because," she smiled gloriously at them
all, "because I used to be the star dancer twenty-five years ago.
Wasn't I, Joe?"

"You sure were," Joe answered promptly.  His face still looked a little
queer and his voice was not quite steady but he was bravely following
the wise little woman with the blue eyes.

"Let me show you.  Play something, Peter."

Mrs. Dustin picked up Mollie and began to dance.  And in exactly five
turns about the room all the poetry, the joy of motion in Mollie caught
fire and her little slim feet just fairly twinkled in happy abandonment.

"Why, Mollie, girl, you're a fairy on your feet," praised Mrs. Dustin
and the happy face at her breast flushed with pleasure and gratitude at
the words.

Peter was not the least bit surprised at his mother's antics.  He knew
that she was a glorious mother and full of surprises.  The other
youngsters however were not so sure.  So Peter suggested to the
proprietor that he start the graphophone.  The proprietor nodded and
soon they were all dancing, Mrs. Dustin taking a new partner every few
minutes.

"And children," she suddenly remembered, "Joe can jig--why, he used to
jig beautifully."

So Joe took his turn in amusing the children and while he did it Mrs.
Dustin examined some machines lined up along the wall.

"When you drop a nickel in the slot do you get gum, peanuts or your
fortune told or does a Punch and Judy pop out?" she laughingly and
innocently asked Sim and Sammy Berwick who stood near.

Sim looked uneasy and Sammy said, "Aw, them things are no good, Mrs.
Dustin.  You don't want to monkey with them.  You might--"

But Mrs. Dustin was already dropping her nickel in and when Peter came
up she was shaking out an empty purse.

"Why, Peter, what's the matter with these machines?  I guess I didn't
work them right.  I've dropped all my money in, and I haven't gotten a
thing.  It's the money I was saving for the framing of that picture Mr.
Rollins gave me.  Don't you think you can get it for me?  Jemmy Hills
sent me word to-day that the picture was all framed and ready."

Peter all at once looked sick.  He knew how his mother had been saving
to buy a pretty frame for the lovely water color Bernard Rollins had
given her.  She had even given up the idea of a new knot of flowers for
her hat.  And now she had dropped the precious coins down the hungry
mouth of a slot machine.  And the worst of it was she didn't seem to
know what she had done.

"Mother," Peter began miserably, "you've lost the money and I don't see
how you can ask--"

"Oh, well, Peter Boy,--never mind.  I expect it's some new game and I
didn't play it right.  I'm sorry I was stupid.  Let's see what else we
can do.  I wanted to treat you children to soda but maybe Joe has some
money.  Joe," she called merrily to the shoemaker, "won't you treat?"

Joe caught the odd little note in her voice.  His hand rattled the
loose change in his pocket and he smiled a spontaneous smile that had
however more than a bit of malice in it.

"Sure, I'll treat," and he turned to the proprietor who still looked as
though he was seeing things but came to life when Joe stepped up to the
counter.

"What'll you have?"

"Oh," said Joe carelessly, "give me what you give the rest of the
boys," and here Joe winked at the proprietor.

"And I'll have the same," laughed Mrs. Dustin, and again Joe winked at
the proprietor.

But the children had grown strangely quiet, especially the boys.  And
slim Mollie once more grew frightened as she watched the proprietor
setting out glass after glass of foaming beer.

Mrs. Dustin was busy talking to the children and didn't seem to see the
foaming glasses until Joe called,

"Come on, everybody--line up."

Then the lovely mother face was raised and at the look that came into
the blue eyes every child there grew sick and miserable.

"Ah, gee--whad he give her that for?" muttered Sammy Berwick.

But Mrs. Dustin, after looking once into Peter's tortured eyes, stood
up and laughed.

"Well, children," she confessed, "I've never tasted beer in my life,
but it's your party and I invited myself so it would be rude to refuse."

And with that she picked up her glass.

"Well," laughed Joe, "this is my first drink too.  But I'm not going to
be an old fogey.  What's good enough for my boys is good enough for me."

Every child there held its breath for they knew that Joe spoke the
truth.  As for the proprietor, that puzzled man thought that the little
shoemaker was trying to be funny and he laughed his first laugh that
evening.

Peter Dustin stood beside his mother, his horrified eyes on the little
toil-worn hand that was curled about the stem of a beer glass.  He
wanted to snatch that glass away, wanted to shout to her not to touch
the stuff.  But his throat was closed and he was conscious only of the
fact that somewhere down inside of the anguish that filled him
something was praying for help, something was begging God to keep the
little, blue-eyed mother stainless and sweet and unharmed.

Joe's boys were not beside their father.  They were at the other end of
the counter staring, just staring, unconscious of everything, hearing
only that strange new laugh of their father's and noticing what no one
else except Mrs. Dustin saw--that Joe's hand as he raised his glass
shook wretchedly.

And then, before any of them could bring their glasses to their lips,
the thing the anguished soul of Peter Dustin had been praying for
happened.  The door opened and within its frame stood the big handsome
figure of Green Valley's new minister.

One glance of his took in the scene and the smile he wore never changed
nor did an eyelash so much as quiver even after the blue eyes of
Peter's mother had flashed their message.

"Well--I've come to invite folks to my party and I find a party going
on.  I'm going to give a housewarming soon, and I came over to ask
Williams here where he bought his graphophone and records.  We must
have one at my party so that when the musicians get tired we can have
other music.  And, Williams, I'm expecting you to come over that night
and run the thing for me.  I shall be too busy attending to other
matters.  And now, as long as we're all here would you mind letting me
hear 'Annie Laurie' again?"

The song was put on and the children crowded round.

Joe and Mrs. Dustin were listening silently to the song that always
brought back old faces and scenes and that old haunting ache for the
things of long ago.

"That's my favorite tune," said the proprietor suddenly to Mrs. Dustin.

"It's one of mine too," she smiled back with soft, shining eyes.

"My wife's name was Annie," he said again and as suddenly.

"Have you lost her?" Mrs. Dustin asked gently.

"Yes.  Quite a while ago.  You make me think of her.  She was little
and had blue eyes.  She died on me when the baby came.  She took the
baby with her."

"Oh," murmured Mrs. Dustin and she forgot the beer growing stale on the
counter, forgot the slot machines against the walls, forgot everything
but this man who for this minute stood out from a world of men with
this unhealed sorrow in his heart.

  "And for bonny Annie Laurie
  I'd lay me doon and dee,"

sang the famous singer softly and the proprietor turned his head away.

"It gets damn lonesome sometimes," he said huskily.  And at that a
toil-worn hand touched his arm in healing sympathy and a little
shoemaker who had come out into the night with anger in his heart said
with a huskiness that rivalled the proprietor's,

"My God, man, don't I know!"

The minister played other tunes, then he pulled out his watch and
laughed and that ended the party.  In a few minutes he was alone with
the proprietor.

When the last footstep had lost itself in the still streets the
proprietor turned to the big young man who was sitting on an ice-cream
table, carelessly swinging his feet.

"I feel so damn funny," said the proprietor, "and all shook up
to-night.  And I don't know whether it all really happened or whether I
just dreamed it--the little woman with the blue eyes and the soft-faced
little guy.  Say, parson, what were they after, anyway?"

"Williams," the parson made grave answer, "I rather think those two
were looking for their children."  And Cynthia's son told the story of
Joe and Hattie and Mrs. Dustin and Peter as Green Valley had told it to
him.  And when it was told the two men sat still and listened to the
little wind mourning somewhere outside.

"Yes--that's it.  They were looking for their children.  If mine hadn't
a-died that's maybe what I'd be doing now.  Oh, God, parson, I'm in
wrong again.  I've been in wrong ever since Annie died.  If she was
alive I'd be working in a machine shop somewheres, bringing home my
twenty-two a week with more for overtime and going around with my wife
and the kid and living natural, like other men.  My God," he groaned,
"the lights just went out when she went and I've been stumbling around
in the dark, not knowing how to live or die.

"I quit work the day after I buried her.  What was the use of working
then?  I had half a mind to blow in all I had but I couldn't.  Seemed
like she was still there with me, trying to cheer me up.  I slunk
around like a shadow for months.  And then I got hungry for people.  A
single man don't get asked around much and he's got to hang around with
the boys.

"So I took what money I had and started a pool-room.  I thought maybe
I'd feel better seeing people around all day.  Well--it wasn't so bad.
But one night a little woman with a baby in her arms came to the door
and begged me to send her husband home and not let him play in my place
any more.  She said she had no milk for the baby and no fire, that he
was spending everything he earned in my poolroom.

"So help me, God, parson, that part of it had never struck me.  I ain't
bright and never was.  But I ain't no skunk.  I give that woman some of
her own money back and that week I sold out at a loss and slunk around
some more.  I couldn't go back to my own work.  I had a grudge against
it, someway.  By and by the money was all gone and an old pal of mine
offered to set me up in business out here, away from the city and old
memories.  And here I am again--the same old fool and numbskull.  I'll
sell out this week and git.  What I'll do I don't know.  I'm not a
smart man.  It was always Annie that did the heavy thinking and the
advising and had the ideas for starting things."

The boy who was born in India, who had heard hundreds of gripping,
human tales in that land of story and proverb, listened as if this was
the first breath of grief his heart had ever experienced.  Then he took
the dead Annie's place.

"Williams, sometime next spring, Billy Evans is going to add a garage
to his livery barn.  He'll need a mechanic.  That will be just the
place for you.  In the meantime I'm buying a little car and am in need
of a driver.  So until Billy is ready you'd better come and bach with
me.  The farm is big and I'm nearly as lonely at times as you are."

And he told his poolroom friend a tale of India and of two plain white
stones that lay somewhere within the heart of it.



CHAPTER XIV

THE CHARM

It was a wonderful charm--that picture of a little boy and his pet hen.
Nanny carried it about during the day and felt almost safe and easier
of heart.  She wondered what had become of all her old happiness, the
carefree joy that had been hers before she met the boy who came from
India and who did not understand women.

Ever since that day on the hill top Nanny's life had been troubled.
She was haunted with strange, vague fears.  She woke up one morning
with the knowledge that she had dreamed the night long of the boy from
India.  That afternoon she found herself unable to think of anything
but him.

A panic seized her.  She began to be afraid of herself.  She caught
herself looking out of the windows and down the dusty summer roads, at
first unconsciously and then with a curious expectancy that grew to a
longing so real that she could not help but understand.

It came to Nanny with a terrible shock--the knowledge that at last she
loved a man.  She remembered then the eyes of the men who had loved her
and whom she had so carelessly sent away.  She understood then the hurt
they had carried away with them and hoped penitently that each had
found the comfort and love he had craved.

She wondered how and where she was to look for comfort.  She saw with
something very much like horror that, unlike the men who had sought
her, she dared make no plea, could not by word or look give any sign of
what had befallen her.

If others came to know, her misery would be unbearable.  The terrible
thought came that perhaps Cynthia's son might come to see.  At that the
earth seemed to go soft beneath her feet and her world lay blurred in a
mist of amazed misery.

She was wretched and gay by turns.  The day came when her father and
brother noticed this and spoke of it.  Then it was that Nanny turned
white and walked away to Grandma Wentworth's.  She had half a mind to
tell Grandma and perhaps through that wonder-wise soul find her way
back to peace and sanity.  But Grandma had teased too and so Nanny held
on desperately to her secret, wondering how she was to go on enduring.

When she came to the picture of the little, grave-eyed chap Nanny stole
it without a moment's hesitation.  And it acted like a charm.  Lying
warm above her heart it dulled the longing and helped her to laugh
again, gayly, saucily even.

She had brave minutes when with her eyes on the picture she told
herself that it wasn't the man she loved but this grave-eyed boy in him
that had never grown up or died.  She had always loved children, she
told herself, so there was no shame in that.  But the next minute her
heart would call up the image of this boy grown up, a boy still, but a
boy with a man's eyes and a man's dormant strength.  Being an honest
soul Nanny flushed and cried for the mother she could not remember.

Still as the days went by Nanny found that the little fellow stood
gallantly by her.  Somehow he helped her to grow used to the pain and
the burning joy of her secret.  He helped her to endure the questions
and the teasing that is the lot of girls as lovely as Nanny.

He helped her to laugh when she felt like crying.  And best of all he
steadied her when Cynthia's son was by, when her heart was beating
horribly and her head was dizzy with happiness and fright.

She was a new girl to the boy from India.  He was no longer afraid of
her.  She no longer said bright, sharp things that puzzled and hurt
him.  She was quiet and kind and frequently now exceedingly ill at ease.

One day while they were walking along the road he stopped suddenly and
looked at her.

"Are you tired?" he asked abruptly.

"No--I'm not tired," Nanny said a little surprised at the question.

"Are you ill?" he next wanted to know.

"Ill?  Why--no.  Not that I know of."

He searched her eyes for the truth.  Nanny, not daring to trust
herself, turned away her head with an unsteady little laugh.

"Why?"

"Because," the puzzled boy explained, "you have been so quiet and so
nice and kind to me."

The laughable innocence of him was all that saved Nanny that time.

She thought of going away.  But she lacked the courage.  The thought of
going made the pain worse and there was no place in all the world to
which she cared to go.

Then a brilliant idea came to her.  It might after all, she told
herself, be purely imaginary,--this strange torture that she thought
was love.  It might after all be only a foolish fancy born of her quiet
isolated life in the dreamy old town.  She would fill the house with
people, with men and women and music.

So for a time the Ainslees were very gay.  House party followed house
party and there were always guests.  Secure with the security of
numbers Nanny invited Cynthia's son.  Then she stood back and watched
him draw both men and women about him.  He was utterly at ease with the
men but quiet and reserved with the girls.  Instinctively he sorted out
the comfortable, less brilliant ones and chatted with them, all
unconscious of the light in the eyes of the others.  Nanny watched him
and as she watched there was born in her heart a new fear and torture.
She realized that some day love would come to Cynthia's son and feared
that she would have to stand by unseen and forgotten.

So then she began to distrust those of her feminine guests who smiled
at him and chatted with him.  And as soon as she decently could she
sent all her company packing.  When they were gone she knew beyond any
possibility of doubt that she loved him and would always love him and
that the vengeance that her father had predicted had overtaken her.

The very next time Cynthia's son came he found the house quiet and
Nanny alone.

"Are they all gone?" he asked.

"Yes," she told him.

"When is your next crowd coming?" he wondered.

"There aren't going to be any more crowds," Nanny informed him.

"That's nice.  It's pleasanter this way."

Nanny's poor heart longed to ask why but it dared not.

So then she drifted and didn't care.  Though she prayed a little
miserably at times for peace and a home shore.  They seemed to meet by
accident on the sunny summer roads and whenever they did they strolled
on aimlessly but contented.  Because she was now so quiet and kind he
told her things that he had never told to any one else.  She marvelled
at the simple heart of him, its freedom from self-consciousness.  She
had not dreamed that there was anywhere in the world a grown-up man
like that.

Had he been different she could never have lived, it seemed to her,
through the fearful hour of humiliation on the Glen Road.  She stooped
for a spray of scarlet sumach one early autumn afternoon.  They had
been looking through the hedges for the first hazel nuts and he was
standing beside her when, in some way, the little picture worked its
way out of her soft silk blouse and fell at his feet, face up.

Fright as terrible and as cold as death laid its hand on Nanny's heart.
It seemed to her that she never again could raise her eyes to his.
Fortunately her body went through its mechanical duties.  She bent, her
hand picked up the picture, and her voice of its own accord was
explaining:

"This belongs to you.  I took it the day I was looking over the
pictures at Grandma Wentworth's.  I should, of course, have returned it
long ago but I kept neglecting to do it.  It's one of the dearest child
pictures I have ever seen."

She raised her eyes then, eyes as careless as she could make them.
Fright kept the flame of bitter shame from her cheeks and the tremor
out of her voice.  She held the little picture out to him, forcing her
eyes to meet his.

And those eyes of his looked down at her, first with wonder and then
with a pleased smile, and she knew that he didn't know, didn't
understand, saw nothing strange in the incident.  He took her calm
explanation for the whole truth.  The man had absolutely no vanity.

"Why, I don't want that," he told her wonderingly.  "Are you making a
collection of children's pictures?" he asked with such innocent
curiosity that Nanny's self-control gave way and she laughed until she
cried.  He stood by, helpless and puzzled.  When Nanny, having gotten
to the tears, searched in vain for her handkerchief he gravely offered
his.

Nanny took it and used it and then looked up at him with eyes as full
of laughing despair as his were full of bewilderment.

"John Roger Churchill Knight--you will some day be the very death of
me."



CHAPTER XV

INDIAN SUMMER

"Well, I guess this is about the last spell of pretty weather we're
going to have," sighed Fanny Foster as she sat herself down on Grandma
Wentworth's back steps and went right to work helping Grandma sort the
herbs and bulbs and the seeds she had been gathering for a whole week.

"I'm hoping not," said Grandma, "though when the air is like warm gold
dust, and the sun's heat just mellows you through and through, and the
last bobolink calls from the hill, why, a body just knows such perfect
days can't last.  Still, I'm hoping it'll stay a bit longer, though I
can't say I'm not ready for cold weather."

"Oh, I guess everybody is," agreed Fanny with that joyous, bubbling,
luxurious note that Grandma knew so well.  "I saw Mary Hagley polishing
her very knuckles off on that second-hand stove Mert bought from that
watery-eyed man from Spring Road who drives through here with the lame
buckskin horse and pieced-out harness.  Lutie Barlow's got her fall
tinting and painting all done.  She's painted the inside of her chicken
coops a bright yellow, so's to fool her hens into thinking the sun's
forever shining, and the inside of her stormshed a red, so's to make it
seem warmer when she goes out there on a cold day to the coal and wood
box.  There ain't anybody can beat Lutie on color ideas.

"Minnie Eton's dyed her heavy lace curtains in coffee and has a new set
made for the dining room, besides having a picture of the third boy
enlarged for the parlor.  She started crocheting the lace for a new
bedspread for her company bedroom yesterday.  And--oh, my lands, I
forgot to tell you the rest of that second-hand stove business.  You
see Mary was feeling pretty bad about having to put up with another old
stove and envying Cissie Harvey hers.  Cissie's new parlor stove is a
monster, made seemingly of nothing but pure nickel and isinglass.  Mary
went over to look at it and when she come home and took another look at
her old thing she just sat down and cried.  She cried till she was too
tired to care and then went to Jessup's for some stove polish.  On the
way she met Judy Parks who told her that Dick had a new kind of polish
that gave a beautiful shine without hardly any work.  So Mary got that
and it proved to be all Judy said it was and in no time at all Mary
turned that old stove of hers into a shining glory.  And just as she
was standing back admiring her work in comes Cissie, wringing her
hands.  The baby had poked out every last one of those isinglass
windows while Cissie was in the kitchen warming up his milk.  And there
you are.  And there's people that say there is no God and no justice in
this world.

"Josephine Rand's starting in on her rugs and begging rags from friends
and enemies.  She's going a little easy though since last week.  She
cut up what Ted says was a perfectly good pair of his pants.  He had
them hanging up in the basement and was hoping Josephine would wash and
press them some day.  He kept them down in the basement because he knew
that if he left them in his closet she'd give them away to a hobo on
account of her always feeling so sorry for tramps and believing
everything they tell her.  Ted says he always liked these particular
pants on account of them making him look slim and being made of the
same kind of cloth as his first long pair of pants that he got as a
boy.  So he was cherishing them and Josephine goes and cuts them into
tatters.  He's so mad, she says she don't dare leave a rag rug in his
sight.

"Mat Wilson and his wife ain't on the very best conjugal terms either.
It seems Mat has a felon right under his thumb nail, about the worst
place you can have one, he thinks.  It's kept him awake nights and made
him miserable, so naturally he felt entitled to a good deal of
sympathy.  And he got it.  Everybody has sympathized so much that Clara
just got mad and said that that there felon of Mat's isn't half as bad
as the one that she had at the end of her thumb two years ago.  She
says she got hollow-eyed and consumptive looking with hers but that Mat
looks about the same as usual, maybe brighter.  Anyhow, they've argued
and scrapped about their felons so that Clara's aunt's gone off for a
visit to Ioway, and Mat says that there sure is a recompense for
everything in this world, even felons and domestic misery, and Clara
wants to know if he's meaning to insinuate that her aunt is a nuisance,
because if he is she ain't going to send his aunt the Christmas present
that she's got half done for her.  But Mat won't say, just keeps
showing his thumb to everybody and talking about silver linings to
every cloud.  There's no use talking, some men are aggravating.

"Mandy Jutlins don't know whether to have the telephone put in or not.
She says the Lord knows she has enough children to run all her errands
and take all messages and that the two dollars a month comes in handy
for a new pair of shoes.  And if it's in she says more than likely
she'll be wasting her time listening to a lot of silly gossip.  Of
course that was a foolish remark for Mandy to make, seeing all her
friends have telephones.  Two or three's took it personal and aren't
speaking a word to Mandy but plenty about her.  One of them is supposed
to have said that it's a fact that Mandy doesn't need a telephone, that
she talks enough without it, and that in her opinion the worst kind of
a gossip is the kind that stays at home the whole enduring time, never
taking pains to see how things really happen and always knowing
everything.

"Emmy Smith doesn't know what to do with her oldest girl, Eleanor.
Eleanor just won't wash the knives and forks and spoons.  She'll scrape
and scald and polish the pots and pans and does the china beautiful,
but she will leave the knives and forks and even hides them away dirty.
Did you ever hear of such a thing?  Emmy can't explain it unless it's
due to the shiftless streak in all the Smiths.

"Agnes Hooper's crab-apple jell is about all gone and here it's hardly
cool yet.  Those boys of hers just want to live on crab-apple jell and
Aggie says she's got to the end of her strength and patience, that
Charlie'd better pull up and move out among the Mormons where he could
have a couple of more wives to help keep those boys filled up.

"Jennie Burton's sauerkraut isn't going to keep and hasn't turned out
well, she thinks.  Fremy Stockton says it's because she forgot to put
in a little mite of sugar and altogether too much salt.

"Grace Cook's husband bought a whole pig from some farmer Bloomingdale
way, thinking it was going to be good and cold by this time.  And Grace
has got up at four o'clock every morning for a week and stayed up till
midnight, trying to get that pig out of sight.  She's rendered lard and
made sausage and salted and smoked meat till every crock is full.
Yesterday she was making head cheese, sick to her stomach and crying
because there were still the four feet to cook up, and she said she
didn't know how to cook them and that each one looked to her about as
big as the kitchen stove.

"So I just took off my hat and put those four pig's feet on the stove
to simmer, and I helped her to get the head cheese out of the way.
When there's two working and talking, why, the time goes and when we
turned around there were those pig's feet as tender as could be, so
when the children came in we sat down and had pig's feet with
horse-radish.  Grace wouldn't touch them; said she had enough pig in
her system to last her ten years and she knew she'd break out in
gumboils.

"I suppose you've heard how Malcolm Gross thought he'd lay in a nice
supply of maple syrup for his buckwheat pancakes this winter, and how
the children went to tasting and forgot to cork the big can, and the
cat went climbing around for mice and bacon rind and knocked the thing
down.  Florence says there's maple syrup tracked all over the house and
she says her rugs are ruined.

"It seems as if Grove Street was full of trouble, for while Grace was
crying over her pig, Elsie Winters next door was crying over her blue
henrietta dress that didn't dye right.  Elsie swears it was old dye
Martin sold her and wishes we'd have another drug store because a
little competition would do Martin good.  And next door to Elsie, Pete
Sweeney's tickled to death.  He says it serves Elsie right, that Green
Valley women've got a mania for dyeing things and trying to make 'em
last forever; that he's had two bolts of just the kind of color Elsie
was trying to get but that she wouldn't look at it.

"And Pete Sweeney's not the only one that's down on the women.  Andy
Smiley cleaned up so much money on those new bungalows that he went to
the city and came home with twenty-five dollars' worth of ostrich
plumes for Nettie.  He said he was bound that Nettie'd have a real hat
once in her life, that he's tired of watching her making her own hats,
even piecing out the shapes with bits of cardboard and trimming and
retrimming.  She got in the way of it the first ten years they were
married, when Andy was having such poor luck and now, poor thing, I
guess she can't get out of it, because the day after Andy brought the
plumes Nettie went to the city and bought a thirty-nine-cent shape to
put them on.  And she's wearing it like that, looking worse than ever.
They say Andy's swearing awful and that Mary Langely almost cried when
she saw those lovely plumes and begged Nettie to come in and let her
fix up her hat proper and without charge.  But Nettie just smiled that
happy little smile of hers and shook her head.

"Andy Smiley ain't the only one that's doing well.  Johnny Peters got a
raise the other day and Claudie's treated herself to two dozen
beautiful linen dish towels.  She says she's used flour sacks to wipe
dishes ever since she was six years old and she's always been hoping
she'd be rich enough some day to have real linen dish towels.  So she's
got 'em.  But they're so nice she hardly likes to use them, and the two
weeks she was sick and had to have her washing done at the laundry she
was mighty careful not to send them.  She washed them herself right
there beside her bed, and her sick with rheumatism.  They say Doc
Philipps used awful language, for he caught her right at it.  But when
she explained he just blew his nose and never said another word.  But
he talked to Johnny and Johnny went out and bought four dozen dish
towels such as Green Valley has never seen.  Why, Sadie Dundry says
even the Ainslees haven't got dish towels like that.  Doc says that if
he can coax some man to get Dolly Beatty good woolen stockings and keep
her from wearing those transparent things this winter he'll be almost
happy; says if Dolly should marry that widower he'll talk to him.

"All Elm Street's laughing at Alexander Sabin and Carrie and their
pump.  That pump of theirs has been out of order all summer and
Carrie's been sick from nothing else but getting mad every time she'd
go out for a pail of water.  Alexander promised to fix it but instead
of that he's repaired everybody else's all up and down Elm Street and
just can't seem to get started on his own.  Carrie's going on a strike
to-morrow, ain't going to cook a mouthful of victuals, she says, until
that pump is fixed.  The neighbors, much as they like Alexander, are
all on her side and have promised not to invite him in, even for a
drink of water from the pumps he's fixed.  And his mother's away at
Barton, nursing her sick sister, so it looks as if Alexander will be
starved into fixing that pump of his.

"Debby Collins is going to give the minister one of her cats, the one
that has to have a cold potato for its lunch every day.  She says it's
the most mannerly of all her cats and that she'd never think of giving
it to any one but the minister and not even to him but that now that
he's going to have a proper home and a housekeeper, why, it'll be safe.

"Everybody, of course, is crazy about the housewarming the minister is
going to give next week.  I guess everybody is going.  It'll be a fine
night for thieves, Bessie Williams says, with every soul gone.  That
girl's mind just naturally turns to evil.  She knows there ain't ever
been a thing stolen in this town, less it was a kiss or two.  But
Bessie's the only one, so far as I could hear, who was borrowing
trouble.  The rest of the town is dying to get into that house that's
been closed so long.  And everybody's curious to know just what Hen
Tomlins's been doing to the furniture.  You know when the minister
found out what a fine wood-carver and cabinet-maker Hen was he had him
go through the house.  And they say that Bernard Rollins, the
portraiture man, is mixed up in the housewarming too.  But nobody can
figure out how.  And that ain't the worst.  Uncle Tony says that he
heard that the minister bought out the poolroom man, because some one
saw the music box being hauled over to the minister's house.  You know
Jake and some others were planning to run that poolroom man out of
town, even whispering about tar and feathers.  But the minister asked
them to let him manage and try to fix things up first.  So they did and
he's done it, because the poolroom's closed; the stuff went out
yesterday and Effie Struby's brother Alf swears he saw that poolroom
man fooling with the minister's automobile out in the barn.  But you
know how near-sighted Alf is and his word ain't credited much, and
everybody's so busy getting ready for the party that they can't stop to
investigate.  And ain't it funny how none of us don't somehow ask the
minister things, just wait until he tells us?  And ain't he got a funny
way of just talking about nothing special, only being pleasant, and
then letting you find out weeks after that he did tell you something
that you'd been needing to know?  My!  I bet that boy could give a
child castor oil and make him honestly think it was candy.  Why, they
say that as far as anybody can find out, he's never give that poolroom
man even one good talking to.  Jake, who's been itching to lambaste the
man, says 's-far's he can see, it was the poolroom man who did all the
talking.  And once Jake says he just dropped in himself, just to see
what line of argument the minister was using, and he says that he'd be
danged if the minister did a blessed thing but play 'Annie Laurie' and
'We'd Better Bide a Wee' over and over on that music box.  Jake hasn't
figured it out yet.

"Why, Grandma, there's some thinks maybe Cynthia's son has brought back
some Indian magic.  They say India's chuckful of it--but law--it'll
take more than magic to save little Jim Tumley, for he's beginning
again.  While the minister kept close he was all right but the
housewarming and that poolroom took up time, and then Jim's sister,
Mrs. Hoskins, got sick and Jim goes there to play and sing to her, and
you know what George Hoskins is.  He must have his drink and offer
visitors some--and poor Jim--just the smell of it knocks him out.  The
minister says Jim must be saved.  But how's it to be done, tell me
that?  There ain't anything smart or knowing about me, but the
minister'll never save Jim Tumley less'n he kills off a few of our
comfortable, respectable drinkers and closes up the hotel.  And I tell
you, nobody but God Almighty could make this town dry."

"Well, Fanny," smiled Grandma, "I've noticed that if there ever is a
job that nobody but the Almighty can handle, He generally takes it in
hand and settles it."



CHAPTER XVI

THE HOUSEWARMING

Jocelyn Brownlee was dressing for the minister's party.  She was laying
out the prettiest of her pretty things and sighing as she did it.  For
what two months before would have seemed a joyous occasion was now
nothing but a painful, trying ordeal, an ordeal that must, however, be
gallantly gone through with.

Ever since that afternoon when she had stood on the back porch waving
joyfully to David and received no answer her world had lost its color.
All the rose and gold had faded and she stood lonely and lost and cold
in a mist of mystery.

She had seen David since that day, had even spoken to him.  But her
words were few and full of a gracious courtesy that put a whole wide
world between them.

"Are you going to the minister's housewarming, Jocelyn?" David had
asked painfully.  He had realized the raw cruelty of that afternoon and
had come over to explain and make amends.

"Yes--I'm going, David.  All the town will be there, won't it?" she had
answered and asked gently.

"Shall I stop for you?" begged the big boy.

"Why, no, David--thank you.  I shall not need an escort.  It's such a
little way and I'm used to Green Valley now."  But David knew just how
afraid this city mouse was of the country roads at night.

She was such a gracious little body as she stood there in her garden
that David wondered how he had ever for a moment doubted her and what
madness in his blood had made him yield to the cruelty that had shut
her heart and door to him.

For closed they were and gone was the simple, confiding girl who had
picnicked with him one May day.  In her place was this quiet young
woman who talked to him pleasantly but did not ask him in, and who
scared him with her calm and sweetness and drove the stumbling
explanation from his lips.

So Jocelyn was laying out her pretty things and sighing.  As long as
she was not going with David she decided to wear the smart slippers
with the high heels and the pretty buckles.  David did not approve of
high heels.

She knew that a great many of the Green Valley women would wear dresses
with collars to their chins.  So she smiled just a bit wickedly as she
glanced at the soft, misty dress like pink sea foam, from which her
head and lovely throat rose like a flower.  She wondered if it was
wicked to be glad that she was pretty and to want David to see just how
pretty she really was.

She didn't want to go, but go she must, for she knew Green Valley.  She
knew it and loved it.  But she feared it too, because she did not know
it well enough.

So half-past eight found her stepping daintily and a little tipsily in
her high-heeled slippers over the road, after the last stragglers.  She
did not want to be seen going in alone and so hung back till the last,
a lonely little figure in the cool shadows.  Yet she was not so far
back that she could not feel the comforting nearness of the folks
ahead.  She even heard snatches of conversation and smiled
understandingly, for she too knew now the little daily trials, the
family sorrows and dissensions, the occasional soul tempests, the
laughable ways and tenderly pathetic ambitions of these simple,
guileless human folks.

She heard enough to know that the couple just ahead was Sam Bobbins and
his wife, Dudy; the Sam Bobbins who tried to get rich raising violets
and failed; who then began raising mushrooms in his cellar and failed;
who last year spent good money trying to raise pedigreed dogs and
failed; and who only the week before paid ten dollars for a fancy
rooster and was happily telling his neighbors how rich he was going to
be, selling fighting stock.  His wife stepped on her skirt and ripped
it.  Jocelyn could hear her worried wail and Sam comforting her with
promises of new dresses when the roosters began to sell.  She could
hear fat Mrs. Glenn puffing and laughing her way up the little crests
of the road and could guess that her thin husband was doing his best to
help her.

She was so interested in the folks ahead that she forgot to be afraid
and never once glanced back into the shadows.  Had she done so she
might have seen David loitering along, keeping faithful watch over her.
So nicely did he time his steps that when she reached the door of the
minister's country house he was right behind her, and all Green Valley
saw them come in together.

When Jocelyn, in slipping from her evening wrap, turned and saw him and
flushed, he covered her confusion by saying reproachfully but gently:

"Those slippers are ever so pretty, Jocelyn, but you ought not to wear
them on these rough country roads and they are hardly warm enough for
these cool evenings, are they?"

She gave him a little smile full of saucy wickedness for she heard the
pain in his voice and saw the lover's hunger in his eyes and knew that
she was loved well and truly.  But she had been hurt and she was too
much a woman and far too human not to take her turn at gentle cruelty.

"What a couple," breathed Joshua Stillman, standing beside the blazing
fireplace with Colonel Stratton.  "She's like a dewy sweet rosebud and
he's a regular story-book lover in looks and a rare fine boy.  We
haven't had a wild rose romance like this one for a long while."

"We'll have a finer when that young parson wakes up.  He has the look
of a great lover, and look at the love history of the Churchills."

 It was evident that no man there dreamed of criticizing
the dress that looked like pink sea foam.  Even David drank in the
picture of his little sweetheart and saw how necessary to this wild
rose sweetness the high-heeled slippers were.  He wondered if ever in
his life he would kiss her and, should such glory come to him, if he
would live through the joy of it.

It was the women who were inclined to murmur.  But as soon as they
caught a look or a smile meant just for them their primness melted.
Their duty to their conscience and their upbringing done, they smiled
back lovingly at the girl, for who could be critical of a sweet wild
rose!

Jocelyn was not the only one whose gown had no collar.  Nan Ainslee
wore a plain dress that was so beautiful it made the women catch their
breath.  When Dolly asked the Green Valley dressmaker if she could make
her one like it, that body sighed and shook her head and said that she
knew that that dress looked awful simple but that it wasn't as simple
as it looked and she knew better than to try and copy it.

Some one overheard and asked somebody else why Dolly Beatty should
happen to want a dress like that, and instantly somebody smiled and
whispered that Charlie Peters, the widower from North Road, was making
eyes at her and calling regularly.

So the ball was set rolling and soon everybody knew that Grandma
Wentworth had just had a letter from Tommy Dudley, saying that he was
doing so well out West on his homestead that he was building himself a
new house and was aiming to make Green Valley a visit next lilac time.

And Jimmy Sears, Milly Sears' second boy, was a sergeant in the army
and was having a wonderful time somewhere down in Panama.  Milly had a
letter from him with photographs and was showing them around.  Not only
did Jimmy give her news of himself but he wrote that John, the oldest
boy, was up in Canada and doing well.  Jimmy was sending his mother and
sister Alice some wonderful laces and embroideries and Frank Burton
several kinds of strange fowl by a sailor friend from one of the
warships who was going home.  So patient, long-suffering Milly Sears
was wholly happy for the first time in years.

And no sooner had all this news been digested than somebody discovered
a diamond ring on Clara Tuttle's left hand.  So Clara was surrounded
and an explanation demanded.  But before she could conquer her blushes
and stammer out her news Max Longman came in from another room and,
putting his arms about her, said, "Don't be afraid, girl of mine, I'm
here."  And so everybody knew then that it was Max, after all, and not
Freddy Wilson.

Over near one of the big windows Steve Meckling was looking down at
Bonnie Don.

"Bonnie, when will you stop torturing me?  When will you let me give
you a ring?"

Bonnie was Clara Tuttle's chum and she was watching Clara's face, the
light in Clara's eyes, the happy curve of her lips.  It was a happiness
that made Bonnie's eyes wistful.

"Steve," she said softly, "would you always love me and be gentle with
me?"

At that big Steve caught his breath and put his hungry arms behind his
back out of temptation's way and said huskily, "Oh, Bonnie, girl, just
try me!"

So Bonnie raised her eyes and the big man was at peace.

Billy Evans was the last to arrive.  He had to get all the old folks to
the party before he and Hank could put in an appearance.  But his wife
and little Billy were there, little Billy with his ruddy hair curling
about his merry little face and his eyes dancing at everything and
every one.

Green Valley was full of lovable little ones, but they were as a rule
kept closely sheltered in the front and back yards.  But Billy was a
town baby.  His days were spent in and around his father's livery barn.
He went to his twelve o'clock dinner perched on Hank Lolly's shoulder,
and it had gotten so no gathering of men in his father's office was
considered complete without him.

And maybe it was just as well; for since Billy's coming there was less
careless language, less careless gossip.  And if some one's tongue did
slip now and then, Hank Lolly had a way of putting his head in and
saying solemnly:

"Guess you forgot that Mrs. Evans' boy was around when you said that."

For Hank Lolly was little Billy's proud godfather and Billy's welfare
was a matter that kept Hank awake nights.

It was Hank who introduced little Billy to all the livery horses and
patiently developed deep friendships between the animals and the child.

"I've fixed it so's no horse of ourn'll ever hurt the boy.  But that
ain't saying that somebody's ornery critter won't harm him.  There's
some awful mean horses in this town, Billy," Hank worried.  But Billy
Evans only laughed.

"Hank," he said, "with you and God taking turns minding that kid, and
his ma and me doing a little now and then, I guess he'll grow up."

So Billy was at the minister's party, as were very nearly all the other
Green Valley youngsters.  For these were old-fashioned folks whose
entertainments were so simple and harmless that children could always
be present.

As a matter of fact Green Valley folks never had to be entertained.
All one had to do was to call them together and they entertained
themselves.

Cynthia's son knew this.  So he had made no elaborate plans.  He knew
too that it was the old homestead they came to see, and to find out
what that poolroom man was doing in his back yard, and why Hen Tomlins
had been coming up so regularly, and why Bernard Rollins had been
asking to see people's old albums for the past three months.

So Cynthia's son had no programme.  He just threw open every door and
invited them to walk through and look.  He explained that in the
kitchen his housekeeper, Mary Dooley, and her two cousins from Meacham
were getting up the refreshments and that any one who strayed in there
would in all probability be put to work.

Still he wanted Green Valley housewives to go in and see if they could
think of anything that would make Mary's work easier.  He had, he said,
tried to make that kitchen a livable kind of a room, a room that would
be easy on a woman's feet and back and restful to her heart.

In the library and scattered all about were samples of Hen Tomlins'
art.  Hen was a rare workman, their minister told them.  With his box
of tools and his cunning hands Hen had taken old, broken but still
beautiful heirloom furniture and refashioned it into new life and
beauty.

In his little study just off the library his Green Valley neighbors
would find all manner of oriental things, treasures gathered for him by
his wonderful mother and father and given to him by his many dear and
far-away Indian friends.  He had put little cards on the articles,
explaining their history and uses.

For the babies there were big, quiet, safe rooms upstairs, and for the
young people there was the hall and the back sitting room, the piano,
the music box and Timothy Williams.  Timothy was the man who up till
the day before yesterday had owned and run the poolroom.  But he wasn't
in the poolroom business any more.  He was now his, John Knight's,
assistant and friend.  Timothy's story was a common enough little
story--the story of a man without a home.  If they'd all listen a
minute he'd tell them all there was to tell.

So, in the midst of a merrymaking, John Roger Churchill Knight
introduced Timothy Williams to Green Valley, introduced him in such a
way as to pave a wide clear path for him into Green Valley hearts.  And
so quick was Green Valley's response that before that same merrymaking
was over Green Valley was calling him Timothy and inviting him over for
Sunday dinner.

So then they were all provided for.  And here was the house.  It was
years since some of them were in it, and to a home-loving,
home-worshipping people it was a treat to go from room to room.  In
spite of the changes, the newness everywhere, there was much of the old
home left.  Its soul was still the same.  The new hangings, the new
wicker furniture, the oriental treasures were all duly inspected,
commented upon and admired.

But it was the old things, the Green Valley things that made the great
appeal.  And Green Valley folks rested loving hands every now and then
on some fine old heavy chair that a long-gone Churchill had with his
own hands fashioned from his own walnut trees.

There were pictures to look at, old familiar faces, the faces of men
and women who had been born and raised in this joyous little valley
town; who had gone to the village school and had in their courting days
strolled over the shady old town roads.

Here was a picture of Cynthia's mother in a crinoline with her baby on
her knee.  There was a famous artist's painting of a storm passing over
the wooded knoll that now was John Knight's favorite retreat.  The
famous artist had been visiting John Knight and had painted the storm
as he watched it from the sitting-room windows.

There were old candlesticks, guns, old dishes, old patterns, hand-sewn
quilts and such little things of long ago as stirred the oldest folks
there very nearly to tears and awed even the youngsters into a
wondering respect for the old days they could never know.

The old house hummed with the treasured memories of a hundred years.
Groups of twos and threes stood everywhere about, hovering over some
article.  In every such group there would be at first a short hushed
silence, then would come the sudden burst of memories spattering like a
shower of raindrops; then the turning away of eyes full of misty,
unbelieving, far-away smiles.

Cynthia's son watched and smiled too.  But his thoughts flew back and
he longed with a cruel ache for the mother who lay sleeping in a far
and foreign land.

By and by a gong sounded somewhere.  That was the signal for supper.
So they gathered around the tables and Cynthia's son explained that
Bernard Rollins had for the last three months been painting a portrait
of Cynthia Churchill, Cynthia as they knew her.  That was why Rollins
had searched old albums for pictures that might give him an idea of the
sweetness of her smile.  That was the surprise of the evening and the
meaning of the shrouded picture above the library fireplace.  She had
so loved Green Valley, had so longed to be there.

They sat very still and waited while Grandma Wentworth uncovered the
face of the girl who had been so loved by Green Valley folks.
Grandma's face was a little white with memories and the hand that was
reaching for the cord to draw away the covering shook a little.
Cynthia Churchill and she had been dearer to each other than sisters.
They had gone to school together in the days of pinafores and
sunbonnets and picked spring's wild flowers along the roadsides and in
the woodlands.  They had knitted and made lace together, gone to
picnics and parties, always together, until the time came when a tall
Green Valley boy walked beside each.  And even then they were
inseparable.  Why, they made their wedding things together and when
Mollie Wentworth passed out of the village church a wife, Cynthia,
lovely as the bride, walked behind as bridesmaid.  And Mollie was to
have returned the favor in a few days.  But something happened,
something tragic and cruel, and lovely Cynthia never wore the wedding
gown that had been fashioned for her.  It was packed away and on what
was to have been her wedding day Cynthia left Green Valley and was gone
a long while.  She came back once or twice but in the end Green Valley
heard that she married a wonderful missionary and sailed away to India.

So Grandma's hand shook and her face was white.  But when the covering
slipped off and a lovely, laughing face looked down at them Grandma
smiled, even though the tears were running down her cheeks.

Yes, that was Cynthia.  Disappointment could never mar the high joy of
her nature.  She was laughing at them, telling them that with all its
sorrows and bitterness and heartache life was worth while.

Her son stood beneath her picture and read to them parts of her
letters, last messages to many of them.  She had written them on her
deathbed and they were full of yearning for the town of her birth, for
the old trees and familiar flowers, home voices and the sound of the
old church bell sighing through the summer night.

"But," ran one letter, "I am sending you my son and I want you to tell
him all the old stories and town chronicles, sing him all the old songs
and love him for my sake--for he's going home--going home to Green
Valley--alone."

Oh, they cried, those Green Valley folks, for they were as one family
and they guessed what it must have been to die away from home and
kindred.

But Cynthia's son did not weep.  He had shed his tears long ago and had
learned to smile.  He was smiling at them now.

"I had planned to have Jim Tumley sing some of the old songs for us
to-night.  But Jim isn't here and so if somebody will offer to play
them we can all sing.  Jim promised he'd come," the young host's face
was troubled and they all guessed what was worrying him, "but he isn't
here--"

"Yes--he--is," a strange voice chirped somewhere near the door.  Green
Valley turned and looked and froze with horror.  For there, staggering
grotesquely, came little Jim Tumley, a piteous figure.  He had kept his
promise to his new friend--he had come to sing the old songs.

Not a soul stirred.  Only somewhere in the heart of the seated audience
Frank Burton groaned.  This was a fight that he could not fight for
little Jim.

Nan Ainslee had stepped to the piano but her fingers were lead.  And
for once the young minister was unable to rise to the situation.  A
dark agony flooded his eyes and kept him motionless.  It was the look
Grandma Wentworth had once seen in Cynthia's eyes.  And it was that
look that took the strength from Grandma so that she too was helpless.

For sick, still minutes Green Valley watched little Jim stumble about
and fumble for his handkerchief.  They stared at the stricken face of
their minister and at the laughing face whose memory they had come to
honor.

And then, when the deathly silence was becoming unbearable, a girl in a
dress like pink sea foam rose from her chair and stepped quietly,
daintily down the room until she stood beside the swaying figure of Jim
Tumley.  She placed her hand gently on the little man's arm and turned
to her Green Valley neighbors.

"I shall sing the old songs with him," she said quietly.

She found an armchair and put the docile Jim into it.  Then she smiled
at Nan Ainslee and told her what to play.

Nan's fingers touched the keys softly and from the slim throat that
rose like a flower stem from the pink sea foam there rolled out a
great, deep contralto.

It was unbelievable, that rich deep voice.  It blotted out
everything--little Jim, the room, all sense of time and place--and
brought to the listeners instead the deep echoes of cathedral aisles,
the holy peace of a still gray day and the joy of coming sunshine.  She
sang all the old songs, tenderly, softly.  When she could sing no more
and they showered her with smiles and tears and applause, she raised
her hand for silence, for she had something to say.

"I am glad you liked the songs.  I always sang them for father.  I am
glad that I could do something for you, for you have all been so
wonderfully kind to me from the very first day that I came to Green
Valley.  But why are you not kinder to Jim Tumley?  Why don't you vote
the thing that is hurting him out of your town?  If the women here
could vote that's what they would do.  But surely you men will do it to
save Jim Tumley."



CHAPTER XVII

THE LITTLE SLIPPER

They sat stunned and stared at the slip of a girl in pink who was
speaking in so matter-of-fact a fashion.

And then Seth Curtis laughed; but he laughed kindly.

"Why," he shouted, "she can't only sing; she can preach too--woman
suffrage and prohibition."

The laugh grew and smiles went round and the whole trying situation
eased up.  Jocelyn laughed too and turned to say good night to her
host.  And from somewhere in the crowd Frank Burton strode up and
carried Jim out and drove him home.

Everybody began to get ready to go, glad that the evening so nearly
tragic had been happily saved.  And all Green Valley mentally promised
to repay the girl who had had the wit and the sweetness to serve in an
hour of need.

But while the young people and the married ones with children were
crowding out through the front door, Grandma Wentworth was still in the
library, staring up into the laughing eyes of the dearest friend life
had given her and taken away.

"Cynthia, dear," whispered Grandma brokenly, "it is still here, the
thing that hurt you so--that made a widow of me at twenty-eight.  We
have grown no wiser in spite of the pain."

Sitting in the armchair that Jocelyn had pulled out for Jim Tumley was
Roger Allan.  His face was a-quiver with pain.  And he too was staring
hungrily at the pictured face.

"Oh, Roger," wept Grandma, "if only we could have her back, her and
Richard."

"Yes," hoarsely whispered he, "if only the years would come back and we
could have another chance to live them."

Over in one corner of the room Green Valley's three good little men
were discussing something hotly.  That is, the fiery little barber was
discussing something.  The other two just listened.

"I tell you that preacher boy is right.  This town needs a home, a
place where it can all get together for a good time.  No one home, not
even this one, is big enough.  That's why part of the town hangs out in
the hotel, another part in the blacksmith shop, the kids in Joe's shoe
shop or a poolroom.  We need a big assembly room with smaller rooms off
of it for all kinds of honest fun--pool, billiards, bowling, dancing,
swimming.  I tell you I ain't crazy and no more is the preacher.  And
Joshua Stillman's library that he pretty near gave all his life and
money to needs to be moved out into the sunlight and stretched to its
full, grand size.  I tell you it would be a great thing for this town.
This town's sociable but it ain't social--no, sir!"

Sam Ellis was going home from the party with his girl and two boys.

"Well, father," bitterly spoke up the eldest, "it's still our saloon
that's killing Jim Tumley, even though we aren't running it."

"Oh, father," murmured Tessie miserably, "can't you do anything about
it?"

Sam groaned.

"Dear God--what can I do?  I tell you selling the hotel or renting it
or dynamiting it won't stop drinking in this town, so long as there are
men in it who want drink and will drink.  I don't think even the vote
that that little girl suggested will do it.  If you vote it out you'll
have blind pigs to fight.  No, sir!  It ain't my fault nor no one man's
fault.  The whole town's to blame.  There's only one thing will stop
it.  If men in this country will quit making it other men will stop
drinking it.  So long as it's made it'll be used.  The whole country's
to blame."

Fanny Foster, having nobody else to talk to, was speaking her mind to
John, her husband.

"I told Grandma Wentworth nobody but the Almighty could do anything for
Jim.  You'll see that I'm right.  I know."

Fanny was right.  But what she did not know was that she herself was to
be one of the instruments with which a stern and patient God was to
clean out forever the one foul blot on Green Valley life.

The one person who was not discussing Jim Tumley and his trouble was
Jocelyn.  She couldn't.  She was too occupied with troubles of her own.

She had been the first to leave.  She slipped away unobserved for she
could not bear to have Green Valley see her leave without an escort.
So she got away as noiseless as a fairy.  And for the first few rods
all was well.  The excitement of the past hours, the worry of getting
away unseen, kept her mind occupied.  But as the night wind cooled her
cheeks and the lighted house back of her grew smaller she grew
frightened.  She was, after all, a city girl and to her there was
something fearful in the stillness of the country and the loneliness of
the dark road.  She hurried her steps, jumped at every sound and grew
cold from pure terror as the awful stillness and emptiness closed in
about her.  She stood still every few minutes, staring at blurred
bushes beside the road.  The screech of an owl almost made her scream.
And in the dark the hard lumpy road hurt her feet cruelly.  The little
slippers were never meant for dark country roads.  So Jocelyn had to
pick her steps, and with every second's delay her terror grew.

Finally the trees thinned a bit and for a good space ahead there was a
clearing where the night was not so dark and the road not so lumpy.
She hurried to get out of the smother of trees.  When once she crossed
that open space all would be well, she told herself, for then the
village lights would wink at her and the sidewalks begin.  As soon as
she could see her own lighted windows and set foot on a cement walk she
would no longer be afraid.

So, head bent, she hurried along and was almost near the walk when,
looking up, she saw a man hurrying toward her through a little footpath
that led to the road.  She stood motionless with horror.  Then the
scream that had hovered on her lips all the way escaped her and she
tried to run.

She did not run far.  For one of the high-heeled slippers just curled
up under her and she went down, sobbing "David--David."

And she kept sobbing just that over and over even after David had
picked her up and folded her safe in his arms.  He tried to soothe her
and explained that he had missed her, had guessed that she would try to
get home alone down this road and so took the short cut in order to
catch up with her and make sure that she got home safely.  He never
dreamed of frightening her so, but she was safe with him now and there
was absolutely nothing to fear.

"But my foot, David.  It's swelling.  I can feel it--and it hurts."

David took off the little slipper and put it in his pocket.  Then he
told her not to worry because he could carry her home easily enough.
But first he sat down with her on an old stone wall and talked to her
until the last sob died away and her head nestled gratefully on his big
comfortable shoulder.

"Jocelyn," he asked presently, "are you still angry with me?"

She shook her head.

"I've never been angry with you, David.  But I thought you didn't want
to be bothered any longer with a silly girl like me and so--I tried to
help and be sensible."

"I know.  I was crazy that day you rode through town with the minister.
I had no right--"

"Oh,"--she raised her head and looked at him in shy wonder and shocked
relief, "oh, David--was it that--you were hurt at that?"

For answer he gently drew her close to him.

"But David, I didn't go riding with the minister.  I was just taking a
little pig home that a boy cousin of mine, who loves to tease me, sent
me.  I didn't know anything about pigs and the minister happened to be
there and helped.  He meant no harm."

"Oh, I know, Jocelyn.  But he is such a wonderful man.  Only another
man, I guess, can know what a fine chap he is.  And I thought if he did
like you I couldn't stand in your way.  I found out, of course, that I
was mistaken.  The minister doesn't care anything about girls.  But
that wasn't all.  You know, Jocelyn, I'm Uncle Roger's own nephew but I
bear his name because he legally gave it to me and because I have no
name of my own.  I was a fatherless baby and a girl like you ought to
be courted by a better man than I am."

It was costing David Allan something to tell the girl in his arms all
that.  She guessed how the telling must hurt the boy, for she stopped
it with a little, tender laugh.

"But, David dear, I knew all that the day you took me to the Decoration
Day exercises.  Grandma Wentworth told me.  She said she knew you'd
likely tell me yourself some day but she said that she liked you and
she noticed that people who liked you always liked you a little better
after they heard that."

He sat still, overwhelmed with her sweetness.  Then, "Jocelyn, is it
only liking?"

Her answer came like a soft note of joy.

"No, David.  It's something bigger than liking and when you wouldn't
speak to me that afternoon you darkened all my world."

She had not shed a tear through all those lonely days but now she
buried her face in David's breast and cried bitterly.

And then it was that David kissed his sweetheart and the touch of her
answering lips healed forever the dull ache that had gnawed at his
heart ever since he was old enough to understand the story of his
cheated childhood.

They sat in the soft darkness of the night that was full of autumn
sighs, a night that stirred in their hearts wistful longings for a low,
snug roof singing with rain and a drowsy little home fire beneath it.

When they had sat long enough to remember their great hour forever and
had repeated the litany of love to each other till they sensed its
wonder, David said regretfully:

"And now I must take you to your mother.  And Jocelyn, I'm terribly
afraid of that mother of yours."

Jocelyn laughed.

"Why, David, mother isn't as bad as all that.  And she likes you.  She
said you made her think of father.  And, David, she's always given me
everything I've honestly wanted and she could give.  She hasn't been
out much here.  She hasn't cared to do much of anything since father
died.  But in the city she used to be so busy.  You know she's a great
club woman and a suffragette and oh, such a beautiful speaker.  It's
from her I get my funny, big, deep voice.  She used to be in such
demand at meetings.  But she's given it all up.  She blames herself for
leaving father so much and not going out to the country with him.  He
never asked her to leave the city but I know he wanted to.  When he
died she just came out here to do penance.  She thought there wasn't
anything for her to do in a place like this.  But just wait till I tell
her about Jim Tumley.  Oh, she'll know what to do.  Why, mother's
wonderful in her way, David!  Why, I just know she can do something for
Jim Tumley."

David shook his head.

"Jocelyn," he sighed, "it'll take this whole town and God Almighty too
to save Jim Tumley now."

"Well, mother will do her share.  And, Dav--id, I'd like another
kiss--if you don't mind."

David didn't mind in the least.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE MORNING AFTER

The very best part of every Green Valley doing is talking it over the
morning after.

Nobody even pretended to work the morning after the minister's party.
Dell Parsons never even brushed out her lovely hair that morning; just
wound it round her head in two big braids and went through the little
gate in the hedge to talk it over with Nan Turner.

She found Nan standing over a steaming dishpan, stirring the dishes
about absent-mindedly with the pancake spoon.  At the sight of Dell she
turned her back on the cluttered sink.

"Dell, I'm only just beginning to take in the meaning of what that
little neighbor girl of ours said last night.  Why, Dell Parsons, we've
both been born in this here town; we're only twenty-two miles out from
the heart of one of the world's greatest cities and we've never sensed
the true meaning of this thing they call woman suffrage and
prohibition.  Why, we've poked fun at it and jogged along our ignorant
hayseed way and watched and watched little sweet-hearted men like Jim
Tumley just stumble miserably into their graves, or a man like Sears
drive his children from their home and curse his wife, or perhaps we've
shuddered at the sight of Hank Lolly lying drunk in the road among the
wild flowers.

"When one of our drunkards dies we cut our choicest flowers and go to
the funeral and maybe cry with the wife and children and then go home
and wait for the next one to do it.  Of course, we talk to the children
and try to scare the boys into letting it alone.  But that doesn't do
much good because, Dell, we don't bury enough drunkards at one time to
make a strong impression and convince the boys that we are right.  Our
boys see big, respectable men like George Hoskins and Seth Curtis and
even good Billy Evans taking their drinks regularly and living and
prospering.  So they make up their minds that mothers are all a little
bit crazy on the drink question.  And the first thing we know we find
that our boys have been washing down their cigarettes with a drink.
And in those first sick five minutes we know, Dell, that the thing has
beaten us to the boy."

"Yes," mused Dell aloud, "but we aren't the only ones who feel beaten.
The men aren't all against us, Nan.  Lots of them right here in this
town are on our side.  And I tell you it's no joke for a natural man
who loves to hang around and pal with his neighbors to put himself in
the position of a spoilsport or an odd goody-goody.  There's Uncle
Tony's brother William.  He's been against war and drink and smoking
all his life, and look at the dog's life he's led.  Nan, I believe the
men are as helpless as we.  The Thing has grown so huge that we can't
fight it.  It's got us all.  And we're so helpless because we're
ignorant and won't think this thing out.  Look at Frank Burton, who'd
give his soul to save Jim Tumley's.  Yet it's only last year that he
gave up having drink in the house.  He never realized until so late
that just by having it around he was hurting the man he'd die to save.
And there's Billy Evans.  Why, Nan, Billy has sat up nights pulling
Hank Lolly through a jag.  Yet Billy lets Hank see him take a drink
every day.  And, Nan, it must be plain hell for Hank to see that.  Why,
Billy wouldn't tempt Hank or make him suffer torment knowingly for a
million dollars.  And yet he does it every day of his life because he's
ignorant, doesn't know any bigger, finer, more unselfish way of helping
Hank.  No, Nan, you can't make me believe our Green Valley men are a
mean lot, meaner than others.  They just don't know and when once they
realize, why, they'll put an end to it themselves fast enough."

"That's all right, but, Dell Parsons, you know that the world over men
have to be nagged and coaxed into seeing the right by their women
folks.  And I tell you I'm going to begin right now to do a little of
both.  And as for that vote--I've laughed about that long enough.  Now
I'm going after it.  It's just struck me that we women need a vote
about as much as we need a pair of scissors, a bread board or a wash
boiler, cook stove and bank book.  We need it along with the other
things to keep our children properly clothed, fed, housed and educated."

The blacksmith shop was closed.  George Hoskins' wife was pretty sick.
So the crowd that was usually seated about the forge was crowded into
Billy Evans' office.

It was a big crowd but it wasn't feeling any jollier because of its
size.  Each man there had had a word or two with his wife that morning.
Not a few wives had begun to discuss the Jim Tumley incident seriously
the minute they got home and got the children to bed the night before.
Every man in Billy's office felt more or less uncomfortable and talked
in nervous, disconnected snatches.

Said one:

"Well--I drove in to town this morning so's not to have words with
Rose--and just to escape the whole dumbed subject--but if--I'd known
that everybody I met and talked to and set down with--was a-going to
talk about the same dumbed thing I'd a-stayed to home."

"The whole trouble," argued another, "is just women's imagination,
that's all.  I never saw a woman that had a living father, brother,
beau, husband, brother-in-law, father-in-law, cousin or boy baby in
arms that she wasn't worrying all the time night and day that drink'd
get him.  It's just their way of being foolish, that's all.  And as for
all this talk about the terrible danger and it being a menace to the
future generation, that's all slop and slush."

Billy was irritable this morning for the first time in months.  It must
be remembered that Billy's wife was red-headed and a highly efficient
soul.  She had very frankly and plainly told Billy what she thought of
a town that was run in so slack a fashion that it couldn't protect one
of its own lovable citizens.  She had never spoken so sharply in all
their days together and Billy felt that he had lost his bride forever.
And he had.

"Well--boys, I'll tell you," sighed Billy.  "The old woman gave me
hell, I tell you--as if--great gosh, it was all my fault.  The women
are partly right and we all know it.  That's why they talk up so and
why we have to take it.  I've about come to the conclusion that as long
as the women are partly right and we are partly wrong I'm going to quit
it, as far as I myself am concerned.  But don't think for one minute
that I fancy that I have a right to vote this town dry for any other
man.  Live and let live's my way of thinking and doing."

"Well, Billy," spoke up Jake Tuttle who had come out strongly for a dry
town, a dry state and a dry country, "you're fair and square and
a-doing all you honestly can.  Maybe the time will come when you'll
feel that voting it out is the only thing."

"Why," grumbled another member of this caucus, "anybody'd think that
this whole town had ought to turn in and just die of thirst on account
of a man that ain't much bigger than a pint of cider and never did have
no proper stomach.  Why, who ever heard of sech a thing as a whole town
being run for one man?"

"A town that ain't run fair and square for one man isn't run fair and
square for any man," insisted Jake.  "And as for hearing strange
things, I've heerd tell of a man once, a poor kind of low-style Jew he
was, lived over in a little two by four town called Nazareth, who not
only believed in going dry and hungry for other people but actually
died so's to show them a finer way of living and a braver way of dying.
I've heerd tell that they called that man the Greatest Fool that ever
lived and that they killed Him fur His foolishness.  So, if this whole
town should turn in an' help Jim Tumley there'd be nothing new in that."

The pause that followed would have been uncomfortable if Seth Curtis
hadn't opened the door just then and squeezed in.

Seth was mad.  For the first time since their marriage he had
quarrelled with his wife.  Docile, sweet-tempered Ruth Curtis was
aflame with mother wrath.  She, like a great many Green Valley women,
thought of Jim Tumley not as a man but as a voice, the voice of a lark
on a summer morning.  That other men's selfish strength should still
that voice made her sweet eyes flame and her soft voice shake with
anger.  That Seth, who so hated waste of any kind, could stand calmly
by while a lovable human soul was being thrown away puzzled her at
first.  She tried to argue with him.  If Jim Tumley were trying to save
his burning barn or mend his fence Seth would have helped him gladly.
But Jim was trying to save his body and soul and Green Valley men, even
though they knew he was not equal to the struggle, could not see that
it was their business to help.

Seth resented this passionate fight for little Jim that the women were
making.  In his anger Seth could not see that beyond the figure of the
gentle singing man stood the children of Green Valley.  In this
harmless little man who could not save himself every mother saw her
boy, her girl; one a drunkard-to-be perhaps, the other mayhap a
drunkard's wife and the mother of more drunkards.

Seth's eyes blazed around Billy's crowded office and he waited for the
question that he knew he would be asked:

"Well--Seth--you voting the town dry this morning?"

And then Seth let loose.  He said fool things to ease his ugly temper
but he wound up his argument with the telling reminder that Green
Valley couldn't afford to lose the fifteen-hundred-dollar yearly
license tax.

"Not only would we men lose our freedom and be a thirsty lot of
wife-driven idiots but our taxes would rise."

And that argument told.  It had been overlooked somehow.  But at the
mention of it every man's face but Jake's brightened.  Why, sure--Seth
was right.  That fifteen hundred dollars kept the taxes down and was an
argument that ought to appeal to every Green Valley woman whose life
was an eternal struggle to save.

"Why, yes, that's so," agreed Jake.  "It seems as if the women ought to
see that, but like as not they'll talk back and say that if there was
no hotel bar to attract us men there'd be less time wasted and more
than fifteen hundred dollars' worth of extra work turned out.  And for
all they talk so everlastingly about saving, there's some kind of money
that no nice woman will touch with a ten-foot pole.  And just put it up
to them as to which they want, Jim Tumley or fifteen hundred a year,
and see what they say."

Jake was the richest man of all the men packed in Billy Evans' office.
He could afford to talk bravely for he had no need to curry any man's
favor.  And he could demand respectful attention for his opinions.
There were those present who resented this independence.

"These farmers nowadays are getting danged smart and officious,"
muttered Sears to Sam Bobbins.

But Sam wasn't listening.  He too had an argument and he wanted to
voice it.

"Mightn't the closing of the bar lose us a lot of outside trade, ruin
our business life?"

At that Billy's eyes twinkled.

"By gosh--Sam--I hadn't thought of that.  I sure would miss the poor
drunks that crawl in here to sleep it off.  And like as not I'd not get
to drive old man Hathaway home every time he hits town and tries to
paint it red.  Never have dared to leave that old fool in town when he
was drunk.  Never can tell what that poor miserable mind of his
mightn't prompt him to do.  Might set fire to something or hang himself
on somebody's front door."

As town marshal Billy had a pretty accurate idea of the kind of trade
that the hotel bar attracted.  There was a levity in Billy's voice and
a dancing light in Billy's eye.  He could never take anything seriously
for any great length of time.  However, old man Sears didn't like this
attitude of Billy's.

"It isn't only losing that fifteen-hundred-dollar license and losing
outside trade but we'd be robbing an honest and respectable man of his
livelihood," said Sears with his most ponderous air.

An unwilling, sheepish grin ruffled every man's face and Seth said with
a rasp:

"Well, Sears, I wouldn't lose any sleep worrying about that honest,
respectable man's livelihood if I were you.  He owns a fine
seven-passenger car, some fancy driving horses, and that diamond pin he
wears week days in his tie would keep my meat bill paid for many and
many a day.  No, I can't say that I'd let that make my conscience ache."

"What say if we all go over and ask him what he thinks of it.  It looks
like rain and I'll have to be starting for home," suggested the bright
and peace-loving soul who had left home that morning to avoid
unpleasantness.

This brilliant suggestion was promptly acted on and they filed out,
leaving Billy standing alone in the doorway.  Billy watched them
shuffle into the hotel, then he looked up and down Main Street,
studying every old landmark and battered hitching post.  He told
himself that he hoped the old town wouldn't change too much.  Hank
Lolly came out of the barn just then and Billy turned to him.

"Hank, that innocent little girl in a pink dress last night has sure
raised one gosh darned lot of argument in this here town."

"Billy," Hank's voice shook a little, "Billy, I heerd some of those
arguments--in there.  But, my God, Billy--look at me--look at me!  I'm
the best argument in this here town for voting that bar out.  For,
Billy, so long as that hotel sells liquor, so long as the doors swing
open so that the smells can get out, and so long as the winds blow in
Green Valley, bringing those smells to me--just so long I'll be
afraid--afraid.  And Billy, if ever I let go again, it'll be the
madhouse for me.  I know.  I've had a grandfather and two uncles go
that way."

Over at the hotel the high, foaming glasses slid along the bar.  The
hotel man with the diamond in his tie greeted the men who lined up at
the rail with an indifferent smile.  The glasses were raised and
drained.  And then some bold spirit asked the man with the diamond how
he'd feel if the town went dry.

"Why," drawled that individual, "I've been looking down men's throats
and watching their Adam's apple and listening to them guzzling their
liquor for something like twenty years now and I wouldn't mind a
change.  I left the city because I was hankering for something I didn't
know the name of.  Thought I'd find it here.  Thought this was a mighty
restful town.  It is--but not for me and my business.  But I'm glad I
came, for that young parson of yours put me next to what I really want
to do.  I've been wanting all my life to run a stock farm.  But I
didn't know it till that kid preacher told me so.  Seems he's been
knocking around the country with Hank Lolly and knows of two or three
that are up for sale.  I'm going out with him next week to look at
them.  So this town running dry won't upset me any.  I've just about
made up my mind to quit this game and spend the rest of my life
with--cattle.  I won't mind the dryness.  I don't drink.  Never have."

The rain that had been threatening for an hour came suddenly, came down
in big angry drops; and there was everywhere in town a scurrying for
home.  Men buttoned their coats and bent their heads and hurried home,
hoping to find there cheerful wives and peace.

They found their wives cheerful enough, almost suspiciously so, and
exceedingly busy with the telephone.  By listening to several one-sided
conversations Green Valley men learned that while they had been
discussing things in Billy's office, Mrs. Brownlee had called on Jim
Tumley's wife and on several other more prominent Green Valley matrons;
had telephoned to others and had in three morning hours organized a
Woman's Civic League.

"A Civic League?  What's that?  And what for?" Green Valley husbands
wanted to know.

"Why, I don't know.  I said yes, of course I'd join.  I couldn't be
mean to the woman after what her little girl did last night," said
Green Valley wives.



CHAPTER XIX

A GRAY DAY

Up on his wooded knoll Green Valley's young minister lay grieving and
staring up into a gray unhappy sky, a sky choked with thick gray clouds
that hung so low and were so full of sadness that even the little hills
mourned and the Green Valley world all about lay hushed and penitent.

Summer was dead and everywhere tired winds moaned and sighed and sobbed
and then grew suddenly still.  The fine old trees were shriveled and
weary, as if trying were no longer worth while.  They craved sleep and
peace--just rest.  The gay grasses were dry and faded and when the
little winds tried to rouse them they only rustled impatiently,
dolefully and murmured, "Oh what's the use?"

The heart of Cynthia's son studied the low brooding sky, the dying
world, listened to the wailing, mourning winds, the sighing of the
grasses and it too said wearily, "Yes--what's the use of anything?"

What's the use of working and trying when the thing you want most to do
you can't do.  What's the use of longing when the thing you crave most
can never again be given to you?  What's the use of feeling big,
eternal, divine, when you know that every day is dwarfed by your
limitations, every friendship marred by your helplessness, every dream
blurred by your ignorance?  The sweetest things in life, Cynthia's son
told himself with all the bitterness of youth, were memories and hopes.
Memories of happy moments, hours perhaps, memories of perfect days and
hopes of new days, new friends, new skies.

To-day all hope seemed dead, gone from the hillsides with the summer
flowers.  And the world was a sad and a lonely place.  Cynthia's son
had yet to learn that gray days are home days.  That if it were not for
gray skies there would be no low roofs gleaming through tree tops, no
home fires glowing anywhere.  Gray days are heart days, for it is then
that the heart hungers for sympathy, for kinship.  It is then that men
draw together for comfort and cheer.

Cynthia's son never felt quite so alone in the world before--the last
of his line.  He was young and did not know what ailed him.  So he lay
heartsick and puzzled on his hill top and wished he had some one all
his own to talk to.

There are things you can whistle to a robin, whisper to a tree friend
or look into the heart of the sunset.  There are problems you can argue
out with a neighbor or solve with the help of a friend.  But the heart
has certain longings that you can share only with some one who is all
your own and very, very dear.

It is hard to be the last of a line, Cynthia's son told himself
bitterly, and in his loneliness he turned over and hid his face on his
arm and let his homesick heart stray off across the seas to the land
that for so long had been home to him, the land that held the dead
hearts that had always robbed his gray days of all sadness.

He craved the hot sunshine, the brittle blue skies, the crowded little
lanes full of filth and feet and eternal noise.  Perhaps there in the
old home he might find eyes that held a bit of the great love he longed
for, a voice that had in it the hint of a caress, the note that would
give him new courage, new hope.

No--he did not know what was the matter with him.  All he knew was that
summer was dead and that he had no one in all the world he could call
his very own.  He did not know that lying there he was really waiting
for a step and a voice, a step that would stir the leaves with a joyous
rustling, a voice that even on a gray day sounded gay and sunshiny.  He
had always liked Nan Ainslee's voice.  Lately he had begun to notice
other pleasant things about her.  Last night, for instance, he had for
the first time seen her hair, the beauty of her creamy throat and had
really looked down into her laughing, wide eyes and forgotten all the
world for a second or two.  And the hand she gave him when she said
good night was warm and full of a strange comfort.  He had almost asked
her to stay a while after the others left and sit beside his fire in a
low chair and talk the party over with him.

The world was so still it seemed as if it waited with him.  And then it
came--that voice warm and gay.

"Hello--you here again?"

Then something about that head buried on that out-flung arm made her
laugh softly, oddly, and say, "Isn't this a delicious, restful, dozy
day?  You'd better sit up and look at those shaggy gray clouds over
yonder.  Or are you listening to the little winds sighing out
lullabies?  I came here today to hear the world being hushed to sleep."

He heard and his heart jumped queerly.  But he didn't raise his head
until he was sure the homesick longing for some one all his own was
gone from his eyes.

She had on a gray dress as soft as wood smoke.  He caught flashes of
flame color beneath the gray and at her breast fluttered a knot of
scarlet silk.  She looked like somebody's home fire, all fragrant smoke
and golden flame and ruddy coals.  Her eyes held the dancing lights,
the visions and her voice had the tender warmth.  She was the spirit of
the day and the sight of her comforted his soul and filled his heart
with content.

"I think it is a sad day," he said, "and I have been desperately lonely
for India and my mother and father and all the little brothers and
sisters and playmates that I never had.  The only playmates I ever had
were camels and missionaries and a few brown babies and two white hens."

He had not meant to talk in this grieving, childish fashion.  But
something about her brought his heart thoughts to his lips.  And to-day
he found no pleasure in looking down on the village roofs where Joe
Tumley lay sick and miserable and Mary, his wife, wept and men and
women talked and argued as he very well knew they were talking and
arguing.

"What!  No playmates?  No boy friends--not even a dog?" Nan grieved
with him.

"Oh, I had an Irish soldier's boy for two months once and a little
brown dog for a week.  Mother was always afraid of disease."

He could hardly believe that remembrance of these long-past things was
in him.  Yet he was suddenly remembering many old, old matters and with
it came back the old, childish pain.

She sat down on the oak stump quite near him and there was more than
pity in her eyes, only he did not see.

"Why," she advised gently, "you must have a dog at once.  I can give
you a wonderful collie and then on gray days you can bring him up here
to your hill top or go tramping through woods and ravines with him.  A
dog is the finest kind of company for a gray day.  And there is your
attic.  Why, I always spend hours in my attic these still, gentle days.
I go up there to read old letters and look over old boxes full of queer
keepsakes.  I sit in a three-legged chair and sometimes, if I find an
old coverless book and if the rain begins to drum softly on the
shingles, I go to sleep on an ancient sagging sofa and dream great
dreams.  Haven't you ransacked that attic of yours yet?" she wanted to
know.

"No.  And the housekeeper insists on my doing it soon.  Says that if
I'm going to give Jimmy Trumbull that party I promised him I'd better
have the barn and the attic all fixed up for it, because the boys
wouldn't have any fun in the house and the house wouldn't stand it any
better."

And then because neither one of them could think of anything else to
say they were perfectly still there on the hill top.  There seemed to
be no need for speech.  Nanny looked down at the little town and
Cynthia's son lay contentedly at her feet, looking at her and rustling
the dead leaves with an idle hand.

It might have become dangerous, that contented silence.  For Nan at
least was thinking.  She was thinking how often she came to the hill
top to visit with this man at her feet and how seldom he came to her
door to visit with her.  When he came it was not to see her but her
father, her brother.  With a sick shame Nanny thought how the sight of
him, the sound of his voice, the very mention of his name made her
heart fill with warm gladness.  She loved him and he had no need of
love--her love.  She who had turned men away, men who were--

She rose suddenly.  There was a kind of terror in her eyes and she
locked her hands together to warm them, for they had suddenly grown icy
cold.

"I must go," she murmured in real distress.

But he just looked up and put out his hand.  And she sat down again and
let her hand rest in his.  And half her joy was pure misery.  For she
did not understand the ways of this strange, boyish man and she did not
know what the end of such a friendship could be.

When those first angry drops pattered down on the leaves Nanny started
up in alarm and would have raced for home.  But he caught her quickly,
slipped her cloak on, and before she had time to protest, they were
running hand in hand down the hillside.  Just as the full fury of the
storm struck the house they banged the front door shut and stood
panting and laughing in the hall.

It was very pleasant to sit by his fire and let the storm and the ruddy
flames do the talking.  But even as she sat and dreamed Nanny knew it
would never do.  Green Valley knew and loved her but that would not
save her.  So Nanny walked to the telephone and called up the one soul
it was always safe to tell things to.  And twenty minutes later Grandma
Wentworth arrived.

It was while they sat talking in cozy comfort before the snapping fire
that Cynthia's son suggested the attic.

"Mother told me once never to rummage through her old trunks unless
Mary Wentworth was by to explain.  So come along."

Grandma looked a little startled at that.

"We'll go," she said.  "It's the finest kind of a day to go messing in
an attic.  But I'll step into the kitchen first and borrow two all-over
aprons.  My dress isn't new but Nan's is."

The old Churchill homestead was built in the days when folks believed
reverently in attics.  Not little cubby-holes under the roof but in
generous, well-lighted, nicely-floored affairs that less reverent
generations have turned into smoking dens, studios and ballrooms.

A properly kept attic in the olden days was no dark, musty-smelling,
cobwebby affair.  It was as neat in its way as the parlor and a hundred
times more interesting.  The parlor was a stiff room with stiff
furniture and stiff family portraits.  The attic was a big, natural
room filled with mellow light, a vague hush and memories--memories of
lost days, lost dreams, lost youth with its joys and hopes and sorrows.

People instinctively speak softly and reverently in an old-fashioned
attic.  Much of the irreverence of the young generation is due to the
fact that men have stopped building the wide, deep fireplaces of old
and the old-fashioned style of attic.  When you take the family
hearthstone and the prayer and memory closet out of a home you must
expect irreverence.

There were plenty of wonderful attics in Green Valley, but not many
were so crowded with colorful riches as the attic which Cynthia's son
owned.  When Cynthia was a girl that attic was generously stored.
Cynthia's mother made her pilgrimages to it and added to its wealth of
memories.  Before Cynthia herself sailed away to far-off India she
carried armfuls of her own heart treasures up there.  One gray day,
twenty gray days, could not exhaust this Green Valley attic.

Cynthia's son, being a man, went up heedlessly, even a little noisily,
for attics were to him a new thing.  Nan went breathlessly, her heart
thumping with delight.  She guessed that much joy and beauty and wonder
lay stored in that great room.  Grandma went up slowly and a little
tremblingly.  She remembered that the very last time she had climbed
those attic stairs Cynthia had been with her.  Their arms had been full
of treasure and their eyes had been full of tears.

The three now had no sooner reached the last step than the attic laid
its mystic hush upon them.  They stood still and looked about, each
somehow waiting for one of the others to speak.  It was Grandma who
broke the silence softly:

"You had some of the old furniture moved there in the corner but the
rest is just as it was forty years ago--when I was here last."

Grandma knew the history of pretty near everything in sight and they
followed her about, looking and listening.  Somehow there was at first
no desire to touch and handle things.  But soon the strange charm of an
old attic stole over them and they began to look more closely at
things, to exclaim over weird relics, to touch old books and quaint
garments.  Then as the wonders multiplied and the rain drummed steadily
on the roof, time and the world without was forgotten and the three
became absorbed in the past.

When first she had looked about her Grandma's eyes had searched for a
certain trunk, and when at last she spied it something like an old
grief clouded her eyes.  But as she peered about and began pulling
things out to the light she forgot the trunk with the brass nailheads.
She laughed when she came across the crinoline hoops and the droll
little velvet bonnets.

"Here are your great-grandmother's crinolines, John.  My!  The times we
girls had playing with these things, for even in our day they were
old-fashioned.  And this little velvet hat I remember Cynthia wore once
to an old-time social and took a prize."

Over in another corner Nan was making discoveries.

"My conscience--look at this!" she suddenly cried.  "Here's an etching,
a genuine etching, a beautiful thing and all covered with dust.  Why,
the one I bought for a hundred and fifty dollars in Holland last year
isn't half as good.  Why, whoever had it put up here?"

From the other side of the huge room Cynthia's son wanted to know if an
old grandfather's clock couldn't be mended.

"Why, it must be as old as the hills.  It has a copy of Franklin's Poor
Richard's Almanac pasted on the back.  It--why, it's an heirloom and
I'm going to get it patched up."

"That clock used to tick in the up-stairs hall forty years ago--I
remember--"  Grandma stopped as if a sudden thought had struck her.
She dropped an old faded lamp mat and a rag rug and came over to look
at the face of what had been an old friend.  Many and many a time its
mellow booming of the hours had cut short a lengthy, merry conference
in Cynthia's room and sent her scurrying home to her waiting tasks.

"John," whispered Grandma with sudden intuition, "I don't believe
there's anything the matter with that clock.  It was stopped--they said
your grandfather stopped it after your mother left for India.  I used
to watch him wind it--here, let me at it.  Yes," triumphantly, "here's
the key."

Grandma's hands shook noticeably and her lips trembled as she wound it.
And when it began to whir and then settled down to its clear even tick
Grandma just sat down and cried a bit.

"I can't help it," she explained as she wiped her eyes, "that clock
knows me as well as I know its face.  Why, many a time Cynthia and I'd
sit right where we could look at it--while we were telling each other
foolish little happenings--so's we wouldn't talk too long."

Grandma went back to where she had left that faded lamp mat but she
knew what was about to happen in that attic that day.  She picked up
one thing after another but she no longer saw what it was her hands
were holding.  For above the steady patter of the rain she could hear
the old clock ticking.  And to her, knowing what she did, it seemed to
say:

"Tell him--tell--him--Cynthia wants you to tell him."

So she just sat down in an old chair and waited for Cynthia's son to
find that square trunk with the brass nail-heads.  She tried to read
something in some faded yellow fashion papers but the letters jumped
and blurred.  And she was glad to hear the boy's shout of discovery.

"Why, here's that trunk mother must have meant!  Come over here,
Grandma, and look at it."

She went and sat down and was so quiet that Nanny, who had been looking
up from the pictures she was dusting, laid them down and came over to
watch too.  Something about Grandma's drooping head and folded hands
must have touched the boy, for as he turned the key in the lock he
looked up and asked a question.

"Do you know what's in it, Grandma?"

"Yes," she nodded, "I know what's in it because I helped fill it.  Open
it carefully."

So the boy raised the lid slowly.  Very carefully he removed the old
newspapers, then the soft linen sheet and took out a flat bundle that
lay on top, all snugly pinned up.  Nan helped take out the pins, then
gave a smothered cry at the lovely wedding gown of stiff creamy satin.

In silence the other things were brought out.  The lacy bridal veil,
the little buckled slippers, the full, filmy petticoats and all the
soft white ribbony things that it is the right of every bride to have.
Down at the very bottom of the trunk were bundles of letters, some
faded photographs and a little jewel box in which was a little silver
forget-me-not ring.

Grandma put out her hand for the faded photographs, stared at them,
then passed one to Cynthia's son.

"Look closely and see if you can guess who it is?"

He took it to a window and looked long at the pictured face but finally
shook his head.

"Give it to Nan," directed Grandma.

Nan looked only a second.

"Why, it's Uncle Roger Allan!"

"Yes--it's Roger Allan."

"But what has--" began Cynthia's son, when Grandma interrupted him.

"You'd better both sit down to hear this," she suggested.  "Of course,
I knew, John, the very first week you were home, that your mother never
told you about this trunk.  I can see why and I agree with her.  In the
first place it all happened nearly forty years ago.  Then she couldn't
be sure that the trunk was still here.  It wasn't altogether her story
to tell.  She knew you were coming home to Green Valley and she didn't
want to prejudice you in any way.  She knew that if you learned to know
Green Valley folks first you'd understand everything better when you
did find out.  I'm glad to have the telling of it.  I'm glad to do her
that service and, after all, it's my story as much as hers.

"We were great friends--Cynthia and I--dearer than sisters and
inseparable.  Our friendship began in pinafore days.  We weren't the
least bit alike in a worldly way.  Cynthia was pretty--oh, ever so
pretty--and rich.  I was what everybody calls a very sensible girl,
respectable but poor.  But what we looked like or what we had never
bothered us.  In those days the town was smaller and playmates were
scarcer.  When we boys and girls wanted any real interesting games we
had to get together.

"The two boys at our end of town who were the nicest were Roger Allan
and Dick Wentworth.  They did everything together, same as Cynthia and
I.  It was natural, I suppose, that we four should sort of grow up
together, and that having grown up we should pair off--Cynthia and
Roger, Dick and I.

"We went through all the stages until we got to the forget-me-not rings
and our wedding dresses.  The boys were very happy the day they put
those rings on our fingers and we were--oh, so proud!  It hurts to this
day to remember.  I think Cynthia and I were about the happiest girls
life ever smiled at.  Only one thing troubled us.

"In those days Cynthia's father owned the hotel.  That meant then
mostly a barroom.  Of course, he himself was never seen there unless
there were special guests staying over night.  It was a lively place,
almost the only really lively place in town.  I suppose men had more
time then and prohibition was something even the most worried and
heartbroken drunkard's wife smiled about unbelievingly.  Men had always
had their liquor and of course they always would.  Women's business was
to cry a bit, pray a great deal and be patient.  As I said, all men
drank in those days and the woman didn't live that hadn't or didn't
expect to see her father, sweetheart, husband or son drunk sometime.
We all hoped we wouldn't but we all dreaded it.  We heard tell of a man
somewhere near Elmwood who never drank a drop but he didn't seem real.
Our mothers, I expect, got to feel that drunkenness was God's will and
the drink habit the same as smallpox or yellow fever.  It was sent to
be endured.  We all felt that there was something wrong somewhere and a
terrible injustice put on us but we didn't know what to do about it and
so we all tried to learn to be cheerful and like our men in spite of
their shortcomings.

"But one woman in this town was an out-and-out prohibitionist.  She was
Cynthia's mother.  She came from some odd sort of a settlement in the
East and Cynthia's father used to laugh and say he stole her.  And I
think he did.  She was so lovely and sweet and had such strange notions
of right and wrong.  But for all her sweetness she was firm.  And she
set her face sternly and publicly against drink.  It was the only
thing, people said, about which Joshua Churchill and his wife Abby ever
disagreed.  Though she didn't convince him still she went to her grave
without ever seeing her husband drunk.

"And her girl, Cynthia, swore that she would do the same.  For Cynthy
was just like her mother and as full of strange notions of right.

"Well, it was bound to happen.  The wonder of it is it didn't happen
before.  I think I always knew that Dick and Roger drank a little
sometimes with the other boys.  But Cynthia never thought about it, I
guess.  She was an only child and guarded from everything and she
supposed every man was like her father.  And, anyhow, she was too happy
to think of trouble.  Dick and Roger were considered two of the best
boys in town.  There were stories now and then of Roger's mad doings
but they never got to Cynthia, and if they had she would have just
laughed, I expect, so sure was she that her boy was all she thought him.

"I was to be married one week and Cynthy the next.  We had our wedding
things ready.  And my wedding day came.  Cynthy was bridesmaid and
Roger was best man and everything went off beautifully until the dance
in the evening.  Dick and I were too poor to take a wedding trip so we
had a dance instead.

"And then came the tragedy.  Some of the older men did it.  They didn't
stop to think.  But they meant no real harm.  In those days it was
considered funny to get another man drunk.  But they didn't know
Cynthia's strange heart.  They brought drink, more than was at all
necessary and--and--all I remember of my wedding night is standing in
the moonlight, holding on to Cynthia and crying miserably.  I knew it
would come sometime but I never dreamed it would come to hurt me then.

"But Cynthy didn't cry.  She never said a word--only her whole little
body seemed turned to ice.  She smiled and helped us to get through
with things as best we could but the smiles slipped like dull beads
from her lips instead of rippling like waves of sunshine over her face.

"I had been crying for myself, over my boy, but when I saw how Cynthy
took her trouble I saw that she was hurt far worse than I.  But I never
dreamed that things could not be mended, that she would take back her
wedding day.  But that's what she did.

"She refused to see Roger.  Her father pleaded with her, even her
mother begged her to think; the wedding was all planned, everything
prepared; relatives from a distance had already started.  But Cynthia
never stopped smiling and shaking her head.  Roger was frantic and
begged me to come with him, to make her listen.  I went and Dick went
with me.

"When Cynthy saw me she let us in.  Her father and mother and two aunts
came in when they heard us.  In the midst of these people Roger and
Cynthy stood looking at each other with death in their eyes.  They
didn't seem to know anybody was there.

"'Cynthy--I love you--I love you,' Roger begged.

"'I know, Dear Boy, I know!' she cried back to him.

"'Forgive--my God, Cynthy, forgive.'

"'I do.'

"'Marry me.'

"'Oh, I want to--oh, I want to marry you,' sobbed poor Cynthy.

"'Then marry me.  I'm not good enough--but I know no other man who is.'

"'Oh--Roger--Roger--you are good enough for me--you are good enough for
_me_.  But you are not good enough for my children.  You are not good
enough to be the father of my son.'

"I think we all knew then that it was useless.  There was no answer and
we were too startled to say anything.  Roger grew white and the
strength seemed to leave his body.  His eyes filled with horror and
fright.

"'Cynthy, sweetheart--' he moaned and she flew to comfort him.  She let
him hold her and kiss her.  Then she drew his head down and kissed his
hair, his eyes, his lips.  She laid his hands against her cold white
cheeks, then crushed them to her lips and fled.

"Roger never saw her again.

"She went away and was gone a long time.  I got letters every now and
then from out-of-the-way places.

"For five years I was happy.  It was hard to live without Cynthy.  But
Roger had left town and Dick was good to me.  I knew that the shock of
Roger's tragedy had kept him from touching anything those five years.
But as time passed and memories faded I grew afraid once more.  Dick
was no drinking man but everybody drank a little then, even the women.
Men joked about it and the women, poor souls, tried to.  Well--just
five years almost to a day they brought him home to me--dead.  He had
had a few drinks--the first since our marriage.  He was driving an ugly
horse--and it happened.

"Some way Cynthia heard and she came home to comfort me.  I think that
when she stood with me beside Dick's grave she was glad she had done
what she had done and felt a kind of peace.  Roger was still gone but
it would not have mattered.  It was then that we carried these wedding
things up here and locked them in this old square trunk with the brass
nail-heads.  And we thought that life for us both was over.

"Cynthy's father was glad to have her home.  He sold the hotel and
never went near it.  He tried in every way to make up to Cynthy and his
wife.  For Cynthy's mother grieved about it all long after Cynthy had
learned to smile again.  And that nearly killed Cynthy's father.  Some
folks claimed it really did worry Mrs. Churchill to death, for she died
the spring after Dick was buried.

"After that Cynthia took her father traveling, for he was very nearly
heartbroken over his wife's death.  It was somewhere in England that
they met your father, John.  Of course, I can understand how a man like
your father must have loved Cynthy on sight.  But she never could
understand it.  She thought she was all through with love.  She wrote
and told me how she had explained all about Roger and how he had said
it made him love her all the more.  She tried to fight him but strong
men are hard to deny.  He had a hard time of it, I imagine, but he won
her at last and took her away to India.  She wrote me when you were
born and for some years after, but toward the end, when she was sick so
much, I think my letters made her homesick.

"Roger came back.  His stepsister got into trouble and died, leaving
little David.  Roger took him and raised him in memory of the son he
knew he might have had.  When he found Cynthia was married he had that
stone put in the cemetery.  He explained the idea to me.

"'The girl, Cynthia, was mine and I killed her.  She is dead and it is
to the memory of her sweetness that I have erected that stone.  The
woman, Cynthia, is another man's wife.'

"So that, then, is the history of that trunk.  The thing, John, that is
killing little Jim Tumley is the thing that worried your grandmother to
death, nearly broke your mother's heart and certainly embittered her
youth, that sent your grandfather into exile and made a widow of me.
It robbed Roger Allan of the only woman he could love.

"Since that day a great many of us have learned to fight it.  And there
are now any number of men in Green Valley who are opposed to it and who
even vote the prohibition ticket.  But Green Valley is still far from
understanding that until the weakest among us is protected none of us
are safe.

"Some day perhaps the women will cease worrying.  But before that day
comes many here will pay the price.  And it is usually the innocent who
pay.  Now let's put these memories back before they tucker me out
completely."

Cynthia's son stood spellbound.  He stared at the faded pictures and
the little silver ring.  Nan was pinning up the wedding dress and
weeping openly and unashamed.  It was the sight of her quiet tears that
brought him back to earth.

"Oh--Nan--don't.  Don't grieve about this evil thing.  We're going to
fight it and fight it hard.  We shall save Jim Tumley yet and purify
Green Valley."

When Nan got back home she went up to her room and looked down to where
Cynthia Churchill's old home glowed among its autumn-tattered trees.

"What a woman!  What a mother!  And he is her son!"

She stood a long time at her window, then turned away with a little
sigh.

"I am not made of heroic stuff.  But I shall see to it that my son need
never be ashamed of his mother.  If one woman could fight love so can
another."

When Grandma was taking off her rubbers in her little storm-shed she
smiled and fretted:

"Dear me, Cynthy, that boy of yours is as innocent right now as you
were in the olden days.  He--why, he just doesn't know anything!"



CHAPTER XX

CHRISTMAS BELLS

After the last bit of glory has faded from the autumn woods and the
first snowfall comes to cover the tired fields, Green Valley, all
snugly housed and winter proof, settles down to solid comfort and
careful preparation for the two great winter festivals--Thanksgiving
and Christmas.

The question of whether the Thanksgiving dinner is to be eaten at home
or whether "we're going away for Thanksgiving" has in all probability
been settled long ago.  For in Green Valley Thanksgiving invitations
begin to be exchanged and sent out to distant parts as early as July.
That is, of course, if the matter of who's to go where had not already
been settled the Thanksgiving before.  In some families the last rite
of each Thanksgiving feast is to discuss this question and settle it
then and there for the following year.  Conservative and clannish
families who live far enough apart so that little quarrels can not be
born among them to upset this fixed yearly programme usually do this.

The greater part of Green Valley however leaves itself absolutely free
until some time in August.  By that time though, the heat is so intense
that stout, collarless men in shirt sleeves, in searching about for
some relief, think gratefully of Thanksgiving and snowdrifts and ask
their wives whom they are planning to have for Thanksgiving.

"Why," may be the answer, "I hadn't thought of it yet.  But I rather
think Aunt Eleanor expects us this year."

"Well," answers the husband, "all right.  Only if you decide to go,
don't forget to take along some of your own pumpkin pies.  Your Aunt
Eleanor's never quite suit me.  I like considerable ginger in my
pumpkin pies."

Another husband may say, "No, sir!  Not on your life are we going to
Jim's for Thanksgiving.  That wife of his is much too young to know how
to make just the right kind of turkey dressing.  And I'm too old to
take chances on things like that now.  Those pretty brides are apt to
get so excited over their lace table doilies that they forget to put in
the sage or onions and there you are--one whole Thanksgiving Day and a
turkey spoiled forever.  No, sir--count me out!"

Sometimes wives say, "We've been invited to three places, Jemmy, but
let's stay home.  When we go out I always get white meat and I hate it.
And I like my cranberries hulls and all instead of just jell."

It is just such little human likes and notions that finally decide the
matter.  And so it was this year.

Sam Bobbins' eldest sister was having Sam and his wife "because Sam's
spent so much money for his fighting roosters that he ain't got money
for a Thanksgiving turkey."

Dolly Beatty's mother was having Charlie Peters for Thanksgiving dinner
and all the immediate relatives to pass judgment on him.  He had
proposed and Dolly had accepted but no announcement was to be made
until all the Beattys and Dundrys had had their say.

Frank Burton and Jenny were going by train to Jennie's rich and haughty
and painfully religious aunt in Cedar Point.  All Jennie's sisters,
even the one from Vermont, were to be there and Jennie did want to go
to visit with the girls.  She and Frank had never been invited to any
semi-religious festival by this aunt, owing to Frank's atheistic
tendencies.

But the haughty and religious dame had heard rumors and was curious.

"I'll go for your sake, Jennie.  But she'll be disappointed.  Maybe I'd
better shave my mustache so's to let her see some change in me."

Of course everybody who had a grandmother in the country was going to
grandma's and early Thanksgiving morning teams were arriving for the
various batches of grandchildren.

That was the only fault one could find with a Green Valley
Thanksgiving--that so many went away to spend the day.

But with Christmas it was different.  Christmas in Green Valley was a
home day.  The town was full of visitors and sleigh bells and merry
calls and walking couples.  Everybody was waving Christmas presents or
wearing them.  For Green Valley believed in Christmas presents.  Not
the kind that make people he awake nights hating Christmas and that
call for "do your shopping early" signs.  But the old-fashioned kind of
presents that are not stained with hate or worry or debt.

The giving of Christmas presents was the pleasantest kind of a game in
Green Valley.  Of course everybody knew everybody's needs so well that
weeks before the gifts, wrapped in tissue paper, lay waiting in a trunk
up in the attic.  And as a general thing everybody was happy over what
they got.  No present cost much money but oh, what a world of thought
and love and fun went into it.  Nor was it hard for Green Valley folks
to decide what to give.

When Dell Parsons saw her dearest friend admiring her asparagus fern
she divided it in the fall and tended it carefully and sent it to Nan
Turner on Christmas morning.

When folks found out that some time next spring Alice Sears might have
a baby to dress they sent her ever so many lovely, soft little things
so she would not have to worry or grieve because her first baby could
not have its share of pretties.

As soon as Green Valley knew that Jocelyn Brownlee was engaged it sent
her a tried and true poor-man's-wife cookbook, big gingham aprons,
holders to keep her from burning her hands and samples of their best
jellies, pickles and preserves.

And such a time as Green Valley grandmothers had weaving, knitting and
crocheting beautiful rag rugs to match blue and white bathrooms, yellow
and green kitchens, pink and cream bedrooms.  And every year there was
a large crop of home knitted mittens that Green Valley girls and boys
wore with pride and comfort.  No city pair of gloves ever equaled
grandma's knitted ones that went very nearly to the elbow and were the
only thing for skating and coasting.

Christmas was the time too when dreams came true.  Fanny Foster knew
this when Christmas morning she opened a parcel and found a beautiful
silk petticoat.  No card came with it but Fanny knew.

Hen Tomlins had a baby boy for his best Christmas gift.  Agnes had
always opposed all talk of adopting a baby, but this year that was her
gift to Hen.  And they were all happy about it.

Of course, even in Green Valley a certain amount of foolishness
prevailed.  Everybody smiled when a week before Christmas Jessie
Williams said she had all her presents ready but Arthur's; that she was
waiting for the next pay day to get his; that she believed she'd get
him a new pink silk lamp shade but she knew beforehand he wouldn't be
pleased and would only say that he wished to heaven she'd let him have
the money.

Lutie Barlow was badly disappointed with the hundred and fifty dollar
victrola her husband bought her.  She said she wanted a red cow to
match her Rhode Island Reds.

Perhaps no one in Green Valley was so generously remembered as the
young minister.  But though every one of the many gifts that came
pleased him he was strangely unhappy and restless.  Invitations as
usual had poured in on him but he had chosen to spend the day with
Grandma Wentworth.  And yet, though he was glad to be with her, his
thoughts strayed off to a certain gray day in the fall when he ran down
a hill with a girl's hand in his.  He remembered the surge of joy that
had rushed through him when he got her safely into his storm-proof
house and banged shut the door on the stormy world without.

He thought of the hour they spent in silence before the fire that
roared exultantly as the storm tore with angry fingers at the doors and
windows.  That, he now felt, was the most perfect hour of his life.

His mind was struggling to understand these memories, these strange new
emotions.  He had a queer feeling that something wonderful was waiting
just outside his reach, something was waiting for his recognition.

He was standing in Grandma Wentworth's dining room, looking out the
window at the winter landscape.  Grandma was in the kitchen seeing to
the dinner, for she was to have quite a party--Roger and David, Mrs.
Brownlee and Jocelyn, Cynthia's son and his man Timothy.

Idly Cynthia's son watched the rest of the party coming through the
little path that led to Grandma's door.  He saw them all plainly
through the curtains and plants that screened him.  Jocelyn and David
came last.  David made a great to-do about stamping the snow off his
feet, taking pains to stand between Jocelyn and the door.  Then, just
as Jocelyn was about to slip past him, the minister saw David reach out
and sweep the girl into his arms.  And Cynthia's son could not help but
see the glory in the boy's eyes as the girl's wild-rose face turned up
to meet her lover's kiss.

For blind seconds John Roger Churchill Knight crashed through space.
And then the next minute he was living in a shining world that was all
roses and skylarks and dew.  He laughed, for all at once he knew what
ailed him; he knew that the wonderful, tantalizing something that had
so steadily eluded him, tormented him was--just Nan, the girl of the
gray day, the log fire and the storm.

He was the maddest, gladdest man in all Green Valley that day until he
remembered that he had sent Nan no gift, not even a greeting or a word
of thanks for the beautiful collie dog she had sent him.  He stood in
horrified amazement at his stupidity.  Jocelyn had been showing them
her new ring.  And Nan, his sweetheart, had not even a Christmas card.

Cynthia's son went to the telephone but even as he raised the receiver
he somehow guessed what the answer would be.

Nan's father answered.

"Why, John, she left on that 1:10 for Scranton, Pennsylvania.  It's the
first fool thing I have ever known her to do.  Stayed right here till
she'd given us our Christmas gifts and dinner and then off she went to
see this old aunt in Scranton.  Why, yes--you can send a telegram.
She'll get it when she arrives."

So it happened that when a tired, homesick, wretched girl reached her
aunt's house in Scranton, Pennsylvania, she found the one gift for
which her heart had cried all that long, long Christmas day.  It was
just a bit of yellow paper that said:

  "oh gray day girl don't stay too long the
  fire is singing your chair is waiting and I have
  so much to tell you come home and forgive."



CHAPTER XXI

FANNY'S HOUR

Nobody had asked Fanny to be a member of the Civic League but she was
its most energetic promoter, its most zealous advocate.  Never had she
had such a cold weather opportunity.

Fanny hated cold weather.  It shut people up in houses, shut their
mouths, their purses, their laughter.  It made life grim and rather
gray.  Fanny loved sunshine and open sunny roads.  She tried to do her
duty in winter as well as in summer but when the weather drops to ten
or twenty below the sunniest of natures is bound to feel it.

But this winter Green Valley women were so stirred and roused that they
thought of other things beside the price of coal and sugar and yarn.
The short winter days fairly flew.  The Civic League was young but
already it was laying out an ambitious spring programme.  No mere man
was a member but all the men had to do was to show a little attention
to Fanny Foster to know what was going on.

"We're going to set up a drinking fountain in the business square,"
Fanny explained.  "The men of this town have the hotel but the horses
never did have a decent trough of clean water.  And we're going to have
a little low place fixed so's the dogs can get a drink too.  This is to
prevent hydrophobia.

"We've already started the boys to building bird houses so's to have
them ready to put up the first thing in the spring.  There'll be less
killing of song birds with sling-shots, though of course there's never
been much of that done in Green Valley.

"Then that crossing at West End is going to be attended to.  There's
been enough rubbers lost in that mudhole to about fill it, so it won't
take much to fill it up.  We're going to have a little bridge built
over that ditch on Lane Avenue so's we women don't dislocate our joints
jumping over it.  But first the ditch is going to be deepened and
cleaned so's it won't smell so unhealthy.  When that's done the ladies
aim to plant wild flowers along it, careless like, to make it look as
if God had made it instead of lazy men.

"We're going to suggest that all buildings in the business section put
out window boxes.  We'll furnish the flowers.  It will give a
distinctive note of beauty to the town."  Fanny was carefully quoting
Mrs. Brownlee.

"Billy Evans' wife promised to see to it that Billy painted the livery
barn and there's a delegation of ladies appointed to wait on Mert
Hagley and see if we can't get him to mend his sheds.  They're so
lopsided and rickety that Mrs. Brownlee says they're an eyesore and a
menace to public safety.

"There's another delegation that's going to ask the saloon keeper to
keep the basement door shut when the trains come in so's to keep that
beery and whisky smell out of the streets as much as possible while
maybe visitors are walking about.

"We're going to send a special committee to see what the railroad will
do about fixing up this old station or, better still, giving us a new
one and beautifying its grounds.

"We're planning to see Colonel Stratton about starting up a club for
the preservation of our wild flowers and Doc Philipps is to have charge
of a fight on the moths and things that are eating and killing our
fruit trees.

"The school buildings will be investigated and conditions noted.  Doc
Philipps says that if the heating plant and ventilation and light was
tended to we wouldn't have so much sickness among the children or so
many needing glasses.

"As soon as spring really comes the Woman's Civic League is going to
start up a clean-up campaign.  Of course, Green Valley never was a
dirty town.  Everybody likes to have their yard nice but there's
considerable old faded newspaper and rusty tin cans lying along the
roads farther out and in unnoticed corners that nobody's felt
responsible for.  That will all be attended to.  We'll have no filth,
no germs, no ugliness anywhere, Mrs. Brownlee says.

"And I've been appointed a committee of one to wait on Seth Curtis and
call his attention to the careless way he leaves his horses standing
about the town.  Those horses are dangerous and getting uglier in
temper every day.  And Seth is just as bad."

This was only too true.  Seth had grown bitter and even reckless of
late.  Ever since his quarrel with Ruth about Jim Tumley Seth had been
boiling with temper.  Old poisons that had spoiled his life in many
ways and that he thought he had conquered crept back to tyrannize over
him.  Poor Seth had had so much discipline in his youth that the least
hint of pressure threw him into a state of vicious rebellion.  Seth had
a fine mind, could think quicker and straighter to the point than a
good many Green Valley men.  But when that mind was clouded with anger
and stubbornness Seth was a hopeless proposition.  Ruth was his one
star and even she, Seth felt, had set herself against him.

So Seth, who seldom had frequented the hotel, was there almost every
day now when he should have been working.  He even drank more than
before.  Not that he cared more for it but it was his way of showing
independence.

So Seth was very ugly these days and his horses suffered as they had
never suffered before.  They too were growing ugly and vicious and so
nervous that the least noise, the least stir, sent them into a
quivering frenzy of fright.

Every one in Green Valley knew this and not a few men and women were
worrying.  Several men were making up their minds to speak sharply to
Seth about it.  But everybody smiled and even felt relieved when they
heard that Fanny had offered her services to the Civic League in this
capacity.  Green Valley knew Seth and knew Fanny Foster.  Fanny would
most certainly tell Seth about it.  And everybody knew just how mad
Seth would get.  Fanny would not of course accomplish much.  But she
would open up the subject, suffer the first violence of Seth's anger
and so make it easier for some more competent person to take Seth to
task and force him to be reasonable.

The minister had spoken to Seth long ago but though Seth listened
quietly to the quiet words of the one man he had come to love in his
queer fashion, he had set his jaw grimly at the end and said, "No, sir!
I've made up my mind not to stand this interference with my personal
liberty and God Himself can't budge me!"

"Yes, He can, Seth.  But don't let it go that far," Cynthia's son had
begged.

Now all Green Valley was waiting to see Fanny tackle Seth in the name
of the Civic League.  It would be funny, everybody said.

Fanny did it one sunny afternoon in early spring when the streets were
gay with folks all out to taste the first bit of gladness in the air.
Fanny did it in her usual lengthy and thorough manner and permitted no
interruptions.  She was talking for the first time in her life with
authority vested in her by a civic body.  So there was a strength and a
conscientiousness about her remarks that struck home.

Seth was standing alone on the hotel steps when Fanny began talking but
all of Green Valley that was abroad was gathered laughingly about her
when she finished and stood waiting for Seth's answer.

Seth had had a glass too much or he would never have done, never have
said what he did and said that day.  He would never have taken poor,
harmless, laughter-loving, happy-go-lucky Fanny Foster, who had never
done a mean, malicious thing in her life, who had let her world use her
for all the little hateful tasks that nobody else would do and in which
there was no thanks or any glory,--Seth in his senses would never have
held up this dear though unfinished soul to the scorn, the pitiless
ridicule of her townsmen.

If Fanny had been touched with fire and eloquence because she spoke
with authority, Seth too talked with a bitter brilliance that won the
crowd and held it against its will.  With biting sarcasm and horrible
accuracy Seth drew a picture of Fanny as made Green Valley smile and
laugh before it could catch itself and realize the cruelty of its
laughter.

Fanny stood at the foot of the wide flight of stairs like a criminal at
the bar.  As Seth's words grew more biting, his judgments more cruel,
Fanny's face flushed with shame, then faded white with pain.

But Seth went too far.  He went so far that he couldn't stop himself.
And the crowd who had gathered to hear a little harmless fun now stood
petrified and heartsick.  No one stirred, though everybody was wishing
themselves miles away.  And Seth's voice, dripping with cruelty, went
on.

Then all at once from the heart of the crowd a little figure pushed its
way.  It was Seth's wife, Ruth.  She walked halfway up that flight of
stairs and looked steadily at her husband.  Seth stopped in the middle
of a word.

"Seth Curtis," Ruth's face was as white as Fanny's and her voice rang
out like a silver bell, "Seth Curtis, you will apologize, ask
forgiveness of Fanny Foster, who is my friend and an old schoolmate, or
before God and these people I will disown you as my husband and the
father of my children.  Fanny Foster never had an apple or a goody in
her lunch in the old school days that she didn't share it with
somebody.  She has never had a dollar or a joy that she hasn't divided.
No one in Green Valley ever had a pain or a sorrow that she did not
make it hers and try to help in some way.  And in all the world there
can be no more willing hands than hers."

The silver voice stopped, choked with sobs, and Ruth's eyes, looking
down on the shrunken, bowed figure of Green Valley's gossip, brimmed
over with tears.

Seth, sober now, stared at his wife, at the broken, crushed Fanny, at
the crowd that stood waiting in still misery.

Ruth walked down to Fanny and flung her arms about her.  Fanny patted
her friend's shoulder softly and tried to comfort not herself but Ruth.
"There, there, Ruthie, don't, don't take on so.  Remember, you're
nursing a baby and it might make him sick.  It's all right,
everything's all right.  Only," Fanny's voice was dull and colorless
and she never once raised her head, "only I wish John wouldn't hear of
this.  I've been such a disappointment to John without--this."

Though she spoke only to Ruth everybody heard.  It was the first and
only favor Fanny Foster had ever asked of Green Valley.  And Green
Valley, as it watched Ruth lead her away, swore that if possible John
should not hear.

But John did hear three days later.  And then the quiet man whose
patience had made people think him a fool let loose the stored-up
bitterness of years.  He who in the beginning should and could have
saved his girl wife with love and firmness now judged and rejected her
with the terrible wrath, the cold merciless justice of a man slow to
anger or to judge.

It was springtime and Grandma, sitting in her kitchen, heard and wept
for Fanny.  The windows at the Foster house were open and John talked
for all the world to hear.  His name had been dragged through the
gutter and he was past caring for appearances.  Grandma writhed under
the words that were more cruel than a lash.  At the end John Foster
swore that so long as he lived he would never speak to Fanny.  And
Grandma shivered, for she knew John Foster.

For days not even Grandma saw Fanny.  Then she saw her washing windows,
scrubbing the porch steps, hanging up clothes.  There came from the
Foster house the whir of a sewing machine, the fragrant smell of fresh
bread.  The children came out with faces shining as the morning, hair
as smooth as silk, shoes polished.  And Grandma knew that if John
Foster found a speck of dirt in his house he would have to look for it
with a microscope.  But there was a kind of horror in the eyes of
Fanny's children.  They didn't play any more or run away but of their
own accord stayed home to fetch and carry for the strange mother who
was now always there, who never sang, never spoke harshly to them, who
worked bitterly from morning till night.

Every spring Fanny Foster used to flit through Green Valley streets
like a chattering blue-jay.  But now nobody saw her, only now and then
at night, slinking along through the dark.  And many a kindly heart
ached for her, remembering how Fanny loved the sunshine and laughter.

But at last the spring grew too wonderful to resist.  Even Fanny's numb
heart and flayed spirit was warmed with the golden heat.  She had some
money that she wanted to deposit in the bank for John.  For Fanny was
saving now as only Fanny knew how when she set her mind to it.  And she
had set not only her mind but her very soul on making good.  Every
cruel taunt had left a ghastly wound and only work of the hardest kind
could ease the hurt.

Fanny walked through the streets as though she had just recovered from
a long illness.  Everybody who saw her hurried out to greet her and
talk but she only smiled in a pitiful sort of way and hastened on.  It
was nearly noon and she wanted to avoid the midday bustle and the
crowds of children.  She had set out the children's dinner but she
hoped to get back before they reached home.

She came out of the bank and stood on the bank steps.  She looked down
the streets.  Nobody was about and so against her will her eyes turned
to the spot where she had been so pitilessly pilloried a month before.

As then, Seth's team was standing in front of the hotel.  Little Billy
Evans was climbing into the big wagon.  She watched the child in a kind
of stupor.  She knew he ought not to do that.  Seth's horses were not
safe for a grown-up, much less a child.  She wondered where Seth was or
Billy Evans or Hank.  She wondered if she'd better have them telephone
to Billy from the bank and have him get little Billy.  She half turned
to do that and then out of the hotel door Jim Tumley came reeling and
singing.  Only his voice was a maudlin screech.  Little Billy had by
this time gotten into the wagon, pulled the whip from its socket, and
just as Jim came staggering up, touched the more nervous of the two
horses with it.  And then it happened--what Green Valley had been
dreading for months.

When men heard the commotion and turned to look they saw Seth's horses
tearing madly round the hotel corner.  Little Billy Evans was rattling
around in the wagon box like a cork on the water and Fanny Foster,
swaying like a reed, was hanging desperately to the horses' heads.

Hank Lolly was pitching hay into the barn loft.  He saw, jumped and
then lay still with a broken leg.  Seth saw and Billy Evans and scores
of other men, and they all ran madly to help.  But the terrified
animals waited for no man.  And then from the throats of the running
crowd a groan broke, for the school doors opened and into the spring
sunshine and the arms of certain death the little first and second
graders came dancing.

The school building hid the danger from the children and they did not
comprehend the hoarse shouts of warning.  But Fanny heard, heard the
childish laughter and the screams of horror.  She knew those horses
must not turn that corner.  Her feet swung against the shafts.  Her
heel caught for a minute and she jerked with all her might.  The mad
creatures swerved and dashed themselves and her against a telegraph
pole.

When they picked up little Billy and Fanny they were both unconscious.
One of Billy's little arms was broken, so violently had he been flung
about and against the iron bars of the scat.  Fanny's injuries were
more serious.

They took her home to her spotless house with the children's dinner set
out on the red tablecloth in the kitchen.  The pussy willows the
children had brought her the day before were in a vase in the center.
Her husband came home and spoke to her but she neither saw him nor
heard.  They gave him a blood-stained bank book with his name on it.

And so she lay for days and sometimes Doc Philipps thought she would
live and at other times he was sure she couldn't; but if she lived he
knew that she would never again flit like vagrant sunshine through
Green Valley streets.  She would spend the rest of her days in a wheel
chair or on crutches.

When they got courage finally to tell her, Fanny only smiled and said
nothing.  But she ate less and smiled more and steadily grew weaker and
weaker and as steadily refused to see her husband.

"No," she said quietly, "there's nothing I want to see John about and
there's nothing for him to see me about any more.  I guess," she smiled
at the gruff old doctor, "you're about the only man I can stand the
sight of or who would put up with me."

"Fanny," Doc Philipps told her, "if you don't buck up and get well, if
you die on my hands, it will be the first mean thing you ever did."

"Oh, well--it would be the last," laughed Fanny.

"Fanny, don't you know that Seth Curtis and nearly all the town comes
here at least once a day?  How do you suppose John and Seth and the
rest of us will feel if you just quit and go?"

And then in bitterness of heart Fanny answered.

"Oh, I'm tired of living, of being snubbed and made fun of.  I'm past
caring how anybody else will feel.  I tell you I'm a misfit.  God never
took pains to finish me.  I've been a miserable failure, no good to
anybody.  My children will be better off without me.  John said so."

"My God!" groaned the old doctor, "did John say that?"  He knew now
that no medicine that he could give, no skill of his would mend a heart
bruised like that.

"Yes--he said that--and a whole lot more.  Said I've eternally
disgraced him and dragged him down and will land him in jail or the
poorhouse.  And I guess maybe it's so.  Only all the time he was
talking I kept thinking how he teased me to marry him.  I really liked
Bud Willis over in Elmwood better, in a way, than I did John.  And I
meant to marry Bud.  He wasn't as good a boy as John, but he was so
jolly and we'd have had such a good time together that I'd never have
got mixed up in any mess like this.  Maybe we would have ended in the
poorhouse but we'd have had a good time going, and I bet Bud and I
would have found something to laugh at even when we got there.  Oh, I'm
glad it's over.  Don't think I'm afraid to die.  I kind of hate to
leave Robbie.  Robbie's like me.  And some day somebody'll tell him
what a fool he is--like they told me.  I wish I could warn him or learn
him not to care.  But, barring Robbie, I'm not afraid to go.  But I'd
be afraid to live.  To live all the rest of my days on my back or in a
chair--I--who was made to go?  John can't abide me well and able to
work.  He'd hate the sight of me useless.  No, sir!  There's nothing
nor nobody I'd sit in a chair for all the rest of my life."

"Yes, there is--Peggy."

John spoke from the shadowy doorway, for the dusk had fallen.

"You will do it for me, girl.  I'll get you the nicest chair and the
prettiest crutches.  And when you are tired of them I'll carry you
about in my arms.  And you'll never again--I swear it--be sorry that
you didn't marry Bud Willis."

The spring twilight filled the room.  Through it the doctor tiptoed to
the door and left these two to build a new world out of the fragments
and blunders of the old.



CHAPTER XXII

BEFORE THE DAWN

"I wonder if Fanny's sacrifice isn't enough to drive the evil thing out
of our lives and out of Green Valley forever.  Seems as if everybody
ought to vote the saloon out now," said Grandma Wentworth to Cynthia's
son a couple of weeks later, when the whole town was celebrating
because Fanny Foster had sat up for the first time in her chair that
day.

After all, John didn't buy Fanny her chair.  Seth Curtis wanted to do
it all himself but Green Valley wouldn't let him.  It was a wonderful
chair.  You could lower it to different heights and it was full of all
manner of attachments to make the invalid forget her helplessness.  Of
course Fanny was still too weak to use these but she knew about them
and seemed pleased, even said she believed that when she got the hang
of it she could get about the house and yard and might even venture
into the streets in time.

And early in the morning of the day she was to get up Doc Philipps
drove up in his buggy with what seemed like a young garden tucked
inside it.  Fanny's garden and borders had been sadly neglected during
her sickness.  The doctor had had John clean the whole thing up and
then he came with his arms and buggy full of blossoming tulips,
hyacinths and every bloom that was in flower then and would bear
transplanting.  And for hours he and John worked to make a little
fairyland for Fanny.

"My God, John, I couldn't mend her body--nobody could.  But between us
we have got to mend her spirit."  And the old doctor blew his nose hard
to hide the trembling of his chin.

But no chair, no amount of tulips and hyacinths, could make up to Fanny
the loss of her body.  And Green Valley knew this.  So Green Valley was
talking more seriously than ever of driving out from among them the
thing that was pushing Jim Tumley into a drunkard's grave, that was
estranging hitherto happy wives and husbands and maiming innocent men,
women and children.  Little Billy was all right again but he was now a
timid youngster and inclined to be jumpy at sight of a smartly trotting
horse.  Hank Lolly's leg was healed up but Doc said he would always
limp a bit.  Seth and his wife had made up, of course, but neither of
them could ever efface from their hearts and memories the cruel scenes
that had marred their life this past year.

Seth no longer went near the saloon.  He had paid dearly for his
stubbornness and would continue to pay to the end of his days.  Billy
Evans had swung around and was fighting the saloon now with a grimness
that was terrible in one so easy-going and liberal as Billy.

But nothing seemingly could convert George Hoskins.  And so long as
George Hoskins was against a measure its passage was a hopeless matter,
for men like George always have a host of followers.

George was a huge man whose mind worked slowly.  When he first heard
the talk about the town going dry he laughed--and that was enough.  No
one argued the matter with him for no one relished the thought of an
argument with George.  And only the minister had dared to mention Jim
Tumley.  In his big way George loved little Jim, but since his wife had
sickened George spent every spare minute in her sick room and so
witnessed none of the scenes that were rousing Green Valley folks into
open rebellion against the evil that enslaved them.

George belonged to the old school that declared that to mind one's own
business was the highest duty of man.  No one in Green Valley, not even
Cynthia's son, could make the huge man understand that he in a sense
was little Jim's keeper; that since Jim could not save himself the
strong men of the community would have to do it for him.  George
wondered at the seriousness with which the thing was discussed.  He
treated it as a joke.  And this attitude was doing more harm than if he
had been bitterly hostile to the idea.

The Civic League was counting the votes, wondering if Green Valley
could go dry over George Hoskins' head.  But Grandma Wentworth was
hoping for one more miracle before election day.

"Something'll happen to swing George into line.  We Green Valley people
have always done everything together.  It would spoil things to have
one half the town fighting the other half.  We must do this thing with
everybody's consent or it will do no good.  So let's hope for a
miracle."

And then the whole thing was wiped out of everybody's mind by the death
of Mary Hoskins.  It was over at last and nobody but the doctor knew
how hard the big man had fought for his wife's life.  So nobody quite
guessed the bitterness of the big man's grief.  But everybody had heard
that Mary's last words were a plea to have little Jim sing her to her
last sleep and resting-place.  And George had promised that Jim would
sing.

Jim had been drinking so steadily of late that he was a wreck.  People
wondered if he could sing.  When they told him his sister was dead he
laughed miserably and said nothing.  No one was surprised when the hour
for the funeral services arrived to find Jim missing.  Messengers had
to be sent out.  They searched the town but could find no trace of Jim.
For an hour Green Valley waited in that still home.  Then the
undertaker from Elmwood whispered something to the crushed, terrified
giant who stood staring at the dead face of his wife like a soul in
torment.

Mary Hoskins left her home without the song George had promised her.

At the grave there was another, a more terrible wait.

"My God--wait!  They'll find him.  God, men--wait--wait!  I can't bury
her, without Jim's song.  I promised her--I tell you I promised--oh, my
God--it was the last thing she wanted--and I promised."

So Green Valley waited, with horror in its eyes and the bitterness of
death in its heart.  As the minutes dragged women began to sob
hysterically, in nervous terror.  Men looked at the yawning grave, the
waiting coffin, the low-dropping sun and mumbled strange prayers.

Through a mist of tears the waiting watchers saw Hank Lolly and Billy
Evans pass through the cemetery gate, dragging something between them.
It was something that laughed and sobbed and gibbered horribly.  Hank
and Billy tried to hold the ghastly thing erect between them but it
slipped from their trembling hands and lay, a twitching heap, at the
head of the open grave.

That was Green Valley's darkest hour.  And after that came the dawn.
The following week Green Valley men walked quietly to the polls and as
one man voted the horror out of their lives.  The day after little Jim
went off to take the Keeley cure.  And then for two long weeks Green
Valley was still with the stillness of exhaustion.

Spring deepened and brought with it all the old gladness and a new
sweet peace, a peace such as Green Valley had never known.  Gardens
began to bloom again and streets rippled with the laughter of
neighboring men and women.  Life swung back to normal.  Only the hotel
stood silent, a still vacant-eyed reminder of past pain.  Nobody
mentioned it.  Every one tried to forget it.  But so long as it stood
there, a specter within its heart, Green Valley could not forget.  It
was said that Sam Ellis had put it up for sale.  But who would buy the
huge place?

Then it was that Green Valley's three good little men came forward.
Joe Gans, the socialist barber, was spokesman.  He presented a plan
that made Green Valley catch its breath.

Why--said the three good little men--could not Green Valley buy the
hotel for its own use?  Why not remodel it, make a Community House of
it?  Why not move Joshua Stillman's wonderful library out of the little
dark room into which it was packed and spread it out in a big sunny
place, with comfortable chairs and rockers and a couple of nice long
reading tables?  Why not fix a place for the young people to dance in
and have their parties?  Why not have a real assembly hall--a big
enough and proper place to hold political meetings and all indoor
celebrations?  Why not have pool, billiards, a bowling alley?  Why not
have a manual-training room for Hen Tomlins and his boys?  Why not have
a sewing room and cooking for the girls?

Oh, it was a glorious plan and Green Valley listened as a child does to
a fairy tale.  Of course it couldn't really be done, many people said,
but--oh, my--if it only could!

But the three good little men had no sooner explained their fairy dream
than things began to happen.  Cynthia's son came forward with the first
payment on the property.  Colonel Stratton, Joshua Stillman, Reverend
Campbell offered to take care of other payments.  Jake Tuttle
telephoned in from his farm that he was in on it.  The Civic League
offered to do all the cleaning, the furnishing, to give pictures,
curtains, potted plants.  The church societies offered to make money
serving chicken dinners on the hotel veranda to motorists who, now that
Billy Evans had a garage, came spinning along thick as flies.  Nan
Ainslee's father, besides contributing to the purchasing fund, offered
to provide the library furniture, the billiard and pool tables.  Seth
Curtis and Billy Evans not only gave money but offered to do all the
hauling.  That shamed the masons and carpenters into giving their
Saturday afternoons for repair work.  And after them came the painters
and decorators, with Bernard Rollins at their head.  So in the end
every soul in Green Valley gave something and so the dream came true,
as all dreams must when men and women get together and work
whole-heartedly for the common good.



CHAPTER XXIII

FANNY COMES BACK

"If only I felt the way I look.  If only my feelings had been smashed
too," sobbed Fanny to the doctor that first week that she sat up in her
chair.  "But I'm just the same inside that I always was and I want to
go and see and hear things."

So the old doctor, who knew how much more real were the ills of the
spirit than any hurts of the flesh, dropped a word here and there and
now no days passed that Fanny did not have callers, did not in some way
get messages, the vagrant scraps and trifles of news that, so valueless
in themselves, yet were to Fanny the lovely bits of fabric out of which
she pieced a laughing tale of life.

Outwardly Fanny was changed.  She was pale and quiet and her thick
lovely hair was always smooth now and glossy and carefully dressed.  It
was the one thing she still could do for herself and she did it with a
pitiful care.  She looked ten years younger, in a way.  And her house
was spick and span at ten o'clock every morning now.  From her chair
she directed the children and because in all Green Valley there was no
woman who knew better how work ought to be done it was well done.  And
then came the long empty hours when she sat, as she was sitting now, in
her chair on the sunny side of the house where she could look at her
little sea of tulips and hyacinths and drink in their perfume.

She had been trying to crochet but had dropped her needle.  It lay in
the grass at her feet.  She could see it but she could not pick it up.
She had not as yet acquired the skill and the inventive faculty of an
invalid.

And so she sat there, staring at the bit of glistening steel as wave
after wave of bitterness swept over her.  Her tragedy was still so new
that she could feel it with every breath.  Every hour she was reminded
of her loss by a thousand little things like this crochet hook.  She
was forced to sit still, her busy hands idle in her lap, while spring
was calling, calling everywhere.  She told herself, with a mad little
laugh, that she would never again pick up anything; never again would
she run through her neighbors' gates, tap on their doors and visit them
in their kitchens.  Never again could she hurry up the spring street
with the south wind caressing her cheek.  No more would she gad about
to learn the doings of her little world.  Would it come to talk to her,
to make her laugh now that she was helpless?  Was she never to hear the
music of living?  Was she to lose her knack of making people laugh?  To
lose her place in life--to live and yet be forgotten--would she have to
face that?

These were some of the thoughts that were torturing poor Fanny that
day.  And then she gave a cry, for around the corner of the house came
Nanny Ainslee in just the same old way.  Grandma Wentworth and the
minister were just behind her.

They stared lovingly at each other, the girl who was as lovely as life
and love and springtime could make her, and the woman whom the game had
broken.  Then Nanny spoke--not to the broken body of Fanny Foster but
to the gipsy, springtime spirit of Fanny.

"I only just came home, Fanny.  I went through town and saw pretty
nearly everybody, and every soul tried to tell me a little something.
But it's all a jumble.  So, Fanny Foster, I want you to begin with
Christmas Day and tell me all that's happened in Green Valley while
I've been away."

Never a word of her accident, never so much as a glance of pity at the
wonderful chair.  Just the old Nan Ainslee asking the old Fanny Foster
for Green Valley news.

In the scarred soul of Fanny Foster, down under the bitterness and
crumbled pride, something stirred, something that Fanny thought was
dead forever.

Then Nanny spoke again.

"I have come to tell you that I am to be married to John Roger
Churchill Knight.  I have told no one but you and Grandma.  I have
promised to marry him in June, so I haven't much time to get ready.
I'm hoping, Fanny, that you will come and help out."

At that, of a sudden all the old-time zest for living, the joy of
seeing, hearing and doing, surged to Fanny's very throat and force of
habit brought the words.

"Oh, land alive, Nanny," fairly gurgled the old Fanny, "such a time as
we've had in Green Valley!  It was that awful cold spell after
Christmas that began it.  Old man Pelley died--of complications--and
everybody thought Mrs. Dudley would sing hymns of praise in public,
they'd fought so about their chickens.  But I declare if she didn't cry
about the hardest at the funeral and even blamed herself for
aggravating him.

"Of course him dying left old Mrs. Pelley alone in a big house, and her
being pretty feeble, she felt that Harry and Ivy ought to come and live
with her.  Well,--Ivy went--but she vowed that there were two things
she would do, mother-in-law or no mother-in-law.  She said she'd put as
many onions in her hamburger steak and Irish stew as she pleased--you
know Mrs. Pelley can't stand onions--and she'd have a fire in the
fireplace as often as the fancy struck her.  Everybody thought there'd
be an awful state of things--but land--now that Mrs. Pelley has got
used to the open fire you can't drive her away from it with a stick and
she don't seem to bother her head about Ivy's cooking and last week she
actually ate three helpings of hamburger steak that Ivy said was just
reeking with onions.

"A body's never too old to learn, I suppose.  There's Henry Rawlins
suddenly took the notion to quit smoking.  Ettie'd been at him for
twenty-five years with twenty good reasons to quit, but no.  And all of
a sudden--when Ettie's give up hope and not mentioned it for a couple
of months--he up and quits and won't even tell why.  Ettie's
worried--says he's eating himself out of house and home and wants to
sleep about twenty-four hours a day.

"Talking about houses makes me think that the Stockton girls are having
their house painted by a man with a wooden leg.  Billy Evans picked him
up somewhere and Seth Curtis was telling me how he came to lose that
leg.  Seems like he was prospecting somewheres in Montana, got drunk,
froze it, gangrene set in and they had to amputate.  They say he's a
mighty smart man too.  Maybe John'll get him to paint our house when
he's through at the Stocktons.

"Talk about physical deformities!  Eva Collins has got it into her head
that she's too fat entirely and she's been dieting and rolling and
taking all sorts of exercises religiously.  Seems she got so set on
being thin that she practices these exercises whenever she happens to
think of it and wherever she happens to be.  She happened to be right
under the lights three or four times and so she smashed them, globes
and all.  Bill says she'd better reduce in the barn or else let him
charge admission for a rolling performance to pay for the broken lights.

"So there's Eva trying to thin off and they say Mert Hagley's swollen
all out of shape, having been stung almost to death by his own bees.
Of course, nobody's sympathizing overmuch with Mert.  He was so afraid
of losing a swarm of bees that he forgot to be cautious and there he is
laid out.  But it isn't the bee stings that hurt him so much.  Mary's
been willed a good farm and a big lump of cash by some aunt that died a
month ago and hated Mert like poison.  And the thing's just gone to
Mary's head.

"She's gone into the city on regular spending sprees and Mert's wild.
He can't touch the farm and he's afraid Mary'll have that lump of money
all spent before he gets out of bed.  Everybody's hoping she will and
advising her to buy every blessed thing she ever had a hankering for
and things she never even heard of.  Mrs. Brownlee, the president of
the Civic League, even told her to buy a dish-washing machine, and
heavens, if Mary didn't go right down and buy it.  Doc Philipps advised
her to buy herself the very best springs and mattress on the
market--that it would help her back to sleep decently of nights.  She's
having hot-water heat put in and is going to do her washing with an
electric washer.  Seth Curtis put her up to that.  And as soon as Mert
gets better she's going visiting her sister in Colorado.  She says
she'll likely die of homesickness but that she's just got to go off
somewhere to get used to and learn to wear properly all the new clothes
she's got.

"Well, Mary's buying all these labor-saving machines got the whole town
to thinking and spending.  Dick's put in a new cash register they say
is nice enough to have in the parlor.  It made Jessie Williams buy a
lot of new silver that she didn't need no more than a cat needs a
match-box.  But she got it and she gave a luncheon the other day to
some of the South End crowd and tried to get just about all that silver
on the table, I guess.  Of course, it looked mighty nice but when the
women came to eat they didn't know what to do with it.  They got pretty
miserable, all sticking to just the one knife and fork and spoon.  And
Jessie got so rattled that she just about forgot to use the stuff too.
And finally old Mrs. Vingie, that Jessie asked just to have the news
spread, got up mad as a hornet and marched out, saying she was too old
to be insulted.

"Until a week ago Bessie Williams wouldn't speak to Alex.  You know her
hair's got awful white this last year and of course, her being kind of
stout, she does look older than Al.  But she says that's no reason why,
when a peddler comes to the door with anything, Al needs to let the man
think she's his mother.

"Mrs. Jerry Dustin's been to see Uncle Tony's portraiture hanging in
the art gallery.  She says it's so lifelike it made her cry.  And she's
awful happy about Peter.  Peter's been posing for a picture for Bernard
Rollins and while he was in the studio he got to fooling with the
paints and brushes, and lo and behold, if he didn't daub up something
that looked like his mother's face when she's smiling.  They say
Rollins jumped he was so surprised and he put the boy through some
paces and swore he'd make a better artist out of him than he was
himself.  So there you are, and now Mrs. Dustin is dreaming of Peter in
Italy, Peter in Rome, Peter everywhere in creation, and her tagging
along with his brushes and dust rags.  So she's happy.

"And Milly Sears is house-cleaning like mad, for both the boys are
coming home from the ends of the earth to visit.  And Alice is putting
off the christening of her baby boy until they come.  She was here to
show me the baby the other day.  It's a darling.  Jocelyn Brownlee came
with her and brought me samples of all her wedding dresses, wedding
gown and all.  As soon as the dressmaker is through I'm to go over and
see the whole trousseau.

"There, I nearly forgot the best thing of all.  It's about Sam Bobbins.
My!  Here we've all been pitying Sam and Fortune's just kicked in his
door and walked in.  You remember of course about Sam and his fighting
roosters?  Well, Sam went off for Thanksgiving to his sister's and
while he was gone something ate up his prize stock.  Must have been a
skunk, Frank Burton says.  Well, they say that Sam's heart was just
about broken.  Not just because his stock was gone but more because he
couldn't think of another thing to turn his hand to.

"Well, he got through the winter some way and then, while he was
sitting in the train one day coming home, he overheard two men talking
about turtles going up.  Must have been two hotel men.  Anyway, that
gave Sam an idea and he started right in wading through Petersen's
slough for turtles.  Why, he pulled up barrels of them, and would you
believe it, they sold in the city for real money!  Sam went
crazy--about as crazy as Mary Hagley got over her luck.  And then along
came rheumatism and knocked Sam flat, just when he was doing so well.
Everybody said it was just poor Sam's luck.  So there was Sam sick
abed, thinking about those turtles moving off somewheres else maybe, or
somebody else getting rich on them.

"And all the time he lay in bed groaning Sam's wife went around the
house doing the same.  Only her trouble wasn't turtles but corsets.
Seems like Sam always promised Dudy that if he made any money she was
to have plenty to spend.  Well, he treated her mighty handsome about
that turtle money.  Dudy had the sense to take all he gave her and she
vowed that for once in her life she'd get herself a corset that was
comfortable.

"Well, Nanny, heavens only knows how many brands she tried but none of
them seemed built for her.  Some pinched her here and others squeezed
her there and she was as full of misery as Sam was of rheumatism.  Sam
finally took notice and just to keep his mind off his own troubles he
got to watching her suffering for breath and a nice shape.

"Now you know Sam's always thought the world of Dudy.  So one day, when
she was getting ready to go to the Civic League meeting to read a paper
on the best ways of getting rid of flies and nearly crying because she
couldn't get herself to look right, Sam said, half joking, 'By gum,
Dudy, I'll _make_ you a corset that will fit you.'

"Well, sir, the thing stuck in his mind and grew and grew, and heavens
to Betsey, if Sam didn't really make a corset, even helping Dudy with
some of the sewing.

"Dudy wore it and took everybody's breath away, she looked so nice and
could breathe without puffing and laugh as much as she pleased.  The
women got to talking about it and mentioned it to Mrs. Brownlee.  And
mind you, Mrs. Brownlee went to Sam and asked him had he patented the
thing.  And when he said no she went to a woman lawyer friend of hers
and she got Sam a patent, and first thing Green Valley knew here come
three big corset men to town, all of them offering to buy Dudy's
home-made corset.  So Sam Bobbins has got his fortune and nobody's
begrudging it to him.  The whole town is mighty proud of Sam, I tell
you.

"Good land--it must be four o'clock, for here come the children!
My--Nanny, but it's good to have you home again!"

"Well," smiled Grandma, as she watched the spring twilight sift down
over Green Valley that evening, "I've always said that this town was
full of folks who make you cry one minute and laugh the next."



CHAPTER XXIV

HOME AGAIN

It had pleaded for forgiveness and an early homecoming, that little
yellow slip that Nanny Ainslee treasured so.  But the bluebirds were
darting through leafy bowers and the ploughed, furrowed fields lay
smoking in the spring sunshine before Nan came back.

A week after her arrival in Scranton the old aunt had been taken sick,
and it was months before the old soul was herself again.  Nan stayed
through it all.  But the day came when she was free to go back to the
little home town where the cloud shadows were rippling over low,
dimpling hills, already gay with the gold of wild mustard and the
tender blues and greens of a new glad spring.

She came home one evening when Green Valley lay wrapped in a warm,
thick, fragrant mist.  So no one saw her step off the train straight
into the arms of Cynthia's son.  And nobody heard the quivering joy of
his one cry at the sight of her.

"Nan!"

Slowly, as in a dream, they walked through their fragrant, misty world
to where, in a deep, old hearth, a fire sang of love and home, dreams
and eternal happiness; where an armchair waited with its mate and an
old clock ticked on the stairs.

Oh, that first perfect hour beside his fire!  He had pleaded so hard
for it in all his letters.  So she gave it to him, knowing that for
them both no hour could ever again be just like that.

She sat and listened to the wonder of his love; then, frightened at the
might of it, the lovely reverence of it, crept into his arms for sweet
comfort.  And he held her in awe and wonder against his heart, kissed
the quivering lips and knew such joy as angels might envy.  Then he
took her to her father.

The next day, in the shy sunshine of a perfect day, they went hand in
hand to their knoll to look once more upon their valley town and talk
over all of life from the first hour of meeting.

And when they had satisfied the hunger for understanding the miracle
that had befallen them he told her of all that had happened in the
months that she had been away.  How Jim Tumley slipped beyond the love
and help of them all.  How Mary Hoskins grew weaker and weaker.  How
the Civic League struggled and the three good little men dreamed and
planned.  How Fanny Foster came to pay the great price for Green
Valley's salvation.  How in death gentle Mary Hoskins paid too.  He
explained why Seth Curtis was a gentler man and why John Foster hurried
home each day to laugh and talk with his crippled wife.  He told her of
that awful day that had crushed George Hoskins so that he went about a
broken, shrunken man, praying and searching for peace through service.
It was George who bought the beautiful new piano for the Community
House, who was paying for little Jim's cure.

And then because the girl he loved was sobbing over the sins and
sorrows of the little town that lay in the sunshine below them, he told
her about the baby boy that Hen Tomlins had gotten for Christmas and
how happy the little man was making toys for the toddler who followed
him about from morning till night.  And because her eyes were still wet
with tears he laughed teasingly and said:

"And I never knew that I loved you until I saw David Allan kiss his
sweetheart."

Of course, at that she sat up very straight and wanted to know all
about it.

"I suppose you expect me to wait a whole proper year for my wedding
day," he sighed after a little.

"I think we ought to.  And I couldn't possibly be ready before then."

"Do you mean to tell me that it takes a whole year to make a wedding
dress?"

And then the cruelty that lies in every woman made her shake her head
and say, "No--that isn't why nice folks wait a whole year.  They wait
to give each other plenty of time to change their minds."

"Nan!"

And she saw then by his hurt white face that, man grown though he was,
with a genius for handling other men, he would always be a child in
some things.  He never would or could understand trifling in any form,
having all a child's honesty and directness.  And she knew that she,
more than any one else, would always have the power to hurt him.

"Nan," he asked slowly, "did you go to Scranton because you thought I
might ask before you were ready?"

She laughed tenderly.

"Oh--Dear Heart--no.  I went to Scranton because I was afraid I might
propose before you were ready."

But he never quite understood that and she didn't expect him to.
However, if she thought she had won, she was mistaken.  The persistency
in matters of love that is the heritage of all men made him say
carelessly a half hour later:

"Oh, well--I suppose waiting a year is the best, the wise thing to do.
But why must I be the only one to obey the law?  Nobody else is waiting
a year.  All the other men are marrying their sweethearts in June.
There's David and Jocelyn, Max Longman and Clara, Steve and Bonnie,
Dolly Beatty and Charlie Peters.  And only last week Grandma Wentworth
got a letter from out West saying some chap is coming from the very
wilds to marry Carrie.  He's hired the reception hall of the Community
House so that Carrie may have a proper wedding in case her folks refuse
to give their blessing.  So I'm going to marry all those chaps and then
calmly go on just being engaged myself."

All of a sudden Nan saw why Seth Curtis gave in and joined the church,
why Hank Lolly forgot his fears and came to the services, why the
poolroom man gave up his business and was now a respected automobile
man and mechanic; why the former saloon keeper was the happy owner of a
stock farm; why Frank Burton no longer bragged about being an atheist
but went to church with Jennie; why Mrs. Rosenwinkle no longer argued
about the flatness of the earth.

He was always doing this to every one, this boy from India; always
making people see how ridiculous and petty were the man-made
conventions and human notions and stubbornness when looked at in the
light of common sense and sincerity.

"Oh, well," Nan gave in with a laugh that was half a sob, "I may as
well be a June bride with the rest.  And now, John Roger Churchill
Knight, take me down to see my town.  I want to see all the new
gardens, the new babies, the new spring hats and dress patterns.

"I want to see Ella Higgins' tulips and forget-me-nots and attend Uncle
Tony's open-air meeting.  I want to have an ice-cream soda at Martin's
and wave my hand at John Gans while he's shaving a customer.  I want to
see all the store windows, especially Joe Baldwin's.  I want to shake
hands with Billy Evans and Hank Lolly and hug little Billy.

"I want to go to the post-office for my mail when everybody else is
getting theirs.  I want to know if the bank is still there and if the
bluebirds and flickers are as thick as ever in Park Lane.  I want to
hear Green Valley women calling to each other from their back yards and
see them leaning over the fences to visit--and giving each other clumps
of pansies, and golden glow and hollyhocks.  I want to see Mrs. Jerry
Dustin's smile and ask her when I can see Uncle Tony's 'portraiture' at
the Art Institute.  I want to see the boys' bare feet kicking up the
dust and their hands hitching up their overall straps and hear them
whistling to each other and giving their high signs.  I'm longing to
know who's had their house repainted and where the new houses are going
up.

"But--oh--most of all, I want to hear Green Valley folks say with their
eyes and hands and voice--'Hello, Nanny Ainslee, when did _you_ get
back' and 'My, Nanny, it's good to see and have you home again.'  So,
John Roger Churchill Knight, take me down to see my home town--Green
Valley at springtime."

They went down through Green Valley streets where the spring sunshine
lay warm and golden.  They greeted Green Valley men and women and were
greeted as only Green Valley knows how to greet those it loves.

Though they said not a word, all Green Valley read their secret in
their eyes, heard it in the rich deep note of the boy's voice, in
Nanny's lilting laugh.

And having made the rounds the boy and girl naturally came to Grandma
Wentworth's gate.  They walked through the gay front garden, followed
the little gravel path around the house, and found Grandma standing
among her fragrant herbs and healing grasses.

They came to her hand in hand and said not a word.  And Grandma raised
her head and looked at them.  Then her eyes filled and her lips
quivered tenderly and the two, both motherless, knew that they had a
mother's blessing.

It was so restful, that back yard of Grandma's, as the three sat there,
talking quietly and happily.  And the world seemed strangely full of a
golden peace.





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